Monthly Archives: July 2012

Obstructionist Congress – Only They And Never Me

Obama has been lashing out at congress.  In fact, democrats in general blame congress for failing to pass his legislation referring to them as a “Do-Nothing Congress.”

President Obama and his supporters are well aware that Friday’s jobs report is an ugly mess. But they’re trying to gain the high ground by shifting attention to Congress, highlighting a number of White House jobs proposals that have languished under the GOP-controlled House of Representatives.

In a trip to a Honeywell factory in Minnesota Friday, Obama responded to the dismal news with a speech demanding Congress take action on a variety of measures, including infrastructure investments and aid to state and local governments to prevent teachers, firefighters and police from being laid off, that Republicans have thus far opposed. He also announced a new initiative to encourage private employers to hire returning veterans.

“We’ve got responsibilities that are bigger than an election,” Obama said. “We’ve got responsibilities to you. So my message to Congress is: Now is not the time to play politics, now is not the time to sit on your hands, the American people expect their leaders to work hard no matter what year it is.”

I wonder what the President would say regarding the latest shenanigans taking place in the lower chamber:

Republicans and Democrats got snippy on the House floor Wednesday over a typo in a GOP deregulation bill, which Democrats have so far refused to let Republicans fix quickly on the floor by unanimous consent.

The bill, H.R. 4078, is meant to prohibit major federal regulations until the unemployment rate falls to 6 percent, but instead says no new regulations can be issued until the employment rate falls to 6 percent.

Earlier in the day, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he would not grant unanimous consent to add “un” to the word “employment” and thus fix the bill on the floor. And Wednesday afternoon, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) indicated that Democrats were not willing yet to allow the quick fix.

House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) asked Connolly if he would object to a unanimous consent request to make the correction. Issa cast the error as a mistake made by professional staff.

But in reply, Connolly said, “This member will reserve the right to object at the appropriate time.”

“Nothing could be more insincere than to pick on professional staff on a typographical error,” Issa shot back. “If we have to… go to the Rules Committee, I guess we will, but I’m really sorry to see that kind of an attitude on what the gentleman and all of us know was simply a typographical error.”

Connolly then took umbrage with Issa’s remark, and asked the presiding officer, “Did this member hear… the distinguished chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee characterize a member as insincere?”

Truly doing the people’s will.

Now, to be fair, the more we can restrain Washington from passing laws, the better off we are, so, I must find myself congratulating the Do-Nothing Democrats of the House!!

Barack Obama: Giving Something Back

At that small little firehouse in Virginia, Mr. Obama gave us a very real look into his philosophy.  Key among that is how success is built.  Let’s look at his words more carefully:

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.  (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

So, from his words we see that Obama feels that our success is not ours alone:

They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.

So, why are we successful?

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.

And that help was?

There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.

And because of all this help, what are we expecting the successful among us to do?

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.

But I’m struck….how did all that help get there in the first place?  I’ll leave that to Thomas Sowell via Mark Perry:

All the high-flown talk about how people who are successful in business should “give back” to the community that created the things that facilitated their success is, again, something that sounds plausible to people who do not stop and think through what is being said. After years of dumbed-down education, that apparently includes a lot of people.

Take Obama’s example of the business that benefits from being able to ship their products on roads that the government built. How does that create a need to “give back”? Did the taxpayers, including business taxpayers, not pay for that road when it was built? Why should they have to pay for it twice?

What about the workers that businesses hire, whose education is usually created in government-financed schools? The government doesn’t have any wealth of its own, except what it takes from taxpayers, whether individuals or businesses. They have already paid for that education. It is not a gift that they have to “give back” by letting politicians take more of their money and freedom.

When businesses hire highly educated people, such as chemists or engineers, competition in the labor market forces them to pay higher salaries for people with longer years of valuable education. That education is not a government gift to the employers. It is paid for while it is being created in schools and universities, and it is paid for in higher salaries when highly educated people are hired.

One of the tricks of professional magicians is to distract the audience’s attention from what they are doing while they are creating an illusion of magic. Pious talk about “giving back” distracts our attention from the cold fact that politicians are taking away more and more of our money and our freedom.

Why should they have to pay for it twice?  Indeed.

Barack Obama: Government Invented The Internet

For the record, I said this first:

Contrary to what Obama would have you believe, it wasn’t the government that created the internet, it was individuals engaging in business that invented the internet.

Now, from the Wall Street Journal:

It’s an urban legend that the government launched the Internet. The myth is that the Pentagon created the Internet to keep its communications lines up even in a nuclear strike. The truth is a more interesting story about how innovation happens—and about how hard it is to build successful technology companies even once the government gets out of the way.

