Climate Change: Follow the Money

We agree with reader Victor Twardowski that this sounds like a total waste of taxpayer money.

GILBERT, Ariz. — A $470 million NASA satellite built by Orbital Sciences Corp. (NYSE: ORB) here promises to give scientists their clearest picture yet of Earth’s warming atmosphere and provide a powerful new tool for climate-change science after its much-anticipated launch next week.

From its perch 438 miles above Earth’s surface, the Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 will be NASA’s first satellite with the sole purpose of measuring atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas linked to global warming.

During its two-year mission, the satellite will provide more-accurate readings of CO2 levels on global and regional scales, allowing scientists to better understand how natural processes and human activity affect concentrations of the greenhouse gas.

Using space-based measurements, scientists can look for carbon sources, like cities where CO2 is produced in mass quantities. They also expect to find carbon “sinks,” areas like the Amazon rain forest where dense vegetation sucks carbon dioxide from the air to produce oxygen.

Cities produce a lot of CO2? Who knew?

If they really want accurate CO2 measurements, why don’t they open a window or put up a balloon to take an air sample? But we guess that wouldn’t create enough jobs for NASA or Orbital Sciences.

Oh, but the satellite might also be able to reveal just how much CO2 is spewed by China.

Global leaders will be able to see which countries, states and even cities emit the most CO2, he said.

“It will be very clear,” Myint said. “Nobody will be able to deny what is going on in a particular city or province. So policy makers can make real serious decisions based on what is going on in those areas.”

Yeah, just throw that satellite data in their faces, and the Chinese will have no choice but to take action! Right.

This is actually the second such satellite constructed. The first one crashed due to launch failure back in 2009. But no worries, the ‘scientists,’ were able to scrape together more taxpayer money to build a replacement, bringing the total cost to the range of $750 million.

Note also that the satellite has a “two year mission.” What happens after two years, does it turn into a pumpkin? Does this mean taxpayers will have to fork over another half-billion or so every two years?

We’re not the only ones skeptical of the utility of this satellite.

Associate Professor Arnim Wiek at Arizona State believes the nearly $750 million spent on the two satellites could have been better spent on solution-oriented research, such as renewable energy and low-carbon urban development.

The data itself will not directly generate solutions to the problem, he said.

“While this might be a worthwhile scientific endeavor, it does not avoid or reduce any carbon-dioxide emissions,” Wiek said. “Even more, it does not provide any knowledge on how to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions.”

Ah, but the good professor is perhaps not aware of the real benefit of the satellite.

Orbital Sciences is a Virginia-based spacecraft and rocket manufacturer with a major satellite production center and 300 employees in this Phoenix suburb.

Global Warming sure is big business. Won’t happen, but an enterprising journalist should check Orbital Sciences’ political contributions.

Best case scenario: NASA is actually launching a secret military satellite, and CO2 is just a convenient cover story.

On Fossil Fuels, We Agree with UD

bullcrapIn light of UD’s announced intention this week to divest its portfolio from fossil fuels, readers might be surprised to find out that here at Yet, Freedom! we generally agree with UD’s position on fossil fuels. After hearing the announcement, we were at first troubled, but after reading some of UD’s responses to criticism, we found very little daylight between UD’s position and ours.

First, consider that some people were of the opinion that the divestment will prove painful for UD.

SacrificeBut this divestment is not expected to significantly impair the performance of UD’s portfolio, as indicated clearly in the official statement.

Trustees and consultants working with the University are confident this investment strategy will not have a significant negative financial impact on the University.

“We take our role as fiduciaries for the University very seriously,” said Steven Cobb, chair of the University of Dayton’s board of trustees. “This decision was made following careful research and in consultation with our investment advisers.”

We are gratified to see that UD’s decision making remains properly informed by economic considerations.

In addition to not costing UD financially, the decision also should involve no substantial social costs, since it conforms perfectly to America’s dominant ethos of Political Correctness, as promoted and enforced by modern liberals. In an apparent stroke of genius, UD was able to reconcile a top priority of secular liberalism with UD’s “religious mission” as well as “Marianist values.” Brilliant!

