Thursday, January 31, 2013

More money doesn't necesarily help kids learn

A UW professor told the Washington Senate that schools that spend more do not get better learning results. Prof Maguerite Roza showed a scatter plot of spending versus test scores and it looks random. Just giving the government more $ doesn't work. You have to be careful how you spend it!!


WPC 2d post Prof Roza reemphasizes that it is very important how the dollars are allocated, not just how many there are.

The graphic from Prof. Roza via WPC. It sorely needs the scale for the x axis. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Schumer kills the immigration bill

"On day one of our bill, the people without status who are not criminals or security risks will be able to live and work here legally."

That shows Schumer's motivation. Get illegal immigrants on the path to being borders. Border security? Oh, yeah, forgot that. Bottom priority.

We don't trust you, Chuckie. Every claim that both will be done at the same time, border security comes last and last never gets accomplished.

Sorry, trusted Republican senators, border security first. After it is in place make illegals legal.

Bryon York at Washington Examiner

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Noncitizens voting in Washington

Washington is registering non-citizens to vote. Why?

A Canadian citizen with green card residing in Washington received a voter registration card. We don't know in which county, etc., this happened but I have a friend who had the same thing happen.

Why? John Hinderaker reports at PowerLine Blog.
A reader emailed earlier today to say that he and his wife recently moved to Washington State. His wife is a Canadian citizen who has a green card. Much to their surprise, she received in the mail a voter registration card issued by the county in which they live, informing her that “You are registered to vote.” Our reader writes: 
My wife is a Canadian citizen, has her green card, and just received her voter registration card in the mail. Not sure what’s up with that, she did not do anything to actively register to vote. We have no idea how she became a registered voter, unless they’re simply registering all residents here in Washington State automatically. 
The card says, “You are registered to vote.” It adds, “Your ballot will arrive by mail.”
Graphic from PowerLine. Click to enlarge.

Annual assesement of climate change ignores science findings

Roger Pielke, Jr., reads the US Global Change Research Program's annual report and says that in his area of expertise the report reverses scientific findings - reverses them! He cites examples where a report by scientists say rising CO2 has no correlation to increased flooding or storms or whatever, but the annual report says the opposite - while citing the same report.

Report in PDF - very large.  [The draft does not give its title, but its author is The "National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee" or NCADAC.]

Pielke's blog Science, Innovation, Politics, quoting:

What the USGCRP report says:

Infrastructure across the U.S. is being adversely affected by phenomena associated with climate change, including sea level rise, storm surge, heavy downpours, and extreme heat… Floods along the nation’s rivers, inside cities, and on lakes following heavy downpours, prolonged rains, and rapid melting of snowpack are damaging infrastructure in towns and cities, farmlands, and a variety of other places across the nation.


To underscore its conclusion, the draft report includes the figure at the top of this post (from Hirsch and Ryberg 2011), which shows flood trends in different regions of the US. In a remarkable contrast to the draft USGCRP report, here is what Hirsch and Ryberg (2011) actually says:

The coterminous US is divided into four large regions and stationary bootstrapping is used to evaluate if the patterns of these statistical associations are significantly different from what would be expected under the null hypothesis that flood magnitudes are independent of GM [global mean] CO2. In none of the four regions defined in this study is there strong statistical evidence for flood magnitudes increasing with increasing GMCO2.

Got that? In no US region is there strong statistical evidence for flood magnitudes increasing with increasing CO2. This is precisely the opposite of the conclusion expressed in the draft report, which relies on Hirsch and Ryberg (2011) to express the opposite conclusion.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Store your data in DNA?

Researchers have stored text, images and sound recordings in DNA. DNA is stable and dense; stable because it is not alive. Dense: a cupful of DNA might be able to store 100 million hours of high-definition video! Scientists find that the design of DNA is amazing.

The process of storing, then retrieving is long and detailed, but it worked. It will be possible to make it much cheaper, maybe cheap enough for mass usage. They are not saying what human/animal the DNA is from.

Wall Street Journal

The pic: WSJ. Click to enlarge.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

March for Life in Olympia - thousands?

There was a large pro-life rally opposed to Roe vs. Wade at the state capitol in Olympia Monday.

The Keith Eldridge of KOMO on-site said attendance was 1,000. The anchor sitting in the studio corrected him - "hundreds." Watch the video at 0:51.


