I have no idea how much this stuff costs, so I am not advocating it as currently making financial sense. But I have long argued that we will know solar is the energy source of the future when they start rolling out solar cells in large sheets like carpet out of Dalton, Georgia.
Posts tagged ‘Georgia’
This is sort of an odd topic to have on my mind, but I was thinking about it today in the context of a bid package I have in my hands for concession management of a park in Georgia.
The RFP kept referring to "community workers" who do 60% of the labor in the park, and part of our responsibilities included managing these workers. In my naivete, I thought these were volunteers, and sent a note telling them that while the government could legally use volunteers, it was very problematic under labor laws for a private company to benefit in any way from volunteer labor.
I was quickly informed that I had it all wrong, that this was a euphemism for "prisoners," and that I could take advantage of their close to fee labor to do much of the heavy lifting in the park maintenance.
I must confess this is a new one for me but my initial reaction is queasiness about it. On the one hand, we are talking about unpaid labor from men in involuntary servitude -- do I really feel good about benefiting economically from this work? On the other hand, I do understand that work programs can be beneficial for prisoners, though I am not sure the work we need is really going to be teaching many skills. On the gripping hand, there is "Cool Hand Luke", which is impossible to get out of my head when considering prison labor in the deep south.
One other aspect of the RFP that struck me cold was the pages and pages of requirements, including an actual oath I have to take, that I will do everything possible not to hire an illegal immigrant. Now, that sort of thing is likely required of them by state law, and is not that unusual (Arizona has similar provisions, I believe). But juxtaposed with the prison labor, it leaves me cold. Essentially, they won't allow me to accept the voluntary labor of a Mexican man paid at minimum wage, but they are encouraging me to accept the involuntary labor for free from a group of prisoners.
I just encountered this about 10 minutes ago so I am still thinking on it -- the basic opportunity is attractive. But I have walked away from opportunities before over these sorts of ethical issues -- most recently, over a refusal to drug test employees when that was a state requirement.
I welcome thoughts in the comments (I know I mentioned immigration, but in this one post I would be thrilled if we could lay off my supposed naivete on immigration and focus on the ethics of profiting from free prison labor).
Apparently, it is Hamilton that will get the ax on the $10 bill rather than Jackson on the $20 in order to make way for some fresh historical faces. I am not the biggest Hamilton supporter in the world, and he was never a President, but he had as much to do with the form our Constitution takes today as any man in history. On the other hand, for whatever points Jackson might make with me by opposing the Bank of the United States, he was really a horrible person. His attitude about blacks and his treatment of slaves represented the worst of the slave-holding South, his his ruthless role in wiping out of the Cherokee nation is beyond criminal.
To this day, I don't know how the conflict between nomadic Native Americans and European settlers looking to build towns and farms could ever have had a happy ending. But the one exception to this was the Cherokee, who settled down in communities in Georgia that in most ways mirrored European communities in the rest of the early United States. If there are any native americans we should have been able to integrate into American society, it was the Cherokee. And we wiped them out. Awful. I would rather the $20 bill be blank than have that genocidal maniac on it.
PS- would love to see someone like Harriet Tubman on the money, or really anyone else whose contribution did not consist merely of exercising power over me. Hell, put Steve Jobs on there -- the iPad, and the Apple II before it, have improved my happiness more than any politician.
I teach one 90-minute class a year in the senior economics elective at my kids' high school. The teacher gives me a pretty free ability to cover whatever I wish.
Rather than trying to cover some school of thought, I instead focus the class on the seen and unseen (starting with quotes from Bastiat and Hazlitt). We have about 12 economic problems, where we start with the seen, and then introduce the unseen. We start with the classic broken window as the first one.
I teach the class with role play. I give every student a couple of business cards with their role typed on them. When I call on them I have them advocate for their role. I have started to give a small food reward at the end of class to the student who best gets into character -- this has helped the role play immensely. Let's take one example I do towards the end of the class involving price gouging after a hurricane.
We begin with the governor of Florida who has just signed an anti-price-gouging law. We talk about how everyone hates price-gouging after a disaster. What could be worse, right?
We then talk about a woman who spends most of her time at home, but rushes out to fill her gas tank right after the storm hits. She has to wait in line for gas for 2 hours because everyone else has done the same as she, racing to the station, but she doesn't mind because she doesn't have anything else to do and feels better. If asked if she would have topped off her tank if the price jumped to $6 from $3, she says no way.
Then we have an owner of a roofing company enter the fray. His men are working 14 hours a day to put roofs on houses. He is making a lot of money, and doing a lot of good as well. Nothing is more important to people than fixing the roof before the next rain. He may be the most important man in Florida at that moment. But he can't keep up with demand, and worse, his guys are having to sit for 2 hours at a time to fill up their company trucks, when they should be repairing roofs. He would gladly pay $10 a gallon if he could just keep his men on the job and not in gas stations.
So at this point we discuss "fairness". It seems fair not to raise prices to "take advantage" of a disaster. But is it fair to allocate gas away from the busiest and most productive whose time is most valuable to the people who are least productive and have the lowest value for their time? We discuss how price caps shift rationing from price to queuing, and the people who get the product shift from those who most value it to those who assign the lowest value to their own time.
Finally, we discuss a guy in Georgia who has a tanker of gas he was going to send to a station in Atlanta. They need the gas more in Florida, but they aren't paying more for it under the new price-gouging law, and so with his higher costs of driving all the way to Florida vs. Atlanta he is going to sell the gas in Atlanta. If the price of gas in Florida were to rise to $6, he would send his truck of gas to Florida in a heartbeat.
This is the kind of discussion we have. We will end up in a debate, with kids pointing out all kinds of things -- eg poor people who have a life or death need and might be shut out at $6. We don't try to resolve things, but want them to understand there are unseen consequences to actions like price-gouging laws that must be considered along with the seen. They may end up dismissing the unseen as less important than the seen, but it should not be ignored.