Next, consider a very good question posed by our colleague, Teresa Wehmeyer. Go Teresa Go!!

TeresaAgain, we applaud UD for giving due consideration to the economics of the issue. For the foreseeable future, economics dictates the continued use of fossil fuels.

To summarize, we agree with UD on two crucial points. First, like UD, we are not willing to sacrifice anything or to incur significant costs for the sake of the theory of Global Warming.

Secondly, like UD, we believe that alternative energy sources should replace fossil fuels only when the alternatives become economically viable, and not a moment sooner.

Go UD Go!!

Government Waste

The Left is the side of politics which believes that the source of social progress is government. Of course, this belief is based on an imaginary and idealized image of government that bears little resemblance to government in the real world. Indeed, a couple of recent news stories about just one federal agency, the EPA, reveal that the Left’s god is more accurately the Lord of the Flies.

First up, secret man caves.

A warehouse maintained by contractors for the Environmental Protection Agency contained secret rooms full of exercise equipment, televisions and couches, according to an internal audit.

EPA’s inspector general found contractors used partitions, screens and piled up boxes to hide the rooms from security cameras in the 70,000 square-foot building located in Landover, Md. The warehouse — used for inventory storage — is owned by the General Services Administration and leased to the EPA for about $750,000 per year…

Conditions at the facility “raise questions about time charges made by warehouse employees under the contract,” the report said.

“The warehouse contained multiple unauthorized and hidden personal spaces created by and for the workers that included televisions, refrigerators, radios, microwaves, chairs and couches,” the IG report said. “These spaces contained personal items, including photos, pin ups, calendars, clothing, books, magazines and videos.”…

In addition to the secret rooms, the IG found an incomplete and inaccurate recordkeeping system; numerous potential security and safety hazards, including an open box of passports; and “deplorable conditions” — such as corrosion, vermin feces and “pervasive” mold.

That was in Maryland. But vermin feces is nothing compared to what the EPA’s Denver office came up with.

Management for Region 8 in Denver, Colo., wrote an email earlier this year to all staff in the area pleading with them to stop inappropriate bathroom behavior, including defecating in the hallway.

In the email, obtained by Government Executive, Deputy Regional Administrator Howard Cantor mentioned “several incidents” in the building, including clogging the toilets with paper towels and “an individual placing feces in the hallway” outside the restroom.

The Environmental Pooping Agency?

Confounded by what to make of this occurrence, EPA management “consulted” with workplace violence “national expert” John Nicoletti, who said that hallway feces is in fact a health and safety risk. He added the behavior was “very dangerous” and the individuals responsible would “probably escalate” their actions.

Gotta wonder how much taxpayer money the EPA paid this consultant to tell them that human feces in the hallway is bad news.

Parting thought: Liberals want bureaucrats to take over and run our health care system.

Our Tax Dollars at Work

Although the C.I.A.’s record of incompetence is well established these have a good chance of generating a heated future EBAY bidding war:

For more than a decade, the CIA has deployed drones, satellites, spies, informants and tracking devices to thwart al-Qaeda in Pakistan.

The spy agency also considered a plan to wage war with toys.

Beginning in about 2005, the CIA began secretly developing a ­custom-made Osama bin Laden ­action figure, according to people familiar with the project. The face of the figure was painted with a heat-dissolving material, designed to peel off and reveal a red-faced bin Laden who looked like a demon, with piercing green eyes and black facial markings.

The goal of the short-lived project was simple: spook children and their parents, causing them to turn away from the actual bin Laden.

Buy, Sell or Cold?

Faculty and staff at U.D. were all sent this message:

Today we will publicly announce that the University of Dayton will divest from major coal and fossil fuel companies.

The Board of Trustees unanimously approved this new investment policy, which reflects the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability, human rights and our religious mission. The decision was made only after careful research and consultation with investment advisers and committee deliberation to ensure there would be no material negative impact on portfolio performance or risk.

