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Jul 30, 2009

Plants Make Natural Pesticides

07/29/09 - Via M.D.O.D by 911Doc

Organic foods are not more nutritious than conventional foods, but what about the pesticide residues?

Study Finds Organic Food Is Not Healthier
07/29/09 - Reuters by Ben Hirschler

[edited] A review of 162 scientific papers published in the last 50 years finds no significant difference in nutritional or health benefits between organic and ordinary food.

Alan Dangour: "A small number of differences in nutrient content were found between organic and conventional food, but these are unlikely to be of any public health relevance. There is no evidence to prefer organic over conventional foods based on nutrition."

Plants Produce Natural Pesticides
5/24/1989 - FortFreedom - Paper by Bruce N. Ames, Chairman of Biochemistry at U.California Berkeley

[edited] The bad news is that our plant foods contain carcinogens, natural pesticides that cause cancer in rats. Examples are basil, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, fennel, grapefruit, mushroom, mustard, orange, parsley, parsnips, pepper, pineapple, and raspberry.

These chemicals are present at levels ranging from 70 ppb (parts per billion) to 4 parts per thousand. These levels are enormously higher than the amounts of man-made pesticide residues in plant foods.

The good news is that the risk of cancer is negligible at levels far below the maximum tolerated dose given to rats. I am not even very concerned about the risk from allyl isothiocyanate, a natural carcinogen present in cabbage at 40,000 ppb and in brown mustard at 900,000 ppb. Most leading scientists and I are very skeptical about making worst-case, low-dose extrapolations from high-dose animal tests.

Here is an example of a low-dose extrapolation. We might observe that 95% of adults will be legally drunk after drinking 6 beers in an hour, 12 ounces each. We might extrapolate that 1.3% (1/72nd) of those people will be drunk after drinking one ounce of beer.

10 Poisonous Foods We Eat Every Day
03/28/2011 - Foodista

[edited] These fruits, vegetables, and beans contain chemicals that are toxic to humans and animals. Often the fruit is perfectly safe, but beware of the leaves and seeds. Be careful of that apple-a-day. Just a few undercooked red kidney beans will send you to the hospital.

Lima Beans, Yuca (Cassava/Manioc Root), Nutmeg, Kidney Beans, some types of Almonds, Tomatoes, Cherries, Apricots, Peaches, Plums, Rhubarb, green Potatoes, and Apple seeds.

Organic Pesticides Fail EU Safety Review
03/30/09 - OpenMarket by Greg Conko

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has rejected 13 of 27 commonly used "organic" pesticides. That organic carrot doesn't look as good any more.

Some of the organic pesticides might be dangerous, so it is reasonable to test them. But as above, the risks from pesticides are probably highly exaggerated.

Synthetic vs Natural Pesticides
06/06/2007 - NYTimes By John Tierney

[edited] About 99.9% of the chemicals humans eat are natural. The amount of synthetic pesticide residues are insignificant compared to the natural pesticides produced by the plants. 99.99% of dietary pesticides are natural. Plants produce these chemicals to defend themselves against fungi, insects, and other animal predators.

Average Americans eat 5,000 to 10,000 natural pesticides and their breakdown products. Each eats 1,500 mg (1/3 teaspoon) of natural pesticides each day, about 10,000 times more than the 0.09 mg of synthetic pesticide residues.

Natural pesticides make up 99.99% of the pesticides in our diet, and synthetic pesticides are the remaining .01%. These pesticides are equally likely to be cancer-causing, but it does not follow that they are causing human cancer.

Dr. Bruce Ames and Dr. Lois Swirsky Gold believe most of these natural or synthetic pesticides don’t present problems because the exposures are very low compared to the high doses given to rodents in lab tests.

Dr. Ames: "Everything you eat in the supermarket is chock full of carcinogens, but most cancers are not due to parts per billion of pesticides. They’re due to causes like smoking, bad diets, and obesity."

Dietary Pesticides are 99.99% All Natural
07/19/1990 - At JStor - by by Bruce N. Ames, Margie Profet and Lois Swirsky Gold

[edited] We examined the toxicological significance of exposure to synthetic chemicals compared to naturally occurring chemicals. 99.99% by weight of the pesticides in the American diet are produced within plants to defend themselves. Only 52 natural pesticides have been tested in high-dose animal cancer tests; about half (27) are rodent carcinogens present in many common foods.

We conclude that natural and synthetic chemicals are equally likely to be carcinogenic in animal tests. We also conclude that the comparative hazards of synthetic pesticide residues are insignificant at the low doses of typical human exposures.

Jul 27, 2009

Racist Eyes

Public controversy surrounds Lucia Whalen, who called 911 to report that two men were breaking into the home next door, of Henry Louis Gates. We now know that Gates was one of them; his door was jammed.

Our society is now so politically correct that 911 calls to the police must be carefully crafted to avoid needing a lawyer. Lucia Whalen has indeed hired a lawyer to defend her good name in the press.

She is defended by the observation that she didn't identify the race of the men, so she certainly wasn't racist in phoning in the report. Critics blame her for saying that one of the men might be Hispanic, after being asked by the 911 operator.

Is there no difference between these situations?

  1. A report that an Asian man is breaking into a house.

    - It is an important identifying factor. The whole point is what the suspect looks like. That is not racism.

  2. Saying that the next applicant is the Asian man in the waiting room.

    - Not politically correct, but not important either. Again, just identification, not a racial insult.

  3. Writing ASIAN at the top of a resume received for a job application.

    - Definitely racist. We hope the company is concerned with skills rather than looks. Unfortunatly, this is now more common in organizations trying to balance their racial composition rather than trying to exclude applicants by race.

Harry Reid and Trent Lott, A specious comparison
01/10/10 - Powerline Blog by Paul Mirengoff

Senator Harry Reid is the Democratic Majority Leader. He made a comment in 2008 about the election potential of then candidate Barack Obama. Reid said privately that Obama was electable because he was "light-skinned" and with "no Negro dialect unless he wants to have one".