If anyone finds themselves in the same situation as me needing to teach a group (it could be adults as well) you are welcome to use my materials. I actually print the business cards on Avery two-sided business card paper. Attached are separate files for the front and back of cards as well as a sort of discussion key I use to guide the conversation. We get into things, at least tangentially, like public choice theory and concentrated benefits / dispersed costs.
If you want to use the materials, you are welcome to email me with questions. But these are all public domain so help yourself without permission. (By the way, in trying to match the front to the back of each card in your mind, remember there is a mirroring effect, so the text on the right card on the backs in any given row goes with the front of the card on the left of the same row in the other file).
I am always amazed that the media will credulously run stories against "corporate welfare" for oil companies (which usually mostly includes things like LIFO accounting and investment tax credits that are not oil industry specific) but then beg and plead for us taxpayers to subsidize movie producers.
I wish I understood the reason for the proliferation of government subsidies for film production. Is it as simple as politicians wanting to hobnob with Hollywood types? Our local papers often go into full sales mode for sports team subsidies, but that is understandable from a bottom-line perspective -- sports are about the only thing that sells dead-tree papers any more, and so more local sports has a direct benefit on local newspapers. Is it the same reasoning for proposed subsidies for Hollywood moguls?
Whatever the reason, our local paper made yet another pitch for throwing tax dollars at movie producers
Notwithstanding a recent flurry of Super Bowl-related documentaries and commercials that got 2015 off to a good start, Arizona appears to be falling behind in a competitive and lucrative business. The entertainment industry pays well, supports considerable indirect employment and offers the chance for cities and states to shine on a global stage.
Seriously? I am sure setting up the craft table pays better than catering a party at my home, but it is a job that lasts 2 months and is then gone. Ditto everything else on the production. And I am sick of the "shines on the world stage thing." Who cares? And is this really even true? The movie Chicago was filmed in Toronto -- did everyone who watched Chicago suddenly want to go to Toronto? The TV animated series Archer gets a big subsidy from the state of Georgia. Have they even mentioned Georgia in the series? Given the tone of the show, would they even want to be mentioned?
When government subsidizes an industry, it is explicitly saying that resources are better and more productively invested in the subsidized industry than in other industries in which the money would have been spent in a free market. Does the author really have evidence that the money I would have spent to improve the campgrounds we operate in Arizona is better taken from me and spent to get a Hollywood movie shot here instead? Which investment will still be here 6 months from now?
Arizona is one of 11 states that don't offer tax incentives, primarily in the form of income-tax credits, and that's the core of the problem. There's also no state film office to help out-of-state crews obtain filming permits, locate vendors, hire temporary staff and so on.
Arizona's tax incentives expired after 2010 and the film office closed in the wake of a recession that hit the state especially hard and necessitated tough spending choices. Although bills to revive those programs have been introduced, they're not given high odds of success in the current session as the governor and lawmakers struggle to close $1.5 billion in deficits over this year and next.
"Right now, there's nobody to call, the phone isn't being answered and nobody responds to e-mails," said Mike Kucharo, a local producer and director who serves as the state-government liaison for the Arizona Production Association, an entertainment trade and networking group. "We need a film office."
Yeah for us! While all the lemmings in other states bid up the price of a few politicians being able to get their picture with Hollywood types on a production set, we have chosen not to play. Good for us. Only an industry insider clown with a straight face could say that we need a taxpayer-funded film office. Really? Do we need a taxpayer-funded florist office to attract flower sales?
Years ago I wrote an article calling sports team subsidies a prisoners dilemma game, where the only winning move was not to play. The NFL has 32 teams, mostly in the largest cities. Without subsidies the NFL would have ... 32 teams, mostly in the largest cities, and taxpayers would have saved billions of dollars. The same is true for film:
Indeed, the number and size of incentives escalated from just two states offering $2 million in combined incentives in 2003 to 40 states offering $1.2 billion just six years later, according to the Tax Foundation.
So subsidies have gone up by over a billion dollars a year, and yet roughly the same films are being made. This is one of the best examples I can think of where politicians are using taxpayer money to increase their personal prestige. The AZ Republic should be embarrassed they are out front actively encouraging this behavior.
Postscript: For all of its flaws in teaching real-world relevant business topics, the Harvard Business School was very good, at least when I was attending it, at teaching business strategy. My memory may be fuzzy here, but I am pretty sure that "40 other groups have all jumped into this activity and have ramped up their spending by a factor of 50 in just six years and all 40 competitors are really focused on winning almost irregardless of the price they pay" is not a very good pitch for investing money in a new field.
Postscript #2: All of this is a wonton violation of the AZ state Constitution, though of course big government advocates are really good at totally ignoring Constitutional limits on government power. Here is what our Constitution says:
Section 7. Neither the state, nor any county, city, town, municipality, or other subdivision of the state shall ever give or loan its credit in the aid of, or make any donation or grant, by subsidy or otherwise, to any individual, association, or corporation, or become a subscriber to, or a shareholder in, any company or corporation, or become a joint owner with any person, company, or corporation, except as to such ownerships as may accrue to the state by operation or provision of law or as authorized by law solely for investment of the monies in the various funds of the state.
Update: From the Manhattan Institute, film tax breaks return 30 cents for every dollar spent
Similar to most targeted tax breaks, movie production incentives routinely fail to deliver on the economic promises made by their proponents. Supporters frequently claim movie incentives create jobs and lead to net gains in tax revenue. However, data from several states find movie production incentives generate less than 30 cents for every lost dollar in tax revenue.
Providing tax breaks specifically to the film industry is an example of government working to choose winners and losers in the marketplace. States could attract almost any industry if they paid for a quarter to a third of its expenditures, but such a policy would be fiscally unsustainable. A better system would be to lower state tax rates for everyone, encouraging economic growth.