For many technologists, the idea of the Internet traces to Vannevar Bush, the presidential science adviser during World War II who oversaw the development of radar and the Manhattan Project. In a 1946 article in The Atlantic titled “As We May Think,” Bush defined an ambitious peacetime goal for technologists: Build what he called a “memex” through which “wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.”

That fired imaginations, and by the 1960s technologists were trying to connect separate physical communications networks into one global network—a “world-wide web.” The federal government was involved, modestly, via the Pentagon’s Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. Its goal was not maintaining communications during a nuclear attack, and it didn’t build the Internet. Robert Taylor, who ran the ARPA program in the 1960s, sent an email to fellow technologists in 2004 setting the record straight: “The creation of the Arpanet was not motivated by considerations of war. The Arpanet was not an Internet. An Internet is a connection between two or more computer networks.”

If the government didn’t invent the Internet, who did? Vinton Cerf developed the TCP/IP protocol, the Internet’s backbone, and Tim Berners-Lee gets credit for hyperlinks.

But full credit goes to the company where Mr. Taylor worked after leaving ARPA: Xerox. It was at the Xerox PARC labs in Silicon Valley in the 1970s that the Ethernet was developed to link different computer networks. Researchers there also developed the first personal computer (the Xerox Alto) and the graphical user interface that still drives computer usage today.

But, did the government impact the creation of the Internet in any way?

As for the government’s role, the Internet was fully privatized in 1995, when a remaining piece of the network run by the National Science Foundation was closed—just as the commercial Web began to boom. Blogger Brian Carnell wrote in 1999: “The Internet, in fact, reaffirms the basic free market critique of large government. Here for 30 years the government had an immensely useful protocol for transferring information, TCP/IP, but it languished. . . . In less than a decade, private concerns have taken that protocol and created one of the most important technological revolutions of the millennia.”

Other than delaying the innovation for 30 years, the government seems to have done not a thing.

Parenting: SES Impact – The Bell Curve

I’m continuing my series on the chapters of “The Bell Curve”, by Herrnstein and Murray.  If you are interested in the posts so far, just go to the category selections on the right sidebar, I’ve grouped them together under The Bell Curve.

The other day we dealt with welfare and the impact that socioeconomic status has on:

  1. Going on it
  2. Staying on it

The results were mixed.  The answer, it depends.

Today we’re gonna look at parenting and the impact of the SES of the mother on her children.

Even before the life of the child has a chance to take off, a critical component of parenting is the birth weight of that child.    By examining the socioeconomic status of the mother we might catch a glimpse of it’s impact on her children:

As you can see from the chart the impact of the socioeconomic status of the mother is small or meaningless.

Moving to the early life of the child, the authors explore childhood poverty in the first three years of the child’s life.  Again, holding other variables constant, the impact of the SES of the mother:

That impact is dramatic.  Poor women raises poor kids while the wealthy mothers raise children above the poverty line.  As soon as the mother’s wealth dropped below the average, the probability of childhood poverty rises very steeply.

The next set of data describes the impact of the SES of the mother on the HOME index.

 The Home Observation for Measurement of the Environment (HOME) Inventory is designed to measure the quality and extent of stimulation available to a child in the home environment. The Infant/Toddler HOME Inventory (IT-HOME) comprises 45 items that provide information from the child’s perspective on stimuli found to affect children’s cognitive development. Assessors make observations during home visits when the child is awake and engaged in activities typical for that time of the day and conduct an interview with a parent or guardian. The IT-HOME is organized into six subscales: (1) Responsivity: the extent of responsiveness of the parent to the child; (2) Acceptance: parental acceptance of suboptimal behavior and avoidance of restriction and punishment; (3) Organization: including regularity and predictability of the environment; (4) Learning Materials: provision of appropriate play and learning materials; (5) Involvement: extent of parental involvement; and (6) Variety in daily stimulation. For the IT-HOME, 18 items are based on observation, 15 on interview, and 12 on either observation or interview.

In 1986, 1988 and 1990, the NLSY conducted surveys of the children and mothers using the HOME observations.  From that data, the authors build a probability of scoring in the lowest decile of that index based on the SES of the mother:

Again we see the pattern.  As the wealth of the mother decline, the HOME index score of the family unit becomes worse.  Only 3 in 100 of the wealthiest women have children in the lowest decile in the index while the poorest women have 10 in 100.

The next topic in the chapter deals with developmental outcomes of the children of moms in the NLSY.  The study administered a host of tests regrading those outcomes.  In short, the book is looking at measuring those children who scored in the bottom decile of the 4 indicators of a given test year.  If they answered “yes” for any of the four tests being in that bottom decile or “no” if they did not.

