Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

UK’s Met Office To Re-Examine Climate Data

In a staggering blow to the credibility of the CRU at the University of East Anglia, the UK’s Met Office will re-examine 160 years worth of climate data in light of the scandal there.  You can read about the Met Office here. They have been a very important and influential part of the man-made climate change cabal and are a government agency.  They along with the Royal Society and the Natural Environmental Research Council issued a statement as recently as November 24th saying AGW was real and the scientific evidence for that hypothesis has actually “strengthened significantly”.

Now, apparently, it is concerned enough by what has been revealed through the released emails from the CRU to decide to review the entire 160 years of data upon which the hypothesis rests.  The Times tells us:

The Met Office plans to re-examine 160 years of temperature data after admitting that public confidence in the science on man-made global warming has been shattered by leaked e-mails.

The new analysis of the data will take three years, meaning that the Met Office will not be able to state with absolute confidence the extent of the warming trend until the end of 2012.

[…]

The Met Office’s published data showing a warming trend draws heavily on CRU analysis. CRU supplied all the land temperature data to the Met Office, which added this to its own analysis of sea temperature data.

Why is this important?

The Met Office database is one of three main sources of temperature data analysis on which the UN’s main climate change science body relies for its assessment that global warming is a serious danger to the world. This assessment is the basis for next week’s climate change talks in Copenhagen aimed at cutting CO2 emissions.

Said another way, those in Copenhagen next week, will be making policy based on an assessment in which one of the providers of the data has no confidence.

Make sense?

And you’ll love this:

The Government is attempting to stop the Met Office from carrying out the re-examination, arguing that it would be seized upon by climate change sceptics.

Facts? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts – our minds are made up.  It’s much more important that we don’t give the skeptics ammo than actually settle the science. Talk about vested interests.

And, of course, there’s a bit of whistling past the graveyard:

The Met Office is confident that its analysis will eventually be shown to be correct. However, it says it wants to create a new and fully open method of analysing temperature data.

Couldn’t agree more on the “open method of analysing temperature data” – long, long overdue. And NASA needs to release their data as well and the sooner the better.

Meanwhile, even the IPCC has had to finally admit somethings actually going on which may have an effect on their findings:

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change admitted yesterday that it needed to consider the full implications of the e-mails and whether they cast doubt on any of the evidence for man-made global warming.

Here’s an idea – cancel Copenhagen until there’s some level of confidence that the “science” that undergirds the hypothesis claiming human activity is a main source for ongoing climate change is actually based in real, factual data before rushing into economy killing emissions controls.

Fat chance, I know – we’ll soon learn what the term “bureaucratic impetus” means, I’m afraid.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

The Unemployment Situation

I see that Megan McCardle thinks the unemployment numbers released today are enough to make her make her “cautiously optimistic” about the jobs picture.  I’ll meet her halfway.  I see room for caution, but not yet for optimism.

Ms. McArdle writes:

It’s very solidly good news: the labor force participation rate was basically unchanged, which means we’re seeing an actual decline in the unemployment rate, not a spike in the number of people leaving the labor force because they can’t find a job.

My reading of the numbers is precisely the opposite.  It appears to me that teenagers, high school dropouts, and those with only a high school diploma, all of whom have high unemployment rates, did, in fact, drop out of the labor force, which led to the decrease in the employment rate.

I also think the numbers are skewed by the seasonal adjustments.  The BLS adjusts the figures for seasonal changes, with extra weighting given to more recent years.  Last November, the Lehman collapse led to the loss of 610,000 jobs–the largest ever recorded by the BLS–so I suspect the weighting for seasonal factors is skewed to the point where the jobs situation may look better than it actually is.

We do see an increase in hours worked of 0.6 hours, but that doesn’t really create new jobs, it just provides more hours for current part-timers.

However, temporary employment rose significantly for the 4th straight month, and it appears that the mass layoffs have petered out.

So, as far as I can tell, there may have been a bottom, but there are still some anomalies that need to be explained before I jump into the optimist camp.

