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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, July 08, 2011

WORD AROUND THE NET

"Atlanta Public Schools is run like the mob"

According to an Associated Press report, the rate of infection with HIV has reduced by 25% worldwide over the last decade. Areas such as Africa and India which had higher-than-average rates have dropped even more than the average, by as much as 50%. Whether this includes the UN's overestimation of AIDS infections in Africa or not is unclear from the article. That said, there's some bad news out there still: "HIV is the leading cause of death among women of reproductive age, and more than a quarter (26%) of all new global HIV infections are among young women aged 15-24." Keep the legs together girls.

Reuters News Service is one of the oldest and most respected in the world - or it once was. Lately its lost a lot of credibility, and stunts like this one have not helped. Reuters tweeted a quick bit recently about the US budget battle, where Republicans are trying to get a budget done and Democrats are trying not to. On the 6th Reuters News claimed that Congressman Kyl (R-AZ) said the Republicans agreed to 150-200 billion in tax increases. No, they didn't. This might be deliberate fraud, but probably it was just one more victim of the temptation of Twitter: say the first thing that comes to mind without realizing its going out to a billion people and never goes away.

Roger Daltrey, front man for The Who, tends to stay out of politics. He has fun acting and singing and has come a long ways from the old days when the band was basically a gang he had to personally whip into shape. Yet Daltrey couldn't help himself when he was asked about England's state after decades of Labor rule. Ben Todd at the Daily Mail reports:
‘the British working man screwed like he'd never been screwed before by cheap labour coming in from Europe.’

He went on: ‘We do need immigration, but surely it should be a level playing field where they can't undercut every working–class bloke in England for their jobs.’

However the current Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government were not spared his ire either, with Daltrey adding: ‘The quality of our politicians is tragic.’

He continued: ‘I don't care what people say about me. I tell it like it is, and, if I'm wrong, I'll just say, 'OK, I'm wrong.' I'm not always the most diplomatic person. I know my faults, but I'm comfortable with me.’

Daltrey also had harsh words for the machinations of the NHS.

The star has long been involved in charity the Teenage Cancer Trust. As a result, he has experienced the workings of the NHS.

He said: ‘You suddenly see the enormity and complexity of it, and the truth that no one wants to accept that there's nobody in charge.

‘Everyone knows it can't carry on, but you can't touch anything in the NHS because the nurses are in their trench, the doctors are in their trench, the unions are in their trench – it's the First World War.’
Well that's socialism for you, Roger. You're reaping the benefits of all those years of well-meaning foolishness.

Mitt Romney is not the favorite Tea Party candidate but he did at least have the guts to note that things are not going well under President Obama in the US. In response there's been a big press to prove him wrong but... the numbers support his statement. At Investor's Business Daily, they point to some unpleasant facts:
  • There are 2 million fewer private-sector jobs now than when Obama was sworn in, and the unemployment rate is 1.5 percentage points higher.
  • There are now more long-term unemployed than at any time since the government started keeping records.
  • The U.S. dollar is more than 12% weaker.
  • The number of Americans on food stamps has climbed 37%.
  • The Misery Index (unemployment plus inflation) is up 62%.
  • And the national debt is about 40% higher than it was in January 2009.
  • In fact, reporters who bother to look will discover that Obama has managed to produce the worst recovery on record.
Are you better off than you were 4 years ago? Frankly, no. Even though the recession is, technically, over and unemployment at 9.2% is lower than it peaked over 10%, people have been using up their resources and rainy day funds and by now are facing real shortages. And while gas and food prices go up, their money is even more tight now than during the official recession. Its unfair to blame all this on President Obama, he wasn't in the presidency when it started and there's been plenty of help from congress to make things worse, but like it or not, he's the head figure and its his - and the rest of the Democrats' - economy now, not George Bush's.

Atlanta Superintendent Beverly Hall was named 2009 Superintendent of the Year, and now she's resigned in disgrace. Why? Because she got that after test scores went up in her district, but its been revealed that this is because the teachers cheated. They cheated real hard, and real good, and were not just supported by, but intimidated into participating by the Superintendent and principals all through the school district. Heather Vogell writes at the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
Teachers and principals erased and corrected mistakes on students’ answer sheets.

