Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Reality deniers are a stubborn lot; hold their beliefs no matter what

The number of notable people who behave as if they are endowed with special insight about the environment is an interesting element in the ongoing saga.

The most recent example of this is Secretary of State John Kerry, who fell off the diplomatic wagon and insulted millions of Americans he represents to the world who don’t agree with his narrow view of environmental issues by calling them members of the Flat Earth Society.

Arrogance of this magnitude from a public employee is not unheard of, but arrogance wasn’t Mr. Kerry’s only sin. He expressed the asinine belief that climate change is “the world's largest weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even, the world's most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

Tell that to the victims and their families of true terrorism, like the 9-11 attacks and in the Boston Marathon bombing.

President Barack Obama also asserts with absolute certainty that global warming/climate change is “settled science.”

Misters Obama and Kerry are no better than the rest of us non-scientists: they have chosen to believe one side of the argument about global warming, now renamed “climate change,” since the catastrophic warming trend we were warned about ad infinitum unexpectedly disappeared.

Some might expect that President Obama is better informed than everyone else. However, given the number of rather important events that he said he learned about from the media – the IRS abuse of non-profit applicants, the capture of the Boston Marathon bomber – he probably gets his environmental news there, like the rest of us.

But Mr. Kerry’s madness and Mr. Obama’s misplaced certainty aside, real scientists understand and will tell you that science is never settled. There may be general acceptance of a particular theory, but the possibility that someone will come across something that disproves an existing theory always exists.

On that subject Charles Krauthammer – who as a medical doctor has much deeper understanding of the scientific method than either Mr. Obama or Mr. Kerry – offers this example: “Newton’s laws were considered settled for 200 years until a patent clerk [Albert Einstein] in Switzerland turned them over with a single paper in 1903 — and that was pretty settled science. The idea that this is all settled is absurd.”

Saying that science is settled is simply a way to try to suffocate dissent, says columnist George Will. “When a politician, on a subject implicating science – hard science, economic science, social science – says the debate is over, you may be sure of two things: the debate is raging, and he is losing it.”

When scientists say science is settled, they are guilty of the same sin as journalists often are: allowing their political ideology to overpower their integrity and displace professional principles. And scientists often have the added motivation of filthy lucre: federal money to fund their research, totaling $68 billion from 2008 to 2012.

There are lots of scientists, climate scientists and others, who disagree with the manmade climate change theory, but that’s something Mr. Obama won’t learn from the media, because most of the agenda media don’t report much on topics that don’t fit their leftist ideals, like man-caused climate change.

Reality deniers ignore inconvenient evidence and cling to their views. Evidence like the email scandal from November 2009, where emails between International Panel on Climate Change participants suggesting conspiracy, collusion in exaggerating warming data, possibly illegal destruction of information, organized resistance to disclosure, data manipulation, and private admissions of flaws in their public claims, were exposed. A second round of email revelations occurred in 2011.

And the “hockey stick” graph created in 1998 purporting to show a dramatic increase in global temperatures in the 20th century, and was a major piece of evidence supporting manmade global warming. It was created by Penn State University’s Dr. Michael Mann.

The theory has come under suspicion for data manipulation. It is a complex story, but here’s a brief version: The graph relied heavily upon data taken from 252 trees on the Yamal Peninsula in Siberia. It used data from 12 trees that showed a warming trend, while a subset of 34 different trees showed no significant warming. Further, temperatures in the Middle Ages were missing from the Mann data. So, even if there was warming, temperatures from hundreds of years before the industrial revolution were warmer than those in the 20th century.

As a result, several individuals and publications challenged the veracity of the research, and Dr. Mann sued a number of his detractors for libel. However, it appears that the suits will not go forward because Dr. Mann refuses to release the details of his research, which is necessary for him to show the defendants actually defamed him.

These things cry out for attention, but are instead explained away.

Many people don’t know much about science, a point proven by a National Science Foundation study, which shows that one in four Americans believes the sun orbits the Earth, rather than the other way around.