Paul Mirengoff:

[edited]: Reid was not discussing who should be elected president, only if Obama could be. His view was that Obama's race would not hurt him with voters who might be biased against a black man, because Obama is light-skinned and able to talk white, as they say.

Reid may be incorrect, but it is not improper to assess how others might vote. It isn't racist to believe that skin color and speech patterns would help to differentiate Obama from prior unsuccessful candidates like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.

But, many want to find Reid's remarks highly offensive:

  • Conservatives and Republicans want to criticize Reid.
  • Blacks and hard-leftists want control over any discussion about race.
  • Ordinary liberals need to stay on the good side of blacks. It is more convenient to condemn Reid's statement, and forgive the man, than to violate political correctness.

I have no sympathy for Harry Reid, but I hate to see the liberal speech police have their way, and I dislike seeing conservatives taking the lead in the process.

The public discussion shows a basic confusion between analysis and belief, between what we observe and wild inferences about why we observe it. This confusion makes it impossible to talk about race and the effects of race in society.

Reid is criticized for saying "Negro dialect". "Negro" is a term that is now out of fashion and associated with bigots of the 1960's. At that time it was the common term for a black person. Some suspect that Reid is a secret bigot for using a word associated with bigots. He isn't modern enough to have shifted his word choice to "black".

If we want to escape political correctness and have reasonable discussions, then we can't do a poetic analysis of every word and phrase. Let people use the words they want. If they aren't directly insulting you or using an obviously demeaning term, their word choice is not a racist act. Look for the meaning, not the individual words, grammar, and spelling.

Jul 26, 2009

Not Just Words

Obama famously said that his speeches were "not just words", that words were powerful and determined a nation’s path.

Unfortunately, Obama thinks that taxes, finance, productivity, unemployment, and income are just numbers.

A Few Words About Policy

President Obama recently held a prime-time press conference to present his desire to reform healthcare in the U.S. He suggested passing the bill in Congress, and asked for questions. He talked for about an hour and answered about 12 questions.

There has been a flurry of activity discussing what he said, whether there was any new detail, and criticizing some of his examples and facts. This told us very little about what is proposed in this sweeping grant of power to the government.

The press and the country are entirely wrong about what press conferences are good for.

Policy On Paper

Obama should have already released a detailed "white paper" describing his summary and justification for his health care proposals. (And such a paper for his other policy recommendations.) We need proposed results, methods, justifications, comparative studies, past successes, funding sources, the works.

Laws are not written as a random collection of thoughts, although they often look that way. They start with policies and reasons on paper. Legislator's staffs follow those policies when creating the details in these 1000 page bills. The white papers must exist, but they are not being presented to the public.

We should examine, verify, and criticize the policy documents, and then compare these to the details in the bills. Starting with the bills is like trying to approve a new building by looking only at the blueprints, without the purpose, graphics, and site requirements.

This is the United States Government, of, for, and by the People. The public cannot participate in a government that runs on policies that are hidden. The press and public should be able to review these undelivered documents. The government should be proud to display its carefully researched and supported policies. We deserve this as a free people.

The absence of these policy papers is appalling. Instead of open and proud policy, we have closed, imperial government. Sadly, we are controlled by a tyranny if our government sees no reason to explain and justify its actions. Are they ashamed or afraid of what they propose?

Be Informed

A press conference is supposed to question the President on his knowledge of the policy already presented in detailed, written form. The press conference is for the President to announce and defend the policy. It is to reassure the public that he knows about what he is proposing.

Instead, we have a few questions and vague speeches about what we would all like in a perfect world, and about the power and money that Obama wants ahead of time to work on it.

It is a magician's trick, to treat press conferences as if they could communicate the needed information, for either support or criticism.

We must ask our government for the important things. Among them is always a clear explanation of what the law will be, and why. If we ask and are not answered, then the responsible politicians must be voted out.

Jul 24, 2009

Minimum Wage Prosperity

Suddenly, McJobs are Good (Link is stale)
07/24/09 - Blogs.DailyMail by DonSurber

[edited] Labor union officials and their handmaidens in Congress, including former congresswoman Solis, derided any increase in employment under a Republican president, calling them "McJobs". They derided them, even if they were above minimum wage, because new jobs do not pay as much as old jobs.

Now that Obanomics has turned a mild recession of 7.6% unemployment into 9.5% unemployment, in just 4 months, we have Solis praising a 70 cents an hour increase in the minimum wage as an economic stimulus.

Solis says that raising the minimum wage to $7.25/hour is going to help the economy and increase employment. I hope she doesn't mean it will help the economy while decreasing employment. Or, hurt the economy while increasing employment.

Where are the studies and information about the ideal minimum wage? Maybe the sky is the limit. Why not set the minimum wage at $50/hour? That would send funds to poor people while lifting the economy, right? (sarcasm)

The minimum wage is just another way of saying: "Fire that person unless you can pay them $7.25 per hour. We would rather that they be out of work, than work for less than we think is polite."

The government cannot help people by restricting their choices.

- -
A Minimum Wage Equals Minimum Jobs
07/30/09 - Reason.com by John Stossel

[edited] Politicians declare that workers should get a raise, and people assume they will actually get it. But, government can increase wages by decree only if employers set wages arbitrarily. You have to believe that employers are arbitrarily stingy.

Say an employee produces $4 of value each hour after all business expenses, and the employer offers just $2. Another employer will hire him away for $3 or more. Competition drives wages up to the the worker's level of productivity.

Several years ago, Santa Monica, CA made the town a workers' paradise by requiring everyone to be paid at least $12.25 an hour. Restaurant owner Jeff King complained to me, that the law would "dry up the entry-level jobs for just the people they're trying to help."

He was right. It's why gas stations no longer hire teenagers to wash your windshield. Wage minimums tell employers: "Don't give a beginner a chance." The people of Santa Monica later woke up and overturned the "living wage."

If minimum-wage advocates really believe wages are set arbitrarily, why do they favor only a $7.50 or $14 minimum? Why not $100? At those levels, even a diehard interventionist knows that workers would be hurt. But, the principle is the same at lower levels. Wages follow productivity, not whim. If the minimum wage is set above productivity, those workers will be harmed.