Film is a particularly poor industry to subsidize because it does not create long-term employment and other lasting economic benefits for states. Even though a well-made film might boost tourism, productions only offer short-term employment and the workers are highly specialized. Production and workers can easily move from one location to wherever better deals are offered.
Presumably most of you have seen this chart frm a study that says that not only do Americans not know where the Ukraine is, but that desire for US intervention there is correlated with such knowledge or lack thereof (the less people understand where it is, the more they support intervention).
I find the study results both depressing and unsurprising, so I won't comment on them per se. Though I suppose if you confuse the Ukraine with the Yukon (as a number of respondents seem to), interventionism might make more sense. My only question is: where were such studies of domain knowledge vs. policy recommendations in the health care or minimum wage debate?
However much impact this chart has had, though, it is still a graphics fail in my mind. Why? Because the author attempts to portray a second variable by the dot color. But the variable he or she chooses to portray is the distance of the point from the correct location (red being more correct, blue less). But that is easy to see without the variation in color. It is redundant information.
A much better chart would have been to color code each dot with that respondent's Ukraine prescription, from blue = intervention to red = non-intervention. This way the chart would have supported the full findings of the study (link between geographical knowledge and policy prescription) rather than just one aspect (quality of geographic knowledge).
Update: If so many people got the Ukraine and the Yukon confused, God help us if the next Russian crisis is in Georgia.
Matt Ridley has another very good editorial in the WSJ that again does a great job of outlining what I think of as the core skeptic position. Read the whole thing, but a few excerpts:
The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will shortly publish the second part of its latest report, on the likely impact of climate change. Government representatives are meeting with scientists in Japan to sex up—sorry, rewrite—a summary of the scientists' accounts of storms, droughts and diseases to come. But the actual report, known as AR5-WGII, is less frightening than its predecessor seven years ago.
The 2007 report was riddled with errors about Himalayan glaciers, the Amazon rain forest, African agriculture, water shortages and other matters, all of which erred in the direction of alarm. This led to a critical appraisal of the report-writing process from a council of national science academies, some of whose recommendations were simply ignored.
Others, however, hit home. According to leaks, this time the full report is much more cautious and vague about worsening cyclones, changes in rainfall, climate-change refugees, and the overall cost of global warming.
It puts the overall cost at less than 2% of GDP for a 2.5 degrees Centigrade (or 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature increase during this century. This is vastly less than the much heralded prediction of Lord Stern, who said climate change would cost 5%-20% of world GDP in his influential 2006 report for the British government.
It is certainly a strange branch of science where major reports omit a conclusion because that conclusion is not what they wanted to see
The IPCC's September 2013 report abandoned any attempt to estimate the most likely "sensitivity" of the climate to a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide. The explanation, buried in a technical summary not published until January, is that "estimates derived from observed climate change tend to best fit the observed surface and ocean warming for [sensitivity] values in the lower part of the likely range." Translation: The data suggest we probably face less warming than the models indicate, but we would rather not say so.
Readers of this site will recognize this statement
None of this contradicts basic physics. Doubling carbon dioxide cannot on its own generate more than about 1.1C (2F) of warming, however long it takes. All the putative warming above that level would come from amplifying factors, chiefly related to water vapor and clouds. The net effect of these factors is the subject of contentious debate.
I have reluctantly accepted the lukewarmer title, though I think it is a bit lame.
In climate science, the real debate has never been between "deniers" and the rest, but between "lukewarmers," who think man-made climate change is real but fairly harmless, and those who think the future is alarming. Scientists like Judith Curry of the Georgia Institute of Technology and Richard Lindzen of MIT have moved steadily toward lukewarm views in recent years.
When I make presentations, I like to start with the following (because it gets everyone's attention): "Yes, I am a denier. But to say 'denier', implies that one is denying some specific proposition. What is that proposition? It can't be 'global warming' because propositions need verbs, otherwise it is like saying one denies weather. I don't deny that the world has warmed over the last century. I don't deny that natural factors play a role in this (though many alarmists seem to). I don't even deny that man has contributed incrementally to this warming. What I deny is the catastrophe. Specifically, I deny that man's CO2 will warm the Earth enough to create a catastrophe. I define "catastrophe" as an outcome where the costs of immediately reducing CO2 output with the associated loss in economic growth would be substantially less than the cost of future adaption and abatement. "
Reason rightly highlights this story about a kid in Georgia facing 10 years in jail because his school found his fishing tackle box in his car and in it was, gasp, his fishing knife.
But what the local news story fails to make a point about is the absurdly low bar school officials have to clear to search student's cars.
Williams, a senior at Allatoona High School, became the subject of a warrantless search after a fellow student told a campus police officer that he or she saw smoke rising from Williams’ car in the student parking lot and it smelled like marijuana. An assistant principal searched the car and did not find any marijuana but did find a pocket knife in the center console, enough to get Williams suspended for 10 days and possibly expelled, while facing felony criminal charges.
Smoke was rising from the car? Really? Like Spiccoli's van in Fast Times for Ridgemont High? I am sure glad this kind of administrative lawlessness was not allowed when I was in school. I wouldn't be surprised if the original student report to the school wasn't a pure fabrication out of spite against this student.
Recently small town Grantville, Georgia police chief Doug Jordan flew out to meet with our very own Sheriff Joe.
Following their meeting, Jordan expressed his hopes to establish Grantville’s own drug team. He also planned to have some of his officers travel to Arizona for training.
Seriously? A dedicated drug team? Grantville has a population of 3,096 in 2011. Here it is in all its metropolitan glory:
Next, they will be wanting a tank.
My son and I were watching a TV show and at the end there was a blurb about it being made in Georgia. I said to him "I guarantee that "filmed in Georgia" translates to "subsidized by Georgia." He did not believe me, and could not understand why anyone would subsidize film production. After all, we can argue about whether any government subsidized jobs make sense or just cannibalize investment in other areas, but film jobs are the most temporary and fleeting of all jobs.
