Monday, July 30, 2007

Common sense and the public university

This is rare: common sense at the University of Wisconsin. Maybe not rare, but certainly note-worthy. Should an undergraduate studying business pay more than one studying psychology? Should a journalism degree cost more than one in literature? Yes. There is more demand for business and journalism and so they are more valuable. And because they have more value for the students, they are willing to pay more. And the costs are higher: the professors are in demand, so they demand and receive higher pay. Duhhh. If there is a cheap shot the NY Times will take it. On the front page of the Seattle Times print version, but not online:
Will students with less money have fewer choices?
Do shoppers with less money have fewer choices? Do welfare recipients buy $200 concert seats? Does the Seattle Times gives its newspaper away? No, they can't afford to. Welcome to life, Seattle Times. It's tough.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Capitalist hero Charles Schwab

Perhaps no one on the globe has come to symbolize the rise of the investor class in America in recent decades more than Charles Schwab. Wall Street Journal (subscription):
When Mr. Schwab, or "Chuck," as nearly everyone calls him, opened his first brokerage office in 1971, the stock market was pretty much the exclusive sandbox of the richest 5-10% of Americans. Today, thanks in no small part to his company's financial market innovations, investing has been thoroughly "democratized," as he puts it, with more than half of working class adults now owners of stock. Creating wealth is what Mr. Schwab has come to regard as his "life's pursuit." He's accomplished that not just for himself -- his stake in the company is estimated at $4 billion -- but also for the millions of small investors who first came to be owner-capitalists by opening a Schwab account.
The impact has been felt by everyone. Blue-collar workers are now owners - through stocks, mutual funds, but mostly their retirement pensions and 401K plans.
"The wealth creation potential of this country is unbelievable; and it's going global," he says excitedly. He insists that one of the best policy changes in Washington in recent years was the Pension Protection Act of 2006, which provided for the automatic enrollment of workers into 401(k) plans. This is going to turn a generation of 20-25 year olds into investors, he says. And he predicts that workers at firms with 401(k)s will become acculturated to saving, and this will vastly expand the investor class in America. This is the one subject we talk about that seems to visibly get Mr. Schwab's heart beating faster -- and not just because it will expand the company's client base in the years to come. He predicts that more investors will mean "a much more informed citizen who has a stake in the economic machine of America. If you own a few shares of stock, or mutual funds, you have a piece of the action. A person's a much better citizen when they know that they're personally benefiting from the success of the country, the success of American companies."

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Feeding more people - Rice research

The green revolution has slowed, causing concern for feeding people in developing India and the Philippines. The green revolution, which took off in the 1960s, was scientific research for higher yield wheat and rice for the specific growing conditions in third-world countries. American agricultural scientist Norman Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. For example, Mexico became an exporter of wheat in 1963 and India and Pakistan nearly double their yields of wheat between 1965 and 1970. But now the increase in actual yields is slowing. While there are increased challenges from urbanization taking prime land and global warming.
he construction of factories, apartment blocks and highways is paving over usable land in China, India and Indonesia. India has underinvested in agriculture for decades as it fostered its high-tech services and manufacturing industries. Climate change may be playing a role, too, by increasing the frequency of extreme droughts and floods.
The Wall Street Journal (subscription) on the current research efforts: Some researchers are experimenting with seed varieties that can withstand droughts or floods. Others are growing rice in dry soil, much like corn, rather than flooded paddies. Strategies also include trying to alter the way rice plants perform photosynthesis and concocting hybrid varieties that can boost yields by as much as 20%. .... "Zeigler believes that with a few imaginative scientists, you can really make a change," says Randy Barker, an agricultural economist who worked at IRRI in the 1960s and 1970s and recently returned to serve as acting head of IRRI's social-sciences department. Though he acknowledges some progress, "I don't see any major breakthroughs," he says. Some rural-development experts have criticized IRRI sharply over the years for promoting rice varieties like IR8 that require heavy doses of water, fertilizer and other chemicals. They believe those methods contributed to the same environmental problems that the IRRI worries about now. They also fear that IRRI's tech-heavy slant could leave farmers dependent on expensive new seeds that require special care or costly chemicals to generate good results. Scientists at IRRI "see plants as little machines and redesign them" endlessly, but that's not always the best approach, says Norman Uphoff, a Cornell University professor and rice specialist. He acknowledges that the IRRI is doing some good work. But he is from the camp that advocates lower-tech solutions such as spacing seeds farther apart so the plants can get more sunlight. That simple technique, he says, can boost plant growth. Officials at IRRI say that some past approaches might have short-changed the environment, but that higher rice yields also helped save lives. The institute says it is now far more focused on environmentally sustainable technologies such as methods that use less water. IRRI's annual budget of about $30 million comes chiefly from development agencies in the U.S., Japan and other wealthy countries, though it does accept some money from private companies. Although companies like Monsanto Co. of the U.S. also do some rice research, the industry also relies heavily on IRRI to lead the way. When IRRI develops new seeds it makes them available for free to anyone who requests them.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Democrats turncoats on trade

