Saturday, July 4, 2009

RICHARD RIDER RANT Fourth of July, 2009
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety,
deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Benjamin Franklin

1. My Baltic Sea cruise confirms that government employees are the New Aristocracy
2. Government spending has REVERSE “multiplier” effect
3. Congress covers up EPA study debunking global warming to approve cap and trade madness
4. High school graduates can’t pass basic U.S. citizenship test
5. To provide free Internet, subsidize Internet cafes, not libraries
6. An analysis of Supreme Court Ricci decision overturning firefighter affirmative action – and Sotomayer’s ruling
7. The climate change climate change – global warming scientist proponents are changing their minds
8. Media doing more data mining – great news for the public
9. Canooks come to U.S. for timely medical care – where will we be going for ours if ObamaCare passes? Plus comments on the bogus reports of high U.S. infant mortality rates.
10. Amid budget mess, CHP could get raise
11. Obama blowing hot air concerning California energy efficiency policies
12. Case study of a bloated pension -- complete with details
13. The NEW YORK TIMES bloviates on CA budget problems

1. My Baltic Sea cruise confirms that government employees are the New Aristocracy
RIDER COMMENT: Diane and I recently returned from a Baltic Sea cruise. We visited Copenhagen, Germany, Estonia, St. Petersburg, Helsinki, Stockholm and back to Copenhagen. It’s our third cruise – previously we did Alaska and the Mediterranean.
This time there was too much rain, it was too cold, and I caught the plague, but otherwise an interesting two weeks. Boy, am I glad to be back!
Back from our future, apparently. Denmark had perhaps the worst taxes. In addition to a 26% VAT (sales) tax and extra taxes making cars and other luxuries cost triple what they cost here, they have what our tour guide described as a “progressive” income tax system. According to her, after an exemption, working people pay a 52% income tax. If you are rich, you go up into the 62% bracket. Gee, that sounds more like our vaunted “flat tax” to me!
But to my point. On my two previous cruises, I started to notice something rather odd, but didn’t look into it at the time. It seemed to me that many people we met on past cruises were government employees, or their spouses.
This trip I decided to be a bit more scientific in delving further into this tendency. We chose to do “open seating” dining, which means we usually had different dinner companions each evening – and new audiences for my one-liners.
When it seemed appropriate (and sometimes when it didn’t), I would ask my companions about their livelihood. Most were open with their replies. I got 22 responses from families or individuals.
Counting my retired teacher spouse and myself as one of the family units, I found that 15 of the 23 “groups” at our dinner table had one or two government employees – working or retired. Two were retired Canadian firefighters in their mid-fifties. One was a British bureaucrat. The rest of the government employees were All American.
Most folks would be surprised to find so many government employees on such a 5 star cruise. Most would have expected to find businesspeople and professionals composing the bulk of the patrons. Maybe in the past, but no more.
While this is admittedly a small sample size, the results are consistent with what I anecdotally found on my previous two cruises.
It’s like I’ve been saying – government employees are the new aristocracy.

2. Government spending has REVERSE “multiplier” effect
The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco recently published an article summarizing research on economic multipliers.

It turns out that a dollar of government spending results in 70 cents of job-creating activity after two years. A dollar in tax cuts results in $1.30 to $3 of job-creating activity after two years. Put another way, a $1 cut in spending cuts job-creating activity by 70 cents. A $1 increase in taxes cuts job-creating activity by as much as $3.

3. Congress covers up EPA study debunking global warming to approve cap and trade madness
RIDER COMMENT: This story has gotten belated play, but it ain’t over yet. The enviro-wacko juggernaut will be hard to reverse. If you can’t see the little graphic at the bottom of the article, go to the link to view it. It’s important.
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Friday, June 26, 2009 4:20 PM PT
Climate Change: A suppressed EPA study says old U.N. data ignore the decline in global temperatures and other inconvenient truths. Was the report kept under wraps to influence the vote on the cap-and-trade bill?
Read More: Global Warming

