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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, August 26, 2011

WORD AROUND THE NET


"One of the nice things about being rich is that money can frequently shield you from the consequences of a weak character and bad decisions"

Textbook Breakdown
Remember the Unabomber? Well he has an acolyte (other than non-Christian, non-conservative Norwegian shooter Anders Breivik). Law enforcement has tracked five bombs sent to nanotech engineers and scientists by the group calling its self "Individuals Tending Toward Savagery." So far only two people have been injured, but the group is still out there, fearful of nanotechnology and potential for technological viruses and dangers of science fiction scenarios. These guys are the opposite of Glenn Reynolds and some others who seem to think nanotech is the salvation of mankind.

Billionaire Warren Buffett gave leftists a lot of glee by writing an article all about how he'd love to pay more taxes and that the federal government should ratchet taxes up higher. According to the IRS, however, Buffett isn't actually paying all the taxes he's supposed to right now:
According to Berkshire Hathaway’s own annual report — see Note 15 on pp. 54-56 — the company has been in a years-long dispute over its federal tax bills.
From 2004-2009, Buffett's company has paid less than its owed taxes and is working with the IRS appeals system to get more time and find a way to pay less. So while he might write about paying more, the man's company is trying to pay less. Its hard to take a man's word when his behavior is the opposite.

According to environmentalists, getting oil out of tar sands is so dirty the US should block a proposed pipeline that would create 12,000 jobs and send 900,000 gallons of oil a year to the US from friendly Canada. That wouldn't stop Canada from getting the oil, mind you. It would just stop the US from buying it - China or some other country would buy the Canadian oil. In other words, as Walter Russell Mead puts it:
Greens are asking President Obama to take a job killing stance during a time of high unemployment that won’t help the planet.
And he's just the man to agree.

So far this year, the growth reported by the US federal government is 1.3% 1%. The last quarter growth was downgraded twice, and I wouldn't be surprised if they did it again. I just wonder: what would the growth level look like if they used the same method today as they did in, say, 1939? The same thing for unemployment and inflation? Because like sports, if you don't compare eras with the same calculation, how can you really know the records?

Wisconsin's battle between unions and the state government is over now. The unions lost their fights, lost money, lost court battles, and spent a lot of political will and energy in the process. In the end, the state won and schools won. George Will runs down the results, and points out the real reason the unions fought so hard:
Teachers unions can no longer bargain to require school districts to purchase teachers’ health insurance from the union’s preferred provider, which is especially expensive. This is saving millions of dollars and reducing teacher layoffs. Also, unions must hold annual recertification votes.

And teachers unions may no longer automatically deduct dues from members’ paychecks. After Colorado in 2001 required public employees unions to have annual votes reauthorizing collection of dues, membership in the Colorado Association of Public Employees declined 70 percent. In 2005, Indiana stopped collecting dues from unionized public employees; in 2011, there are 90 percent fewer dues-paying members. In Utah, the end of automatic dues deductions for political activities in 2001 caused teachers’ payments to fall 90 percent. After a similar law passed in 1992 in Washington state, the percentage of teachers making such contributions declined from 82 to 11.
This was never about quality of education or saving teacher jobs, in fact if the unions had gotten their way, teachers would have had to be fired. It was about money and power for unions, and the loss of their membership and influence. Now able to buy cheaper insurance, school districts are able to save money and keep teachers and services. Teachers not forced to join and stay in unions tend not to, since they gain little from their dues and see no reason to be part of one. And in all of that, the Democratic Party loses because the unions were a steady stream of support and cash to the party.

Hurricane Irene is working its way up the east coast of the United States, and every state along the way is preparing or enduring the storm. North Carolina Governor Pardue has declared a state emergency, and because of a law passed a few years back, made it illegal to carry a concealed weapon east of I-95. She's not making this happen, the Democrat-controlled state legislature made it happen with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-288.7, as the Confederate Yankee points out. All I can say is an emergency or disaster is the last time you should even consider taking gun rights away. Pack a holster and pistol in plain sight, that's legal nearly everywhere in the nation.

Phyllis Schlafly has a few sobering thoughts on food stamps under the Food Stamp President at Eagle Forum:
35 states have abolished testing of how much money people have. The food stamp program has become a magnet for abuses and absurdities. The number of food-stamp recipients has soared from 26 million in 2007 to 44 million today, and costs have risen from $33 billion to $77 billion. The U.S. Department of Agriculture now has only 40 inspectors to oversee 200,000 merchants that accept food stamps.
Like the FCC which has scant personnel to oversee large areas of the country, the D of A has more people than ever in America's history to try to check on, and states are making it easier than ever to get food stamps. In the past, shame and a sense of dignity would prevent millionaires from even considering food stamps, but these days?

Attorney General Holder has demonstrated abundantly that he views his job not as one concerned with justice, but one concerned with social justice - that is, addressing perceived former grievances to balance the scales and help out disadvantaged minorities. So he sues Arizona for trying to enforce federal laws, blows off voter intimidation by blacks, and goes after inspectors general for doing their job because it hurts an Obama buddy. And as Hans VonSpakovsky notes at Pajamas Media, he's packing the Department of Justice with radicals just like him. Well you can't have those pesky whistle blowers who don't see things your way, I guess.