- -
The Minimum Wage Explains Some Job Losses
03/13/11 - EconLog by David Henderson

Tyler Cohen [edited]:  Many workers are paid very close to what they produce. Their productivity may even be lower than the cost of training, employing, and insuring them. Firing these employees is tough for the workers, and maybe bad for society at large, but it doesn't much reduce profits. It's a cold, hard reality.

Why can't unemployed workers find new jobs for less pay, especially now that business is recovering?

David Henderson [edited]:  The explanation is the minimum wage. On July 24, 2009, it increased by $.70 to $7.25 an hour. The real increase was about 12% when adjusted for inflation.

A 10% increase in the minimum wage causes a 1-3% drop in the number of jobs held by people age 16 to 24 ("youths"). A 12% increase (as above) would cause job losses of 190,000 to 570,000 among 16 million youths. That is from the increase. The previous minimum certainly kept many others from being employed.

If your productivity is low, or the costs of training you are high, then you won't be able to find a job at the minimum wage. This is true even if you know inside yourself that you could learn a job and become productive in a short time.

The government allows you to get training by paying a school for six months, while you may earn nothing. But, it will not allow a business to "exploit" you by paying you a small wage while you get practical training on the job for six months.

- -
Low Skilled Workers Are Not Helped
07/26/09 - Cafe Hayek by economist Don Boudreaux

[edited] Uncle Sam has hiked the minimum wage, raising the hourly cost of employing low-skilled workers by 10.7%. This is always unwise, and more so when unemployment is rising.

Say that Uncle Sam passed a minimum-salary statute for economists, requiring that every employed economist be paid at least $300,000 annually. I would, of course, love to earn this much by teaching economics. My more accomplished colleagues would benefit, such as Tyler Cowen and Walter Williams. But, I would lose my job.

- -
Using the Minimum Wage to Hamper Your Rivals
07/24/09 - Econlog.Econlib by David Henderson

[edited] Forty years ago, politicians who pushed for the increased minimum wage did not hide their motives or their knowledge of who the victims would be.

In a 1957 Senate hearing, Senator (and future President) John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts said:

Having on the market a rather large source of cheap labor depresses wages outside of that group, the wages of the white worker who has to compete.

When an employer can substitute a colored worker at a lower wage, it affects the whole wage structure of an area, doesn't it? There are, as you pointed out, hundreds of thousands of colored workers looking for decent work.

- -
Increases in the Minimum Wage Kill Job Creation
06/15/10 - HotAir by Ed Morrissey

[edited]  The Center for Freedom and Prosperity offers this 4:25 video about the destructive results of the minimum wage.

Democrats increased the minimum wage in steps from $5.15 to $7.25 per hour. They claimed to be helping the young and poor.

The minimum wage did no direct harm when it was less than the usual wage for entry-level jobs. When the minimum wage rose above that wage, employers stopped offering those entry level jobs.

- -
Exploiting the Minimum Wage
07/24/09 - Open Market by Ryan Young

[edited] Young people with little or no work experience may not be able to offer $7.25 per hour worth of productivity. No wonder so many of them are having trouble finding summer jobs. The law says that they have to be paid more than they are worth [if they are hired]. Wage floors reduce the number of jobs.

- -
Raising Rival's Costs
7/24/09 - Marginal Revolution by Alex Tabarrok

[edited] Some employers benefit from an increase in the minimum wage because it raises the cost of labor for their rivals. This is why unions have typically been in favor of the minimum wage even when their own workers make much more than the minimum.

Jul 20, 2009

Borrowing Costs Per Legislator

Consider borrowing $1 billion. This costs $40 million/year at 4%.

There are 535 congressmen and senators. That is $75,000 each per year, without paying back any of the principal loan.

This year, the US is borrowing about $2 trillion. The cost of this is $150 million per federal legislator, per year.

Let's just pay the legislators a few million more per year in salary, if they will stop borrowing money.

Jul 17, 2009

Regulations are Too Complex and Dangerous

A Crisis Of Politics, Not Economics:
Complexity, Ignorance, And Policy Failure

07/16/09 - Critical Review by Jeffrey Friedman (PDF)
(Via Cafe Hayek)

The abstract summary seems right to me. Edited.

  • The financial crisis was caused by the complex, constantly growing web of regulations designed to constrain and redirect modern capitalism.
  • This complexity made investors, bankers, and perhaps regulators themselves ignorant of regulations previously promulgated across decades and in different “fields” of regulation.
  • These regulations interacted with each other to foster the issuance and securitization of subprime mortgages; their rating as AA or AAA; and their concentration on and off the balance sheets of many commercial and investment banks.
  • As a practical matter, it was impossible to predict the disastrous outcome of these interacting regulations.
  • Government has attempted for 100 years to create a hybrid capitalism in which regulations are supposed to remedy economic problems as they arise. This may be impossible to do in practice due to complexity.

Motto of government: Let's have 50 more regulations and see what happens.

I see the government as falsly advertising that they have produced trustworthy systems. This leads people to trust the governmnet, drop their guards, and be hurt more badly than if they had been prudent and skeptical.

The government creates the idea that regulation makes a business trustworthy even if parts of the business are hidden from investors. In fact, only open disclosure and public audit can give confidence in a business.

The Bernie Madoff theft shows this. People trusted in the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to investigate Madoff and find any fraud. The SEC did investigate him twice, and found nothing. They excused themselves by saying that they really didn't have the resources to find fraud.

While not helping much, regulations cost $trillions.

The Madoff Scandal Exposes Government Failure
07/17/09 - Future of Freedom Foundation by Sheldon Richman

[edited] No matter how much the government controls the economic system, any problem is blamed on small zones of freedom. The government can’t possibly monitor and regulate everything in a country, but it claims that it must. Anything that displeases the government can be an excuse for stamping out whatever freedom still exists.

