Monthly Archives: December 2009
In a previous post, I talked about Dr. Judith Curry from Georgia Tech. She believes that there is a case for human caused global warming. But, as I noted, she doesn’t think there’s a case for shoddy science and believes that CRU emails show serious problems are likely with the data produced there.
Roger Pielke, Professor of Environmental Studies at the University of Colorado, could in no sense be described as a climate change sceptic, let alone a ‘denier’.
‘Human-caused climate change is real, and I’m a strong advocate for action,’ he said. ‘But I’m also a strong advocate for integrity in science.’
Pielke’s verdict on the scandal is damning.
‘These emails open up the possibility that big scientific questions we’ve regarded as settled may need another look.
‘They reveal that some of these scientists saw themselves not as neutral investigators but as warriors engaged in battle with the so-called sceptics.
‘They have lost a lot of credibility and as far as their being leading spokespeople on this issue of huge public importance, there is no going back.’
Or to those trying to wave away the scandal and pretend this isn’t “any big deal” it is you who are in denial now. As you can tell, ethical scientists disagree completely.
The quote is from a must-read article in the UK’s Daily Mail in which we’re shown why, via some blowups of the CRU’s data, one way inconvenient data was omitted (literally – it wasn’t graphed because it showed a marked cooling trend rather than a warming trend – so they left it out).
Also found in the article was this little nugget:
Critics such as McIntyre had been ‘after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone’.
Yesterday Davies said that, contrary to some reports, none of this data has in fact been deleted. But in the wake of the scandal, its reliability too is up for grabs.
Really? So where is it and why hasn’t it been produced by now?
Russian secret service agents admitted yesterday that the hacked ‘Warmergate’ emails were uploaded on a Siberian internet server, but strenuously denied a clandestine state-sponsored operation to wreck the Copenhagen summit.
Read the whole article – there is some excellent info in there and some more detailed analysis of the CRU emails.
The myth is that without government regulation, the market would certainly do everything it could do to kill or cheat its customers. Of course most of us realize that doing those things is a sure way not to be in business long. But for a significant number of others, that myth is alive an well. A recent example, however, provides a perfect example of the absurdity of that notion. And, I suggest that it should be applied to health care as well.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the meat it buys for the National School Lunch Program “meets or exceeds standards in commercial products.”
In the past three years, the government has provided the nation’s schools with millions of pounds of beef and chicken that wouldn’t meet the quality or safety standards of many fast-food restaurants, from Jack in the Box and other burger places to chicken chains such as KFC, a USA TODAY investigation found.
McDonald’s, Burger King and Costco, for instance, are far more rigorous in checking for bacteria and dangerous pathogens. They test the ground beef they buy five to 10 times more often than the USDA tests beef made for schools during a typical production day.
And the limits Jack in the Box and other big retailers set for certain bacteria in their burgers are up to 10 times more stringent than what the USDA sets for school beef.
So the burger at Jack in the Box is safer than the mystery meat your child is served at school. Children are served tons of chicken in school each year that KFC won’t touch (KFC doesn’t do “spent hens” but your child does).
Jack in the Box and KFC have to please and answer to customer demands if they want to stay in business. If KFC makes you sick because of bacteria, you and others will most likely vote with your feet and go elsewhere. What is your choice if that happens in a government school?
Now, think health care.
End of story.
Not content with fiscally enslaving your children, Congress plans on doing the same to your grandchildren:
In a bold but risky year-end strategy, Democrats are preparing to raise the federal debt ceiling by as much as $1.8 trillion before New Year’s rather than have to face the issue again prior to the 2010 elections.
“We’ve incurred this debt. We have to pay our bills,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told POLITICO Wednesday. And the Maryland Democrat confirmed that the anticipated increase could be as high as $1.8 trillion — nearly twice what had been assumed in last spring’s budget resolution for the 2010 fiscal year.
The leadership is betting that it’s better for the party to take its lumps now rather than risk further votes over the coming year. But the enormity of the number could create its own dynamic, much as another debt ceiling fight in 1985 gave rise to the Gramm-Rudman deficit reduction act mandating across-the-board spending cuts nearly 25 years ago.
