Monday, April 30, 2012

Wind Farms Cause Climate Change

From The Telegraph, "Wind farms can cause climate change, finds new study: Wind farms can cause climate change, according to new research, that shows for the first time the new technology is already pushing up temperatures." by By Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent:
But on huge wind farms the motion of the turbines mixes the air higher in the atmosphere that is warmer, pushing up the overall temperature.

Satellite data over a large area in Texas, that is now covered by four of the world's largest wind farms, found that over a decade the local temperature went up by almost 1C as more turbines are built.

This could have long term effects on wildlife living in the immediate areas of larger wind farms.

It could also affect regional weather patterns as warmer areas affect the formation of cloud and even wind speeds.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Florida To Surpass NY As Third Largest State Population By 2013

From the City journal, "Sunshine Is Golden: Florida has reversed its demographic decline." by Wendell Cox:
it [Florida] gained a net 55,000 domestic migrants in 2010 and 119,000 in 2011. Only Texas, the leader in net domestic migration since 2006 (when it took over from Florida), added more domestic migrants last year. Between 2009 and 2011, Florida’s total population gain—which includes domestic migration, international migration, and births minus deaths—was more than 500,000 people, putting the state on track to become the nation’s third-largest by 2013.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

To Fund Obama's Proposed Spending Requires 11% Middle Class Tax Increase Plus Tax Increases On The Rich

From The Wall Street Journal, "Obama's Budget Means a Tax Increase on Everyone: Maintaining the president's higher spending levels will require raising taxes for all Americans, including an 11% increase on those earning less than $200,000." by Glenn Hubbard:
Now let's review the math. All these [Obama's proposed] tax increases on upper-income taxpayers are projected to raise $148 billion per year. Viewed next to [Obama's] proposed additional spending of roughly $500 billion per year, or this year's federal budget deficit of $1.3 trillion, the president's budget faces an arithmetic challenge.

How big is that challenge? Maintaining the president's higher spending will require raising taxes for all Americans. Assuming the president favors raising marginal tax rates over broadening the tax base (consistent with his failure to consider the tax proposals from Bowles-Simpson), an across-the-board tax increase of 11% for taxpayers with incomes under $200,000 would be required to raise the money the president proposes to spend.

Friday, April 20, 2012

150 Million Adults Worldwide Would Migrate To The US

from Gallup, "150 Million Adults Worldwide Would Migrate to the US: Potential migrants most likely to be Chinese, Nigerian, and Indian" by Jon Clifton:
About 13% of the world's adults -- or more than 640 million people -- say they would like to leave their country permanently. Roughly 150 million of them say they would like to move to the U.S. -- giving it the undisputed title as the world's most desired destination for potential migrants since Gallup started tracking these patterns in 2007.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Obesity Not Related To Availability Of Fast Food Outlets, Fresh Fruits And Vegetables Or To Types Of Food Eaten

From The New York Times, "Studies Question the Pairing of Food Deserts and Obesity" by Gina Kolata:
Poor neighborhoods, Dr. [Helen] Lee found, had nearly twice as many fast food restaurants and convenience stores as wealthier ones, and they had more than three times as many corner stores per square mile. But they also had nearly twice as many supermarkets and large-scale grocers per square mile. Her study, financed by the institute, was published in the March issue of Social Science and Medicine.
Dr. [Roland] Sturm found no relationship between what type of food students said they ate, what they weighed, and the type of food within a mile and a half of their homes.

He has also completed a national study of middle school students, with the same result — no consistent relationship between what the students ate and the type of food nearby. Living close to supermarkets or grocers did not make students thin and living close to fast food outlets did not make them fat. The study will be published soon in Public Health.
Also, see my April 13, 2012, post, "Obesity Is A Result Of Our Economic Success And Not A Product Of Food Advertising, Larger Portions Or Lack Of Exercise."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Comment About NY Times Article On Inequality Economists Saez And Piketty

