Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

For "a human being, the question 'to be or not to be,' is the question 'to think or not to think.'" Ayn Rand

31 August 2010

Politicians Are More Reliable Wind Blowers than Nature Is

The United States has more wind power generation capacity than any nation on earth.  The 21 - 28 August 2010 issue of The Economist provides this graph of national wind power generation capacity in gigawatts (a 1,000 megawatts) of power and as a percent of the worldwide total:

What do we get for all this wind power generation capacity?  Well, it turns out that a recent event in the state of Texas is illustrative.  Texas has a big commitment to wind power with a 9.7 GW capacity, or 28% of the entire U.S. wind power capacity and just a bit less than the complete wind power capacity of India.  Nonetheless, on 4 August 2010 at about 5 PM, electricity demand in Texas established a new record of 63.594 gigawatts.  So, with a wind power capacity of 9.7 GW, wind power might have been contributing 15% of the state of Texas' need at that time.  But, according to the Texas electric grid operator, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), wind power contributed only 0.5 GW at that time.  This was less than 0.8% of that peak electric demand and only 5% of the wind generation capacity of Texas! 

Perhaps 4 August was a once in a blue moon anomaly?  Well no.  Sadly no.  ERCOT noted in 2007 and repeated the claim in 2009 that only 8.7% of the installed wind generation capacity can be counted on as dependable capacity during a peak demand period.  That number was more generous than the case of 4 August, but it is still a very small fraction of the installed wind generation capacity.  For this, the people of Texas are paying an extra $4 more per month on their electric bills to fund 2,300 miles of new electric transmission lines to carry wind generated electricity from rural areas to the cities of Texas.  They and all other American taxpayers are also contributing to the $0.022 per KW-hr production tax credit which provides the wind-energy industry with a subsidy of $6.44 per million BTUs of energy produced.  The Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the Dept. of Energy says the subsidy for the oil and gas industry is $0.03 per million BTUs of energy, so the wind-energy subsidy is 215 times larger than that for the oil and gas industry.

The problem of wind power unreliability is not unique to Texas either.  The Daily Telegraph reported in January that during their extremely frigid period last winter, wind power provided only 0.2% of their power need, despite an installed capacity of 5%.  In other words, only 4% of the installed wind power capacity produced when it was most needed.

Yet in the face of this insane expense for wind power generation which is rarely available when it is needed, more than 30 states are mandating very large increases in renewable electricity production.  California, that unusually insane state, is requiring that 33% of its electricity be generated from renewable energy sources by 2020!  Maryland, Connecticut, Minnesota, and Hawaii are among many other states requiring huge renewable electric energy increases.  Solar power and geothermal will not be able to meet the requirements for such sharp increases in production, so wind power is expected to have to provide most of the increase.

Why are our politicians shoving these very expensive mandates for renewable electricity down the People's throats?  They usually claim it is to reduce man-made emissions of carbon dioxide so that catastrophic global warming will not occur.  As regular readers of this blog will know, the claim that carbon dioxide increases will cause any such catastrophe is total nonsense based on incredibly bad science and a religious commitment to ignore good science.  Any likely CO2 increases are simply additions to a very good plant fertilizer, from which an ever-growing world population would benefit.

Still, our politicians and the old media largely push for expensive renewable energy sources for our electricity.  Interestingly, the reductions of CO2 are actually much less than claimed or even non-existent!  The reason comes right back to the amazing unreliability of wind power.  Basically, a coal-fired or gas-fired electric generating power plant has to be kept on board cycling electricity to be instantly available when the wind stops blowing.  If only nature blew as reliably as politicians do.  Now, this idling power plant is much less efficient than a power plant operating at its optimal capacity.  In other words, the power plant is generating much more CO2 per kilowatt of electricity than it normally would when in this idling mode of operation, not to mention that it is costing a lot of money as well.  Additionally, it is usually a gas-powered power plant which is operating in idle mode, not a coal-fired plant.  This is because the gas-fired power plants generally produce more expensive electricity than do the coal-fired power plants.  From the standpoint of the claim that the whole point of renewable energy electricity is to reduce CO2, this is very bad, because gas-fired power plants produce about half the amount of CO2 compared to coal-fired power plants when each is operating optimally.

Bentek Energy released a study in April based on power plants in Colorado and Texas and concluded that wind power plants had almost no impact on the amount of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.  The repeated cycling of Colorado coal-fired power plants in 2009 caused at least 94,000 pounds of CO2 to be generated than would have been without cycling.  In Texas, the net reduction of CO2 in 2008 was 600 tons, but in 2009, there was an actual increase in carbon by about 1,000 tons due to the cycling of power plants.

A study prepared by EnerNex Corp. for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in January 2010 looked at wind generated electricity and the Eastern U.S., which uses about two-thirds of U.S. electricity.  If wind energy were to provide 20% of the eastern U.S. electricity in 2024, the savings in CO2 emissions would only be 200 million tons per year.  A commitment of $140 to 175 billion per year in capital expenses and power generation operational costs until 2024 is necessary to provide this savings, where the higher costs come with more offshore wind power generation.  This prices a saved ton of carbon at between $700 and $875!  It is insane to pay so much for carbon emission reduction!

The EIA estimated the CO2 emissions reduction due to a 25% national renewable electricity generation goal, as in the Waxman - Markey cap and trade bill that passed the House of Representatives, might save 306 million tons of carbon by 2030.  This is only 4.9% of the total 6.2 trillion tons of carbon emissions expected in 2030 and a paltry fraction of the 80% cut in carbon emissions the Obama administration is promising by 2050.  Somehow, I do not think Obama expects to be held accountable in 2050 for the failure to meet his announced goal.

In conclusion, if wind power generation were as dependable as the babbling winds that flow from the mouths of our political class, wind power generation would be more viable an option for power generation.  In reality, it cannot provide the announced carbon reductions and neither can solar or geothermal power.  Of course, it is still more important, as I have argued here, to note that there is no scientific reason to believe it is important to reduce man's CO2 emissions in any case.  But the grandiose plans for renewable energy use are the basis for subsidizing huge new industries at a horrible cost in higher energy costs, lower energy reliability, huge private sector job losses, and some combination of increased national debt, taxes, and inflation.  The political class is not just wrong, it is some combination of evil and insane.  It is also constantly trying to force the American People to join them in their evil and insane delusions while cursing them for being such dolts who do not see the world as the political class does.  But reality is even more stubbornly present and existent and many more rational Americans are taking some note of that.  Catastrophic anthropogenic global warming and renewable energy are both tied together and they appear to be drowning together in the minds of more and more Americans.  Eventually, bad science and bad engineering must become apparent as they are put to operational tests.  The goals justifying renewable energy are and will continue to prove to be unrealistic.

29 August 2010

Past American Federation of Teachers Union President on School Children

Mark Mix just sent me an e-mail in which he noted that the late American Federation of Teachers union president Al Shanker once said:

"When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children."

As I have often said, children need professional educators, not blue-collar labor unionists.  Shanker also once said that many of his union members were not competent teachers.  He was right about that.

The Race to the Top and Over the Cliff

The federal government Race to the Top program has just made its Phase 2 awards this last week.  This program is designed to increase state and federal control over school systems.  The states are supposed to establish changes to:
  • Adopt standards and assessments to assure student success in college and employment.
  • Establish data systems to measure student knowledge and to allow educators to improve instruction.
  • Recruit, develop, reward, and retain good teachers and principals, especially in the worst performing schools.
  • Improve the performance of the worst schools.
The new standards and testing are in reading and math.  The states to date have often set these standards so low that they are virtually meaningless.

The Phase 1 awards were to Delaware and Tennessee.  A total of 46 states and the District of Columbia have applied for the Phase 1 or Phase 2 awards.  The Phase 2 awards were just given to 9 states and the District of Columbia.  These awards totaled $4 billion at a time when many states are facing deficits due to their high spending habits adopted prior to the recession, the drop in state revenues due to high unemployment and lowered company spending, and the increased costs of expanded entitlement programs due to the same unemployment.  The time was ripe for the federal government to exercise greater control over the many needy state governments.  Many a state was in crisis and vulnerable to a further federal grab of control of education.  The pressure for states to take more control from local school districts was a key "reform" in this program, as was pressure to put more resources into the worst schools, largely in the inner cities.

