Free Markets, Free People

Daily Archives: November 22, 2011

Climategate 2.0

As of today, FOIA.org released another 7zip file—which can be obtained here—containing 5000 unencypted, and an additional 250,000 encrypted, climate change emails from all the usual suspects we remember from Climategate. FOIA.org says they don’t plan on releasing the encryption keys for the remaining emails yet, but the 5,000 unencrypted emails are…interesting.

More background is available from Pajamas Media and the links they provide. But the good stuff is in the emails themselves.

One quick take-away: Michael Mann’s temperature results may be…questionable.

<4241> Wilson:

I thought I’d play around with some randomly generated time-series and see if I could ‘reconstruct’ northern hemisphere temperatures.
[...] The reconstructions clearly show a ‘hockey-stick’ trend. I guess this is precisely the phenomenon that Macintyre has been going on about.

That would seem to be a pretty big vulnerability in the "hockey stick".

And the IPCC process seems…really questionable.

<1939> Thorne/MetO:

Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find time to discuss these further if necessary [...]

<3066> Thorne:

I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.

<4755> Overpeck:

The trick may be to decide on the main message and use that to guid[e] what’s included and what is left out.

<1104> Wanner/NCCR:

In my [IPCC-TAR] review [...] I crit[i]cized [...] the Mann hockey[s]tick [...] My review was classified “unsignificant” even I inquired several times. Now the internationally well known newspaper SPIEGEL got the information about these early statements because I expressed my opinion in several talks, mainly in Germany, in 2002 and 2003. I just refused to give an exclusive interview to SPIEGEL because I will not cause damage for climate science.

<0414> Coe:

Hence the AR4 Section 2.7.1.1.2 dismissal of the ACRIM composite to be instrumental rather than solar in origin is a bit controversial. Similarly IPCC in their discussion on solar RF since the Maunder Minimum are very dependent on the paper by Wang et al (which I have been unable to access) in the decision to reduce the solar RF significantly despite the many papers to the contrary in the ISSI workshop. All this leaves the IPCC almost entirely dependent on CO2 for the explanation of current global temperatures as in Fig 2.23. since methane CFCs and aerosols are not increasing.

<2009> Briffa:

I find myself in the strange position of being very skeptical of the quality of all present reconstructions, yet sounding like a pro greenhouse zealot here!

But, remember, the science is settled!

<0310> Warren:

The results for 400 ppm stabilization look odd in many cases [...] As it stands we’ll have to delete the results from the paper if it is to be published.

<1682> Wils:

[2007] What if climate change appears to be just mainly a multidecadal natural fluctuation? They’ll kill us probably [...]

<2267> Wilson:

Although I agree that GHGs are important in the 19th/20th century (especially since the 1970s), if the weighting of solar forcing was stronger in the models, surely this would diminish the significance of GHGs.
[...] it seems to me that by weighting the solar irradiance more strongly in the models, then much of the 19th to mid 20th century warming can be explained from the sun alone.

<5315> Jenkins/MetO:

would you agree that there is no convincing evidence for kilimanjaro glacier melt being due to recent warming (let alone man-made warming)?

<2292> Jones:

[tropical glaciers] There is a small problem though with their retreat. They have retreated a lot in the last 20 years yet the MSU2LT data would suggest that temperatures haven’t increased at these levels.

<1788> Jones:

There shouldn’t be someone else at UEA with different views [from "recent extreme weather is due to global warming"] – at least not a climatologist.

<4693> Crowley:

I am not convinced that the “truth” is always worth reaching if it is at the cost of damaged personal relationships

<2733> Crowley:

Phil, thanks for your thoughts – guarantee there will be no dirty laundry in the open.

<2095> Steig:

He’s skeptical that the warming is as great as we show in East Antarctica — he thinks the “right” answer is more like our detrended results in the supplementary text. I cannot argue he is wrong.

<4470> Norwegian Meteorological Institute:

In Norway and Spitsbergen, it is possible to explain most of the warming after the 1960s by changes in the atmospheric circulation. The warming prior to 1940 cannot be explained in this way.

<4944> Haimberger:

It is interesting to see the lower tropospheric warming minimum in the tropics in all three plots, which I cannot explain. I believe it is spurious but it is remarkably robust against my adjustment efforts.

You know what else is remarkably robust against adjustment efforts? Reality.

~
Dale Franks
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Economic Statistics for 22 Nov 11

Today’s economic statistical releases:

3rd Quarter GDP took a downward bump on the Commerce Department’s first revision from 2.5% to 2%. Analysts had expected a revision to 2.4%, so today’s revision was well below that.