Turns out I was right (I followed a web link from the credits):
Georgia production incentives provide up to 30% of your Georgia production expenditures in transferable tax credits.
The program is available for qualifying projects, including feature films, television series, commercials, music videos, animation and game development. With one of the industry’s most competitive production incentive programs, the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Office can help you dramatically cut production costs without sacrificing quality.
Highlights from the Georgia Entertainment Industry Investment Act include the following:
- 20% across the board, transferable flat tax credit with a minimum of $500,000 spent on qualified production and post production expenditures within Georgia
- Additional 10% tax credit if a production company includes an imbedded Georgia promotional logo in the qualified feature film, TV series, music video or video game project
- Provides same tax credits to all instate and out-of-state labor working in Georgia, plus standard fringes qualify
- No limits or caps on Georgia spend; no sunset clause
- For commercials and music videos, a production company may group multiple projects together to meet the $500,000 minimum spend on qualified expenditures
This is just insane. WTF is the state doing subsidizing 30% of the cost of making commercials? What could possibly justify this, except that this is a sexy business and it gives politicians a chance to rub shoulders with film people? Why are Georgia business people taxed in order to hand money film producers? What makes film production a "good" industry and, say, campgrounds a bad one?
Well, I suppose it could be argued that filming in Georgia would help advertise Georgia by showing scenes filmed on location in the state. Except that the show we were watching was Archer, an animated series about spies based in New York City. Not one second of the TV show has ever shown or ever will show a live image of Georgia, and I am almost all the way through the second season and not one location in the state of Georgia has been mentioned (though they might have mentioned the one in Asia).
Bronson Beisel, 46, says he was looking last fall for an alternative to driving his gas-guzzling Ford Expedition sport utility around suburban Atlanta, when he saw a discounted lease offer for an all-electric Nissan Leaf. With $1,000 down, Mr. Beisel says he got a two-year lease for total out-of-pocket payments of $7,009, a deal that reflects a $7,500 federal tax credit.
As a resident of Georgia, Mr. Beisel is also eligible for a $5,000 subsidy from the state government. Now, he says, his out-of-pocket costs for 24 months in the Leaf are just over $2,000. Factor in the $200 a month he reckons he isn't paying for gasoline to fill up his hulking SUV, and Mr. Beisel says "suddenly the car puts $2,000 in my pocket."
Yes, he pays for electricity to charge the Leaf's 24-kilowatt-hour battery—but not much. "In March, I spent $14.94 to charge the car" and a bit less than that in April, he says. He also got an electric car-charging station installed at his house for no upfront cost.
"It's like a two-year test drive, free," he says.
I hope you all enjoy Mr. Beisel's smug pride a driving a car using your money.
In my next post, I am going to dive deeper in the operating cost numbers here. By the article, Mr. Beisel has cut his monthly fuel costs from $200 to $14.94, a savings of over 90%. If these numbers are real, why the hell do we have to subsidize these cars? Well, while it turns out that while the Leaf is a nice efficient vehicle, these numbers are way off. Stay tuned.
On the right, both climate change and questions about global limits on oil production have exited the realm of empirical debate and become full-blown fronts in the culture wars. You're required to mock them regardless of whether it makes any sense. And it's weird as hell. I mean, why would you disparage development of renewable energy? If humans are the ultimate creators, why not create innovative new sources of renewable energy instead of digging up every last fluid ounce of oil on the planet?
I am sure it is perfectly true that there are Conservatives who knee-jerk oppose every government renewable energy and recycling and green jobs idea that comes along without reference to the science. But you know what, there are plenty of Liberals who knee-jerk support all these same things, again without any understanding of the underlying science. Mr. Drum, for example, only recently came around to opposing corn ethanol, despite the fact that the weight of the science was against ethanol being any kind of environmental positive years and years ago. In fact, not until it was no longer cool and caring to support ethanol (a moment I would set at when Rolling Stone wrote a fabulous ethanol expose) did Drum finally turn against it. Is this science, or social signalling? How many folks still run around touting electric cars without understanding what the marginal fuels are in the electricity grid, or without understanding the true well-to-wheels efficiency? How many folks still run around touting wind power without understanding the huge percentage of this power that must be backed up with hot backup power fueled by fossil fuels?
Why is his almost blind support of renewable energy without any reference to science or the specifics of the technologies involved any saner than blind opposition? If anything, blind opposition at least has the numbers on their side, given past performance of investments in all sorts of wonder-solutions to future energy production.
The reason there is a disconnect is because statists like Drum equate supporting government subsidies and interventions with supporting renewables. Few people, even Conservatives, oppose renewables per se. This is a straw man. What they oppose are subsidies and government mandates for renewables. Drum says he has almost limitless confidence in man's ability to innovate. I agree -- but I, unlike he apparently, have limitless confidence in man's ability to innovate absent government coercion. It was not a government program that replaced whale oil as an illuminant right when we were approaching peak whale, it was the genius of John D. Rockefeller. As fossil fuels get short, prices rise, and people naturally innovate on substitutes. If Drum believes that private individuals are missing an opportunity, rather than root for government coercion, he should go take up the challenge. He can be the Rockefeller of renewable energy.
Postscript: By the way, it is absurd and disingenuous to equate opposition to what have been a series of boneheaded government investments in questionable ventures and technologies with some sort of a-scientific hatred of fossil fuel alternatives. I have written for a decade that I long for the day, and expect it to be here within 20 years, that sheets of solar cells are cranked from factories like carpet out of Dalton, Georgia.
Matt Welch has a good article here about a self-refuting NPR piece, which was obviously supposed to be a scare story about the loss of Sequestration money but turned out to be an illustration of just how stupid the sequestration panic was. It's funny listening to the podcast of this episode as the NPR hosts desperately try to support the Administration position.