Aspects of the program try to reduce the power of the stultifying teachers unions.  They are opposing education reforms in more states than not.  The Race to the Top program favors charter schools, evaluating teachers based on their student's test scores, and firing large fractions of teachers and the principals of the worst performing schools.  The teachers unions are critical allies of the Democrat Party.  They vote solidly for the Democrats, their unions contribute huge sums of money, and the teachers can always be relied upon to donate large amounts of their time to support the Democrat candidates for office.  This critical role was recognized by the House and Senate returning from their summer recess and the start of many of the congressional campaigns in order to add $26 billion of a new stimulus round expressly for teachers and schools.  This was viewed as so critical, that the Democrats even reduced the Food Stamps program to find the money for it just prior to the mid-term elections!  Now, few teachers were in danger of being fired due to the decrease in state revenues, since the schools are nearly sacrosanct in most school districts.  Cuts are usually made elsewhere in government.  But, this infusion of money will have made the teachers unions more enthusiastic about the upcoming election and was to offset their concerns about the Race to the Top program and its threats to  poor teachers.  If the teachers unions signed on to the proposed state reforms in the Race to the Top program proposals, extra points were given to the state in the competition.

During the Great Depression, FDR was very efficient in giving money and programs to those states which were important in his re-election plans.  He drained money from the South, since he was assured of the votes of the South.  He poured money into a number of western states he thought he could win with their higher ratios of electoral votes to their populations.  Bearing in mind that virtually every state applied for the Race to the Top program educational money, examine the table below for a balance of Democrat and Republican governors, legislatures, and the 2008 presidential election vote:

D = Democrat, R = Republican, I = Independent, S = Split, Y = yes.

The most evenly divided category is the governor's party.  Three are Republicans, six are Democrats, and one, Charlie Crist of Florida, was elected as a Republican, but is now serving the Democrats.  Seven of the legislatures are Democrat, 2 are Republican, and one is split.  All but two of the states voted for Obama in 2008.  Apparently, Democrat dominated states are much better managers of statewide education reform, according to these results.  One of the consequences of more federal control over our education system will be a continued such politicization of our schools, already heavily Democrat influenced via the control of the socialist teachers unions!

Aspects of the Race to the Top program seem to actually address some educational problems, specifically that of low expectations for principals, teachers, and students.  This makes the program for more federal control seem to be less objectionable.  However, this is really a Trojan Horse and that may be why at least 4 of  the states were able to persuade the teachers unions to back their reform plan.  Actually, in the case of Hawaii that was easy since their plan was very light on reform anyway.  In the longer run, this plan will enable more federal control and that will be used to increase the power of the unions and will also be used to push the unions to give even more support to the Democrats in order to influence that power to favor the unions.

If the Race to the Top program really were very serious about improving education reform, it would have encouraged the states to produce voucher programs to replace poor performing public schools with private schools.  It would have allowed schools to experiment with the curriculum, rather than standardizing just on reading and writing and that on what is likely to be low standards.  It is unlikely any teachers union would sign on to support a true reform of our education system.  Of course, a decentralization of power over the schools and the increased exercise of smaller local school boards would be a most critical part of any real reform plan.  It is necessary to produce schools that are responsive to the parents and that emphasize the role of the professional, not the blue-collar, educator.

You cannot interest students in reading unless you give them interesting things to read.  To do that, you must emphasize literature, history, economics, and science.  Math is a great tool, but it is a tool.  Its study is commonly best motivated by teaching its applications to science, economics, engineering, and business.  Finally, programs teaching that some people are victims by virtue of their race simply provide the people of those races with excuses and encourage lower expectations.  They need to be told that they will individually be judged on the basis of their character and that many people will judge that in good part on what they know and on their commitment to knowing more throughout their lives.  The Democrats are not willing to deliver this essential message.  Without it, their so-called reform cannot be taken seriously.  Unfortunately, their grab for national control of our complete public school system should be taken very seriously.

26 August 2010

Poisonous snake bites .... itself

No place in America has support for Obama and his socialism been greater than on most college campuses.  In particular, support for ObamaCare ran strong on most college campuses.  It turns out that the Democrat policy wonks who wrote the badly written 2,700 page ObamaCare health care "reform" bill harbored among their many dislikes a hatred for student health care insurance offered by colleges.  There are a number of reasons for this:
  • These plans were not controlled by government bureaucrats who must exercise their power lust.
  • The plans offer upperclassmen and graduate students inexpensive insurance due to the generally good health of these young people.  But under ObamaCare the young must subsidize the older and the less healthy by paying much more for insurance than their good health should require them to pay.  College health plans remove too many of these subsidizers from the national pool.
  • Children will have to be carried on their parent's health insurance plans until they are 26 as a penalty for those guilty of over-populating the world.  This means only a few Ph.D. candidate graduate students will be left for campus health insurance plans anyway.  Half of them are foreigners, so only half of a college's Ph.D. candidates will need health insurance plans.
  • The doctors and nurses of college health plans will be desperately needed to treat Medicare patients as ObamaCare gets underway.  So, it is important to shut college health clinics down to provide more manpower to that program to delay some of its severe rationing of services.
 The American Council of Education and a dozen other higher education groups complained to the Obama administration that ObamaCare will put an end to inexpensive campus health insurance plans.  These plans cover between 4.5 and 5.5 million college students.  The ObamaCare bill is somewhat ambiguous about how campus insurance plans will be affected.  But, it appears that the plans will have to be converted into plans more suitable to the general population, at least as seen by the Obama administration.  This will make them much more expensive.  They may also have to be kept continually open to graduates of the universities as they age and become less healthy.  The many ambiguities of the ObamaCare bill has the consequence that insurance companies are uncertain on how to price their health insurance plans for this rapidly approaching academic year and future years.  The letter to the Obama administration asks that these college allies of Obama and socialized medicine be given a waiver to be excluded from ObamaCare.

I believe at least 60% of the citizens of this land would also like to apply for a waiver from ObamaCare now!!!!  That number will go up as health insurance skyrockets in cost under the physician shortages and the increased demand for services for every sniffle.  Socialism is so strongly advocated, admired, and indoctrinated in the students of our universities that it is very fitting that the snake has been found to have sunk its poisonous fangs deep into itself.  The health care costs of college students will go up more than the health care insurance costs others in America.

24 August 2010

U.S. State Dept. Tells U.N. We Are Guilty of Many, Many Human Rights Violations

In an early move to placate the international community, Obama had the U.S. join the U.N. Human Rights Council.  The current member nations of this august body of human rights exemplars include:

South Africa
Saudi Arabia
Russian Federation

The U.S. just delivered a 29-page report to the Human Rights Council in which the State Department said that some Americans were still victims of discrimination.  In particular, blacks, Latinos, Muslims, South Asians, Native Americans, and gays are victims of high unemployment, hate crimes, poverty, poor housing, lack of access to health care, and discriminatory hiring practices.

The report welcomed "observations and recommendations that can help us on that road to a more perfect union."  The American Civil Liberties Union approved of the Obama administration's submission to the U.N. Human Rights Council, but decried the fact it did not address the issues of "inhumane prison conditions, racial disparities in death penalty cases, and abuses in the immigration system."  The director of the ACLU's human rights program said, "It is time for the U.S. to match its human rights rhetoric with concrete domestic policies and actions and create a human rights culture and infrastructure that promote American values of equality and justice for all."

OK, you have been wondering when I was finally going to step in here and punch this Progressive viewpoint in its sniveling nose.  Did you notice that human rights are always referred to by statists and not individual rights?  They ought to be the same thing, but somehow they never are.  Human rights are always take to include the obligation of some individuals to serve others, usually in some collective group.  So, to be clear and differentiate my viewpoint from the Progressive idea of human rights, I will address these issues on the basis of our individual rights.

Individuals have the right to freedom of association and they have the right to discriminate.  They are not required to choose who they associate with or how they discriminate on a rational basis.  What is more, government would hardly be the agent anyone rational would turn to for the purpose of determining who each individual shall associate with and to dictate to each individual how they should discriminate.  These issues are much too complex for government, which is incredibly simple-minded and totally lacks the knowledge of how each American individual is differentiated and what their values are.  Individuality and those differing values require individuals to discriminate among those with whom they will choose to associate.  What is more, we should have learned long ago that no good comes of individuals forfeiting their own independent judgment to government beyond those basic protections which government provides by preventing itself and individuals from initiating the use of force against one another. 