The Richmond Fed Index ended 4 months of contraction, coming in at 0, indicating no growth or contraction.

Corporate after-tax profits in the 3rd quarter rose 6.5%.

In weekly retail sales, ICSC-Goldman Store Sales were down -0.9% for the week, and only up 2.8% year-over year. Meanwhile, Redbook reports strong 3.7% sales growth over last year.

~
Dale Franks
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Competing Visions: Why The Super Committee Failed

As Bruce points out below, the failure of the Super Committee should come as no surprise to anyone who was paying attention. Even where committees arrive at an agreed solution, it rarely ever gets implemented. What’s worse, in this case, the Super Committee was operating under the sword of automatic spending cuts to domestic and military programs should it fail to arrive at a consensus — i.e. no side had any incentive to deliver more or less than what would automatically go into place anyway. Of course, Pres. Obama running a re-election campaign based on a “do nothing” Congress certainly didn’t inspire his Democratic brethren on the Super Committee to find common ground either.

But these aren’t the real reasons for the Super Committee failure. Instead, as Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) writes in the Wall Street Journal today, the underlying problem is one of ideological impasse:

Ultimately, the committee did not succeed because we could not bridge the gap between two dramatically competing visions of the role government should play in a free society, the proper purpose and design of the social safety net, and the fundamentals of job creation and economic growth.

For the members of the Super Committee, the choice seemed to be between raising taxes on a small percentage of earners and making no cuts or reforms to the shibboleths of Medicare and Social Security, or reducing taxes and modestly curbing entitlements at some point in the future. In other words, it was a choice between expanding or slightly retarding the growth of government. However, it’s not just the specifics that make compromise difficult, if not impossible. Where one side believes that government is always the answer to what ails us, and the other (at least nominally) operates from the premise that individual effort leads to greater prosperity for all, there is only so much compromise that can be reached between the two. Eventually, government will be either too small or too big for the other side to bear.

This is the crucible in which somehow a compromise was to be reached on federal spending.

As it stands now, government spending is equal to about 35% to 40% of GDP, while our national debt is around 100% of GDP. At the federal level, we are borrowing 40 cents of every dollar that we spend, and entertaining trillion dollar plus deficits year after year for as long as we can reasonably forecast. This is the vision of those who see government as playing the primary role in most every aspect of society since it costs a lot of money to execute that vision. Yet, despite the fact that government has done nothing but grow over the past sixty years, they are convinced that anything smaller than what we currently have will lead to economic and social ruin. To be sure, after finally getting the government foot in the door of universal health care, the liberal base is not about to countenance any willing walk-back on those gains. The Democrats on the Super Committee were well aware of this, and that accepting changes to Medicare and Social Security or any other dearly loved social program would result in a deep backlash from those who believe that all of life is dependent on government.

Opposing that vision are those who think that government should be smaller and less intrusive, especially with respect to our economy. They look at our ever-growing debt and anemic, if not illusory, economic gains and see nothing but trouble down the road we’re traveling. Unfortunately, while total government spending is often publicly recognized as the problem, too many of these visionaries think that simply reducing tax rates will flood the federal coffers and all will be right with world. It’s true that raising taxes in a declining or struggling economy will tend to exacerbate, not alleviate, the problem. But Republicans on the committee also know that their base stand ready to punish any member who suggests raising taxes, now or in the future, regardless of the fact that the spending cuts necessary to get our debt problems under control simply aren’t feasible. And they won’t have much better luck at the ballot box if they even hint at reforming Medicare or Social Security.

Even where they are willing to take that chance, however, the Democrats can’t politically afford to compromise:

The Medicare reforms would make no changes for those in or near retirement. Beginning in 2022, beneficiaries would be guaranteed a choice of Medicare-approved private health coverage options and guaranteed a premium-support payment to help pay for the plan they choose.

Democrats rejected this approach but assured us on numerous occasions they would offer a “structural” or “architectural” Medicare reform plan of their own. While I do not question their good faith effort to do so, they never did.

Republicans on the committee also offered to negotiate a plan based on the bipartisan “Protect Medicare Act” authored by Alice Rivlin, one of President Bill Clinton’s budget directors, and Pete Domenici, a former Republican senator from New Mexico. Rivlin-Domenici offered financial support to seniors to purchase quality, affordable health coverage in Medicare-approved plans. These seniors would be able to choose from a list of Medicare-guaranteed coverage options, similar to the House budget’s approach—except that Rivlin-Domenici would continue to include a traditional Medicare fee-for-service plan among the options.