My posted comment to The New York Times, "For Two Economists, the Buffett Rule Is Just a Start" by Annie Lowrey: [The comment is shorter than I would like because The NY Times limits the number of characters one can post in a comment on their website.]
Saez and Piketty's research does not tell a complete story about income inequality in the US. Saez and Piketty use market based income for their research. It is IRS data on income before taxes, which leaves out the value of non-taxable fringe benefits such as health insurance, pensions, 401k matching contributions, etc. The IRS data is also based on a tax unit and not a family or household. Saez and Piketty also exclude the value of food stamps, medicaid, disability, medicare and other government transfers. And of course, all off the books and unreported income are excluded. Additionally, they use one measure of inflation of the several available and assume inflation across upper and lower income groups is identical. Their findings are also influenced by the influx of uneducated, older immigrants and by shrinking household size. Additionally, the benefit to lower income groups of declining tax rates, increased standard deduction and personal exemptions over the last several decades is ignored by Saez and Piketty.

When other economic researchers include fringe benefits, government transfers, adjust for changing household size, the benefit of lower taxes on lower income groups, and use other, valid inflation measures, the other researchers find opposite conclusions and find income inequality is not growing in the US over the same time.

The poor in the US do much better over time. The rich do better also, but not at the expense of the poor. Inequality has not increased.
Also, see my March 20, 2012, post, "Minimum Tax On The Rich, A Buffett Rule, Has Very little Impact On The Budget Deficit."

Sunday, April 15, 2012

US Law Allows Sale Of Impostor Kobe Beef

From Forbes, "Food's Biggest Scam: The Great Kobe Beef Lie" by Larry Olmsted:
Despite the fact that Kobe Beef, as well as Kobe Meat and Kobe Cattle, are patented trademarks in Japan, these trademarks are neither recognized nor protected by U.S. law. As far as regulators here are concerned, Kobe beef, unlike say Florida Orange Juice, means almost nothing (the “beef” part should still come from cows).
when you order "Kobe beef" here, you usually can’t even tell what kind of cow it came from – or where. Or what makes it "Kobe."

The bottom line is that the only reason there is beef called Kobe beef sold in this country is because our government lets vendors call a lot of things Kobe beef. But the reason consumers buy it is because the cattle industry in Kobe [Japan] spent lifetimes building a reputation for excellence, a reputation that has essentially been stolen.
the [Kobe labelled US] meat can come from many different countries and have nothing in common with actual Kobe beef except that it comes from cows. The argument often broached by the food industry that this non-Japanese Kobe is some sort of recreation of the real thing from the same breed of cows is also largely a myth.

Time For Alternative Policy To America's Failed War On Drugs

From The New York review of Books, "An End to the War on Drugs?" by Alma Guillermoprieto:
Despite billions of enforcement dollars spent by Washington, the overall amount of drugs being trafficked worldwide has remained more or less constant over the last forty years. Profits are higher. Many more countries are involved in the trade than even ten years ago, including, most worryingly, several of the most vulnerable African states. The trade’s ability to insinuate itself into every branch of government in drug-afflicted countries continues apace. Candidates to every elected post in Mexico, to name just one critically important country, are ruthlessly wooed by traffickers offering financing. Trafficking organizations not only grow and increase their connections to global mafias and terrorist networks, they have branched out into ever more sordid sidelines, including human trafficking. It’s a sorry record.
In Colombia, for example, after all the years of bloodshed and devastation, cocaine production and export have gone down so slightly as to make no difference, and it would seem that Peru is now taking up the slack. Again.
Suggested alternatives range from an acknowledgment that marijuana is already all but legal in the United States and much of the rest of the world, and should be officially so (it is generally estimated to be the largest moneymaker for the illegal trade), to a sort of universal legalization of drugs that would ban advertising, restrict distribution to government outlets, and tax the profits heavily.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

If The SEC Were A Public Company, It Would Be Fined For Misleading Financial Reporting

From the US Government Accountability Office, "Improvements Needed in SEC's Internal Controls and Accounting Procedures" GAO-12-424R, Apr 13, 2012:
In our [GAO] audit of SEC’s fiscal years 2011 and 2010 financial statements, we identified four significant deficiencies in internal control as of September 30, 2011. These significant internal control deficiencies represent continuing deficiencies concerning controls over (1) information systems, (2) financial reporting and accounting processes, (3) budgetary resources, and (4) registrant deposits and filing fees. These significant control deficiencies may adversely affect the accuracy and completeness of information used and reported by SEC’s management. [Emphasis added]

Much Of Reported Income Inequality Is Due To Statistical Change In Census Bureau Data

From The Enterprise Blog, "Sorry, the top-coding issue doesn’t undermine the Burkhauser inequality study" by James Pethokoukis:
[Richard] BURKHAUSER:...they [Census Bureau] want to protect the confidentiality of people, so that if you have a lot of income and a particular source of income, they-

[Russ] ROBERTS: They truncate it.