If I were to refuse to hire any black Adventist person, let us say, that is within my rights, as long as mine is a private company.  The government, on the other hand, cannot refuse to hire Adventist blacks.  Why?  First, because government must treat every individual equally before the law.  Second, government is the only agent in our society allowed to use force against individuals.  That use of force must be tightly controlled to prevent its abusive use.  One of the most important controls is that it must be applied equally to all citizens, so that the majority of citizens will be inclined to feel the need to protect those who have become the victims of government discrimination on the basis of race, religion, peaceful creed, employer or employee, income, or property.  It is government that proves to be the monolithic rights violator because it has a monopoly on the use of force in a society.  Therefore, legitimate government, as defined in our Declaration of Independence, has the sole function of protecting the equal, sovereign rights of every individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

That being the case, it is very irrational that this report did not bemoan the fact that the government discriminates against people who are more productive and those who earn more income.  When the ACLU calls upon the American values of equality and justice, where is their outcry against the progressive income tax code?  Or, where is the acknowledgment by the government that it has no right to discriminate against hiring white males for government positions.  Where is the acknowledgment that government cannot claim to treat Americans equally and with justice when it discriminates against firms owned by white males when it lets contracts for goods and services?  Where is there condemnation of the fact that employers are forced to keep employee income and tax records and submit reports to governments without just compensation?

While these awful infractions of unequal and unjust discrimination by the U.S. government go unmentioned, the ACLU bemoans the conditions of prisoners, who are treated better here than almost anywhere in the world.  And what are the immigration abuses they are talking about?  Apparently, our policy is only to deport people who are felons, while illegal border crossings and misdemeanors are ignored.  Where is the abuse in that?  When we provide most government services and force many private companies to provide free charity work to illegal immigrants, it is a puzzle to me that we can be said to be abusive.

It may be true that more blacks receive the death penalty, but that may be less because they are black than because of a combination of the nature of the crimes and their likely being poorer and less able to obtain the services of the better lawyers.

We shall have to wait with bated breath for the constructive comments to come from Cuba, China, the Russian Federation, Zambia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan on how the U.S. might achieve an admirable human rights record.  Do you suppose any of them will do what the ACLU failed to do?  Will they point out that the primary abuses of human rights in the U.S. are due to our government's failure to govern in accordance with our own Declaration of Independence and our Constitution?  Will they point out that our progressive income tax system is a violation of every individual's equal rights to life, the pursuit of happiness, and property?  Do you suppose they will demand that the U.S. government stop its baleful discrimination against the white male minority or the employer minority?

23 August 2010

Ignorant of Business, Uninterested in American Jobs

Obama has proven himself uninterested in American business and totally ill-informed about how jobs are created.  He believes that if only government spends enough money on government programs, on subsidies for a few industries chosen for their support of socialist programs in exchange for those subsidies, and vilifies businessmen before the People for not creating jobs in America, that he can create jobs.  Unfortunately, he has only created government jobs, which always create a drain on the private sector, forcing it to increase production just to compensate for that drain.  When all of their hard-earned production increase is taken by government in the form of added taxes, added time for government reports, and added efforts to abide by massive and contradictory regulations and laws, the employers of the private sector no longer have the resources to create jobs.  What is more, they have less desire to create jobs, which only adds to their personal sense of responsibility in an ever more uncertain hell managed by ever-growing, arbitrary government.

Obama hates business, except as a victim from which he can suck wealth.  He is very comfortable in his disregard for the effort it takes to run a private business.  He is careful to keep people with knowledge of business at several arms-length remove.  Presidents are listed below with the percentage of Cabinet-level positions for each headed by someone with significant business experience:

Even John Kennedy and Jimmy Carter had use for the management skills and knowledge of businessmen at rates several times that of Obama.  Obama's own cluelessness is continuously ensured by his creation of a cocoon with nary the slightest influence of real-world businessmen.  There is no danger that this inept President will ever figure out what is needed to help the American economy recover and regain the self-assurance for which it is usually well-known.  Without that self-assurance, that comes to the American businessman when he knows he resides in an intelligible world in which he can calculate probable business growth and profits, no significant numbers of private sector jobs will be created.  That is a huge human tragedy, for as I showed here, the number of missing jobs in the American economy is 20.4 million!!!!!  That is a great many degraded American lives.

I wish to thank iamnothere for directing my attention to these figures on Presidential business cabinet member experience.

22 August 2010

Rasmussen Defines the Political Class

John Fund interviewed pollster Scott Rasmussen after he gave a speech at the American Legislative Exchange Council.  Rasmussen notes that he takes care to define whether his polled people belong to the Political Class or to the Mainstream Public.  The Political Class favors government in at least two of the following three questions:
  1. Whose judgment do you trust more, that of the American people or America's political leaders?
  2. Has the federal government become its own special interest group?
  3. Do government and big business often work together in ways that hurt consumers and investors?
My answers to these questions are:
  1. The American people, unless we mean the Founding Fathers and the Framers of the Constitution.
  2. The federal government is a voracious special interest group.
  3. Big business is often happy to use the force of government to protect itself from competition and to harm small business.  Politicians are often happy to offer big business and labor unions plums for their contributions upon which the public is choked.
The Political Class has shrunk since the recession began hurting Americans in late 2008, while the Mainstream Public has grown slightly.  I find it puzzling that still more people have not lost their faith in government, but faith in government is a stubbornly held religion.  Strangely enough, a majority of Democrats, of Republicans, and of independents are Mainstream Public.  The Political Class believe or favor these views:
  • 67% believe the U.S. is moving in the right direction.
  • They overwhelmingly support the bailouts of the financial and auto industries, ObamaCare, and suing the state of Arizona on its immigration bill.
84% of the Mainstream Public believe the U.S. is moving in the wrong direction!  The Mainstream Public intensely oppose the bailouts, ObamaCare, and suing the state of Arizona.

On the Democrat congressional agenda:
  • 91% of Political Class think it mainstream
  • 70% of Mainstream Public think it extreme
On the Republican congressional agenda:
  • 81% of the Political Class think it extreme
  • 53% of Mainstream Public find it mainstream

Rasmussen points at polling questions from the Political Class that make no sense to the Mainstream Public.  An example is "Should policymakers spend more to improve the economy or reduce spending to cut the deficit?"  Rasmussen says 52% of Americans think more government spending hurts the economy, while only 28% think it helps.  Consequently, while the pollster thinks he is asking for a trade-off, the public only sees the reduction in spending as good.

The week the bailout plan passed Congress, 62% of the voters wanted more tax cuts and less government spending.  They understood from the beginning that spending bailout was unlikely to succeed in helping the economy.  When Obama told Americans that ObamaCare would reduce health care spending and cut the deficit, most Americans already knew otherwise.  60% thought it would increase the deficit and 81% thought it would be more expensive than the Congressional Budget Office numbers said it would be.  The Mainstream Public is much harder to make fools of than is the Political Class.

Rasmussen noted that the American people voted against the party in power in the last three elections.  While Republicans will gain from this in November, 75% of Republicans say the Republicans in Congress are out of touch with the party base.  Rasmussen says Republican leaders will have to move quickly after the election to convince Republicans that they have regained contact with and understanding of the party base.

19 August 2010

Sowell: Dismantling America

Thomas Sowell has written another excellent Opinion Editorial entitled "Dismantling America" in which he discusses the fact that our Constitution has always been seen as a terrible obstacle by those elitists seeking power over the People.  In particular, he notes that the Progressives in America have been at war with it openly and that President Wilson was the first President to openly attack it.  Progressive Teddy Roosevelt also attacked it by saying that he would do whatever he felt was necessary as long as the Constitution did not tell him he could not do what he intended to do.  See p.4 of Bully Boy by Jim Powell, where he quotes from Teddy Roosevelt's autobiography, published in 1913.  This is also an attack, because the Constitution says that the government and President can only exercise a few enumerated powers and makes no comprehensive effort to tell them what they cannot do in other terms.  Teddy Roosevelt's statement is a clear attempt to circumvent the restrictions of the Constitution on his power.  While he attacked the Constitution as President prior to Wilson, I do not know how publicly he did this while still President, so Sowell may be correct in his statement.  The Progressives have steadily eroded the interpretations of the Constitution ever since those earlier days and redefined words and read the white space between lines in a mad effort to circumvent it ever since.  There is now a huge body of legal precedent for doing just that.

Here are my further comments on his commentary from the Atlasphere website:

Ben Franklin clearly recognized that the American People had to believe in and understand the Constitution if the limited government republic it set up were to continue to exist. The failures attributed by some to our Constitution are actually failures of the American People to understand and support the Constitution. With due diligence, our Constitution would be strong to this day. That diligence required that each and every generation of Americans should have been educated in our colonial, revolutionary, and later history, as well as having an appreciation for the failures of monarchies, dictatorships, oligarchies, and, yes, democracies throughout human history.

Allowing the Progressives to turn us from private education to public education give them all the long-term advantages in the fight to maintain legitimate government as defined in our Declaration of Independence. Legitimate government protects the equal, sovereign right of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All the implied rights should have been discussed endlessly in our schools and they almost never are discussed beyond the First Amendment.