Via David Boze KTTH

Monday, January 21, 2013

Rapper kicked off stage at Obama inaugural

The speech police caught rapper Lupo Fiasco saying things not approved by... the censors. It looks like censorship to me. The event was StartUp RockOn, one of the inauguration events.

The sponsors say they believe in free speech. They just wanted to switch to the next performer. So they shut off the lights and his mike. Free speech, yeah.

Watch at Buzzfeed.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Maps in context!

I just discovered something I need: there is a Wikipedia relative that links geographic mentions in articles to Google's world map.

I am reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet by Eric Metaxis. I was trying to find where he located his Finkenwalde seminary. A Bing search lead me to Dietrich Bonhoeffer at TheFullWiki. There one can see that Finkenwalde's first location near Stettin was on the Oder River in Pomerania; now the city is Szczecin, Poland. Of course all other places mentioned in the article are mapped.

And Bradford Washburn, the pioneering American climber and cartographer has his Alaska and Yukon first ascents mapped at TheFullWiki, as well. Though the article contains substantial errors. His first ascents of 17,000-foot  Mount Lucania and Mount Bertha in the Fairweather Range are in Yukon, Canada, but are listed under "Selected Alaska first ascents." Someone has to correct that.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

EPA stupidly claims water is a pollutant

EPA claims water is a pollutant, when it's protecting water! Huh? Hard to believe.

Heritage Foundation

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, R, won a significant victory against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Jan. 3. A federal district court in Virginia ruled in favor of the state in a dispute over stormwater runoff in the case Virginia Deptartment of Transportation v. EPA. As Cuccinelli said, the "EPA was literally treating water itself -- the very substance the Clean Water Act was created to protect -- as a pollutant."

In a prime example of the unlawful and economically destructive positions taken by the EPA under outgoing administrator Lisa Jackson, the agency claimed that it could regulate the stormwater running into Accotink Creek, a 25-mile-long tributary of the Potomac River. Although the EPA was forced to admit that stormwater is not a pollutant, it still claimed the authority to regulate it, claiming it was a "surrogate" for sediment, which is a regulated pollutant.

Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA evaluates the water quality standards set by states for the discharge of pollutants into their lakes and rivers. It can either accept those standards or propose its own. In Virginia's case, the EPA established its own criteria for various pollutants for Accotink Creek ("total maximum daily loads") and set a limit in 2011 on the total maximum amount of stormwater that could flow into the creek daily.

But the court rejected the EPA's attempt to exert authority over stormwater runoff. It concluded that the EPA was trying to regulate something "over which it has no statutorily granted power ... as a proxy for something over which it is granted power."

Climate skeptics not deniers

Fred Singer, professor emeritus at U Virginia, explains how being skeptical about global warming is basic science. Being a scientist is being skeptical. Don't confuse the skeptics who are looking at the data with the "deniers" who have made up their minds. The deniers are like the true believers - "I don't need any facts. I know the truth."

American Thinker

Singer describes some of the most-commen denier claims, including misunderstanding the second law of thermodynamics. From the true believers he gives just these five quotes.

  • "The data doesn't matter. We're not basing our recommendations on the data. We're basing them on the climate models." -Prof. Chris Folland, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research
  • "The models are convenient fictions that provide something very useful." -Dr David Frame, Climate modeler, Oxford University
  • "It doesn't matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true." -Paul Watson, Co-founder of Greenpeace
  • "Unless we announce disasters no one will listen." -Sir John Houghton, First chairman of the IPCC
  • "No matter if the science of global warming is all phony ... climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world." -Christine Stewart, former Canadian Minister of the Environment.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Make the White House safer

If grade schools are safer if no guns are allowed the White House will be also. Don't you want our president to be safe?

Sign the petition to make the the White House gun-free. When it has 25,000 signatures the White House has promised a response.

We the People = petition

4G, Edge, then no AT&T data

Last trip to Kay Peninsula I rejoiced in AT&T upgrading wireless data to 4G - their fastest service. Well ... This time it goes from Edge (slow but it works) to 4G to nothing.

No data! Repeatedly. Let's see if I can post this.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Clearly guilty David Gregory not prosecuted

Laws are for little people like you and me, not for big stars.

David Gregory held up a 30-round magazine on his television broadcast on December 23, 2012. He was in District of Columbia and it is illegal to possess a magazine that holds more than ten rounds. Anyone can watch the video and see what he did. And the law is clear. But the DC Attorney General will not prosecute him "despite the clear violation of this important law." Na Na Na!

