Posts tagged ‘Good News’

A Small Bit of Good News -- DC Circuits Slaps Down the IRS

The creeping regulatory / corporate state gets a setback

Faulting the IRS for attempting to “unilaterally expand its authority,” the D.C. Circuit today affirmed a district court decision tossing out the agency’s tax-preparer licensing program. Under the program, all paid tax-return preparers, hitherto unregulated, were required to pass a certification exam, pay annual fees to the agency, and complete 15 hours of continuing education each year.

The program, of course, had been backed by the major national tax-return preparers, chiefly as a way of driving up compliance costs for smaller rivals and pushing home-based “kitchen table” preparers out of business. Dan Alban of the Institute for Justice, lead counsel to the tax preparers challenging the program,called the decision “a major victory for tax preparers—and taxpayers—nationwide.”

The licensing program was not only a classic example of corporate cronyism, but also of agency overreach. IRS relied on an 1884 statute empowering it to “regulate the practice of representatives or persons before [it].” Prior to 2011, IRS had never claimed that the statute gave it authority to regulate preparers. Indeed, in 2005, an IRS official testified that preparers fell outside of the law’s reach.

Perhaps a first indication that the Obama Administration strategy to pack the DC Circuit with Obama appointees may not necessarily protect his executive overreach.

PS - you gotta love the IJ.

PPS - The IRS justified its actions under "an obscure 1884 statute governing the representatives of Civil War soldiers seeking compensation for dead horses"

Litigation Virgin no More, and Good News on Parks for the Next Shutdown

My company has been sued a few times for slip and fall type stuff but I have never in my life been the plaintiff in a legal action.  As is perhaps appropriate given my political leanings, my first ever suit was against the the Federal government, specifically against the Forest Service seeking an injunction against their closure of the campgrounds we operate in the recent shutdown.

Unfortunately, the case reached the court on the day the shutdown lifted, but the judge was still very helpful in giving the Forest Service a swift kick in the butt to hurry them along so they didn't drag their feet reopening us.,

I had feared that we would lose the opportunity to set a precedent.  Since the shutdown was over I though the Court might consider this issue moot.  But apparently one can continue with such litigation to set a precedent if there is reason to think the circumstances will recur.  And the government attorney was kind enough to make a statement right in the court transcript (granted in context of a different argument) that this same shutdown situation is likely to reoccur as soon as early next year.

The good news is that we appear to have an argument that the Court is willing to entertain.  In fact, the statement below was a statement by the judge in the hearing (it's from the hearing transcript and Q&A with the government attorney and not from any official opinion).  It is not in any way binding but it gives us some confidence to try to proceed to get a ruling on the legality of our closure now, so we have it in our pocket for next time.  Here is the Court's statement, addressing the government attorney:

Well, the basic problem is that the Forest Service never should have closed these that were permitted properties.  And they in fact violated the agreement they had with these plaintiffs in doing so without necessity and determining they had a right to do so, which I don't think they did....

[the Forest Service has] nothing to do with the administration and management of the campgrounds other than the inspections at any given time.

So, what they have done is unreasonably close these parks, preventing the concessioners who pay a premium in order to get this permit and lease the property under the requirements in this permit -- and the Forest Service was very ill-advised to make the decision to close these grounds under these circumstances, where you have given up the maintenance and administration of these campsites.

I understand the overall obligation for public safety, but you have delegated that to private entities.  And you took it away when it wasn't costing you a dollar to leave it as was.  And in fact, that's where  we get into the restraint of trade and the fact that there are losses which are most likely uncompensatable.

 

By the way the case was National Forest Recreation Association et. al. vs. Tom Tidwell.  My company, among others, was al.

 

Site Fixed -- Come Back and Visit

For a second time in a month the MySql database became corrupted.  I am not sure why, but it now looks like it may be a systematic problem I have to tackle rather than a one-off.