The fact that Congress has only a few powers closely delineated and most of them relate to dealings with external countries and people is not taught. These powers are further restricted by the requirement that they be exercised only in accordance with the General Welfare. The power to tax is given only to carry out the enumerated powers and is further restricted in kind. The interstate commerce clause's purpose was to free interstate trade because a man in one state has a right to trade with a man in another state. The Ninth Amendment recognizes that the federal government cannot infringe upon our many individual rights or privileges and immunities. The Tenth Amendment further protects our right to local government for such other purposes of government as we may have need. The Fourteenth Amendment protects our privileges and immunities from infringement by state and local governments. All this could have been taught in the schools, but we gave the schools away to the Progressives and to the governments from which we need protection. Government-run schools have a serious conflict-of-interest. They will distort the Constitution in order to give government the power that governments always lust for.

The crucial issue of our day is the protection of our equal, sovereign individual rights. This cannot be achieved without the private education of American children with a greatly renewed interest in history and the principles of legitimate government.

18 August 2010

Satellite Temperature Record Now Unreliable

I have written many posts that our ground surface temperature record based on the collapsing network of weather stations around the world, is biased upward with the urban heat island effect and by obviously bad grid interpolation schemes.  I had thought that the only reliable temperature records were the satellite and ocean buoy temperature records.  I was wrong.  It now appears that since at least 2005, the satellite temperature records have not been reliable.

This revelation began with John O'Sullivan being informed that data on the temperatures across northern Lake Michigan which were automatically provided by satellite to a NOAA website operated by the Michigan State University had ridiculously high surface water temperatures widely distributed over the lake.  In fact, they implied many areas were under super-boiling conditions!  A commenter to O'Sullivan's website noted that the entire lake surface was coded in black, meaning that the cloud cover was too extensive for the satellite to produce meaningful temperatures.  He implied that this would keep these temperatures from being used in any other way in generating the satellite temperature record.  However, O'Sullivan came back with Lake Michigan maps which were not coded black and showed that many of the temperatures in the grid over the lake were differing too much locally and changing too rapidly in time.

This led to questions to NOAA, which generates the primary temperature records in the U.S. and supplies its raw data to NASA and the CRU at the University of East Anglia in the UK.  NOAA has not been very forthright with what is going on, but it has admitted that the NOAA-16 satellite has severe sensor problems.  Then they also admitted that other satellites have suffered degradation of their sensors.  Finally, Charles Pistis, Program Coordinator of the Michigan Sea Grant Extension admits that satellite data going back to 2005 may have been corrupted by bad data.  He instructs us that the NOAA-16 satellite uses IR sensors and provides a temperature which is either the surface temperature or the temperature at the top surface of a cloud.  The temperature of 604F found in one grid on a cloudy day is not likely to be either the temperature of the surface of Lake Michigan or of a cloud over it.

It is a wonder to me how one can use data from IR sensors to contribute to the global temperature record if the temperature measured is either that of the ground or of the top of a cloud or just total nonsense.  Let us suppose that the data is examined against independent cloud coverage measurements, which it is not clear is carefully done.  But, if it were, then all the temperature data would be shifted systematically to higher temperatures.  Ground and water areas under clouds are cooler during the day and will also be cooler at night more often than not if the day was also cloudy.  Charles Pistis has evaded the repeated question of whether the temperature measurement data from such satellites has gone into the NOAA temperature record.  This sure suggests this is an awkward question to answer.

The satellite data is fed automatically into records and apparently as long as it showed high enough temperatures to satisfy the catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (AGW) advocates, those numbers were not given careful scrutiny going back as far as 2005.  It is, of course, hard to believe that no one did notice the errors.  One has to marvel at either the scientific incompetence this reveals or the completely unethical behavior of NOAA and its paid researchers that is laid open before us.  Possibly, in time, NOAA will provide an adequate answer to what has been going on with the satellite temperature record, but it is off to a very bad start in reassuring those of us who are not religious environmentalists, but are just interested in an objective understanding of the environment.  But, at this time, that appears to be an unlikely outcome.

Given the taxpayer money spent on the satellite and the ground station temperature records and the great importance claimed by the catastrophic AGW alarmists for the unprecedented warming of the globe they have claimed was going on, these failures in generating an accurate satellite temperature record are unfathomable.  What is worse, the raw data is known not to be available to reconstruct the ground station temperature record and one suspects it is not available for the satellite records either.  This is a catastrophe.  It is now perfectly clear that there are no reliable worldwide temperature records and that we have little more than anecdotal information on the temperature history of the Earth.  There is clearly no basis for the claims that the Earth has warmed at unusual rates in recent times or that we know anything more than some local temperatures, mostly from urban heat effect zones.

17 August 2010

Broader Lawsuit Filed Against ObamaCare

In addition to the lawsuits filed by Virginia and by Florida with another 19 states including Arizona, the Goldwater Institute has filed a private lawsuit against ObamaCare on a much broader basis than that of the state lawsuits which are mostly concerned about the traditional authority of the states to regulate health care.  The private lawsuit, Coons v. Geithner, makes the arguments that ObamaCare:
  • exceeds the powers of Congress
  • violates individual rights
  • interferes with the authority of the states
  • violates the separation of powers with a bureaucracy lacking sufficient Congressional direction and judicial review
The plaintiffs are Nick Coons, who owns a small business in Tempe, Arizona; U.S. Representatives from Arizona, Jeff Flake, Trent Franks, and John Shadegg; and by the Speaker of the Arizona House Kirk Adams and 28 other Arizona state legislators.  Obama, Treasury Sec.Tim Geithner, Health and Human Resources Sec. Kathleen Sibelius, and Attorney General Eric Holder are being sued.

Nick Coons will be forced to buy government approved health insurance by 2014 or face IRS fines.  He wants to continue to make his own health care decisions.  He also objects to the legislated violations of his medical privacy to an insurance company, the federal government, and others without his permission.

The three U.S. Representatives object to the lack of Congressional oversight of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, which will make assure that costs are controlled and will therefore ration care and care quality.  This board will also not be subject to judicial review.  Unfathomably, the law also says the board cannot be repealed except for a short window of time in 2017.  I cannot understand how a present Congress can override the intentions of a future Congress with any act other than a Constitutional amendment, which requires additional approval from the states.

The Arizona legislators claim they have been forced by the federal government to restore prior cuts they made to their state's relatively generous Medicaid benefits because the federal government had threatened to take away $7 billion in federal payments to the Arizona Medicaid program.  They say this violates their First Amendment rights to vote in the best interests of Arizona citizens.

The Obama administration is expected to request that the lawsuit be dismissed since the federal law will not be fully implemented until 2014.  U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson already rejected this argument in the state of Virginia lawsuit against the federal government.

While I am delighted that 21 states have challenged the federal government on its over-reach into an area traditionally regulated by the states, I am much more pleased with this lawsuit which seeks to directly defend our individual rights.  As I have argued repeatedly, it is impossible to make the case that we have an individual right to life and to the pursuit of happiness if ObamaCare is brought into execution.  We will not even be able to say that we own our own life.  We will not be allowed to manage our own health care to maintain our own lives.  We will not be free to help those we love to maintain their lives.  We will not be free to take medical remedies to ameliorate pain, so we will not be able to pursue our happiness in a most fundamental way.  We will not have the freedom to correct medical problems without the consent of the federal government, yet these medical problems may incapacitate us to pursue the interests and values we need to provide us with happiness.  In short, ObamaCare is a prescription all by itself for that illegitimate, tyrannical government we defined in our Declaration of Independence.  ObamaCare gives us much greater reason than our colonist forefathers had to dissolve our allegiance to that illegitimate government and to seek independence from its tyrannical grasp.  The several lawsuits and/or a supermajority in Congress capable of repealing ObamaCare are the last hope of saving our Union and our much beloved Constitution.

Miron: Government Needs to Divorce the Marriage Business

Jeffrey A. Miron, a senior lecturer and director of undergraduate studies at Harvard University and a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, has made an argument similar to the one I have been making for about 5 years on the issue of gay marriage and the role of government in marriages.  To summarize his argument:
  • Government should exit the marriage business.
  • Private contracts for raising children, for the division of property, inheritance, and other purposes should be available as components to a bundled contract open to all couples.
  • Opposite-sex and same-sex couples would have the same opportunities and be treated equivalently.
  • Government would still define the default rules of a contract.
The main limitation of his argument is that he limits domestic partnership contracts to a couple.  There is no more reason for doing this than there would be to limit a small business partnership to a couple.

