Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

Health Care Reform:When Is A “Cadillac Plan” Not A “Cadillac Plan”?

Why when you’re a part of a favored special interest group of course:

Unions tentatively struck a deal Tuesday to exempt collectively bargained healthcare plans from a tax on high-cost plans expected to be used to help raise revenue for the healthcare overhaul.

The left constantly clamors for “fairness” but quickly throws such concerns under the bus when it is possible that one of their favored special interest groups may be negatively effected.

As Philip Klein notes:

If this policy is adopted, it would mean that there could be two Americans receiving the exact same benefits, but one American may be taxed and one wouldn’t, and the only difference would be one of them being a member of a union. This is unseemly and unfair, even by the standards of Obamacare. It has nothing to do with policy-making. It’s simply an outright bribe to a constituency that has contributed handily to Democratic campaigns.

Legislative favoritisim? How “progressive”.

It doesn’t get anymore blatant than this, folks.

~McQ

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Naive? Dumb? Or Just Doesn’t Understand How Taxes Work?

Jake Tapper, today, asking Presidential spokesperson Robert Gibbs about the bank tax:

TAPPER: On the fee for banks, without asking for any details, how can you guarantee that this, that this fee, tax, levy, whatever it ends up being, is not passed on to consumers and they take another hit when it comes to Wall Street?

GIBBS: Yeah, well, look, obviously, Jake we’ll have a chance to go through the structure of this. The economic team has worked for quite some time on a structure that will ensure that what taxpayers gave to banks to ensure their safety and security, in a time of crisis, is paid back in full. And I can assure you that is one of the things the economic team has taken into account in the structure.

Unless the “structure” plans to ensure bank fees aren’t raised in any other area to capture the money this “fee, tax, levy, whatever” from the banks, then of course banks are going to pass it on. If the “structure” is going to prevent such a raise in fees anywhere within the bank, then this isn’t a new tax, it’s a government takeover of the banks.

~McQ

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Hiding The Decline: What Is The Real Unemployment Rate?

Most likely it is much more than what is officially acknowledged.

That’s because it’s all about how you count them. Right now, for instance, the official unemployment number is 10%. If you add the underemployed, though – people working part time who want full time jobs – that number jumps to 17.3%

But is the 10% number right? Most likely not. Don Surber points to one reason:

Crudele explained: “When the Labor Department puts out the January employment figures on Feb. 4, they will include an assumption that a lot of companies went out of business.

“This is something called the birth/death model that is used by the department. Last year it caused 356,000 jobs to be subtracted from the January job count… Nobody in the media will pick up on this, but the Labor Department will also do something called a benchmark revision on Feb. 4 that will subtract around 840,000 jobs that the government thought existed, but really don’t.”

356,000 jobs here, 840,000 jobs there and pretty soon you have 1,196,000 more unemployed than advertised.

Oops.

That would change that 10.0% to 10.8%.

“Oops” indeed. I have an inherent distrust of estimates based on models. Maybe it’s the AGW nonsense that has turned me so against them. But still, how many “benchmark revisions” have been done in this recession and how many jobs have been shuffled off to the “do not exist anymore” bin without being added to the unemployment rate? In reality, we could easily be in the 13 or 14% area.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle had a short blurb today that gives you insight into the real size of the unemployment problem:

There are 6.4 job seekers for every job opening in the U.S., according to data released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s the highest rate since BLS began tracking such data in December 2000.

The ratio in December 2007? 1.7 to 1.

~McQ

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Haiti: Let The Conspiracy Theories Begin

Lordy, lordy. While I take my shots at the government, almost on a daily basis, but there are limits to what I can and will credibly blame on the government of the United States.  The tragedy of that just occurred in Haiti is not one of them. But someone billing themselves as a “Pair A Normal Guys” has come up with the definitive explanation of what happened there:

While the loss of life and devestation [sic] in Haiti is unimaginable there may be a more hidden agenda behind this tragedy. Suppose this “natural disaster” been a weather weopan aimed at Cuba but came up short in it’s delivery? The possibility of this being true is not far fetched or out-of-this-world in theory. Weather manipulation and weather warfare are not new concepts and certainly could be the choice of the powers that be to devastate an enemy with a cloak of Mother Nature’s disguise to fall back on. The fact that there was a seemingly unnoticable quake in California recently or a possible test fire and then the Haitian quake the largest ever recorded in the region seems a little suspicious to me. The secrets of our world and the secret weopans [sic] that are harboured within our world are something we need to expose, if this was infact a targeted weather weopan [sic] at Cuba the question then remains who sent it and who’s next?

