Posts tagged ‘NO’

More Lame Reasons to Supposedly Fear the Shutdown

Adam Goldberg in the Huffpo has 11 reasons why a shutdown would be "terrible" for me.   Many of these are absurd [sorry, left the link out originally]

1. HUGE NUMBER OF FURLOUGHS: As many as 800,000 of the country's 2.1 million federal workers could be furloughed as the result of a shutdown

There it is again.  Apparently the most useful thing these 800,000 people do is draw and spend their paycheck.

9. NATIONAL PARKS, MUSEUMS (AND PANDAS!): The country's national parks would be forced to close without a government funding deal

Parks! I think I have made my point here already (here and here)

2. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION ON HOLD: The head of the Environmental Protection Agency says that the regulator would "effectively shut down" without a deal to fund the government.

8. WORKPLACE SAFETY: Most Labor Department investigations into workplace safety and discrimination would cease if a deal is not reached to avert a shutdown.

6. FOOD SAFETY: Most routine FDA food safety inspections would be suspended in the case of a shutdown.

This is just playing on the public's ignorance of how these agencies operate.  I suppose there are low information voters out there who think that EPA officials are stationed at each plant with binoculars looking for emissions and once they get furloughed, companies will race to dump a bunch of stuff while they are not looking.  Monitoring is all by data reporting on these issues.  The departments conduct audits and investigations retroactively.  Delaying these investigations that can take years does absolutely nothing in real time to change health or safety.  As for routine food safety inspections, these happen on a timetable of weeks or months, so that a few days delay in an inspection that occurs every 90 days or so is not going to make a difference.

10. STOCK MARKET PANIC: The stock market reacted negatively on Monday amidst worries about a shutdown and an upcoming fight to raise the country's debt ceiling. The lack of a resolution could mean more market madness to come.

Dow up 20 points, S&P up about a half percent as I write this.

7. NO BACK PAY: Employees of one U.S. attorney have been warned that there is a "real possibility" they may not receive back pay if the government shuts down.

Holy crap!  Government workers might not get paid for not working.

11. DOJ DISRUPTION: Attorney General Eric Holder on Monday warned that a shutdown would have a "disruptive impact" on operations at the Justice Department. He pointed fingers at the House of Representatives and stated that there are "good, hard-working Americans who are going to suffer because of this dysfunction."

This is hilarious.  A partisan rant from one of the most partisan knife-fighters in the Administration is not data, and in fact there is no detail at all here.  As it turns out, the DOJ is mostly NOT affected except for some civil litigation, where cases that already drag on for years might take a week longer to complete, and a few lawyers may lose a few days of pay

Under the Justice Department's contingency plan for the shutdown, civil litigation will be curtailed or postponed. The employees of many DOJ agencies will be exempted from furloughs because their roles are deemed "essential."

The Left is Simply Unserious

This is the response from the Left to a proposed 1.6% cut in the Federal budget, that would reduce the annual deficit by a whopping 6%.  Greece here we come!

The Senate is expected to vote this week on alternative plans to approve spending for the rest of this year.  They will vote on whether to agree to the extreme cuts passed by the House (H.R. 1) - $65 billion less than last year's spending for domestic programs.  The House bill will deny vital services to millions of people, from young children to seniors. Please tell your Senators to VOTE NO on H.R. 1 and to vote FOR the Senate alternative. The proposed Senate bill cuts spending $6.5 billion below last year's levels, compared to more than $60 billion in cuts in H.R. 1.  Most of the extreme cuts in the House plan listed below are not made in the Senate bill.

Call NOW toll-free 888-245-0215 (the vote could be as early as Tuesday)
Please call both your Senators and tell them to VOTE NO on H.R. 1 and FOR the Senate full-year FY 2011 bill.  Tell them to vote NO on harsh and unprecedented cuts that will deny health care, education, food, housing, and jobs to millions of the poorest and most vulnerable Americans, while at the same time jeopardizing the economic recovery for all.