And, of course, none of this even touches on the 800-pound gorilla in the room, which is monetary policy.  The Fed’s policy of quantitative easing, i.e. massive increases in the money supply, still present us with hundreds of billions of dollars in low-velocity money floating around, all of which will have to be absorbed through higher interest rates, or through significant inflation.  The possibility still remains that necessary credit tightening will strangle any nascent recovery over the next 12-18 months, and send the economy on a another downward leg.

It’s very solidly good news:  the labor force participation rate was basically unchanged, which means we’re seeing an actual decline in the unemployment rate, not a spike in the number of people leaving the labor force because they can’t find a job.
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Interview with Tom Campbell, CA Gubernatorial candidate

I spoke with Tom Campbell for over 45 minutes on a range of topics, and I’ve split my posts on that discussion into two posts, one here and one over at The Next Right. Here at QandO, I’m going to cover the more policy-oriented topics, and over at The Next Right the topics have to do with new media, elections, and the politics of fiscal conservative governance.

It pains me to see my native California in such dire straits. The state is broke, farms are collapsing, and unemployment is over 12 percent. The public colleges that might help retrain a lot of those workers are slashing classes.

The tax and regulatory burden has finally overcome the state’s many natural advantages, leading its citizens to abandon the Golden State. And these are people who can’t be having an easy time selling their homes: California, one of the first to suffer in the real estate collapse, is still near the top of the heap in foreclosures.

California, as we say, has issues. I talked with Tom Campbell about some of the most important ones: the budget deficit, jobs, health care, education, water and infrastructure.

Continue reading

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

NATO Promises 7,000 Additional Troops For Afghanistan

Except it really doesn’t.  In fact, among those 7,000 “additional” troops promised are 1,500 which are already in country and the 500 the British had already promised.  So it’s 5,000 additional troops in reality.   Nothing to sneeze at but certainly not the 10,000 desired.  As expected many will come from former Eastern bloc nations:

1,000 from Poland; 600 from Italy, plus more Carabinieri to work with Afghan police (something which worked well in Iraq – ed.). Slovakia is sending a small deployment …

Non NATO nations are sending detachments as well – South Korea is sending a small one and a surprisingly large one of about 1,000 is coming from Georgia.

The clinker?

An undisclosed number of the new troops will steer clear of the fighting because they are barred by their countries from combat operations. And two allies, the Netherlands and Canada, still plan to withdraw nearly 5,000 troops in the next two years, offsetting the infusion.

But it sounds great on paper, doesn’t it?

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Congress: Rent Seeker’s Delight

By that I mean the Congress of the United States.  It can find more ways and more reasons to reward rent seekers than perhaps any legislative body I know.  That’s probably because it has the largest budget of purloined confiscated taxed dollars in the world.  And even when it has none, it still manages to hand out borrowed dollars.  In fact, we’re now to the stage that it involves generational theft – running up a debt that will have to be paid back by those not even born yet.  Imagine emerging from the womb with about $38,000 in debt already hanging over your head.  That’s the current charge.  Of course there’s always next year, when, as you know, the fed plans on spending another trillion we don’t have.  So in the big scheme of things, this story may almost seem trivial.  But it is indicative of how “special interest” democracy rewards rent seekers and finds new ways to loot the economy that simply boggle the mind.

Call this one “too special to fail”:

The radio business has nothing to do with the plan to overhaul the nation’s system for regulating banks and other financial institutions.

Except, it turns out, in Congress.

One of most intriguing mysteries here in recent weeks is why members of the Congressional Black Caucus have chosen to buck their party and president in trying to stall financial regulation reform.

The answer lies at least in part with an aggressive lobbying campaign by a troubled New York City-based radio broadcasting company, Inner City Broadcasting, whose co-founder is a prominent New York politician and businessman, Percy Sutton.

In a rare break with President Obama, the caucus, made up of black members of Congress, is holding back support for the legislation because it wants the administration to help minority-owned businesses, including Inner City, whose financial plight has been specifically identified in meetings with top administration officials.

In a variation on “no justice, no peace”, the CBC has a new slogan: “No loot, no vote” (and trust me, they’re only one of many doing this all the time, from both sides of the isle, in Congress).

Inner City Broadcasting has enlisted the CBC to plead its special case. It apparently has a bad business model that has failed and it insists its specialness exempts it from the results of that – after all, it is a minority owned business, don’t you know.