But one thing I thought was funny was this bit illustrating pre-sequester government staffing prioritization:
NPR's David Greene brings on Yvette Aehle, director of the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport in Albany, Georgia, to talk about the terrible danger that passengers will face now that Aehle's airport stands to lose its air traffic controllers:
AEHLE: Well, I don't really want to say anything is less safe. It's just a better opportunity for people to listen and to be heard and to understand where they are. And also, I'd like to point out that we don't have 24-hour tower coverage here currently. Those air traffic controllers are only directing traffic between 8 am to 8 pm seven days a week. And most of our heavy traffic is outside of those hours.
So the government chooses to staff the control tower only half the day. But they choose to staff the tower during the 12 hours of lightest traffic, presumably because the employees wanted day jobs rather than night jobs.
As an aside, I will confess that my business of running public parks benefits from this. The biggest management load on parks is obviously on weekends and in the evenings (in campgrounds). Most employees of public agencies only work weekday days. Its incredibly typical that public parks employees will take their vacations in July and August, by far the busiest months. One advantage (other than the obvious cost advantage) we have over public operations is that public agencies can't or won't ask their employees to work weekends and defer their vacations out of the summer time. We are perfectly happy to hire people with very clear expectations that the job involves work on weekend and holidays.
I will give you my reminder of how to understand most government agencies: Ignore the agency's stated purpose, and assume that it is being operated primarily for the benefit of its employees. One will very often find that this simple heuristic is far better at explaining agency decisions than relying on the agency's mission statement (this does not mean that there are not dedicated individuals in the agency truly, even selflessly, dedicated to the stated mission -- these two notions are not at all mutually exclusive. Government agencies do not act badly because they are full of bad people, they act badly because their incentives cause good people to do stupid things).
I have written before of my believe that climate has become the first post-modern science. This time, I will yield the floor to Garth Paltridge to make the same point:
But the real worry with climate research is that it is on the very edge of what is called postmodern science. This is a counterpart of the relativist world of postmodern art and design. It is a much more dangerous beast, whose results are valid only in the context of society’s beliefs and where the very existence of scientific truth can be denied. Postmodern science envisages a sort of political nirvana in which scientific theory and results can be consciously and legitimately manipulated to suit either the dictates of political correctness or the policies of the government of the day.
There is little doubt that some players in the climate game – not a lot, but enough to have severely damaged the reputation of climate scientists in general – have stepped across the boundary into postmodern science. The Climategate scandal of 2009, wherein thousands of emails were leaked from the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in England, showed that certain senior members of the research community were, and presumably still are, quite capable of deliberately selecting data in order to overstate the evidence for dangerous climate change. The emails showed as well that these senior members were quite happy to discuss ways and means of controlling the research journals so as to deny publication of any material that goes against the orthodox dogma. The ways and means included the sacking of recalcitrant editors.
Whatever the reason, it is indeed vastly more difficult to publish results in climate research journals if they run against the tide of politically correct opinion. Which is why most of the sceptic literature on the subject has been forced onto the web, and particularly onto web-logs devoted to the sceptic view of things. Which, in turn, is why the more fanatical of the believers in anthropogenic global warming insist that only peer-reviewed literature should be accepted as an indication of the real state of affairs. They argue that the sceptic web-logs should never be taken seriously by “real” scientists, and certainly should never be quoted. Which is a great pity. Some of the sceptics are extremely productive as far as critical analysis of climate science is concerned. Names like Judith Curry (chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta), Steve McIntyre (a Canadian geologist-statistician) and blogger Willis Eschenbach come to mind. These three in particular provide a balance and maturity in public discussion that puts many players in the global warming movement to shame, and as a consequence their outreach to the scientifically inclined general public is highly effective. Their output, together with that of other sceptics on the web, is fast becoming a practical and stringent substitute for peer review.
Update: The IPCC does not seem to be on a path to building the credibility of climate science. In their last report, the IPCC was rightly criticized for using "grey" literature as a source for their findings, against their own rules. Grey literature encompasses about anything that is not published peer-reviewed literature, including, from the last report, sources that were essentially press releases from advocacy groups like the IPCC. They even use a travel brochure as a source.
This time, to avoid this criticism, the IPCC is ... changing their rules to allow such grey literature citations. I am pretty sure that this was NOT passed in order to get more material from Steve McIntyre's blog. In related news, the IPCC also changed the makeup of its scientific panel, putting geographical and gender diversity over scientific qualifications as a criteria. The quota for African climate scientists will, for example, be higher than that of North America. See the whole story here.
Though this was all presented with pious words, my guess is that it was felt by the political leaders of the IPCC in the UN that the last report was not socialist or totalitarian enough and that more of such content was necessary. We'll see.
We associate photos like this one with the devastation of post-war Europe.
In fact, this is a post-war photo, but it is of Charleston, South Carolina after the Civil War. We seldom think of such scenes as being relevent to the US, but the South was at least as destroyed after the Civil War as Germany was after WWII. Sherman's march to the sea in Georgia was famous for its devastation, but in their letters, many of Sherman's soldiers say they were particularly ferocious in South Carolina, the state that they most associated with the war and its start (though much of the devastation in Charleston was self-inflicted, as a fire to burn the remaining cotton and keep it out of Yankee hands spread to the rest of the city).
Sent to me by a bunch of readers, from the Atlantic interview with Thomas Schelling:
I sometimes wish that we could have, over the next five or ten years, a lot of horrid things happening -- you know, like tornadoes in the Midwest and so forth -- that would get people very concerned about climate change. But I don't think that's going to happen.
This reminds me of a post from way back, when Kevin Drum wrote:
Seeking to shape legislation before Congress, three major energy trade
associations have shifted their stances and decided to back mandatory
federal curbs on carbon dioxide and other man-made emissions that could
accelerate climate change.
Having some Washington lobbying organizations switch which side of this incredibly difficult trade off they support is not "good news." Good news is finding out that this trade off may not be as stark as we think it is. Good news is finding some new technology that reduces emissions and which private citizens are willing to adopt without government coercion (e.g. sheets of solar cells that can be run out of factories like carpet from Dalton, Georgia). Or, good news is finding out that man's CO2 production has less of an effect on world climate than once thought. Oddly enough, this latter category of good news, surely the best possible news we could get on the topic, is seldom treated as good news by global warming activists. In fact, scientists with this message are called Holocaust deniers.