ROBERTS: They just call it a million, even though it might be $87 million, or whatever is the truncation.

BURKHAUSER:...In 1995-1996, it appears in the public use data that income inequality gigantically increases. Well, it turns out the only reason it gigantically increased was instead of using top codes, in 1996 starting in the public use data, it began using cell-means of the top parts of the distribution. That is, rather than lopping things off at a million dollars and giving everyone a million dollars as the value, they looked at all the values above a million dollars, found out what the mean of those values was, and gave you that. Say, $2.5 million dollars. So people naively used the public data. Suddenly they saw all these $2.5 million millionaires, that were the $1.0 millionaires they had the previous year. So, all these kinds of things.

ROBERTS: And it always makes the NY Times, and I always look at those data and I want to say: They changed the definition or it’s a coding error. The world doesn’t change like that in a year. But that never stops them. And maybe I’m being unfair to the NYTimes. But I guarantee, I’m very confident that someone wrote an embarrassing article assuming those numbers were meaningful.

Friday, April 13, 2012

2011 Tax Returns For Obama And Biden

President Obama and Vice President Biden released their 2011 tax returns.

Obama's return is available on, scribd and embedded below. Likewise, Biden's return is available on, scribd and embedded below.

The Obamas paid $162,074 in total federal tax on an adjusted gross income of $789,674 and a total income (line 22) of $844,585. They paid $38,553 in Illinois income tax.

The Bidens paid $87,900 in total federal tax on an adjusted gross income and total income of $379,035. They paid $13,843 in Delaware income tax and $3,614 in Virginia income tax.

Obamas' 2011 tax returns:
Obama 2011 Tax Return

Bidens' 2011 tax returns:
Biden 2011 Tax Return

States And Municipalities Owe More On Unfunded Public Employee Pension And Health Benefits Than Total Bond Debt

From The Daily Ticker, "U.S. Pension Crisis: States Choose Bondholders Over Public Employees" by Josh Barro:
Measured on a market value basis, these unfunded liabilities (combined with those for retirees' health care) exceed $4 trillion, which is more than the total amount of bond debt outstanding from states and localities. And because of the way pension accounting works, most states and local governments can expect to see continued sharp rises in required payments into pension funds at least through 2014. While most parts of states' fiscal pictures are improving, this one continues to deteriorate.
The Daily Ticker's Dan Gross interviewed Josh about the growing public pension crisis in the U.S.

British Ship Regulators Did Not See The Need For More Titanic Lifeboats

From The Wall Street Journal, "The Real Reason for the Tragedy of the Titanic: The disaster is often seen as a tale of hubris, social stratification and capitalist excess. The truth is considerably more sobering." by Chris Berg:
In the [British] Board of Trade's post-accident [Titanic sinking] inquiry, [Alexander] Carlisle [managing director of the shipyard] was very clear as to why White Star [Titanic's owner] declined to install extra lifeboats: The firm wanted to see whether regulators required it. As Carlisle told the inquiry, "I was authorized then to go ahead and get out full plans and designs, so that if the Board of Trade did call upon us to fit anything more we would have no extra trouble or extra expense."

So the issue was not cost, per se, or aesthetics, but whether the regulator felt it necessary to increase the lifeboat requirements for White Star's new, larger, class of ship.

This undercuts the convenient morality tale about safety being sacrificed for commercial success that sneaks into most accounts of the Titanic disaster.

The responsibility for lifeboats came "entirely practically under the Board of Trade," as Carlisle described the industry's thinking at the time. Nobody seriously thought to second-guess the board's judgment.
At the accident's core is this reality: British regulators assumed responsibility for lifeboat numbers and then botched that responsibility.

