"James Hansen's Failed Ultimatums", Bradley paper for IER.
Wednesday, February 22, 2017
Cato Institute energy forum splits on GOP carbon tax, emphasizes market forces, little attention to grid security
The Cato Institute held a forum today, February 22, “Trump’s Energy Policy Promise or Peril”, with Peter Russo moderating, with Robert L. Bradley. CEO and founder, Institute for Energy Research; Adele Morris, Senior Fellow and Policy Director at the Brookings Institute, and Catrina Rorke, Senior Fellow and Policy Director, R Street Institute.
Bradley favored a free market approach to everything and argued against the carbon tax, in a manner similar to what is said in this paper from Cato in October 2016.
The paper tends to suggest that economic growth (using actuarial math and present values) even with expected global warming, will more than offset any savings from a carbon tax. There is suspicion that carbon tax implementation wouldn’t be neutral. There is little attention to catastrophic events (which are considered unpredictable from a policy viewpoint) or to the international political consequences in developing countries from global warming.
Adele Morris gave much more support to the idea of a carefully constructed carbon control policy, and emphasized that there was not enough demand for coal to continue developing it, the way Trump wants to.
Rorke seemed to express similar sentiments.
There was incidental support for renewable sources, but a general feeling that market forces won’t support them. One speaker said that in time some wind turbines will be taken down, and than many landowners in western states don’t like them.
There is no effective market mechanism to encourage utilities to decentralize their power grids, or to build many small reactors, even fission, as Taylor Wilson has proposed (my question).
“The Case Against a Carbon Tax”, policy paper by Robert F. Murphy, Patrick J. Michaels, and Pal C. “Chip” Knappenburger, link.
"A U.S carbontax and Earned Income Tax Credit" by Adele Morris and Apama Mathur
"James Hansen's Failed Ultimatums", Bradley paper for IER.
"James Hansen's Failed Ultimatums", Bradley paper for IER.
Monday, February 20, 2017
My visit to immigration-friendly Harrisonburg VA; a disturbing new right-wing religious organization in Michigan
Back on Sunday, February 12, 2017 the Washington Post had run a story by Andrew D. Perrine, “How one Virginia town got immigration right” . The story concerns Harrisonburg VA, in the Shenandoah Valley, 130 miles from Washington DC, “The Friendly City”, home of James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University, and a Church World Service refugee resettlement area.
The personal conversations yesterday were suspect of Trump (in comparison to other rural places).
A few of the web references suggested that some refugees do stay in private homes.
Of course, it is hard to tell yet how Trump’s executive orders will play out with the CWS program.
They would seem to stop the refugee flow for 120 days and all immigration (except now all of those now legal residents). A typical CWS posting is here.
There is also a disturbing story in the Detroit Free Press today.
.While out today a saw (in USA Today) a Detroit Free Press story by Robert Allen "How a right-wing Ferndale group is building a multi-media empire" The group is called Church Militant. It seems to believe there is only one “right religion” (we’ve heard that before, even in these days of quantum physics) and that people should be forced to live righteously, so “everyone else can”. The group wants to abolish the US constitutional commitment to separation of church and state.
Tuesday, February 14, 2017
The Hoover Institution has a stirring article today by Richard A. Epstein, “Time for Trump to Resign?” The author describes himself as a “classical liberal who did not vote for either candidate.”
You get the impression that the GOP could have pulled this entire thing as a coup, with the idea of doing an “intervention” to get Trump to resign so that the arch-conservative Mike Pence could take over.
Even the Comey letter on Oct. 27, you wonder how those emails really would wind up on another personal laptop (Weiner's wife) even if she had worked for Clinton/
Epstein gives all kinds of arguments that are more in line with typical liberal Republicanism, with a touch of libertarianism, and a little bit of Bill Clinton Republicrat. Epstein wants free trade back.
The article appeared linked on a website today broadcast by Richard Sincere (formerly Gays and Lesbians for Individual Liberty). But Pence, remember, back in 2000 had advocated conversion therapy for gay men as a “rational” way to control HIV. Pence today says people should be left alone.