The Democrats made a small deal on trade with President Bush in May for agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama and South Korea . But now, six weeks later, they added a condition that is impossible to meet. They require that another country, Peru, change its laws. They can't blame Bush for what Peru doesn't do. Because they designed their condition to be impossible. Trade has greatly increased the world's economy. (PDF).
What’s common to all those miracles? The Dutch were the first European republic, both tolerant toward all religions (when the rest of Europe was still severely discriminating against many) and with sound rights to property, which opened opportunities for relatively unhindered trade and financial innovation.
If the Democrats are against trade, then they are against you having a job. The State of Washington is hugely dependent on trade. I work for a firm with major overseas sales - and purchases, also. Our son does also. Our daughter works in tourism, hosting foreign tourists every day. Our good jobs depend on trade - two-way trade. Today's Wall Street Journal has more. First, Democrat Charles Rangel says it is politics:
"You take me and the Democrats to the do you think you're going to win?" he says in an interview. "The politics are on our side."
But he is generating rain clouds over his own parade.
The war of words is clouding a trip Mr. Rangel is planning in August to Peru and Panama, where he hopes to meet with local legislators and lay the groundwork for action in Congress this fall. Panama has so far stayed on the sidelines of the debate. But Peruvian President Alan Garcia has written to Ms. Pelosi asking for congressional action before Mr. Rangel's delegation arrives. Mr. Garcia suggests doing so "will send a strong signal to the people of Peru that the United States is committed to finalizing this trade agreement."
Good for Peru's President Garcia! Ask the Dems to keep their word!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Global growth - Lower taxes

Rich Karlgaard of Forbes (on his blog) discovers a gem: Kudos to U.S. News and World Report for reporting this oddly underreported story. The global economy from 2003 to 2007 has grown about 5% a year. It is a quarter bigger than it was five years ago--about $15 trillion a year bigger. That's equivalent to adding a new North America to the global economy. Each year. Wow. Writes U.S. News:
This is the story of globalization, of free trade, of China, of India. Then there is this: The 21st century has also seen a global effort to reduce tax rates.
How often do you read that? My gosh, people and economies really do respond to lower tax rates. Somebody tell The New York Times. And The Wall Street Journal, for that matter. (Outside the op-ed page, the Journal is no great friend of supply-side economics.) Somebody tell the candidates running for U.S. president. Global growth is great for humanity--a billion people have departed poverty over the last 15 years. Global growth is good for the U.S. economy, too. In revenue, America is $3 trillion a year bigger than in 2003. In market cap, tens of trillions bigger. No Democrat says these words. Hillary Clinton says we need a "time out" from global trade. "Apple and Boeing, to your rooms! You need a time out! You're killing my story line!" [What a cheap manipulator.] Republicans should be running cheerful pro-growth campaigns. They aren't. Boo [to] them.

Ahmadinejad unpopular. Don't rescue him

Iran's President Ahmadinejad is unpopular at home and it's getting much worse. People in the street have been telling jokes about him - he has a PhD in traffic - but now the elites and people in government are joking as well.
The jokes—and who is delivering them—tell the story of a man whose power is on the decline as Iran’s economy collapses around him. Prices for basic goods are skyrocketing, and the government is unable to cope with increasing poverty. Just last month, over 50 Iranian economists sent an open letter excoriating the president’s mismanagement of the economy.
He has made himself an issue around the world. But he is not getting the job done at home. The economy is stagnant. The third largest producer of petroleum is importing gasoline and the price is shooting up. This is good. The people of Iran want him gone. More at the link below. What could go wrong. "Please bomb me," he is saying. "Please, George Bush, bomb me." That would raise his stock: an attack by the US. Monica Maggioni writes at Foreign Policy:
Nobody knows this better than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. As his support within Iran has evaporated, he has cranked up the anti-American rhetoric, and the U.S. military has publicly accused the Pasdaran of arming insurgents in Iraq and even Afghanistan. At this point, the only way Ahmadinejad can revive his flagging fortunes is by uniting his country against an external threat. U.S. officials adamantly maintain that Washington is committed to using diplomacy to resolve the conflict over Iran’s nuclear program and its aggressive role in the region. Yet pressure is mounting in some branches of the Bush administration to take military action against Iran. That pressure should be resisted. For military action would give Mahmoud Ahmadinejad exactly what he wants most: job security.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Opportunity over equality