Funniest Quote of the Week, Maybe the Year

This is truly hilarious, from our President via the WSJ:

From the outset, the White House's core claim was that reform would reduce health costs for individuals and businesses, and they're sticking to that story. "Anyone who says otherwise simply hasn't read the bills," Mr. Obama said over the weekend. This is so utterly disingenuous that we doubt the President really believes it.

This is hilarious.  Not only had few people been able to slog through the old 2000+ page bill, but Harry Reid threw the whole thing out and substituted a double secret replacement bill on Saturday the NO ONE has read, Obama included.  So this statement is technically true, but reverse statement is also equally true - "anyone who agrees with the President simply hasn't read the bill, either."

Please Mock These People

Every one of these members of the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection voted to pass this absurd law out of committee except Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga.

Bobby L. Rush, Illinois, Chairman

Jan Schakowsky, IL, Vice Chair George Radanovich, CA, Ranking Member
John P. Sarbanes, MD Cliff Stearns, FL
Betty Sutton, OH Ed Whitfield, KY
Frank Pallone, Jr., NJ Joseph R. Pitts, PA
Bart Gordon, TN Mary Bono Mack, CA
Bart Stupak, MI Lee Terry, NE
Gene Green, TX Sue Wilkins Myrick, NC
Charles A. Gonzalez, TX John Sullivan, OK
Anthony D. Weiner, NY Tim Murphy, PA
Jim Matheson, UT Phil Gingrey, GA
G. K. Butterfield, NC Steve Scalise, LA
John Barrow, GA (voted NO!)
Doris O. Matsui, CA
Kathy Castor, FL
Zachary T. Space, OH
Bruce L. Braley, IA
Diana DeGette, CO

Hat tip: Don Boudreaux

My Personal Experience with Climate Alarmist Spin

We see all kinds of alarmist spin being attempted on the CRU emails.  For those who are interested, this is best layman's article I have found to discuss the now-famous Michael Mann "trick," what it is, and the obfuscation in the CRU's response.

I have at least one experience with the core alarmist community responding where I pointed out an error.  The responses I got in that case are very similar to the ones today for the CRU - basically the responses either are tangential to the basic point or try to retroactively change the alarmists original assertions.  They are responses that stand up only if the questioner is unwilling or unable to do the smallest amount of verification work (in other words, they work with most of the media).

The series of posts began with this image from the recent US government climate assessment.  Its point was to provide electric grid outages as a proxy measurement variable for severe weather, the point being that severe weather must have increased.

electrical-outage

I thought this chart smelled funny

This chart screams one thing at me:  Basis change.  Somehow, the basis for the data is changing in the period.  Either reporting has been increased, or definitions have changed, or there is something about the grid that makes it more sensitive to weather, or whatever  (this is a problem in tornado charts, as improving detection technologies seem to create an upward incidence trend in smaller tornadoes where one probably does not exist).   But there is NO WAY the weather is changing this fast, and readers should treat this whole report as a pile of garbage if it is written by people who uncritically accept this chart.

So I called the owner of the data set at the EIA

He said that there may be an underlying upward trend out there (particularly in thunderstorms) but that most of the increase in this chart is from improvements in data gathering.  In 1997, the EIA (and Makins himself) took over the compilation of this data, which had previously been haphazard, and made a big push to get all utilities to report as required.  They made a second change and push for reporting in 2001, and again in 2007/2008.  He told me that most of this slope is due to better reporting, and not necessarily any underlying trend.   In fact, he said there still is some under-reporting by smaller utilities he wants to improve so that the graph will likely go higher in the future....

At the end of the day, this disturbance data is not a good proxy for severe weather.

The author of that section of the report, Evan Mills, responded and then I dealt with his response here.  Here is just one example of the BS we have to slog through every time we criticize even a tangential analysis like this.  See the links for his whole response, but he says in part:

As noted in the caption to the figure on page 58 of our report (shown above)"”which was masked in the blogger's critique [ed.  actually it was not masked- the source I got the chart from had left off the caption]"”we expressly state a quite different finding than that imputed by the blogger, noting with care that we do not attribute these events to anthropogenic climate change, but do consider the grid vulnerable to extreme weather today and increasingly so as climate change progresses, i.e.:

"Although the figure does not demonstrate a cause-effect relationship between climate change and grid disruption, it does suggest that weather and climate extremes often have important effects on grid disruptions."