CNN is calling Trump's pre-inauguration behavior with regard to Russia unprecedented today, story.
And this is getting worse. The New York Times this morning published "From Russia With Love" (1962) without Sean Connery's chest, link. And there is no James Bond or Superman to save us all. Michael Moore is demanding immediate impeachment of Donald Trump on Facebook but that is no surprise. We'd get Pence.
Thursday, February 09, 2017
A number of Republicans in Congress have put forth a proposal for a carbon tax that is revenue neutral: the tax is returned to consumers in terms of annual rebates. Republicans argue that the effect of the tax would be progressive, relatively helping low income people more.
Larry Summers endorsed the plan in an op-ed in the Washington Post this morning.
Is this report encouraging in that the GOP is starting to accept the science of man-made climate change as “truth”?
Wednesday, February 08, 2017
Unusual AIDS-like syndrome without HIV; more analysis of "moral hazard" or anti-selection in today's Obamacare
There are a couple of interesting health care stories to cover.
One (“Doctor, Cure Thyself” ) is in Sunday Business in the New York Times, by Katie Thomas, about a 25-year-old physician and former football player who developed multicentric Castleman’s disease.
The history illustrates the health insurance problems and treatment problems of rare diseases, often genetic, and often requiring unusual drugs.
Castleman’s is often associated with HH8, the same virus that causes Kaposi’s Sarcoma in HIV-infected gay men. It is similar to lymph-node KS, but can occur without HIV infection. The onset can be sudden. It seems to be a mix of infectious disease, lymphoma, and immune disease. Susceptibility to HH8 or some similar virus has to be genetic, something that compromises the immune system (helper cells) in a way perhaps analogous to HIV. Other similar diseases were known before AIDS, like HTLV-1 leukemia in Japan. They may result from unusual herpes viruses or retro viruses that can affect only genetically susceptible individuals and cannot be spread person-to-person (except maybe to someone with the same genetics). Normally HH8 will not cause disease, without HIV or some unusual genetic susceptibility.
The Epoch Times has a long article, the “breaking apart of Obamacare” showing that Obamacare now has repercussions over moral hazard and anti-selection. It makes the young and healthy pay for the old and sick, and it makes single men pay for other people’s pregnancies. (But, then again, it makes straight people pay for gay men’s HIV.)
When I had health insurance through my employer, my own premiums were usually about 30% of a family plan premium. I think I probably did not have to pay for women's pregnancies when getting cherry-picked insurance through an employer, who got the tax break.
I thought there was some staging of premiums with age.
Thursday, February 02, 2017
Campuses give in to "heckler's veto" when Milo Yiannopolos has events (and there are new conspiracy theories)
Violent protests erupted at UC Berkeley Wednesday night, forcing the University to cancel provocateur and Breitbart journalist Milo Yiannopoulos News accounts from San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Yahoo! give details.
When I read Milo’s posts, I find most of them to be satirical, intended to make fun of identity politics, political correctness, and the idea that people need safe zones and shelter ("trigger warnings") from offense (as from “microaggressions” in campus speech codes, as in this recent WSJ article by Peter Berkowitz ). But occasionally he apparently makes comments at specific individuals (such as some transgender) who don’t conform to his own idea of what is virtuous. (As a “dangerous faggot”, Milo actually says he is attracted to men who look and act like real men.) Some of his comments are construed by some as slights against people with disabilities that, if unchecked, tend to underscore Fascist ideology as shown in history. And they gay male community often has to deal with its own “body fascism.” Milo can be quite handsome when he loses the hair dye, but some liberal publications have shown him with his face computer-aged.
Milo denies he is a white supremacist or a member of the “alt right”, and has even threatened legal action against at least one publication for calling him that (Breitbart story)
I’m not completely sure of the facts on the Leslie Jones-Ghostbuster affair that got him banned from Twitter.
But Milo has also supported admissions policies that help men because fewer men are going to college now (Breitbart).