Here is more detail from the University webpage.

Setting aside the global warming stuff, the economic impact of this is of course zero.  UD sells some stock and someone else buys some.  If all universities were somehow able to drive down selected stock prices the expected returns of these “fossil fuel company” shares would increase!  And the “investment advisors” don’t seem to have a problem churning the portfolio??  I didn’t see that coming.  Luckily U.D. expects “no material negative impact on portfolio performance or risk.”  That’s good since engaging in politically correct symbolism is one thing, actually putting some money on the line is quite another.   Anyway, I’m hoping that all this will lead to the air-conditioning in the U.D. buildings being turned down a little in the summer so I won’t have to bring a sweatshirt and run the space heater in my office!  But maybe not, since it might result in someone breaking a sweat.

A Glittering Display of Leftist Logic

A leftist journalist tried to defend a proposed new tax on gym memberships in the District of Columbia. The resulting article offers a revealing look at the contradictory and illogical workings of the leftist mind.

In favor of the gym tax, the article makes two salient points.

1. The tax won’t hurt gym owners, because paying more won’t cause people to cancel their memberships. In other words, the demand for gym memberships is perfectly inelastic.

2. The tax will be good for gym members, because it will deter them from paying for memberships that most of them don’t use. A corollary is that, since gyms are so little used, they do little or nothing to promote fitness.

The article presents no direct evidence that either proposition is true, even approximately so. Even more astonishingly, the article fails to recognize that the second point vitiates the first.

Here are the article’s assertions regarding the first proposition.

A fitness tax, if we’re going to call it that, is a good deal for cities and gym owners alike. That’s because there is almost nothing a gym or a city council or anybody else can do to convince someone to cancel a gym membership…

Dellavigna and Malmendier offer several explanations for why we keep paying for gym memberships even as we’re putting off ever making any use of them. Or, in economics terms, why consumers so consistently deviate from making the optimal contractual choice. The researchers offer several explanations: memberships make members feel “virtuous” whether they use them or not; sometimes it’s a giant hassle to cancel a membership; people plum forget about it.

What this means for fitness club owners is that raising monthly fees is unlikely to lead droves of members to cancel their memberships, since nothing will. (Emphasis in original.)

But now all these consumers who cannot be made to cancel will have to pay the tax, so they’ll be worse off, right? Nope, the article claims that the tax helps consumers too.

Failure is built into the traditional gym model: According to Men’s Journal, commercial gyms need 10 times as many members as they can accommodate in order to thrive. “The entire gym, from soup to nuts, has been designed around getting suckers to sign up, and then getting them mildly, vaguely exercised every once in a long while, and then getting them out the door,” writes Daniel Duane.

So if your city council did convince you to quit your gym, they might be doing you a favor.

The article can’t have it both ways. One can’t argue that gym owners needn’t worry because members won’t quit, and then argue that quitting will be a good thing because members are ‘suckers’ who are not benefiting from the gym. The tax can’t be good for both the owners and their clients; somebody must be made worse off.

And by the way, there’s a difference between the elasticity of demand for existing memberships and the demand for new memberships. The article’s arguments, such as they are, apply to existing memberships. But the tax could hurt gym owners by deterring new members.

And there’s also the following contradiction.

…memberships make members feel “virtuous” whether they use them or not; sometimes it’s a giant hassle to cancel a membership; people plum forget about it.

And:

Higher prices for gyms and yoga studios could help to clear residents’ thinking about what they get out of the bargain.

Consumers either care about prices or they don’t. They either care about whether they make use of the gym or they don’t. They either take action, or don’t because it’s a giant hassle. They either think about these things, or they ‘plum forget.’ These things cannot go both ways. Sure, differences exist between individual consumers. But what we are discussing here are general tendencies, and the general tendencies cannot go both ways.

The corollary to the proposition that members are suckers who don’t use their gyms is that gym services don’t promote fitness.

A sales tax on gym memberships is no more a tax on fitness than a sales tax on books is a tax on knowledge…

When more and more Americans belong to gyms and more and more Americans aren’t fit, it’s hard to follow how taxing fitness services necessarily results in taxing fitness.

Let’s leave aside the rather obvious flaws in this reasoning, and note that the article displays the following photo.

BrazilThe caption to the photo reads as follows.

An outdoor seaside gym in Fortaleza, Brazil. Cities can use tax proceeds to promote fitness. (Dominic Ebenbichler/Reuters)

So private sector spending on fitness services does nothing to promote fitness, but government spending on fitness services does. The touchstone of the leftist faith is that All Good Things Come from Government.

We would point out, however, that the fitness equipment in the photo A) looks like junk and B) is not, at least at that moment, being used.

So here’s the leftist logic so far. A tax on gym services won’t hurt gym owners because people won’t drop their memberships, and also won’t hurt consumers because they’ll drop their memberships; private spending on gym services does not promote fitness, but government spending does.

It gets even worse, however.

If the Council wimps out [on imposing the tax], it will be a shame—for the entire District, gym rats included.

Gym rats too? The term ‘gym rats’ refers to people who, you know, work out at gyms. These are people who use the gyms and won’t be giving up their memberships. As a consequence, they are the ones who would pay the tax. How can getting taxed make them better off? Does it follow that a tax on leftist journalists would make leftist journalists better off? To make sense of this, does one have to be a product of the Newark public schools?

So according to the article, if the tax causes you to give up your gym membership, you’re better off. If the tax doesn’t cause you to give up your gym membership, you’re still better off! There’s no logic, no consistency, just faith that taxes and spending are good.

Finally, consider an exchange that took place in the comments section of the article. The article points out that the same budget proposal that includes the services tax on gyms also includes a cut to the city income tax.

gym_taxLet’s see who really lacks reading comprehension. The article states the following.

Expanding the sales tax to cover services is a good idea for cities even absent the income-tax cut that D.C. is proposing.

Hence the article supported the services tax on its own supposed merits, and not contingent on a simultaneous cut to the income tax.

Also, that word ‘belies,’ we think it does not mean what you think it means.

No one combines arrogance with stupidity so assiduously as the modern liberal.

FDA vs. The Salt Guru

Another day, another junk-science regulation from the FDA. Now they want to control how much salt we eat.

“The current level of [sodium] consumption is really higher than it should be,” said FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg. That’s why they’re preparing “voluntary guidelines” for the food industry encouraging them to stay below certain salt levels.

While the guidelines will initially be voluntary, health groups are lobbying for mandatory standards — lobbying that will only grow more intense if businesses refuse to comply once the standards are released. If businesses don’t go light on the salt “then FDA should start a process of mandatory limits,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest Executive Director Michael Jacobson.

For FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg to say that salt consumption is “higher than it should be” implies that she knows how high salt consumption should be. But the fact is that science has not credibly established how much is the right amount of salt, or how much is too much. The Atlantic recently discussed this issue with molecular biologist Mort Satin.

Satin readily admits, though, while disagreeing with these guidelines, that he doesn’t know what the right amount is. His bible is the Dietary Reference Intake, which is an Institute of Medicine study supported by the National Academy of Sciences, The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, among others.

The book offers an estimated average requirement (EAR) of various elements and minerals. Satin eagerly points at the top of page 270, which reads, “Because of insufficient data from dose-response trials, an EAR could not be established, and thus a Recommended Dietary Allowance could not be derived. Hence, an Adequate Intake is provided.”

In plain language: It was impossible to determine how much salt we should be consuming, leaving Satin further incensed that someone would claim to know how much we shouldn’t be eating. “You can guarantee if they had the evidence, it’d be there,” he says. His view of the 2,300 mg line is that it was invented out of thin air. “It was a lie,” he says. “I know scientists, and I know how they think: if there is no evidence, they made it up.”

