Mail 689 Saturday, June 23, 2012
I am down at the beach and on dialup, so this will be mostly short shrift…
James Lovelock – now he says that doomsday predictions, including his own (and Al Gore’s) were incorrect.
The godfather of global warming lowers the boom on climate change hysteria
This is an important defection from the Warming Alarmists. Lawrence has a lot of followers. And we have:
Amazing, NASA talks climate change and does not mention anything man made about it.
EPA blasted for requiring oil refiners to add type of fuel that’s merely hypothetical buffy willow
Subject: EPA blasted for requiring oil refiners to add type of fuel that’s merely hypothetical
Federal regulations can be maddening, but none more so than a current one that demands oil refiners use millions of gallons of a substance, cellulosic ethanol, that does not exist.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/06/21/regulation-requires-oil-refiners-use-millions-gallons-fuel-that-is-nonexistent/#ixzz1yWwmCgVU <http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/06/21/regulation-requires-oil-refiners-use-millions-gallons-fuel-that-is-nonexistent/#ixzz1yWwmCgVU>
Right up there with bunny inspectors on usefulness. I love this president’s promise to use a laser-like focus on the budget to eliminate all needless costs. He’ll get at it Real Soon Now.
Climate change 4,000 years ago…
And to think it all happened without burning massive amounts of fossil fuel to power electricity generation and transportation vehicles!
The Earth was once an ice ball, and once it had so many dinosaurs that their fossils provide all that oil and none of it with DNA contaminants assuming you believe that theory. And all that happened without human activity. We do not understand climate, we do not understand El Nino and La Nina, we really don’t know how to construct a reliable average temperature for some arbitrarily large area, but we are supposed to bet trillions on academic bureaucrats. And we never catch wise.
" There is currently no HTTP status code to indicate you can’t access
content because it’s been prohibited by a government agency. Tim Bray, a Google engineer, has proposed the status code “451,” in honor of the recently deceased author of Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury, for use when an ISP is ordered by the government to deny access to a certain website.
Cute, though not consistent with the current error-numbering scheme."
Sad to think we might actually need such a status code, but clearly that’s the way we are trending, domestically and internationally.
Indeed. And it’s a good idea.
I was wondering when people would start to think about this. I could get into the types of distance involved in killing; I recommend reading of LTC Grossman’s work on the subject. It is most interesting; I will save you my words on the matter. But, I will offer words related to the present conditions.
People are starting to see past the mechanical distance offered by the drones. Mechanical distance makes it easier to kill. A person looks different through a thermal imaging scope than the do at the sexual range. Physical distance also makes it easier to kill; one can more easily kill someone with a bayonet than a knife or with one’s bare hands, for example.
But, what is the difference between using drones and sending a man into a village with a gun, telling him to kill certain people who have not been convicted of any crime and telling that man that it’s okay if he accidentally kills people who aren’t on the list but might be sitting next to the people he’s shooting at? The difference is, primarily, in method and in mechanical application.
As much as I do not want the United Nations having any say in anything we do, I cannot deny the validity of U.N. concerns about the drone strikes — in principle:
A UN investigator has called on the Obama administration to explain under what legal framework its drone war is justified and suggested that “war crimes” may have already been committed.
Christof Heyns, UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, urged Washington to clarify the basis under international law of the policy, in a report issued to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
It will be interesting to see what comes of this. Certainly, the concerns are valid and people in this country should be discussing this, but — like everything else — we just ignore it until it becomes severe crisis and then we overreact to it and wonder why we are met with consequences we did not expect and wonder why we can’t aptly deal with the same. It wasn’t always like this, but since the Boomers took over it has been par for the course.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
There was a time when Great Powers claimed a customary international right to bombard the ports of smaller Powers who owed them money and refused to pay, kidnapped their citizens, or otherwise offended them. They could blockade, or they could simply bombard. They could also issue letters of marque and reprisal to private warships.
It is not clear how drones fit into this sort of thing. The customary boundary of a nation extended to sea about the lengthof a long cannon shot on the grounds that this is what nations could control. When the custom began this was a 3 mile limit, but it grew and grew as connon got better. Now the ICBM has made that a bit obsolete as a basis for boundary determination. The drones follow the ICBM – and any nation can afford drones although all cannot afford ICBM’s.
I believe that the letter you posted titled "The Mess" is absolutely correct in pointing to the arrival of the Pelosi-Reid Congress in January 2007 as the actual start of the current fiscal death-dive.