This was supposed to be the most transparent administration ever. Yet as the House of Representatives prepared to vote on the Waxman-Markey bill, the largest tax increase in U.S. history on 100% of Americans, an attempt was made to suppress a study shredding supporters' arguments.
On Friday, the day of the vote, the Competitive Enterprise Institute said it was releasing "an internal study on climate science which was suppressed by the Environmental Protection Agency."
In the release, the institute's Richard Morrison said "internal EPA e-mail messages, released by CEI earlier in the week, indicate that the report was kept under wraps and its author silenced because of pressure to support the administration's agenda of regulating carbon dioxide."
Reading the report, available on the CEI Web site, we find this "endangerment analysis" contains such interesting items as: "Given the downward trend in temperatures since 1998 (which some think will continue until at least 2030), there is no particular reason to rush into decisions based on a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data."
What the report says is that the EPA, by adopting the United Nations' 2007 "Fourth Assessment" report, is relying on outdated research by its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The research, it says, is "at best three years out of date in a rapidly changing field" and ignores the latest scientific findings.
Besides noting the decline in temperatures as CO2 levels have increased, the draft report says the "consensus" on storm frequency and intensity is now "much more neutral."
Then there's one of Al Gore's grim fairy tales — the melting of the Greenland ice sheet and glaciers the size of Tennessee roaming the North Atlantic. "The idea that warming temperatures will cause Greenland to rapidly shed its ice has been greatly diminished by new results indicating little evidence for operations of such processes," the report says.
Little evidence? Outdated U.N. research? No reason to rush? This is not what the Obama administration and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi were telling us when they were rushing to force a Friday vote on Waxman-Markey. We were given the impression that unless we passed this cap-and-tax fiasco, polar bears would be extinct by the Fourth of July.
We have noted frequently the significance of solar activity on earth's climate and history. This EPA draft report not only confirms our reporting but the brazen incompetence of those "experts" that have been prophesying planetary apocalypse.
"A new 2009 paper by Scafetta and West," the report says, "suggests that the IPCC used faulty solar data in dismissing the direct effect of solar variability on global temperatures. Their report suggests that solar variability could account for up to 68% of the increase in Earth's global temperatures."
The report was the product of Alan Carlin, senior operations research analyst at the EPA's National Center for Environmental Economics (NCEE). He's been with the EPA for 38 years but now has been taken off all climate-related work. He is convinced that actual climate observations do not match climate change theories and that only the politics, not the science, has been settled.
Thomas Fuller, environmental policy blogger with the San Francisco Examiner, wrote Thursday in a story developed in conjunction with Anthony Watts' Web site "A source inside the Environmental Protection Agency confirmed many of the claims made by analyst Alan Carlin, the economist/physicist who yesterday went public with accusations that science was being ignored in evaluating the danger of CO2."
All this is particularly interesting because of the charges by Al Gore, NASA's James Hansen and others that the Bush administration and energy companies actively suppressed the truth about climate change.
One of the e-mails unearthed by CEI was dated March 12, from Al McGartland, office director at NCEE, forbidding Carlin from speaking to anyone outside NCEE on endangerment issues such as those in his suppressed report.
Carlin replied on March 16, requesting that his study be forwarded to EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, which directs EPA's climate change program. Carlin points out the peer-reviewed references in his study and points out that the new studies "explain much of the observational data that have been collected which cannot be explained by the IPCC models."
For saying the climate change emperors had no clothes, Carlin was told March 17: "The administrator and the administration have decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision. . . . I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office."
In other words, the administration and Congress had their collective minds made up and didn't want to be confused with the facts. They certainly didn't want any inconvenient truths coming out of their own Environmental Protection Agency, the one that wants to regulate everything from your lawn mower to bovine emissions and which says the product of your respiration and ours, carbon dioxide, is a dangerous pollutant and not the basis for all life on earth.
The problem the warm-mongers have is they now are in a position of telling the American people, who are you going to believe — us or your own lying eyes? Forget the snow in Malibu, the record cold winters. Forget that temperatures have dropped for a decade.
In April, President Obama declared that "the days of science taking a back seat to ideology are over." Apparently not, for as he spoke those very words his administration was suppressing science to advance a very pernicious ideology.

4. High school graduates can’t pass basic U.S. citizenship test
RIDER COMMENT: Only 3.5% of Arizona high school graduates can get just 60% of the basic civics questions right on the citizenship exam. Augghhhhh!
It is indeed important to remember just how uneducated today’s electorate is. Perhaps that was always true, but I think it has deteriorated since, well, since I graduated from high school in 1963 (the world revolves around me). The other bit if info to keep in mind is that all these folks’ votes count every bit as much as yours.
Previously I published another study showing that college graduates know even less about U.S. civics than high school graduates – college grads forget what little they learned in K-12, or are mistaught in college. Couple this second study with the survey described below, and that is VERY bad news.
Why aren't Arizona high schools teaching civics?
by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D.

Just in time to celebrate Independence Day, the Goldwater Institute will release its new report, "Freedom from Responsibility: A Survey of Civic Knowledge Among Arizona High School Students." It reveals that only 3.5 percent of Arizona high school students have learned the basic history, government and geography necessary to pass the U.S. Citizenship test.
To conduct the survey, we hired a firm to interview 1,140 Arizona high school students and ask 10 questions drawn at random from the exam given to applicants for United States citizenship. Applicants for citizenship must get six out of 10 questions correct to pass. A recent trial found that 92.4 percent of citizenship applicants passed the test on the first try.

Below are the survey questions, the correct answers, and in parentheses the percentage of public school students providing the correct answer for each question.

1. What is the supreme law of the land?

Answer: The Constitution (29.5%)

2. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?

Answer: The Bill of Rights (25%)

3. What are the two parts of the U.S. Congress?

Answer: Senate and House (23%)

4. How many Justices are on the Supreme Court?

Answer: Nine (9.4%)

5. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?

Answer: Jefferson (25.3%)

6. What ocean is on the East Coast of the United States?

Answer: Atlantic (58.8%)

7. What are the two major political parties in the United States?

Answer: Democratic and Republican (49.6%)

8. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?

Answer: Six (14.5%)

9. Who was the first President of the United States?

Answer: Washington (26.5%)

10. Who is in charge of the Executive Branch?

Answer: The President (26%)

Only 3.5 percent of traditional public high school students passed the test. That's 40 students out of a sample of 1,134 district high school students.

Arizona's 8th grade social studies standards require that students learn about everything from John Locke to the Mayflower Compact to the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution before high school. It isn't clear what, if anything, Arizona students are learning in these classes, but it is abundantly clear what they are not learning--U.S. civics, history and geography.

In the report, I recommend that all Arizona high school students be required to pass a version of the U.S. Citizenship exam in order to graduate. Since then, one of our supporters came up with an even better idea: Make the exam a requirement for receiving a driver's license. Interesting thought...

Dr. Matthew Ladner is vice president for research at the Goldwater Institute.

5. To provide free Internet, subsidize Internet cafes, not libraries
RIDER COMMENT: One of the many rationales for a new monster central San Diego downtown library is more free computer access for the “poor” – and particularly the pungent homeless. The progressives won’t be happy until all folks not only have Internet access for free, but they must be using it regularly. If they are NOT using the Internet, then somehow that’s the taxpayers’ fault for not making it attractive/easy/accessible enough.
It’s just another in the ENDLESS subsidies liberals mandate from taxpayers. Redistribution is the name of the game – one small bite at the time.
That being said, IF we want taxpayers to pay for widespread free Internet access for the disadvantaged (in case it’s not obvious from my rants, I oppose this goal), then we should look to – of all places – the US Post Office for guidance. The post office contracts with local stores to serve as mini post offices, making such service far more convenient to the public.
Similarly the city could contract with cafes, coffee shops, etc. to provide such service -- paying maybe $15,000-$20,000 per year per location (including buying and maintaining perhaps 10 basic computers). These small struggling businesses benefit from the steady core revenue, plus the ancillary revenue from the computer users making other purchases.
The computers can be geographically positioned in the areas where such service is most needed -- not housed in a giant central library building that only relatively few can get to.
The results? FAR cheaper, and FAR better service. At $20K per coffee shop, a million dollars would provide 40 such locations. Furthermore, this business model would entail little in the way of operating costs or liabilities – unlike the library, where overpriced city employees are expected to help patrons navigate the Internet (or play games, view porn, or whatever).
The downside? No ribbon-cutting photo op for the politicians comparable to the grand opening of a quarter billion dollar library.