Be sure to check the video at the site out as well – must see “Truth TV”. Weather weapons from the black helicopter crowd. Now we can do earthquakes?  Then how in the world did we “miss” Cuba?

Heh … It takes all kinds doesn’t it?

Meanwhile, in the real world, watch the mobilization by the US to help Haiti. Tell me who else does it better or faster?

~McQ

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UN Anti-Corruption Office Closed

Is there a more useless or corrupt organization than the UN? The famous “Third World Debating Club”, primarily supported by US tax dollars, is used as a platform for attacking the US (and the West) and squandering money. It is also famous for corruption, such as the oil for food scandal and many others.

Recently, and as quietly as they could manage, the UN shut down it’s Procurement Task Force, an anti-corruption task force set up in 2006 in the wake of the oil for food scandal. Since its establishment the anti-corruption unit has uncovered 20 more major schemes involving about 1 billion in US contracts and individual aid.

And now? Now those cases are being dropped as the PTF is dissolved:

But at the beginning of 2009, the United Nations shuttered the agency and diverted its work to the Office of Internal Oversight Services’ permanent investigation division.

Since then, the number of cases opened, pursued or completed has dropped dramatically and the division has let go most former task force investigators, the AP found in an examination of U.N. documents, audits and e-mails, along with dozens of interviews with current and former U.N. officials and diplomats.

Over the past year, not a single significant fraud or corruption case has been completed, compared with an average 150 cases a year investigated by the task force. The permanent investigation division decided not to even pursue about 95 cases left over when the task force ceased operation, while another 80 unfinished cases have languished.

What that really says, at least as I see it, is the PTF was all for show – an organization that was established in the wake of the oil-for-food scandal as an effort to placate an enraged world. But 3 years later, the UN feels safe enough that it can disband its only real anti-corruption unit, a unit that was obviously becoming a hindrance to the ability of the corrupt among the body to siphon off billions.

I am not now, nor have I ever been a fan of the UN. It lost its way not long after its formation and has become nothing more than a vehicle for looting richer nations and providing a forum for dictators and authoritarians to condemn those who oppose them.

This development provides the US a perfect opportunity to pull out of the UN. Unfortunately we won’t and I know that as well. Making the best of a bad situation, the least we should do is insist that the PTF be rechartered as a permanent addition to the UN structure and strengthened with more investigators before we send the organization another dime of “dues”. Without that, the corruption that is apparently inherent in the organization will run rampant, and that’s simply unacceptable. No permanent PTF, no dues. And drag our erstwhile “allies” into this as well.

Yeah, I know – accountability, what a concept. Perhaps we ought to try it out here first before we demand the UN do it, huh?

~McQ

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Health Reform Bill – Makes Bernie Madoff Seem Like A Piker

Today the Wall Street Journal asks what many of us have been asking for quite some time – why aren’t the numerous and specific warnings about the real cost and destructiveness of the proposed health care plan being heeded?

Of course the simple answer is those who are determined to take health care under the government’s purview really don’t care – they finally have the opportunity long denied them and they plan on taking advantage of it. So, much like the “science” of man-made global warming, they’ve picked their narrative, settled on it and will not entertain anything which might impede them from attaining their goal – government control of the health care market.

Those who’ve read this blog are very familiar with how Democrats have gamed the system (CBO’s statutory 10 year window) and used cheap accounting tricks (collect taxes immediately, don’t start paying benefits for 5 years – gives the appearance of bending the cost curve down) to make the case that they’re actually spending less on health care over the years and saving us from the bankruptcy they claim the status quo will eventually bring.

Another report, which I mentioned last week, carries a devastating warning about the plan being considered behind closed doors by Congressional Democrats. Yet it has received no major media exposure.

It is the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) report. And chief actuary Richard Foster is very candid about the impact of what Congress is planning. Not the smoke and mirror show Congress puts out there, but a peek at the reality of what Congress is proposing:

Richard Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, reports that under his analysis national health spending will rise under the bills by $222 billion over the next 10 years. In other words, ObamaCare really does “bend the cost curve”—up.

Even that estimate exists only on paper, as Mr. Foster has the honesty to admit. Because “most of the coverage provisions would be in effect for only six of the 10 years of the budget period, the cost estimates shown in this memorandum do not represent a full 10-year cost for the proposed legislation,” he writes. The report is punctuated by phrases like “unrealistic” and “doubtful,” and Mr. Foster adds that “the scope and magnitude of these changes are such that few precedents exist for use in estimation.”