A false sense of security is worse than none at all. People are more vulnerable to scams when they believe government is protecting them, because they relax their efforts to protect themselves. The government broadcasts one unmistakable message: Have no fear because Big Brother is watching over you.

Free-market advocates do not claim that we need no protection from the unscrupulous. Rather, protection is maximized by undiluted market discipline, profit, loss, and buyer-beware skepticism.

Jul 11, 2009

A Hidden Cost of National Health Care

The Hidden Cost Of National Health Care
07/11/09 - Washington Examiner Op-Ed by Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Treatment will be rationed by slowing the development of new treatments, along with longer waiting times and plain denial.

[edited exerpts] The normal and valid critique of socialized medicine is that people have to wait a long time for treatment in places like Britain.

There is another, hidden cost. A bureaucratized healthcare system will squash medical innovation.

Todays treatments did not come out out of the blue. They were developed by drug companies and device makers who thought they had a good market for things that would make people feel better.

But, under nationalized healthcare, the "market" is whatever the bureaucrats are willing to buy. Treatment for politically stylish diseases will get some money, but the main concern will be cost-control. More treatments mean more costs to bureaucrats.

Bureaucrats have their own view of cost. Medicines like Prilosec have made ulcer surgery a thing of the past. But, to bureaucrats, those pills are a cost, while ulcer-surgery expenses can be reduced by rationing. Let 'em eat Maalox while they wait.

The potential marvels of the next twenty years will never be developed unless some developer sees a market. This is despite the great promise of new medical technology for cancer treatment, biotechnology, nanotechnology, and more.

The existence of a market will be much less certain with bureaucrats in charge of selecting treatments to pay for. Federally funded medical research will still go on, but turning that research into actual treatments is a different story.

Begging for Medical Care Fred:  (staggers into hospital) Help. I'm hurt.
Nurse:  Please file that emergency request in writing during office hours.
Will your socialized hospital have enough money to care for you?

The actress Natasha Richardson died after hitting her head in a ski fall. She was very unlucky. Montreal does not have fast transportation to a full-service hospital, even near a ski area. Why not? Patients are a cost to the system.

The bureaucracy sees you as a cost, especially if you have already paid. All people and organizations seek income and avoid costs. Socialized healthcare is paid up-front and delivers services after the fact.

How hard will a system work to earn the money that they have already been paid? This is something that everyone can understand in their gut. A customer is lost without competition for his dollar.

The Actual Role of Government

Michael Moore Gets It Wrong
07/11/09 - John Stossel

Everyone is greedy, it is how you organize things that matters.

The government is a caring institution that has been taken hostage by big business. We can free it by making it big enough to resist these businesses. Then the government can give the citizens a fair and prosperous world.

The government is a regulatory oppressor with a big sign in neon "Buy your favors and loopholes here". The back room has a high cover charge, a gambling casino, and rooms for sleeping with legislators. The front room is musty, with slow service and dirty glasses. The cardboard sign reads "We will improve service after we raise our prices".

The simple ones just want to make and sell things. The sly ones see the government as an opportunity which they can't resist. They all have to find a way around the regulations, mostly by paying to stay in business.

Everyone is a reformer. The front room is obviously bad, and there are many speeches about fixing it up. Winners go to the back room, where they go along to get along, and work on the problem of not being poor at the end of their elective careers.

How do you see the government? Caring mother held hostage, or corrupt ruler selling favors?

Who's the Materialist?

Who's the Materialist?
07/11/09 - Cafe Hayek by Donald J. Boudreaux

[edited] Capitalism emphatically does improve material living standards. But more, all the great champions of economic freedom ultimately justify capitalism because only it affords true dignity to individuals. That dignity is denied by systems which arbitrarily diminish each person's freedom to choose.

It is fine for "Progressives" such as Mr. Dionne not to share the value of freedom. But it is rather cheeky with one breath to accuse proponents of capitalism as unduly focused on material goods, and with the next breath to insist that a major problem with capitalism is that some people get fewer material goods than do other people.

Government Healthcare by Experts

The Mayo Clinic weighs in
07/11/09 - Don Surber

Dr. Wood is the chairman of the Mayo Clinic, division of Health Care Policy & Research:

[edited] The clinic supports “value indexing” to determine how providers get paid. This would measure patient outcomes and cost over a period of time. The current bills in Congress contain very little that reflects payment for value.

Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar:

[edited]If we just simply change who is paying for something and do nothing to make the system more efficient, we are really not going to get where we want to go.

Don Surber:

[edited] This is exactly what is wrong with government-run health programs. Their goal is to save money, not lives. More than anything, I oppose having Sen. Klobuchar decide how “to make the system more efficient.”

Jim B comments:

[edited] When Sen. Klobuchar can show me a record of the government ever making anything more efficient, ever, then maybe we can talk about health care. But she needs to put up or shut up. Government bureaucrats claim to be able to do things they’ve never once demonstrated an ability to do. There’s absolutely no substance to back it up.

So come on, supporters of ObamaCare, show me where you can back up your claims. Even one of them.


Healthcare Reform Myths

One of the myths: If you like your current plan you can keep it.

You can keep your current plan if it is still offered and the company is still around. This is not a silly consideration. Proponents have learned from the Hillary Care proposal in the 1990's that radical transformation does not sell. The current plan provides a framework to take away freedoms one at a time, to minimize resistance, and obscure the ultimate goal.

A century of monopoly by the Post Office shows us how much Congress likes competition to one of its high-cost, inefficient activities. Private insurance likely will disappear or be made to conform to government rules, standards, limitations, and costs.

Massachusetts Health Care Cuts

Henry Stern at InsureBlog examines the Massachusetts Health program that is the darling of Washington. Here is a part:

Massachusetts can't pay for the plan by itself. It needs Washington to distribute funds from the national money tree to pay for this program.

$32 million of the $115 million in claimed savings comes from slowing payments to the managed-care health insurance companies that won bids to offer insurance through the Commonwealth Care program. Regulators said that by slowing enrollment growth, the companies would receive less money than they had banked on when they submitted their bids earlier this year.