Obesity Is A Result Of Our Economic Success And Not A Product Of Food Advertising, Larger Portions Or Lack Of Exercise

My comment to The Wall Street Journal article, "SpongeBob SquarePants' Last Stand: Restricting TV ads for food aimed at kids won't help cure the child obesity problem." by Todd Zywicki:
The March 2012, Bureau of Labor Statistics issue of "Focus on Prices and Spending" has data showing that food (including restaurants) is much cheaper in the US than in other countries, A typical US household spends a much smaller percentage (14%) of its income on food (including restaurants) than families in other countries. The US income percentage spent on food has also been declining since the 1950s, if not earlier.

In home refrigeration, longer lasting foods, well stocked, convenient grocery stores and restaurants for any budget insure that most families have round the clock access to an ample supply, if not an overabundance, of affordable food.

Despite beliefs that we need to increase exercise to control obesity; studies show that while exercise is good for health, it does not produce weight loss. Despite demands for caloric labeling and smaller portions in restaurants, numerous nutritional studies show that people tend to eat a fixed number of calories per day and make up earlier reductions in calories and food intake at later meals or snacks.

Economic studies have shown that a 1% decrease in food prices leads to a 0.6% increase in food consumption.

Advertising, lazy kids, neglectful parents and corporate America are not the cause of the US obesity problem. Obesity is in fact becoming an international problem as the standard of living increases and the percentage of income spent on food declines in other countries. Our success in raising our standard of living and our avoidance of famines is causing our 20,000 year old designed bodies to get fat.

Yes, obesity is unhealthy, but there are no bad people, bad companies or easy fixes for our waistline problem.

Food is cheap and plentiful and our bodies are not designed to be lean when there is a constant available abundance of food.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Middle Income Taxpayer Pays Half As Much Taxes As Wealthy Taxpayer

From Tax Policy Blog, "White House’s Own Data Contradicts Claims on Buffett Rule" by Scott A. Hodge:
What the NEC [National Economic Council] data indicates is that the tax burden on the typical middle-income taxpayer is roughly half as much as the typical wealthy taxpayer; and this includes both personal income taxes and payroll taxes.

Source: Tax Foundation

Buying Fossil Fuel Deposits Is Best Climate Warning Solution: The Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is Solution

Environmental policy has historically been driven by a demand-side mindset – attempting to limit consumption of precious fossil fuels through pollution permits, taxation, and multi-national climate change treaties. However, new research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University suggests that actually buying coal, oil and other dirty fossil fuel deposits still in the ground could be a far better way to fight climate change.

The new study, “Buy Coal! A Case for Supply-Side Environmental Policy,” suggests that the single best policy for a multi-national climate coalition is to purchase the extraction rights of dirty fossil fuels in non-participating countries (also called “third countries”), and then conserve rather than exploit the deposits. According to the study’s author, Bard Harstad, this would be a radical departure from the traditional view that focuses on reducing the demand for fuel.

US Consumers Spend Less On Food And Clothing Than In Other Countries

From Bureau Of Labor Statistics, Office of Publications & Special Studies, "Current Spending Topics: How do U.S. expenditures compare with those of other countries?" in Focus on Prices and Spending | Consumer Expenditure | Volume 2, Number 16:
In Japan, consumers spent more than 17 percent of every yen on groceries, more than twice the 8.3 percent of every dollar that Americans spent. In the United States, households spent almost 7 cents of every dollar on health care, compared with just 1.4 pence of every pound in the United Kingdom. This article compares how consumers in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan allocated different shares of total spending to categories such as food, housing, and transportation in 2009. Such variation can be expected, given differences in cultural tastes, the relative availability of goods and services, and institutional factors, such as government regulation and tax laws, among those countries. As shown in chart 1, housing and health care shares of total expenditures were higher in the United States than in Canada, the United Kingdom, and Japan in 2009, whereas Americans had the lowest clothing (or apparel) share. Canada had the highest clothing and transportation shares, and Japan had the highest food share, among the countries compared.