Here is what you may have missed today

Three Cheers For Goldwater Institute Fighting Pension Spiking

Taking the Fifth, Because No One Can Pledge Confidentiality any More

Update on Climate Temperature Sensitivity (Good News, the Numbers are Falling)

Update on Climate Temperature Sensitivity (Good News, the Numbers are Falling)

I have not had the time to write much about climate of late, but after several years of arguing over emails (an activity with which I quickly grew bored), the field is heating up again, as it were.

As I have said many times, the key missing science in the whole climate debate centers around climate sensitivity, or the expected temperature increase from a doubling of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere  (as reference, CO2 in the industrial age has increased from about 270 ppm to close to 400 ppm, or about half a doubling).

In my many speeches and this video (soon to be updated, if I can just find the time to finish it), I have argued that climate computer models have exaggerated climate sensitivity.  This Wikipedia page is a pretty good rehash of the alarmist position on climate sensitivity.  According to this standard alarmist position, here is the distribution of studies which represent the potential values for sensitivity - note that virtually none are below 2°C.

Frequency_distribution_of_climate_sensitivity,_based_on_model_simulations_(NASA)

The problem is that these are all made with computer models.  They are not based on observational data.  Yes, all these models nominally backcast history reasonably correctly (look at that chart above and think about that statement for a minute, see if you can spot the problem).  But many an investor has been bankrupted by models that correctly backcast history.  The guys putting together tranches of mortgages for securities all had models.   What has been missing is any validation of these numbers with actual, you know, observations of nature.

Way back 6 or 7 years ago I began taking these numbers and projecting them backwards.  In other words, if climate sensitivity is really, say, at 4°C, then what should that imply about historical temperature increases since the pre-industrial age?  Let's do a back of the envelope with the 4°C example.  We are at just about half of a doubling of CO2 concentrations, but since sensitivity is a logarithmic curve, this implies we should have seen about 57% of the temperature increase that we would expect from a full doubling of CO2.  Applied to the 4°C sensitivity figure, this means that if sensitivity really is 4°C, we should have seen a 2.3°C global temperature increase over the last 150 years or so.  Which we certainly have not -- instead we have seen 0.8°C from all causes, only one of which is CO2.

So these high sensitivity models are over-predicting history.  Even a 2°C sensitivity over-predicts the amount of warming we have seen historically.  So how do they make the numbers fit?  The models are tuned and tweaked with a number of assumptions.  Time delays are one -- the oceans act as a huge flywheel on world temperatures and tend to add large lags to getting to the ultimate sensitivity figure.  But even this was not enough for high sensitivity models to back-cast accurately.  To make their models accurately predict history, their authors have had to ignore every other source of warming (which is why they have been so vociferous in downplaying the sun and ocean cycles, at least until they needed these to explain the lack of warming over the last decade).  Further, they have added man-made cooling factors, particularly from sulfate aerosols, that offset some of the man-made warming with man-made cooling.

Which brings us back to the problem I hinted at with the chart above and its distribution of sensitivities.  Did you spot the problem?  All these models claim to accurately back-cast history, but how can a model with a 2°C sensitivity and an 11°C sensitivity both accurately model the last 100 years?  One way they do it is by using a plug variable, and many models use aerosol cooling as the plug.  Why?   Well, unlike natural cooling factors, it is anthropogenic, so they can still claim catastrophe once we clean up the aerosols.  Also, for years the values of aerosol cooling were really uncertain, so ironically the lack of good science on them allowed scientists to assume a wide range of values.  Below is from a selection of climate models, and shows that the higher the climate sensitivity in the model, the higher the negative forcing (cooling) effect assumed from aerosols.  This has to be, or the models would not back-cast.aerosols2

The reasons that these models had such high sensitivities is that they assumed the climate was dominated by net positive feedback, meaning there were processes in the climate system that would take small amounts of initial warming from CO2 and multiply them many times.  The generally accepted value for sensitivity without these feedbacks is 1.2°C or 1.3°C (via work by Michael Mann over a decade ago).  So all the rest of the warming, in fact the entire catastrophe that is predicted, comes not from CO2 but from this positive feedback that multiplies this modest 1.2°C many times.