Jul 10, 2009

Overselling Science

Overselling Science
07/10/09 - ChicagoBoyz by Shannon Love

Why polls of scientists don't mean much, even if they are real scientists making their living from research. Read it all.

[edited] The problem with polling “scientists” is that there is a wide range in the predictive power of the studies that we lump together as “science”.

Physics has tremendous predictive power, but sociology has almost none. Worse, scientists in highly predictive fields tend to have too much trust in less predictive fields, and scientists in low- or non-predictive fields try to gain public trust by referring to the success of highly predictive fields.

Non-predictive sciences invite social and political fads. There was wide agreement a hundred years ago on the validity of eugenics, Improving a human population by discouraging people with undesirable traits from having children, or of mating people who have desireable traits. more agreement than we have today on global warming. Darwin strongly opposed implementing eugenics, but nevertheless believed in its validity.

Likewise, most scientists of that era thought it was obvious that races differed in behavior because they had different biology. Much bad policy, even in politically liberal countries, was based on this flawed and oversold “scientific” idea.

The theory of Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW) has the same social and political dynamics as did eugenics. Climatology has not predicted climate either in the short or long term. The computer models [and their predictions for tens or hundreds of years into the future] cannot be tested by any observation in the here and now. Yet, the public gives climatology the same respect as meteorology, physics, and chemistry.

To global warming, we could add each past “scientific” consensus on the population bomb, resource depletion, energy crisis, and inevitable nuclear war. In all of these cases, scientists and the public thought untested models with no predictive power were similar to the highly predictive models [of the experimental, physical sciences].

Global warming caused by humans is a scam
The proponents of Global Warming don't mind lying for the good of us all. Saving the world justifies much cutting of corners.

Be Skeptical About Scientists and Polls

Scientists Versus The Great Unwashed
07/10/09 - Just One Minute by Tom Maguire

Survey Shows Gap Between Scientists and the Public
07/09/09 - New York Times by Cornelia Dean

Public Praises Science; Scientists Fault Public and Media
07/09/09 - Pew Research Center for the People & the Press

I don't trust Pew research polls, after seeing this poll and information about it. I am skeptical of all polls, and the word "scientist".

Mr. Maguire reviews an article in the NY Times which reports a survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, working with the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Opinions differed between scientists and the general public.

Pew said "scientists". I credit Ms. Dean for the following, which is not emphasized in the Pew report:

NYT Ms. Dean: [edited] The survey involved about 2,000 of the public and 2,500 scientists drawn from the rolls of the AAAS, which includes teachers, administrators and others involved in science, as well as researchers.

The Pew report section About the survey is at the end of the report, the last segment of 10, and says:

Pew Report [edited] Results for the scientist survey are based on 2,533 online interviews. A sample of 9,998 members was drawn from the AAAS membership list excluding those who were not based in the United States or whose membership type identified them as primary or secondary-level educators.

The term "scientist" is used everywhere, but the survey contacted the AAAS membership, which includes people with a career related to science, and can include anyone. The survey excluded grade-school and high-school teachers, but included administrators. It seems that this classification is whatever each member listed when joining.

Rhetoric and Bias

It bothers me that Ms. Dean reports on a survey and inserts her own beliefs. For evolution and global warming, the supposed scientists agree with her, and the public is dumb. For nuclear power, she does not report on the supposed scientists who come to a conclusion different from liberal opinion.

This is a common misuse of surveys and group opinions. We often hear that we should believe something because "almost all scientists agree".

  • How can we know that thay all agree?
  • What does "all" mean?
  • Who are the "scientists"?
  • If "scientists" are all trustworthy, how can they disagree? If they are not all trustworthy, why are we polling them?
  • Who employs them and how will they benefit from acceptance of their results?
  • What are their areas of expertise?
  • Have they opened their research, data, methods, and computer models to public examination?
  • Has their research survived critical attention? Did they respond to criticism with thoughtful detail, or dismiss their critics as evil idiots?

Macguire selected these parts of the NY Times article.

[edited] There is a large gap between the views of scientists and ordinary Americans about climate change, evolution, and the state of the nation’s research enterprise.

Almost all of the scientists accept that human beings evolved by natural processes and that human activity, chiefly the burning of fossil fuels, is causing global warming. The general public is far less sure.

Almost a third of ordinary Americans say human beings have always existed in their current form. Only 2% of the scientists agree. Only half of the public agrees that people cause climate change, and 11% does not believe there is any warming at all.

About a third of Americans think there is lively scientific debate on both topics. In fact, there is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution and there is little doubt that humans are altering the atmosphere in ways that threaten global climate.

Dean associates evolution and global warming as two settled theories. Evolution has been studied for 150 years with confirmation from many directions and sources that has survived public evaluation and criticism. Global Warming investigations are recent, biased by government support and political pressure, and results are unsettled and exaggerated The proponents of Global Warming don't mind lying for the good of us all.

Dean says "almost all of the scientists accept", implying that the issue is settled, except for the dumb public that has not yet accepted the uncomfortable implications.

Macguire points out something Dean does not report. The supposed scientists want more power plants, an action that is not supported by liberals.

[edited] Interesting, the Times forgot to report this factoid from a Pew chart. 70% of scientists (but only 51% of the public) favor "building more nuclear power plants". On global warming, 49% of the public and 84% of scientists believe that "the earth is getting warmer because of human activity".

Global warming caused by humans is a scam
The proponents of Global Warming don't mind lying for the good of us all. Saving the world justifies much cutting of corners.

Obama Can Win The Chicago Way

Quote of the Day . . 07/08/09 - ChicagoBoyz by Jonathan
Minus Five . . 07/08/09 - Belmont Club by Richard Fernandez

Life Of The Mind commented on Obama's declining polls and his re-election prospects if this trend continues. Despite any development, Obama plans to win.

[edited] Soros, Axelrod, and Obama know what they are doing. They won't cancel elections or do anything spectacular that will rally resistance. I don't expect them to worry much about sagging poll numbers.

They intend to win the next election, despite 15-20% unemployment and inflation in 18 months. They intend to do it the Chicago way, to buy it with your money.