George W. Bush did a number of things I wasn’t happy with, but blaming our current budget mess on him is tendentious partisan nonsense. I’ve tried to make this point publicly myself a number of times in the last few years, but till now nobody seemed interested. Thanks for the
(hoped-for) loan of your soapbox.
Proving this point, now, that gets interesting. Do an image search on "us budget deficit by year" and you’ll run into an astonishing variety of charts claiming to "prove" that one party or the other is at fault.
Just about all of these (on both sides) are misleading, for reasons ranging from oversimplification through honest confusion to outright mendacity. What can a poor boy do? I recommend a strong cup of whatever best keeps your eyes from glazing over, then a walk with me through some background.
Power Over Federal Spending
It may come as a shock to some – spending is routinely blamed on whoever happens to be President that year – but Congress has far more control over how much gets spent in any given year than all but the strongest Presidents. Blaming spending primarily on Presidents is simplistic and misleading.
LBJ at his peak had appreciable say. George W. Bush in his last few years pretty much signed the spending bills Congress sent him. Most Presidents end up doing the same – the veto is a blunt instrument, very hard to wield effectively, and the bully pulpit isn’t all that bully when a President’s popularity has faded.
Timing Of Federal Spending
There’s close to a year’s lag (two years nominal lag) between a new Congress getting elected and its first new budget taking effect.
The key example: The Democrats won back majority control of both House and Senate in November 2006, then took office in January 2007. Did this give them control of the 2007 budget? No. Federal Fiscal Year 2007
(FY’07) had already started back on October 1st 2006, so the FY’07 budget had already been decided by the previous Republican Congress. The new Democratic Congress’s first budget was FY’08, starting October 1st
2007 – eleven actual months (and two nominal years) after they were elected in 2006.
Take a look at the chart at
http://www.heritage.org/federalbudget/current-tax-receipts. (Pull it up in a separate window if you can.) Federal tax revenues have been amazingly constant at right around 18% of GDP since WW II ended in 1945.
They peaked at over 20% just twice (in 1944/45 under wartime taxes, then in 2000 at the height of the dot-com boom) and dropped as low as 15% just twice (for two years in 1949/50, and now for four years in
2009/10/11/12) but always previously returned to the 18% average. This despite huge variations in nominal tax rates since WW II.
The current revenue dip is due to some (hotly debated) mix of the
2001-2003 "Bush tax cuts" and the ongoing economic downturn. Note in that regard that this graph shows that historically revenue dips correspond closely to recessions (see
but that revenue always returns to the 18% average. Always, including under those very same "Bush tax cut" rates – federal revenue had climbed back to 18.5% of GDP by ’07. (Always, until now. More on that in a bit.) 18% of GDP looks remarkably like some sort of practical tax-rate-independent structural limit on Federal revenue in the modern US economy – at least when it’s healthy.
OK, pull up the chart at
(I’d give a pointer to just the raw chart, but the "Comments"
guidelines are priceless, and some of the comments are pretty good too.)
The key thing to note here is that since the early 1930s, various wartime peaks and post-war dips notwithstanding, the overall trend has been for spending as a fraction of GDP to ratchet upwards. (It’s also interesting that by standards of the Republic’s first 140 years, we’ve been spending on a war footing since the 1930′s, but that’s another essay.)
From the fifties through the seventies, spending was only modestly (in
hindsight) above that 18%-of-GDP post-WWII revenue average. National debt reached a trillion dollars total toward the end of this period.
for a year-by-year national debt chart.)
In the eighties, we had a Cold War to finally win, and borrowing was easier than opening a second battle front to cut domestic budgets.
Spending rose to 22%-23% of GDP, and the national debt piled up to almost $4 trillion by the time the USSR disintegrated.
Then in the nineties, the Cold War was over and spending as a fraction of GDP fell – slowly. Spending didn’t drop back down anywhere near the 18% long-term revenue average until the end of the decade. Combined with the dot-com revenue boom this was enough to produce a few years of small surpluses, and a momentary leveling-off of the national debt at just under $6 trillion.
Then, on top of the 2001 dot-bomb recession, came 9/11. Spending rose for the next several years, peaking at 20.1% of GDP in 2006, then in
2007 falling back to 19.6% of GDP – you can just barely see the 2007 downblip on the chart. (For precise year-by-year numbers see
Lies, Damned Lies, And Deficit Blame
Yes, in countering the combined dot-bomb and 9/11 recession and fighting the Afghan and Iraq wars, George W. Bush and the Republican Congress were responsible for a series of deficits from FY’02 through FY’07 that ran the national debt up another 50% to $9 trillion. It is arguable whether they actually needed to spend that much – it certainly wasn’t an improvement in our fiscal position – but it is not what set us on our current fiscal death-dive.