And that means it wants an exemption from failure. The story:

Inner City Broadcasting, which owns 17 commercial stations nationwide and was co-founded in 1971 by Mr. Sutton, faces a possible financial collapse because of pressure by Goldman Sachs and GE Capital to repay nearly $230 million in debt, Pierre Sutton, his son, said in an interview Wednesday.

Inner City has been battered by declines in advertising, as have many stations around the country, which have experienced drops of 10 percent or more in the last year because of the recession and the move of advertisers to the Internet.

But the other stations don’t have a friendly caucus in Congress do they? And that caucus knows its party owes it some loot to remain on their side. Their refusal to vote for more financial regulation is simply a little exercise in reminding their party of that.

Members of the caucus asked the administration to squeeze lenders like GE Capital and Goldman Sachs to renegotiate their loans with Inner City and other black-owned radio stations, arguing that these financial institutions themselves had already received federal assistance. Some caucus members even pushed to include black-owned radio stations in the bailout.

“There is a lot of concern about Inner City Broadcasting,” said Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, the chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, who set up one recent meeting with Mr. Geithner and Mr. Emanuel at the request of the Black Caucus.

Mr. Frank said the radio stations were only one issue raised by the caucus, and that others included financial difficulties faced by black-owned auto dealers, newspapers, banks and government contractors.

Yes, friends, it’s only fair. Extortion, influence peddling and payoffs (like 300 million for LA if a certain Democratic Senator votes for health care) are illegal everywhere but the US Congress where they’re business as usual — you know, the most ethical Congress ever?

And they wonder why they enjoy so little of the American people’s confidence and respect.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]
Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

And They Call Themselves “Journalists”

So you’re a “journalist” and you have the opportunity to interview Al Gore prior to the Copenhagen climate summit. The scandal surrounding the University of East Anglia’s CRU has been breaking for two weeks and its head, Phil Jones has stepped down.  Penn State University is investigating Michael Mann and his discredited “hockey stick”. It even appears that NASA may have been in on the scandal having spent 2 years avoiding FOIA requests. And all of it undermines the very foundation of the science of man-made global warming Gore has based his assertions upon.

Do you think, as journalists, that might be something you’d want to question the man who has almost made a religion out of the cause based on this data?

Yeah, I’d think so too. But apparently John Harris and Mike Allen of Politico didn’t think that was important enough to ask Mr. Gore. Unless, of course, they just didn’t include it in their “published excerpts”. But then I can’t think of a single reason, given the depth and breadth of the scandal, that they wouldn’t can you?

Well, they didn’t.

John Coleman tells you why.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Settled Science?

According to Rasumssen, when it come to the topic global warming a majority of Americans don’t believe that to be true:

Most Americans (52%) believe that there continues to be significant disagreement within the scientific community over global warming.

While many advocates of aggressive policy responses to global warming say a consensus exists, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 25% of adults think most scientists agree on the topic. Twenty-three percent (23%) are not sure.

That, of course, is a direct refutation of a statement by presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs:

“I don’t think … [global warming] is quite, frankly, among most people, in dispute anymore.”

Additionally, the majority of Americans are skeptical of the efficacy of climate scientist’s data – and this is not a result of Climaquiddick:

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans say it’s at least somewhat likely that some scientists have falsified research data to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming. Thirty-five percent (35%) say it’s Very Likely. Just 26% say it’s not very or not at all likely that some scientists falsified data.

This skepticism does not appear to be the result of the recent disclosure of e-mails confirming such data falsification as part of the so-called “Climategate” scandal. Just 20% of Americans say they’ve followed news reports about those e-mails Very Closely, while another 29% have followed them Somewhat Closely.

It will be interesting to see what Climaquiddick does to those numbers, especially since the scandal seems to have spread to NASA here.

Rasmussen’s poll contradicts the myths of scientific consensus or “settled science”. Additionally, it points out that not only are the majority of Americans skeptical of the science, but given the recent scandal, that percentage is likely to grow.

Meanwhile, James Delingpole updates us on the latest and greatest concerning Climaquiddick.

