Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: February 2010

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All of a sudden, it’s OK to question the conclusions of climate alarmists

Following on Phil Jones’ tentative walkback, we’re starting to see articles like this one, questioning the very foundations of global warming.

“The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC.

These stations, they believe, have been seriously compromised by factors such as urbanisation, changes in land use and, in many cases, being moved from site to site.

Christy has published research papers looking at these effects in three different regions: east Africa, and the American states of California and Alabama.

“The story is the same for each one,” he said. “The popular data sets show a lot of warming but the apparent temperature rise was actually caused by local factors affecting the weather stations, such as land development.”

So are we warming at all? Besides Phil Jones admitting that there’s no statistically significant evidence for it since 1995, the article above casts more doubt:

Terry Mills, professor of applied statistics and econometrics at Loughborough University, looked at the same data as the IPCC. He found that the warming trend it reported over the past 30 years or so was just as likely to be due to random fluctuations as to the impacts of greenhouse gases. Mills’s findings are to be published in Climatic Change, an environmental journal.

“The earth has gone through warming spells like these at least twice before in the last 1,000 years,” he said.

Naturally, the usual suspects are sticking to the “global warming is definite” position. The article quotes Kevin Trenberth, who was involved in the Climategate scandal, as one of them. Another is the head of the Met Office that seems to be hellbent on working warming into their weather predictions.

We seem to have passed a tipping point in the last few weeks. At the very least we’ve moved from global warming/climate change being discussed as a quasi-religious cause being crammed down everyone’s throats to having some genuine debate about the data and the science.

Not to say there are not holdouts; some people won’t give up their religion easily. Most American legacy media outlets have been silent, for example, and the comments on the article above still contain the usual ears-in-fingers-I-can’t-hear-you entries. However, if the best the Daily Mail can come up with to defend global warming are those already caught up in controversies of their own, that in itself is an indicator of just how much the debate has changed.


AGW – The Phil Jones Interview: So Much For Settled Science

An amazing interview with Dr. Phil “hide the decline” Jones from the East Anglia University CRU. Jones granted an interview to the BBC. You can read the whole thing here.

A couple of excerpts.  On the question of “settled science” so beloved of those who like to use it like a club to stifle discussion:

Q: When scientists say “the debate on climate change is over”, what exactly do they mean – and what don’t they mean?

A: It would be supposition on my behalf to know whether all scientists who say the debate is over are saying that for the same reason. I don’t believe the vast majority of climate scientists think this. This is not my view. There is still much that needs to be undertaken to reduce uncertainties, not just for the future, but for the instrumental (and especially the palaeoclimatic) past as well.

Or, “no the science isn’t settled”.  In fact, it is far from settled.

And to the question of how unique this particular period is?

Q: Do you agree that according to the global temperature record used by the IPCC, the rates of global warming from 1860-1880, 1910-1940 and 1975-1998 were identical?

A: [...] So, in answer to the question, the warming rates for all 4 periods are similar and not statistically significantly different from each other.

That should take care of the smug assurances of the AGW alarmists that there’s no need for further debate or science.  Jones doesn’t back off stating his belief that most of the recent climate change is a result of man, but it is clear his science isn’t as strong as it was once believed to be.

Newsbusters has some analysis covering some of the other questions in the interview, to include the Medieval Warm Period, “hide the decline” and temperature measurements.  Note that Jones cites his CRU’s temperature measurements, the Met’s temps and NASA/GISS.  All have been called into question by other scientists.

Then add in all the mistakes and unsourced, unpeer reviewed “facts” included in the IPCC report, it is apparent that the AGW claim to scientific relevance is at least on life-support.

~McQ


About “Reconciliation”

Despite all the rumors of back-room deals already agreed upon by the Democrats the House may be short of the votes necessary to pass the Senate version of the Health Care Reform bill.

Of course the rumored plan is to have the House pass the Senate bill without change and then have the Senate amend it to the House’s liking through the reconciliation process which only requires 51 votes to pass.