Take a look at the deficits-by-year chart at http://wac.0873.edgecastcdn.net/800873/blog/wp-content/uploads/edwards8-2-11.jpg.
Those Bush deficits peaked at $413 billion in FY’04, and after that declined again every year, down to $161 billion in FY’07. That Republican Congress’s last budget, FY’07, increased only 2.8% over FY’06. Deficits were dropping fast, and the total debt at about 2/3rds of GDP was not great, but still manageable.
Then in January 2007, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid took over control of the Congress. I won’t try to prove the assertion in "The Mess" that Barney "Fannie Mae" Frank and Chris "Friend of Angelo" Dodd taking over the financial oversight committees caused the financial markets to implode 20 months later, but it didn’t help. Nor was the new Congress’s first full budget (FY’08) a confidence-builder, with a 9.3% increase over ’07 producing a big new upwards jump on our deficits-by-year chart, at $459 billion almost tripling the previous year’s mark.
Then came FY ’09, with a fiscal crisis that couldn’t be allowed to go to waste, a lame-duck Bush who went along with whatever the Pelosi-Reid Congress wanted during the heart of the crisis, then a triumphant Obama inclined to spend even more. The ’09 budget rose 17.9% on top of the previous year’s 9.3% (a 29% total increase since ’07), the deficit tripled for the second year straight to $1.413 trillion, and overall Federal spending hit 25.2% of GDP – a level we’d NEVER seen before outside of WW II.
And that’s pretty much where we’ve been ever since. It seems quite likely to me that raising spending from 2007′s 19.6% of GDP to 2009′s 25.2% of GDP (unprecedented outside WW II) and keeping it there ever since has a great deal to do with the economic stagnation that’s keeping tax revenues down around 15% of GDP (and unemployment/underemployment up around 15% of the workforce) for far longer than in any other post-WWII recovery. But what do I know? Lay me end-to-end and you still won’t reach an economist – I just read a lot, and think a bit.
Whatever the reasons for the crippled recovery, the fiscal hole we’re in now was dug by Pelosi, Reid, and Obama. The "level Obama budgets" they recently tried to brag about are all at the ruinous 25%-of-GDP level they set with those 9% then 18% (29% overall) increases. They may still be responsible for less than half of the total current national debt, but that’s only because their effective tripling of the annual deficit from the (already too high, yes) average of the Bush-Republican years has only had a few years to work. It’s the tripling of the rate at which they’re digging the hole deeper that’s deadly.
Worse, they believe (as a matter of "fairness") that this 25%-of-GDP level of spending is the way it should be permanently, never mind the utter lack of precedent and all the indications it’s crippling the recovery. They’re fighting with everything they’ve got to build it permanently into the structure of government.
Bottom line, "Bush did it" is patent nonsense, a blatant attempt to fool enough voters to give them another four years to dig the hole we’re in so deep that we’ll never get out.
The experiment of raising federal spending to 25% of GDP has obviously failed. Myself, I’d love to see lowering it to 15% of GDP experimented with. I suspect the result would be spectacular growth. But realistically, I’d be satisfied to see federal spending drop below 20% of GDP before the next Presidential term is over – that would at least give us a chance of surviving as a recognizable descendant of the country I grew up in.
if you print this, sign me
It is well to remind people of the historical facts once in a while. The Republicans after Gingrich spent wildly, but nothing like what the Democrats did when they got hold of the purse strings. Surprise.
Comments on Mail 729
Re: copyright inertia: Mike Powers only sort of gets it. When he says <i>It’s like a fence. We all know what a fence means, and that acting to circumvent the access control implied by a fence is Not Allowed</i>, he’s describing the way the law ought to be, but isn’t.
IP rights <b>ought</b> to be "like a fence" in a lot of ways that they actually aren’t. (1) The rights an author or publisher holds ought to be well defined and never change (Congress seems to extend them every few years, sometimes to please Hollywood, sometimes to create jobs for lawyers and copyright trolls). (2) Reasonable uses such as copying your records to digital format aren’t allowed, or at least Hollywood lawyers will come after you for them and try to extort you as if they were not allowed. And (3), DRM too often extends to "protecting" non-rights the publisher only wishes he had (such as making you view a long commercial every time you load your DVD of a Disney movie).