Let’s stop right here with the obvious point to be made. The $222 billion, as mentioned, is the estimate for the next 10 years. However, as Foster points out, the spending would occur in only 6 of those 10 years. So that spending is offset by 4 years of revenue collection. If we remove that buffer and simply take 6 into 222 and then multiply it by 10, we’re most likely a bit closer to the real spending number than the contrived one – $370 billion, a difference of a mere $148 billion. Or, in reality, the $222 is a number that was tweaked to ensure when it was added to the other numbers the total fell below the threshold of $900 billion – the point at which it was claimed the cost curve would be bent upward. Had Congress found that to get to the number they needed they would have to collect taxes for 10 years and not provide benefits for 8 years, that’s how the bill would have been written.

It was never really about actually bending the cost curve down – it was all about creating the perception that the cost curve was being bent down, nothing more.

And there’s more to understand about that $222 billion number:

That $222 billion is a net figure, even after accounting for the fact that most of the newly insured—18 million people—will be dumped into Medicaid, “where provider payment rates are well below average.” And for the fact that ObamaCare is “paid for” only in the sense that Medicare’s payments to doctors are assumed in the bill to be cut by more than 20% this spring and even deeper after that, which will never happen in practice.

Mr. Foster adds that other planned Medicare cuts would damage doctors and hospitals: “Over time, a sustained reduction in payment updates, based on productivity expectations that are difficult to attain, would cause Medicare payment rates to grow more slowly than, and in a way that was unrelated to, the providers’ costs of furnishing services to beneficiaries.” This is how price controls would work in practice, even as Medicare has hit its spending targets only four times in the last 25 years.

Again, we know that Congress plans a “doc fix” which will amend the law to keep the 20% cut from taking place this year. And there’s nothing, given the history of this program, that argues that 20% cut will ever take place. It is a figure based on an assumption that will most likely never happen. Note well the last sentence – with an addition of 18 million new Medicaid insured, how many times in the next 25 years do you supposed Medicaid will hit its spending targets? You might also want to keep in mind that is mostly a federally mandated program administered by the states who share the cost. What will this addition of 18 million new insured do to state budgets – especially if the assumed cuts in payments are never made?

But let’s say Congress, somewhere along the line, finds the intestinal fortitude to cut those payments to providers as they say they are. What would be the impact?

He says many providers will be forced to stop accepting patients who are insured by the government, as opposed to those who have private coverage “with relatively attractive payment rates.” The resulting two-tier health-care system “should be considered plausible and even probable initially.”

If they cut, those patients they bring on may not be able to find a health care provider, so the patients suffer. If they don’t make the cuts, spending goes through the roof and the taxpayer suffers. It’s a lose/lose. But what should be patently obvious to anyone reading all of this is the $222 billion net spending claim by Congress for this particular part of the health care reform bill is as bogus as their promise of transparency.

Just delving into the particulars of this one portion of the bill should disabuse any objective person of the belief that what is being proposed is going to cost less than what we presently have. It is all a wretchedly wrought political façade designed to gain your support for long enough to pass this monstrosity. And my guess is should it pass, we’ll all be poorer and eventually sicker for its passage.

~McQ

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How Terrorism Wins – Part II

Fareed Zakaria provides the second installment in how terrorists win (the example of the Met deciding not to show art depicting the prophet Mohammed being the first):

In responding to the attempted bombing of an airliner on Christmas Day, Sen. Dianne Feinstein voiced the feelings of many when she said that to prevent such situations, “I’d rather overreact than underreact.” This appears to be the consensus view in Washington, but it is quite wrong. The purpose of terrorism is to provoke an overreaction. Its real aim is not to kill the hundreds of people directly targeted but to sow fear in the rest of the population. Terrorism is an unusual military tactic in that it depends on the response of the onlookers. If we are not terrorized, then the attack didn’t work. Alas, this one worked very well.

He is exactly right. Terrorism is all about effecting change through the threat of or use of violence. It is a tool of the weak that can be devastatingly effective if those at whom it is aimed overreact. The aim may be political change. The aim may be economic change. Or terrorists may be satisfied with any change they can effect through their actions which makes life miserable for those at whom it is aimed. As Zakaria points out, given our response, the latest terrorist failure is, in fact, a win. We’re jumping through our collective arses trying to react to the threat and pretty much settling on making air travel more miserable for everyone.