16 August 2010

Democrat Unemployment Policy Rewards Immoral Mooching

The Emergency Unemployment Compensation program of 2008 was initially funded by the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008.  Since then, it has been extended or expanded 7 times.  The most recent extension was on 22 July 2010.  It now consists of:
  • Tier 1:  Up to 20 weeks of benefits in every state.
  • Tier 2:  Up to 14 additional weeks of benefits in every state.
  • Tier 3:  Up 13 additional weeks of benefits in states with a:
    • 13-week insured unemployment rate of at least 4.0%; or
    • 3-month seasonally adjusted total unemployment rate of at least 6.0%
  • Tier 4:  Up to 6 additional weeks of benefits in states with a:
    • 13-week insured unemployment rate of at least 6.0%; or 
    • 3-month seasonally adjusted total unemployment rate of at least 8.5%.
Since all but 4 of the states in June 2010 had unemployment rates of 6.0% or higher, all but the states of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and New Hampshire may qualify for Tier 3 unemployment benefits.  Qualification for Tier 4 benefits is harder to get the data on, but it appears that slightly more than half the states presently qualify for Tier 4 benefits.  Thus, half the states are subsidizing the other half, as some unemployed people pick up unemployment benefits for as long as 53 weeks.  Curiously enough, people may qualify from as early as May 2006, or well before the recession, until as late as 30 November 2010, or conveniently after the upcoming elections.

What are some of the effects of such long-term unemployment benefits?  Here are a few: 
  • The unemployed
    • wait longer to look seriously for a new job.
    • refuse to take lower paying jobs.
    • continue to look for a job much like their old job.
    • do not start their own business in order to create their own new job.
    • do not move to states where jobs are more plentiful in general or for their job specialty.
  • Employers
    • cannot find as many qualified applicants as they would like for lower pay jobs.
    • find their qualified applicants will not move to the job.
    • cannot find people for training positions, even if post-training pay will be comparable to the unemployed person's previous employment pay.
    • sell fewer goods and services because people will not buy due to the uncertainty created by high unemployment.
    • have to pay higher unemployment taxes to the states due to the high unemployment, making it more expensive to hire anyone.
    • generally are hit with more taxes by local, state, and federal government because their expenses are up and the tax base is depressed.
    • watch the Federal Reserve print money, which will not circulate, but lurks about to create future investment hazards due to inflation.
    • watch anti-business tirades, legislation, and regulations as desperate and befuddled government tries to find someone else to blame for its mistakes.
    • cannot get business loans because financial companies are afraid of the unknown and there is much unknown.
  • Employed taxpayers
    • generally are hit with more taxes by local, state, and federal government because government expenses are up and the tax base is depressed.
    • are more likely to become unemployed as higher taxes drive more businesses out of business.
    • are more likely to become unemployed as desperate government scares, more heavily regulates, and burdens businesses with more paperwork, such as 1099s galore.
    • are more likely to become unemployed as the recession drags on since the unemployed are not working productively and are dragging the economy down.
    • suffer stagnant salaries and wages as recovery is delayed.
    • watch the investments made for their retirement dwindle
    • worry about the debt piled upon their children and grandchildren.
    • worry about the many lost freedoms as governments meddle with and take over the private sector to give the appearance of having new ideas and responding to needs.
I am sure that I could go on and on with direful consequences of the unemployment benefit extensions, but we are all surely tired of bullets by now.  How many reasons does it take to establish that something is a bad policy after all?

It is sad to see many people, who were once productive workers, now out of work.  Very many of them lost their previous jobs through no fault of their own in this government-induced and prolonged recession.  But, there comes a time, rather quickly, when someone unemployed either finds new employment or they create their own job by starting their own business, unless they are immoral.  There are unemployment programs based upon unemployment taxes.  I do not think government has the right to impose such taxes, but they do and those taxes will support a rather brief unemployment period as the unemployed transition to new jobs.  But, presently, there is little such transitioning going on.  This is due to wrongheaded government meddling in the private sector and these extensions of unemployment benefits are one of many boneheaded actions by the government to prolong this recession.  In very many ways, the Obama administration is mimicking the Roosevelt administration in the folly, erratic, and threatening nature of its economic policies.

The Tier 3 and Tier 4 unemployment benefits are analogous to the Thompson administration in Atlas Shrugged deciding to drain the wealth of burgeoning Colorado to keep going a bit longer in what is clearly a death spiral.  Mooch off  Ellis Wyatt with his new oil fields, Nielson Motors, and Hammond Cars so the unproductive can go on a few more days even at the expense of destroying the last healthy part of the country.  This is a great way to prolong a recession which should be over by now.  This unemployment compensation makes the states with fewer anti-business policies bear the costs of supporting the larger numbers of unemployed generally found in the states with poor business policies.  It takes those companies and industries which are stronger throughout the country and makes them weaker to support those who will not take the personal responsibility of moving to where the jobs are, of taking a lower paying job, of learning a new profession, or creating their own job.  It is often said that Obama is the second coming of Carter, but he is more like the transformation of Thompson from fiction to life.

10 August 2010

Oklahoma and Arizona Will Follow Missouri Lead Against ObamaCare

The people of Missouri recently voted on Proposition C, which would make it state law that Missouri residents could not be forced to buy individual health insurance as required by ObamaCare.  71% of the people voted for Proposition C, despite its opponents spending about five times as much to block it as was spent to promote it.  The state Medical Association actually opposed Proposition C.

Oklahomans will vote on a similar proposition since the Oklahoma legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 59, despite the adamant opposition of the Democrat Gov. Brad Henry, an Obama ally in a state that voted 66% for Senator John McCain for President.  The state house voted 88 to 9 in favor of putting the proposition on the November ballot, with strong bipartisan support.  I have family in Oklahoma and I fully expect that Sooners will vote in an even higher percentage for a state law to make it illegal to force state residents to buy health insurance than did Missourians.

In Arizona, the Healthcare Freedom Act will be on the ballot in November.  The Taxpayer Freedom Alliance was the principal force getting this put on the ballot.  The Healthcare Freedom Act makes it illegal to force citizens to purchase health insurance using taxes or penalties.  The Mayo Clinic facilities in Arizona have stopped taking Medicare payments already.  Enthusiasm for this proposition is running high and the recent attacks on Arizona over the enforcement of immigration laws have probably made Arizonians even more inclined to thwart the federal government again.

The People of Florida would also have such an anti-ObamaCare individual health insurance mandate proposition on the November ballot, except that a Circuit Court judge appointed by Gov. Charlie Crist cut down the proposition while claiming it was "manifestly misleading."  The People will now have no way to say they object to being forced to buy health insurance acceptable to the federal government, except to vote those Representatives and Senators out of office who voted for ObamaCare.  Many, many of them will do that.

Supporters of ObamaCare justify the constitutionality of the individual insurance purchase mandate based upon these false claims:
  • The Commerce Clause allows the federal government to require health insurance purchases because if someone has no insurance they will have to be treated at the expense of others anyway, which will somehow affect interstate commerce even though such insurance is purchased within one state and regulated by each state.
  • The Necessary and Proper Clause of the Power to Tax allows any tax, which this is, contrary to all claims when the House and Senate passed it that the penalty for not buying individual health insurance was not a tax.
  • The mandate requiring the purchase of individual health insurance approved by the government is required by the General Welfare and the federal government can do anything as long as it claims it is doing it for the sake of the General Welfare.
Each of these claims is nonsense at multiple levels.  Here is why:
  • The Commerce Clause was provided in order to keep the states from interfering with free trade between the people of different states, not to give the federal government the power to interfere with the free trade of the people. Besides, this actually forces someone to buy insurance and by that act, it puts them into a commerce they would not otherwise be in.  Even then, the commerce need not even be interstate commerce.  The courts have allowed ridiculously broad interpretations of the Commerce Clause, but have agreed that some powers it has been stretched to cover were not covered.  Surely this is one of them.
  • The Necessary and Proper Clause of the Tax Power only allows taxation for enumerated powers of the government in the Constitution.  This restriction has been widely abused by the federal courts already.  This power of taxation is also supposed to be restricted to actions for the General Welfare.  There are further restrictions on the type of allowed taxes in the Constitution and none of those taxes cover this penalty tax for not buying a product.
  • The People have made it clear that they do not think that this ObamaCare tax and mandate to buy a product is consistent with their General Welfare.  Besides, the requirement to act consistent with the General Welfare is actually a further restriction upon the powers of government, not an enlargement.  The government is allowed only to exercise the powers enumerated for it and then only in such a manner as is consistent with the General Welfare.
Some of the People are beginning to understand these constitutional limitations of the power of the federal government.  This increased understanding is being pushed in good part by the sense of outrage against ObamaCare.  Many of the People are finally realizing that the federal government has been greatly exaggerating its powers with the help of the federal courts.  Many of them are also realizing that they need the help of the states to defend themselves against the voracious power of the federal government.  Others believe they have a right surely to managing their own healthcare and that government does not own their bodies.  Some realize that it is a farce to say an American has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but he cannot control his health to control whether he will live, he cannot control his time and effort devoted to his healthcare and body, and he is not allowed to pursue the happiness of pain and disability avoidance in his own way.