I wonder who else is exempted from clear violations of law in DC. The rich and politically connected.

Legal Insurrection

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Welcome Sound Politics readers

Welcome Sound Politics readers. Please leave a comment. When you do please use your real name and email address. The caustic commenters at Sound Politics hide behind anonymity while calling me names. And my identity is known.

19th Century revolution in travel time

Building railroads across the US brought a revolution; travel time fell like a meteorite. In 1800 it took two weeks to get to coastal Georgia or eastern Ohio and four week to get to northern Georgia or western Ohio. In only thirty years those times were cut in half. In thirty more years, in half again. You could reach coastal california in three weeks. Then sixty years later Los Angeles could be reached in only three days!

The difference to the county was huge. It allowed nation-wide distribution of wholesale food and manufactured products (nationwide retail required another revolution - cheap long-distance calling).

Though personal travel was still expensive. I grew up 1700 miles from my grandparents in the 1950s and didn't see them many times. Jet airplanes brought distant families together in the last half of the 1960s and on.

Mother Nature Network
 Graphics from Mother Nature Network with credit to University of Nebraska. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Cinderella Gregoire

Poor Christine Gregoire. She didn't get her "Cinderella moment." She didn't get to bask in the glory of her victory as governor; she didn't get to wear the princess gown. It just wasn't fair.

Tacoma News Tribune

Maybe it's because she lost the election - November 17, 2004 Sound Politics. And she lost the recount - November 24, 2004 Sound Politics.

But then Ron Sims kept finding more ballots. Even national media were asking about the questionable ballot counting. November 29, 2004 Sound Politics. (Unfortunately the link to the original Wall Street Journal article doesn't work eight years later.) Once Gregoire was ahead they quit counting. There were 10,000 ballots "discovered" and other discrepancies. Sound Politics And Democrats were allowed to take ballots away from the secure counting facility to go to voters' homes for new signatures. What could possibly go wrong with that?

Among the findings in the election post-mortem was that there was not complete accounting for the ballots. Polling places received a bunch of ballots and turned in those voted, plus blanks, but didn't make sure every ballot was accounted for! You know, missing a few ballots in this precinct and a few in that one… Adds up.

Stefan Sharkansky, the boss here at Sound Politics, did yeoman work analyzing the vote count inside and out. He did much more analysis than the paid news media - all of them together.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Dimocrats are shocked that Obama raised THEIR taxes

People are shocked! Shocked! Obama raised taxes on every wage earner. Even those making minimum wage - about $18,000 a year for full-time work in Washington. Uhhh. He promised to raise taxes.

Washington Times

“What happened that my Social Security withholding’s in my paycheck just went up?” a poster wrote on the liberal site Democratic Underground. “My paycheck just went down by an amount that I don’t feel comfortable with. I guarantee this decrease is gonna’ hurt me more than the increase in income taxes will hurt those making over 400 grand. What happened?”

Shocker. Democrats who supported the president’s re-election just had NO idea that his steadfast pledge to raise taxes meant that he was really going to raise taxes. They thought he planned to just hit those filthy “1 percenters,” you know, the ones who earned fortunes through their inventiveness and hard work. They thought the free ride would continue forever.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

GM food oponent reverses and appologizes

From Slate [quote]

If you fear genetically modified food, you may have Mark Lynas to thank. By his own reckoning, British environmentalist helped spur the anti-GMO movement in the mid-‘90s, arguing as recently at 2008 that big corporations’ selfish greed would threaten the health of both people and the Earth. Thanks to the efforts of Lynas and people like him, governments around the world—especially in Western Europe, Asia, and Africa—have hobbled GM research, and NGOs like Greenpeace have spurned donations of genetically modified foods.

But Lynas has changed his mind—and he’s not being quiet about it. On Thursday at the Oxford Farming Conference, Lynas delivered a blunt address: He got GMOs wrong. According to the version of his remarks posted online (as yet, there’s no video or transcript of the actual delivery), he opened with a bang:

I want to start with some apologies. For the record, here and upfront, I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment.

As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.

So I guess you’ll be wondering—what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.

Lynas concludes that people who want to stick with organic are entitled to—but they should not stand in the way of others who would use science to find more efficient ways to feed billions. “[T]he GM debate is over. It is finished. We no longer need to discuss whether or not it is safe. … You are more likely to get hit by an asteroid than to get hurt by GM food,” he says.