So, many Americans trust scientists and elected officials to tell them the truth about important matters, and when they manipulate data, or sell a particular concept as “settled science,” many believe them anyway.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Government is a poor mechanism for correcting societal problems

Most Americans think that helping truly needy people, whether they live here or in some other country, is a worthy objective. Looking at charitable contributions as a benchmark, Americans are the most generous people in the world, giving $316.23 billion to charitable organizations in 2012, about 2 percent of GDP, according to Charity Navigator, and preliminary figures for 2013 indicate a significant increase to $328 billion.

Double those numbers and it still would not be good enough for the federal government, which believes that if private sources don’t relieve every semblance of suffering for every single suffering American, the government must step in and do the job better.

Except that government can’t do it better, never has, and never will.

Government’s failure to achieve better results than normal people doing what normal people do has never been a deterrent to wasting billions of taxpayers dollars in a futile effort to try one more time to do so.

The most notorious failure was Lyndon Johnson’s “War on Poverty” which began 50 years ago in Mr. Johnson’s State of the Union message. From the beginning of the war on poverty until 2013, local, state, and federal spending on welfare programs totaled $16 trillion, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Currently, the United States spends nearly $1 trillion every year to fight poverty.

When the War on Poverty began, 33 million Americans were in poverty and the poverty rate was 19 percent. Today, approximately 46.5 million live in poverty and the poverty rate is 15 percent. Even though the poverty rate is lower than 50 years ago, because our population is much larger now than then, more people are poor today than in 1964. We have fought a long and expensive fight, and lost. Yet we still fight on.

President Barack Obama’s cause du jour is income inequality, and it’s significant other, the minimum wage. And now that “reforming” the best healthcare system in the world is well underway, he wants to declare war against income inequality.

In no free or relatively free economic system can there be income equality, for two reasons. First, inequality is a fundamental part of life. Some people sing better than others. Some are better athletes than others. And some people make more money than others, and that’s because some people are better at their job than others and deserve higher pay, and some jobs require more skill and training than others, and pay better.

So, like poverty, another area that will always exist, we will always have income inequality.

Far more important, however, is whether there is the opportunity to move up from the lower income levels, and that is an area that has been fairly stable, according to The New York Times, which reported last month that “the odds of moving up — or down — the income ladder in the United States have not changed appreciably in the last 20 years….”

That means that people in the lowest quintile are not condemned to stay there, and people in the top quintile are not guaranteed to stay there, and there is substantial movement in and out of all quintiles.

It’s a favored piece of envy politics that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. But the data tell a different story. From 1967 to 2009, the real mean household income increased for every quintile, which means the poor became richer, not poorer. Americans in poverty could afford more goods and services in 2009 than in 1967, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

Other factors, like where people live, have an effect. Harvard University’s Raj Chetty reported “the probability that a child reaches the top quintile of the national income distribution starting from a family in the bottom quintile is 4.4 percent in Charlotte but 12.9 percent in San Jose,” and factors such as better primary schools and greater family stability also aid upward mobility, he wrote.

Larry Kaufmann, senior advisor at Pacific Economics Group, discussed findings of the Pew Charitable Trust, which showed that “Half of children born to parents with bottom-third income levels experience upward relative mobility when the parents remain continuously married; the figure falls to 26 percent when this is not the case,” he wrote.

The Pew study shows that the poverty rate among married couples is only 6 percent, and among married couples who both have full-time jobs the poverty rate is practically zero. The poverty rate among single dads and single moms, however, is much higher: 25 percent for single dads and 31percent for single moms.

Investor’s Business Daily Senior Writer John Merline notes that income inequality has increased faster since Mr. Obama took office than under any of the three previous presidents, and that inequality is now greater than at any time since the Census Bureau started recording it back in 1947.

The message from this is that to assist folks in moving up the income ladder, Mr. Obama should replace his administration’s policies that impede economic recovery, and seriously encourage the restoration of family values among Americans. That would accomplish far more than making people think they are victims, and fomenting division among Americans.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Going Rogue, Part X: Americans just don’t properly appreciate the EPA

Americans do not fully appreciate the efforts of government to protect them from a wide variety of threats to their health and safety. This effort occurs to some degree at the more local levels, but the real champion of this grand effort is the federal government.

While many federal agencies contribute to this effort, one goes far beyond the others at trying to keep us safe: the Environmental Protection Agency, the EPA.

The EPA is so concerned for the safety and protection of the citizens of the U.S. that it has issued thousands of regulations requiring specific steps be taken to reduce or eliminate actual or potential harm. This agency is so concerned for our welfare that it has even required, under penalty of heavy fines, the use of things that are unavailable.

As part of the Renewable Fuel Standard the EPA required gasoline producers to use cellulosic biofuels, and in its paternalistic effort to keep us safe from threats real and imagined, the EPA fines producers for not using the required quantities of biofuel ingredients, even though those quantities are unavailable.

Not everyone is on board with the EPA’s magnificent efforts on our behalf, such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning, whose office is suing the EPA over greenhouse gas standards for new power plants. These standards are, according to the AG and the Senator, “impossible” to meet.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and energy industry groups have jumped on the anti-EPA band wagon by urging the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia last August to strike down a federal rule limiting mercury and other toxic emissions from coal- and oil-fired power plants, saying the Agency used flawed methods to create unachievable emissions standards.

Even the EPA’s fellow federal agency, the State Department, has shocked Americans by daring to disagree with the ideological environmental dogma of the Obama administration.

When the State Department was performing an environmental review of the Keystone XL pipeline project, the EPA intervened. The pipeline project would carry crude oil from Alberta, Canada to refineries in the U.S., which supporters say would provide a big step toward energy independence. The EPA argued, however, that this pipeline should be treated differently than every other pipeline ever constructed in the country.

The State Department’s report found that the project would create nearly 2,000 jobs lasting for two years and would support more than 40,000 jobs, and further finds that the pipeline provides enough positives to negate whatever negatives the EPA believes may result.

Even the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers found reason to criticize the EPA’s zealous efforts to protect us from every conceivable negative influence in our lives. The Boilermakers’ President Emeritus Charles W. Jones states in a commentary on the union’s Web site, “particle and ozone standards will damage the economy without significantly helping the environment.”

The EPA has moved to make ozone and airborne particle standards so strict, in fact, “that former EPA administrator William Ruckelshaus has called them ‘an impossible standard of perfection,’" the commentary continues. “So strict that many U.S. electrical power plants, pulp mills, cement kilns, chemical plants, smelters, and manufacturing plants are expected to close down rather than try to meet them. Thousands of American workers could lose their jobs. So strict that many of the scientists on the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) cannot support them,” Mr. Jones states, citing the effects on his organization’s members.

Thirty-nine Congressional Republicans led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R -KY) are attempting to use a rare legislative tactic to block planned Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas standards that would limit the amount of carbon new power plants can emit. The rarely used Congressional Review Act enables the filing of a formal resolution of disapproval that allows Congress to block executive branch regulations that it considers onerous.

Last month, a federal court dealt a serious blow to the EPA's renewable fuels push by ruling that the agency exceeded its authority by mandating refiners use cellulosic biofuels because of their commercial scarcity, a determination that should not require legal action.

It is encouraging to see opposition to the tyranny of the EPA growing, and at last see meaningful opposition coming from Congress. However, the majority of this opposition comes from Republicans, while the timid Democrats mostly sit on their hands, allowing the executive branch to run roughshod over the legislative branch, while their constituents get crushed under the federal boot.

The Democrats simply look the other way, likely because the lead perpetrator of this unconstitutional behavior is one of their own. They ought to think a little (for a change) and realize that someday it may be a Republican in the position to abuse the office, and the Congress.

It is doubtful that any of this will have much of a positive effect on this out-of-control agency, which, because of its ideological blinders and the infection of uncontrolled zealotry that is the hallmark of the Obama administration, ignores the damage its policies and regulations do to the country it is supposed to serve.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Real State of the Union


End of an error? The State of the Union campaign event needs to go

The State of the Union address to Congress is really just a routine presidential duty defined in Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1787-88: "He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient."

That simple requirement to update the Congress and recommend certain things the president thinks are important has evolved into the political orgy we now witness each year.

We have become accustomed to the spectacle of last week because that is the way the message has been delivered for a hundred years. However, there is no requirement for the president to actually appear before the Congress and orally deliver the message. And in fact, beginning with Thomas Jefferson's first State of the Union in 1801 and lasting until William Howard Taft's final message in 1912, the State of the Union was a written, often lengthy, report sent to Congress at the beginning of a new Session of Congress.

It’s time to return to the more sensible and less hype-driven process of Jefferson through Taft, because instead of a restrained message addressing the problems the country faces and perhaps some discussion of the successes that it has experienced, for years we’ve been treated to a campaign event all dolled up into a grandiose political revue that is little more than an exercise in political expedience.

It is a stage perfectly set for the delivery of propaganda with no real-time truth detector. The president says whatever he wants to say, and with the possible exception of a sour expression on the face of someone in the audience, or an unacceptable verbal complaint like the one back in 2009, there is no contrary opinion expressed until after the speech when the opposition party responds. By that time, many have tuned out, and given the setting and the pomp, and the fact that people still respect the office enough to often accept a president at his word, the damage is pretty much done.

Remaining true to form, at this year’s address President Barack Obama did not let the opportunity pass without making sure he got his points across, even if they were at odds with reality.

No less a dependable source for advocating liberal positions than The Washington Post identified six of Mr. Obama’s claims that attracted the attention of fact-checkers, presenting them in “a guide through some of President Obama’s more fact-challenged claims.”

In one of them the president noted, “the more than eight million new jobs our businesses have created over the past four years.”

Subtracting the jobs created not by businesses, but by government, that number is actually 7.6 million, and that number is correct, as far as the claim goes. The Post says the net new jobs created during the Obama administration is 3.2 million, and that there are 1.2 million fewer jobs today than when the recession began in December 2007.

Further, Newsmax reports that by last April, the number of Americans on food stamps had grown by 16 million since January 2009, which is more than twice as many people as got jobs.

“Our deficits — cut by more than half,” Mr. Obama bragged.

However, according to The Post, ”the federal budget deficit has declined in half since 2009, from $1.3 trillion to about $600 billion, but that’s not much to brag about. The 2009 figure was not just a deficit Obama inherited from his predecessor, since it also reflected the impact of decisions, such as the $800 billion stimulus bill, enacted early in the president’s term.

“Moreover, the deficit soared in the first place because of the recession, so as the economy has improved, the deficit naturally decreased.  The United States still has a deficit higher than it was in nominal terms and as a percentage of gross domestic product than it was in 2008 and a debt much greater as a percentage of the overall economy than it was prior to the recession.”

The only beneficiaries of this sort of event are the president and his fellow party members. Those who take the president at his word – and that certainly includes the millions of Americans who do not investigate what they read and hear – are less well informed than before the address.

One thing the president was accurate about was his intention to continue using Executive Orders to enact measures the Congress won’t pass, or to change them to his liking. Apparently, the former constitutional law lecturer doesn’t remember the full text of the authorizing language for the State of the Union, with emphasis on the phrase “recommend to their Consideration.” It does not say, “tell them the edicts he will issue if the Congress does not act.”

President Obama needs a remedial class in what the Constitution means. The Executive and the Legislative Branches are co-equal, along with the Judicial Branch; the president cannot make law, dictate what laws Congress will pass, or alter laws he does not like.

Why won’t the Congress stand up and defend its Constitutional prerogatives and obligations and make the president behave constitutionally?