Postscript: It is particularly telling of a certain mindset that Schelling specifically wishes bad things to occur in the Midwest. By most leftish standards, people in flyover country (except maybe Ohio since it is a key swing state) don't really count.
Please join me in support for poor, beleaguered gas station owners, the victims of unconscionable price gouging by ruthless consumers who are taking advantage of market conditions to reduce their demand for gasoline, riving down the price by nearly $2 per gallon over the last four months. Fortunately, governments are swinging into action. Georgia governor Sonny Perdue issued this statement:
"The financial crisis has disrupted the consumption of gasoline, which will have an effect on prices. However, we expect the prices that Georgian gasoline station owners receive at the pump to be in line with changes in consumers' incomes and the prices of substitutes and complements. We will not tolerate consumers taking advantage of Georgian business owners during a time of emergency."
Apparently another interest group is claiming that Arizona is "missing out" on jobs in some critical growth industry, and therefore (wait for it) that industry must be subsidized to come to Arizona.
Arizona is getting its "clock cleaned" in the competition among
Western states to land solar-panel manufacturing companies within their
borders, according to the economic-development group that is losing the
At least nine companies that make solar equipment have passed up the
Valley of the Sun in the last year in favor of neighboring states,
according to the Greater Phoenix Economic Council.
From those nine projects alone, Arizona is missing out on more than 3,800 jobs, $2.3 billion in investment and $732 million in state and local revenues during the next decade, GPEC President and CEO Barry Broome said.
I am too tired to do my usual fact-checking on "incremental" state revenue numbers, but suffice it to say that $732 million in state and local tax revenues is a pipe dream. There are three or four million people in Phoenix -- why is it we need the government to focus on someone employing 3,800 people?
The article's main "logic" is that our sunny climate should attract solar panel manufacturers. Why? I know they're customers may be here, but since most panels today come to Arizona from Japan or Germany, I don't think shipping costs are a big deal for panels.
The proposal is for a transferable income tax credit and property tax relief. The author says the group is opposed to straight cash handouts, though. Uh, OK. And explain to me why a "transferable income tax credit" that the author says can be sold to other companies for cash is different than a cash handout?
I sometimes find it hard to identify the consistent element of what makes for a "desirable business" (ie deserving of such subsidies) vs. one that is not so deserving. The only consistent element I can find is that my business is always in the latter group, paying our taxes so that someone else's business and job can be subsidized. It is for this reason that I generally barf when some group cries that they are not recieving equal proection (ala the 14th ammendment). Take on tax and subsidy policy that takes from one group to fund another more politically connected group, and then talk to me about equal protection.
Postscript: Here are the favored industries I can remember in the news of late in Arizona for getting special tax treatment:
Rock and Roll themed amusement park
Solar panel manufacturing
New shopping mall parking lot
Spring training baseball parks
Readers are encouraged to add others in the comments.
Another Thought: I would dearly love to see a solar panel technology that can be rolled out of the factory cheaply in sheets like carpet out of Dalton, Georgia. However, while I am increasingly convinced that someone is going to invent that technology soon, that technology will not be related to traditional silicon fabrication methods. Therefore, nearly all of the plants that Arizona is desperately trying to subsidize to move here are likely using dead-end technologies, driven in part by bubble economics and subsidies that are not sustainable as the market grows (see ethanol). Current silicon and germanium panels make no economic sense anywhere, and survive only due to massive (50% subsidies) and a desire to make a token green statement.
I am sure our local paper was cheerleading for ethanol plants in years past, and it is good we did not subsidize many here, because they are failing all over. And I can't prove it, but I wouldn't be a bit surprised that one of the reasons our local semiconductor manufacturing operations have shrunk is because of this same effect, with subsidies attracting the least, not the most, viable enterprises.
I am a glutton for stats, so I always love to post this analysis. Of the 125 brackets we have in the tournament, this is how many picked each team in each game (teams in red are those already knocked out)
By the way, how about that buzzer-beater in overtime by Western Kentucky!
|Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Round 5||Round 6|
Every 2-3 years I do the math on solar cells for my home. I live in a house with a large flat roof and in one of the top 10 cities in the world for solar potential, so it seems to make sense in theory. Unfortunately, even with large government / power company subsidies, the math never works as an investment.
The problem for me is not efficiency - I have enough flat space on my roof for a lot of cells - but cost. We need a solar technology that can be rolled out of the factory like carpet from Dalton, Georgia. To this end, this looks promising.
I probably shouldn't, but I must admit that I am being hugely entertained by the calculus of guilt and victimization in the Democratic Party as supporters of the white woman and the black guy vie to claim the title of being the most put down by "the man." I can just see the voter in Berkeley yesterday nearly imploding with stress as she tried to figure out whether it was less PC to vote against a black or a woman. Anyway, MaxedOutMamma is also having fun with the whole thing, and is surprised to find out that "If Hillary doesn't win
tonight it will obviously be proof that the old WASP boys club [of Georgia!] has
conquered using a black guy with the middle name of Hussein." Yes sir, I remember that time when Georgia went so far as to secede from the union to keep women in bondage....
Thanks to a reader comes this article from the NY Times that yet again discusses a water shortage and possible government action without once mentioning the word "price." If water prices floated like gas prices, we wouldn't have to discuss things like these:
Within two weeks, Carol Couch, director of the Georgia Environmental
Protection Division, is expected to send Gov. Sonny Perdue
recommendations on tightening water restrictions, which may include
mandatory cutbacks on commercial and industrial users.
happens, experts at the National Drought Mitigation Center said, it
would be the first time a major metropolitan area in the United States
had been forced to take such drastic action to save its water supply.