Area superintendents silenced whistle-blowers and rewarded subordinates who met academic goals by any means possible.

Superintendent Beverly Hall and her top aides ignored, buried, destroyed or altered complaints about misconduct, claimed ignorance of wrongdoing and accused naysayers of failing to believe in poor children’s ability to learn.
And this went on as long as a decade, with teachers systematically cheating on test scores and people who wanted to see it stop being intimidated and leaned on by the administration.Some are saying the teachers ought not be blamed, but they were doing the cheating, and not all of them were doing it because they were forced to by administrators. Definitely heads should roll at the top, but the teachers need to face punishment as well.

Remember the ozone layer? How there was this killer hole that was going to kill us all? The 90s were full of those reports, telling us we were all doomed, that using spray cans was going to kill us all. Movies like Robocop and Demolition Man presumed this ghastly future where the sun would cook you in seconds and give you cancer from the slightest exposure. Yeah, well. Scientists found out that the ozone layer basically opens and closes reguarly like clockwork, so it wasn't nearly as bad as they believed, and as it turns out even the large summertime opening is shrinking. The article starts out with a presumption:
For the first time, scientists have found convincing evidence that the gargantuan hole carved in the ozone layer by man-made chemicals is steadily shrinking. That mean a policy enacted 22 years ago called the Montreal Protocol is working...
But its not until you read down a ways that you learn that maybe this confident assertion isn't exactly valid:
Salby told the site Nature.com that the swings in ozone levels from spring to spring result from a weather pattern known as dynamical forcing. During winters when this effect is pronounced, more cold air gets trapped in the stratosphere above the South Pole, and as a result, more ice crystals form in the atmosphere. When the sun hits these in spring, they serve as platforms upon which chlorine can chemically react with ozone, breaking it apart. Consequentially, "[if] you know what the stratospheric forcing is during the winter, you can predict rather accurately the ozone level for the following spring," Salby said.
In other words: this happens naturally on its own. And since scientists do not have data going back further than the late 80s on this phenomenon they have no idea what the long term patterns are or if this recent hole was unusual or not. Nor do they have the slightest evidence that a CFC ban actually had any affect on the hole in any way.

Those two quoted bits show the difference between a reporter's perspective on the events and a scientist's. The writer for Life Science vigorously presumes the CFC connection, leaving absolutely no room for the slightest doubt. The scientist is just reporting the information they've gathered, and the two do not add up.

Throwing your newspaper away can get you in trouble in New York City. WABC reports that a woman got fined $100 and allegedly an angry tirade from a city worker for throwing her newspaper in the trash instead of the recycle bin. Meet the new religious zealot, with the power of the state behind them. Our founders fled to America to get away from that Satanic combination, only to have us replace it with a secular one.

Related is the story of Julie Bass in Oak Park Michigan who is being prosecuted for... planting vegetables. Alexis Wiley at Fox Detroit reports:
"The price of organic food is kind of through the roof," said Julie Bass.

So, why not grow your own? However, Bass' garden is a little unique because it's in her front yard.

"We thought it'd be really cool to do it so the neighbors could see. The kids love it. The kids from the neighborhood all come and help," she said.

Bass' cool garden has landed her in hot water with the City of Oak Park. Code enforcement gave her a warning, then a ticket and now she's been charged with a misdemeanor.
Why not grow a garden in your front yard? "That's not what we want to see in a front yard," said Oak Park City Planner Kevin Rulkowski. These petty fascists are all over the world, people with power beyond their wisdom, and most of them are involved in neighborhood groups and housing communities, imposing their view of the world on others. I understand not wanting your community to look awful and stupid, but a garden? Seriously?

Meanwhile, the UN has been adding up the cost of "going green" to save the planet from a fictitious doom and they've announced it will cost a mere $76 trillion dollars. A lot of that money has nothing to do with climate, of course, its a huge redistribution scheme from richer nations to poorer ones.