  • The Democrats will have $500 billion of slush funds ready to pump out for the 2010 election.
  • Acorn and an army of hacks will push to hold onto Congress in 2010.
  • The census will be cooked to deliver the Congress in 2012.
  • The declining economy will drain resources from the opposition.
  • The carping left will discover a new discipline that Republicans could never threaten them with. Recalcitrant academics and think tanks will be defunded, and media jobs will be increasingly under the control of Obama aligned conglomerates.
  • Immigration reform will complete the picture for Obama’s reelection.

Much of this will be technically illegal and corrupt. But, they will not resort to violence or attempt to repeal the 2nd Amendment before 2012.

People should stop assuming that Obama will make a mistake and do something overtly revolutionary. This hope puts people in a passive, reactive mode. Some expect that his birth certificate or college transcript will magically appear and then somehow force someone to invalidate the election.

Anyone thinking that way needs to have Cher slap him in the face and yell "Snap out of it". Can we win this battle? Yes, but it will take hard sustained work.

Jul 7, 2009

Newspaper Influence Peddling

A Question That Needs to be Asked
07/06/09 - ChicagoBoyz by James R. Rummel

Newspapers influence public opinion, and that influence is quite valuable. It seems that some newspapers are selling that influence. Do you still trust your newspaper?

[edited] The Washington Post salon scandal reveals that publisher Katharine Weymouth invited people to pay up to $25,000 USD in order to have dinner at her house.

For that money, the movers and shakers at the newspaper would personally introduce you to the movers and shakers at the White House, as well as the reporters who covered them. Pay them cash, and the good folks at the WaPo would create an instant handshake relationship with the people who are shaping the future of the country, and the reporters who shape public perception. This was irresistible to special interest groups, corporations, and lobbyists.

This is done all the time by newspapers with their foot in the door of the White House press room. But, this time it was jsut too blatant to pass the smell test.

David Bradley is chairman of the board at Atlantic Media. He emphasized that there can be no influence/access peddling going on, because everything that happens at the get-togethers is strictly off the record!

Idiots rarely work their way up to become ultra-rich, and dumb inheritors rarely hang on to wealth for long. They were not idiots. They expected good value for their bucks, and they must have received that value because they kept coming back for more.

Jul 5, 2009

Obama Explains Millionaire Grants (smile)

Future News:

It is just weeks after Barack Obama won the 2012 election to his second term as President. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs provided some details today about President Obama's campaign promise to "make 95% of all citizens a millionaire".

Participants must earn less than $50,000, with a net worth less than $50,000. They must be a legal resident for 3 years at the time of the grant. Illegal status will incur a $10,000 penalty in exchange for immediate citizenship. Gibbs said: "It just seems fair not to spoil such a happy event because of a technicality".

The White House will establish the Department of Citizen Grants to administer the program. Applicants can sign up at WhiteHouse.gov or write to an address to be announced. DCG will be fully established "by next year, or a bit later". Until then, one grant per month will be "completed by hand". Grant ceremonies may be televised.

The DCG will issue at least 1,000 grants each month, "or even more" when fully operational.

Gibbs deflected criticism that this plan was too expensive and was proposed merely to buy votes. "We are all tired of hearing 'NO' from Republicans. They should propose their own plan if they object to ours."

Republicans complain that this program will cost at least $12 billion per year and will take approximately 11,000 years to award grants to just the 130 million people who are taxpayers.

Gibbs: "We disagree with our opponent's figures. Our economic advisors fully approve of this plan. These negative projections do not take into account future advances in money creation and grant making, which will result in net savings to the government overall and a revenue neutral program. The economy will receive $18 billion per year from this money injection, a 1.5 multiplier. The 60% tax on incomes over $100,000 will raise more than $6.5 billion per year for government programs to help the poor."

A reporter from Fox News asked Gibbs to "just look at the numbers". Gibbs: "I am not an economist, and I am not authorized to scribble things on a blackboard, even if we had a blackboard. We live in the richest country in the world, and $12 billion per year is quite affordable within the $20 trillion 2013 federal budget."

Let's Counterfeit Our Way to Wealth
When an idea leads directly to a crazy result, what should we think about that idea? Maybe laugh at it until Obama explains in detail how it works.

If you believe Obama, Keynes, and their proclaimed wealth multiplier of 1.5 on government spending, then it would be valuable to counterfeit as much money as possible, of course under government regulation. You don't have to borrow counterfeit money, or pay it back. It is ideal for Keynesian government projects.

Jul 3, 2009

Medicare Myth: Low Administrative Cost

Busting the Adminstrative Cost Myth
07/03/09 - Real Clear Politics by Tom Bevan

Bevan looks at statements by Paul Krugman and Jonathan Alter.

[edited] Alter: The administration of Medicare is a miracle of low overhead, and a model of what government can do right, despite all the fraud and abuse. 3% of Medicare's premiums go for administrative costs, compared to 10% to 20% of private-insurance premiums.

Henry Stern below reports that private insurance administrative costs are 12% of total health care costs paid by them, not the "10-20%" exaggerated above.

Note that Alter praises Medicare by calling the overhead figure a miracle. Even he hardly believes that figure. I suppose a miracle doesn't require investigation or explanation. Government just does this better; they are masters at administration! Bevan debunks this:

[edited] The miracle of Medicare administrative efficiency is really just a statistical sleight of hand.
  • Medicare serves a population that is elderly and receives much more medical care, making administrative costs smaller as a percentage of total costs.
  • Private insurers have a number of "administrative costs" that Medicare does not have, like state taxes of 2-4% on health insurance premiums. These can't be reduced by better administration.
  • On a per-person basis between 2001-2005, Medicare's administrative costs were 24.8% higher than private insurers.

Again, Medicare's patients are sicker, so we would expect somewhat higher administrative costs per person as compared to all insured people. I can't know from these figures if 24.8% higher costs are justified by this sicker population.