6. An analysis of Supreme Court Ricci decision overturning firefighter affirmative action – and Sotomayer’s ruling
RIDER COMMENT: The US Supreme Court’s Ricci decision that disparate racial results on firefighter written tests not being grounds for affirmative action bodes well for limiting further racial preferences (a.k.a. quota systems). Here’s a good article on the decision, and how Sotomayer’s overridden ruling can be viewed.
The article is prefaced by cogent comments from Thomas E. Wood, moderator of AADAP, a free email service on affirmative action. Wood is quite interesting, as he is a liberal opposed to affirmative action.

It has been suggested that New Haven could have certified the test results and found "alternative ways to deal with these issues in the future." Does this mean that every test that does not achieve the desired demographic result should be tossed out?

At some point, in some cases, the liberal argument places diversity above the skill level of a workforce. It is exactly this thinking that contributes to the decades of distance between Democrats and working and middle class whites.

For Sotomayor in particular, her role in the Ricci case is hardly radical. She upheld precedent. So-called "judicial activism" is not a tool exclusive to the right or left. Sotomayor's view on affirmative action was in the mainstream of liberal thought. But on this policy, liberal thought is not in the mainstream.

A Quinnipiac University poll recently detailed the Ricci case and found that seven in ten Americans, including 53 percent of blacks, believed the Court should compel "the city to promote" the firefighters even if no blacks "scored high enough to qualify."

Blacks overwhelmingly support affirmative action. But when given a specific example of the negative side of the policy, even a majority of blacks changed their mind.

Yet the liberal justices hid from these moral issues. The minority opinion sought to stay within the safe confines of precedent. It focused on defending the city's effort to avoid a civil rights lawsuit. The deeper issues that liberal justices ache to confront on other occasions, questions of fairness and equality, went ignored.

The liberal justices sought sanctuary in the legalese of the case. They argued for the continued use of unequal actions to attain an equal outcome and thereby undercut the roots of liberalism, the right to equal opportunity. Those who once fought for equality, and stood on the shoulders of that fight, are reduced to justifying inequality to combat inequality. In this era of Obama, it's the measure of what remains unchanged that is sometimes most striking.