Not so fast.

First the House has to pass it – and, according to at least one source, they may be as many as 100 votes short. Michael Barone explains why House Democrats may be less than enthusiastic about voting for this bill:

Why are House Democratic leaders having such trouble getting the 217 votes needed for a majority (because there are vacancies now in two Democratic-held seats)? Look at it this way. Imagine you’re a Democratic congressman from a not entirely safe district. The leadership comes to you and says, We’d like you to vote for the Senate bill. Oh, and by the way, we can’t change a word in it. You’ve got to vote for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase and all that other garbage.

But hey, the leadership guy will go on, there’s no risk, because the Senate will fix everything through the reconciliation process. You will be suspicious of this. You will note that using the reconciliation process requires favorable rulings from the Senate parliamentarian, rulings over which you have no more leverage than you have over phases of the moon. It requires 50 Democratic senators willing to go along with reconciliation, and given the poll numbers that have been coming out lately that’s not a sure thing. And it requires steady leadership from Harry Reid—who just last week, without notice to the White House, the House leadership or the senators involved, yanked a Baucus-Grassely bipartisan “jobs” bill and substituted a much smaller one of his own.

A. First you have to trust Nancy Pelosi enough to vote on it.
B. Then you have to trust Harry Reid to do what he says he’ll do – i.e. initiate the reconciliation process and address the specific points the House wants changed.
C. You have to hope there are enough Democratic Senators (not in tight races) who’ll go along with reconciliation. And finally,
D. You have to hope that the process is favorably ruled upon by the Senate parlimentarian.

If all of that doesn’t come to pass and the Senate bill passes unchanged, the Democratic member of the House has handed his political opponents in this year’s midterms some ready made ammunition. He or she will have voted for the Louisiana Purchase, Cornhusker Kickback and all manner of other other objectionable portions of the bill. Concludes Barone:

The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.

So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.

In terms of trust, my guess is Senate Democrats rank somewhere below used car salesmen and lawyers.

~McQ


Cell Phone Records: “No Reasonable Expectation Of Privacy”

Is there an “expectation of privacy” pertaining to your cell phone’s records?  Or any records held by a third party provider?

The Obama administration is arguing that there isn’t:

In that case, the Obama administration has argued that Americans enjoy no “reasonable expectation of privacy” in their—or at least their cell phones’—whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that “a customer’s Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records” that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

In other words, since the provider keeps the records (not you) as mandated by law, those records belong to them and thus should be open to government inspection without permission from you or a court.

Now, there’s an argument to be made in terms of law enforcement needs. For instance, a series of bank robberies took place over a wide area. Combing the records for cell towers in the area of each robbery allowed law enforcement to narrow it down to two cell phone users who made calls in each area just before the robberies. Good police work. But shouldn’t they have to go before a judge and justify their desire to look at these records? I’m not sure they didn’t, but essentially the Justice Department is trying to argue that such a justification and court order should be unnecessary.

Ironic from an administration that was so strident about opposing warrantless wiretaps.

The question is, should those records be considered private? Jim Harper argues at Cato that those records are the modern equivalent of “papers and effects” protected by the 4th Amendment and that the court has misinterpreted that since 1967.

These holdings were never right, but they grow more wrong with each step forward in modern, connected living. Incredibly deep reservoirs of information are constantly collected by third-party service providers today. Cellular telephone networks pinpoint customers’ locations throughout the day through the movement of their phones. Internet service providers maintain copies of huge swaths of the information that crosses their networks, tied to customer identifiers. Search engines maintain logs of searches that can be correlated to specific computers and usually the individuals that use them. Payment systems record each instance of commerce, and the time and place it occurred. The totality of these records are very, very revealing of people’s lives. They are a window onto each individual’s spiritual nature, feelings, and intellect. They reflect each American’s beliefs, thoughts, emotions, and sensations. They ought to be protected, as they are the modern iteration of our “papers and effects.”