Mort Satin, by the way, is the self-styled “Salt Guru.”

Go Salt Guru Go!!

 

Moderation in the defense of liberty is no virtue

We wrote previously about the FDA’s attack on artisanal cheese producers in the form of a proposed ban on the use of wooden planks to age cheese. Here’s an excerpt from the Yahoo! report on the proposed ban.

“There is no science behind any of this… It’s like [the FDA is] declaring war on all small producers,” cheese maker Mary Falk, audibly upset, told us. Falk and her husband operate the LoveTree Farmstead in Grantsburg, Wisconsin, where they age wheels of raw sheep’s milk cheese, cow’s milk cheese, and others (that have been described as some of the world’s best) on wooden planks. As far as she knows, no one has ever been sickened by her cheeses.

“I’ve always been this easygoing moderate, but now I’m going: This is just blatant fascism. Are we in Russia?”

We appreciate Ms. Falk’s passion on this issue, and given the circumstances, we won’t argue with her choice of the f-word (fascism). But isn’t she a bit late to the limited-government party? The FDA in particular, and Big Government in general, have been ruining people’s lives and livelihoods for decades, as even a cursory perusal of this website’s archives will confirm. Yet until the livelihood threatened by the government was her own, Ms. Falk was happy to remain an “easygoing moderate.”

Big Government is a threat to all of us, even to those within the government, and people need to wake up to that fact before they become victims themselves. An attack on one person’s rights is an attack on all our rights, because if it can happen to some of us, it can eventually happen to any of us.

The time to oppose no-knock SWAT raids for non-violent offenses is now, not while the battering ram is at the door. The time to rein in government spending is now, not when government default triggers a massive financial crisis.

A lot of people feel safe calling themselves moderates, since at least no one can accuse them of extremism. But political moderation usually reflects some combination of ignorance and cowardice. The founders of the United States such as Thomas Jefferson, Sam Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were not “easygoing moderates.” On the contrary, they were pro-liberty radicals in the most literal sense of the term. In those days, America also had its share of moderates, but nobody remembers their names. As Rush Limbaugh likes to say, one of the shortest books in the world is “Great Moderates in History.”

Liberty is under relentless assault, and as the Founding Fathers knew, and as Cicero knew before them, the defense of liberty requires considerably more than easygoing moderation.

No holiday ceasefire in the War on Men

On the same weekend as Father’s Day, Time runs an article entitled “Do Fathers Love Their Children Less Than Mothers Do?” The article misinterprets the results of an economics working paper to suggest that, yes, fathers love their children less.

Happy Father’s Day!

Let us now perform a little thought experiment by reversing the sexes. Suppose that, on the weekend of Mother’s Day, Time published an article entitled, “Do Mothers Love Their Children Less Than Fathers Do?” and implied an answer to the question in the affirmative. Time would be burned to the ground.

Because equality.

In other news in the ongoing War on Non-Ruling-Class Men, celebrated feminist poetess Denice Frohman is out with a new poetry slam, “1-800-White Man Privilege Hotline.”

 

 

William Butler Yeats, eat your heart out.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so we collected a few historical pics of dead white males luxuriating in their privilege. Too bad Denice Frohman never got a chance to tell these guys how easy they had it, and how much tougher things are for a poet and “queer woman from a multi-cultural background.”
 

Male privilege, 1915.

male4

 

Male privilege, circa 1944.

male_privilege

 

Male Privilege, West Virginia, 1976.

male8

 

Male privilege, Lower Manhattan, September 11, 2001.

male7

 

And finally, just a coal miner and his daughters–no feminist poets in this pic.

male11

Remy weighs in on VA scandal

At long last, Remy gives us his take on the VA scandal, and he also manages to work in the Bowe Bergdahl fiasco. Our multi-trillion-dollar imperial-federal government assures that there will always be plenty of scandals to choose from. At some point, we’ll have to stop calling them scandals and acknowledge the abominations for what they are–the inevitable bitter fruits of Big Government.