I have argued, as have many other skeptics, that this assumption of net positive feedback is not based on good science, and in fact most long-term stable natural systems are dominated by negative feedback (note that you can certainly identify individual processes, like ice albedo, that are certainly a positive feedback, but we are talking about the net effect of all such processes combined).  Based on a skepticism about strong positive feedback, and the magnitude of past warming in relation to CO2 increases, I have always argued that the climate sensitivity is perhaps 1.2°C and maybe less, but that we should not expect more than a degree of warming from CO2 in the next century, hardly catastrophic.

One of the interesting things you might notice from the Wikipedia page is that they do not reference any sensitivity study more recent than 2007 (except for a literature review in 2008).  One reason might be that over the last 5 years there have been a series of studies that have begun to lower the expected value of the sensitivity number.   What many of these studies have in common is that they are based on actual observational data over the last 100 years, rather than computer models  (by the way, for those of you who like to fool with Wikipedia, don't bother on climate pages -- the editors of these pages will reverse any change attempting to bring balance to their articles in a matter of minutes).  These studies include a wide range of natural effects, such as ocean cycles, left out of the earlier models.  And, as real numbers have been put on aerosol concentrations and their effects, much lower values have been assigned to aerosol cooling, thus reducing the amount of warming that could be coming from CO2.

Recent studies based on observational approaches are coming up with much lower numbers.   ECS, or equilibrium climate sensitivity numbers (what we would expect in temperature increases if we waited hundreds or thousands of years for all time delays to be overcome) has been coming in between 1.6°C and 2.0°C.  Values for TCS, or transient climate sensitivity, or what we might expect to see in our lifetimes, has been coming in around 1.3°C per doubling of CO2 concentrations.

Matt Ridley has the layman's explanation

Yesterday saw the publication of a paper in a prestigious journal,Nature Geoscience, from a high-profile international team led by Oxford scientists. The contributors include 14 lead authors of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientific report; two are lead authors of the crucial chapter 10: professors Myles Allen and Gabriele Hegerl.

So this study is about as authoritative as you can get. It uses the most robust method, of analysing the Earth’s heat budget over the past hundred years or so, to estimate a “transient climate response” — the amount of warming that, with rising emissions, the world is likely to experience by the time carbon dioxide levels have doubled since pre-industrial times.

The most likely estimate is 1.3C. Even if we reach doubled carbon dioxide in just 50 years, we can expect the world to be about two-thirds of a degree warmer than it is now, maybe a bit more if other greenhouse gases increase too….

Judith Currey discusses these new findings

Discussion of Otto, one of the recent studies

Nic Lewis discusses several of these results

This is still tough work, likely with a lot of necessary improvement, because it is really hard to dis-aggregate multiple drivers in such a complex system.  There may, for example, be causative variables we don't even know about so by definition were not included in the study.  However, it is nice to see that folks are out there trying to solve the problem with real observations of Nature, and not via computer auto-eroticism.

Postscript:  Alarmists have certainly not quit the field.  The current emerging hypothesis to defend high sensitivities is to say that the heat is going directly into the deep oceans.  At some level this is sensible -- the vast majority of the heat carrying capacity (80-90%) of the Earth's surface is in the oceans, not in the atmosphere, and so they are the best place to measure warming.  Skeptics have said this for years.  But in the top 700 meters or so of the ocean, as measured by ARGO floats, ocean heating over the last 10 years (since these more advanced measuring devices were launched) has been only about 15% of what we might predict with high sensitivity models.  So when alarmists say today that the heat is going into the oceans, they say the deep oceans -- ie that the heat from global warming is not going into the air or the first 700 meters of ocean but directly into ocean layers beneath that.  Again, this is marginally possible by some funky dynamics, but just like the aerosol defense that has fallen apart of late, this defense of high sensitivity forecasts is completely unproven.  But the science is settled, of course.

Good News of the Day

beer

Via Mark Perry

I reached drinking age (mercifully 18 in those days) in 1980 and I can tell you from experience that the early 80's were a beer wasteland.  Spent a lot of time learning foreign beers at a great little pub I discovered entirely by accident called the Gingerman in Houston (near Rice University).  The beer landscape in the US today is awesome by comparison.