The results holding all variables equal but SES of the mother:

The data is relatively modest; 5 points separate the top from the bottom.

Finally, the last factor studied in the chapter – the IQ of the child.  Here the authors again decided to look at the probability of the child ranking in the bottom DECILE of IQ based on the SES of the mother.  Again, the data:

Again, the impact of the mother’s SES status is mild; moving the ranking from 10% to 4%, highest to lowest.

In conclusion, with the notable exception of living in poverty for the first 3 years of life, the SES of the child’s mother has only mild predictive value in the studied outcomes.

“You Didn’t Build That” – Out Of Context

Obama is taking a lot of heat for his comments in Virgina.  It was in that speech that he made the now infamous, “If you have a business, you didn’t build that.”  The republicans are going crazy with the clip, using it in every ad they can put on TV or the radio.  They’ve got it on Facebook and Twitter.  Obama saying that business owners didn’t build “that.”

And the left is going nuts over context.

First, I’ve always said that the remark IS out of context.  The president clearly was referring to roads and bridges when he mentioned “that.”

Second, this is politics.  These same people who are now fainting over context were no where to be seen when Romney was quoted as saying, “I like to fire people.”  No one was complaining about context when Romney’s comments on self-check out lines was doctored.  It is what it is.

Third, and this is the biggie for me, Obama BELIEVES the message that the republicans are pushing in the out of context quote.  Two months ago, if you were to ask Obama if he felt that businesses were built by their owners or with help from the government, he’d tell you that of COURSE it was built with the help of the government.  Heck, he’s saying that in the speech.

So, here are his remarks:

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, like I said, the only way you can pay for that — if you’re actually saying you’re bringing down the deficit — is to cut transportation, cut education, cut basic research, voucherize Medicare, and you’re still going to end up having to raise taxes on middle-class families to pay for this $5 trillion tax cut.  That’s not a deficit reduction plan.  That’s a deficit expansion plan.

I’ve got a different idea.  I do believe we can cut — we’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts.  We can make some more cuts in programs that don’t work, and make government work more efficiently.  (Applause.)  Not every government program works the way it’s supposed to.  And frankly, government can’t solve every problem.  If somebody doesn’t want to be helped, government can’t always help them.  Parents — we can put more money into schools, but if your kids don’t want to learn it’s hard to teach them.  (Applause.)

But you know what, I’m not going to see us gut the investments that grow our economy to give tax breaks to me or Mr. Romney or folks who don’t need them.  So I’m going to reduce the deficit in a balanced way.  We’ve already made a trillion dollars’ worth of cuts.  We can make another trillion or trillion-two, and what we then do is ask for the wealthy to pay a little bit more.  (Applause.)  And, by the way, we’ve tried that before — a guy named Bill Clinton did it.  We created 23 million new jobs, turned a deficit into a surplus, and rich people did just fine.  We created a lot of millionaires.

There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back.  They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own.  You didn’t get there on your own.  I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart.  There are a lot of smart people out there.  It must be because I worked harder than everybody else.  Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.  (Applause.)

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.  Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

And now, finally, the press is getting around to going after Romney over the context of the quote that he’s using.  And his response?  Just like I’ve been saying.

LARRY KUDLOW: “Why do you think President Obama, what did he mean, if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build it, someone else made that happen? He claims it’s being taken out of context. What do you think it means? Do you think this is Obama anti-business, anti-entrepreneur? Or do you think maybe he has been treated unfairly?”

GOV. ROMNEY: “Well, just read the whole speech. I found the speech even more disconcerting than just that particular line. The context is worse than the quote. The context, he says, you know, you think you’ve been successful because you’re smart, but he says a lot of people are smart. You think you’ve been successful because you work hard, a lot of people work hard. This is an ideology which says hey, we’re all the same here, we ought to take from all and give to one another and that achievement, individual initiative and risk-taking and success are not to be rewarded as they have in the past. It’s a very strange and in some respects foreign to the American experience type of philosophy. We have always been a nation that has celebrated success of various kinds. The kid that gets the honor roll, the individual worker that gets a promotion, the person that gets a better job. And in fact, the person that builds a business. And by the way, if you have a business and you started it, you did build it. And you deserve credit for that. It was not built for you by government. And by the way, we pay for government. Government doesn’t come free. The people who begin enterprises, the people who work in enterprises, they’re the ones paying for government. So his whole philosophy is an upside-down philosophy that does not comport with the American experience. And if we want to get people working again–and that’s my priority–if we want to get people working again, we have to celebrate success and achievement and not demonize it and denigrate the people who have worked hard, who are smart, who have made the kinds of investments to build a brighter future.”