June 30, 2009

Left Dodges Moral Debate on Ricci Case

By David Paul Kuhn
It took the story of one firefighter to expose the tension between fairness and affirmative action.
The nation's four most prominent liberal justices ignored that tension Monday. By consequence, the liberal justices decided that equal outcome should trump equal opportunity, when the two values compete. And in that decision, supported by a chorus of liberal analysts, American liberalism continued decades of thinking that places diversity, not fairness, as its first principle.
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that white and Hispanic firefighters were unfairly discriminated against when the city of New Haven discarded a promotional exam because no blacks, or not enough minorities in the city’s view, earned a sufficient score to be promoted.
The ruling concludes one of the most widely debated discrimination cases of the past decade. Much of that attention is based on Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's involvement in the case. Sotomayor, as an appellate judge, upheld the initial decision siding with New Haven.
In the end, the Court's conservative majority prevailed in yet another 5 to 4 vote. But it's the minority's dissent--a view supported by the Obama administration in its brief submitted to the Court--which stirs up liberalism's ongoing avoidance of affirmative action's "real-world" negative consequences.
The uniform liberal Court view on affirmative action takes on a heightened resonance today. Democrats hope President Obama marks the beginning of an enduring political majority. A primary aim of either party, when seeking sustained dominance, is to shift the Court to their side. Had today's Court been left leaning, liberals should be troubled to know, it would have almost certainly upheld a policy that denied a promotion based on the color of those promoted.
The Ricci case gets to the core of the American ideal of "the pursuit of happiness" as an "inalienable right." This right was most egregiously denied to blacks through slavery. It was not until the 1960s that the nation finally confronted and outlawed discriminatory practices. Affirmative action was instituted to correct past inequality.
Nearly a half-century later, liberalism faces new questions. In the time of the first black president, when white men's unemployment rate increases at twice the rate of black women in this recession, liberal thought has remained hinged to an earlier era.
Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination based on disparate treatment or disparate impact. In 1960s and 1970s America the tension between the two principles was mitigated by the need to right history.
The liberal opinion, written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on behalf of all four left-leaning justices, argued Monday that the "purpose" of Title VII's disparate-impact provision "is to ensure that individuals are hired and promoted based on qualifications manifestly necessary" and "do not screen out members of any race."
The liberal justices refused to reckon with the instances when the desire for "manifestly necessary" skills creates an unequal racial outcome, as was the case in New Haven.
The conservative majority addressed this tension Monday. It decided New Haven's actions amounted to disparate treatment, what the rest of us call overt discrimination.
An Illiberal Argument
Liberals now find themselves bunkered down beneath illiberal logic. Conventional affirmative action supporters effectively back discrimination for the sake of diversity. The driving role that class and culture play in endemic inequality is ignored. Affirmative action has become an entitlement supported despite consequence or context.
Whites overwhelmingly support a move toward class-based affirmative action that would still disproportionately aid minorities. But liberals remain seemingly vested in defending affirmative action as it was conceived, in a time far different than today.
The liberal opinion on the Ricci case upheld the city's effort to find any means to hold fast to conventional affirmative action. The city, after extended deliberation, decided that it was legal to discard the test results if no one was promoted.
Ginsburg echoed earlier decisions when she wrote that the city policy was "race-neutral in this sense" because "‘[A]ll the test results were discarded, no one was promoted, and firefighters of every race will have [the opportunity] to participate in another selection process to be considered for promotion.'"
The liberal argument feels like the cold legal judgment opposed by Barack Obama, in his criteria for nominating new liberal justices.
"She understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law to real-world facts," the White House wrote when Sotomayor was nominated.
Consider the well known details of the case's lead plaintiff, Frank Ricci. He gave up a second job and spent a third to half of his days studying over a period of months. He paid an acquaintance more than $1,000 to read textbooks onto audiotapes to overcome his dyslexia. He passed the test. Earned the promotion. But he was denied that promotion because diversity took precedent over qualification.
As I wrote in an earlier article on Ricci and concepts of "white male privilege," Ricci personifies the negative impact of so-called "positive discrimination." It's precisely this impact that liberalism must confront. The liberal argument ignored issues of harm, the loss of time or additional income suffered by Ricci and his fellow plaintiffs.
Ginsburg wrote that the majority opinion ignores firefighters' "long history of rank discrimination against African-Americans." It's an important consideration. But Ginsburg ignored the decades of distance from that history.
The liberal opinion goes on to write of the city's "unlikely" desire to exclude white firefighters from promotion because "a fair test"--fair, in this sense, meaning equal outcome--"would undoubtedly result in the addition of white firefighters to the officer ranks." This line of argument would have us believe that a “fair” system would promote some deserving white applicants while denying other white applicants. This illiberal liberal reasoning places disparate impact over disparate treatment. It argues, at best, that subtle discrimination is preferable over its more overt form. This is the inverse of our common hierarchy of justice. Common sense dictates that intentional harm is worse than accidental.
The test was created by a firm specializing in employment exams and met legal requirements, such as a review by independent experts. It was not the test but the color of those who passed it that led the nation’s top liberal legal minds to determine it was not "fair." This view defines quality by demographic result. It consequently upholds the outdated use of quotas.
The city claimed that it trashed the test only because it was afraid of being sued for discrimination by the minority applicants. But practical consequences also matter in law, as Obama has said.
Liberals continue to argue today that affirmative action is the result of employers impeding the progress of minorities. But the Ricci case captures how affirmative action improves the position of minorities often by impeding the progress of whites. And it's the most vulnerable whites who often pay the price of affirmative action, those men who lost blue-collar jobs and know nothing of privilege.
Mistaking Cure for Disease
Sotomayor has commendably acknowledged that affirmative action played a critical role in her admittance to Ivy League universities. And to be sure, diversity has its practical benefits. One needs Spanish speaking social workers or black police officers patrolling black neighborhoods. Whites can be ill served by a homogenous education. But when diversity is emphasized solely for its own sake, the cure becomes the cause rather than the true cause--curing the disease of discrimination.
It has been suggested that New Haven could have certified the test results and found "alternative ways to deal with these issues in the future." Does this mean that every test that does not achieve the desired demographic result should be tossed out?
At some point, in some cases, the liberal argument places diversity above the skill level of a workforce. It is exactly this thinking that contributes to the decades of distance between Democrats and working and middle class whites.
For Sotomayor in particular, her role in the Ricci case is hardly radical. She upheld precedent. So-called "judicial activism" is not a tool exclusive to the right or left. Sotomayor's view on affirmative action was in the mainstream of liberal thought. But on this policy, liberal thought is not in the mainstream.
A Quinnipiac University poll recently detailed the Ricci case and found that seven in ten Americans, including 53 percent of blacks, believed the Court should compel "the city to promote" the firefighters even if no blacks "scored high enough to qualify."
Blacks overwhelmingly support affirmative action. But when given a specific example of the negative side of the policy, even a majority of blacks changed their mind.
Yet the liberal justices hid from these moral issues. The minority opinion sought to stay within the safe confines of precedent. It focused on defending the city's effort to avoid a civil rights lawsuit. The deeper issues that liberal justices ache to confront on other occasions, questions of fairness and equality, went ignored.
Imagine the opposite of the Ricci case. A test is tossed out because not enough whites earned a promotion and too many blacks did. Would liberals support the city's action then?
"We are not unsympathetic to the plaintiffs' expression of frustration," Sotomayor and her fellow appellate justices wrote last year. The Supreme Court liberal justices wrote in their opinion that the firefighters denied a promotion "understandably attract this Court's sympathy."
Sympathy is exhibited not in words but actions. The liberal justices sought sanctuary in the legalese of the case. They argued for the continued use of unequal actions to attain an equal outcome and thereby undercut the roots of liberalism, the right to equal opportunity. Those who once fought for equality, and stood on the shoulders of that fight, are reduced to justifying inequality to combat inequality. In this era of Obama, it's the measure of what remains unchanged that is sometimes most striking.

7. The climate change climate change – global warming scientist proponents are changing their minds

• JUNE 29, 2009
The Climate Change Climate Change
The number of skeptics is swelling everywhere.
• Comments (537)
Steve Fielding recently asked the Obama administration to reassure him on the science of man-made global warming. When the administration proved unhelpful, Mr. Fielding decided to vote against climate-change legislation.
If you haven't heard of this politician, it's because he's a member of the Australian Senate. As the U.S. House of Representatives prepares to pass a climate-change bill, the Australian Parliament is preparing to kill its own country's carbon-emissions scheme. Why? A growing number of Australian politicians, scientists and citizens once again doubt the science of human-caused global warming.
Among the many reasons President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority are so intent on quickly jamming a cap-and-trade system through Congress is because the global warming tide is again shifting. It turns out Al Gore and the United Nations (with an assist from the media), did a little too vociferous a job smearing anyone who disagreed with them as "deniers." The backlash has brought the scientific debate roaring back to life in Australia, Europe, Japan and even, if less reported, the U.S.
In April, the Polish Academy of Sciences published a document challenging man-made global warming. In the Czech Republic, where President Vaclav Klaus remains a leading skeptic, today only 11% of the population believes humans play a role. In France, President Nicolas Sarkozy wants to tap Claude Allegre to lead the country's new ministry of industry and innovation. Twenty years ago Mr. Allegre was among the first to trill about man-made global warming, but the geochemist has since recanted. New Zealand last year elected a new government, which immediately suspended the country's weeks-old cap-and-trade program.
The number of skeptics, far from shrinking, is swelling. Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe now counts more than 700 scientists who disagree with the U.N. -- 13 times the number who authored the U.N.'s 2007 climate summary for policymakers. Joanne Simpson, the world's first woman to receive a Ph.D. in meteorology, expressed relief upon her retirement last year that she was finally free to speak "frankly" of her nonbelief. Dr. Kiminori Itoh, a Japanese environmental physical chemist who contributed to a U.N. climate report, dubs man-made warming "the worst scientific scandal in history." Norway's Ivar Giaever, Nobel Prize winner for physics, decries it as the "new religion." A group of 54 noted physicists, led by Princeton's Will Happer, is demanding the American Physical Society revise its position that the science is settled. (Both Nature and Science magazines have refused to run the physicists' open letter.)
The collapse of the "consensus" has been driven by reality. The inconvenient truth is that the earth's temperatures have flat-lined since 2001, despite growing concentrations of C02. Peer-reviewed research has debunked doomsday scenarios about the polar ice caps, hurricanes, malaria, extinctions, rising oceans. A global financial crisis has politicians taking a harder look at the science that would require them to hamstring their economies to rein in carbon.
Credit for Australia's own era of renewed enlightenment goes to Dr. Ian Plimer, a well-known Australian geologist. Earlier this year he published "Heaven and Earth," a damning critique of the "evidence" underpinning man-made global warming. The book is already in its fifth printing. So compelling is it that Paul Sheehan, a noted Australian columnist -- and ardent global warming believer -- in April humbly pronounced it "an evidence-based attack on conformity and orthodoxy, including my own, and a reminder to respect informed dissent and beware of ideology subverting evidence." Australian polls have shown a sharp uptick in public skepticism; the press is back to questioning scientific dogma; blogs are having a field day.
The rise in skepticism also came as Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, elected like Mr. Obama on promises to combat global warming, was attempting his own emissions-reduction scheme. His administration was forced to delay the implementation of the program until at least 2011, just to get the legislation through Australia's House. The Senate was not so easily swayed.
Mr. Fielding, a crucial vote on the bill, was so alarmed by the renewed science debate that he made a fact-finding trip to the U.S., attending the Heartland Institute's annual conference for climate skeptics. He also visited with Joseph Aldy, Mr. Obama's special assistant on energy and the environment, where he challenged the Obama team to address his doubts. They apparently didn't.
This week Mr. Fielding issued a statement: He would not be voting for the bill. He would not risk job losses on "unconvincing green science." The bill is set to founder as the Australian parliament breaks for the winter.
Republicans in the U.S. have, in recent years, turned ever more to the cost arguments against climate legislation. That's made sense in light of the economic crisis. If Speaker Nancy Pelosi fails to push through her bill, it will be because rural and Blue Dog Democrats fret about the economic ramifications. Yet if the rest of the world is any indication, now might be the time for U.S. politicians to re-engage on the science. One thing for sure: They won't be alone.
Write to
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page A15

8. Media doing more data mining – great news for the public
RIDER COMMENT: The SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE is spearheading the establishment of a nonprofit to do “data based investigative journalism.” See the article below.
As I’ve pointed out often in the past, most journalists are poorly prepared to do such analysis, so they avoid it, or get it wrong because they cannot analyze government propaganda releases. But I think that some of the media is discovering that this data area is a treasure trove waiting to be mined.
Media people are usually poorly armed when it comes to number crunching, but they are NOT stupid. They can learn, and some ARE back-learning about this neglected aspect of their liberal arts education.
Here are my comments to the U-T staff – an open letter praising the effort.
Perhaps more important, I present two potential areas for data mining.


Interesting new venture -- data based investigative journalism. Kudos to the U-T for spearheading this effort.

GREAT IDEA! It's been the neglected area of reporting. It's often a daunting area in which to drill, but with Pulitzer Prize results awaiting the drillers.

Here's my suggestion for two difficult projects that can provide critical information the public desperately needs to understand. These projects are easy for me to suggest, but difficult to do -- especially the first suggestion.

A. Look at public vs. private sector pay.

The stereotype of public employment is that it's a tradeoff -- low pay and modest benefits in exchange for solid job security and a stately work pace. The public employee unions perpetuate this myth.

It might have been true 30-40 years ago, but not today. Most of today's public employees receive salaries considerably HIGHER than the equivalent jobs in the private sector. The benefits are literally unbelievable. Meanwhile the job security is as good as ever. The work pace comparison is harder to define.

What is missing in this data comparison is a current, accurate comparison of public vs. private sector salaries for the same work. NO ONE has yet done this work -- and it's a Herculean task.

Police and firefighters are hard to compare with the private sector, but most of the rest of government work is indeed comparable.

The trick is to compare NOT just with other government agencies. This is the public employee unions favorite gambit -- where every government jurisdiction is the opposite of Lake Woebegone -- every government's pay is below average.

Instead the comparisons should be with the local PRIVATE sector. And not just with the big rich corporations and utilities (the usual comparison by government bureaucrats). A full range of private firms should be surveyed, down to the small businesses which are be primary employers in San Diego.