But of course politicians love being responsible for resource allocation through command-and-control government, because it creates winners and losers and both will then donate to the next election cycle. Atlanta already has fairly expensive water, but a quick 50% rate hike about 3 months ago would have likely obviated this shortage while also providing the municipality with additional funds to develop new sources.
I wrote a lot more about water scarcity and the price mechanism, including the observation that Phoenix ridiculously has some of the lowest water prices in the country, here.
All you see is what one presumes to be normal in white and then a lot of drought. But in fact, this chart is truncated. It omits all the data for areas that are wetter than usual. Here is the chart for September form the NOAA with both over and under precipitation over the past 12 months:
Whoa, that shows a different picture, huh? Basically, about as much stuff is wetter than normal as drier than normal. Which is exactly what one might expect in any period. And by the way, if you look at the last five years, the US is pretty freaking wet:
Many of us remember the old Pepsi challenge commercials, where blind taste tests vs. Coke showed people preferring Pepsi. One of the interesting results of these commercials was that Pepsi gained market share, but Coke did not lose it -- much of the Pepsi market share gain came from other brands. In essence, the commercials established in consumer's minds that the cola choice was Coke or Pepsi, and so it did as much for Coke as it did Pepsi.
So now take this experience to anti-smoking commercials. It turns out that they may backfire:
The more anti-smoking ads middle schoolers see, the more likely they are to smoke, according to a study in the August issue of Communication Research.
Hye-Jin Paek, an assistant professor at the University of Georgia's
College of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Albert Gunther, a
professor of life sciences communication at the University of
Wisconsin at Madison, analyzed data from surveys that asked middle
school students about their exposure to anti-smoking messages and their
intention to smoke:
They found that, overall, the
more the students were exposed to anti-smoking messages, the more
inclined they were to smoke. The exception"”where exposure to
anti-smoking ads correlated with a reduced intention to smoke"”occurred
among students who said their friends were influenced by anti-smoking
In the context of other advertising research, such as the old Coke/Pepsi campaign, this is not surprising. It is even less surprising for this type of ad, where a certain amount of anti-authoritarian response can be expected. In fact, I have seen a number of ads that use this anti-authoritarian streak and distrust of the government as a feature. Ads that say "The government doesn't want you to know about X" or "What the oil companies don't want you to know."
I wonder when the first member of the plaintiff's bar will initiate a lawsuit against the tobacco companies for promoting teenage smoking by running... anti-smoking ads.
John Sugg at Reason has a review of corporate relocation subsidies down South, and the picture is not pretty:
Jurisdictions across the nation offer such inducements, which
include tax abatement, land acquisition, construction subsidies,
training subsidies, and outright cash grants. Nationally, relocation
incentives total about $50 billion a year, according to the WHR Group,
SIRVA, and other relocation consultants. (Such consultants often
collect as much as 30 percent of the grants they negotiate for the
It's hard to get a precise total of the dollars
involved, but almost every major business relocation in the South is
accompanied by a cornucopia of publicly funded grants, despite ample
evidence that the subsidies have little impact on corporate site
selection. Other regions of the nation, especially ones experiencing
protracted economic downturns, are increasingly emulating the South.
The politicians involved rarely consider broader tax and regulatory
changes that would make their states more attractive to all businesses,
outside and homegrown....
Trendy businesses"”particularly technology firms"”have the greatest
leverage in demanding government subsidies. In February, for example,
biofuel manufacturer Range Fuels, based on little more than its word
that it could deliver a economically competitive product, was offered
$6 million in state cash, a 97-acre tract in central Georgia, and a set
of tax abatements. At best, the company will employ 70 people.
He's got tons of examples, so you should read it all, but this one sounded just like something out of Wisconsin in Atlas Shrugged:
One business that benefited from such subsidies was the Real Silk
Hosiery factory, which opened in Durant, Mississippi, in the late
1930s. Real Silk rented its factory from a state agency for $5 a year,
enjoyed tax incentives, and had public agencies train its employees and
even build their homes. The Durant plant was shuttered in the mid-'50s.
Like many other Southern industrial facilities abandoned by owners
seeking better deals elsewhere, it closed before the industrial revenue
bonds were paid off. Writing in Time in 1998, reporters Donald Bartlett
and James Steele noted that Mississippi "was the poorest state in the
nation when its corporate-welfare program began in 1936."¦62 years and
hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars in economic incentives
later, it remains dead last in per capita income."
In the past, I have observed that the "game" of competitive relocation subsidies between local authorities is very similar to a prisoner's dilemma game. In the prisoner's dilemma, two prisoners are given a choice: To confess and rat out their partner or to stay silent. If both stay silent, they get 10 years each in jail. If one rats out the other, but the other stays silent, the talker gets 5 years and the silent one gets 30 years. If they both talk, then they both get 20 years. In this game, each person has the incentive to talk, since for any set of actions of their partner, they are better off talking than not talking. The irony is that when they both inevitably talk, they end up worse off than if they had stayed silent.
I see the relocation subsidy game as very similar, replacing "state official" for prisoner and "subsidize" for "talk." Quoting from myself:
In a libertarian world where politicians all just say no to
subsidizing businesses, then businesses would end up reasonably evenly
distributed across the country (due to labor markets, distribution
requirements, etc.) and taxpayers would not be paying any subsidies.
However, because politicians fear that their community will lose if
they don't play the subsidy game like everyone else (the equivalent of
staying silent while your partner is ratting you out in prison) what we
end up with is still having businesses reasonably evenly distributed
across the country, but with massive subsidies in place.
To see this clearer, lets take the example of Major League Baseball
(MLB). We all know that cities and states have been massively
subsidizing new baseball stadiums for billionaire team owners. Lets
for a minute say this never happened - that somehow, the mayors of the
50 largest cities got together in 1960 and made a no-stadium-subsidy
pledge. First, would MLB still exist? Sure! Teams like the Giants
have proven that baseball can work financially in a private park, and
baseball thrived for years with private parks. OK, would baseball be
in the same cities? Well, without subsidies, baseball would be in the
largest cities, like New York and LA and Chicago, which is exactly
where they are now. The odd city here or there might be different,
e.g. Tampa Bay might never have gotten a team, but that would in
retrospect have been a good thing.