Which brings us to this cheery bit from Africa from Human Events:
Between 1970 and 1998 when well-meaning foreign aid was at its peak, the poverty rate in Africa rose from 11 percent to 66 percent.
Why? Well apart from damaging entrepreneurism and industry in those countries by flooding them with goods so people got them for free instead of buying them, most of the money actually went into the pockets of tyrants and brutal dictators, who bought palaces, guns, and cars with it. Africa is basically suffering from the same effect as inner city blacks from welfare, destroying incentive and ambition, while propping up thugs and slumlords.

Teen pregnancy rates are at the lowest in 70 years, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control. What this has to do with disease I'm not exactly sure, but pro-abortionists will use disease-related language to describe unborn babies sometimes. The official numbers are still bad:
The teen birth rate has decreased 37 percent over the last two decades. About four percent of all teenage girls give birth each year, representing about 10 percent of total births, the CDC said.
But at least they're on the way down. Now the question is how accurate this data is - do they really know all the teen pregnancies? Given how reluctant abortion clinics are to comply with federal law or report about girls who come in, I wonder.

President Obama has a rare, and glorious chance for leadership when it comes to the budget. He could step up and be the adult in the room he talks about being with one simple, high-profile area: his aids and staff. The LA Times blog reports:
This crowd is being paid a total of $37,121,463 this year. That's up seven staff members and nearly $4 million from 2008, the last year of George W. Bush's presidency.

Fully 141 Obama aides -- or nearly one-in-three -- earn more than $100,000 a year. That's also up from the 130 with that scale salary in Bush's last year.

Twenty-one Obama aides earn the top-dollar $172,200.
If the president really wants to be the adult and show leadership, he should cut these salaries, cut his staff back, and show leadership by forcing them all to pay their taxes - since many of them are late on that as well. That would show real interest in doing the right thing, signalling that President Obama is ready to share in the sacrifice he calls for everyone else to undergo, and he could lead congress in doing the same thing. I won't hold my breath.

President Obama dumped the Strategic Oil Reserve into the market to lower gas prices, and although it had a small effect of lowering them, prices are back on the way up again. This was an interesting stunt, since it proved that greater supply reduces prices far beyond its actual volume - the SOR was so small an amount it barely affected supply in the US, but the prices went down in response to the announcement. It also demonstrated that President Obama is willing to do anything to help his poll numbers from going below a certain level, even violate the SOR's purpose of being there for crisis and emergency.

The "Stimulus" was a failure, at least in its stated purpose. This trillion dollar expense was intended to jumpstart the economy, we were told over and over that we'd see unemployment rise as high as 8%, that we'd plunge into a depression without it. Instead, we got 10% unemployment and misery that has not ended. Economists all over are declaring the effort a waste:
In sum, this empirical examination of the direct effects of the three countercyclical stimulus packages of the 2000s indicates that they did not have a positive effect on consumption and government purchases, and thus did not counter the decline in investment during the recessions as the basic Keynesian textbook model would suggest.
Worse, it increased the debt enormously, creating greater interest payment requirements and burdening the economy further. Hot Air has a roundup of economists explaining the problems.


Why won't the Republicans agree to a tax increase? Well for one thing the problem isn't insufficient government revenues, its excessive spending. But Jay Cost lays down the answer in brutal form for idiots like David "perfect crease" Brooks in these terms:
...it is not hard to discover the position of the Grand Old Party. Over the last forty years, the federal government has taken in about eighteen percent of GDP in taxes and spent about twenty percent of GDP in outlays, so why not just keep doing that?
...
The Democratic position is that the federal government should take in more and spend more – just how much more depends on how far to the left any given Democrat is.

Let’s keep this in mind as we now consider the projections of the Congressional Budget Office for the next eighty years.
Here's the graphic he gives to show what the Democrats think should go on, and why they want tax increases:


I don't care for that. Do you? Because you're the one that's going to be paying for that. According to the left, you're some kind of monster for not wanting that to happen.

And while we're on the subject, check out this cheery tale, courtesy Ace of Spades HQ. Don't have anything in your mouth when you read it, for the sake of your monitor. Nick Shulz at Forbes writes:
Eisenach and Caves looked at three areas that received stimulus funds, in the form of loans and direct grants, to expand broadband access in Southwestern Montana, Northwestern Kansas, and Northeastern Minnesota. The median household income in these areas is between $40,100 and $50,900. The median home prices are between $94,400 and $189,000.