Some Potential Good News on Solar

This is terrific, if true.  My fear, of course, is they are getting subsidized through a back door somewhere, but if they really think they can make subsidy-free solar work financially, that's awesome:

Two German solar energy developers are planning to build photovoltaic plants in southern Spain that will earn a return without government subsidies.

Wuerth Solar GmbH & Co. intends to build a 287-megawatt plant in the Murcia area for 277 million euros ($363 million), according to the regional authority. Gehrlicher Solar AG said it plans to develop a 250-megawatt solar park in the Extremadura region for about 250 million euros.

The projects, about three times larger than any European solar plant, may be the first that don’t rely on feed-in tariffs and compete with wholesale power prices. All plants in the region so far depend on fixed premium rates for solar power, which can be several times higher than wholesale prices.

Spain suspended the tariffs on Jan. 27 as part of government austerity measures, threatening the survival of the industry. Tariffs for large-scale solar were set at 121 euros per megawatt-hour. Developers now look to build plants without this support, helped by falling equipment prices.

Good News, Really

Believe it or not, I think this picture is actually good news:

Dowtrend

This is a little flawed, since we would expect a constant trend to be a constant percent increase each year, which would be upward curving on this chart, not a straight line trend  (it would be straight on a log scale).  Never-the-less, it makes a point  (by the way, it is interesting the 1980's are considered the decade of greed on Wall Street rather than the 1990s, from this chart).

Here is a better way to make my point.  We get a similar chart if we look at PE ratios for the S&P500  (the chart below is on trailing 10 year average earnings).

Sandp_pe

Why is this anything but depressing?  Because I get the sense that many people, without any other general indicator of how bad things are in the financial markets, are using the steep drops in the stock market as a proxy measure.  The stock market looks like a disaster, so everything else must be a disaster.

But in a large sense, at least so far, all the stock market has done in the last 2 weeks is return to historical norms.  This tells me that there is nothing about the current level of the stock market that is screaming disaster signals.  In fact, the current level of the stock market is screaming normalcy. 

Of course, this does not mean the drop will stop here.  PE's in the worst of times have headed on down to 5 (which would be about DOW 3000, yuk).  And corrections seldom stop at the mean - they usually over-correct on below the mean.  But seen on these charts, this recent move looks more like the completion of the correction to the late 1990's bubble rather than necessarily an indicator of current financial disaster.

Good News on the Free Speech Front

Last year, a University of Delaware student was banned from campus and ordered to undergo psychological testing before he could return.  This was the administration's reaction to another student's complaint about certain content on his website, which was described as "racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic."

Now, I have a guess that I would not have thought much of this student's professed opinions, but the first amendment is there to protect speech we don't like from punishment by government bodies such as the state-run University of Delaware.  So it is good to see that the US District Court for Delaware granted this student summary judgment on his free speech claim.

In particular, I was happy to see this:

The court also noted that speech is constitutionally protected when it does not cause a substantial disruption on campus"”even
if an individual student feels so upset by the speech that she feels
threatened by it, and even if university administrators strongly
dislike what is being said. That is, the complaining student's
reaction, together with the administrative trouble involved in dealing
with the situation, was not enough to show a substantial disruption
requiring punishment for Murakowski's protected speech.

This is important.  While it seems odd, college campuses have been the vanguard for testing new theories for limiting free speech over the last several years.  One popular theory is that offense taken by the listener is sufficient grounds to hold speech to be punishable.   This definition kills any objective standards, and therefore is a blank check for speech limitation, something its proponents understand all too well.  It is good to see a higher court very explicitly striking down this standards.

Good News

The absurdly porked-up transportation initiative has been dropped from the November ballot in Arizona.  So we can relax for another year, and local jurisdictions will be forced to pay for their own silly projects with local money.  My last post on this ballot initiative was here.

Good News

Via Its Getting Better All the Time:

"The focus on this year's hunt is the humpback, which
was in serious danger of extinction just a few decades ago. They are
now a favorite of whale-watchers for their playful antics at sea, where
the beasts "” which grow as large as 40 tons "” throw themselves out of
the water.