This approach was also rejected by committee Democrats.

The Congressional Budget Office, the Medicare trustees, and the Government Accountability Office have each repeatedly said that our health-care entitlements are unsustainable. Committee Democrats offered modest adjustments to these programs, but they were far from sufficient to meet the challenge. And even their modest changes were made contingent upon a minimum of $1 trillion in higher taxes—a move sure to stifle job creation during the worst economy in recent memory.

Even if Republicans agreed to every tax increase desired by the president, our national debt would continue to grow uncontrollably. Controlling spending is therefore a crucial challenge. The other is economic growth and job creation, which would produce the necessary revenue to fund our priorities.

Meanwhile, we operate under a tax system that is so heavily skewed towards the highest income producers that our government is dependent on about five percent of the taxpayers for a majority of its revenue, and only a quarter of all tax payers for more than 85% of that revenue. To the Democrats, this is apparently a good start. Republicans, on the other hand, see an unfair system that, if properly reworked, could raise even more revenue. Either way the spending, and thus the government, grows.

The definition of “priorities” is the real sticking point. It means either that everything from price and income support to cradle-to-grave health care is a priority, or that only the basic structural necessities of national defense, courts of law and last-resort safety nets qualify. There has been a great deal of compromise on that definition over the past several decades (albeit, always resulting in an expanding government), but it seems that we’ve finally reached the limit where any further acquiescence by one side results in unbearable loss to the other side. It’s difficult to see how we can successfully move forward as a unified country with such diametrically opposed visions for the role of government. Indeed, maybe we can’t for very much longer.

Newt, Mitt and the incumbent Democrat

I’m not much of a Paul Begala fan, but in fact, like a blind pig will eventually find an acorn, he’s gotten this one right.  Why is Newt Gingrich in ascension?  Well because the ABR crowd’s latest candidate, Herman Cain, imploded.

ABR you ask?  Anybody But Romney.

Begala:

More likely the Gingrich surge is just the latest Republican tulip craze (count the pedantic historical references I use in Newt’s honor!)—with Newt simply serving as the latest vessel for the ABR movement: Anybody But Romney.

Mitt Romney has been running for president nonstop for about five years now. And he has gone from 25 percent in the 2007 Iowa caucuses to 18 percent in the latest Bloomberg poll of Iowa voters. He’s the Harold Stassen of 2012. Face it, Mitt: they’re just not that into you.

Republicans, apparently, will date anyone before they’ll marry Mitt. Remember their brief fling with Donald Trump? Then, after he decided not to throw his hair into the ring, they fell for Michele Bachmann, the Zoya Kosmodemyanskaya of the far right. Then it was Rick Perry—the guy who claims he jogs with a loaded gun (without a safety) tucked into his shorts. And now that they’ve tired of Herman Cain’s, umm, hands-on style of leadership, it’s Newt’s turn.

Begala’s point is fairly obvious but true.

However, there’s a very important point to be made despite that.   A recent poll found that Obama, Romney and Gingrich are statistically tied in the swing states.  Romney, as Begala and others point out, isn’t even the consensus GOP pick.  In fact, the GOP voters are willing to look at everyone else to see if any of them provide a suitable replacement for Romney.  And even the candidate they’d prefer to replace Romney with is tied with the incumbent Democrat.

That isn’t good news for Democrats if you think about it.  If the guy that is the last pick of the GOP faithful (or so it seems) is able to tie the incumbent president in swing states, how bad will it be when the GOP (and supporters) finally pick one candidate and get behind him (even Romney)?

Begala thinks Gingrich would be a “gift” to Democrats.  He’s right to an extent.  But the Republican’s gift is sitting in the White House right now. He actually has to run on a record this time, and it’s not an enviable record.  While it is true that Republicans are still trying to find their man (or woman), there are indicators such as that poll that say that regardless of who they choose, even if it is a baggage laden Gingrich, Obama has big trouble. 

So far those like Paul Begala choose to ignore that point.  Their intent now is to attack the GOP candidates personally as they’ve always done in the past (remember Begala comes from the Clinton campaign where the politics of personal destruction were raised to an art form) and hope they manage to demonize the Republican pick enough to let their guy slip by.  It’s about the only hope they have.