Because these things are true, both the hardware and software "fences" of DRM and the virtual "fence" of copyright law actually enclose so much territory the fence builder doesn’t rightfully own that no one respects them.
All laws should be simple, well defined ("bright line rules") and above all fair. Make them so, and all but a tiny minority will obey. Make them vague and unfair, and not only will people disobey en masse but juries will stop convicting. Needing, or trusting, lawyers to explain the law to us belongs on the scrap-heap of history alongside needing priests to read the Bible to us (before it was printed in languages other than Latin).
Re: taxpayer’s union: I believe the intended reference is to the National Taxpayers’ Union (ntu.org), a group which has been around since the Nixon administration and rates the members of Congress before every election according to their votes on spending bills. It’s not a perfect rating system (and not a perfect group either — they refused ever to criticize Reagan even though he increased spending by record amounts, just as has every president since Nixon), but if you want federal spending to be cut back (or even to stop increasing) it’s a good place to start.
Another good group is ClubForGrowth.org, which wants not only less government but also less unnecessary regulation, especially the environmental sort. They also publish ratings, both of Congress and of presidential candidates.
John David Galt
I have supported the Club for Growth since its inception, but not slavishly. I do pay attention to their recommendations.
: STEEEEE-rike – TWOOOOOOO!
Cheap energy = prosperity!
Drill here, DRILL NOW!
Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, Retired.; Former Governor of Wasit Province, Iraq; Righter of Wrongs; Wrong most of the time; Distinguished Expert, TV remote control; Chef de Hot Dog Excellance; Avoider of Yard Work
We can hope.
Russia looks to microsatellites for science and shipping buffy willow
Russia looks to microsatellites for science and shipping
Like Sputnik, only better
Russia is showing interest in the growing push to design and launch microsatellites, according to Voice of Russia.
The news site says <http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_06_14/78115896/>  Russia’s Space Systems Company hopes that microsats – satellites which, like its original Sputnik, weigh less than 100kg but are much more capable – can gather data to help predict natural disasters and monitor shipping movements.
The company’s head, Yuri Urlichich, is quoted by Voice of Russia as claiming that RSSC detected a surge in free electrons in the ionosphere, seven hours ahead of last year’s disastrous Japan earthquake. He suggests that microsatellites would be a better way of collecting such data than trying to establish earth-bound monitoring stations to try and predict earthquakes.
The other application identified by Urlichich is to identify ships in proximity to each other, to make passage of narrow straits easier and safer.
Microsatellites – satellites weighing less than 100kg – are attracting increasing attention as shrinking and lower-power electronics reduces the bulk of systems that satellites have to carry. They bring their own challenges, however, since their small size reduces the availability of the fuel needed for maneuvers to keep the satellite on-station.
That hasn’t stopped growing international interest in applications of microsatellites, since at 100kg or less, they’re much cheaper to send to space than satellites weighing tons. For example, a microsatellite system is proposed <http://antarcticbroadband.com/>  as a solution to the looming bandwidth crunch in the Antarctic, with increasing scientific activity generating more data just as the ageing satellites now serving the frozen continent approaching their end of life.
Subj: Best movie of 2012: Act of Valor
OK, I’ll byte: here’s an alternative to _The Avengers_:
Air and space museum
Place has developed a liberal bent. Instead of technical descriptions of rockets, there is now social commentary on the cold war. Just wasted 18 bucks watching "dynamic earth" a global warming propaganda piece that try’s to tell the audience we will end like Venus if we don’t curb man made carbon emissions.
I am sorry but not surprised to hear this.
Student Loan Bailout
The United States government is bailing out banks that meet certain conditions with certain students:
(1) The student must have at least one loan with the Department of Education.
(2) The student must have other loans with banks; these loans must have been used for education or related expenses.
The terms are, financially, a small break for students:
(1) The student receives .25% reduction in interest rates when consolidating the loans.
(2) The student may sign up for an automatic, montly debit and recieve another .25% reduction in interest rates.
The terms, financially, for the banks are even better:
(1) No more financial liabilities.
I suppose this would also leave students the mercy of Department of Education SWAT teams, but — since they already had a loan with that department — they were already at the mercy of said teams anyway. A fifty basis point reduction on interest rates is a welcome development for anyone with a loan. It seems like a good deal for students and a better deal for banks. I was in contact with someone who works at Sallie Mae and got the information from her.
Joshua Jordan, KSC
A cheap way to buy votes with other people’s money. Look for more of this.
© 2012, jerrypournelle. All rights reserved.