Friday, March 30, 2007

What's The Point? Money?

In Monday's Mar. 26th. Detroit News is this NY Times report by Benedict Carey titled "Day care linked to rowdy behavior."

It starts with:
A much-anticipated report from the largest and longest-running study of American child care has found that keeping a preschooler in a day care center for a year or more increased the likelihood that the child would become disruptive in class -- and that the effect persisted through the sixth grade.
I give the reporter credit though for puting this caveat in the second paragraph. Usually such things are in the second-last paragraph:
The effect was slight, and well within the normal range for healthy children, the researchers found. And as expected, parents' guidance and their genes had by far the strongest influence on how children behaved.
This caveat plus the fact that there were no numbers regarding relative risk or any other risk factor in the article means that the "link" they found was not statistically significant. In other words, don't worry, your kids in day care likely won't grow up to be thugs. Good news, I suppose. But if the finding is within natural variability, then we're not even talking about an anomaly here, so why publish the study and run the headline as if the "link" to rowdeyness were significant?

Well, I'm just guessing here of course but I can see where it might happen that if a study were to have a finding of "No problem here" it could, maybe, possibly mean an end to grant money. On the other hand, if a problem could be found, even an insignificant one, there just might be a plausable argument to be made for more grant money.

If what Ayn Rand said is true, "Government encouragement does not require that men believe the false is true, it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood.", then wouldn't it also make them indifferent to concepts related to truth and falsehood, like "statistical significance"? I would think so.



Update, fixed a typo.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Atlas Shrugging in Michigan

With Michigan's economy getting worse daily, Wednesday's March 28 Detroit News had the front page headline "UAW warns: We'll shut down Delphi" with a photo of UAW president Ron Gettlefinger sporting a raised, clenched fist. Yep, I thought, this is the way to attract jobs to Michigan alright.

Delphi is trying to get the courts to void wage and pension contracts so the company can pull itself out of chapter 11. It almost makes one feel sorry for Governor Jennifer Granholm who recently came back from running around Europe trying to beg companies to invest in Michigan. Almost.

Of course the governor, a Democrat, isn't getting any help from the state's two Democrat Senators, Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, because they both declared last year that they would support a windfall profits tax (WPT) on oil companies. Consider the image projected by these two Senators: "You can set up shop in Michigan but don't you dare be too successful or we'll bash you over the head with a WPT." This coupled with Mr. Gettlefinger's clenched fist presents a very hostile image to all prospective investors. This image needs to change.

I sent this LTE to the News:
I was greatly disappointed to see the front page headline "UAW warns: We'll shut down Delphi." Mar/28th. with a photo of UAW president Ron Gettlefinger holding up a clenched fist. This adversarial attitude needs to be abandoned by today's unions and corporations.

If unions are to survive they need to offer a value not only to workers but to companies as well. First, unions themselves need to get the compulsory unionism laws repealed on the premise that if unionism is a value there is no need for it to be compulsory. Once unions are voluntary, they can then ask the companies and workers "What do you want?" or "What can we do for you?" There are many ways in which unions can be of value to workers and companies. These ways need to be explored now.

Unions don't create jobs. Corporations do by investing millions in new technologies and improving older ones. Unions need to be their friends not their enemies. A clenched fist is the wrong image to project.


I don't know if they'll print it but unions do need to change and become value-offering entities to both workers and companies. How? I'm not sure but these are the things lawyers should be working on instead of trying to find someone to sue. Meanwhile, Atlas just keeps on shrugging here in Michigan.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Where Have All The Pioneers Gone?

In case some of my readers don't know it, Michigan's economy is in the tank big time. After Governor Jennifer Granholm made cuts to services, Michigan still faces an $800 million debt. The governor's latest round of intended cuts was just defeated by the state legislature. So now what? Local papers have been asking readers for ideas on how to revive the state's economy. Those of course run the entire political spectrum. But what caught Mike's Eyes today was an editorial in the liberal leaning Detroit Free Press by editorial editor Ron Dzwonkowski titled "State needs pioneers". (March 25th 2007)

The editorial starts with:
At a meeting of a half-dozen smart people with a deep concern for Michigan's future, one member of the group said that the state needs, figuratively at least, to go back in time.

"This place was built by pioneers. Then came the settlers," he said. "Now it's all settlers. We need some new pioneers."

What a concept. And a nice capsule, too, of where we came from and where we are, leaving open the big question of where we are going.
Michigan was explored a long time ago so we don't need any more of that kind of pioneer. Obviously the terms pioneer and settler are metaphors. To what do they refer?
The first wave was trappers, lumberjacks and miners. Then came the automotive and industrial innovators, whose factories drew Southerners and foreigners chasing the American dream for $5 a day, followed by the union pioneers and the early leaders of the civil rights movement. There was a spirit of adventure in this place, from the Copper Country to the Rouge. It was a land of possibilities, a place where a good idea and hard work were tickets to a better life than your mother and father had back where they came from.
And,
Pioneers take chances. But they also make changes.
Obviously then, pioneer refers to entrepreneurs and inventors who "take chances" and "make changes." But the editorial never asks the questions "What is the nature of a pioneer and what are the social requirements for his survival and prosperity? It simply says:
Pioneers attract other pioneers, who are always chasing dreams. And then pioneers move on. It's what makes them pioneers.
In other words, pioneers are not attracted by freedom or opportunity to profit from a challenge, but by other pioneers without whom there would be no attraction. But what attracted the first pioneers? It looks like the answer is dreams. And when these dreams are somehow turned into reality, the pioneers just "move on.' Well, this last is not true. Henry Ford, the Kellogs, Lionel trains and many others didn't go anywhere. They stayed here and provided jobs for millions of people. But the editorial never says this explicitly. Even though it states "...whose factories drew Southerners and foreigners chasing the American dream for $5 a day..." it never points out that it was the mind of the producers that is the real draw. Failure to point this out allows Mr. Dzwonkowski to tell us that it is the factories that are the cause of the draw. What causes factories? Pioneers. What causes pioneers? Blank out.

So now that the pioneers are all gone, whose responsibility is it to save Michigan? Why it's the settlers of course. How did they come by this responsibility?
In Michigan's case, they (the pioneers-ME) ceded the place to settlers, who also prospered but became vested in things as they were, not spending too much energy on what they could be. When the present is good, why worry about the future?
In other words, the previously hard working settlers became lazy and unconcerned about their future. This is another blatant falsehood. Sure some people will always be unconcerned about their future. But most are concerned as evidenced by the flood of settlers leaving Michigan precisely because they are concerned for their future.

I could be wrong but I think the phrase "vested in things as they are" is a veiled slap at the welfare and entitlement state that is Michigan, but why veil it? If one is serious about correcting a big problem, it is crucial that one identify it as explicitly as possible. A feeble attempt follows:
Is it not stunning that polls of state residents show a substantial majority of adults do not see much value in a college education? After all, they didn't need one to get a house, two cars and a boat. They don't seem to get the global shift to a knowledge-based economy, where what you know is what you're worth -- and knowing how to make the machinery more efficient is worth a lot more than just knowing how to operate it.
It's the "substantial majority of adults" who don't get it. So, why don't they get it? What is the school system for? No answer. This is just a complaint that the settlers aren't rising up to become the new pioneers of tomorrow. And why aren't they?
A place needs settlers to make it stable and build its institutions, but those institutions -- whether business or labor or government or education -- should be developing the next generation of pioneers. Now in Michigan, we are too settled. Not willing enough to change, even as the economy crumbles around us.
So it's "we" who are too settled that is the problem.

This editorial reminds me of the song "Where have all the flowers gone?" by the Kingston Trio. In that song we are told that the flowers were picked by girls who then went to husbands who in turn went to war and then to graveyards where they produced more flowers and the cycle repeats itself.

