In Kansas, Just Plain Saving Energy

While Chris and I bicker in the comments, here’s some positive news.

For years, I’m groused that all the focus in energy policy has been on the AGW boogeyman – a boogeyman whose existence lots of people (including me) doubt, and lots of people flatly don’t believe in. Which made it an unproductive hook on which to hang changes in energy planning.

Someone got a cluebat, because here’s an article in the NY Times today:

Ms. Jackson settled on a three-pronged strategy. Invoking the notion of thrift, she set out to persuade towns to compete with one another to become more energy-efficient. She worked with civic leaders to embrace green jobs as a way of shoring up or rescuing their communities. And she spoke with local ministers about “creation care,” the obligation of Christians to act as stewards of the world that God gave them, even creating a sermon bank with talking points they could download.

“I don’t recall us being recruited under a climate change label at all,” said Stacy Huff, an executive for the Coronado Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, which was enlisted to help the project. Mr. Huff describes himself as “somewhat skeptical” about global warming.

Mr. Huff said the project workers emphasized conservation for future generations when they recruited his group. The message resonated, and the scouts went door to door in low-income neighborhoods to deliver and install weatherization kits.

“It is in our DNA to leave a place better than we found it,” he said.

You don’t need to believe in, or even care about, climate change to agree that we need to change our patterns of energy use.

Back in ’06 I wrote:

From my point of view, there are three reasons energy is worth some serious investment:

1. Slow the rate of carbon emissions, in the off chance that they will have an impact on global warming.

2. Slow the rate of investment in jihad by the oil-rich Arab states, who have been the principal financiers of the spread of the core religious ideology that – when combined with alienation and anomie – leads to recruits who blow themselves and others up.

3. Shelter our domestic energy infrastructure from disruption – whether through embargo, terrorism, or system disruption caused by error or chance.

This program is a great example of what I talked about in that post – “The 3% Solution” to our energy issues.

Go read the NYT article, find a warmist and share it with them.
Go read the NYT article, find a warmist and share it with them.

In Which I Get It Interestingly Wrong

Both of these are at about the same point in the development of the story:

Memeorandum October 14, 2:35pm


Memeorandum October 17, 4:35pm

when I wrote that “If a whiteboy GOP staffer made a comment like that, I’m thinking the gay community would be out for blood.”

It turns out that the gay community (relatively speaking) went after Jarrett. But notice how much more the mainstream went after Buck. To be sure, Jarrett apologized profusely to the guy covering the gay beat for the Washington Post, while Buck dug in.

But it’s interesting nonetheless, no? What does it say about the attention of the media, and about the relations between the Administration and the gay community?

Robinson On Education

Via Zenpundit, here’s a great illustrated lecture by Sir Ken Robinson about education. My own views tip slightly to the other direction – I do believe that some basic standard skills are necessary, and I’m uncomfortable tossing aside the “standard curriculum.” But he makes several points in this that challenge my views, and require some serious thinking.


I Don’t Know How I Missed This News – Mandelbrot Died Thursday

Mathematician Benoit Mandelbrot died in Cambridge, Mass on Thursday, the day I finished rereading his book The Misbehavior of Markets: A Fractal View of Financial Turbulence.

It’s a damn good book, and the work he began in studying cotton prices back in 1961 has led to valuable insights – if not yet well-applied insights.

He saw simplicity where others just saw noise, and to me that is the true sign of genius.

More On The Scientific Process – This One’s For Chris

From an article by David Freeman in The Atlantic, (h/t Biggest Guy):

But beyond the headlines, Ioannidis was shocked at the range and reach of the reversals he was seeing in everyday medical research. “Randomized controlled trials,” which compare how one group responds to a treatment against how an identical group fares without the treatment, had long been considered nearly unshakable evidence, but they, too, ended up being wrong some of the time. “I realized even our gold-standard research had a lot of problems,” he says. Baffled, he started looking for the specific ways in which studies were going wrong. And before long he discovered that the range of errors being committed was astonishing: from what questions researchers posed, to how they set up the studies, to which patients they recruited for the studies, to which measurements they took, to how they analyzed the data, to how they presented their results, to how particular studies came to be published in medical journals.

This array suggested a bigger, underlying dysfunction, and Ioannidis thought he knew what it was. “The studies were biased,” he says. “Sometimes they were overtly biased. Sometimes it was difficult to see the bias, but it was there.” Researchers headed into their studies wanting certain results – and, lo and behold, they were getting them. We think of the scientific process as being objective, rigorous, and even ruthless in separating out what is true from what we merely wish to be true, but in fact it’s easy to manipulate results, even unintentionally or unconsciously. “At every step in the process, there is room to distort results, a way to make a stronger claim or to select what is going to be concluded,” says Ioannidis. “There is an intellectual conflict of interest that pressures researchers to find whatever it is that is most likely to get them funded.

Perhaps only a minority of researchers were succumbing to this bias, but their distorted findings were having an outsize effect on published research. To get funding and tenured positions, and often merely to stay afloat, researchers have to get their work published in well-regarded journals, where rejection rates can climb above 90 percent. Not surprisingly, the studies that tend to make the grade are those with eye-catching findings. But while coming up with eye-catching theories is relatively easy, getting reality to bear them out is another matter. The great majority collapse under the weight of contradictory data when studied rigorously. Imagine, though, that five different research teams test an interesting theory that’s making the rounds, and four of the groups correctly prove the idea false, while the one less cautious group incorrectly “proves” it true through some combination of error, fluke, and clever selection of data. Guess whose findings your doctor ends up reading about in the journal, and you end up hearing about on the evening news? Researchers can sometimes win attention by refuting a prominent finding, which can help to at least raise doubts about results, but in general it is far more rewarding to add a new insight or exciting-sounding twist to existing research than to retest its basic premises…after all, simply re-proving someone else’s results is unlikely to get you published, and attempting to undermine the work of respected colleagues can have ugly professional repercussions.