The violent demonstrations are a form of “heckler’s veto” and indeed a threat to free speech from others, especially other conservatives who may be more temperate but may be viewed as “the enemy” by the Left. Repeated violent outbursts can led to crackdown on free speech by everybody – a typical terrorist or “revolutionist” or mass movement approach.
Some conservative commentators have noted that it is the violent element of the far left that has given Milo his career (like the last movement of Shostakovich's 13th Symphony, which is called "A Career").
As for Twitter banning, it may be a little capricious, as with the Washington Post analysis. In December 2015 I wrote some pieces on my "BillBoushka" blog on Twitter standards of behavior after one good friend in the music world blocked me under circumstances that seem mysteriously or somehow factually wrong. It hasn't happened since then as far as I know, so I think it was a fluke.
Milo reminds me of bad boy Shane Lyons in the 2011 film "Judas Kiss", a character whom the actor who plays him, Timo Descamps, has characterized as "a little mean" and "a little spoiled" and even "evil". But in "The Dark Place" (2014) Descamps played a similarly demeaanored charismatic gay character Wil, except this time Wil is a very good person, possibly with superpowers (a gay "Clark Kent") who saves Keegan at the end. Ironically, I think either Milo or Descamps would have sailed through all challenges that a Donald Trump could have thrown at them on "The Apprentice" and survived all the boardrooms. (Just don't ask them, like Troy McClain, to "take one for the team". So, let Milo replace Steve Bannon in Trump's administration."He's hired."
Wikipedia attribution link for University of California picture CCSA 3.0 by Koenig.
Update: Feb. 11
Here's another "conspiracy theory" (Volokh Conspiracy and Paul Cassell) about the Berekeley attack, and one concern is that police can't find any digital fingerprints (I guess they can't see TOR). If so, that's a legitimate national security concern that Trump could address; we wouldn't see it coming if this were WMD. Milo says the Left muzzles the difference between speech and action.
CNN has another take on this; is Milo "normalizing" an attitude of deprecation toward some people?
Sunday, January 29, 2017
The Orange-Silver line service between Rosslyn and McPherson Square was suspended today.
To get to a White House demonstration, I had to use the shuttle bus. The signs were unclear at first, but when I found the right direction, up a staircase, I found it was a 500-foot walk, but the busses were leaving continuously and went along the Whitehurst Freeway, skipping Georgetown. It does look like route 38W simulates the Orange Line from Ballston and stops in Georgetown.
Wednesday, January 25, 2017
Kyle Edwards, Wendy Parnet and Scott Burris have a disturbing op-ed on p. A23 of the New York Times, Tuesday, January 24, the “C.D.C.’s troubling new power” .
Of course, that’s one reason to become much more aggressive with vaccine development (and one more reason why Trump’s appeasement of vaccine denial is dangerous).
Remember the hypothetical public health arguments launched against gay men in the 1980s, especially before HTLV-III (HIV) was identified. I can imagine arguments you could make about how some people could “amplify” Zika before it affects pregnant women.
Saturday, January 21, 2017
I did not get in to the Women’s March today, as the Ballston Metro subway was totally packed at 10 AM. I went to the AGLA Brunch at Freddie’s and later today did the Community Assistance (men’s clothing room) at Mt. Olivet Methodist in Arlington.
Some media outlets estimate the crowd at about 600,000 when 250,000 was planned for.
Demonstrations occurred in many cities, including Los Angeles (huge), London and Paris.
Here’s a typical coverage of the event on CNN.
As above, ABC News put the full six hours on YouTube.
As of around 6 PM, Metro train stations in downtown DC were reported as very crowded.
Update: Jan. 22
I finally got downtown, by car.
It looks like everything is back to normal in the area with the demonstrations, with everything cleaned up.
I did see some more protest signs from 14th St driving past the Mall.
Friday, January 20, 2017
Donald Trump gives speech ordering us to "buy and hire American" and refers to crime as "American Carnage"
Donald John Trump is now the 45th President of the United States.
Aaron Blake of the Washington Post annotates Donald Trump’s inauguration speech. It started out by talking about returning power "to the people."
Trump referred to “This American Carnage” (is it really “This American Life”? by Ira Glass. “Carnage” is also a notorious Roman Polanski film. Both the Post and New York Times are referring to "American Carnage" in their headlines. This refers to gang violence, drugs, and street crime (not to mention poverty).
Trump minced no words about the importance of Americans buying American and hiring American. He implied that individual Americans have a moral obligation to take that into consideration with their personal consumption and other activity. No only is there an implication of paying more to use domestic labor (as opposed to “slave” dorm labor overseas), but there is an implication that those who can should try harder to create actual jobs for others rather than just become more efficient on their own.
The president, however, did mention “infrastructure”, with a hint that he understands the existential implications (like power grid vulnerability). His statement about medical science progress and exploring space suggests much more respect for science than some of his previous behavior. He may be pondering the idea that new diagnostic tests (such as Jack Andraka’s simple pancreatic cancer test, once if gets approved for use in some form) could expand the need to cover pre-existing conditions in “replacing” Obamacare with a more straightforward system. (Yes, Obamacare is way too complicated.) He may be realizing that his courting vaccine deniers is ill-advised (we could need to mass-vaccinate people to prevent future pandemics, even connected to terror) and he may be closer to taking climate change more seriously, especially given the most recent stories about having the warmest year on record.
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
California power companies experiment with using huge batteries as backup "generator stations" to make grid more resilient
The power industry, at least in California, is experimenting with “decentralization” by using huge lithium batteries as if they were supplementary generators, as explained in an article by Dianne Cardwell and Clifford Krauss in the New York Times, Sunday Business, January 15, 2017, here.
The innovation was inspired in part by the huge natural gas leak in southern California in late 2015.
The idea could make power plants less dependent on transformers and the outside grid and more resistant to large scale attack or natural disasters like huge solar storms. Taylor Wilson has proposed that utilities actually install small underground fission generators as backups.
Monday, January 16, 2017
I did participate in a Martin Luther King National Day of Service event today, as sponsored by Human Rights Campaign. The event was held at four safe spaces for LGBTQ youth or homeless, this one at Casa Ruby on Georgia Avenue near Howard University in Washington DC.
What we did was sort huge volumes of donate clothes. Then the lower basement was cleaned with elbow grease to military barracks specifications. Then we had lunch.
It would sound possible that safe spaces could be purchased and managed for asylum seekers, and there are a few of them (like in Baltimore for women), but they are very difficult to fund and run for legal reasons.
Tuesday, January 10, 2017
I was not aware of this, but the Twenty-Fifth Amendment could be used to remove a president from office (that is, Donald Trump), if enough members of his Cabinet and the vice-president certify that he is unfit to lead. This does sound like it could invite a Turkey-style coup attempt.
The text of the amendment is here.
Richard Cohen, of the Washington Post, minces no words in this op-ed, “How to remove Trump from office”, as he calls Reince Priebus a “moral eunuch”, as if out of Pleasantville. Pretty soon we will see op-ed columnists looking for missing chest hair. But that’s why men wear nectkies in business (or used to). .
Sunday, January 08, 2017
Daniel J. Ikenson has an article on Cato and in “The Hil”, “Trump’s import taxes could devastate US economy”, here. The trade deficit, he says, is a myth. Correct.
A flat tariff would seriously erode the balance sheets of many US companies that import many machine parts. It would amount to a 10% consumer VAT. It would decrease jobs as a whole in the economy while possibly saving the jobs in a few politically favored companies or industries in Trump’s electoral vote base.
One item of concern would be smart phones, laptop computers, cameras, and many other tech gadgets.
On the other hand, it’s legitimate to expect Americans to avoid products produced with “slave” conditions and dorm workers in other countries.
There is one positive point in Trump’s desire to increase manufacturing at home: national security.