This editorial is singing a similar lament but one it doesn't want to identify explicitly, thus the metaphors, obfuscations and false claims. The unidentified truth is that pioneers came to Michigan attracted by the freedom and opportunity for self-profit. But self-profit was deemed by altruism as evil. Profit as evil led to duty to others as a virtue (altruism). Duty to others became enforced by governments via controls and regulations. Controls and regulations violate the rights of pioneers to think and act on those thoughts freely. The lack of such freedom and opportunity equals no pioneers. No pioneers leads to a stagnant economy and demands that we somehow create more pioneers and the cycle just keeps going.

In the song, after every verse are sung the words "When will they ever learn?"
Good question. Perhaps when they learn that rational selfishness is not evil but is the highest moral virtue.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Another Environmental Head Shaker

Persuant to this post where I linked to a story on how an environmentalist openly declared truth to be irrelevant, comes this story via junkscience.com:

"Berlin's polar bear cub Knut is more famous than ever. Even star photographer Annie Leibovitz has been to take his picture. But not everyone loves the little bear. Animal rights activists want him put to sleep because he has been raised on a bottle." (Der Spiegel) WOW!

How many times have we seen animal rights people trying to rescue wounded or otherwise periled wildlife? But Zoos aren't allowed to?

How many times have we been told animals have rights--by the same people who want to kill Knut?

And what with all the hysteria over the polar bears going extinct in the Arctic, you'd think that saving one would be hailed as a noble and virtuous deed. Nope! He was tainted by humans. Kill him. Whatever their motives, concern for wildlife cannot be one of them.

There are 5 pictures of the little guy. I agree however, that no matter how cute he looks now, when he reaches puberty his natural instincts will take over and he will have to be returned to the wild where he should do just fine.

But I'm still shaking my head.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Discovery Channel Series Reminder

I have been asked to post a reminder to watch the new Discovery Channel series Planet Earth which starts Sunday March 25th at 8pm ET. You can go here to see a trailor. And you can go here to see 4 new very short videos but for some reason the sound doesn't seem to work. No matter, the pictures are impressive. I especially like the one where the man parachutes into a super deep cave.

Here is a photo Gallery with credits.

For even more info you can go to my original announcement of Feb. 8th. 2007.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

A WOW for the Horrer File

Once again I link to Lubos Motl's Reference Frame where he posts a memo on a nightmarish but open confession that truth just doesn't matter which also provides concrete proof that: "Government encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true, it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood."--Ayn Rand

Lubos tells us: "Hulme tells us that if the scientists are going to be listened to in the future, they must "recognize the social limits of their truth seeking" - WOW. ;-) They must thus "trade truth for influence" - WOW. He also says that the "climate change is too important to be left to scientists" - WOW - "least of all the normal ones" - WOW. Hulme promotes the idea that the climate science should become a "post-normal science" - WOW. He says that the "danger" of the "normal science" is that it assumes that the truth is found before the policies are created - WOW."

Wow is an understatement. This kind of thing could keep one awake at night. Evidently, Mike Hulme is a professor of environmental sciences at the university of East Anglia. The memo links to a Gaurdian article where you can read all the gruesome details.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Comments on the "Swindle" documentary

Lubos Motl at The Reference Frame posts links to the documentary "The Great Global Warming Swindle" which was shown in the UK on Thursday Mar 8th/07. I watched it yesterday and thought it was well done.

While they did talk about how unreliable computer models are at predicting the future, I would have liked to see them point out more aggressively how the whole idea of impending disaster exists only in those computers and not in the historical record; that the historical record shows that every time the earth has warmed it has generally been good for most life forms. They did mention it but, to me, lightly.

I then went over to some pro-global warming sites to see what they had to say about "Swindle." First I went to Real Climate, the website of Michael Mann and company. There I found a so called response to Swindle by a William and Gavin. In response to Swindle's contention that CO2 does not match the temperature record of the 20th century, sirs William and Gavin (W&G) claim "True but not relevant, because it isn't supposed to." So the more CO2 we put into the air is not going to match any rise in temperature? That's good to know. But why did the planet cool from 1940 till 1975? Sirs W&G have a reason: Sulfate aerosols. They claim that these aerosols blocked sunlight and caused some cooling and they further claim that because the doc. didn't mention aerosols "...they are lying to us by omission."