Table 1. Shares of total expenditures for selected categories, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, and Japan, 2009
CategoryUnited States   Canada   United Kingdom   Japan   
    Food at home
    Food away from home
    Public transportation
    All other transportation
Health care
Culture/entertainment, and recreation
Alcoholic beverages and tobacco products
Other categories(1)
(1) Including miscellaneous expenditure shares and categories that are unique to a particular country. Because these categories were different for each country, they were not used in direct comparisons in this article.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Interest Rate Slope Measures Future Economic Productivity (Total Factor Productivity)

From Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, Economic Research, "News Shocks and the Slope of the Term Structure of Interest Rates" Working Paper 2012-011A by André Kurmann and Christopher Otrok:
We adopt a statistical approach to identify the shocks that explain most of the fluctuations of the slope of the term structure of interest rates. We find that one single shock can explain the majority of all unpredictable movements in the slope over a 10-year forecast horizon. Impulse response functions lead us to interpret this shock as news about future total factor productivity (TFP). We confirm this interpretation formally by identifying a TFP news shock following recent work by Barsky and Sims (2011). By showing that the 'slope shock' and the 'TFP news shock' are closely related, we provide a new explanation for the relationship between the slope of the term structure and macroeconomic fundamentals and for why the yield curve is one of the most reliable predictors of future economic growth. Our results also provide a new empirical benchmark for structural models at the intersection of macroeconomics and finance.
Total Factor Productivity measures the growth in output, production and the economy that is greater than the growth in labor productivity and investment (capital, machinery) productivity. It is a very important, but rarely mentioned in the media, economic concept that determines a nation's future economic growth. For example, if a company doubles the number of workers making a product, it should produce twice as much. If the company buys a machine that allows each worker to make ten of its products in the same time it used to take to make one, the company should be able to produce ten times as much. Any additional gain in output beyond what is expected from the growth in labor and capital investment is due to total factor productivity. It is often attributed to things, such as learning to do things quicker or in a new way that was not obvious or doable before a new technology that allows more to be produced than before in the same time.

Technology Will Eventually Reduce CO2 Emissions From Fossil Fuels

Below is one of many research activities currently going on to reduce and capture CO2 emissions from fossil fuels, while converting it into a usable product, such as methane. Capturing and converting CO2 emissions is a realistic and economic alternative to banning the use of fossil fuels.

Various researchers around the world have studied copper’s potential as an energy-efficient means of recycling carbon dioxide emissions in powerplants: Instead of being released into the atmosphere, carbon dioxide would be circulated through a copper catalyst and turned into methane — which could then power the rest of the plant. Such a self-energizing system could vastly reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired and natural-gas-powered plants.
Now researchers at MIT have come up with a solution that may further reduce the energy needed for copper to convert carbon dioxide, while also making the metal much more stable. The group has engineered tiny nanoparticles of copper mixed with gold, which is resistant to corrosion and oxidation. The researchers observed that just a touch of gold makes copper much more stable. In experiments, they coated electrodes with the hybrid nanoparticles and found that much less energy was needed for these engineered nanoparticles to react with carbon dioxide, compared to nanoparticles of pure copper.
Technological advancements, along with a profit motive to make money off of all the byproducts of energy production, will reduce the CO2 released into the atmosphere without lowering our standard of living or increasing the cost of energy.

As has been well documented many times in the past, technology, capitalism, private property rights and market pricing (capitalism) do more to conserve resources than government, environmental laws or conservation groups.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Rometty, The Masters, CBS And Public Airwaves

My comment to The Wall Street Journal article, "With Rometty at Masters, A Gender Debate Simmers" by Spencer E Ante and Jason Gay:
There is a question of whether CBS is violating its FCC broadcast license by broadcasting the Masters. Augusta National Golf Club can legally exclude women, but CBS may be in violation of its public airways airwaves broadcast license or general FCC regulations. Even if CBS is not currently violating the law, the FCC may have sufficient power to require CBS, or any other broadcaster using the public airways airwaves to include in their agreements with Augusta and other organizations that they not discriminate against women. Having the right to exclude does not include the right to use the public airways airwaves. Freedom of speech and association on public airways airwaves are much more limited and regulated than regular free speech.