You have to love the lead sentence: “In bold but risky year-end strategy …”. “Bold”? It’s more like feeding an addiction. And it’s hardly “bold” in another sense. They’re going to hide it in a defense appropriation bill:
“This is a defining moment,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), one of the lead sponsors, and New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, the panel’s ranking Republican, is already maneuvering to try to add the legislation as an amendment to any bill tapped to carry the debt increase.
As explained by Hoyer and other Democrats, that will almost certainly be a pending $636.4 billion Pentagon appropriations bill that includes $128.3 in contingency funds for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
That’s not “bold”, that’s cowardly. But what it buys Democrats is cover. Adding it (and hiding it) in a defense appropriations bill guarantees “bi-partisan” passage or contingency funds for our two wars won’t become law. But the fact remains this is an old tried and true tactic of both sides in Congress.
Somehow spending like this needs to see the requirement to stand alone imposed on it. Make them do this sort out in the open and in the sunlight. Make them pass any debt increases where everyone can see it – and judge it on election day.
And it was once considered “service” – now, the federal government, using your tax dollars, is increasing top salaries to government workers:
The number of federal workers earning six-figure salaries has exploded during the recession, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal salary data.
Federal employees making salaries of $100,000 or more jumped from 14% to 19% of civil servants during the recession’s first 18 months — and that’s before overtime pay and bonuses are counted.
Bonuses? For what – trillion dollar deficits? Broken procurement systems? Aren’t those the arguments we heard used to deny Wall Street their bonuses? Well, in terms of waste, fraud and abuse Wall Street can’t touch the fed. But we’re paying bonuses and 6 figure salaries?
The highest-paid federal employees are doing best of all on salary increases. Defense Department civilian employees earning $150,000 or more increased from 1,868 in December 2007 to 10,100 in June 2009, the most recent figure available.
When the recession started, the Transportation Department had only one person earning a salary of $170,000 or more. Eighteen months later, 1,690 employees had salaries above $170,000.
The trend to six-figure salaries is occurring throughout the federal government, in agencies big and small, high-tech and low-tech. The primary cause: substantial pay raises and new salary rules.
The problem? The law of unintended consequences coupled with stupid pay rules and the left hand not knowing what the right hand was doing all combined to see unseemly pay raises the rule in the midst of 7.3 million job losses – a true, “do as I say not as I do” moment. That’s right – it’s up the the rest of you to “sacrifice” – not the fed.
It would appear the “Gang of 10 (Senators)” compromise bill which Harry Reid has been touting but refusing to give details about would bend the cost curve way up:
Senate Democrats have provided few details about their latest health care proposal, but this much seems clear: Anyone who wants to buy the same health benefits as members of Congress, or to buy coverage through Medicare, should be prepared to fork over a large chunk of cash.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, a family of four earning $54,000 in 2016, when the health legislation is fully in effect, would be eligible for a subsidy of $10,100 to help defray the cost of insurance under the health legislation being debated by the Senate. By then, one of the most popular federal plans, a nationwide Blue Cross and Blue Shield policy, is projected to cost more than $20,000.
That could leave the family earning $54,000, slightly more than the current median household income, with monthly premium costs of more than $825.
The Democrats’ proposal would also allow some people ages 55 to 64 to “buy in” to Medicare, starting in 2011. That could cost about $7,600 a year per person or $15,200 for a couple, according to a budget office analysis of an earlier version of the concept. No subsidies would be available until 2014.
So why are many Democrats so “enthusiastic” over the proposal. Well, let’s knock off all the spin and be blunt about it:
“Extending this successful program to those between 55 and 64 would be the largest expansion of Medicare in 44 years and would perhaps get us on the path to a single-payer model,” said Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York.
That is the name of the game here and don’t ever loose sight of that. Liberals want a government run single-payer system. And whether they get there via a “public option” or expanding Medicare doesn’t matter one whit to them.
Whatever your feelings on abortion, this isn’t representative of what is being considered:
The city of Berkeley made an official statement on abortion Wednesday by sending coat hangers — a symbol of illegal abortions — to 20 Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives who voted to restrict federal funding for abortions in the health care bill.