Busting the Myth of Medicare's "Low Administrative Cost"
07/02/09 - RightWingNews by McQ

A fine summary and analysis of the above post by Tom Bevan, with a link to more information from John Stossel.

Medicare Administrative Costs Are Higher, Not Lower, Than for Private Insurance
06/25/09 - Heritage.org by Robert A. Book, Ph.D.
Via Roger's Rules

[edited] Advocates of a public health care plan say that Medicare has administrative costs of 3% (6-8% including support from other government agencies), compared to 14-22% for private health insurance through employers, and even more for individual insurance.

Advocates say government is just more efficient, and claim that private insurers impose excess costs through marketing, spending to deny claims, high executive salaries, and unrestrained profit.

But, Medicare's administrative costs per person are actually higher than those of private insurance. Higher, despite that private companies incur costs that do not apply to Medicare. Recent history predicts that switching 200 million Americans to a public plan will increase administrative costs by several billion dollars.

The bulk of administrative costs are incurred per-person. Medicare beneficiaries average more health care services than the privately insured. Dividing administrative costs by total medical costs gives Medicare a smaller percentage merely because it administers more medical expense per person.

Administrative costs per person in 2005: Medicare $509, private $453.

For years 2000-2005, Medicare's administrative costs per person were from 5% to 48% higher than private costs (see Table 1 in the article). This, despite "administrative" expenses included in private plans which Medicare does not have. These include state health insurance taxes averaging 2% (as high as 4%), and the cost of non-claim health care expenses, such as disease management and on-call nurse consultation.

Note that the costs of marketing and profit, cited by pubic plan advocates as big expenses, are included in the figures for private insurance costs.

Public Plan or Bust
07/03/09 - InsureBlog by Henry Stern

Stern gives a view of healthcare proposals from the side of an agent offering private insurance. He describes the incentives and pressures on employers.

[edited] All protestations to the contrary, it certainly appears that our political class is dead-set on making the Public Plan the only plan.

Our best guess: employers will quickly drop their group plans altogether, leaving millions of previously privately insured folks to hop onto the new Public Plans.

A similar program in Massachusetts has led to major shortages and cost overruns, while doing nothing to address the underlying problem of escalating health care costs. Regardless, the plan makes it a "no brainer" for medium and large businesses to delete their group insurance plans:

The Decision to Opt Out of Medicare
07/08/09 - by Dr Alan Dappen (Via Instapundit)

Medicare claims very low administrative expenses, but doesn't count the administrative burden imposed on doctors. Even fines should be included. Doctors must charge more to cover these expenses, refuse Medicare patients, or close their practices.

[edited] Our medical practice cannot afford to accept medicare patients. Medicare won’t pay for phone or email consultations, barely pays for an office visit, and far underpays to cover a house call.

These services are critical to our medical practice. Medicare would require us to hire too many staff to do too much paper work and administration. Medicare has too many regulations. We can’t understand a lot of them, and Medicare doesn’t seem to understand them either, most of the time.

If I accepted Medicare, then they would have the right to audit our notes and then fine us for non-compliance, for infractions that are not readily clear. Their auditors are paid for every infraction they find, so the temptation to levy fines is irresistible.

Fundamentally, Medicare does not focus on what is most important: practicing effective and efficient medicine to maintain the good health of our patients. Medicare’s paltry reimbursements are coupled with regulations impossible to satisfy. This would not allow us to offer a complete service to our patients, wellness care and the time needed to understand each patient’s unique medical needs and circumstances.

( There is more )

A 2-minute video clip shows Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) on 4/18/09 speaking at a rally for Obama's healthcare reform. Schakowsky is emotional and determined.

[edited] (1:23) Those of us who are pushing for a public health insurance option don't disagree with the goal [of a single payer government health plan]. This is not a principled fight. This is a fight about strategy for getting there, and I believe we will.

What They Sell Versus What They Really Want!
08/02/09 - Economic Swim

A 2 minute video of President Obama's remarks past and present, about a goverment option for healthcare leading to a government run, single payer system. I think the idea is that the government run option will be fair, because it will be, in time, the only option that there is.

Gaining Power Through Public Policy

Social Science and Public Policy
07/03/09 - EconLog by economist Arnold Kling

[edited] Political Economy is the science of obtaining and retaining power. The pollster, the fundraiser, and the media expert supply expertise to the operation. The public policy expert is for decoration. If you want to be an economic policy adviser, my advice is to learn how to put a good spin on the methods used by leading politicians to obtain power.

Is Health care reform about health, the stimulus about recovery, cap and trade about global warming, or TARP about the financial system? No, they are about seizing and retaining power.

The social scientist's role is to say, "X is a problem. Government must solve X. Here are some solutions." The solutions that rationalize seizing and retaining power will bubble to the top.

Suppose you believe that regulators cannot possibly have the wisdom to direct human activity, and that politicians spending other people's money tend to choose unwisely. Keep those beliefs to yourself, if you want to get anywhere as a public policy adviser.

Jul 2, 2009

Healthcare Reform Myths

Parsing the Health Reform Arguments
07/02/09 - WSJ by economist George Newman (via John Stossel)

The common arguments for healthcare reform don't make sense. Here is a list of claims and reponses. Edited.

The American people overwhelmingly favor reform.

People would be happier if somebody else paid their medical bills. But, surveys on quality of care overwhelming support continuation of the present arrangement.

The cost of health care rises two to three times as fast as inflation.

That's like comparing the price of a Black and White 19-inch TV 30 years ago with the price of a 50-inch HD-TV today. Medical care today gives longer life, less pain, fewer exploratory surgeries, and miracle drugs. These things don't come cheap.

Health care represents a rising proportion of our income.

That's true and natural. The richer a society, the greater proportion of income is spent on health, rather than a third television set.

Shifting funds from health care to education would benefit all of us.

Both have steadily rising costs. Curiously, liberals see increasing education costs as an investment, but healthcare costs as a curse. More, past increases in education have not stopped deteriorating outcomes, while the rising cost of health care is associated with clearly superior results. Why shift dollars from where they do a lot of good to an area where they don't?

Read more ...