There is only one problem with this picture: Sulfate aerosols are largely confined to the northern hemisphere, which means that the southern hemisphere should have been warming significantly more than the NH. But according to Fred Singer here the SH only warmed at a rate of half that of the NH. (Scroll down half-way to figure #9 to begin reading about Sulfate aerosols.) W&G didn't mention this in their rebuttal. Now who is "lying to us by omission"?

In response to the documentary's claim that the troposphere would warm faster than the surface temps, they claim it is--now. Now that the previous "discrepancies" have been fixed. Translation: global warming alarmists have recalibrated the satellites and weather balloons to give data that match their surface readings. I have to do more research on this but it sure smells fishy to me. I mean the National Weather Service has been sending up weather balloons since 1957 and NASA has been launching weather satellites since 1979 and now we're to believe they were doing it all wrong, that warming scientists have to step in and show these two agencies how to get it right? That when 2 technologies, balloons and satellites, say one thing and a third, surface temps, say another, it is the two that must be wrong? How come "consensus" didn't apply in that case?

The documentary shows how environmental groups are acting to prevent energy growth in Africa by blocking the development of power plants that would provide electricity to the masses stuck in absolute poverty. Sirs W&G reply that Kyoto exempts third world nations. Obviously, Kyoto is a strawman and has nothing to do with green NGOs fighting against the building of dams for hydro power and fossil fuel plants.

In any event, all this pro and con debate is mostly pointless. If the globe is warming it is a very good thing. There isn't a shred of evidence in the historical record showing that warming will result in catastrophe for life on earth.

Some warmers say that the sun's influence on climate change is negligible. But new reports show that Pluto, Mars, Jupiter and Neptune's moon Triton are all warming. These bodies are a lot farther from the sun than is the Earth so why are they affected by the sun while the Earth isn't?

Heh, one last note:
Ice Age Now reports that an Arctic expedition to draw attention to global warming had to be cancelled when one of its members suffered frost bite. They just don't get it!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Special Announcement U of M Lecture

I am pleased to make the following announcement:



"The Rise and Fall of Property in America"

Who: Professor Adam Mossoff, Michigan State University College of Law

What: A talk on the rise and fall of property rights in America, discussing the intellectual history of the right to property and how early twentieth-century Progressives destroyed property rights.

When: Wednesday, March 14 at 7:30pm

Where: University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Angell Hall Auditorium D

The public and media are invited. Admission is FREE.

Summary: What happened to property rights in America? Our laws today do little to protect property owners from either the dictator abroad or the bureaucrat in D.C. How did this come to pass in a country founded on the principle that all men have the inalienable right to life, liberty and property? In this lecture, Professor Adam Mossoff explains the rise and fall of property rights in America. He first discusses the intellectual history of the right to property and how the Founding Fathers turned 17th-century theory into 18th-century practice. He then explains how early twentieth-century Progressives destroyed property in order to remove this fundamental obstacle to the implementation of their socialist programs.

The effects of this assault are still felt today, which he illustrates with examples from famous and recent court cases in which judges disintegrated basic property protections, such as the Supreme Court's recent decision in Kelo v. City of New London. Ultimately, the lesson to be learned is that a renaissance in the protection of property rights will not occur through politics or law, but rather in the proper justification of property as a fundamental moral right.

For more information on this talk, please email sardone@umich.edu.

A sharp looking flyer can be seen here.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Lil' Round Up Mar. 6th Global Cooling, Sloppy Statistics, Radio Regulators, Fired Lawyers and NAACP

Lubos Motl is again posting on record low temperatures around North America as well as a notice that the BBC will be airing a new documentary called "The Great Global Warming Swindle" this Thursday at 9PM. I would like to see it but I agree with Lubos that it probably won't get any coverage in the American press.

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Sandy Szwarc at JunkfoodScience goes in depth in part one of "Flip Flopping Headlines" in which she examines how many headlines from one study failed to accurately report what was actually in the study thus misleading a lot of people.