I'll tell you what I'm confident that you'll find: The pink and blue collar government jobs (the vast majority of the public sector jobs) pay 25%-50% higher than the average private pay of sector workers doing the same tasks -- and that's not counting the opulent public employee benefits, health care and early retirement. The technical and professional jobs will be closer to parity, and in some specialty areas the private sector pays more -- while the companies are still in business.

Managerial jobs are not equivalent. Private sector managers are supposed to MAKE the company money. Public sector managers are tasked only with SPENDING taxpayer funds. It's a huge difference in responsibility and accountability.

B. Look at the percentage of government employees who take disability retirement.

One old study I recall noted that public employees become disabled 28 times more frequently than private sector employees. And no area is more prone to disability than police and firefighters.

It's not just the "chief's disease" scandal of recent years. For instance, many and perhaps most firefighters try to go out with some sort of disability, yet they are healthier than the general population of similar age.

The city of San Diego has made some effort to rein in this problem, but it's an area ripe for further investigation -- for the city, the county and the other cities in the county.

9. Canooks come to U.S. for timely medical care – where will we be going for ours if ObamaCare passes? Plus comments on the bogus reports of high U.S. infant mortality rates.
RIDER COMMENT: The following column describes where the Canadians go who need timely health care. They go South!
More and more, perhaps the same will be true for U.S. citizens if ObamaCare is implemented (and I think it will be). Maybe we won’t go South. Perhaps East – like to India. Indeed, this overseas treatment trend is already growing at a brisk clip.
One aspect of the story deserves more attention. It completely debunks one canard by the single payer plan supporters – the claim that the infant mortality rate in the U.S. is high compared to a lot of countries. But these are not apples to apples comparisons. Many other countries have decided that if a baby dies within 24 hours, it was never born. Not so in the U.S. However weak, premature or deformed a newborn is, if it dies, it’s a death on our records.
And there is another factor. Cuba ranks well in health care. But how do we acquire the stats from Cuba? Why, the Cuban government tells us! Simply put, they lie.
Cuba has a handful of showcase hospitals (“showcase” by THEIR standards), but the rest of the country’s medical care is appallingly bad. The health numbers they report are literally unbelievable, yet are taken as fact by the U.N. and socialized medicine supporters.
Canada's Single-Prayer Health Care
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Tuesday, June 30, 2009 4:20 PM PT
Health Reform: A critically ill premature baby is moved to a U.S hospital to get the treatment she couldn't get in the system we're told we should emulate. Cost-effective care? In Canada, as elsewhere, you get what you pay for.
IBD Exclusive Series: Government-Run Healthcare: A Prescription For Failure
Ava Isabella Stinson was born last Thursday at St. Joseph's hospital in Hamilton, Ontario. Weighing only two pounds, she was born 13 weeks premature and needed some very special care. Unfortunately, there were no open neonatal intensive care beds for her at St. Joseph's — or anywhere else in the entire province of Ontario, it seems.
Canada's perfectly planned and cost-effective system had no room at the inn for Ava, who of necessity had to be sent across the border to a Buffalo, N.Y., hospital to suffer under our chaotic and costly system. She had no time to be put on a Canadian waiting list. She got the care she needed at an American hospital under a system President Obama has labeled "unsustainable."
Jim Hoft over at Gateway Pundit reports Ava's case is not unusual. He reports that Hamilton's neonatal intensive care unit is closed to new admissions half the time. Special-needs infants are sent elsewhere and usually to the U.S.
In 2007, a Canadian woman gave birth to extremely rare identical quadruplets — Autumn, Brooke, Calissa and Dahlia Jepps. They were born in the United States to Canadian parents because there was again no space available at any Canadian neonatal care unit. All they had was a wing and a prayer.
The Jepps, a nurse and a respiratory technician flew from Calgary, a city of a million people, 325 miles to Benefit Hospital in Great Falls, Mont., a city of 56,000. The girls are doing fine, thanks to our system where care still trumps cost and where being without insurance does not mean being without care.
Infant mortality rates are often cited as a reason socialized medicine and a single-payer system is supposed to be better than what we have here. But according to Dr. Linda Halderman, a policy adviser in the California State Senate, these comparisons are bogus.
As she points out, in the U.S., low birth-weight babies are still babies. In Canada, Germany and Austria, a premature baby weighing less than 500 grams is not considered a living child and is not counted in such statistics. They're considered "unsalvageable" and therefore never alive.
Norway boasts one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the world — until you factor in weight at birth, and then its rate is no better than in the U.S.
In other countries babies that survive less than 24 hours are also excluded and are classified as "stillborn." In the U.S. any infant that shows any sign of life for any length of time is considered a live birth.
A child born in Hong Kong or Japan that lives less than a day is reported as a "miscarriage" and not counted. In Switzerland and other parts of Europe, a baby is not counted as a baby if it is less than 30 centimeters in length.
In 2007, there were at least 40 mothers and their babies who were airlifted from British Columbia alone to the U.S. because Canadian hospitals didn't have room. It's worth noting that since 2000, 42 of the world's 52 surviving babies weighing less than 400g (0.9 pounds) were born in the U.S.
It must be embarrassing to Canada that a G-7 economy and a country of 30 million people can't offer the same level of health care as a town of just over 50,000 in rural Montana. Where will Canada send its preemies and other critical patients when we adopt their health care system?
As we have noted, in Canada roughly 900,000 patients of all ages are waiting for beds, according to the Fraser Institute. There are more than four times as many magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) units per capita in the U.S. as in Canada. We have twice as many CT scanners per capita.
Expensive? Wasteful. Just ask the Jepps or the parents of Ava Isabella Stinson.

10. Amid budget mess, CHP could get raise
RIDER COMMENT: Thank goodness the government keeps reminding us why tax increases are NOT needed. When the politicians and their labor unions refuse to control public employee cost but rather provide raises, that puts the dagger in the heart of liberal claims that tax increases are needed. Indeed, that gives new meaning to the term “bleeding heart liberals”!