Overreacting to terrorist attacks plays into al-Qaeda’s hands. It also provokes responses that are likely to be large-scale, expensive, ineffective and possibly counterproductive. More screening for every passenger makes no sense. When searching for needles in haystacks, adding hay doesn’t help. What’s needed is a larger, more robust watch list that is instantly available to all relevant government agencies. Almost 2 million people travel on planes in the United States every day. We need to isolate the tiny percentage of suspicious characters and search them, not cause needless fear in everyone else.

We know, to this point the one common thread that links these “needles” and separates them from the “hay”. But we continue to resist using that as a discriminator as we refine our security searches because, apparently, discrimination (aka “profiling”) is a much worse political sin than getting airliners with 300 souls on board blown out of the sky.

It simply defies common sense.

~McQ

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Green Jobs, Distorted Markets And “Comprehensive” Energy Policy

This is what it takes to create “Green Jobs“?

President Obama’s announcement earlier today of an additional $2.3 billion in federal tax credits for creating approximately 17,000 subsidized temporary jobs in the green energy industry is drawing a less than enthusiastic response from Thomas J. Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research:

“Show me one other industry that requests and receives a nearly 30 percent taxpayer subsidy. That’s what the wind and solar industries require – at a minimum – to exist. All the president did today is throw more money at an unproven technology that is not economically viable in the marketplace. Unfortunately, the only winners in this latest taxpayer giveaway will be Wall Street money managers and corporate interests in the wind and solar industry.

Of course, dividing the subsidy by the number of jobs shows us that each job costs the taxpayers $135,295 each. The usual inefficient and wasteful spending for which the government is famous.

But there’s another bit of truth in Pyle’s statement that the right likes to mostly ignore – corporate interests, not just in the wind and solar industry, are deeply intertwined with political interests in this country and those corporate interests use their ability to influence in ways that give them an advantage (even to the point of helping to write legislation). However, that’s a post for another day.

Today, we’re looking at a perfect example of a governmental distortion of a market. Without the subsidy, the wind and solar industries most likely wouldn’t survive. But since it is a politically favored industry, it gets a hand out to keep it afloat. Meanwhile, it finds only a limited market share because the alternatives – coal, natural gas, oil, etc. – are much cheaper, more reliable and more readily available. Says Pyle:

“If the president really wants to create an environment that will foster economic growth and job creation, he need not look any further than the domestic oil, gas and coal industries. These three industries and energy sources built this nation. For the administration to continue to ignore this fact and to keep the vast resources that taxpayers own under lock and key at the Department of Interior is irresponsible and a disservice to the American people.

“The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), if opened for business, would create over 1 million high-wage jobs. It would reduce our dangerous dependence on hostile nations for their energy resources and spur economic growth across all 50 states. Development of these energy resources will create sustainable employment, not taxpayer dependent make-work jobs.”

Instead, as I pointed out in a post last week, this administration is doing the opposite. New rules from Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar make such exploration and exploitation of these known reserves much more difficult to do. It is step 2 in the government’s distortion of the energy market.

And it’s distortion of markets does have an effect – mostly unintended and, frankly, negative. Take the biofuel mandates Congress passed into law a year or so back.

It sounded like a good idea: Provide a little government money to convert wood shavings and plant waste into renewable energy.

But as laudable as that goal sounds, it could end up causing more economic damage than good — driving up the price of raw timber, undermining an industry that has long used sawdust and wood shavings to make affordable cabinetry, and highlighting the many challenges involved in decreasing the nation’s dependence on oil by using organic materials to create biofuels.

In a matter of months, the Biomass Crop Assistance Program — a small provision tucked into the 2008 farm bill — has mushroomed into a half-a-billion dollar subsidy that is funneling taxpayer dollars to sawmills and lumber wholesalers, encouraging them to sell their waste to be converted into high-tech biofuels. In doing so, it is shutting off the supply of cheap timber byproducts to the nation’s composite wood manufacturers, who make panels for home entertainment centers and kitchen cabinets.

The subsidy has distorted the market that has historically seen timber byproducts go to composite wood manufacturers and, since the subsidy pays more, seen those byproducts go to the production of biofuels. Result? Higher timber prices, an important market segment in trouble and an industry which couldn’t survive in the market without the subsidy continues to function.