Humpbacks feed, mate and give birth near shore, making them easy prey for whalers, who by some estimates depleted the global population to just 1,200 before the 1963 moratorium. The southern moratorium was followed by a worldwide ban in 1966...

...The American Cetacean Society estimates the humpback population has recovered to about 30,000-40,000 "” about a third of the number before modern whaling. The species is listed as "vulnerable" by the World Conservation Union.

Good News

The case discussed here and here has been dropped against the Phoenix New Times

At a press conference on Friday afternoon, Maricopa County Attorney
Andrew Thomas announced that all charges against New Times, its owners,
editors and writers have been dropped "” and that special prosecutor
Dennis Wilenchik has been dismissed.

Good News: Hansen Releases the Temperature Code

Good news this week:  James Hansen and NASA have now deigned to release for scrutiny their taxpayer-funded temperature aggregation and adjustment code.  I go in more detail and explain why this matters over at Climate Skeptic.

By the way, if you are wondering why I have calmed down a bit on climate of late here at Coyote Blog, it is because I have decided that my climate work really was diluting what I want to do here at Coyote Blog, and it really deserved its own home and audience.  I have begun archiving old posts over at Climate Skeptic, and I will do most of my new posting on climate there.  Those interested in the climate issues are encouraged to bookmark the new site and/or subscribe to its feed.

For a little while, I will still mirror the headlines over here at Coyote Blog (after all, the paint is still so wet over at Climate Skeptic that I don't think Google has found me yet -- a few blogrolls wouldn't hurt, hint, hint.)

Also, in the next few weeks I plan release my own video on issues with catastrophic anthropogenic (man-made) global warming theory.  The core of this video will be based on this skeptics summary post and my 60-second climate overview as well as my free 80-page skeptics primer, of course.

Good News

My friend and Cato-ite Brink Lindsey is blogging again, in conjunction with the release of his new book The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture.  Those who read his earlier blog will not be surprised to learn that one of his first series of posts illustrates the concept of freedom in popular music.

Global Warming "Good News"

Regular readers will know I am skeptical that anthropomorphic global warming and its effects will be as bad as generally predicted.  However, if I can work around this bias, I would like to cast the issue as neutrally as I can:  Man-made CO2 will likely cause the world to warm some, and the negative effects of this for man are likely higher than the positive effects.  Under some assumptions, these net negative effects of man-made warming could be astronomical in cost, while under other assumptions they will be less so.  Against this variable outcome, efforts to substantially reduce CO2 production world wide and prevent further increases of atmospheric CO2 concentrations will carry a staggering cost, both in dollars and the inevitable social effects of locking developing countries into poverty they are just now escaping (not to mention loss of individual liberty from more government controls).

The political choice we therefore face is daunting:  Do we pay an incredibly high price to abate an environmental change that may or may not be more costly than the cure?  Reasonable people disagree on this, and I recognize that I may fall in the minority on which side I currently stand on (I think both warming and its abatement costs are overblown, mainly because I have a Julian-Simonesque confidence in man's adaptability and innovation).

Against this backdrop, we have Kevin Drum declaring "More good news on the global warming front:"

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.

Here is my news flash:  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.  I wonder why?

Update: LOL

Good News

Via Captains Quarters:

The fundamental attack on free speech that McCain-Feingold foisted upon America has finally received recognition
from the federal judiciary. Portions of the BCRA got struck down today
in a lawsuit filed by a right-to-life group, as a judge ruled that the
campaign-finance restrictions violated the First Amendment...

It's not for nothing that many have termed the BCRA the Incumbent
Protection Act. The restriction on political speech that keeps groups
from buying advertising that names politicians violates the fundamental
reason for the First Amendment -- to allow Americans to criticize their
elected officials. While the court did not recognize the entire
egregiousness of this BCRA provision, it did recognize that the idea of
never being able to name elected officials in advertising within 60
days of an election regardless of the nature of the reference is a
ludicrous standard.