The associated text in the report states the following, citing a major peer-reviewed federal study on the energy sector's vulnerability to climate change:

"The electricity grid is also vulnerable to climate change effects, from temperature changes to severe weather events."

This was pretty amazing - citing his chart's caption but hoping that somehow I or other readers would miss the very first line of the caption which he fails to quote:

To Dr. Mills' point that I misinterpreted him "” if all he wanted to say was that the electrical grid could be disturbed by weather or was vulnerable to climate change, fine.  I mean, duh.  If there are more tornadoes knocking about, more electrical lines will come down.  But if that was Dr. Mills ONLY point, then why did he write (emphasis added):

The number of incidents caused by extreme weather has increased tenfold since 1992.  The portion of all events that are caused by weather-related phenomena has more than tripled from about 20 percent in the early 1990s to about 65 percent in recent years.  The weather-related events are more severe"¦

He is saying flat out that the grid IS being disturbed 10x more often and more severely by weather.  It doesn't even say "reported" incidents or "may have" "” it is quite definitive.  So which one of us is trying to create a straw man?   It is these statements that I previously claimed the data did not support, and I stand by my analysis on that.

I deconstructed a lot of the rest of his longer post, and you can follow it all, but the bottom line is that if a you are drawing a trend line between two points, and you have much more data missing from the begginning end point than the end, your trend is going to be SNAFU'd.  Period.  No point in arguing about it.  See the chart below.  It represents the situation at hand.  The red is the reported data.  The blue is the unreported data, which declines as a percentage of the total due to a push for better data reporting by the database owners.  My point was simply that the red trend line was meaningless.  Its amazing to me that even accepting the basics of this picture, Dr. Mills wants to fight that conclusion.

trend

I am reminded by one of the now-famous quotes from the CRU emails

I really wish I could be more positive about the Kyrgyzstan material, but I swear I pulled every trick out of my sleeve trying to milk something out of that. I don't think it'd be productive to try and juggle the chronology statistics any more than I already have - they just are what they are...

Yep, sometimes the measured results from nature are what they are.  Well, I actually that most of the time they are what they are, but not in climate apparently.  Never give up a flawed analysis that yields the "right" answer without a fight.  I concluded:

Look Dr. Mills, I don't have an axe to grind here.  This is one chart out of bazillions making a minor point.  But the data set you are using is garbage, so why do you stand by it with such tenacity?  Can't anyone just admit "you know, on thinking about it, there are way to many problems with this data set to declare a trend exists.

Does Anyone Really Believe This?

James Pethokoukis argues that we might have spent a lot of the $1.3 trillion cost of the Iraq war on containment of Iraq had we fought the war.

I will admit I have not seen the studies, but I declare right now that there is NO WAY.  If we really would have spent $150 billion a year containing Iraq in absence of a war, we should be spending similar magnitudes today on other similar regimes on which we have chosen not to declare war, like Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, etc.  But demonstrably we are not.  One might argue that oil prices would be lower, I guess, but one could also argue that the post-9/11 recession would not have been as deep without a war.  I am sure there is a broken window fallacy in here somewhere.  This reminds me nothing so much as the tortured economic studies that purport to show a gullible populace that it makes sense to build a billion dollar stadium for the hapless Arizona Cardinals because the city will make it all back in future revenues.  Sure.

I am not going to argue the justifications for the Iraq war here.  What I will say is that folks who have enthusiastically supported the war should understand that the war is going to have the following consequences:

  1. In 2009 we will have a Democratic Congress and President for the first time since 1994.
  2. The next President will use the deficits from the $1.3 trillion in Iraq war spending to justify a lot of new taxes
  3. These new taxes, once the war spending is over, will not be used for deficit reduction but for new programs that, once established, will be nearly impossible to eliminate
  4. No matter what the next president promises to the electorate, they are not going to reverse precedents for presidential power and secrecy that GWB has established.  Politicians never give up power voluntarily.  [if the next president is Hillary, she is likely to push the envelope even further].  Republicans are not going to like these things as much when someone of the other party is using them.