So how much did it cost per unserved household to get them broadband access? A whopping $349,234, or many multiples of household income, and significantly more than the cost of a home itself.

Sadly, it’s actually worse than that. Take the Montana project. The area is not in any meaningful sense unserved or even underserved. As many as seven broadband providers, including wireless, operate in the area. Only 1.5% of all households in the region had no wireline access. And if you include 3G wireless, there were only seven households in the Montana region that could be considered without access. So the cost of extending access in the Montana case comes to about
$7 million for each additional household served.
Seven million dollars a house for broadband. Its not that the entire "stimulus" package was waste and nonsense, just that too much of it was, and at the wrong time, without any money to pay for it.

Something I've written about several times is that most nations are enormously more bigoted and racist than the west. Western countries are by effort more tolerant of different cultures and by history countries like Canada, Australia, and the United States were built by a mix of different peoples working together for a common future. This tale from an Indian call training center gives a hint of the kind of bigotry - ironic in this case - that is offered without question or comment:
During the second day of culture training, Lekha dissected the Australian psyche. It took about 20 minutes.

“Just stating facts, guys,” Lekha began, as we scribbled notes, ”Australia is known as the dumbest continent. Literally, college was unknown there until recently. So speak slowly.” Next to me, a young man in a turban wrote No college in his notebook.

“Technologically speaking, they’re somewhat backward, as well. The average person’s mobile would be no better than, say, a Nokia 3110 classic.” This drew scoffs from around the room.

“Australians drink constantly,” Lekha continued. “If you call on a Friday night, they’ll be smashed—every time. Oh, and don’t attempt to make small talk with them about their pets, okay? They can be quite touchy about animals.”

“What kind of people are there in Australia?” a trainee asked. “What are their traits?”

“Well, for one thing,” Lekha said, “let’s admit: They are quite racist. They do not like Indians. Their preferred term for us is — please don’t mind, ladies — ‘brown bastards.’ So if you hear that kind of language, you can just hang up the call.”
Maybe Australians are racist, but so is this bozo. His contempt is palpable. Tim Blair notes that he lacks the technical prowess to identify his cell phone.

How do you get your agency to act on something your president or the law won't let you do on your own? The EPA figured out a way: fund organizations to sue them so they could change policy. John Merlune at Investor's Business Daily reports:
When the Environmental Protection Agency said in late June that it would force Western coal-fired power plants to install haze-reducing pollution-control equipment at a cost of $1.5 billion a year, it said it had to in order to settle a lawsuit by environmental groups.
...
The odd thing is that the EPA, in turn, has handed EDF $2.76 million in grants over that same period, according to an IBD review of the agency's grant database.

This strange relationship goes well beyond EDF. Indeed, several environmental groups that have received millions in EPA grants regularly file suit against that same agency. A dozen green groups were responsible for more than 3,000 suits against the EPA and other government agencies over the past decade, according to a study by the Wyoming-based Budd-Falen Law Offices.
Well I guess that works out well - you throw federal dollars at your friends and allies, and they in turn use that money to help you apply regulations. The EPA suffers no harm, and it gets to implement policy it couldn't otherwise. If that's not illegal its certainly ethically questionable.

Space Shuttle Atlantis has launched on its final mission, closing out the era of the Space Shuttle, which I particularly liked. NASA has nothing to replace these things with, they're just being retired.

Back in 2004, President Bush slipped up and mentioned something about "internets" when he meant "internet" and the press had a jolly time mocking him for it. The left still brings that up sometimes. In 2011, seven years later President Obama - allegedly all net savy and up to date - made the same slip, and nobody in the press said a word. The left ignored it, like they do all his gaffes, which every politician and public speaker suffers from. Why bring this up? To remind people how the press protects Obama and hated Bush. The comparison is very useful to illustrate what we're dealing with in the legacy media.

And that's the Word Around the Net, July 8, 2011.

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