Give my kids a chance to succeed and excel. Don't drag them down to be equal to everyone. But the American left is wrapped up in wanting equality - saying they do, anyway. They don't want their kids to be equal to ours! And where would they take us with this priority? Arthur C. Brooks in Wall Street Journal
The U.S. is a rich nation getting richer. According to Census figures, the average inflation-adjusted income in the top quintile of American earners increased 22% between 1993 and 2003. Incomes in the middle quintile rose 17% on average, while the incomes in the bottom quintile increased 13%. Over the 30 years prior to 2003, top-quintile earners saw their real incomes increase by two-thirds, versus a quarter for those in the middle quintile and a fifth among the bottom earners. Reason to celebrate? Not according to those worried that the rich are getting richer faster than the poor are getting richer.... The National Opinion Research Center's General Social Survey (GSS) indicates that in 1973, the average family in the top quintile earned about 10 times what the average bottom-quintile family earned. Today that difference has grown to almost 15 times greater. ... Sen. Hillary Clinton characterizes today's economy as "trickle-down economics without the trickle." She declares that a progressive era is at hand because of "rising inequality and rising pessimism in our work force." The general view among liberals is that economic inequality is socially undesirable because it makes people miserable; they propose to solve the problem through redistributive policies such as higher income taxes. ... What first made me doubt this prevailing view was that when I questioned actual human beings about it, few expressed any shock and outrage at the enormous incomes of software moguls and CEOs. They tended rather to hope that their kids might become the next Bill Gates. And in fact, the evidence reveals that it is not economic inequality that frustrates Americans. Rather, it is a perceived lack of opportunity. To focus our policies on inequality, instead of opportunity, is to make a serious error -- one that will worsen the very problem we seek to solve and make us generally unhappier.
After looking at studies...
The data do tell us that economic mobility -- not equality -- is associated with happiness. The GSS asked respondents, "The way things are in America, people like me and my family have a good chance of improving our standard of living -- do you agree or disagree?" The two-thirds of the population who agreed were 44% more likely than the others to say they were "very happy," 40% less likely to say that they felt "no good at all" at times, and 20% less likely to say that they felt like failures. In other words, those who don't believe in economic mobility -- for themselves or for others -- are not as happy as those who do.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Aussie response to global warming zealots

I have been on an off-line vacation for five days at the Warm Beach Conference Center near Stanwood, Washington. Martin Durkan is the British film-maker who created "The Great Global Warming Swindle." He writes on the response to his introduction in Australia. The Australian:
... So I wasn't shocked that the film was attacked on the same night it was broadcast on ABC television last week, although I was impressed at the vehemence of the attack. I was more surprised, and delighted, by the response of the Australian public. The ABC studio assault, led by Tony Jones, was so vitriolic it appears to have backfired. We have been inundated with messages of support, and the ABC, I am told, has been flooded with complaints. I have been trying to understand why. First, the ferocity of the attack, I think, revealed the intolerance and defensiveness of the global warming camp. Why were Jones and co expending such energy and resources attacking one documentary? ... I think viewers may also have wondered (reasonably) why the theory of global warming has not been subjected to this barrage of critical scrutiny by the media. After all, it's the theory of global warming, not my foolish little film, that is turning public and corporate policy on its head. The apparent unwillingness of Jones and others at the ABC to give airtime to a counterargument, the tactics used to minimise the ostensible damage done by the film, the evident animosity towards those who questioned global warming: all of this served to give viewers a glimpse of what it was like for scientists who dared to disagree with the hallowed doctrine.
That's good. The public is asking questions. Very good. Notes for further research: -- Then there's the precious "hockey stick". This was the famous graph that purported to show global temperature flat-lining for 1000 years, then rising during the 19th and 20th centuries. It magicked away the Medieval warm period and made the recent warming look alarming, instead of just part of the general toing and froing of the Earth's climate. But then researchers took the computer program that produced the hockey stick graph and fed it random data. Bingo, out popped hockey stick shapes every time. (See the report by Edward Wegman of George Mason University in Virginia and others.) In a humiliating climb down, the IPCC has had to drop the hockey stick from its reports, though it can still be seen in Gore's movie. -- pesky satellites. If greenhouse gases were the cause of warming, then the rate of warming should have been greater, higher up in the Earth's atmosphere (the bit known as the troposphere). But all the satellite and balloon data says the exact opposite. In other words, the best observational data we have flatly contradicts the whole bally idea of man-made climate change.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gig Harbor