I agree with Harper.  Technology has changed how those records are kept, but they are still private records between the provider and the subscriber – especially since, for the most part, much of the data recorded is gathered without our permission. What I see in the case by the Obama administration is another attempt at government data mining – domestic intelligence – something which Democrats and libertarians were adamantly against when various schemes were uncovered during the Bush administration.

This attempt is subtly different. Instead of just assuming that there is no expectation of privacy and going ahead and demanding the information, the administration is attempting to have the court okay it first. But the result will be the same – unimpeded access by government to your location at any time (as long as you have a cell phone). It is but a short step from there to do what Harper outlines: data mining from various other providers based on the same argument and with this case as precedence. Result: a profile of you containing private data about your movements, spending habits, places visited on the internet, etc that are really none of the government’s business.

Of course, we all know that Big Brother government would never misuse or abuse this information, don’t we?

As Harper concludes, this is an imporant case which needs to be watched closely:

This is a case to watch, as it will help determine whether or not your digital life is an open book to government investigators.

~McQ


Screw Bi-Partisanship: King Harry Reid Edition

Bi-partisanship has become the new battle cry of the left, at least for PR purposes.  They no longer have the power to pass anything without at least one Republican vote in the Senate.  So instead of purposely excluding Republicans as they have for a year (and blaming their own failings on GOP “obstructionism”) they now have to make a show of calling for bi-partisanship and hope they’ll be able to pick off at least one hapless GOP Senator.  If they don’t, then they can again blame the Republicans for “obstruction” instead of their failure to find a suitable compromise necessary to pass the legislation in question.

Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Pluto) did the GOP a favor, although I’m sure Republicans don’t realize it yet. He shot down a “jobs bill” that was the result of bi-partisan work by Democratic Senator Max Baucus and Republican Senator Charles Grassley.

Cost? Over $100 billion. Contents – Pension bailouts, handouts for chicken farmers in Arkansas, an extension of the anti-terror Patriot Act, and a number of other little goodies. Had that bill passed, Republicans would have again earned the derision of the public for “not getting it”. It would be seen as “business as usual” despite the expressed anger of the public over such handouts, bailouts and deficit spending.

Reid instead has decided to unilaterally rewrite the bill to include only 4 things:

* A new tax credit for hiring workers
* Extra money for highway projects
* Small Business tax breaks
* Build America Bonds

The price tag? A reported $15 billion dollars. The reaction from most of the left and the Paul Krugman’s of the world is going to be brutal. Of course the Blanche Lincoln “reelect me” aid to Arkansas chicken farmers, the Chuckie Schumer Pension Bailout along with all the other goodies that made up the remaining $85 billion in the original bill aren’t going away. They’ll be considered in different legislation. That’s to say, no one in the Senate seems to have listened to a thing the polls or public have been hammering them about for months. It is indeed business as usual.

Let’s be clear here, though. Harry Reid want’s a “clean bill” on this not because he’s changing his ways, not because that’s what the American people want and not because he’s a smart politician.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is rewriting a jobs bill after Democrats complained of too many concessions to Republicans.

Yeah, that’s right – King Harry just saved the Republicans from themselves (at least for the moment). You see, there was just too much of that bi-partisanship stuff.

~McQ


Quote Of The Day: Queen Nancy’s Logic Edition

Nancy Pelosi, not exactly the sharpest knife in the drawer, explains why the 60 vote majority in the Senate is “unconstitutional”:

“A constitutional majority is 51 votes,” Pelosi said in an interview Tuesday with Roll Call. “If in fact the Republicans are going to say nothing can be done except by 60 percent, then maybe we all should be elected with 60 percent. It isn’t legitimate in terms of passing legislation.”

Conveniently missing in this romp through the illogical is the fact that a “majority” in the Senate is whatever the Senate rules say it is – and that’s a power left to them by the Constitution. In fact, to change this rule, the Senate requires 67 votes or a 2/3rds majority. I assume Ms. Pelosi would find that “unconstitutional” as well.  Just another, albeit a fairly pathetic one, in an increasing number of assaults on the filibuster by Democrats who understand that they either have to actually be bi-partisan now or change the rules.