Enough understand that they do not need and do not want ObamaCare, that propositions similar to those of Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arizona have or will pass overwhelmingly.  We are sure to see more such state propositions in the future, with the result of more state nullification of federal government overreach beyond its constitutional powers.

09 August 2010

Kindle, A Public Enemy

Yes, our Progressive, Nanny State government declared Kindle a public enemy.  The Amazon reader was to be used in an experiment for some college courses as a replacement for larger, heavier, and more expensive textbooks.  Case Western Reserve University, Arizona State University, and Princeton University planned to use Kindle for a few classes last academic year, but the Justice Department threatened them with legal action.  Specifically, Thomas Perez, the head of the Civil Rights Division told them they were under investigation for violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

It turns out that the National Federation of the Blind and other activist groups have been critical of the Kindle, because its menu functions require sight.  Kindle will read books out loud, but a sighted person had to set that up.  But curiously when you ask how this affects a university course, the blind are not able to read standard textbooks either.  Go figure.  Now, it may be that many popular textbooks are on audio and a blind student can acquire the audio versions, but can't they do that anyway even if the textbook is on Kindle?  Besides, the Princeton program, for example, consisted of three courses and none of the 51 students involved were blind.

So, perhaps the National Federation of the Blind was just upset that sighted students will not have to lug around many heavy and large textbooks anymore!  This seems to be spiteful.  If the NFB wanted improvements to the Kindle to make it easier for blind people to use, the best route was to allow the Kindle a larger market.  With a larger market, Amazon can better afford to make improvements or special products for the blind.  Perhaps, the NFB, rather then trusting to the goodwill of Amazon, was preventing the use of the Kindle as a form of hostage-taking to force Amazon into making improvements in the Kindle for the benefit of the blind.  This extortion was probably what was really happening.

The Justice Department settled with the schools in early 2010 and the NFB settled with Arizona State University.  The schools agreed they would not use Kindle until all students could use them.  Amazon had previously told the NFB that it was working on text-to-speech technology for the next Kindle model menu and function keys and that is now available.  The entire affair has been a tempest in a teapot.

But, our ever intrepid Justice Department is working up a much bigger and meddlesome project.  Perez is trying to get the Internet declared a "public accommodation" under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Apparently, every website will have to have text-to-speech accommodation.  What will this do to the costs of small company websites?  No doubt, many larger companies will embrace this as a means to help eliminate the competition potential of many smaller companies.

Perhaps this will also become a way to get rid of pesky bloggers such as myself.  This blog might be forced to be accommodating to the blind.  Then again, maybe it already is and I just do not know how blind people access it.  One day, I may have to know more about this.  The government has millions working for it and many, many of them are sort of hard at work trying to give each of us millions of mandates so we will be sure to have no spare time.  We are constantly being told:  "In your copious free time, you will do this and this and this and this and this and ............................................................................................................................"

Oppose the Senate Renewable Electricity Standard

The Senate is considering the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) which will mandate an increase in wind and solar power to 15% of all electric power by 2021.  This is similar to the requirement of the Waxman-Markey cap and trade bill that passed the House in June 2009, which was called the American Clean Energy Leadership Act (ACELA).  Utilities will be forced to make huge investments in these uneconomic means of producing electricity and users will have to pay higher rates for their electricity.  This is a regressive tax with no rational benefits.

The fools backing this bill say it will provide "clean electricity", but laws already require scrubbers to clean the real pollutants from power plants.  As we all know here, CO2 is not a pollutant.  It is great plant food.  It is not causing global warming, let alone catastrophic global warming.  Finally, forcing utilities to invest in expensive alternative energy projects simply takes money from more productive efforts and transfers it to nonsense.  The net effect is a slowdown in growth of the economy and a failure to produce as many jobs as a free economy would.

Of course, this is so foolish, it is hard to believe that many of its backers do not realize this.  It is also a great way to get the alternative energy or renewable energy companies to give a politician some very large campaign contributions.  We know of many cases in which Senators knowingly do the wrong thing to gain money.  Our money.  Our response:  Throw the bums out who back this in November, whether they are running for re-election in 2010, 2012, or 2014.  Remember them as either fools or evil people, neither of whom belong in OUR Senate.

08 August 2010

The Massachusetts Wind Power Rip-Off

David Tuerck, chairman and professor of economics, and Jonathan Haughton, professor of economics, both at Suffolk University, have written up the story of Cape Wind Associates, which plans to build 130 wind turbines in Nantucket Sound at a cost of about $2 billion.  Cape Wind has claimed it would produce renewable energy at a savings to electricity users in New England of $25 million per year.  National Grid, which provides 40% of Massachusetts' residential power, has just bought half of the output of Cape Wind's Nantucket Sound facility at a cost of $0.21/KWhr, with a 3.5% increase each year.  Under the Massachusetts Renewable Portfolio Standard program, the state allows an extra charge of $0.06/KWhr for renewable energy generated electricity which must be paid by the user.  The conventional source electricity cost to National Grid is only $0.09/KWhr, so the normal renewable energy cost is $0.15/KWhr.  The Cape Wind cost doubles the normal additional charge for renewable energy.

Not only is there no savings of $25 million per year, but ratepayers will now have an additional charge of $82 million per year thanks to the pressure on the electric power suppliers to use more renewable energy.  If it actually were the case that it was important to use renewable energy, Canadian suppliers are happy to provide hydroelectric and wind power electricity at a cost of $0.15/KWhr, not the $0.21 of Cape Wind.  What is more, the Federal Energy Information Administration does not believe the real cost of conventional electricity will rise in the next decade, so these inflated alternative energy costs will likely remain inflated for at least that long.

Many states now have programs mandating the increased use of renewable energy for electricity generation and pass the increased costs to electricity users.  Many companies are eager to provide this uneconomic service to take advantage of the higher rates they are allowed by the states and which the citizens are forced to pay.  It is a heyday for alternative energy special interests to make money hand over foot to provide unneeded electricity.  Or to be more precise, it should be unneeded.  When the states refuse to allow the generation of electricity by conventional means, electricity users are simply forced to pay the outrageously high rates to line the pockets of uncompetitive company investors and probably their bought political hacks.  This is an abuse of power.

FCC Upset with Verizon and Google Private Agreement on Internet

The FCC has been holding closed-door talks with lobbyists to reach agreement on ways to regulate Internet traffic without making major changes to existing laws.  However, Verizon Communications Inc. and Google Inc. reached an agreement of their own on Internet traffic rules that would allow Verizon to move some broadband traffic at higher speeds at premium prices.  This has angered the FCC, which is seeking the power to dictate how Internet providers manage traffic on the networks they have built at great expense themselves.

The FCC was under attack about the closed-door meetings as another of many violations of the Obama pledge for transparency in government.  The FCC called off these talks upon the announcement of the Verizon-Google agreement.  The FCC very much wants the power to enforce what it calls Net Neutrality, which supposedly means that all broadband traffic must be carried at the same speed at the same price.  This does not allow the investors in the broadband networks as much flexibility in pricing their services and as much opportunity to make a good return on their investments as they might have under other negotiated terms with customers.  Net Neutrality would result in slower networks, lower volume handling capabilities, and if operated through a political gateway such as the FCC, almost certain restrictions on content, probably based upon a lowest common denominator viewpoint of morality and based upon the political viewpoints of the party in power.

Some inter-company private agreements may seem inconvenient to some of us at one time or another, but that inconvenience has historically proven minor compared to the inconvenience of government regulation.  A good case in point is the regulation of the railroads because many people did not think it was "fair" for the railroads to charge less to large-volume shippers and to long-distance shippers.  Regulation by the Interstate Commerce Commission of the railroads did much to bring on the long-term decline of the railroads.  The result was a decrease in the growth of track mileage, a slowdown as regulations increased in the rate at which freight rates had been dropping under competition, a decrease in innovation, and the growth of a few very large rail systems because the ICC did not allow existing smaller railroads to pool their resources to handle a shipper's needs with agreed upon rates over longer distances on the tracks of multiple railroads.  The long-term growth and the competitive nature of the railroads was stunted by the ICC.  This is the usual pattern for industries regulated by government.  For the moment, the Verizon-Google agreement may be a bump in the road for the FCC attempt to similarly manage the Internet.