Councilmember Kriss Worthington, who co-sponsored the item before the City Council on Tuesday night with Susan Wengraf and Linda Maio, put the coat hangers and an official city letter in the mail Wednesday.
“The coat hanger represents the time when women had to have abortions in back alleys and tried to self-abort,” Wengraf said. “My initial take was this is too extreme. But women’s reproductive health is very important to me.
“I don’t want my granddaughter to go through what my grandmothers had to. I don’t want it compromised. I don’t think the health care bill is reform if it excludes access to women’s reproductive health care.”
It does not “exclude” access to “women’s reproductive health care”, today’s euphemism for abortion. Abortion remains legal and accessible. It simply denies payment at a federal level for the procedure, much like coverage for cosmetic coverage is denied. Does the denial of the latter somehow “exclude” access to cosmetic surgeons and make that procedure a “back alley” procedure? No, you simply buy a private bit of insurance or, *gasp*, pay for the procedure out of pocket. But both remain completely legal and completely available. Neither, however, should be subsidized by taxpayers (along with many other things).
“I think the coat hanger is an inappropriate symbol, and it could backfire on us,” Wozniak said.
Indeed, it’s not only inappropriate, but it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of the proposal which makes the coat-hanger group look foolish. But then consider what group is doing this (the city that banned the military) and it isn’t at all surprising they look foolish.
One of the things I and others have been saying for years is the biggest influence on our climate (and temperature) hangs in the sky each day and we call “the Sun”. Anthony Watts has a post up today talking about what is going on with the Sun and what that may mean for global temperatures. The process, as I have come to understand it is activity on the Sun (sun spots) generate solar winds (sun’s magnetic field). Solar winds have a tendency to “blow” away cosmic rays and keep them from reaching earth. When cosmic rays reach earth they react with water vapor in our atmosphere and create clouds. Clouds then block sunlight. Heavy cloud cover means cooler temperatures. Light cloud cover means higher temperatures. As I further understand it, none of that is included in climate models.
Well, if Svensmark is right, and Galactic Cosmic Rays modulated by the sun’s magnetic field make a change in cloud cover on Earth, increasing it during low solar magnetic activity, we are in for some colder times.
There’s a presentation by Jasper Kirkby, CLOUD Spokesperson, CERN, which shows what we currently know about the correlations between Galactic Cosmic Rays (GCR’s) and variations in the climate.
The CLOUD experiment uses a cloud chamber to study the theorized link between GCR’s and cloud formation in Earth’s atmosphere. Kirkby talks about the results from the first CLOUD experiment and the new CLOUD experiment and what it will deliver on the intrinsic connection between GCR’s and cloud formation. This is from the Cern, one of Europe’s most highly respected centers for scientific research.
The sun is in a funk – has been for years. Some of the lowest activity every recorded. And what has been happening here? Recorded temperatures have been cooling. Perhaps the funniest (in a sad sort of thing) thing I’ve read are the so-called climate scientists who were lamenting their inability to explain why their models weren’t reflecting this cooling trend and wishing they could explain it.
Look at the charts on Watts’ site, read about the lack of activity on the sun, understand the relationship between activity, solar winds, cosmic rays and clouds and you’ll understand that this is high school science we’re talking about.
Now go read this, especially the commenter’s remarks highlighted in the article, and much of what is going on becomes considerably clearer.
Which leaves me asking – again – how can such “science” that disregards the sun’s effect and raises an 800 year lagging effect (CO2) into a “cause” be taken seriously by intelligent and seemingly rational adults? Forget “consensus” and “conspiracy”. How did the Sun get ignored and CO2 changed from effect to “cause” in this hypothesis which can’t be reproduced?
Those of us who are familiar with this process and have seen it at work before (Rathergate) won’t be particularly surprised, but Richard Fernandez does a fascinating essay comparing the CRU scandal to differing civilization types, discussing the main difference between nomadic empires (Mongols) and more traditional ones (Rome) and how they are represented by the internet:
The story of these ancient empires acquires a renewed interest today because many of the conditions present in the vast, unsettled steppe superficially resemble the uncharted borders of the online world. In the 21st century just as in the 13th century, powerful ideological and economic forces move effortlessly across settled boundaries in ways that no single nation-state can easily control.