~McQ

[ad#Banner]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

No, Seniors, You Won’t Be Able To Keep Your Health Insurance Plan

Throw this on the pile with the many lies broken promises from Obama about his health care initiative. It’s official now that a Democrat is saying it:

Democrats, having defeated a Republican attempt to block proposed Medicare cuts, now face an even bigger headache: concern among members of their own party over the program’s future funding.

President Barack Obama wants to cut spending on the federal insurance plan for the elderly to help fund his health-care overhaul. Part of that proposal would cut more than $100 billion from Medicare Advantage, through which the government hires private insurers such as Humana Inc. to deliver Medicare benefits to 11 million seniors, including extras like reduced co-payments and even gym memberships.

Should Congress scale back the program, “We’re not going to be able to say ‘if you like what you have, you can keep it,’” said Senator Bob Casey, a Pennsylvania Democrat. “And that basic commitment that a lot of us around here have made will be called into question.”

Casey’s only referring to those who use Medicare Advantage, but that’s not an insignificant number of people. And it would be larger if not for some (ahem) “special provisions” that protect some constituents:

Senators Charles Schumer of New York, Bill Nelson of Florida and Ron Wyden of Oregon are among those who secured special provisions shielding constituents from cuts.

Casey says he wants “very comparable” protections for his state, where more than one-third of Medicare beneficiaries participate in Medicare Advantage. “It’s the kind of thing that will likely be addressed on the floor,” he said.

Well that certainly is “special” now, isn’t it?

Of course, the reason that Medicare Advantage is under attack, particularly in rural areas, is because it costs more than regular Medicare. That’s because when the government tried to get insurers to offer the program in rural areas none would do so because the rates were too low. The government then offered subsidies, and now almost everywhere in the U.S. has Medicare Advantage offered.

Medicare Advantage was created decades ago in hopes that private insurers could deliver Medicare benefits more cheaply. Companies were paid 5 percent less than the traditional program’s costs. Insurers, though, wouldn’t enter many rural markets at those rates, said Biles.

Beginning in 1997, the then-Republican controlled Congress increased subsidies to lure insurers into rural markets. Iowa Senator Charles Grassley said that before the increases, Medicare Advantage was available in only one of his state’s 99 counties. Now it’s in every county.

“To get it in rural America, it took some subsidies,” said Grassley.

Those subsidies made Medicare Advantage more expensive than traditional Medicare. “One of the big reasons Medicare is headed for insolvency is Medicare Advantage, so the notion that it can be left alone is detached from reality,” said Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat. “It’s been a runaway train.”

So, Democrats are faced with a Morton’s Fork: either cut Medicare Advantage, which will likely lead to insurers ceasing to offer it, or continue to fund it and be faced with a budget-busting health care plan. Either way, they end up with a plan that is probably not passable.

Incidentally, Humana, Inc. is one of the largest providers of Medicare Advantage coverage, whose revenues are closely tied to its success. You may recall that a couple of months ago, the government decided to try an shut down communications from Humana to its customers warning them that ObamaCare could mean a loss of their coverage.

Two-thirds of Louisville, Kentucky-based Humana’s earnings and one-fifth of Minnetonka, Minnesota-based UnitedHealth Group Inc.’s profits are tied to the program, according to an Oct. 1 Goldman Sachs Group Inc. research note.

“Significant funding cuts to the MA program would likely make the benefits seniors receive from MA unsustainable at their current levels,” said UnitedHealth spokesman Jon Stone in an e- mail. Humana spokesman Jim Turner said “it’s too early to identify the specific impact MA funding cuts would have on premiums and benefits.”

Humana cautioned seniors in September of possible cuts, urging them to “let your members of Congress know why Medicare Advantage is important to you.” The administration barred insurers from sending what it termed “potentially misleading” mailings. It later retreated after Republicans retaliated by blocking nominees awaiting Senate confirmation.

The White House secured one concession: requiring insurers to make their case only to seniors requesting such information.

I guess Congress wanted to be the first to tell them?