There are some items, especially power grid components (like transformers) where reliance on overseas suppliers is dangerous and could invite attacks. I have tweeted such to “RealDonaldTrump”. Power grid security also would be improved by constructing more small stations, kept underground, some of them run by fission, or by the most modern natural gas technologies, and will be much cleaner. This idea has been proposed by Taylor Wilson, and Peter Thiel (a Trump supporter), and Pickens. This would add manufacturing jobs, some of them of a nature that auto workers or other workers experienced in manufacturing could fill them, in somewhat rural or smaller-city areas of the country (Shenandoah Valley, Piedmont, upper South, some of the Great Lakes) that supported Trump. (There are some small transformer manufacturers in Virginia mountain areas now, for example.) This would not be a zero sum game and eventually consumers could benefit. It’s interesting that China has a terrible pollution problem because of over-reliance on coal plants.
Wednesday, January 04, 2017
An op-ed in the Washington Post Wednesday, January 4, 2017, p. A15, “From Coal Mining to Pill Popping”, by Nick Mullins. The online title is “The Pain Pill Epidemic Isn’t Going Anywhere Until We End Coal’s Dominance”.
The editorial emphasizes the danger of working in underground mines, which contributes to the need for pills, and creates a vicious cycle. And the benefits available now are bad, but could get worse under Trump, even if he saved their jobs.
Depending on the work of coal miners, especially underground, is bad karma for all of us. Think about the opening of the movie “October Sky”, where Homer’s brother feels it is his responsibility to take his dad’s place in the coal mines when his dad gets lung disease.
Sunday, January 01, 2017
A Washington Post article late last week by Susan Svrluga essentially makes this point: if we look hard enough and far enough into our background, we are all black.
I’ve never bought the idea that ethnic origin is very important, and somewhat scoff at silly TV ads about wearing kilts and giving up lederhausen.
There’s an MIT article that explains how we may all have a common maternal ancestor in Africa through X chromosomes, but Y chromosomes and mitochondrial DNA complicate the picture. The article denies that “white” people have maternal Neanderthal DNA, but interbreeding with other hominids was possible, But “white people” have arisen several times in areas far from the equator, when they needed to be able to make Vitamin D with their own bodies more easily in lower sunlight.
The idea of race itself has almost no real meaning in human biology.
Here’s another story from the Washington Post, that a lot of southern whites have a little black ancestry from slave owner behavior.
Admittedly, we can aggregate people by "looks", but there is a lot more than just amount of skin pigment (which safely absorbs ultraviolet light and is needed in equatorial regions when people don't have clothes.)
Friday, December 30, 2016
More research suggests that the source of our calories does matter: to much sugar leads to Type 2 diabetes even in normal-weight people
The Huffington Post has come out with a new position on diet and heart attacks in a column by Mark Hyman, “Eggs don’t cause heart attacks – sugar does”, link Oops, I see this article goes back to February 2014. But it’s gotten a lot of attention on Facebook recently, even (or especially) in the doomsday prepper community.
It’s a lot easier to believe that all calories are the same. Yet some people seem to do well on the Atkins diet. And there is a lot of literature around saying that not only refined sugar, but lots of additives in processed foods contribute to obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and blood vessel inflammation leading to heart disease. All of these things help create the coronary artery disease (starting with inflammation) that led to the cardiac arrest of Carrie Fisher and her mother’s stroke.
You can also peruse this article from November 2016 in FEE by Annie Holmquist, “Why kids should learn to cook Thanksgiving Dinner”.
Here’s a short film from Journeyman Pictures, “How Sugary Foods Are Making Us Fat”., from Australia, narrated by Mary Anne Demasi.
A professor explains how fructose, in particular, encourages internal fat to build up and causes the body to need more insulin, gradually leading to type 2 diabetes (and insulin resistance). Even slender people can be “skinny fat” and some nominally overweight people can have healthy metabolisms.
The food industry, back in the 80s, promoted sugar as a food additive to make low fat diets taste better (when nutritionists say you use herbs and spices to do this healthfully). The American Heart Association went along with the food industry for some years, unfortunately.
Now the CDC reports, as we know, that life expectancy in the US is decreasing slightly, and diet is one reason.