So, we have the Mongol Empire and the Roman Empire (a true “Barbarians At The Gate” scenario) opposing each other:
Whereas one side believes that government should be limited to tasks that the individual or local government cannot perform and that relationships between the parts are regulated by a distributed program expressed in the Constitution and Judaeo-Christian tradition, the other side believes that “government should be there for you”. It should be there for you in the bedroom, in the playground and recycle bin. It should be there when you are eating transfats or farting. It should even be your sexual mentor, where possible in school. Like every good imperative program, it should leave no room for anything but itself.
And, as Fernandez points out, the Romans almost won:
The endless proliferation of treaties, laws and regulations were the imperative rules; and their embodiment in a never-ending expanse of organs of governance from local governments to the UN — with NGOs and activist groups filling every conceivable gap — was the instrument by which the ungoverned were going to be fenced in. Even private life was brought under cultivation by slow degrees and a code of Political Correctness suffused every aspect of life. In time it would become impossible to even think a subversive thought; the language would be incapable of expressing it. The vast increase in government over the last sixty years brought the settlement of the world — some might call it the End of History — almost within reach.
But then Al Gore “invented” the internet, and the internet recreated the steppe on a virtual scale:
The “climate change” debate is almost a perfect example of intellectual combat between the two sides. It is a modernized re-enactment of a struggle between one side operating under distributed programming and another using a top-down paradigm. The construction of the “climate change” meme followed the traditional socialist pattern. The idea was built up with articles written about it in the press. Advocacy groups formed around it; authority from some academic source found to bolster it; celebrities were engaged to tout it. The UN was persuaded to give the whole its imprimatur. It had always worked before. Post after post was driven into the ground anchored around Kyoto, the UN and the EU. Strand after strand of wire was fastened to the timbers. And then, just as the gate was going to be closed, the nomads of the Internet charged the wire.
They have almost broken through. Led by individuals like Plimer, McIntyre and Lomborg and followed by a motely, a growing tide of discussion on the Internet has pushed in the wire so hard that it might actually collapse. The nomads looked at the data, the computer models. Someone may have hacked the CRU documents or leaked them. And once the data was out they knew where to look. The site Watts Up With That is a perfect example of the demolition of a staid University Department meme under the cut and thrust of the terrors of the intellectual steppes. Watts Up With That goes through one instance of the CRUs data fiddling in step-by-step detail and by the end it you have gone along for the ride. You have followed the process and find it impossible to simply say that “the CRU may have been naughty but the data is good”. The data itself may be bad or intentionally corrupted.
It is a fascinating spectacle. What the nomads have on their sides is reality. What the sown has on its part is manner and method. And the struggle between the two sides is one whose outcome, even in general, is still unknown.
The difference, of course, is the barbarians have been able to challenge the “method” and “manner” in which the statist side has used for seeming eons to get us to our present situation. To the swift, nimble and adaptable go the battles (assuming they also have the facts on their side as I believer the skeptics do in this climate scandal). The barbarians are able to mass at will, engage subject matter experts and tap their knowledge and erode the foundations of trust the empire has built up, falsely in many cases, over the years.
It is indeed a fascinating spectacle and one I feel thankful to both witness and participate in. I’ve always been the type that likes to question authority, and being an ad hoc member of this huge dissenting tribe has been most fulfilling and enjoyable. My question to you is, given what Fernandez puts forward here, do you think this may mark the high tide of this particular empire type or simply a pot hole in the road down which Leviathan continues to gather speed?
You gotta love the way Dingy Harry builds faith in his mission:
We have a broad agreement. Now I know that people are going to ask to be given every detail of this.
We have had a rule here for 40 years or however long we have been in existence, if you start talking about the plan and start shipping it around, it will be made public. And we want not that to be the case because we want to know the score before we start giving all the details even to our own members.
So you are not going to get answers to those questions.
As I have indicated, we can’t disclose the details of what we have done, but believe me we have got something that is good and that I think is very, for us, it moves this bill way down the road.