Forty-five million people in the U.S. are uninsured.

Many dispute this. Even if true, should we risk destroying a system that serves well the vast majority, to help 15% of the population?

The cost of treating the uninsured is shifted to the rest of us.

On Monday, Wednesday and Friday we are harangued about the 45 million people lacking medical care. On Tuesday and Thursday we are told we already pay for that care. Notice the contradiction.

Further, the cost shifting of the Public Option will be worse than now under Medicare. Suppliers will have to overcharge private plans to make up for the too-low prices forced on them by the public plan.

A universal plan will reduce the cost of health care.

Suppose you are in an apple market with 100 buyers and 100 sellers daily. One day, 120 buyers show up. The price of the apples must go up (and each buyer must get less -ag).

More health care cannot be provided in the short run unless the individual price goes up. If that price is held down, the available services will run out, without any incentive to create more services. Demand does not immediatly increase supply unless the demand is at a higher price.

Individual prices can decrease in the long run as economies of scale and competition create more efficient care. But, the overall expense for treating everyone will go up, unless there is a remarkable breakthrough. -ag

U.S. companies are at a disadvantage to foreign competitors who don't have to pay their employees' health insurance.

This would be true, if the funds for health care in those countries fell from the sky. As it is, employees in those countries pay for their health care in much higher income, sales, or value-added taxes, gasoline taxes (think $8 a gallon at the pump), and in many other ways. This reduces their take-home pay and living standard.

On the even days, liberals want to lift the health care burden from businesses that provide benefits. On the odd days, they want to impose this burden on the businesses that do not now offer benefits. What about the international competitiveness of those companies?

Employers do not pay higher total wages because they pay for the health care of employees. All payments to and for an employee is part of his wage. If employees (or the government) paid for their own insurance, the employer would raise their cash wages due to competition for employee skills. The sales price and profit from a product is determined by overall costs and competition. -ag

If you like your current plan you can keep it.

You can keep your current plan if it is still offered and the company is still around. This is not a silly consideration. Proponents have learned from the Hillary Care proposal in the 1990's that radical transformation does not sell. The current plan provides a framework to take away freedoms one at a time, to minimize resistance, and obscure the ultimate goal.

A century of monopoly by the Post Office shows us how much Congress likes competition to one of its high-cost, inefficient activities. (Private insurance likely will disappear or be made to conform to government rules, standards, limitations, and costs. -ag)

Congress will be strictly neutral between the public and private plans.

Nonsense. Congress has a hundred ways to help its creation hide costs, from squeezing suppliers to hidden subsidies (as with Amtrak).

It has even more ways to bankrupt private plans. It can mandate ever more exotic and expensive coverage, say for hair transplants and sex-change operations. It can limit premiums and outlaw advertising. If all else fails, Congress can increase tax audits and public harassment of executives in the name of leveling the playing field. Finally, the government will announce "The private system has failed".

Decisions will still be made by doctors and patients, and the system won't be politicized.

Fat chance. Funding conflicts between mental health and gynecology will be based on which pressure group offers the richer bribe or appears more politically correct. The closing or opening of a hospital will be based on which subcommittee chairman's district it is in.

We need a public plan to compete with private plans and to keep them honest.

So, the 1,500 or so private plans don't produce enough competition? By extension, housing is just as important, so we should start public housing to keep private builders honest. Oops, we already have that. Think of everything you know about public housing. If you like public housing you will love public health care.


Current Healthcare is Not a Clunker
08/01/09 - InsureBlog by Mike Feehan

10 reasons to refute the notion that U.S. health care system is in desperate need of a government trade-in.

In particular: 5. Lower-income Americans are in better health than comparable Canadians.

USA Healthcare is First - Infant Mortality is Low
Health statistics are intentionally misinterpreted to argue for socialized medicine. The major argument is that the US spends more than Europe, but lags behind in health outcomes. So, US healthcare is both expensive and inefficient. Actually, the USA has better health.

ER Medicine and Bureacracy
The EMTALA law forces hospital emergency departments to treat all patients equally regardless of ability to pay. They must shift these costs onto those who can pay. This produces the amazing $10 aspirin and closing emergency departments. Look for these effects when the government sets too-low rates for everyone on the government health plan.

Massachusetts Limits Health Services
The Massachusetts Commonwealth Care universal health plan is not even three years old. Estimated at $245 million, it will cost taxpayers $1.3 billion this year and require rationing of benefits. Increasing costs and rationed care is typical of any market with mandated care and government subsidies.

Company Paid Health Insurance is Part of Your Salary
Employer provided health insurance is not a free benefit. The employee is paying for it all. The company (rightly) sees the cost of providing health insurance as part of what is paid to the employee. The employee would receive the cash if the employer did not provide insurance.

Hundreds rally for health care reform
04/22/09 - People's Weekly World

Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) is co-sponsor of HR-676, a single-payer health care bill. Some supporters stood outside the hall in protest of the "public option" as an unacceptable compromise. (Unacceptable because it allows for private insurance. -ag)

Rep. Schakowsky answered criticisms from single-payer advocates. She said the public option is not a compromise, but a strategic step toward the single-payer system and the elimination of the private insurance industry.

The private sector is united in opposing any legislation that would expand publicly funded health care over and against the virtual monopoly of insurance companies.

Schakowsky and other speakers said the public option is simply the opening salvo against the private sector.

Goal of Healthcare Reform is to Destroy the Private Insurance Industry
Video, 2 minutes. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) spoke at a rally for Obama's healthcare reform on 4/18/09. Transcript, edited:

(0:04) Next to me was a guy from the insurance company who then argued against the public health insurance option, saying that it wouldn't let private insurance compete. That a public option will put the private insurance industry out of business and lead to single payer.

My single payer friends, he was right! The man was right. I told him, excuse me sir, the goal of health care reform is not to protect the private health insurance industry.

(1:23) Those of us who are pushing for a public health insurance option don't disagree with the goal (of a single payer government health plan -ag). This is not a principled fight. This is a fight about strategy for getting there, and I believe we will.