Guess which they opt for?

Isn’t also ironic when “Justice” Pelosi cites the Constitution incorrectly as a means to push a blatantly unconstitutional health care bill through?

Anyway, remember to wish long lives and good health to Barack Obama and Joe Biden. As bad as they are, Pelosi being 3 heartbeats away from the Oval Office necessitates those good wishes.

~McQ


Food Stamps Do Not Increase Employment

You may recall that I questioned the efficacy of Paul Rosenberg, et al.’s argument that increasing food stamp benefits would directly lead to an increase of 9 to 10 million more people being employed:

Without arguing the statistical or modeling specifics behind the chart, there is one glaring item that reveals how much magical thinking went into its creation. By far the most “stimulating” actions set forth are “Temporary Increase in Food Stamps”(calculated to create 9,803,333 jobs), “Extending Unemployment Insurance” (9,236,667 jobs), and “Increased infrastructure Spending” (9,010,000 jobs). The closest tax-cutting measure, according to this analysis, in job creation is a “Payroll Tax Holiday” which is estimated to create 7,253,333 jobs. Do you see the problem?

How, exactly, do food stamps and unemployment benefits create jobs? Arguably, spending on infrastructure could create construction jobs on a temporary basis, although that hasn’t proven to be the case with the stimulus bill that was passed. But there is simply no logic to the idea that providing government benefits to the poor and unemployed will serve to create jobs, much less 9 to 10 million of them. That’s just magical thinking.

[...]

Whatever the virtues of income support, and even if that support will be quickly spent in the economy, there is no justification for concluding that it will expand the economy. At best, it can stabilize a downturn by maintaining some level of consumer spending. But that does not expand the economy in any way, shape or form, and it certainly doesn’t create jobs [at] an unprecedented level as suggested by Rosenberg.

As it turns out, we have plenty of empirical evidence to show that, in fact, increasing food stamp aid does nothing to increase employment. Indeed, for the past decade, the US has dramatically increased the number of participants who receive food stamps to the point that 1 in every 8 Americans now partakes in the program:

The reason for the expansion, as the chart’s creators point out, is that we’ve been pushing food stamps not just on the needy, but on the working poor as well [via: James Joyner]:

States eased limits on people with cars and required fewer office visits from people with jobs. The federal government now gives bonuses to states that enroll the most eligible people.

A self-reinforcing cycle kicked in: outreach attracted more workers, and workers built support for outreach. In a given month, nearly 90 percent of food stamp recipients still have incomes below the federal poverty line, according to the Department of Agriculture. But among families with children, the share working rose to 47 percent in 2008, from 26 percent in the mid-1990s, and the share getting cash welfare fell by two-thirds.

Whether this is a good policy or not is neither here nor there. Instead, what should be glaringly evident is that there is no correlation between food stamp distribution and job creation. Over the past decade, as the number of people using food stamps rose from around 17 million to almost 35 million, the economy has both created and shed millions of jobs. For example, since December 2007, when the recession officially began, the economy lost 8.4 million jobs according to the Labor Department. Yet in that same time, according to the chart above, around 7 million more people received food stamps (rising from about 27 million to 34 million). If the “food stamps = job creation” were correct, how did we lose all of those jobs?

The inescapable conclusion is that food stamps do not create jobs, and at best only serve to keep some minimal level of economic activity going during down times.


CNN Poll: 67% Unhappy With How Federal Government Works

That isn’t particularly surprising since we recently cited a Gallup poll saying the number was 75%.  Suffice it to say the vast majority of the country doesn’t like how the federal government is doing its job.

What’s even more fascinating though is how CNN chooses to report that:

But the ABC News/Washington Post survey, released Thursday morning, suggests a partisan divide, with 8 out of ten conservative Republicans viewing how the federal government works in a negative way, but nearly 6 out of ten liberal Democrats saying they were enthusiastic or satisfied.