In fact, the tail is wagging the dog as the government uses its power and purse to attempt to meet the arbitrary mandates that Congress passed into law:

The federal government is actively working to support the growth of as many of these biomass crops as possible, in part to meet requirements under the 2007 energy bill: The country must produce 5.5 billion gallons of advanced biofuels annually in five years, and 21 billion gallons by 2022. Right now, almost no U.S. land is devoted to raising biomass crops; according to congressional estimates, by 2022 the country will need between 22.2 and 55.5 million acres for this purpose

Did you get that? In 13 years it is estimated that between 22 and 55 million acres will be devoted to growing crap “crops” – like switch grass – instead of food – just to feed this contention that biofuels are better for us than fossil fuels. Those, I suppose, will be “green jobs” as well.

Speaking of green jobs – the government doesn’t even have a definition of what that means:

Even the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which has been cogitating on the problem since last spring, hasn’t made up its mind on how to count green jobs.

“There’s alternative ways for doing that and we haven’t yet finalized our methodology,” says John Galvin, associate commissioner for employment statistics at the BLS.

So you, and they, can call just about whatever you want a “green job” – and I have little doubt that the spinmeisters in government will do exactly that for the foreseeable future (especially when inventing statistics for “created and saved” jobs).

In reality I have no problem with “green jobs” or alternate and renewable fuels. I only have one demand – that they carry their own weight in the marketplace. Subsidizing each doesn’t meet that demand. Instead it unleashes the law of unintended consequences in all its negative fury and distorts exiting markets in ways that cost jobs and productivity that this economy badly needs. As Thomas Pyle points out, we have existing resources and existing technology that could create more available energy while creating thousands of good paying jobs not requiring a single dollar in subsidies that we’re ignoring to push an industry (or industries) which aren’t economically viable and, with existing technology, won’t be for years if not decades.

It is a short-sighted, politically driven policy which will hurt us in the long run. While this administration talks about a “comprehensive” energy policy, it is clear it has settled on one which is focused on an nonviable but politically correct industry to the detriment of the viable but carbon based existing industry. That is not a comprehensive policy regardless of how many times the politicians claim it is or put it in the title of their bills. A comprehensive strategy would recognize the reality with which we’re faced, exploit the traditional carbon based fuels while putting together a rational timetable for switching over to alternative (nuclear) and renewable fuels as the technology proved viable and cost effective.

Instead we get subsidized distortion of the markets, eschewing of readily available carbon based fuels and a push for jobs no one has yet to be able to define.

It’s madness. And, unfortunately, it is a madness which is going to cost us dearly in the not too distant future.

~McQ

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Mini-Ice Age?

Probably not. But the probability that the cold weather the world is experiencing might be part of a multi-decadal oscillation (MDO) and a natural cyclical occurrence puts a real dent in the so-called “science” of man-made global warming.

I found it interesting that over the weekend, the New York Times went to great lengths to explain that what was happening wasn’t a “global” event, but instead the product of an “Arctic Oscillation” which has planted a large high pressure cell over England and has diverted the jet stream south of England opening the doors for this arctic blast. That from the paper that will take two hot days in August and blame them on AGW. Says the NYT:

In most years over the past few decades, the opposite has been true: there has been lower-than-average pressure over the Arctic, and higher-than-average pressure over the mid-latitudes — the middle of which cuts through Maine, across the Great Lakes and on to Oregon.

That pattern allows the jet stream to blow unimpeded from west to east and keeps the cold Arctic air largely north of the United States. The result tends to be warmer temperatures across much of the United States east of the Rocky Mountains.

No one is quite sure what drives these flip-flops in air pressure.

Actually that’s not true. In fact many climate scientists have a pretty good idea. MDO’s.

On the one hand, it is true that the current freeze is the product of the ‘Arctic oscillation’ – a weather pattern that sees the development of huge ‘blocking’ areas of high pressure in northern latitudes, driving polar winds far to the south.

Meteorologists say that this is at its strongest for at least 60 years.

As a result, the jetstream – the high-altitude wind that circles the globe from west to east and normally pushes a series of wet but mild Atlantic lows across Britain – is currently running not over the English Channel but the Strait of Gibraltar.

However, according to Prof Latif and his colleagues, this in turn relates to much longer-term shifts – what are known as the Pacific and Atlantic ‘multi-decadal oscillations’ (MDOs).

For Europe, the crucial factor here is the temperature of the water in the middle of the North Atlantic, now several degrees below its average when the world was still warming.