Let's Make Sure Politicians Have NO Real World Experience

Via Cato and IBD:

Sen. Hillary Clinton says she wants to establish a national academy
that will train public servants. Why do re-education camps come to
mind? "¦ Somehow we doubt there will be many lectures in making
government smaller, deregulating business, cutting taxes or increasing
individual freedom. Is there a chance that this "new generation"
attending the academy will hear a single voice that isn't hailing the
glories of the nanny state? Will students being groomed for public
service ever hear the names Hayek, von Mises or Friedman during their
studies? "¦ Government at all levels is already overflowing with
bureaucrats who suck up taxpayers' money and produce little, if
anything, of economic value. More often, the bureaucracy actually gets
in the way of economic progress.

This way, government employees can know absolutely nothing about the real world or productive enterprise, and never have to be burdened with listening to anyone in school who doesn't think government is the be-all end-all, kind of like, uh, Hillary Clinton.

I Love Hearing This From An Athlete

Apparently the media tried to make a controversy out of Curt Schilling's announcement he would enter free agency at the end of the year.  This is part of his response, from his blog (emphasis added):

Now we fast forward a bit and we have what appears to be
"˜controversy' because the Red Sox do not extend my contract when alls
said and done, and I am going to file for free agency at years end.
Again contrary to "˜expert' opinions and views this was never a "˜gun to
the head' situation, the Sox knew this and I knew it. It really was
very simple for both sides. We spoke at length, Theo, Mr. Henry, Mr
Werner and I all spoke at some point and at no time, and let me
reiterate that, at NO time, were there ever any hard feelings, ill
will, or loud exchanges.

The Red Sox owe me nothing. They've paid me over 40 million dollars
for what amounts to two seasons worth of starts. They didn't ask for a
refund in "˜05 when I couldn't get my mother out, and on top of that
they've been respectful of my family at every turn.

I wanted to remain in Boston to finish my career, I made that clear
to them. They made it clear to me that if it wasn't for the money this
would be a done deal. I get that, it's not hard to understand. If I was
to sign a 4 million dollar deal I'd be signed already. The 13 million
we had talked about was money they were looking at as "˜available', so
this had changed their plans if they were to sign me.

You Can't Make Decisions for Yourself

A frequent topic of this blog is to point out situations where technocrats translate their distrust for individual decision-making into the justification for government control

Kevin Drum provides me with one of the best examples I have seen of late of this phenomena of using distrust of individual decision-making to justify government intervention, in part because he is so honest and up-front about it.  I usually try not to quote another blogger's posts in total, because I want to give folks an incentive to go visit the site, but in this case I need to show the whole thing (the extensive comments are still worth a visit):

If we treat healthcare like any other market, allowing consumers
free rein to purchase the services they like best, will it produce high
quality results? A recent study suggests not:

Researchers
from the Rand Corp. think tank, the University of California at Los
Angeles and the federal Department of Veterans Affairs asked 236
elderly patients at two big managed-care plans, one in the Southwest
and the other in the Northeast, to rate the medical care they were
getting. The average score was high "” about 8.9 on a scale from zero to
10.

....In the second part of their study, the medical researchers
systematically examined 13 months of medical records to gauge the
quality of care the same elderly patients had received....The average
score wasn't as impressive as those in the patient-satisfaction
surveys: 5.5 on a 10-point scale. But here's the interesting part:
Those patients who graded the quality of their care as 10 weren't any
more likely to be getting high-quality care than those who gave it a
grade of 5. The most-satisfied patients didn't get better medical care
than the least-satisfied.

Surprise! Patients are
poor judges of whether they're getting good care. And if consumer
preferences don't map to high quality care, then a free market in
healthcare won't necessarily produce better results or higher
efficiency, as it does in most markets.

Back to the drawing board. Perhaps a national healthcare system
would be a better bet to reduce costs, cover more people, provide
patients with more flexibility, and produce superior outcomes. After
all, why are we satisfied with allowing the French to have a better
healthcare system than ours even though we're half again richer than
them?

There is it, in black and white:  Most of you individual slobs out there cannot be trusted to make good health care decisions for yourselves, so the government should do it for you.  (And by the way, who the hell thinks the French have a better health care system, but that's off-topic for today).