In any case, these are the sorts of problems that will (hopefully) make any health care legislation impossible to get passed. The way things are set up, a whole lot of disparate interest groups are pitted against one another, and in order to satisfy one, another has to lose. If Congress expands coverage to everyone, then those with health care will have to pay for it, either through higher premiums, fewer benefits or increased taxes. There simply isn’t enough tax money to fund the program (especially if that money is only going to be raised from “the rich” or some other disfavored group) and provide all the goodies that are being promised. And if the goodies aren’t delivered, then people start asking why we’re changing anything at all. Those questions will be particularly pointed when, whatever changes are made, voters are still likely to see higher costs and reduced services.

Given all the above, I don’t know what kind of bill can possibly emerge from the Senate. Let’s hope that means that none will. And to be on the safe side, plan on voting for candidates that will ensure that outcome.

[HT: Ace]

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

NASA May Have Its Own Climaquiddick Problem

To my mind, the biggest indicator of malfeasance in this whole Climaquiddick affair is the fact that researchers have been forced to use freedom of information laws to get to the underlying data that supposedly supports AGW. The leaked emails show that the CRU gang at least contemplated trashing data to keep it from private eyes, and with respect to original temperature data, in fact did trash it. Why, if the evidence is so overwhelming, would anyone want to keep such data from public view? Well, you know why, and it appears that NASA may have a similar problem:

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said NASA has refused for two years to provide information under the Freedom of Information Act that would show how the agency has shaped its climate data and would explain why the agency has repeatedly had to correct its data going as far back as the 1930s.

“I assume that what is there is highly damaging,” Mr. Horner said. “These guys are quite clearly bound and determined not to reveal their internal discussions about this.”

The numbers matter. Under pressure in 2007, NASA recalculated its data and found that 1934, not 1998, was the hottest year in its records for the contiguous 48 states. NASA later changed that data again, and now 1998 and 2006 are tied for first, with 1934 slightly cooler.

Mr. Horner, a noted global warming skeptic and author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming and Environmentalism, wants a look at the data and the discussions that went into those changes. He said he’s given the agency until the end of the year to comply or else he’ll sue to compel the information’s release.

Image via <a href="http://smallestminority.blogspot.com/2009/12/zing.html">The Smallest Minority</a>

Image via The Smallest Minority


My familiarity with FOIA requests stems from legal cases, and I know that there are some fairly systematic, and time-consuming procedures that a government agency must go through before delivering the requested material. Typically, in the legal realm, the biggest time-consumer is filtering the material for privileged and classified material that need to be redacted before responding to the request. However, in the realm of scientific fact (i.e. requesting raw data), I can’t for the life of me think of one reason why any such data would have to be redacted or withheld. Temperature records, in the very least, should be easily producible well within the the 20 day limit for such requests.

To be sure, Horner is also seeking emails (and presumably other documents) that discuss the GISS reasoning underlying decisions to change the warmest dates on record, which could take some extra time:

NASA’s GISS was forced to update its data in 2007 after questions were raised by Steve McIntyre, who runs ClimateAudit.com.

GISS had initially listed the warmest years as 1998, 1934, 2006, 1921 and 1931. After Mr. McIntyre’s questions GISS rejiggered the list and 1934 was warmest, followed by 1998, 1921, 2006 and then 1931. But since then, the list has been rewritten again so it now runs 1998, 2006, 1934, 1921, 1999.

The institute blamed a “minor data processing error” for the changes but says it doesn’t make much difference since the top three years remain in a “statistical tie” either way.

Mr. Horner said he’s seeking the data itself, but he also wants to see the chain of e-mails from scientists discussing the changes.

The Freedom of Information Act requires agencies to respond to requests within 20 days. Mr. Horner says he’s never received an official acknowledgement of his three separate FOIA requests, but has received e-mails showing the agency is aware of them.

He said he has provided NASA with a notice of intent to sue under FOIA, but said he also hopes members of Congress get involved and demand the information be released.

NASA and CRU data are considered the backbone of much of the science that suggests the earth is warming due to manmade greenhouse gas emissions. NASA argues its data suggests this decade has been the warmest on record.

On the other hand, data from the University of Alabama-Huntsville suggests temperatures have been relatively flat for most of this decade.

Obviously the numbers matter, as does the justification for changing them. If everything was done in good faith, then there shouldn’t be anything to worry about. That such stonewalling has been going on for two years (according to Horner) suggests that there is something to hide.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on RedditPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

Buy Dale’s Books!