But the effects are not confined to the Northern Hemisphere. Prof Anastasios Tsonis, head of the University of Wisconsin Atmospheric Sciences Group, has recently shown that these MDOs move together in a synchronised way across the globe, abruptly flipping the world’s climate from a ‘warm mode’ to a ‘cold mode’ and back again in 20 to 30-year cycles.

‘They amount to massive rearrangements in the dominant patterns of the weather,’ he said yesterday, ‘and their shifts explain all the major changes in world temperatures during the 20th and 21st Centuries.

Note the point about the temperature of water.

They say that their research shows that much of the warming was caused by oceanic cycles when they were in a ‘warm mode’ as opposed to the present ‘cold mode’.

Among the “they” saying that is Professor Mojib Latif and a research crew at the prestigious Leibniz Institute at Germany’s Kiel University. Latif is also a member of the IPCC. He and his research team have “developed new methods for measuring ocean temperatures 3,000ft beneath the surface, where the cooling and warming cycles start.”

‘A significant share of the warming we saw from 1980 to 2000 and at earlier periods in the 20th Century was due to these cycles – perhaps as much as 50 per cent.

‘They have now gone into reverse, so winters like this one will become much more likely. Summers will also probably be cooler, and all this may well last two decades or longer.

‘The extreme retreats that we have seen in glaciers and sea ice will come to a halt. For the time being, global warming has paused, and there may well be some cooling.’

The MDO cycles are pretty obvious for those who will look:

Prof Tsonis said that the period from 1915 to 1940 saw a strong warm mode, reflected in rising temperatures.

But from 1940 until the late Seventies, the last MDO cold-mode era, the world cooled, despite the fact that carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continued to rise.

Many of the consequences of the recent warm mode were also observed 90 years ago.

As mentioned in the article, in 1922 the Washington Post noted that Greenland’s glaciers were disappearing and that arctic ice was melting – exactly the same phenomenon we’ve experienced as a result of what these scientists say are the MDOs. And Latif is now convinced that the temperature, as reflected by cooling deep in the oceans, is now headed down as a new MDO takes effect. Some of the signs are quite convincing – such as the depth and length of this “cold snap”. Al Gore’s prediction that the arctic ice pack would disappear also seems in jeopardy:

According to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, Arctic summer sea ice has increased by 409,000 square miles, or 26 per cent, since 2007…

Professor Tsonis, like Latif, is hardly a denier, but he also isn’t impressed with the computer models which have driven the AGW claims:

‘I do not believe in catastrophe theories. Man-made warming is balanced by the natural cycles, and I do not trust the computer models which state that if CO2 reaches a particular level then temperatures and sea levels will rise by a given amount.

‘These models cannot be trusted to predict the weather for a week, yet they are running them to give readings for 100 years.’

I couldn’t agree more. You remember the Warmergate emails in which the AGW “scientists” wished for a good explanation for why the earth seems to be cooling? Well this is most likely it – and, much to their chagrin, CO2 and man have little if anything to do with it.

And because of that, it will most likely be studiously ignored by the “settled science” Copenhagen crowd.

~McQ

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Chavez Hastens Venezuelan Descent Into Pure Totalitarianism

I’m not sure how you could call this anything else:

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said that businesses have no reason to raise prices following the devaluation of the bolivar and that the government will seize any entity that boosts its prices.

Chavez said he’ll create an anti-speculation committee to monitor prices after private businesses said that prices would double and consumers rushed to buy household appliances and televisions. The government is the only authority able to dictate price increases, he said.

“The bourgeois are already talking about how all prices are going to double and they’re closing their businesses to raise prices,” Chavez said in comments on state television during his weekly “Alo Presidente” program. “People, don’t let them rob you, denounce it, and I’m capable of taking over that business.”

Not only is he “capable” of taking the business over, but he’s turning out the army to monitor all of this. And he’s promised to “transfer the ownership” of any business raising prices “to the workers”. We’ve all seen how well those sorts of takeovers have worked out in the past.

To review, he’s devalued the bolivar which had been fixed at 2.15 to the U.S. dollar since 2005, to 4.3 to the dollar. He then declared that businesses – which own stock under the old currency value and which will have to restock using the devalued currency – must keep their prices at the old price and let consumers buy that stock with the devalued currency or lose their business. A unilateral decision on his part and the refusal, again unilaterally, to allow those who own the goods they’re selling to react to his decision.

Where I come from, that’s called totalitarianism.

~McQ

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