Here is the false premise:  If the intellectuals who ran the study judged that the individuals involved were getting poor care when the individuals themselves thought is was good care, this does not necessarily mean the individuals being studied were wrong.  It may very well mean they have different criteria for judging health care quality and value.  In fact, what goes unquestioned here, and I guess the reader is supposed to swallow, is that there is some sort of Platonic ideal of "high-quality care" that the people who run this study have access to.

But this is ridiculous.   Does high-quality mean fast?  painless?  private?  successful?  pleasant? convenient?  I, for example, have all the patience of an 8-year-old who just ate three pieces of birthday cake washed down by two Cokes.  I need stuff now, now, now.  I hate gourmet restaurants where meals take 3 hours.  Many gourmands, on the other hand, would probably shoot themselves before eating some of the food I eat.  We have different standards.

Let's take an example from another industry:  Cars.  Every year, the "experts" at Consumer Reports and Car and Driver try out all the new cars and publish the two or three they think are the best.  So, does this mean that everyone who does not buy one of these cars selected by the experts as the best are making a bad decision?  Does this fact tell us the government should step in and buy their cars for them because they can't be trusted to make the right evaluations?   NO!  Of course not.  It means that the people who buy other types of cars have different criteria and priorities in judging what a "high-quality" car is.  Some want high gas mileage.  Some want a tight interior with leather.  Some want a big honkin' engine.  Some want a truck jacked way up in the air.  Some want room to carry five kids.   You get the idea.

There are at least two better explanations for the study results.  Let's first be clear what the study results were:  The study found that the patients studied graded health care differently than did the people who ran the study.  That's all it found.  This could mean that the intellectuals who ran the study and the individuals studied judged care on different dimensions and with different priorities.  Or it could mean that the individuals studied had incomplete information about their care and their choices.  Neither justifies a government takeover of the industry.  (In fact, to the latter point about information, markets that are truly allowed by the government to be free, which health care has not, often develop information sources for consumers, like the car magazines mentioned above.)

The thinking in Drum's post betrays the elitist-technocratic impulses behind a lot of the world's bad government.  Look at "progressive" causes around the world, and you will see a unifying theme of individual decisions that are not trusted, whether its a poor Chinese farmer who can't be trusted to choose the right factory work or an American worker who can't be trusted to make her own investment decisions for retirement.

Postscript:  In some past era, I might have called this one of the worst excuses for fascism I had ever heard.  Unfortunately, Brad DeLong recently took that title with his post that the government needs to take even more money from the rich because the rich are ostentatious and that hurts other people's feelings.  No really, I don't exaggerate, he said exactly that.  If somehow you have missed this one, look here.

Please Stop

Jennifer Britz, the Dean of Admissions at Kenyon College reports that she is sad to say that she is admitting boys who are less qualified than female applicants in order to maintain gender parity.

Had she been a male applicant, there would have been little, if any,
hesitation to admit. The reality is that because young men are rarer,
they're more valued applicants. Today, two-thirds of colleges and
universities report that they get more female than male applicants, and
more than 56 percent of undergraduates nationwide are women.
Demographers predict that by 2009, only 42 percent of all baccalaureate
degrees awarded in the United States will be given to men.

I have four reactions.

One.  Yeah!  Lets take a moment to celebrate a victory for women.  Its great to see us talking about "too many" qualified women flooding colleges, just a few years after feminists were still writing books about schools failing girls.

Two.  I finally get to say something that I have wished for decades to hear from members of various minority groups that have been the benficiary of affirmative action:  Stop giving us men a special break.  Boys in high school are falling behind girls in their achievement, and are not going to get the message as long as you keep taking less qualified boys instead of more qualified girls.  The colleges I attended 20+ years ago survived fine with 2/3 men, they can do the same with 2/3 women.

Three.  This just reinforces my advice I have been giving to Ivy League and other great schools: Find a way to grow!  The new challenge for the 21st century is not to spend an incremental 5% more on the same top students, but to recognize that there are so many more great, polished graduates that are Ivy ready than ever before.