It is also a victory for property rights, albeit momentarily.  The government does not have the right to impose duties upon property owners which require them to offer services using that property which they do not voluntarily wish to perform, as things are customarily done in the free market.  The government does not have the right to push investors and their operations managers into involuntary servitude either.  Freedom in the market place is essential so that we will have as many personal choices as possible.

07 August 2010

Asian Droughts and Grain Production and Demand

Russian Prime Minister Putin announced that exports of Russian grain have been banned from 15 August through the remainder of the year.  China has imported 1.2 million metric tons of corn this year.  The total Chinese imports of corn from all countries in prior years has been less than 100,000 metric tons a year.  Ukraine has also canceled several contracts to deliver wheat.  Widespread drought in Russia and across the northeastern corn belt of China for the last two years has reduced their supplies.  The growing middle class in China has also developed an appetite for more pork, chicken, milk, and eggs from animals fed on corn, as well as soft drinks that use corn syrup as a sweetener.  China is expected to pass Japan to become the world's second largest economy this year.  Demand for more and better food has been growing in India, Brazil, and Russia as well.

As recently as 2003, China was a large exporter of corn, when it exported 15.2 million metric tons.  One expert believes China will import 5.8 million tons of corn in 2011 and 15 million by 2015.  Russia provided 14.5% of the world's total wheat exports in 2009-2010 according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.  Egypt is the world's largest importer of wheat, buying much of it from Russia in recent years.  Russia exported less than 1 million metric tons of wheat in 2000-2001, but increased that to 17.5 million metric tons in 2009-2010.  The top five wheat exporting nations in the year ending in June 2010 were:

U.S.                    23.6 million metric tons
European Union  21.0
Canada               18.5
Russia                 17.5
Australia              14.0

Wheat prices leaped upward in 2007 and have stayed higher.  The story is similar for corn, oats, barley, grain sorghum, and sugar beets.  Rice prices started going up somewhat earlier, but continued to be higher since 2007.  One of the factors that pushed prices higher in 2007 was the U.S. mandate that required the use of ethanol in gasoline be set at 4.7 billion gallons of ethanol.  This is scheduled to rise to 7.5 billion gallons in 2012.  Meanwhile, the EPA was supposed to rule this month whether the ethanol content in gasoline could be raised to 15%, but now says the tests on engines will not be completed until the end of September.  Should the required gasoline content of ethanol be increased to 15%, there will be a further upward pressure on corn and meat prices.  More wheat and other crops will be displaced as farmers grow more corn.

There is some reason to believe that demand can continue to be met in the grain market.  Average corn yields in the U.S. have doubled in the last 40 years to 165 bushels an acre.  David Fischhoff, V.P. of Technology Strategy and Development at Monsanto Co., thinks corn yield can become nearly 300 bushels an acre by 2030.  If we do that and end the foolish subsidies for ethanol production from corn, it will be much easier for the U.S. to develop a greater and more lucrative export market as the rest of the world eats more meat, eggs, milk, and grains.  Healthy farm product exports would help to ease us out of the recession and produce some of the jobs we have failed to produce for most of this last decade.

06 August 2010

The Real Jobs Situation in July 2010

As I have noted a number of times in the course of the last year, the usual unemployment rate becomes rather meaningless in a long and deep recession.  People become discouraged and stop looking for a job, or the situation being bleak, they decide to go back to school for a degree or training, or some young people currently facing unemployment rates as high as 24.8% for 16 to 19 year olds simply do not look for their first job or do so obscurely.  I believe it makes more sense to compare the number of jobs available now to those available in a time when employment was enticing enough to induce many people to work or search for work.  In January 2000, the first month of this century, the economy was robust and 67.49% of the work age population was working or looking for work.  Only 4.04% were unemployed.  At the end of the first half of the first decade of the century, the jobs situation had worsened somewhat.  4.91% were unemployed, which does not seem too bad relative to the 4.04% five years earlier, but the situation was actually far worse than that would make it seem.  The number of jobs required for the economy to be as robust as it had been in January 2000 was in shortage by 6.98%, not 4.91%.  That situation was static through December 2007, but began to worsen again in the current recession in 2008.  The worst month of job shortage was January 2010, when we had a job shortfall of 14.41%.

So far this year, the real job situation has improved slowly.  Glacially slowly, but it is improving.  The new job statistics for July 2010 show that the unadjusted unemployment rate is 9.75%.  The adjusted rate is given as 9.5% for the second month in a row, if you have faith in the adjustments just prior to an election.  I do not, so I use the unadjusted rates.  By March, the job shortfall was 13.79% and in July it is now 12.72%.  The job shortfall is more than three times worse still than it was in January 2000 for perspective.  The shortfall is 20,418,000 jobs.  Note that the adjusted July jobs numbers imply a loss of jobs, since a greater increase in the number of jobs than occurred is generally expected in July.  Thus, the slow improvement in the actual job numbers may reverse soon as colder weather cuts back the number of outdoors jobs.  See the table below:

Way back in 2007 oil prices spiked upward and this strained economies around the world.  Contrary to the popular myth, many economies went into recession well before the U.S. economy did.  Those economies in recession coupled with the effects of the oil price spike burst our housing and credit bubble.  That bubble was inflated primarily and most enthusiastically by our Democrat Congress in 2007 and 2008, though its origins go back further by many years.  Legislation in the Clinton administration made home mortgage creditors take on riskier and riskier borrowers.  Progressive socialist groups such as ACORN threatened lawsuits against mortgage lenders who did not grant many risky mortgage loans.  Law firms, such as the one Obama and his wife worked for, managed the lawsuits brought against banks reluctant to make many risky loans.

The corrective response by the private sector this far into most recessions would have led to rapid, not glacial, improvements in the economy and in many more jobs.  We are not seeing that because the Democrat Congress and Obama are beating up the private sector with deadly laws, poisonous regulations and many more promised regulations to be created by many known to be committed socialists, and much rhetoric and prosecution aimed at making entrepreneurs and business owners look like villains.  With the huge costs of ObamaCare, EPA regulations on CO2 emissions, ethanol and other alternative energy mandates, the financial reform, the interest on government debt, the end of the Bush tax cuts, oil and gas drilling moratoriums, and the massive business uncertainty delightedly promulgated by the Democrats, businessmen cannot rationally plan investments and returns on them.  This prevents them from hiring.  So, we have a glacially slow recovery of the economy and particularly of job creation.

Nonetheless, business is doing what it can under the circumstances and has, against all odds, managed to create some jobs.  Atlas struggles on with the world weighing frightfully heavily upon his shoulders.  Despite the jeers of the many socialists, he carries on and carries them.  But, clearly he is staggering.  Usually his stride is stronger and steadier after he shakes off a recession.  As yet, it is not clear whether Atlas will slowly regain his stride or he will stumble and drop his burden.  We can help him by turning the bums out of Congress in record numbers in the November elections.

05 August 2010

Justice Department Claims Taxing Power is Constitutionally Unlimited in Defense of ObamaCare

U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson ruled in Richmond, VA on 2 August that the Virginia attorney general lawsuit claiming that ObamaCare was unconstitutional had enough merit that he would not stop it from moving to a trial in October in Richmond.  The Virginia legislature has also passed a law protecting its citizens from being forced to buy health insurance by the federal government.  Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said, "The government cannot draft an unwilling citizen into commerce just so it can regulate him under the commerce clause."  Foolishly, the state of Virginia's lawyers have conceded that the federal government has broad powers to impose a tax, but they claim it has less power to impose a penalty. 

The Justice Department claims that Congress has broad authority to regulate private decisions on health care since those decisions affect the health care system and therefore interstate commerce.  They also claim the power to tax people who refuse to join mandated programs.  In fact, they go so far as to claim that the "courts are without authority to limit the exercise of the taxing power."

Now, the Justice Department is insanely wrong on both claims it is making.  This is not to say that they will not carry the day in court, but they are clearly making two unconstitutional arguments at the core of their case. 

First, they are claiming that anyone who does not purchase a health insurance plan acceptable to the federal government is affecting the health care system because at some time they will need to use the health care system.  This in turn means it affects interstate commerce.  So, a person is to be forced to buy a particular, mandated health insurance policy or one of a few such policies so that he will be forced to affect interstate commerce.  Well, actually, this may not be true at all.  First, some people will actually die without getting health care, though we do not know who they will be.  Second, some people are so wealthy that they have no need to purchase insurance to provide for their own health needs.  It is clear that the Obama faction want to force such people to buy policies which will subsidize others with less income, but such wealthy people are not evading a personal responsibility as the Justice Department argues they are.  Third, the policy best suited to some individuals will surely be different than the government mandated policies.  Fourth, it is a novel legal claim to force people to buy a product so that they have been forced to participate in commerce they did not want to participate in.  Fifth, that commerce still may not truly be interstate commerce since health plans are to be formulated and administered state by state.