The 67 percent dissatisfaction level is the highest in ABC News/Washington post polling since it peaked at 70 percent in March 1996, in the months after the a federal government shutdown led by Republicans.

So which political party gets blamed for this dissatisfaction? A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll indicated that nearly half the public said they were angry at both political parties, with 11 percent angry only at the Republicans and 9 percent angry only at the Democrats.

So assuming, given the first paragraph, that “conservative Republicans” and “liberal Democrats” cancel each other out, what is the source of all this dissatisfaction? Well never mentioned are the independents. Obviously this number is being driven primarily by the dissatisfaction of independents who, as any political neophyte knows, are the key to elections.

And I’m sure there are a number of politicians out there who will misinterpret the part which says only “11 percent angry only at the Republicans and 9 percent angry only at the Democrats.” That’s not good news for either party – they don’t like any of you. See again “Tea Party”. Understand they are only the tip of the iceberg the good ship USS Congress is blithely approaching at full speed.

For the CNN poll, these are the highest dissatisfaction numbers since 1996 when they peaked at 70%.

This is another in a long line of polls which seems to be pointing to a very interesting midterm election season. It’s not going to be exclusively a “throw the Democrats out”. I think we’re going to see more of a “throw the incumbents” out. And I think the driving issue for most of the public – you know the teabagging, unwashed, clueless electorate – is fiscal sanity. They just aren’t seeing it, and they want it and they want it now.

~McQ


Quote Of The Day – Joe Biden/Iraq Edition

Wow.  This just takes, well, you name it.  From Katherine Jean Lopez at The Corner:

Joe Biden told Larry King last night: “I am very optimistic about — about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration.”

That is just freakin’ breathtaking in its audacity. More here.

I guess Iraq wasn’t Bush’s fault. Instead it’s Obama’s triumph?

Amazing.

~McQ


The “Jobs” Bill Sham

Yes, another in a long line of spending bills which has a purported purpose it won’t accomplish.  What it will accomplish is an increase in the debt.

None other than Nancy Pelosi is troubled by the fact that it appears the proposed “jobs” bill being rushed through Congress doesn’t create, uh, jobs.

The White House session with congressional leaders was supposed to be a step toward bipartisanship, with a focus on jobs. But Pelosi made it clear that there’s disagreement, even among Democrats.

White House economic advisers Christina Romer and Larry Summers defended the administration’s proposal to give employers a $5,000 credit for each new worker they hire as well as help with Social Security taxes.

Pelosi countered that no one she’s consulted believes that the plan will actually lead to the creation of new jobs, sources said.

“She questioned the efficacy of it,” one Democratic aide said.

For once, Pelosi is right – any jobs created will be at the margins. In fact, the centerpiece of the “jobs” bill is – wait for it – and extension of unemployment benefits.

And, of course, you remember the big “we’re concerned about the deficit” announcement not long ago where Congressional Democrats again said they were instituting PAYGO (a means of forcing Congress to pay for new spending by cutting the budget elsewhere or raising taxes) as a means of controlling it? Yeah, except for this boondoggle. Here’s from the last page of the draft bill:

(a) IN GENERAL.–One-half of the amounts in each of titles V and VI are designated as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 4(g) of the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go Act of 2010, and designated as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 403(a) of S. Con. Res. 13 (111th Congress), the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2010.

In case you’re wondering what titles V and VI are, Jamie Dupree fills us in:

Title V of the jobs bill deals with expiring tax credits and tax breaks known as “tax extenders” – which Congress constantly renews every year or two, always resisting talk of making them permanent.

Those provisions are said to be worth about $33 billion, so one half of that would go to the deficit.

Title VI of the draft bill centers around extended jobless benefits and extra health (COBRA) provisions for the unemployed. That’s another big chunk of money.

The estimated total for the bill is $104 billion with little if anything in it which will actually create jobs.

~McQ

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