Four.
  In this article you can get a little peek at how the college admissions process has turned volunteerism from, well, volunteerism to a grim requirement.  Among eleven-year-olds in my son's class, I saw kids get turned down for an honor society despite having 4.0+ grade point averages, playing multiple sports at a very high level, and doing about 20 hours of community service over the year.  Apparently, this level of community service was not robust enough -- people with lower grades make it, people with no sports make it, people with no leadership activities make it, but NO ONE makes it without a lot more than 20 hours of community service - at the age of eleven.  Believe it or not, my son now keeps a log book of time spent on activities he can count as service -- we have better documentation of this work than we do of his grades!  Volunteerism has become nearly the one minimum requirement that of all the various components is never waived in college admissions.

Is the Department of Labor "Fair"? Part 1 of a series

Note that this is part 1 of a three-part series. Here are part 2 and part3.

Over the past several years, we have been audited a couple of times by the Department of Labor (DOL). One of the audits was standard procedure (as a concessionaire to the US Forest Service, audits are sometimes required on certain contracts) and one was based on employee complaints. It never ceases to amaze me that some folks never even bother to call our HQ to complain and try to get it paycheck mistakes fixed -- they go straight to the government rather than our labor department if something looks wrong on their check.

Many times I have heard other small business owners say that the DOL is not "fair". If you were to ask me if I think they are fair, I would answer "yes" and "no". If you want to know if DOL employees are generally honest, well-intentioned, and law-abiding, my experience is that they are. However, if you expect, as a business owner, that the DOL will act as some kind of neutral court of law, in which you and your workers have equal status and equal rules of evidence, then you are in for a surprise. The DOL is not on the employers side and doesn't really pretend to be.

This should not come as a surprise to you. Young lawyers out of school generally don't seek out lower government pay scales with a vision of helping businesses manage their cost structures. They join the DOL because they are interested in defending downtrodden workers against rapacious capitalists who seek to exploit them (etc. etc.) The main mission of the DOL is to enforce labor laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, overlaying this mission is a strong institutional culture that mission 1A is to defend workers against employers. This culture will have a number of implications in any dealings you, as an owner or employer, have with the DOL:

1. Workers claims will almost always be believed by the DOL, and the DOL will generally not require much documentary evidence to back up workers claims. The flip side of this is that employers claims that contradict workers will always require extensive documentary evidence. For example, we had several weeks of time sheets burn up in an office fire. In cases like this, the DOL will generally always side with the worker's recollection of time worked rather than the employers, even if the time claimed is completely inconsistent with hours worked in all other documented weeks. The burden of proof, in almost any dispute, will be on the employer.

2. The DOL's first answer to any employer's claims of an exemption under FLSA or other labor laws will be "NO". Congress has granted a number of exemptions to labor laws for certain business situations. For example, one that applies to our business in some cases is the FLSA has relaxed standards for overtime for "seasonal recreation businesses". From my experience, the DOL hates to admit that these exceptions apply to your particular situation. Back to the fairness point, they CAN be convinced, but sometimes it takes a lot of work to do so. In part 2 and part 3 of this series, I will give more specific examples of how to do this.

3. The DOL will never point out to you an exemption or saving that you are missing. I know that many people get frustrated with the IRS, but I have actually had experiences where the IRS found a mistake where I had overpaid. I have never had this experience with the DOL. The DOL does not really have very good staff or tools to help employers comply with the law in the most efficient manner. They have LOTS of tools and people dedicated to making sure workers get every bit of what the law guarantees them.

If you recognize this culture and context, and put any frustration that you might have as a tax-paying citizen and business owner aside, you can get a fair shake from the DOL. You just have to be prepared in advance to argue your case and bring lots of evidence to bear. And, if worst comes to worse, and you are willing to pay the attorney fees, you can always refuse the DOL's finding and take the case to a court of law, where there are much more neutral evidence standards.

The next part of this series will discuss further some examples and lessons learned in making your case to the DOL. Part 3 of the series will include a specific example.

Note: These are my observations as a business owner and are not specific recommendations. I am not a lawyer, and, even if I were, I am not your lawyer.