The net effect in baseball is the same as it is in every other
industry: Relocation subsidies, when everyone is playing the game, do
nothing to substantially affect the location of jobs and businesses,
but rather just transfer taxpayer money to business owners and workers.
I conclude with this from Sugg's piece:
Holladay, who has headed state economic development agencies in
Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina, remembers a conversation with
Zell Miller, then governor of Georgia, at a National Governors
Conference in the '90s. "The topic of subsidies came up," he recalls.
"Zell asked me, "˜Is there any way to end this foolishness?' I answered,
"˜The only way I know is to not elect any more governors.'"‰"
Apparently the next "crisis" is that America is running out of water. This is mostly an issue in the west, where growth is high and fresh water is rarer than in the east. Here is one example of the brewing panic:
The growing human population is creating cities where desert or scrub
land used to be. Rainfall always has been and always will be in short
supply. Only so much water can be diverted from rivers to satisfy the
water needs of these desert dwellers. The aquifers are being drained.
Soon there will be demands to divert water from large inland lakes like the Great Lakes which would put those bodies of water in peril.
Oh my god, I can see it now - fish flopping on the muddy exposed bottom of Lake Michigan.
Look, the problem is not lack of water. The problem is lack of market sanity. Water in the west is regulated and sold in a hodge-podge of complex arrangements and negotiations. The whole system is too complex to describe here, but at least one general conclusion can be safely drawn about the whole system: Water is under-priced.
For reference, lets look at my home city. If building cities in the desert is the new evil, then I live in that great Satan called Phoenix. And while my electricity charges are enough to get my attention (higher efficiency AC: check; compact fluorescent bulbs: check; solar: still too expensive), my water bill seldom grabs my focus.
And now I know why. Check out this analysis, conducted apparently by the city of Austin but which I found on the Portland Water Bureau's web site:
|City||Monthly cost for water service of 8,500 gallons|
|Charlotte, North Carolina||$17.52|
|East Bay MUD, Oakland, California||$31.13|
|San Diego, California||$37.52|
Can you believe it? We here in Phoenix, out in the middle of the largest desert on the continent, during a multi-year drought (yes you can still have a drought in the desert), while everyone laments that Lake Powell and other reservoirs are getting sucked dry, Phoenix has one of the lowest water prices of any city in the country. Can you get over the irony of Seattle having some of the highest priced water in the country and Phoenix the lowest?
And you know what - I have not seen a single article in any of our local media that has once mentioned this fact. Look here -- the articles blame global warming and lack of conservation and development and too many lawns and not enough low-flow faucets and talk about the need for government rationing, but never once mention PRICE. We have the scarcest water in the country and one of the lowest prices for water. Talk about ignoring the elephant in the room. I should have just labeled this post "Duh!"
And these are the consumer water prices. The situation actually gets worse when you look at agriculture. In most of the southwest, farmers get water prices subsidized below the rates paid by ordinary consumers. When you combine these water subsidies with massive subsidies already rich groups get for growing crops in the desert from farm programs, you get an enormous distorted incentive to grow water-hungry crops that are totally inappropriate for the desert.
So here is my five minute plan: We may be a ways away from creating an actual market in water, but in the mean time, the quasi-governmental agencies providing it need to raise the prices (to everyone) up to a level that demand matches supply. More conservation will occur, and marginal commercial, residential, and agricultural development will disappear. If the price goes high enough, someone may even go out and find a new, innovative source of water for the area.
Unfortunately, this is just too dang easy, and, from reading recent articles in the media, not even in the menu of options being considered. Government bureaucrats are much more comfortable with rationing and limitations on development, because it gives them more power and creates a new set of winners and losers who will donate more to future political campaigns.
Update: Daniel Mitchell at Cato has similar thoughts, based on water shortages in Florida of all places:
So here we are, in the spring of 2007, with rain below
average, with a low lake level, little else in the way of reservoirs,
and a water shortage. What is the response? Well, a rational response
might be to price a scarce commodity such that people will use it only
as they need it, and not frivolously. "¦Instead, we get the response of
the local commissars. So, not allowing the market to work, and not
allowing prices to provide signals to the participants, they have
decided to run our lives for us.
"¦I live at an odd numbered address. That means that if I want to
water my lawn, I can only do it on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday
mornings, from four to eight AM. I can water my plants with a hose on
the same days, but only between five and seven PM. My neighbors across
the street, and behind my house on the next block, get Sunday, Tuesday
"¦Over thirty years ago, in the first OPEC oil embargo, the
government, rather than allowing prices to rise to account for the
reduced supply, told people when they could purchase gas based on the
parity of their license plate "” even one day, odd the next. My
recollection was that this did nothing to alleviate the shortage "” the
lines remained. The problem was only solved when Nixon-era price
controls on oil were lifted, the market was allowed to work, and oil
prices eventually (and it didn't take all that long) fell to historical
"¦[H]ere's a radical concept. How about pricing the commodity to the
market? Maybe, if people had to pay more for water to water their lawn,
they'd use less of it? Yes, I know that it's hard to believe, but there
really are some people out there who buy less of something if the price
Update #2: The more I think of it, the more this situation really ticks me off. In their general pandering and populism, politicians are afraid to raise water prices, fearing the decision would be criticized. So, they keep prices artificially low, knowing that this low price is causing reservoirs and aquifers to be pumped faster than their replacement rate. Then, as the reservoirs go dry, the politicians blame us, the consumers, for being too profligate with water and call for ... wait for it ... more power for themselves, the ones whose spinelessness is the root cause of the problem, to allocate and ration water and development.