The context of the quote is worse than the quote.  Obama’s using the success of the business owner as a lever to force him to pay more taxes.  And he hides behind “they wanna give something back.”

You Didn’t Build That

More and more Americans are waking up to the core beliefs this man has.  He’s a big government statist.  He thinks he can spend your money better than you.  And he believes, honest to God believes, that government builds people and not the other way around.

Each one of these people represents a qualification of leadership and accomplishment that he doesn’t.

The Science Behind Fracking

The science behind energy has always been progressing.  hat started out as campfires has turned into nuclear reactions and laser shots.  We’ve gone from wood to whole oil.  Whale oil to kerosene.  Kerosene to coal and gas.  Mix in some windmills and solar panels, we’ve come a long way.

Each new advancement seems to come to as the matrix of inputs, and outputs, change.  We have oil today because we were running out of whales yesterday a delicious fact of life to present to your favorite neighborhood environmentalist].  We’ve gone from totally dependent on fossil fuels to nuclear options.  And today we’re taking advantage of natural gas through fracking procedures.

We change and adapt for several reasons.  Sometimes it’s because we develop technology.  We gave up on whales because the technology of oil extraction produced more value through oil than did hunting whales.  We’re able to tap into reserves of oil previously unreachable through new technologies and due to a changing demand for oil; the price of oil now makes new drilling economically sound.  And sometimes we have impacts to the environment that cause us to change.  As we throw soot into the air from our coal plants we discover that those effects are undesirable.  So we try to clean the exhaust.  That cleaning adds costs and those costs drive new technology.

And all of that, if done correctly, is a good thing.  It’s when the dogma surrounding the “Ought” get’s in the way when things go off track.

We forget to track the value.

Is burning the coal and sending the pollution into the air worth the benefit?  Is mining the coal and hurting/killing the miners worth the benefit?  Is the risk of a meltdown in a reactor worth the energy.  is it worth the cleaner energy that coal provides?  The comparisons can go on and on.

folks aren’t being honest if they don’t acknowledge that there are downsides to today’s energy.  And others aren’t being honest if they don’t acknowledge the benefits we enjoy due to that energy.  If reducing coal emissions meant a slow down in medical research, would that be worth it?  if we reduced the deep sea drilling and added to the cost of crude oil, would the economic impacts of higher cost of energy be worth it?

No one should deny that drilling, deep sea or shallow land, doesn’t impact the environment.  However, there shouldn’t be any doubt to the benefits that drilling provides either.

All this brings me to fracking.  This form of energy extraction isn’t any different than the ones we’ve already discussed.  There are puts and there are takes.  The rub comes in the value.  And this is where I think today’s ‘Green Energy” folks are getting it wrong.

I get that wind and solar are easier on mother Earth.  But they don’t have the economic ability to make themselves viable.  The benefit ain’t worth the downside; dramatically more expensive power.  And those same “Green Energy” folk’s hatred of fracking follows the same blindness to the value proposition that they exhibit in solar and wind.

Fracking gives us access to substantially cheaper gas than we’ve had in the past.  AND we have massive amounts of it.  Are there downsides?  Sure.  But they may not be as bad as they say:

PITTSBURGH — In the debate over natural gas drilling, the companies are often the ones accused of twisting the facts. But scientists say opponents sometimes mislead the public, too.

Critics of fracking often raise alarms about groundwater pollution, air pollution, and cancer risks, and there are still many uncertainties. But some of the claims have little — or nothing— to back them.


…reports that breast cancer rates rose in a region with heavy gas drilling are false, researchers told The Associated Press.

Fears that natural radioactivity in drilling waste could contaminate drinking water aren’t being confirmed by monitoring, either.

And concerns about air pollution from the industry often don’t acknowledge that natural gas is a far cleaner burning fuel than coal.

Ironically, the same groups that accuse the right of ignoring the science of global warming*, are the same folks who might be ignoring science themselves.

“The debate is becoming very emotional. And basically not using science” on either side, said Avner Vengosh, a Duke University professor studying groundwater contamination who has been praised and criticized by both sides.

More on the science:

Opponents of fracking say breast cancer rates have spiked exactly where intensive drilling is taking place — and nowhere else in the state. The claim is used in a letter that was sent to New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo by environmental groups and by Josh Fox, the Oscar-nominated director of “Gasland,” a film that criticizes the industry. Fox, who lives in Brooklyn, has a new short film called “The Sky is Pink.”