The Buzz: Amid budget mess, CHP could get raise

Published: Wednesday, Jul. 1, 2009 - 12:00 am | Page 3A
While rank-and-file state employees face as much as a 14 percent pay cut through furloughs, California Highway Patrol officers could well get a raise. The CHP contract adjusts pay based on salary levels at five local law enforcement agencies in the state. The results of this year's survey are expected out soon.

11. Obama blowing hot air concerning California energy efficiency policies
RIDER COMMENT: The following is from the WS JOURNAL’s James Taranto 1 July blog :
President Obama was touting California, with its decades-old "energy-efficiency policies," as an example to the nation. After all, the president noted, "Californians consume 40 percent less energy per person than the national average."
As Harvard's Edward Glaeser pointed out in an April New York Times blog post, the "primary reason" California's energy consumption is low is the weather:
January temperature does a terrific job of explaining carbon emissions from home heating and July temperature does almost as well at explaining electricity usage. California has the most temperate climate in the country and as a result, homes use less heat in the winter and less electricity in the summer. In hot, humid Houston or frigid Minneapolis, people use plenty of energy to artificially recreate what California has naturally.
Obama also claimed that California's paucity of power plants is evidence of its success. But California uses more electricity than it generates--some 53 terawatt-hours more in 2007, or just over 20% of total consumption, according to the federal Energy Information Administration--which means it has to import power from other states not subject to California's environmental restrictions.
Moreover, also according to the EIA, Californians pay an average of 14.42 cents a kilowatt-hour of electricity, the sixth-highest rate in the contiguous U.S. and more than the average of any region except New England. Obama, it seems, would like to make the rest of the country pay California prices for energy. It might be worth it if he could guarantee us California weather.