Friday, January 04, 2013

NJ Gov. Christie scolds the fiscally sane

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey used to be a Republican. But he turned from endorsing Mitt Romney for president and embraced - literally - President Obama just before the election. Today he continues his move away from conservative principles by scolding those who would dare be wise with the voters' money.

His disdain for the Republicans at IBD

"There's only one group to blame," the New Jersey governor said of the Sandy relief bill that was not included in the fiscal cliff deal, "the House Majority and John Boehner."

But why would a responsible legislative body load an essential bill like the Sandy relief with mega bucks for everyone:

The Sandy damage is $20 billion. Why spend another $40 billion on unrelated things?

Democrats had expanded the legislation during a markup to include not only areas affected by Sandy, but also to provide money for all "storm events that occurred in 2012 along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast within the boundaries of the North Atlantic and Mississippi Valley divisions of the Corps that were affected by Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac."

… To start, the relief bill provides some $28 billion for future "disaster-mitigation" projects — spending that at the least is not a middle-of-the-night emergency.

The bill also allocates $100 million for the repair of all 265 Head Start centers around the country. Some Head Start centers in the New York-New Jersey area may have sustained some hurricane damage. But this is, again, a huge cash infusion to the $8 billion a year day-care program that exploits a tragedy.

Goodbye, Gov. Christie, we loved you when you were a Republican.

Donations to ASPCA will be wasted

ASPCA - Am Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals - chased Ringling Brothers Circus in court - and in public opinion - for years, claiming systematic cruelty to their elephants. They got kicked out of court in unceremonious fashion. The judge didn't just say their claim was without merit, but ASPCA had to pay Ringling $9.3 million.

If you make a donation to ASPCA it won't go to help take care of animals. It will go to pay the $9.3 million penalty for their foolish and cruel legal chase.

Powerline Blog

Thursday, January 03, 2013

AT&T improvements

Our cabin on the Key Peninsula has had good voice service and mediocre data service from AT&T the past three years. The data has always been their Edge service, which is slow, never 3G and outages were regular.

But they upgraded. I now get 4G. I hope it will stay on.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Good, Bad and Ugly in McConnell-Biden tax bill

Where is Obama's "balanced approach"? No spending cuts here.

Phillip Klein at Washington Examiner

When it comes to assessing federal legislation, as with most things in life, people’s reviews are often pre-determined by their expectations. It’s worth keeping this in mind as feedback comes in from the “fiscal cliff” deal that passed through the Senate in the wee hours of New Year’s Day and that is now under consideration by the House of Representatives.

Conservatives believe that higher taxes are a bad thing, that the tax code needs to be dramatically overhauled and that the true driver of long-term debt is out of control spending, particularly on entitlements. For those who thought it was possible to emerge from the “fiscal cliff” showdown without tax increases, with genuine tax reform and with real spending cuts that made fundamental changes to entitlements, this deal is obviously a nonstarter.

For those who assumed that President Obama’s reelection and continued Democratic control of the Senate at a time when the nation was facing an automatic $4.5 trillion tax hike would inevitably mean higher taxes without actual tax or entitlement reforms, the deal is less bad. As the House considers the legislation today, I thought it would be worth assessing the good, the bad and the ugly of the “fiscal cliff” deal.

The Good

At the start of 2013, income taxes were scheduled to go up on nearly every American, but if this deal becomes law, roughly 99 percent of taxpayers would be protected from those tax hikes. For over a decade, Democrats opposed the Bush tax cuts and prevented them from becoming permanent. Now, they have voted overwhelmingly to preserve about 84 percent of the dreaded cuts, which for years they demagogued as only benefitting the very rich.

Lawmakers also agreed on permanent changes that minimized the tax increases on estates and capital gains. In addition, the deal permanently prevented the Alternative Minimum Tax (originally passed in 1969 to capture a small number of rich households who were avoiding taxes) from hitting tens and millions of Americans. From a more technical standpoint, this also means that the deal locks in a Congressional Budget Office revenue baseline that will be as low as possible. So, if future Republicans propose real tax reform, we won’t end up with estimates saying that their proposals would cost trillions of dollars, because such proposals will no longer be judged against an unrealistic baseline that assumes all of the Bush tax cuts would otherwise expire and open the floodgates to new revenue.