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
The Washington Post has a long article by Emma Brown and Mandy McClaren on how Indiana’s school voucher program has fared (with Tom Pence), link here. The article posits what may happen under Trump.
Even well-off parents get voucher subsidy support to send kids to private schools. But an ethical question will be whether schools that discriminate against specific populations based on religious convictions should get federal subsidies, indirectly through parents. Some parochial schools, for example, will fire openly gay teachers.
The article says that some students indeed do much better in private schools. But in March 2016, the Cato Institute had held a forum which had shown mixed results in student performance, because of regulation, link to the forum video here.
Even the libertarian model encourages support of non-government instruments closely connected to families (parents) and faith models to impose their own standards of "belonging" on students.
FEE has some articles on the issue, such as "the failure of public schooling" here and the relationship between culture and poverty, here.
Some non-parochial private schools also do a very good job or producing outstanding students (for example, Potomac in northern Virginia), and a voucher program could extend the opportunity to low income families.
Sunday, December 25, 2016
Trump can end ACA subsidies that help the poor on day one, but he'd be biting the voters that put him in office
The Washington Post points out this Christmas morning that Donald Trump can quickly cancel ACA subsidies that do help millions of Americans, including his own rural constituency, as explained in a story by Amy Goldstein here.
The somewhat Scrooge-spirited GOP had a court strike own the subsidies as illegal because Congress had not provided a specific appropriation (as required for all spending) from the House. The Obama administration appealed, and the DC federal circuit put the suspension on hold until the next term. Trump could order dropping the appeal.
In time this could lead to even higher premiums and copays from people who cannot afford it, most of them the people who put Trump in office. Will Trump make them “great” again?
Friday, December 23, 2016
Washington Post claims Sinclair Broadcasting, a major owner of TV stations, helped Trump; but Sinclair is strong on reporting on security, infrastructure, sustainability issues, including power grid
Paul Fahri, of the Washington Post style section, has an article tonight, “How the nation’s largest owner of TV stations helped Donald Trump’s campaign, link here.
He’s referring to Sinclair Broadcasting in Hunt Valley near Baltimore, MD. A fair conservative media outlet in a Blue location. I wrote a comment to this article as follows:
“Sinclair has provided a few news stories on possible threats to the electric power grid, from solar storms, cyberterror and EMP. Sinclair affiliate WJLA has run one of them and mentioned a special town hall but did not run it on Aug 1 (It was broadcast from a Fox or Sinclair station in Green Bay, WI and I was able to watch it by streaming). This subject has generally been associated with the "Right", but only Ted Cruz mentioned (one time to Wolf Blitzer) among major presidential candidates. I carried links to the Sinclair stories on one of my own blogs and soon found Trump advertising on my site (Clinton never did). Peter Thiel, from Silicon Valley, and in Trump's court, has sponsored the work of young inventor Taylor Wilson in Nevada, which would mean decentralizing the grid with many more small stations. In fact, I think these ideas need to be taken seriously. The United States needs to make its infrastructure more secure (from both terror and natural threats) and this would logically mean manufacturing more components at home (like transformers) and depending less on imports for critical infrastructure parts. That would, of course, add many jobs, but not for the same people displaced by globalism. Make the grid more secure is also easier with renewable energy sources, or at least with lower cost and simpler sources (natural gas is easier than coal). So if Trump wants to "make America great again" and add domestic high paying jobs, this is definitely a place to look. But it doesn't help people displaced from old industry jobs (who voted for him). Again, power grid security sounds like a "right wing topic" of the doomsday preppers, but it needs to be brought into the mainstream and not be perceived as politicized. Sinclair deserves credit for running stories on this topic, but other major media sources (other than Fox) have tended to play it down. WJLA (the owner station) have soft-pedaled it.
(Continued) “By the way, Sinclair has also reported that some US utilities were infected with malware in 2012 that has not been removed. If Sinclair has been favorable to Trump, so be it -- but Trump ought to take what Sinclair has reported and seek out expert, professional science on this problem - and I fear some of his choices for appointments aren't very objective on problems like this.”