Recall that Congress voted for ObamaCare while claiming that it did not represent a tax, which was a point Obama was very insistent upon.  But now, in the face of the challenge by the state of Virginia, and a separate lawsuit by the attorney generals of 20 other states, which is coming up for a similar ruling on whether it will be allowed to proceed, the Justice Department is claiming that Congress has the authority to pass ObamaCare based on its taxing power.  In fact, it has no such power since the taxing power only exists for the purpose of exercising the strictly enumerated powers in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, where there is no mention of caring for the medical needs of the People.  This inconvenient fact has long been ignored, however.

The current Justice Department claim goes even further than this usual usurpation of power by Congress.  It claims that the courts have no power to limit the taxation power!  Why is this going much further?  Because the Constitution places a further restriction on what Congress can do beyond enumerating its powers.  It says that Congress must legislate in such a way that it does not harm the General Welfare.  So, if ObamaCare is not consistent with the General Welfare, then it is unconstitutional.  Some will debate whether it is or not, though most of the American People have concluded that it is harmful to them.  What cannot be debated is this:  The taxing power of Congress is limited by the General Welfare and therefore it is a serious usurpation of power by Congress and the Justice Department to claim that power is unlimited.  This is clearly the claim of megalomaniacs.  There can be no question that if Congress levels a tax of 100% of income upon any American citizen, it has fundamentally violated his right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  The power to tax must have limits.  It cannot be unlimited.  If Congress were not to have enough sense to recognize this, then the courts would have to step in and declare the excessive taxes unconstitutional.

Judge Hudson recognized some of these problems.  He said, "Never before has the [Constitution's] commerce clause and associated necessary and proper clause been extended this far."  Indeed, if they are extended so far, then there are no limits to the power of the federal government except the few among the many rights still protected in the Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment.  We can then be forced to participate in any market for any good or service and then be controlled by regulation.  We can be taxed in any way to any degree by government so that it can acquire all of our income and wealth, leaving us even homeless, without clothing, and without food.  Clearly, it is the job of the federal courts to squash these hugely inflated claims of power made by the Obama Justice Department in the name of the Democrat Congress.  Your life is at stake in this.  This is a claim of a right to tyrannical rule which King George III would not have attempted.

Now that the Justice Department has claimed that ObamaCare actually invokes taxation, let us examine the evolving size of this tax.  The Kaiser Family Foundation survey of employers in 2009 found that the average premium for employer-provided family policies was $13,375.  This is the kind of policy that ObamaCare is expected to mandate, when the bureaucrats come forth with their mandates.  This is 26% of the median household income of $52,000.  ObamaCare will provide some subsidies for incomes up to $88,000, but this is still a massive tax on many earning less than $88,000 and the subsidy cost will be shifted to everyone making more than $88,000 and fall back in increased prices for all goods and services upon those who are subsidized as well.  The new tax on a family with a household income of $88,000 will be 15.2%!

It gets worse.  The Arizona Republic said in July that "State and university employees with families can expect to see their monthly health insurance costs rise as much as 37% next year."  The reason for the increase is ObamaCare!  If this kind of severe health insurance premium increase continues into 2014 when ObamaCare requires everyone to purchase the federally mandated health insurance policies, then this tax upon the People will be the most gigantic tax ever in the history of the United States!  Obama and the Democrat Congress have foisted the highest tax increase in our history upon us in a law most Americans clearly opposed then and continue to oppose today.

Throw these tyrannical bums out of office as a matter of self-preservation!  Meanwhile, we must hope the federal courts have enough sense to declare ObamaCare unconstitutional.  It clearly is.

04 August 2010

Pig-Headed EPA Proceeds with Power Grab

Last Thursday, the evil EPA rejected the petitions of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and nine other petitioners and announced that it intends to proceed with the development of regulations to control CO2 emissions based on claims by the UN IPCC that they are dangerous to the public health and the environment.  As regular readers of this blog know, this is a perfectly unproven claim and even a known false claim.

The court order that the EPA was following to produce an evaluation of whether man's CO2 emissions were a "public endangerment" under the Clean Air Act required it to examine the science on the issue of catastrophic man-made global warming and make a determination on public endangerment.  Instead, the EPA turned to the now discredited UN IPCC reports and used them as its authority on the science.  The UN IPCC, however, is a political body of nation states and not a scientific institution.  It is not qualified to make such a determination.  The EPA also claimed the scientific backing of the National Academy of Sciences, but that organization has never made any comprehensive assessment of the causes of global climate change, though it has made pronouncements on the issue.  The EPA thus failed to accomplish its court-chartered task.

The legislative Cap and Trade approach to taxing energy and mandating energy use reductions, has run into a roadblock due to the upcoming elections and its lack of support from the People in these difficult recessionary times.  The EPA will now proceed with draconian regulations on CO2 emissions which will not in fact be compatible with the Clean Air Act.  If the courts refuse to recognize the violation of the Clean Air Act and the implied usurpation of power from Congress by the EPA, then the 2011 Congress will have to defund the EPA so it is unable to enforce whatever regulations on CO2 emissions it produces.  Obama and a Democrat Senate will not be able to prevent this defunding of the EPA.  If this is not done, the EPA regulations will greatly extend the recession.  In fact, coupled with the end of the Bush tax cuts, the moratorium on deep water drilling, and ObamaCare costs, these anti-CO2 emissions regulations may convert the recession into a depression.  Even before the regulations are in hand, the uncertainty of their effects will slow down any possible recovery and any hiring.

Uncertainty is the chief enemy of business.  Uncertainty is a form of lawlessness in and of itself.  It was never just the destruction that Attila the Hun did when he swept through a village, but it was the uncertainty caused by the fact that he might do so, which made life nasty and brutish in Eastern Europe during his time.  Obama and his Democrat followers, socialists all, are the Hun hordes of our day.

My apologies to pigs.  It is the nature of pigs, who are rather intelligent animals, to be pig-headed.  It is supposed to be the nature of man to use his superior rational faculty.  The EPA's failure to do so, should not cast aspersions upon useful pigs.  I love that kind of pork, even as I loathe Congressional pork.  A useful animal should be given a measure of respect, even as a wrongheaded, and destructive, EPA gains only our disdain.

Democrats Bludgeon Jobs in the Gulf and the Oil & Gas Industries

Jack Gerard, president of the American Petroleum Institute, says the government mandate against deep water wells in the Gulf of Mexico will cost 175,000 jobs each year until 2035.  The American Petroleum Institute represents 400 oil and gas companies.  The industry provides 9.2 million jobs and produces 7.5% of the U.S. GDP.  In June 2010, the number of Americans employed was down to a mere 140.0 million, so 9.2 million oil and gas provided jobs is 6.6% of the workforce.  Since these workers produce 7.5% of the GDP, they are clearly more productive than the average worker.  Other consequences of the Democrat vendetta against deep water oil and gas production are:
  • A reduction of GDP by more than $20 billion per year.
  • A cumulative GDP reduction of $500 billion by 2035.
  • U.S. oil production reduced by 27%.
  • Oil imports up by 19%.
  • The cost to import oil to replace lost production through the end of 2011 will be $10 billion.
  • The oil and gas industry is half of all Gulf of Mexico economic activity or $234 billion.  Companies hurt by the oil moratorium may be bankrupted or fail, causing jobs in the Gulf states to die.  Some companies will move away to other areas of the world.
  • The Gulf of Mexico produces 30% of our domestic oil production and 12% of natural gas production.
  • An oil rig platform provides up to 1,400 jobs with wages totaling $10 million per month.
  • The 33 oil rig platforms pay out $300 million per month in pay.
  • A 6-month moratorium on deep water drilling will cost 50,000 jobs and about $2 billion in lost wages related to the oil drilling platforms themselves.
But, you are not to worry.  If your job is lost, the Democrats are happy to make you a ward of the state.  They will extend your unemployment benefits and transfer wealth from private sector workers to you.  Of course, eventually, they tell you, you will have a green job in alternative energy.

Worry, if you are one of those just over half the population who pay income taxes, while struggling to retain your job in this largely government-induced recession.  Then even as your energy costs are driven higher by the Democrat unreasoning hatred for fossil energy, you will get to take on higher taxes, watch your assets further depreciate, worry about retaining your job in the ever more burdened private sector, and wonder how bad the future will be with fewer and fewer productive workers and more and more moochers.

Oh, on those green jobs, you will be better off investing in the Brooklyn Bridge.  It at least exists.  It even has a reason to exist.

Life goes on, but sometimes our government ensures it is a whole lot rougher than it needs to be!