12. Case study of a bloated pension -- complete with details
RIDER COMMENT: This well researched article details how a 51 year old “public servant” making a paltry $221,000 can walk away with a $284,000 pension. Your blood should boil.
The details of this case may NOT apply to your specific local and county jurisdictions, but it’s only the details and degree of taxpayer largesse that change. ALL government employees have extra gains that factor into their pensions over and above just their “highest base salary” – and nowhere is the abuse more rampant than in the public safety jobs.
The one thing that is probably universal is that public safety employees are ALWAYS surprised and sometimes stunned at the total pension they end up receiving.
For instance, in many jurisdictions covered under CalPERS, the taxpayers pay part or all of the employee’s share of the pension contribution. Only when the pension is actually issued does the employee discover that the employer contributions boost their “salary” off which the pension is calculated. Locally cities such as La Mesa and Chula Vista pay the public employee’s 9% contribution. That means that instead of getting a “90% of salary” pension after 30 years, the employee gets 98.1% of salary.
Again, most employees do not know this, and it does not show up in their annual CalPERS statement about their pensions. ONLY when they retire does this come up – and the reckoning comes for the taxpayers footing the bill.
Remember, this unknown windfall is only one of many such windfalls for public employees – especially police and firefighters. Even the folks in the California State Controllers office are usually unaware of many of these giveaways.
Just to repeat my admonition – get a government job. Especially a local government job. And ideally a public safety job – firefighter is best. This is the most lucrative financial advice I can dispense.
Daniel Borenstein: Guide to bad pension policy
By Daniel Borenstein
Staff columnist
Posted: 05/02/2009 10:00:00 PM PDT
Updated: 05/03/2009 10:23:02 PM PDT
CRAIG BOWEN'S SALARY during his final year as chief of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District was about $221,000 a year. So how did he end up retiring in December with a tax-advantaged annual pension of $284,000?
The answer provides an amazing case study that highlights problems with public employee compensation and reveals tricks that allow workers to spike their pensions at the expense of their fellow employees and taxpayers.
The Bowen story has some similarities to the case I examined last month of Peter Nowicki, the chief of the Moraga Orinda Fire District who was able to turn his $185,000 annual salary into a $241,000 yearly pension. While each public agency has different rules that provide new ways to take advantage of retirement systems, many of the lessons can be applied across the board.
In Bowen's case, residents of the fire district serving Danville, San Ramon, Alamo, Blackhawk and Diablo should pay close attention because they got shafted. The San Ramon district's flawed compensation system and generous rules for pension calculations allowed Bowen to increase his starting pension from about $193,000 to $284,000 a year — a 47 percent increase. The pension will be increased in future years for inflation.
Bowen was only 51 years old when he retired at the end of 2008. If he or his wife lives another 30 years, that bump-up alone would add $2.7 million in today's dollars to his pension. His total retirement payout for the next 30 years would be worth about $8.5 million in today's dollars — far more than most taxpayers have in their 401(k)s when they hit the half-century mark.
Bowen is a beneficiary of a system that merits closer scrutiny. His devotion to the job is not at issue. By all accounts, he was a hardworking guy during his 29-year career. Indeed, it apparently took a toll on his health.
As he told a reporter in December, a medical condition influenced his decision to retire. In March, the board of the Contra Costa County Employees' Retirement Association, which administers the fire district's pension plan, approved Bowen's request for a service-connected disability.
As a result, under state and federal laws, much of his pension payment is exempt from income tax. Moreover, under state rules, if his wife survives him, she will be entitled to 100 percent of his pension for the rest of her life.
The spousal benefit is part of a public employee retirement system that creates pension payments unmatched in the private sector — a system that is financially unsustainable and is excessively sucking away dollars that could otherwise be used for providing public services.
With that in mind, let's look at the factors that make Bowen's pension so lucrative — and the changes that could be made locally to fix the system in the future.
The fire district, like most police and fire agencies across the state, has adopted the retirement calculation known as "3 percent at 50" — meaning that a worker can receive a pension starting at age 50 equal to 3 percent of his highest 12 months' salary multiplied by the number of years of employment. For example, someone who worked 30 years would be entitled to a pension equal to 90 percent of his salary.
While those pension benefits seemed like a good idea to some people in better fiscal times a decade ago when local governments across the state started implementing them, the time has come to reconsider whether taxpayers can afford to fund them.
There are two key variables in the "3 percent at 50" equation: the number of years worked and the highest 12 months' salary. Here are some of the factors that go into each and some rough estimates of how much they increase Bowen's pension annually:
Unused sick leave ($10,700 a year): In addition to work credit for his 29 years on the job, Bowen received credit for more than a year of unused sick leave. As a result, his pension was calculated as if he had worked 30.3 years. The difference means Bowen will receive an additional $10,700 in his annual pension.
The idea of receiving retirement credit for unused sick leave is generally peculiar to the public sector. It's a benefit public agencies could, and should, end. Sick leave is supposed to serve as insurance to provide compensation when a worker is ill; it shouldn't be a tool to bolster retirement.
Standby and management pay ($14,500 a year): In the San Ramon Valley district, managers don't just receive a salary. They have add-ons. There's "standby" pay that adds roughly 5 percent to the salary. This is extra compensation for carrying a pager and being available 24/7 for emergencies. Also, there's "management" pay that adds another 2 percent. This is for a manager to be ... well, to be a manager.
It seems odd that a fire chief would be paid extra to perform duties that are basic to his job. What makes it worse is that the extra money is added to the salary figure used for pension calculations. In other words, even after the chief retired, he continues to benefit from these perks. They live on for the rest of his, or his wife's, life, adding at the start roughly $14,500 a year to his pension.
Auto allowance ($7,600 a year): A couple of years ago, the fire district offered managers the option of a flat monthly stipend in lieu of a car for the job. Bowen chose the stipend, which was $700 a month when he retired. But the salary figure used to calculate Bowen's pension includes the auto allowance, which adds nearly the full amount to his actual retirement check. He received the auto allowance for only two years while on the job — and now he's going to get it in retirement for the rest of his and his wife's lives.
If the standby pay, management pay and auto allowance seem excessive, that's because they are. What makes them worse is that once the district offers them to employees, it must, under state law, include the amounts in the salary figure used for pension calculations. There is, however, a simple solution: Stop offering the benefits. Then they need not be factored into the retirement calculations.
Administrative leave ($17,000 a year): The chief, like other managers, was entitled to administrative leave — time off in exchange for having to work outside normal business hours. In other words, he was paid extra for the additional hours through standby and management pay, and then offered time off in exchange for them as well.
If the chief didn't use his administrative leave of 80 hours a year, he would receive cash payment for the hours at the start of the following year. Bowen, however, played the system well. In January 2008 he received payment for all 80 hours of administrative leave he didn't use in 2007. And then, when he retired on Dec. 31, 2008, he immediately received payment for nearly 80 hours of administrative leave he didn't use in 2008. In other words, he got two years' worth of administrative leave paid in the same 12-month period, the period that was used to calculate his salary for pension purposes.
Timing here was critical. By waiting until the last day of the year to retire, instead of, say, leaving during the summer, he added thousands of dollars to his annual pension payments. All told, by not taking administrative leave those two years and cashing it out instead, Bowen added about $17,000 annually to his pension.
Administrative leave is a costly and unjustified benefit to begin with, especially considering all the other compensation managers receive. In Bowen's case, doubling it up for the pension calculation just adds insult to the taxpayer's injury. Fire district directors should eliminate administrative leave. Then there will be no need to include it in the pension calculation.
Selling back vacation time ($17,000 a year): The fire district allows employees to sell back unused vacation time up to 80 hours a year. The new policy, implemented for the first time to apply to the 2007 calendar year, requires the sell-back to take place in December of each year.
But for the first year, because of delays implementing the contract, the sell-back took place in April 2008. Bowen sold 80 hours then, and 80 more in December 2008. The proceeds from those sales, in turn, were added to the salary used to compute his pension. Because he was able to sell back twice within the final 12 months of his employment, he doubled the effect on his pension. All told, the vacation sell-back boosted his pension by about $17,000 a year.
Vacation buyback is another unnecessary benefit that should be eliminated. Workers should be told to take their time off. Like in most of the private sector, limits should be set on the amount they can accrue. Once those limits are reached, the worker should, as is the case in most of the private sector, be blocked from accruing more vacation.
Cashing out vacation time upon retirement ($25,500 a year): Finally, there's the unused vacation Bowen had remaining when he took retirement. District policy allows employees to cash out up to a year's worth of unused vacation when they leave. That's what Bowen did. The extra income in his final 12 months had the effect of bumping up his annual pension by about $25,500.
This is the single biggest spike to Bowen's pension. It's also the easiest item to fix for future retirees. The state Court of Appeal has been clear that termination payments need not count toward pension calculations. Public agencies should stop giving away this money.
Let's be clear. Bowen deserves a pension. He worked hard and, by all accounts, he performed well. The question is how much is fair for him and the others who come behind him.
There's nothing the San Ramon fire district's board can do to reduce Bowen's pension now. But his case can serve as a road map for fire district directors, and board members of other agencies across the state, looking to end unjustified spiking and bring some sanity to the public pension system.

13. The NEW YORK TIMES bloviates on CA budget problems
RIDER COMMENT: The NEW YORK TIMES Magazine is running a numbing 8,000 word story on California government’s travails.
You need not read this tripe. I’ll summarize it for you. The writer’s conclusion is what you’d expect – in a state that consistently ranks in the top four highest tax rate states, California’s problem is that politicians are not easily able to raise taxes even higher and faster (as they can and just did in NY state where “simple majority” literally rules – and both taxes AND spending are now soaring).
Even more fascinating – in the entire 8,000 word article, there is not a SINGLE mention of our state and local public employee overcompensation, bloated pensions, or government labor union lock on the legislature. NOTHING!
The U-T’s Chris Reed covers this well in his blog:

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