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Myrhaf links to Dismuke who has a scary comment on how the gov is raising the royalty rates on internet radio stations in order to put them out of business. The more I see stuff like this the more I'm convinced these regulators are not just misguided people who don't understand capitalism, they know exactly what they are doing. They are indeed evil people.

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A Little late to be learning things?

Tuesday's Detroit Free Press has a Cox News Service article by Rebecca Carr titled "Dems cry foul over firings of U.S. attorneys." Evidently, 7 U.S. attorneys were fired by the Justice Dept. without warning or explanation. All 7 were appointed by Bush. And according to the article: "Administration officials said they were unhappy with policy decisions made by the ousted attorneys. And they suggested the dismissals were 'performance related'". One has to wonder why he appointed them in the first place.
The article adds that Michael Battle "...director of the executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, who dismissed the prosecuters, would leave his job March 16th." The article didn't say which decisions the Bush administration didn't approve of but I sure would like to know. In any event, it seems to me that Bush is maybe, possibly learning that he cannot trust moderates and liberals. A little too late if you ask me.

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Stuck in the past.

The Detroit News has an analysis by Erin Texeira of the AP titled "Top NAACP departure shows clash on mission." It states:

**NEW YORK -- Bruce S. Gordon's decision to quit as NAACP president after clashing with the board over the group's mission highlights a stubborn problem for activists: how to do civil rights work in an era decades after the movement's peak.

Should the NAACP have allowed Gordon, as Chairman Julian Bond put it, to "pull (them) into the post-civil rights period?"

Bond firmly rejected the idea.

"We're not post civil rights," he said. "The struggle continues."**

And a little later in the article:

**Gordon is leaving, Bond said, because the organization is "resisting philosophical change. We're staying the course."**

That's too bad. They're stuck in the 60s and philosophical change is what is needed more now than before. Objectivism would help out a lot.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Gore's Fans and Investments

Saturday March 3rd the Detroit Free Press had 5 LTEs praising an article in Friday's Mar. 2nd paper showing how Al Gore's house is actually run on green power. One letter writer even said that Al bought "only green energy, which is carbon neutral. It is generated from hydroelectric plants, solar energy and wind power."

Notice how the writer uses the word it. He is speaking of green energy not Gore's actual usage. A casual reader could easily be misled into thinking those forms of energy are what Gore is actually using. Another point is that suddenly, hydroelectric power is green. I guess all those law suits by all those green groups to stop the building of dams for--you know, hydroelectric power--must be a figment of my imagination. I mean, green groups couldn't possibly be against green energy now could they?

The Friday article quoted Gore spokeswoman Kalee Kreider as saying "...the Gores fugure out how much global warming carbon dioxide is emitted from making the electricity for their house, and then invest an equivelent amount in renewable energy projects.
They also use energy-saving light bulbs, drive a Lexus hybrid SUV and are having solar-energy panels installed on the home, she said."

It's nice that Gore can make up for the energy he uses. I don't care how much he wastes as long as he is paying for it. But what about other Americans who can't afford to make up for their foot print? How can Gore demand everyone reduce their usage when his is so huge?

And what is the nature of Mr. Gore's green investments? In an interesting article by Mark Steyn in the Chicago Sun-Times (hat tip to Matt May) Mark says:

"Al buys his carbon offsets from Generation Investment Management LLP, which is "an independent, private, owner-managed partnership established in 2004 and with offices in London and Washington, D.C.," that, for a fee, will invest your money in "high-quality companies at attractive prices that will deliver superior long-term investment returns." Generation is a tax-exempt U.S. 501(c)3. And who's the chairman and founding partner? Al Gore."

So Al is buying his special permissions (carbon offsets) from himself. No wonder he's so gung-ho on global warming! He wants others to reduce their emissions by sacrificing their lifestyles so he can buy their offerings (offsets). I am reminded of Ayn Rand's advice that we shouldn't bother to examine a folly, but ask who stands to gain? Now we know.

Update:
Fred Singer at SEPP has a post on Gore's investments. It's long but as Fred says "meaty."