A less publicized but still significant positive from the deal is that it formally repeals the CLASS Act, a long-term care entitlement that is part of Obama’s national health care law. Originally the brain child of the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, the program was slated to collect years of premiums before paying out any benefits, so Democrats cynically exploited this fact to claim twice as much deficit reduction through Obamacare as existed in reality. The Obama administration has already suspended implementation of the CLASS Act after conceding it is unworkable. But it still remains on the books, waiting to be reinstated at some point in the future. The fiscal cliff deal would put a stake through the heart of this program once and for all.

The Bad

Taxes are still going to go up. Even with the cut off at $400,000 for individuals and $450,000 for families, the deal is still going to suck more money out of the economy and hit small businesses. And this is on top of the Obamacare tax hikes already slated to go into effect in 2013 – an additional Medicare tax, higher taxes on investment income and a tax on medical devices.

Also, the deal doesn’t represent actual movement toward a simplified tax code with fewer deductions and lower rates. Instead, it extends a whole lot of special interest tax benefits. For instance, there’s the “railroad track maintenance credit;” “extension of 7-year recovery period for motorsports entertainment complexes;” “special expensing rules for certain film and television productions;” and a smorgasbord of tax subsidies for alternative energy.

And for all of Obama’s talk about a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction, the deal allows taxes to go up, but there are no real spending cuts here and certainly no entitlement reform. This deal won’t put a dent in the deficit, no matter which baseline is used.

The Ugly

Last month, Reason’s Peter Suderman coined the term “The Doc Fix Economy.” In 1997, Congress passed a law aiming to curb the growth of Medicare by slowing the growth of doctors’ payments over time. But ever since, whenever it comes time to actually implement the cuts, Congress has found some way to delay them for a few months, or a year at a time. It’s become known in Beltway parlance as the “doc fix” and it has become emblematic of the way business is done here. The fiscal cliff deal represents another prime exercise in Washington can kicking.

Not only does it include a “doc fix” (offset with various health care savings detailed here), but the deal extends unemployment insurance without offsetting spending cuts. And in a broader sense, it delays the implementation of the sequester by two months. For those too dizzy to remember, when Congress was scrambling to find ways to cut spending to raise the debt limit in the summer of 2011, they decided that they’d delegate the job to a ‘super committee.’ This group of 12 members of the House and Senate from both parties was supposed to magically come up with an agreement for an additional $1.2 trillion in spending cuts. The magic wand was the threat that if they didn’t act, both parties would have to accept painful automatic cuts to defense and mandatory spending. To the surprise of nobody, they were unable to reach a deal, which was supposed to trigger these automatic cuts known as the sequester in 2013. But as part of the deal, these cuts would be postponed for another two months, by substituting in lower caps to discretionary spending and taking advantage of a tax-shifting gimmick with Roth IRAs.

Beyond the specifics of the deal, the process was awful. Even though lawmakers knew this reality was coming for two years (on the tax side) and a year (on the sequester side), they waited until New Year’s Eve to strike a deal that passed through the Senate at 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day. The public has had no chance to review – let alone understand – the legislation. So much for transparency.

There’s a lot to hate in this deal, no doubt. But any honest assessment of it must grapple with the reality of Obama as president, Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader and $4.5 trillion in automatic tax hikes hitting in the new year. With this in mind, I’d rate the deal as objectively bad, but relatively good.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Obama attacks debt by increasing spending

He is on another planet. He does not want the US to be solvent. Raise spending? That is foolish to you and me, but to Him It's power for his big government and his unions.

At the brink of the fiscal cliff on Monday, December 31, 2012, Obama proposed increased investment, that's spending to the rest of us.

Daily Caller

President Barack Obama smashed a completed fiscal-cliff deal with a last-minute demand for increased spending in 2013, according to an e-mail from the GOP’s Senate leader, Mitch McConnell.

Under the deal, planned tax increases on middle-class Americans would be cancelled, but Obama insisted on raising tax rates on Americans earning more than $400,000 per year.

“They’re holding that [deal] hostage” to boost 2013 spending, GOP Sen. Bob Corker said shortly after Obama lauded the pending agreement.

“The tax piece is complete and done as of last evening at 1:45 a.m. I thought the entire deal was sealed. Early this morning, the White House called demanding that we also turn off the sequester,” said the email, signed “Mitch.”

The sequester refers to scheduled cuts in spending during the first nine months of 2013. Half of the $109 billion in cuts are to be imposed on the Pentagon.

Republicans are seeking budget cuts to reduce the federal government’s annual deficit of $1 trillion, and also to trim the size and reach of government.

But Obama is happy with $1 trillion added to our debt every year - $1 trillion more every year.