Off To Princeton, With Some Good News

Posting will be light to non-existent the next few days as I head back to Princeton for reunions (my 21st reunion, not an even year, but we Princeton grads can be goofy that way).

I will leave you with this good news about my alma mater, via FIRE:

PRINCETON, N.J. -- After being initially rebuffed by a Princeton University
official, a group of evangelical Christian students who wanted access to
facilities and the chance to apply for funds has won a victory.

After
the university's dean of religious life refused recognition for Princeton Faith
and Action, the group appealed to a campus rights group that successfully
lobbied the university to change its procedures.

"We found Princeton's quick and fair response very encouraging. We've found
other colleges who haven't been particularly fair to religious groups, sometimes
in an unconstitutional way," said Greg Lukianoff, an official with the
Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education.

Princeton Faith and Action has now been recognized as a student group,
religious groups are being treated that same as secular groups, and the
university will conduct a review of procedures related to student organizations,
said Princeton Provost Christopher L. Eisgruber.

"We need to be
welcoming groups, even if their opinions are unorthodox, and that is the goal of
our review," Eisgruber said.

After sending this to several people, I got the odd response "gee Warren, I didn't think you were an evangelical".  I am not, nor am I a conservative, and the PFA would not be my cup of tea.  However, I think this response is endemic of a major problem we have in this country, that of "free speech for me but not for thee." 

Its great to see Princeton working to stay open to all points of view, which I think will make it a better university and give it an advantage over time vs. the Harvard's and Dartmouth's of the world that still resist freedom of inquiry outside the bounds of political correctness.  Someday soon I will have to write a post on how "freedom of association" absolutely requires the converse:  freedom not to associate with certain people.  Anyway, in the mean time, I will leave you with some reunions photos. 

Prade   R66

R34   R37

I Hope This is Good News

From Yahoo News:

Pro-West opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko claimed victory in Ukraine's historic presidential election rerun, telling supporters the vote was a triumph for the country and proclaiming that "now we are free" from dominance by neighboring Russia.

This seems like good news, especially given the creeping fascism in Russia.  However, we've been disappointed by putative democrats before.

Good News at the Polls for Litigation Limits

Overlawyered.com has a roundup of how litigation-related propositions faired, the results are mostly good news for those of us shocked at the growing power of trial lawyers.

Good News on Poverty

Good News via Robert Samuelson and Marginal Revolution.

While the number of people living under the poverty line have crept up, there is actually good news under the surface that has gone unreported (good news - unreported - your kidding me!)

Compared with 1990, there were actually 700,000 fewer non-Hispanic whites in poverty last year. Among blacks, the drop since 1990 is between 700,000 and 1 million, and the poverty rate -- though still appallingly high -- has declined from 32 percent to 24 percent. (The poverty rate measures the percentage of a group that is in poverty.) Meanwhile, the number of poor Hispanics is up by 3 million since 1990. The health insurance story is similar. Last year 13 million Hispanics lacked insurance. They're 60 percent of the rise since 1990.

To state the obvious: Not all Hispanics are immigrants, and not all immigrants are Hispanic. Still, there's no mystery here. If more poor and unskilled people enter the country -- and have children -- there will be more poverty. (The Census figures cover both legal and illegal immigrants; estimates of illegal immigrants range upward from 7 million.) About 33 percent of all immigrants (not just Hispanics) lack a high school education. The rate among native-born Americans is about 13 percent.

So, much of the increase in the people under the poverty line can be traced to immigration of low-skilled Hispanics trying to make a better life for themselves in this country. Of course, when these people first arrive, with no English, often lacking a high school education, and initially, no permanent job, they are going to be below the poverty line. Over time, many will find the American dream and move up (easy proof: if that were not so, why are so many trying so hard to immigrate here?) If we had been collecting the statistics carefully in the early 20th century, we would have seen a similar effect with the immigration of low-skilled Irish, Italian, German, etc. workers to this country. Surely, during this burst of immigration, it would have appeared that the poverty rates were going up, but not one would in retrospect argue anything but that everyone was getting steadily wealthier through this period.