But researchers haven’t seen a spike in breast cancer rates in the area, said Simon Craddock Lee, a professor of medical anthropology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

David Risser, an epidemiologist with the Texas Cancer Registry, said in an email that researchers checked state health data and found no evidence of an increase in the counties where the spike supposedly occurred.

And Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a major cancer advocacy group based in Dallas, said it sees no evidence of a spike, either.

“We don’t,” said Chandini Portteus, Komen’s vice president of research, adding that they sympathize with people’s fears and concerns, but “what we do know is a little bit, and what we don’t know is a lot” about breast cancer and the environment.

And back to the radioactive water:

Another instance where fears haven’t been confirmed by science is the concern that radioactivity in drilling fluids could threaten drinking water supplies.

Critics of fracking note the deep underground water that comes up along with gas has high levels of natural radioactivity. Since much of that water, called flowback, was once being discharged into municipal sewage treatment plants and then rivers in Pennsylvania, there was concern about public water supplies.

But in western Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority did extensive tests and didn’t find a problem in area rivers. State environmental officials said monitoring at public water supply intakes across the state showed non-detectable levels of radiation, and the two cases that showed anything were at background levels.

And finally the irony:

Critics of fracking also repeat claims of extreme air pollution threats, even as evidence mounts that the natural gas boom is in some ways contributing to cleaner air.

Marcellus air pollution “will cause a massive public health crisis,” claims a section of the Marcellus Shale Protest website.

Yet data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration show that the shale gas boom is helping to turn many large power plants away from coal, which emits far more pollution. And the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency passed new rules to force drillers to limit releases of methane from wells and pumping stations.

Some environmental groups now say that natural gas is having a positive effect on air quality.

Earlier this year, the group PennFuture said gas is a much cleaner burning fuel, and it called gas-fired power plants “orders of magnitude cleaner” than coal plants.

Does burning gas impact air quality and the environment around it?  Sure.  To a degree.  But is it worth it?  Is it worth burning gas in order to bring to our doorsteps life saving medications, educational advancements, new advancements in cancer research?  Also, sure.

We need to watch and make sure that we’re taking care to increase our value.  We don’t kill whales for whale oil just because there’s whale oil in the ocean.  And maybe one day, when we can more effectively split the atom, we’ll stop drilling for oil.  But until then, please, run through the value proposition.

*It’s important to point out that there is a difference in accepting man made warming and accepting catastrophic global climate change.  And much of the emotional back and forth in this debates comes from ignoring this fact.


Gun Control

I’m guessing the tragedy in Colorado is going to get us all talking gun control again:

WASHINGTON (CBS News) The carnage in Aurora, Colorado has re-opened the nation’s debate about gun control. The issue came up after the 1999 Columbine massacre, but has largely been dormant since former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot 2011.

For the record, I think I’m moderate on gun control.  I support owning guns however I don’t think citizens need access to all forms of firearms.  Further, we should all agree that not all people should be able to own a weapon.

  • Kids
  • Felons
  • Terror watch list members
  • Perhaps controlled substance addicted individuals

I don’t know, just that we can agree that some people should be restricted.

With that, here’s my question:

Would you want the front row in that Colorado theater armed or not armed?


If you were in that front row in Colorado, would YOU want to be armed or not armed?

State Of Education In North carolina

Saw this at the Y a couple of weekends past.  I went to the Children’s Defense Fund and found this:

I’m gonna have to do something about that.  Maybe if I put it into print I’ll actually get off my ass.



Welfare: SES Impact – The Bell Curve

I’m continuing my series on the chapters of “The Bell Curve”, by Herrnstein and Murray.  If you are interested in the posts so far, just go to the category selections on the right sidebar, I’ve grouped them together under The Bell Curve.

So far we’ve taken a look at the impacts that the socioeconomic status of the parents of white women in the NLSY have on various life outcomes.  Included in those outcomes so far is poverty, education, Employment and the family.  This post deals with welfare and the dependency on welfare.

The first look at the impact of SES has welfare is what the probablity is of a white woman going on welfare within a year of her first birth.  The data presented below shows that probability with poverty and marital status  taken into account:

As probability of going on welfare moved from the poorest, about 28%, to the wealthiest, about 19%, the trend is down.  However, the authors report that the results are not statistically significant.

But another picture arises altogether when we look at chronic welfare recipients:

Here the results are dramatic.    The probability of a white woman in the NLSy study is greatly influenced by the socioeconomic status of her parents.  The authors don’t explain what might cause the change in the mild predictive value of SES in welfare at all vs. the highly predictive value that it plays in chronic welfare dependency.  However, they do hint that education plays a role somehow.