That’s right, just “believe” him and his Democrat buddies. You’re gonna love it!
Fortunately, enough of the super-secret, whats-good-fer’ya plan has leaked out that some cogent analysis is possible. Cato’s Michael Tanner, for example, observed that the proposed legislation would basically replicate the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program (FEHBP), through which many government workers and Members of Congress get coverage, as well expand MediCare (and possibly MediCaid) to people as young as 55. He also notes several problems with this proposal:
A few reasons to believe this is yet another truly bad idea:
1. In choosing the FEHBP for a model, Democrats have actually chosen an insurance plan whose costs are rising faster than average. FEHBP premiums are expected to rise 7.9 percent this year and 8.8 percent in 2010. By comparison, the Congressional Budget Office predicts that on average, premiums will increase by 5.5 to 6.2 percent annually over the next few years. In fact, FEHBP premiums are rising so fast that nearly 100,000 federal employees have opted out of the program.
2. FEHBP members are also finding their choices cut back. Next year, 32 insurance plans will either drop out of the program or reduce their participation. Some 61,000 workers will lose their current coverage.
3. But former OPM director Linda Springer doubts that the agency has the “capacity, the staff, or the mission,” to be able to manage the new program. Taking on management of the new program could overburden OPM. “Ultimate, it would break the system.”
4. Medicare is currently $50-100 trillion in debt, depending on which accounting measure you use. Allowing younger workers to join the program is the equivalent of crowding a few more passengers onto the Titanic.
5. At the same time, Medicare under reimburses physicians, especially in rural areas. Expanding Medicare enrollment will both threaten the continued viability of rural hospitals and other providers, and also result in increased cost-shifting, driving up premiums for private insurance.
6. Medicaid is equally a budget-buster. The program now costs more than $330 billion per year, a cost that grew at a rate of roughly 10.7 percent annually. The program spends money by the bushel, yet under-reimburses providers even worse than Medicare.
7. Ultimately this so-called compromise would expand government health care programs and further squeeze private insurance, resulting in increased costs, result in higher insurance premiums, and provide a lower-quality of care.
Let’s be clear. The point of the health-care takeover was never to control costs, but to control the market. Obama and the Democrats are certain that they can transfer the money involved in every health care transaction from the provider/insurer side of the equation to the recipient side. In other words, they simply want to rearrange the entire transaction in a way that seems “fair” to the favored constituency. As long is doesn’t cost those people any more (for awhile at least) then actual costs don’t really matter.
That’s why they draft loss ratio provisions mandating insurers to pay out 85% of the premiums received in benefit claims (i.e. the companies can only “make” 15% over top of premium revenues, which percentage Congress assumes is mostly profit, and not going to overhead costs; most states set the loss ratio somewhere between 65% and 75%). And that’s also why Reid and his band of merry cohorts see fit to hitch the health care wagon to programs that are already money-losing. Accordingly, when the primary goal is simply control, actual costs become irrelevant except when making the sales pitch to a public weary of profligate government spending. Mix in some budget gimmicks (like starting the tax 3 or 4 years before actually beginning the program), and voila! You have a health care bill.
No matter what comes out of the Congress for Obama to sign, you can rest assured that it will (a) cost American taxpayers way more than is promised, and (b) further cede control over the market place to the government.
What in the world are the Senate Democrats thinking? Isn’t this supposed to be about “health care reform”? Apparently their idea of reform is to take a system that has trillions of dollars in unfunded liabilities and expand it without ever addressing the underlying reason for the huge future debt?
Brilliant. Just brilliant.
But apparently winning the process (passing something called “health care reform”) has become more important than the original purpose of “reform”.
This is just a stunningly bad idea, but one that seems to be generating some “enthusiasm” among Democrats and “progressives”:
Now, it appears, negotiators are making headway to ensure that the [Medicare] expansion would take place at a far quicker pace than any proposed public option. According to the well-placed source, Democrats are rallying behind a proposal that would allow a portion of the 55-64 year old age group to buy in to the Medicare system as early as 2010. By contrast, a public plan for insurance coverage would not come into being until 2014.