Augusta does not have a legal right to have its tournament shown on the public airways airwaves.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Land Conservation Groups Oppose Major Environmental Groups' OK Of Large Scale Solar Projects

From The Los Angeles Times, "Environmentalists feeling burned by rush to build solar projects: Local activists say national groups, focused on renewable energy, ignore projects' threat to the Mojave." by Julie Cart:
Small environmental groups are fighting utility-scale solar projects without the support of what they refer to as "Gang Green," the nation's big environmental players.

Local activists accuse the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, the Wilderness Society and other venerable environmental groups of acquiescing to the industrialization of the desert because they believe large-scale solar power is essential to slowing climate change.

Janine Blaeloch, director of the Western Lands Project, a small public lands watchdog group, said Gang Green's members are compliant in order to make themselves more inviting to major foundations. In recent years, grants for projects focusing on climate change and energy have become the two top-funded issues in environmental philanthropy. Foundations have awarded tens of millions of dollars in grants to environmental groups that make renewable energy a top priority.

CEOs Motivated To Take More Business Risks When Compensation Includes Stock Options: McKinsey Quarterly

From McKinsey Quarterly, "Does your CEO compensation plan provide the right incentives? Few boards look at how the CEO’s total wealth invested in the company changes as stock prices fluctuate. They could—and they should." by David F. Larcker and Brian Tayan, April 2012:
Volatility as a window on risk

We can take the analysis one step further and plot the change in expected CEO wealth against changes in stock price volatility. This additional detail can paint a stark picture of the degree to which boards are encouraging risk taking.

The foundation for this analysis is the incentives associated with stock options and grants: If a CEO’s investment portfolio is heavily weighted toward options, he or she is motivated to take on risky investments because the present value of the options package increases as volatility rises in step with a more ambitious and potentially uncertain strategy. If, on the other hand, the investment portfolio is composed entirely of stock, the CEO is not rewarded for volatility, creating an incentive to take on safer projects with lower risk and return. [Emphasis added]

This dynamic is illustrated by two pharmaceutical companies shown in Exhibit 2. The CEO of company A holds only direct stock investments and restricted shares, so the executive’s payout function is essentially a flat line and is unaffected by a volatile stock price. The CEO of company B, by contrast, receives a significant share of compensation in stock options, so the executive’s payout rises dramatically with greater volatility, as shown by the upwardly sloping line.

Friday, April 6, 2012

US Still Running Its Typical Budget Deficit Of Over A Trillion Dollars Per Year

From CBO, "Federal Budget Deficit Totals $780 Billion in the First Half of 2012" April 6, 2012:
The federal government incurred a budget deficit of almost $780 billion in the first half of fiscal year 2012, CBO estimates in its latest—Monthly Budget Review—$53 billion less than the shortfall during the same period last year. A few weeks ago, CBO issued new budget projections for the coming decade; at that time, CBO estimated that the federal deficit will total $1.2 trillion in fiscal year 2012 if no further legislation is enacted that would significantly affect spending or revenues this year. [Emphasis added]

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Complexity And Disruption Are Business Growth Killers

From Knowledge@Wharton, "The Great Repeatable Model" by Chris Zook and James Allen:
It is an uncommon message, perhaps, in a world so dominated by change, where siren-like voices of gurus, analysts, and pundits preach "reinvention" on the part of companies. We find the opposite. Our data shows that simplicity, focus, and mastering the art of continuous change nearly always trump strategies of radical change or constant reinvention. The complexity and disruption that result are the great "silent killers" of growth and can even lead to "binge and purge" cycles that ultimately weaken the core of businesses.

Auto Industry Still Owes About Half Of The US Government Financial Bailout

From The Enterprise Blog, "Are the bailed-out car companies profitable? 37 billion reasons why they’re not" by James Pethokoukis:
Via The American Enterprise Institute

The nearby chart, drawn from information released by the Treasury, shows the current status of the financial assistance that the automotive industry has received through TARP. Out of the total $80 billion that has been paid out, only $35 billion has been repaid, some $7 billion has been written off, and $37 billion is still outstanding. That is, 9 percent of the original amount has already been lost, and close to half is still in limbo.

Former Student Says Obama Did Not Teach Judicial Review Constitutional Law At Univ Of Chicago: He Taught Course On Supreme Court's Expansion of Civil Liberties

From Truth On The Market Blog, "My Professor, My Judge, and the Doctrine of Judicial Review" by Thom Lambert:
my own constitutional law professor [President Obama] had stated that it would be “an unprecedented, extraordinary step” for the Supreme Court to "overturn" a law [i.e., the Affordable Care Act] ..., saying that it would be "unprecedented" and "extraordinary" for the Supreme Court to strike down a law that violates the Constitution is like saying that Kansas City is the capital of Kansas. Thus, a Wall Street Journal editorial queried this about the President who "famously taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago": "[D]id he somehow not teach the historic case of Marbury v. Madison?"

I actually know the answer to that question. It’s no (well, technically yes…he didn’t). President Obama taught "Con Law III" at Chicago. Judicial review, federalism, the separation of powers — the old "structural Constitution" stuff — is covered in "Con Law I" (or at least it was when I was a student). Con Law III covers the Fourteenth Amendment. (Oddly enough, Prof. Obama didn’t seem too concerned about “an unelected group of people” overturning a "duly constituted and passed law" when we were discussing all those famous Fourteenth Amendment cases – Roe v. Wade, Griswold v. Connecticut, Romer v. Evans, etc.) Of course, even a Con Law professor focusing on the Bill of Rights should know that the principle of judicial review has been alive and well since 1803, so I still feel like my educational credentials have been tarnished a bit by the President’s "unprecedented, extraordinary" remarks.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Ocean Temperatures Show Climate Warming Began Over 100 Years Ago

From "Oceans Began Warming 100+ Years Ago" on ScienceBlog:
The report is the first global comparison of temperature between the historic voyage of HMS Challenger (1872-1876) and modern data obtained by ocean-probing robots now continuously reporting temperatures via the global Argo program. Scientists have previously determined that nearly 90 percent of the excess heat added to Earth’s climate system since the 1960s has been stored in the oceans. The new study, published in the April 1 advance online edition of Nature Climate Change and coauthored by John Gould of the United Kingdom-based National Oceanography Centre and John Gilson of Scripps Oceanography, pushes the ocean warming trend back much earlier.

"The significance of the study is not only that we see a temperature difference that indicates warming on a global scale, but that the magnitude of the temperature change since the 1870s is twice that observed over the past 50 years," said Roemmich, co-chairman of the International Argo Steering Team. "This implies that the time scale for the warming of the ocean is not just the last 50 years but at least the last 100 years."
Moreover, the 100-year timescale of ocean warming implies that the Earth’s climate system as a whole has been gaining heat for at least that long.

Recessions Affect Demographics Groups Differently

From "Who Suffers During Recessions?" by Hilary W. Hoynes, Douglas L. Miller and Jessamyn Schaller, NBER Working Paper No. 17951, Issued in March 2012:
Our findings are summarized as follows. First, the labor market decline in the Great Recession is both deeper and longer than the early 1980s recession. Second, the impacts of the Great Recession have been felt most strongly for men, black and Hispanic workers, youth, and low‐education workers. Third, these dramatic differences in the cyclicality across demographic groups are remarkably stable across three decades of time and across recessionary periods versus expansionary periods. Fourth, the differences across demographic groups during the 2007 recession to a large extent are explained by variation in the groups’ exposure to cycles across industry‐occupation.

Almost All Of The Rare Earth Metals Critical For Clean Energy Come From China

From State of the Planet, "Rare earth metals: Another challenge for the green economy?" by Iliana Cardenes Trujillo:
earth metals, such as yttrium, lanthanum or cerium are formed from 17 chemically similar elements and are not often found in large enough concentrations to be profitable. They are, however, used in the manufacture of a wide range of technologies, from batteries to smartphones to military equipment. Because of their strong magnetic properties and high electrical conductivity, they are light in weight and efficient, making them critical to the clean energy industry. Wind turbines, energy-efficient light bulbs, electric car batteries, and efficiency motors/generators all depend on dysprosium, neodymium and their other cousins to generate the magnets that make them work. So far no substitute has been found that can match rare earths in weight and efficiency.
China mines 94 to 97% of the rare earth metals globally....