It's a great place. An upscale working harbor a few miles from Tacoma. And the distance gets shorter this weekend. The new, second Tacoma Narrows Bridge opens on Monday. Do Gig Harbor in a day. Seattle Times Be sure to look at all nine photos. The Gig Harbor Folk Festival is Aug 25-26. We drive by twice a month, or more, year round, but we don't often stop.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Michael Moore tells the truth about lying

How can we tell when Michael Moore is telling the truth? Now he admits that he in Sicko he compared the best of Cuba's (Canada, UK, etc.) health care system with the worst of the US's. He admitted that he lied in his movie. Nothing new about his movie being lies. But Moore admits it? Ian Schwartz Did he do a fair comparison? No. He claims he was trying to balance previous coverage. That's no way to investigate what system we should have. You have to look at both the good and the bad. Here are photos of the miserable conditions in Cuba's health care system - at Free Thoughts. But he purposely didn't show it.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Live Earth's groupies

Corporations are acting against their own interest so that they can be seen as "Earth friendly" and part of the big scene of the day. Some will have short-term gain in PR, but long-term damage. Some gain only by putting the burden on you.
Companies like Alcoa and Dupont expect that, in return for their support of global warming regulation, Congress will reward them by giving them free, but valuable emissions permits which the companies could then sell in the open market for huge profits. As USCAP says on its web site, its members want “rewards for early action.” But these rewards amount to nothing more than taxpayer-funded pork-barrel spending and global warming “earmarks.”
Pretty cheap. Via Steven Milloy's Junk Science at Fox News.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Charity Fraud - Hurricane Katrina

To find massive fraud look where a bureaucracy is handing out cash. Our generosity with the victims of hurricane Katrina was rewarded with thousands of fraudulent claims. And the bureaucracy pumped cash at the frauds. USA Today covers it.
Federal agents investigating widespread fraud after the Gulf Coast hurricanes in 2005 are sifting through more than 11,000 potential cases, a backlog that could take years to resolve. Authorities have fielded so many reports of people cheating aid programs, swindling contracts and scamming charities after the hurricanes that Homeland Security inspectors, who typically police disaster aid scams, have been "swamped," says David Dugas, the U.S. attorney in Baton Rouge. "There's definitely a backlog," says Dugas, whose office helps coordinate an anti-fraud task force formed after the hurricanes. "Right now, that means we might not get to some cases as quickly as some people might like. If there's still a backlog in two years when we start running up against the statute of limitations, that's different." Hurricanes Katrina and Rita triggered more than $7 billion in disaster aid to Gulf Coast households, plus billions more in government contracts and rebuilding projects. Allegations of fraud have accompanied that assistance, and prosecutors have vowed zero tolerance for people who tried to cheat the government.
They are promising to clean up their bureaucracy. Won't happen.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Global war against Christianity