Not content to rest on its business and agriculture-destroying laurels, the EPA has been busy with utilities. A recent report states that new rules would increase utility rates by double what the EPA estimates - almost 7% more a year. The EPA claims these changes will clean up the air and save money in welfare and medicare claims, but there's no evidence that supports their claim. In fact, the air pollution scare has been pretty well debunked by recent studies.

Created in 1913 The US Department of Labor was intended to oversee unions and businesses to ensure equity and fairness, justice and ethical behavior by both parties. Under President Obama, it seems little more than an arm to defend, support, and assist the preservation of unions. The latest move by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis is to redefine "employer" to exclude unions. Don Loos explains at Big Government:
When the Labor Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA) passed, Congress defined the term “Employer” very broadly as “any employer or any group or association of employers engaged in an industry affecting commerce … an employer within the meaning of any law of the United States relating to the employment of any employees.” (Emphasis added)intends to exclude all labor unions from the definition of employer, no matter how many employees the union has. There is one exception to DOL’s proposed rule, and that is that if the union is trying to organize employees of another union or influence its own employees, then the word “Employer” would pertain to union bosses.
In other words, if unions hire or employ anyone, they wouldn't be defined as labor. Its going to take years just to undo all the damage this administration is doing at the executive level.

While some states such as Texas and Wisconsin are adding jobs rapidly under Republican governments, states like Illinois are hemorrhaging jobs under Democrats. At the Illinois Policy Institute, they note:
Illinois lost more jobs during the month of July than any other state in the nation, according to the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics report. After losing 7,200 jobs in June, Illinois lost an additional 24,900 non-farm payroll jobs in July. The report also said Illinois’s unemployment rate climbed to 9.5 percent. This marks the third consecutive month of increases in the unemployment rate.
The recent plunge started January 1, 2010, the very moment the state's tax increases went into effect. Its almost as if the Laffer Curve is real or something.

Every year, Seattle has a "Hemp" Festival allegedly glorifying the wonders of this 19th century material, but is actually just a pot festival. The cops have always just ignored the place, and since the King county officials have made it clear they won't prosecute pot possession charges, there's no point busting anyone there anyway. A Seattle Times reporter went there and showed how absurdly easy it is to get a medical dispensation to buy marijuana. And that's the whole point of the "medical" marijuana movement, it has nothing to do with any medicinal benefits of the drug, its just a back door way to get it legalized.

The Department of Health and Human Services has put out a new guide on sex and kids, and among their claims are that children are sexual creatures, that its common for teens to experiment with homosexuality, and that parents should not be concerned about this. I don't know where these people went to school but it was not normal or common for kids to experiment with homosexual activity when I was in school, it was frankly rare for any of us to experience any sexual activity that involved someone else. Maybe times have changed but I seriously doubt by that much.

United Nations head Ban Ki-Moon took a break from global warming hysteria to call for "austerity" in the UN offices, and told everyone they needed to cut their budgets. Then the UN proceeded to give staffers a 2% raise. The highest paid officials in the New York UN building make about 40% more than their equivalent in the US government (because they pay no taxes), so maybe he had a point.

Textbooks are notoriously insane in their prices. I know pretty well what it costs to print a book at this point, and at no point does it remotely approach $100, even for a big fat book with color. Yet that's not even expensive for a text book. Which is probably why pirated e-books are gaining in popularity, so much so that there are websites set up to sell them out in the open. Back when students didn't have really any alternative, maybe this business model worked but now? Publishers are cutting their own throats.

Scientists have found a new procedure that uses stem cells successfully. They can grow cartilage using stem cells, which can be very useful for reconstructive surgery. Again, this is from adult stem cells, not embryonic.

Generally I'm opposed to tax hikes but there are ways the taxes can go up which wouldn't necessarily be bad. For example, some loopholes and deductions are a bit silly or counterproductive, and Viral Acharya suggests that the Mortgage Interest Deduction is just such a one. Created to help everyone achieve the American dream of a house and car, Instapundit relates how this actually hurts the dream:
“One the one hand you are actually getting all your subsidies, but you are actually paying more for the property you would have liked to consume,” says Acharya. “Therefore the real subsidy goes only [to those] at the very top. It is for people who are buying a second house. It is for people who are buying more land than they would otherwise.”

Not only have government subsidies failed to really help everyday people, except to “prop up the housing market artificially,” says Acharya, but the big question also remains: Who’s paying for all these subsidies? “It’s sort of a Ponzi scheme, because the current generation is reaping all its benefits, but we’re basically scaling up our government debt in response, and someone else is going to pay for it down the road.”
Basically its driving up house prices, which means the deduction doesn't accomplish anything but lower tax revenues.

President Obama called for the executive department to find ways to cut spending last year, and this year the plan has finally been announced. Overall, the proposed, anticipated, and potential plans would save about $4 billion dollars a year, should they ever be actually implemented. At this rate, they might take effect in 2013. While this is always welcome news - I'll take any cuts I can get from the federal government - and four billion dollars sounds like a lot, we're bleeding more than a trillion dollars a month in debt. That's like announcing you'll cut back your spending by not buying a stick of gum once a year.

LinkEvery time some leftist claims that its the war on terror that created the debt, point them at this news story from 2006 in USA Today:
Pentagon spending in February, the most recent month available, was $6.7 billion in Afghanistan compared with $5.5 billion in Iraq. As recently as fiscal year 2008, Iraq was three times as expensive; in 2009, it was twice as costly.
At their most expensive the combined war efforts cost around $180 billion a year. That's a lot, but its a drop in the bucket compared to the other spending, particularly as its increased lately. Congress dropped a trillion dollars on the debt scales in one bill in February of 2009 alone with the "stimulus" package.

We're often told that poor and rural people are a bunch of ignorant bible thumping hicks, while urban people are sophisticated, learned, and atheist. According to a recent study, the opposite appears to be true:
According to the American Sociological Association, the uneducated and the poor (often of course the same people) are dropping God like a hot brick; the ‘bitter clingers’ are increasingly better educated and more affluent than the unchurched.
Now, I'm not exactly trusting of polls in general and sociologists in specific but this is a humorous reversal for the poll- and sociologist-trusting leftist. If true, it means that poor people are cutting themselves off from a network of charitable and private assistance.

The National Association of Business Economics overwhelmingly (93%) believes that spending cuts, not mere tax increases, are the way out of the debt. Its almost as if they understand how to balance a budget and manage finances or something. In fact, the majority believe that spending cuts alone are the best way to handle it.

Why is this an issue now, and not before? Well, CBS has the answer:
The debt was $10.626 trillion on the day Mr. Obama took office. The latest calculation from Treasury shows the debt has now hit $14.639 trillion.

It's the most rapid increase in the debt under any U.S. president.

The national debt increased $4.9 trillion during the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush. The debt now is rising at a pace to surpass that amount during Mr. Obama's four-year term.
The debt was unthinkable under President Bush, and it got worse, faster, and with even less cause, under President Obama. And he keeps telling everyone how he wants to spend even more.

Meanwhile the percentage of young people employed is the lowest ever since the US government started keeping track of groups in 1948. Only 48.8 percent of young people ages 16-24 were employed in July. It is not clear how many aren't trying to find work, are between jobs, or gave up.

Terrorism is still out there, even if its not a hot topic any longer. Since President Obama was elected, the news has pretty well dropped the topic and even tries very hard to downplay or redefine terrorist activity. However in 2010 alone, more than 11,000 terrorist attacks in 72 countries took place worldwide, according to the annual US report on terrorism. Almost 50,000 people died from these attacks.

Before he left on a vacation, President Obama promised a "very specific" plan to improve the US economy and create jobs when he got back. No rush. Now, while he's still on vacation, Obama's team is backtracking, claiming its just an outline now. Most folks are probably wondering where this great set of ideas was say, 2 1/2 years ago.

Professor Will Happer notes something most people already know: increased CO2 actually helps plants. In contrast to the alarmist cries of CO2 doom, he notes a few facts that would be good to remember, courtesy The Hockey Schtick:
  • There is no "correct" or "normal" level of CO2 in the atmosphere
  • Most plants stop growing if CO2 levels drop much below 150 ppm
  • United States Navy and NASA have tested humans and we're fine at levels below around 4.000 parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere
  • In fact, the US Navy recommends an upper limit of about 8,000 ppm for cruises of 90 days or more (not inconceivable in a submarine)
  • Getting from our current level of about 390 ppm to 1,000 ppm would take about 300 years even assuming the alarmist cries are accurate
  • Computer modeling of CO2 increases do not match observed data.
Add this to the fact that scientists are learning that the 'greenhouse gas' effect is significantly less pronounced and much more complicated than they believed in the 80's, when global warming alarmism started. Case in point:

The 2007 report from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated:
In all scenarios, the central estimate for thermal expansion by the end of the century is 70 to 75% of the central estimate for the sea level rise.
However, Robert Zimmerman notes at Behind the Black:
What McKay et al. found is that the thermal expansion of the oceans actually contributed less than 1 percent of sea level rise during the last ice age., which means that the Antarctic ice sheet had to have contributed the bulk of the water for the almost 20 feet of sea level rise that occurred.

Let me highlight the differences:

IPCC estimate: 55 to 70 percent of the total.
New data: less than 1 percent of the total.

The IPCC’s estimate seems a bit wrong, eh?
As opposed to many of the previous IPCC embarrassments, this is from the hard science portion, not the "here's what might happen as a result" portion. Its one thing to get vanishing glaciers in the himalayas wrong, but another to get your basic science wrong by a factor of 700%.

One in 5 Oregonians are on food stamps, by the way. That includes kids, so maybe one in 20 households on average. According to this article at the Huffington Post, only Mississippi has more food stamp recipients in the nation.

And that's the Word Around the Net, August 26, 2011.

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