Gingrich will provide a target rich opportunity there.   But, given the incumbent, will it be enough?  I’m not so sure.  I’m certainly not convinced that Gingrich will prevail, but I do think that Democrats right now are either in denial or simply not aware of how deep the electoral trouble is that their candidate is in.  Whoever the GOP chooses, he will not play John McCain to this election year’s Barack Obama.

While everything is mostly focused on the GOP and their interminable debate cycle, at some point, Obama has to step out of the shadows and actually begin his run.  That’s when the real games will begin, and I’m not sure the Democrats yet understand that much of the fire the GOP candidates are now receiving will shift to Obama when that happens. 

It ain’t gonna be pretty when it does.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

Supercommittee failure

Question: is anyone – and I mean anyone – somehow surprised that the Supercommittee failed?

Seriously?  Is there anyone who actually thought that this collection of ideologically loyal representatives handpicked by leaders on each side was ever going to compromise and try to work something out?

I’m not suggesting that compromise was the right or best thing to do – I’m simply asking a question about the make up of the committee and how anyone who knows anything about how Washington DC works could have or would have expected success.

And, as Michael said in the podcast, there was no incentive for them to succeed.  There was every incentive to do exactly what happened, fail to reach any sort of consensus.

So, as Jim Geraghty quips in today’s Morning Jolt, they now get back to what they do best:

After the Supercommittee, Congress returns to its core competency: finger-pointing

And we will certainly see much of that in the next few weeks.  Already some in the media are trying to spin it a certain way.

The imminent failure of the congressional deficit “supercommittee,” which had a chance to settle the nation’s tax policy for the next decade, would thrust the much-contested Bush tax cuts into the forefront of next year’s presidential campaign.

Why do I consider that “spin”?  Because the “much-contested Bush tax cuts” are simply the current tax rate, nothing more.   Tax rates have changed over the many years of income taxation and never has one rate, which has been in effect for years, been referred too as a “tax cut”.  They certainly didn’t refer to tax increases under Bill Clinton as the “much-contested Clinton tax increases” did they?

No, they were simply the new tax rates.

So as with many things, the media has bought into the description that one side has put out there to keep attention focused in a negative way on the so-called “rich”. Rarely do they point out the amount of the total taxes these “rich” pay when they parrot the politicians call for the rich to pay their “fair share”.  Nor do they bother to point out that even if the “rich” pay 100% of their earnings in taxes it won’t solve the deficit problem.

Presented as the unchallenged panacea to all that is wrong is this tax increase.

Note what isn’t mentioned.  Spending.  In fact, we’ve quietly slipped past $15 trillion cumulative national debt in the last week.  That means that in less than a year, another trillion in spending borrowed money has occurred.  We’ve now managed to run up a debt equal to 100% of our nation’s GDP.

That should be what we’re talking about in the 2012 presidential campaign.  How we managed in 3 short years to push the debt from $9 trillion to $15 trillion.  It certainly wasn’t the “rich” who did that, nor would increasing taxes on them have stopped it.

While at some point revenue increases may end up being something the Congress will discuss, the problem to this point remains the fact that Congress has done absolutely nothing to stem the red ink that keeps running our national debt through the roof.

And the sequestration cuts supposedly triggered by the failure of the Supercommittee take place when?  2013 of course.  After the election and when a new Congress, which can’t be held to the cuts made by a former Congress, comes into existence.

In reality, this is nothing more than a new fangled way for our politicians to kick the can down the road while they squabble about something which really has no bearing and would have little effect on the primary problem: out-of-control spending.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

OWS: Fail

So what do the real 99% think about the motley .0001% trying to represent themselves as the majority?

Not so much:

A new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows that the "Occupy" movement has failed to capture the attention of a majority of Americans, indicating either ambivalence toward it or lack of interest.

The poll finds that 56% of Americans surveyed are neither supporters nor opponents and 59% say they don’t know enough to have an opinion about the movement’s goals.

The survey, however, does show an increase from 20% to 31% in disapproval of the way the protests are being conducted.

If Occupy Wall Street’s goal was to capture the attention of America and spark a movement that would change its face (even if it isn’t exactly sure what it wanted that change to look like), it has apparently failed, if this poll is any indication.

Majorities didn’t know or care much about them and also weren’t paying enough attention to them to understand if they had any goals and if they did, to have an opinion about them.

In effect OWS has been reduced to a side show that surfaces again every now and then when some new outrage is discovered to have happened among the protesters.

I assume that even the slowest among the Democrats has effectively abandoned OWS by now.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO