Sunday, September 30, 2007

When Politicians Compromise We Lose


As a Michigan resident, I have a vested interest in the financial machinations of our State government.

The Detroit Free Press newspaper headline for today was, "Close To A Deal."
It looks like the governor will mostly get her way and income taxes will go up and the 6% sales tax will be extended to services [originally the discussion was about a 2% service tax].
The Governor will not be denied what she sees as her due.
However, as reported by Nolan Finley of The Detroit News, not all government in Michigan feels the need to expand continually. An examination of the differences between the State's government and Oakland County's [biggest county government] comes up with these differences:

The state begins anew each year with a revenue estimate, budgets spending to consume every dime and then adjourns to watch everything fall apart in short order.

Oakland budgets two years at a time and works with five-year revenue projections. Right now, [Bob] Daddow [Oakland County] sees a $10 million deficit in 2010, so he's building in cuts over the next three years to wipe it out before it becomes a crisis.

Oakland closes its books at the end of each quarter. It knows right away if the budget is running off track and can adjust spending. The state, by contrast, didn't discover $70 million in unbudgeted spending until well after the last fiscal year ended. The shortfall got rolled into this year's deficit.

Employee benefits are reformed to match cost increases. Patterson side-stepped a gubernatorial veto to set up a health care fund similar to the one agreed to by GM and the UAW.

The liability for retiree health care is now off the books. The state, meanwhile, faces hundreds of millions in future health care obligations, with no clue where the money will come from.

And the county doesn't allow government to pork up on state and federal freebies. By law, Oakland kills any grant-funded program when the grant runs out. The state too often keeps the program when it loses the free money and builds the cost into the general fund.

Creative use of technology continues to save Oakland money and is shared with local communities and school districts. An offer to share it with the state as well got no takers.

Why bother to plan ahead or take help when you can just take the taxpayers money?
The difference between a badly run business and Michigan state government is that the business goes out of existence.
The Governor's philosophy:
I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it... I want it, I want it, I want it, I want it... I want it, I want it, I want it I want it... I want it, I want it... now! [It is your money]
Hey, it's a lot easier than managing well.


Saturday, September 29, 2007

Stupidity Has Its Own Rewards


You can't make up a better example.

Detroit police are investigating an attempted carjacking in front of the department's headquarters on Beaubien in which the would-be victim opened fire on a gunman, killing him.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hemispheric Climate Oscillations and Other Things To Ignore


With all of the uproar caused by Steven McIntyre's analysis of NASA/NOAA's temperature records and the revelation that not only don't climate models fit observations, but the data used in those models may well be improperly manipulated by NASA/NOAA itself... it may have occurred to some that any conclusions drawn from the data and the models may be unreliable ;-).

Sure, that's an understatement... if you hadn't already guessed.
There certainly is evidence that the decade of the 90s and this decade are warmer than the decades of the 60s and 70s which were cooler than the decades of the 30s and 40s which were warmer than the decades of the teens and 20s.
Is there a pattern developing here?
But when you look beyond that there appears to be a north-south pattern to the changes as well. Quite honestly, given the sad shape of weather monitoring stations and the re-siting that seems to occur so often, it seems that the records are best seen as approximations of the temperature conditions around the world... which is evidenced by NASA/NOAA's continual attempts to "correct" the actual records.
The north-south pattern was evidenced in the first climatalarmist episode in the 70s when the northern hemisphere was cited as evidence of an impending ice age. Watch the video on the sidebar under the heading: MINDS CHANGE - TACTICS DON'T. Then, the southern hemisphere was just fine.

The current climatalarmist episode cites the northern hemisphere warming, including northern polar ice reduction, as evidence of the impending steam bath age(?). The problem now is that the southern hemisphere has shown signs of cooling with snow in Brazil and thickening ice in Antarctica.
So, let's review the points here:
  • Weather monitoring stations have not been properly maintained in the majority of sites surveyed [see link above] and in most countries around the world the sites have serious recordkeeping problems.
  • Temperature histories are being revised by NASA/NOAA in ways that appear to be unjustified in many instances
  • U.S. temperature history of record high temperatures [more of which were supposed to result from global warming] shows an oscillating pattern more than the upward trendline of "average temperatures" calculated from these questionable stations and manipulated data [although the revised approach to global warming is that the warming is from fewer cold days rather than more record hot days].
  • The previous climatalarmist projection was for an ice age based on northern hemisphere observations not supported by southern hemisphere observations
  • The present climatalarmist projection is for accelerating global warming based on northern hemisphere observations not supported by southern hemisphere observations.
In non-climatalarmist fields, this manipulating approach to supporting ones position is called "cherrypicking."


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Not Like Your Father's Strike


The United Auto Workers and GM have reached a new contract agreement that will, no doubt, be ratified by the UAW members.

The two-day strike was nothing more than posturing, as I said the other day. Neither side was willing or able to handle an extended strike which would have been a lose-lose proposition.
The UAW made some concessions that will allow GM to become more competitive with the non-union lower labor costs of the Japanese and Korean manufacturers who have populated the right-to-work southern states. GM gives assurances that it will not ship out the remaining U.S. jobs to Kuala Lumpur or some other "exotic" location where workers are uneducated, unprotected, and underpaid.
That doesn't mean the U.S. manufacturers will close up shop in foreign nations. After all, if the Chinese decide to use lead paint on the fenders, no one will worry about someone licking the fender and getting sick.
Now that the UAW will be funding and managing future health care plans, it is likely that there will be increasing pressure to reduce costs because UAW members will see such care as a cost more than a benefit. I imagine there are a lot of people quietly smiling at GM about that.
That's a lot different from the attitude people would have with "free" government-funded health care. It's harder to make the connect with the taxes that are paid.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bad Press Is Good Press


Last week, regarding a post about Iran's President Ahmadinejad I wrote that:

One must presume that President Bollinger will invite some Holocaust survivors to debate Ahmadinejad... or would that be using the podium for ideological purposes? Can it be that President Bollinger is so vehemently opposed to U.S. foreign policy that he is now grasping for anyone who represents the opposite of what our policy stands for.
A reader of that post provided, in the comments, a video link to Dr. Bollinger's "introduction" of Ahmadinejad that shows Dr. Bollinger berating the Iranian president. In that regard, Dr. Bollinger acquitted himself on the positive side.

The real issue was providing a so-called educational opportunity for the students to listen to the words of Ahmadinejad and question him. Ahmadinejad is a pathological liar... and a good one. He can sound reasonable and conciliatory while he is plotting to stab you in the back. This forum was perfect for Mr. Ahmadinejad. As the Christian Science Monitor published:
No other town, after all, gives the firebrand bad boy of Western-Islamic relations the platforms, the polemics, and the attention that Iran experts say he craves. These far outstrip, experts add, the authority and influence he actually wields, since Mr. Ahmadinejad does not have the power of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In the limelight, Ahmadinejad has been a man under attack – from the outcry that followed the Iranian leader's proposal earlier this month to lay a wreath at ground zero, to the condemnation that met him at Columbia University Monday, to the scrutiny given his speech at the United Nations Tuesday.

According to specialists in Iranian affairs, he couldn't have asked for more.
So, even though Ahmadinejad may have only convinced a few students of his rightousness [a few is too many], the real damage was to bolster his image as a strong leader who is able to travel into hostile territory and defend his brand of insanity against his adversaries.

Professor Bollinger, was the price of this educational opportunity really worth providing a forum for this petty tyrant? Maybe this was supposed to be an example of Columbia's efforts to promote free speech and investigate controversy. But as the CSM states:
Columbia's invitation to Ahmadinejad only makes sense, Mr. Clawson of the Washington Institute says, if the university has a policy of holding forums with controversial speakers. He and others noted that Jim Gilchrist, head of the anti-illegal-immigration vigilante group the Minuteman Project, was recently told he couldn't appear at a speaking engagement.
Perhaps at Columbia some speech is more free than others.
Regardless, it is difficult to find the positive aspect of Professor Bollinger's pet project.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Strike One


The United Auto Workers have called a strike against GM. That's their right. GM will simply wait for negotiations to resume and progress to be made. That's their right.

The union members will lose significant money during times that are already pretty tough for many. GM will lose some production on cars that are popular now. The union members may be able to recoup their lost income if the strike doesn't go on too long and they can get some overtime to get production caught up to demand. GM may be able to prevent lost retail sales if the strike doesn't go on too long and they can boost production temporarily.
So right now, it's pretty much posturing on both sides.

But the real issue is how the buying public perceives all of this.
I suspect that there are many who will see this as one more example of why American automobile manufacturers and unions are irrelevant for the future American automotive market. Union people will have no love for GM and non-union people will think that union-produced vehicles are over-priced and of poor quality... being made by greedy, lazy workers.
You'd think that both sides could see the writing on the wall by now. Perhaps they are just too close to the wall and writing appears fuzzy.


Monday, September 24, 2007

Amazon Survives Drought


Benny Peiser reports:


Eurekalert, 21 September 2007

Contact: Mari N. Jensen
University of Arizona

Drought-stricken regions of the Amazon forest grew particularly vigorously during the 2005 drought, according to new research.

The counterintuitive finding contradicts a prominent global climate model that predicts the Amazon forest would begin to "brown down" after just a month of drought and eventually collapse as the drought progressed.

"Instead of 'hunkering down' during a drought as you might expect, the forest responded positively to drought, at least in the short term," said study author Scott R. Saleska of The University of Arizona. "It's a very interesting and surprising response."

UA co-author Kamel Didan added, "The forest showed signs of being more productive. That's the big news."

The 2005 drought reached its peak at the start of the Amazon's annual dry season, from July through September. Although the double whammy of the parched conditions might be expected to slow growth of the forest's leafy canopy, for many of the areas hit by drought, the canopy of the undisturbed forest became significantly greener -- indicating increased photosynthetic activity.

Saleska, a UA assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and his colleagues at the UA and at the University of São Paulo in Brazil used data from two NASA satellites to figure out that undisturbed Amazon forest flourished as rainfall levels plummeted.

"No one had looked at the observations that are available from satellites," said Didan, an associate research scientist in the UA's department of soil, water and environmental science. "We took the opportunity of the most recent drought, the 2005 drought, to do so."

"A big chunk of the Amazon forest, the southwest region where the drought was severest, reacted positively," said Didan, a NASA-EOS MODIS associate science team member.

Don't you just hate it when nature isn't politically correct?


Sunday, September 23, 2007

August Weather Summary


Here is the latest summary of conditions around the U.S. in August.

  • Heat records in the southeast
  • Rain records in the central states
  • Heat and cold records in the southwest (was there a "force field" erected between Nevada and Utah?)
Of course, I'm not sure if the data has been "adjusted" or not. But my first-hand experience in Michigan where rain records were supposed to have been set says something is amiss... perhaps one day had an usual amount of rain, as I recall, when a line of summer thunderstorms came through... the rest of the month was quite dry... drier than usual.
The details don't show any records for Michigan even though the map does.
By an large, August in the midwest was just a pleasant month with lots of sun, boating and golf.

Around the world, it looks like it was wetter/drier than usual, but no real heat/cold extremes.

As NOAA editorializes, however:
For summer 2007 (June-August), the average temperature for the continental U.S., based on preliminary data, was 73.8°F (23.2°C), which was 1.7°F (1.0°C) above the 20th century mean and the sixth warmest summer since national records began in 1895.
Is that after Hansen's adjustments? When one looks back at June and July, it is difficult to find anything unusual about the 3-month period... period.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

We Apologize Because You Poisoned Us


Recently, I posted some thoughts about the "relationship" between China and the U.S.

It appears that China's influence is now so great that U.S. companies, using China as a supplier, feel their very existence is threatened, if the exposure of Chinese misconduct in the U.S. press, "offends" the Chinese; to wit:
Mattel apologizes to China

Mattel Inc. tried to save face Friday with Chinese officials, taking the blame for the recent recalls of millions of Chinese-made toys as it strives to mend a strained relationship with the nation that makes most of its toys and fattens its profit.

The world's largest toy maker sent a top executive to personally apologize to China's product safety chief, Li Changjang, as reporters and company lawyers looked on.

"Mattel takes full responsibility for these recalls and apologizes personally to you, the Chinese people, and all of our customers who received the toys," Thomas A. Debrowski, Mattel's executive vice president for worldwide operations, told Li.

The unusual move reflects how invested El Segundo-based Mattel has become in China.

"Mattel certainly must have been facing some pressure to do that, because you can't imagine why they would be trying to push this story along any further," said Eric Johnson, a professor of operations management at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College.

Peter Navarro, a business professor at the University of California, Irvine, and the author of "The Coming China Wars," also suggested Mattel was trying to avoid punitive measures.

"Mattel is worried that the Chinese government is going to make it difficult for them to produce, put their costs up and hurt their stock price," Navarro said.

Mattel did not immediately respond to a call seeking further comment. Mattel ordered three high-profile recalls this summer.

Such are the benefits of dealing with an unethical economic and political competitor. But, hey, China is subsidizing us. Yeah, just like al Qaeda is just offering low-cost demolition services.


Where's Grammar? She Left Town


This headline from The Detroit News caught my attention: "64 snakes found in Wayne basement headed for Kentucky."

I suppose the basement was speeding on I-75 and stopped near Findlay by the Ohio State Police which led to the discovery of the snakes.
The online version had a less ambiguous headline: Home found for 64 poisonous snakes taken from basement.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Michigan One Note


As a resident of the only state in the Union that can claim to be in a recession, I find it quite incredible [but not unexpected] that government special interests are continuing to try to add to the burden of a sinking ship.

  • The governor and her friends don't seem to correlate 7.4% unemployment and record foreclosures with the need to reorganize, restructure, and refrain from "trying to bleed turnips."
  • Housing values have plummeted by nearly 20% in a state where housing values barely kept pace with inflation. That didn't prevent the governor and her friends from making residents pay their property taxes early.
  • Now that more people are out of work or working at jobs that pay much less than the jobs they used to have, the governor and her friends are asking for an increase in the income tax rates.
  • Of course, since gasoline prices have continued to stay around $3.00 per gallon here, the governor and her friends think raising the sales tax from 6% to 7% is a great idea because the sales tax applies to the gasoline purchases of those who must drive to their lower paying jobs.
  • The governor and her friends appear to have given up on the idea of a new service tax, but only time will tell on that. "Cut your grass? That's $10 for me and a 20 cents for the governor and her friends." Don't worry, we'll take it out of your tip.
The philosophy of the governor and her friends that "all perceived needs of special interests must be met by the state regardless of consequences" is driving out businesses and people. This is pretty much the same approach used the Detroit's city government as the first million people left town. Now there is just fighting over scraps.

The governor and her friends have talked about revitalizing the state for the past 5 years... or was it the state government?
The inability of the governor and her friends to face the reality that business-as-usual left the state and government-as-usual must follow, leaves the state in pretty much a sad state.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

European Backlash - Step 8


France, again, is on the forefront of the European backlash against Muslim immigration.

In a new measure expected to pass the French Assembly in 15 days or less, new family arrivals must speak French. Immigrant parents must guarantee their kids will behave. And breadwinners must show earnings of up to 1,600 euros a month. [source]
And this was unexpected?

There is a fine line past which the citizens of a country rise up against "open doors." When "diversity" and "multiculturalism" take on the form of a defacto invasion that quickly erodes the cultural and social character of a county, citizens will demand that their government take action to stop or dramatically reduce immigration.
Which country will emulate France next? The Netherlands? Germany? The U.S.?
What, you haven't been reading blogs? Oh, newspapers will eventually get wind of what is happening.
The only "problem" I have is that I agreed with the French on nuclear energy and now I understand what is motivating their president's actions about immigration [it's tough to admit you agree with the French on anything]. While he will be condemned as a racist or bigot, he recognizes that the longer France allows people who either are not interested in "being French" or having skills beneficial to France, the greater the problems that will occur between the French people and the immigrants. These are problems associated with the economic economic cost of supporting undereducated and jobless immigrants in a country that feels compelled to provide a large social safety net to all comers.

Hence, France is not interested in the tired and poor. They want the vigorous and self-reliant only... those who will improve the economic bounty of the country as opposed to those who will simply feed off it.
The French are struggling with how much of the Golden Goose to share before the Golden Goose is killed... a moral dilemma facing all wealthier nations where certain factions claim that they are "responsible" for the well-being of citizens of poorer nations.
Does that responsibility entitle the wealthier nations to "repair" the problem by eliminating the governments over those people since they must be "irresponsible?"
After all, why just shift the problem to another location?


Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A Perfect Match


Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has described the Holocaust as "a myth" and suggested that Israel be moved to Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska.

Columbia President Bollinger [the University of Michigan's prior Prelate of Education] apparently believes that the students at Columbia need to have a broader education and has invited Ahmadinejad to speak to the students to provide... new perspectives???
This is the same Lee Bollinger who said...
Professors, he said, have a responsibility "to resist the allure of certitude, the temptation to use the podium as an ideological platform, to indoctrinate a captive audience, to play favorites with the like-minded and silence the others."
One must presume that President Bollinger will invite some Holocaust survivors to debate Ahmadinejad... or would that be using the podium for ideological purposes? Can it be that President Bollinger is so vehemently opposed to U.S. foreign policy that he is now grasping for anyone who represents the opposite of what our policy stands for.
Well, he certainly has his man.
I wonder what that large population of Jews who attend Columbia think about this? And what could the alumni be thinking about now?
Maybe Bollinger is looking for a university president positions somewhat east of New York? Middle East of New York?

More Baggy Pants Baggage


My wife often asks why the western governments allow people to "get away with murder" just because they are from "a different culture."

In other words, western governments seem to allow persons of some [minority] ethnic or religious groups more latitude than they would their own citizens from the ethnic or religious majority.
Pat Santy has an interesting perspective on this phenomenon... which is simply a manifestation of a larger issue highlighted in "Westside Story." [hint: Officer Krupke]
They're depraved because we've deprived them.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Revisionist History - Auditing Climate Numbers


Ever since Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit discovered some egregious errors in NASA's historical temperature database, there seems to be a race between NASA to make on-the-fly data history revisions and Climate Audit, along with many well-qualified reader-participants, to unravel the revisions.

Yesterday, there was a post
discussing some changes to the historical data for Detroit Lakes, MN. The noteworthy issue is that the equipment and site have been maintained in a virtually unchanged manner for at least a century. Yet NASA has chosen to lower temperatures at the beginning of the history and raise temperatures at the end as shown in this chart from Steve's post.

Figure 1. Difference between Sep 10, 2007 version of Detroit Lakes MN and Aug 25, 2007 version.
Can it be just a coincidence that this particular, well-managed site now has a built-in upward trend of nearly 0.6° C for the last century?

For those of you who really want to strain your brain trying to figure out the logic? used by NASA to get to their new data sets, feel free to click the link near the top of this post. You probably want to go back awhile because this is only one post among many on the issue.
NASA may not be "cooking the books." Maybe just "warming" them a little.
The scientific community... and the U.S. government... ought to be closely following [and perhaps participating in] the work being done by Steve McIntyre and the blog commentors. There are more than just reputations at risk here. There are enormously expensive economic and environmental policies that may be based on some numbers that border on fraudulent.
NASA may have good statistical and physical reasons [equipment/site changes] to justify their data revisions. But, so far, it appears that NASA is more interested in hiding the reasons than explaining clearly why they were made. Perhaps because the politics of climate science is now more important than actual climate science?
After all, how much money will not be spent if the 0.6° C "global warming" simply hasn't happened?


Federal Reserve Cuts Rates


As expected, the Federal Reserve cut its funds rate to 4.75%.

While this give a psychological boost to Wall Street, the fundamental problems in the housing and credit markets remain. This may help some with adjustable rate mortgages or home equity lines of credit, but the new and used home sales will not miraculously respond with significantly greater activity.
It's the right direction, but as I said previously, I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
Unless the bottom end of the housing chain can purchase homes, the rest of the chain will stay slack... and that will continue to be a major drag on the economy.

Baggy Pants


We must respect all cultures. Yes, we may find some cultures strange and repugnant, but differences are good. We have no right to condemn someone because they have customs that are different from ours. We should be willing to learn and accept those differences.

But no, not in the U.S. Instead, we try to ban cultural artifacts if they don't conform to our narrow, rigid ways of what is deemed acceptable. Over and over, we see headlines such as these:

This person, from a poor sub-culture, is wearing "peddle-pushers" because they can be purchased very cheaply as a result of being out of style in the U.S. Obviously, he cannot afford to purchase them in his size, so they must be worn lower. Exacting criminal penalties for wearing this type of clothing simply adds to the economic desperation of such people.
This focus on where the waistline begins hides the fact that appropriate clothing styles are relative to a person's culture. It is also insensitive to the fact that people in some cultures may not have the money to afford a standard length pair of pants.
Should we demand that old men lower their pants to at least their belly buttons?


It doesn't make sense to exalt one person because he wears his pants too high while condemning another for wearing his pants too low.
You can, of course, laugh at those who are forced to show their tacky underwear in public... as long as you do so discreetly.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Polar Bears


Regionally, the Arctic has shown warming over the past 50 years. It's not the first time and, no doubt, will not be the last.

That is reported as proof of runaway global warming. The polar bears are dying.

That may be true in some locations, while in others they are thriving. Animal populations increase and decrease from a variety of factors including temperature, food availability, and human activity.
Meanwhile, in Antarctica, the regional climate appears to be getting colder.
Could it be that it is simply inconvenient to recognize changes that don't fit the runaway global warming story some want to tell?

Another Global Warming Scare


It seems that runaway global warming may be hazardous to our moral health. The Swedish newspaper giant, the Jokkmokk Times, reports in an exclusive interview with Swedish global warming and social dynamics expert, Götten Hötter, that,

"Global warming presents a very real threat to our social and moral fabric. I have been tracking incidents of aberrant behavior among women that closely correlate to temperature increases. At present, this morally repugnant behavior is limited to removal of all clothing above the waist while at public beaches. While presently associated with areas such as Brazil and Spain... maybe France... I have no doubt that as temperatures reach sub-tropical conditions in northern Europe that this behavior will become commonplace and spread well beyond beaches."
Thank you, Dr. Hötter, for the advanced warning.

Those of you who are driving SUVs are responsible for this.


Shame on you! Tsk, tsk.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Safety For Just Ten Percent More


There has been a lot of concern about the quality of Chinese products [and I have shared that concern for a long time].

I learned long ago while working in the automotive industry that sources of cheap components... really cheap components... came at the price of safety. Why? Because these products were "reverse engineered" by people who had little knowledge of engineering. The were simply visual copies of a well-engineered product. When subjected to real-life conditions, these visual copies quickly failed at the first occurrence of stress.
Now that American companies, such as Mattel, source their products to China, they provide that country's manufacturing facilities with designs and specifications so that they don't end up with visual copies of what they originally intended.
But old habits apparently die hard. Why bother with American specifications when the products can look like they were intended to look? A little lead paint here, a little adhesive left out there, some poisonous filler instead of the intended ingredient throughout... keep the costs down and everyone gets wealthy. What's the harm?
Now the Detroit News runs the headline: Safety measures may hike toy prices up to 10 percent in '08.
You mean we'll have to pay for what we normally get when products are made in the U.S.?
Revelation 1:1
You mean that we can't simply trust the Chinese to do the right thing?
Revelation 1:2

Looks like the U.S. companies may have to send over some product and safety engineers to do item-by-item inspections as the look-alikes come off the production line. After all, many of the shoddy products were produced after the Chinese got approval with samples that met specifications.

I refer you to this.


Friday, September 14, 2007

43 mpg


Accord to the Detroit Free Press:

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. auto industry suffered a major legal setback Wednesday when a federal judge in Vermont rejected its attempt to block states from setting tough new fuel economy rules, saying the industry failed to show the rules were illegal, unsafe or unattainable.

Environmental groups hailed the ruling as a historic victory, saying it decimated the industry's arguments in Congress against higher federal fuel economy standards and would pressure the Bush administration to let California and 14 other states put the rules into effect.

Given that the states involved account for more than half of all new vehicles sold, the laws could become a de facto national standard if they stand. The rules would require automakers to meet by 2016 an average fuel economy of about 43 miles per gallon in vehicles that weigh less than 3,750 pounds and an average of about 26 m.p.g. in heavier vehicles -- higher targets than in any of the fuel economy bills under debate in Congress.
After some thought, I think this is a great legal decision. Think about it. The Federal Government is giving back States Rights.
It really doesn't matter if the states are right about what they want to legislate as much as it matters that they be given the green light to do what they want and ignore what the pols in Washington dictate.
This sets a precedent for other legislation; drugs, sex, marriage, taxes... Federal law means nothing! If Montana doesn't like fully automatic gun sales restrictions, it simply overrides those laws with its own. If California wants to grant citizenship to anyone who arrives, they are in like Flynn. If Vermont wants all cars to run on hydrogen gas, pass a law. If New Jersey wants all electricity from coal fired plants banned, then pass a law!

The point is that what Washington wants becomes moot. States are now free to create their own market chaos. Only pink paint made from certified organic fair trade compounds can be sold in Massachusetts!
And here's one extra good point: the states that choose to be less intrusive into the market choices of their residents will benefit greatly because people from states who pass stupid laws will have to go to states that don't pass those stupid laws if those people want to exercise their market choices. Want a large car or SUV? Come to Michigan to buy it because you won't get it in California or Vermont.
What a way to fix excessive legislation: let the states that exercise their stupidity enjoy the rewards of their stupidity... less choice and more cost... starting with fleets of two-passenger sub-sub-compact cars.
Better not have more than one kid to take to school.
Hey, there are ways around everything.


Yup, at least 43 mpg.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

GIGO Again


Three months ago, I posted "Global Warming GIGO" which told about a small, grass-roots effort that was seeking to determine the state of the weather stations used to gather temperature data for NOAA that has been a significant part of the basis for the claim of global warming.

Now, an initial report of 33% of those stations has been published by Anthony Watts that shows the following:

The CRN site rating system is described here:

"Climate Reference Network Rating Guide - Class 1 and 2 are considered best, 5 is the worst.

Class 1 - Flat and horizontal ground surrounded by a clear surface with a slope below 1/3 (<19deg).>3 degrees.

Class 2 - Same as Class 1 with the following differences. Surrounding Vegetation <25>5deg.

Class 3 (error 1C) - Same as Class 2, except no artificial heating sources within 10 meters.

Class 4 (error >= 2C) - Artificial heating sources <10>

Class 5 (error >= 5C) - Temperature sensor located next to/above an artificial heating source, such a building, roof top, parking lot, or concrete surface."

Fully 70% of the sites surveyed have Class 4 and Class 5 site location problems that cause significant overstatement of temperatures.
Who would have thought that global warming was caused by artificial heating sources?

As the old saying goes, Garbage In; Garbage Out.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why China Subsidizes Us


Along with the problems in the housing market, the latest employment statistics unnerved Wall Street on Friday. While the financial markets bounce around, the downward trend for housing and employment may continue and worsen for awhile.

Some will see an employment downturn as a result of shipping off jobs to China. Maybe; maybe not. But let's talk about trade with China and, perhaps, a Chinese hidden agenda.
Many claim that China is "subsidizing" the U.S. by selling goods to us that are far cheaper than we could produce domestically.
That may be from a purely economic perspective, but one must ask the basic question: why is China being so altruistic toward an ideological competitor?
Before we look at that, perhaps an historical perspective is helpful. This is a chart showing the major employment sectors in the U.S. over time:


The U.S. has moved from a producing [farming, manufacturing] to a consuming [services] employment economy.
One must recognize the impact of efficiency. While fewer people are employed in farming than ever before, technology has increased efficiency so dramatically that more food than ever is being produced by fewer people than ever. Likewise, manufacturing is dramatically more efficient than ever before. Simply put, fewer people are needed for manufacturing.
So the employment opportunities are focused on continued improvement of efficiency or raising the quality of life.

But that doesn't answer the question about why China is being so altruistic about "subsidizing" the U.S. with cheap goods.
First of all, China is struggling to get to the point the U.S. was in 1950-1960. An enormous portion of its 1.3 billion population is still in agriculture... "dirt poor" as it were. Increasing manufacturing is its next step to wealth. Even so, the absolute output of China's manufacturing is amazing considering where it was two decades ago.
Then is increasing the living standard of its people the reason that China is "subsidizing" the U.S.?
In order to believe that, one must believe that China has converted to a market economy from a centrally-controlled economy so that it can create opportunities for wealth for its population. Evidence indicates that may be the case... in some part. There are an increasing number of millionaires and billionaires in China.
Does that also mean that China's power elite have converted from a Marxist philosophy to a capitalist philosophy?
I'm not convinced that is the case. Capitalism and central government management of the economy are not necessarily compatible. But limited capitalism may be a tool to be employed by a power elite... especially when the labor used to power the limited capitalism is powerless to demand anything. Some might argue that China's policies might be closer to mercantilism. Regardless, rather than accumulating gold and silver, classic mercantilism, the Chinese are accumulating the world's currency... U.S. dollars. The nation is gaining wealth, but not necessarily the whole population.
What this means is that "China" is not subsidizing the U.S.. Rather it is the Chinese laborers who are subsidizing the U.S. in order to build U.S. dependency on Chinese manufacturing... in order to build wealth for the Chinese government.

But are not many Chinese citizens becoming very wealthy?
Yes, within the constrains of the government control. Party leaders also are becoming more economically powerful as the government itself raises vast amounts of U.S. currency reserves.
So, increasing wealth is the Chinese end game?
I think not. Wealth is a means to an end.
What might that end be?
Power and influence.
For example?
  • Money to buy influence among U.S. politicians
  • Money to buy influence among U.S. corporations
  • Money to obtain technology for military upgrading
  • Money to create modern military products using the technology obtained by influencing U.S. politicians and corporations
  • Money to expand its upgraded military
  • Money to provide weapons "aid" to potential allies willing to act as proxies against the U.S. and, possibly, Russia so that China becomes the dominate military influence in Asia and Africa.
I believe that the Chinese government's goal is to be the dominant nation in the world by the end of the 21st century... economically and militarily... so that it will have priority access to the rest of the world's resources.
China's government is not "communist" in that it is not a "people's government." It is a feudal government of powerful elite, wealthy families that maintain the facade of a "people's government." It's strategy is to dole out just enough of the increasing wealth to placate its population without ceding any power.
So why is China "subsidizing" the U.S.?
Perhaps they are taking some pages out of the book from this man.
Wealth is but a means to an end. The U.S. might want to ask, "The end of what?"

[click on picture to enlarge]

I know, I'm just another one of those conspiracy nuts.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Forming A Federal Government


It has been 4 years since the U.S. destroyed the existing government of Iraq and attempted to create a nation based on a federation of disparate interests.

Although there has been a government formed under the protection of the U.S., there has been continued fighting among the various interests as well as foreign interests attempting to disrupt the process of creating a stable and independent Iraq.

Consequently, many Americans are saying that it is time to leave and let the chips fall where they may. Four years is a long time and if a stable government representing all of the interests can't be formed in that time, then perhaps it is simply not destined to happen.

To those people, I would like to mention two dates in history: September 17, 1787 and September 11, 2001.
According to my calculations, the first date was 11 years after independence from Britain was declared. It took some time to finish the fighting and bring the various interests of the states together to complete and sign a Constitution.
What would this part of the world look like if everyone had decided that 4 years was enough back then?
We tend to forget that new nations, like new children, take time and protection to mature... especially if someone is trying to kill them.
It has been 6 years since the World Trade Center was destroyed. A replacement has been planned... but not even started. Was 4 years too long?
The distinction is pretty thin between impatience and short-sightedness.


Federal Reserve Watching


There is considerable speculation that the Federal Reserve will lower its funds rate [currently at 5.25%] by one-quarter to one-half of a percentage point. I'm thinking 4.00% is a good target for stabilizing healthy growth and restricting inflation... but I'm not holding my breath.

Given the present slowdown in key housing and jobs statistics, plus the level of foreclosures nationwide, the media are claiming it is a "foregone conclusion" that the Fed will now recognize that the eel has slipped through its fingers.

In its zeal to protect the banking system against inflation, the Fed was willing to overlook the growing structural cracks in the U.S. economy. Now it has to recognize that in many areas, deflation has struck housing values and probably income levels. It's like driving with your brakes on all of the time. Sooner or later you grind to a halt or simply crash.
No, the economy is not crashing. But sectors of the economy are... and they will adversely affect the overall economy for awhile.
Interestingly, recent economic statistics have been adjusted downward. When the government reports many of its economic data, the actual numbers are converted to seasonally adjusted annual rates [SAAR]. That means that if August is historically 5% lower than an average month, the August actual numbers are multiplied by 12 [annualized] and then increased by 5% for the normal monthly variation [this is the simplified version].

However, there is a trend that must be recognized in the statistics. If the trend is downward, then the SAAR is adjusted as well. So what was reported as a higher number early may be adjusted downward [or upward] depending on the statistical trend. This adjustment can go back many months.

That's why you and I might recognize a problem long before government statistics do.
Saturday night, I was listening to talk radio while driving home. The host was having a real hissy fit about Ben Bernanke being a "rookie" and making bad decisions about the funds rate.
I have been critical of the Federal Reserve actions for some time now [do a simple blog search on "Federal Reserve"], but one needs to realize that the statistical process by which the Fed gets economic data is always subject to revision.
That doesn't mean that the Fed was correct in raising the funds rate to 5.25%... it wasn't. It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.

The Fed caused the housing mess by making money too cheap and then caused the housing crash by making money too expensive. But one has to wonder how the Fed really uses the information it has available... and why. The whipsaw effect of Fed actions has to make one wonder.
You might expect the Fed to try to correct the situation, but don't hold your breath either.


Monday, September 10, 2007

Comments Regarding Gen. Patraeus


It is now 1:23 pm EDT and General Patraeus is about to make his comments about the situation in Iraq to Congress.

The politicians have already completed their remarks and the news media have already analyzed the general's comments.
Isn't time travel wonderful?


I've been watching the presentation from and questions to Gen. Patraeus and Amb. Crocker and most of the exchanges have been reasonable and polite... with two notable exceptions: Congressman Brad Sherman from California all but called the general a liar and used every snarky and sneaky approach to try to put words into the general's mouth.
For example, the illustrious congressman asked the general how he would choose between directives of Congress and orders from the president if they conflicted. The general politely answered that he probably would have to consult his lawyer [before telling Congress that his commander is the President?]. The congressperson then said that the general was saying he would disobey a direct order???
Sorry, Congressman Sherman, but you fit the description of a "perfect asshole." Congressman Robert Wexler is a close second.

The Democrats are going to lose the next election as a result of their performance today. The only thing they lacked were the pink outfits.


Normal Weather or Global Warming


Regional climates vary significantly and the weather patterns affecting the regional climates also vary significantly. For example, there is nothing in the weather database to indicate that the Great Lakes basin is any warmer now than the first half of last century.

It is difficult for the average person to discern what is normal variation from what is change. Sometimes, it is difficult for newspapers to discern that as well... or perhaps it is convenient to not make a distinction... or perhaps it is convenient to simply ignore the facts.
To wit: the Detroit Free Press reported...
August 27, 2007 •• 1177 words •• ID: dfp0000471169
Scientists who for decades have studied the delicate prey-predator balance between moose and wolves on Lake Superior's Isle Royale believe global warming - by giving an assist to blood-sucking bugs - ultimately could deal a deathblow to the national park's wolf population. Since 2002, the number of moose on the island has declined from 1,100 to 385, following a dramatic increase in winter ticks. The insects infest the moose, suck their blood and weaken them, making them....
I responded with this letter to them:
Your headline suggesting global warming may be to blame for changes in the the dynamics among moose, wolves, and ticks doesn't appear to be supported by the temperature history.

Since Isle Royale doesn't have a long record, I looked at Duluth, MN which is about 150 miles southwest. The monthly history of temperature clearly shows that the high record temperatures were not set recently. In fact, the most recent high temperature record was set in September, 1976. [source: The Weather Channel]

While such recording may sell newspapers, it certainly doesn't provide readers with an accurate account of the weather for that particular location... or a reasonable explanation for the underlying cause of changes in animal populations.

Bruce Hall

Month Avg.
Mean Avg.
Jan 18°F -1°F 8°F 1.12 in. 55°F (1942) -52°F (1899)
Feb 25°F 5°F 15°F 0.83 in. 58°F (1895) -39°F (1996)
Mar 34°F 16°F 25°F 1.69 in. 81°F (1946) -29°F (1989)
Apr 49°F 29°F 39°F 2.09 in. 88°F (1952) -5°F (1975)
May 63°F 40°F 52°F 2.95 in. 95°F (1939) 16°F (1907)
Jun 71°F 49°F 60°F 4.25 in. 97°F (1910) 27°F (1972)
Jul 76°F 55°F 65°F 4.20 in. 106°F (1936) 35°F (1988)
Aug 74°F 54°F 64°F 4.22 in. 97°F (1930) 32°F (1986)
Sep 65°F 45°F 55°F 4.13 in. 95°F (1976) 23°F (1974)
Oct 52°F 35°F 44°F 2.46 in. 86°F (1953) 6°F (1917)
Nov 35°F 21°F 28°F 2.12 in. 73°F (1903) -29°F (1875)
Dec 22°F 6°F 14°F 0.94 in. 56°F (1939) -35°F (1917)
Naturally, I never even received an acknowledgment of the letter.

I noticed my coffee seemed hotter than usual this morning. Must be global warming....


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CO2 Cap and Trade

There is always an easy solution to every human problem—neat, plausible, and wrong.
Henry Louis Mencken (1880–1956)
“The Divine Afflatus,” A Mencken Chrestomathy, chapter 25, p. 443 (1949)
... and one could add "not all human problems really are."
It was beautiful and simple, as truly great swindles are.
- O. Henry
... The Government is on course for an embarrassing showdown with the European Union, business groups and environmental charities after refusing to guarantee that billions of pounds of revenue it stands to earn from carbon-permit trading will be spent on combating climate change.
The Independent (UK)

Tracking Interest Rates

Tracking Interest Rates


SEARCH BLOG: FEDERAL RESERVE for full versions... or use the Blog Archive pulldown menu.

February 3, 2006
Go back to 1999-2000 and see what the Fed did. They are following the same pattern for 2005-06. If it ain't broke, the Fed will fix it... and good!
August 29, 2006 The Federal Reserve always acts on old information... and is the only cause of U.S. recessions.
December 5, 2006 Last spring I wrote about what I saw to be a sharp downturn in the economy in the "rustbelt" states, particularly Michigan.
March 28, 2007
The Federal Reserve sees no need to cut interest rates in the light of adverse recent economic data, Ben Bernanke said on Wednesday.
The Fed chairman said ”to date, the incoming data have supported the view that the current stance of policy is likely to foster sustainable economic growth and a gradual ebbing in core inflation”.

July 21, 2007 My guess is that if there is an interest rate change, a cut is more likely than an increase. The key variables to be watching at this point are real estate prices and the inventory of unsold homes.
August 11, 2007 I suspect that within 6 months the Federal Reserve will be forced to lower interest rates before housing becomes a black hole.
September 11, 2007 It only means that the overall process has flaws guaranteeing it will be slow in responding to changes in the economy... and tend to over-react as a result.
September 18, 2007 I think a 4% rate is really what is needed to turn the economy back on the right course. The rate may not get there, but more cuts will be needed with employment rates down and foreclosure rates up.
October 25, 2007 How long will it be before I will be able to write: "The Federal Reserve lowered its lending rate to 4% in response to the collapse of the U.S. housing market and massive numbers of foreclosures that threaten the banking and mortgage sectors."
"Should the elevated turbulence persist, it would increase the possibility of further tightening in financial conditions for households and businesses," he said.

"Uncertainties about the economic outlook are unusually high right now," he said. "These uncertainties require flexible and pragmatic policymaking -- nimble is the adjective I used a few weeks ago."

December 11, 2007 Somehow the Fed misses the obvious.
[Image from:]
December 13, 2007 [from The Christian Science Monitor]
"The odds of a recession are now above 50 percent," says Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's "We are right on the edge of a recession in part because of the Fed's reluctance to reduce interest rates more aggressively." [see my comments of September 11]
January 7, 2008 The real problem now is that consumers can't rescue the economy and manufacturing, which is already weakening, will continue to weaken. We've gutted the forces that could avoid a downturn. The question is not whether there will be a recession, but can it be dampened sufficiently so that it is very short.
January 11, 2008 This is death by a thousand cuts.
January 13, 2008 [N.Y. Times]
“The question is not whether we will have a recession, but how deep and prolonged it will be,” said David Rosenberg, the chief North American economist at Merrill Lynch. “Even if the Fed’s moves are going to work, it will not show up until the later part of 2008 or 2009.
January 17, 2008 A few days ago, Anna Schwartz, nonagenarian economist, implicated the Federal Reserve as the cause of the present lending crisis [from the Telegraph - UK]:
The high priestess of US monetarism - a revered figure at the Fed - says the central bank is itself the chief cause of the credit bubble, and now seems stunned as the consequences of its own actions engulf the financial system. "The new group at the Fed is not equal to the problem that faces it," she says, daring to utter a thought that fellow critics mostly utter sotto voce.
January 22, 2008 The cut has become infected and a limb is in danger. Ben Bernanke is panicking and the Fed has its emergency triage team cutting rates... this time by 3/4%. ...

What should the Federal Reserve do now? Step back... and don't be so anxious to raise rates at the first sign of economic improvement.
Individuals and businesses need stability in their financial cost structures so that they can plan effectively and keep their ships afloat. Wildly fluctuating rates... regardless of what the absolute levels are... create problems. Either too much spending or too much fear. It's just not that difficult to comprehend. Why has it been so difficult for the Fed?

About Me

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Michigan, United States
Air Force (SAC) captain 1968-72. Retired after 35 years of business and logistical planning, including running a small business. Two sons with advanced degrees; one with a business and pre-law degree. Beautiful wife who has put up with me for 4 decades. Education: B.A. (Sociology major; minors in philosopy, English literature, and German) M.S. Operations Management (like a mixture of an MBA with logistical planning)