That group which would get immediate access, of course, would the the high-risk group that will cost the most to treat.
In addition to debating a potential start date for a Medicare buy-in proposal, Senate Democrats are also in negotiations over who, exactly, should be allowed to qualify for the expanded Medicare program. At this juncture, it doesn’t appear that everyone in the 55-64-age bracket would be granted access. Negotiators are considering limiting consumers to those who would qualify for high-risk insurance pools already set up under the Senate’s health care legislation. This would mean primarily those who have been uninsured for a certain amount of time, have a history of poor health or are unable to get insurance because of a preexisting condition. The Senate has already earmarked $5 billion for subsidies for this group to buy insurance and may increase that total to help them pay for Medicare coverage — should it become available to those under 65 and above 55 years of age.
Note that the subsidy is only to help this group buy insurance coverage under Medicare. It says nothing about the cost of that pool to Medicare. And, don’t forget, they’re cutting Medicare payments by $500 billion over then next 10 years.
Then, in 2014, they’re going to bring in the rest of that age group in total. And they’re going to tell you this will save money and “reform” health care?
What a load of horse apples. A little reminder for those who seem unable to remember or remain willfully ignorant:
According to the Medicare Trustees:
* Medicare’s expected future obligations exceeded premiums and dedicated taxes by $89 trillion.
* In other words, Medicare’s liability is about 5 1/2 times the size of Social Security’s ($18 trillion) and about six times the size of the entire U.S. economy.
* Throw in Medicaid, and health care spending alone will crowd out every other thing the federal government is doing by mid-century, says Goodman.
Yet to date, other than a claim they’re going to cut that $500 billion out of it – a claim I’d be willing to bet never happens – there is no recognition of the huge unfunded liability nor the fact that these additions they’re “negotiating” will simply swell it even more.
What does that mean to those starting to build a life for themselves now? Well, it isn’t pretty:
Future Payroll Tax Burdens. Currently, a 12.4 percent payroll tax on wages funds Social Security and a 2.9 percent payroll tax funds Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance). But if payroll tax rates rise to meet unfunded obligations:
* When today’s college students reach retirement (about 2054), Social Security alone will require a 16.6 percent payroll tax, one-third greater than today’s rate.
* When Medicare Part A is included, the payroll tax burden will rise to 25.7 percent – more than one of every four dollars workers will earn that year.
* If Medicare Part B (physician services) and Part D are included, the total Social Security/Medicare burden will climb to 37 percent of payroll by 2054 – one in three dollars of taxable payroll, and twice the size of today’s payroll tax burden!
Thus, more than one-third of the wages workers earn in 2054 will need to be committed to pay benefits promised under current law. That is before any bridges or highways are built and before any teachers’ or police officers’ salaries are paid.
That’s also before this latest hare-brained idea by the Democrats (adding another entire decade’s worth of people to Medicare).
Look, you don’t have to be a Harvard PhD to figure this out (in fact, it appears it’s better if you’re not). We are being again sold further down an unsustainable river by a bunch of yahoos who seemingly have no cognizance of the detrimental future impact of what they’re proposing.
Between the promises they’ve made with Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, we’ll be broke before you know it:
* By 2020, in addition to payroll taxes and premiums, Social Security and Medicare will require more than one in four federal income tax dollars.
* By 2030, about the midpoint of the baby boomer retirement years, the programs will require nearly half of all income tax dollars.
* By 2060, they will require nearly three out of four income tax dollars.
And instead of fixing this, they’re now talking about adding to it and making it worse? If you need a picture (this is primarily for those Harvard PhDs who can’t seem to wrap their heads around the nonsense that’s being proposed) here you go:
This is the mess the Democrats are “enthusiastic” about adding on too with trillions more in unfunded liabilities without addressing the necessary reform to “bend the cost curve down”. It is, in the truest sense, generational theft. It is unacceptable. It is obviously unaffordable and, unfortunately, they don’t seem smart enough to realize that.
This is an outrage and they need to know that they are so far afield on this that they’ve lost site of the goal – reform which makes health care more affordable. This monstrosity just gets more expensive as they “negotiate”.
Just kill it.