[Emphasis added]

Thomas Kuhn talked about this: when he talked about “normal science” and said that “”No part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomenon; indeed those that will not fit the box are often not seen at all.”

A pretty good description of what Ioannidis is demonstrating about healthcare research. One wonders where else that problem might apply…

One Of These Things…Oh, Heck – Two Pieces From The WaPo

Tuesday – Stephen Perlstein: Wage cuts hurt, but they may be the only way to get Americans back to work

There is, of course, a way out of this bind: produce more without consuming more. For all practical purposes, that means grabbing a bigger share of global markets, either by exporting more goods and services, or replacing some of the stuff we import by producing it at home.

Which brings us back to the story of GM’s Orion plant. There are lots of reasons why American companies like GM have lost market share (yes, I wrote about currency manipulation last week), but one is that in too many industries, our labor costs are now too high to be globally competitive. Reducing wages and benefits in those industries would not only help to create and save jobs, but would also force a further reduction in consumption and living standards that is necessary to bring the U.S. economy back into balance.

The question is not whether this is an ideal outcome – obviously it’s not. But for the 1,550 auto workers who would be called back to work at GM’s Orion plant, the real-world choice is to either accept a 20 percent wage cut or remain unemployed with little prospect of getting another job at the old union wage. For them, and for the economy as whole, the better choice is to take the jobs at the globally competitive, market-clearing wage and hope to build back up from there.

Wednesday – Ezra Klein: What to do about state pensions

There’s also the obvious prophylactic measure: States need to stop deferring so much of their employee’s compensation. The current deal for most state employees is that they get worse wages than they would in the private sector and better benefits. Politicians like to cut that deal because it means they don’t have to pay for anything right now. And when the market was making everyone rich, such deals even seemed affordable. But the faith that the market will continually hand you back 10 percent a year is now shattered, and so compensation schemes that relied on it have to be rethought.

Unions might not like that, but nor will taxpayers. There are two sides to deferred compensation: costs later, and savings now. We’ve been paying our public employees less than we would’ve needed to pay them in the absence of these pension promises. That means that going forward, we’re going to have to pay wages closer to the true cost of our payroll.


You Know How Obama Isn’t Out Front On That Whole Gay Thing? Maybe It Isn’t Just Politics.

From the Petrelis Files, here’s Valerie Jarrett talking to gay journo Jonathan Capehart:

Capeheart: One of the things you’ve put a spotlight on, and to veer sharply away from infrastructure, and that was on the rash of suicides of gay youth. You gave a speech to the Human Rights Campaign annual dinner, where you named the victims. You talked about the President’s commitment to making a more inclusive, tolerant, accepting country. Why did you feel it was important to deliver that message, and deliver it there?

Jarrett: Well, I think what we’ve seen over the last few months are some very tragic deaths of young people, our children. And avoidable deaths. They were driven to commit suicide because they were being harassed in school, and driven to do something that no child should ever be driven to do. And in many cases, the parents are doing a good job. Their families are supportive. Before I spoke at the HRC dinner, I met backstage with Tammy Aarberg, her son Andrew. These are good people. They were aware that their son was gay. They embraced him. They loved him. They supported his lifestyle choice.

[emphasis Petrelis]

If a whiteboy GOP staffer made a comment like that, I’m thinking the gay community would be out for blood. Here’s Petrelis:

What an outrage to claim that the 15-year-old Aarberg made a choice to be gay, and that sexual orientation is a lifestyle. Did she get her talking points from Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council? It’s doubly offensive that Capehart makes no effort to point out how dangerous Jarrett’s thinking is.

It’ll be interesting to see how far this goes.

Why I Don’t Automatically Bow To The Superior Wisdom Of Our Political Class

Apparently, a guy who managed to become a well-regarded GOP Congressional candidate has an interesting hobby – he dresses up as a Waffen-SS officer and participates in WW II re-enactments.

Now I don’t know enough to judge his choice of character (I’m sure there are Redcoat re-enactors who don’t wish the Yankees lost the Revolutionary War). But I do know enough to wonder “what the hell was he thinking?” How in the wide, wide world of sports can someone get to a position where they are running for Congress and not think “Hmmm. Maybe I need to do a statement explaining why there are all these pictures of me dressed up as a SS officer.” Or that a political party is so clueless that they wouldn’t have an intern spend an hour doing Google-fu to check out candidates they were touting.

So the next time someone from Washington adopts a superior attitude, and suggests you should listen to them because of their superior wisdom – think about this.

No On Proposition 21

Proposition 21 restores a vehicle tax that was cut some years ago, and sets the funds aside for parks and wildlife programs.

First, I’ve got an immense problem with these “special fees” that pay for things that our basic taxes are supposed to pay for. Beyond that, the financial structure that we’ve erected in California with special fees, setasides, and voter-enacted budget restrictions.

I’d support an initiative to clear all those away and simply let the Legislature and Governor budget and if we don’t like their work – fire them. We make a difficult job impossible with these kinds of restrictions (think Robocop2 and the list of rules they put on him – “Don’t walk through puddles”, etc.), and we give our leadership excuses for failure.

Second, this is a clear example of the cynicism of our political class and the fungibility of cash – from the “No” statement a quote from State Sen. Alan Lowenthal (D) – “Why would anyone vote for the park pass (Prop 21) if we’ve already fully funded the state parks?

A hearty “NO” on Proposition 21.