Proof that the Seattle Times' promotion of one woman who says she can be a Muslim and a Christian is way, way off. In virtually every Muslim country the Christian minority is under constant attack. Correction: in those Muslim countries that allow the practice of Christianity - Saudi Arabia does not. Patrick Poole at the American Thinker goes down the list: Iraq: In the current issue of the American Spectator, Doug Bandow observes that centuries of dhimmitude have left Christians in the war-torn country without any means of self-defense. Washington policymakers have refused to lend assistance for fear of showing partiality, despite the murder of hundreds of Iraqi Christians, ... Egypt: Journalist Magdi Khalil chronicles in a new report ("Another Black Friday for the Coptic Christians of Egypt") the campaign of violence directed against Christian Copts almost weekly immediately following Friday afternoon Muslim prayers. ... Gaza: Ethel Fenig recently noted here at American Thinker ("More Gaza Multiculturalism") the systematic destruction of churches and desecration of Christian religious objects by Jihadia Salafiya following the HAMAS takeover of the Gaza Strip from their Fatah rivals and the imposition of Islamic rule. ... Saudi Arabia: According to the Arab News, a Sri Lankan Christian man barely escaped with his life in late May when he was found working in the city of Mecca, Islam's holiest city, which is officially barred to non-Muslims. ... Pakistan: In Islamabad, Younis Masih was sentenced last month to death under the country's frequently invoked blasphemy laws, which were also used against six Christian women suspended from a nursing school after they were accused of desecrating a Quran. ... Bangladesh: Almost a dozen Christian converts in the Nilphamari district were beaten last week by Muslim villagers wielding bricks and clubs, and threatened with death if they did not leave town immediately. Local hospitals subsequently refused them treatment. ... Malaysia: Government authorities demolished a church building on June 4th in Orang Asli settlement in Gua Musang in Ulu Kelantan, despite prior government approval of the project. ... Indonesia: Agence France Presse reported last month on an attack by the Islamic Anti-Apostate Movement, who stormed a church service in a Protestant church in the West Java town of Soreang. The AFP report notes that more than 30 churches have been forced to close in West Java and dozens more throughout the country ... Turkey: The Christian community is still reeling from the torture and ritual slaughter of three Protestants at a Christian publishing house in Malatya in April by an armed Islamist gang, ... Cyprus: The Cyprus Mail reports that during a meeting last month in Rome the Archbishop of the Cypriot Greek Orthodox Church pleaded with the Vatican Secretary of State for the Pope's assistance to pressure Turkish authorities in restoring and repairing Christian sites and churches in areas occupied since the invasion of the island nation by Turkey in July 1974 and the ethnic cleansing of 160,000 Greek Christian Cypriots. Lebanon: More than 60,000 Christians have left the country since last summer's war between Hezbollah and Israel, fearing the rise of both Sunni and Shi'ite extremism and terrorist activity. ... Algeria: In what is considered one of the more "moderate" Muslim regimes, Al-Quds Al-Arabi announced that the Algerian government has just issued regulations requiring advance permission for non-Muslim public events, following a 2006 law aimed at limiting Christian evangelism in the Kabylia region and the Sahara. (MEMRI ) Morocco: In the country that The Economist magazine in 2005 anointed "the best Arab democracy", all Moroccans are considered Muslims at birth and face three years in prison if they attempt to convert. ... Nigeria: Police in Gombe arrested sixteen suspects after a Muslim mob stoned, stripped, beat, and finally stabbed to death a Christian teacher, Christiana Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, after she caught a student cheating on an exam in March.... Eritrea: Just a few weeks ago, the Islamic government installed a new Orthodox Patriarch ... It is not an exaggeration to say that I could extend this brief list ad infinitum with additional Islamic countries and news items from just the past few weeks' worth of incidents of violence, discrimination, intimidation and murder targeting Christians in the Muslim world.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Bad data causes bad science

You want to record high temperatures to "prove" the earth is getting warmer? Then place the remote weather stations used for official data collection in places likely to be warmer - on roof tops, next to a building, surrounded by buildings, next to a parking lot, next to an airport's runway pavement. That is what NOAA is allowing, I mean, doing. Pittsburgh Tribune has the details: Remember in January when the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its good friends in media trumpeted that 2006 was the warmest year on record for the contiguous United States? NOAA based that finding - which allegedly capped a nine-year warming streak "unprecedented in the historical record" - on the daily temperature data that its National Climatic Data Center gathers from about 1,221 mostly rural weather observation stations around the country. ... the stations play an important role in detecting and analyzing regional climate change. More ominously, they provide the official baseline historical temperature data that politically motivated global-warming alarmists like James Hansen of NASA plug into their computer climate models to predict various apocalypses. NOAA says it uses these 1,221 weather stations -- which like the ones in Uniontown and New Castle are overseen by local National Weather Service offices and usually tended to by volunteers -- because they have been providing reliable temperature data since at least 1900. But Anthony Watts of Chico, Calif., suspects NOAA temperature readings are not all they're cracked up to be. As the former TV meteorologist explains on his sophisticated, newly hatched Web site, he has set out to do what big-time armchair-climate modelers like Hansen and no one else has ever done - physically quality-check each weather station to see if it's being operated properly. To assure accuracy, stations (essentially older thermometers in little four-legged wooden sheds or digital thermometers mounted on poles) should be 100 feet from buildings, not placed on hot concrete, etc. But as photos on Watts' site show, the station in Forest Grove, Ore., stands 10 feet from an air-conditioning exhaust vent. In Roseburg, Ore., it's on a rooftop near an AC unit. In Tahoe, Calif., it's next to a drum where trash is burned. See Watts' web site: He explains the problems with photographs to illustrate.

Malaria victims versus bald eagle

Millions of lives per year were saved when malaria was controlled by spraying DDT. In Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) there were 2,800,000 cases of malaria in 1948 before DDT control; in 1964 only 17 cases. Then there were 2,500,000 cases in 1969, five years after DDT was banned. Banning DDT killed people and still is. Why was it banned? Due to a semi-scientific book by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring. The book's imaginative scare claims - thin eggshells - caused a stampede to ban despite no solid scientific evidence. The bald eagle has been removed from endangered status. This news has been accompanied by the unanimous claim that DDT caused the eagles' demise. But eagles were hunted near extinction decades before DDT. Blame the hunters so we can move on and save lives by reintroducing DDT to kill mosquitos. Millions of lives per year. Marc Sheppard at American Thinker