Monday, June 05, 2017

Cruising the Web

The hysteria over Trump pulling out of the Paris Climate accords is so overblown for an agreement that was going to do so little to accomplish its stated goals. It was basically a combination of virtue signaling plus a way of funneling money to rent-seeking companies and poorer countries.

Ross Douthat, who titles himself as a "lukewarmer,"
comes close to how I feel about the whole subject.
Lukewarmers accept that the earth is warming and that our civilization’s ample CO2 emissions are a major cause. They doubt, however, that climate change represents a crisis unique among the varied challenges we face, or that the global regulatory schemes advanced to deal with it will work as advertised. And they raise an eyebrow at the contrast between the apocalyptic, absolutist rhetoric with which these schemes are regularly defended and their actual details, which seem mostly designed to enable the globe’s statesmen to greenwash the pursuit of economic and political self-interest.
He also goes on to argue that Republicans, instead of just blindly opposing the left on climate issues, need to enunciate their own proposals.
A Republican Party that was really shaped by lukewarmism would probably still oppose the Paris deal and shrink from sweeping carbon taxes. But it would be actively debating and budgeting for the two arenas — innovation and mitigation — where the smartest skeptics of regulatory solutions tend to place their faith.
Bjorn Lomborg, the self-titled Skeptical Environmentalist, argues for a reasoned path forward now that the US has pulled out of the agreement. He makes the argument that any honest analyst of the treaty must accept that the agreement wouldn't have made much of a difference.
The hyperbole and outrage can’t hide the truth: even with the United States included, the treaty was not going to make much difference to global warming. Its grand rhetoric was never matched by the actual carbon-cutting promises within its pages. A lot was made of the treaty’s fanciful pledge to keep global temperature rises as low as 1.5 C. But that would have been impossible in all realistic scenarios other than a devastating global recession.

The UN’s own Framework Convention on Climate Change estimates that even if every country had made every single cut promised in the treaty to the fullest extent, CO2 emissions would only drop by 56 billion tons by 2030. Keeping temperature rises below 2 C – a less stringent goal even than the treaty promise of 1.5 C – requires a reduction of around 6,000 billion tons of CO2 emissions across the century.

So, even if Hillary Clinton had beaten Mr. Trump and had kept the United States in the treaty, and even if every single national leader on the planet (and their successors) had unflinchingly stood by every single treaty promise for year after year, regardless of economic downturn or political crisis, the Paris Treaty would have left 99 per cent of the problem in place.
The agreement was looked at by supporters as a symbolic document that its supporters hoped would lead to more government efforts around the world. But we've seen this movie before.
That foolhardy assumption flew in the face of history. As early as 1998, the Kyoto Protocol was sold to the world as the solution to climate change. Every honest analysis showed that its impact would be trivial. Backers claimed that it was just the beginning. Similar to Paris, the carbon-cutting treaty wasted energy and distracted attention from any effective solution to climate change.

The Kyoto-Paris approach fails politically and economically. Even if the Paris Treaty had survived for now, it would have faced a massive hurdle in three years, when rich countries needed to cough up $100-billion a year in “climate aid” to the developing world. That is 10 times more than donors have managed to put together in the past five years.a

And that’s only a fraction of the price tag. Today’s green solar and wind technology requires hundreds of billions of dollars in annual subsidies to achieve trivial temperature cuts. Trying to make significant cuts means shifting energy consumption from cheap fossil fuels to more expensive green energy. Even when done most effectively, this reduces economic growth.
Green energy subsidies weren't going to fulfill the world's energy needs.
Even by 2040, if the Paris Treaty had kept going, after spending $3-trillion in direct subsidies, the IEA expected wind and solar to provide just 1.9 per cent and 1 per cent of global energy, respectively.
Lomborg argues for more research on technology to improve green energy. I'm skeptical myself about that since we've been subsidizing green energy for a while now and haven't seen enough of a return. But he's right that that would be a better path than destroying economies by trying to end the use of fossil fuels. That would destroy our country's GDP right when we might be using economic growth to fund the technological research that holds out a better solution.
The Kyoto-Paris approach has failed. Now is time to finally stop trying to make fossil fuels too expensive to use, and instead invest in the research needed to make green energy too cheap for the entire world to resist.

Coupons for money off in every category

$20 off top Kindle models and more savings on Kindle Bundles

Try Amazon Music Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial

Of course, it would be easier to listen to the environmental activists if so many of their leaders and celebrity activists weren't so dang hypocritical. As Glenn Reynolds likes to say "I'll believe it's a crisis when the people who tell me it's a crisis start acting like it's a crisis." Then he'll link to activists like Leonardo DiCaprio flying around the world in his private jet. He once flew by private jet from Australia to Las Vegas and back again so he could celebrate New Year's Eve twice. Hillary Clinton, who has complained about commercial flights, once demanded that she fly on a separate private plane to Betty Ford's funeral because she didn't want to fly on the same plane with Michelle Obama. Tucker Carlson exposed this hypocrisy in about 90 seconds.

Writing about this hypocrisy in USA Today, Glenn Reynolds has some suggestions about how these outraged politicians and celebrities could gain a bit more credibility amidst all their virtue signaling.
That’s what one person asked on Twitter: "What if climate scientists decided, as a group, to make their conferences all virtual? No more air travel. What a statement!” And what if academics in general — most of whom think climate change is a big deal — started doing the same thing to make an even bigger statement?

It would be big. And what if politicians and celebrities stopped jetting around the world — often on wasteful private jets instead of flying commercial with the hoi polloi — as a statement of the importance of fighting climate change?

And what if politicians and celebrities lived in average-sized houses, to reduce their carbon footprints? What if John Kerry, who was much put out by Trump’s action, gave up his yacht-and-mansions lifestyle?

What if, indeed? One reason why so many people don’t take climate change seriously is that the people who are constantly telling us it’s a crisis never actually act like it’s a crisis. They’re all-in for sacrifices by other people, but never seem to make much in the way of sacrifices themselves.
Reynolds then goes on to make some not-entirely-tongue-in-cheek proposals of the sorts of serious actions we could be taking if we truly believe that government action is necessary to stave off this global crisis such as banning taxpayer funding for employees to travel to conferences. Mandate that all such academic and government conferences be done over the internet. How about outlawing those polluting private jets or taxing huge mansions. Let public servants and the wealthy start leading by examples that actually affect their lifestyles. If Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton use rhetoric to indicate that we need to mobilize to fight climate change just as we did for World War II, then they should be willing to go first in the efforts to cut down on unnecessary carbon usage.

Here's a useful review of how far we've gotten away from the requirement in the Constitution that treaties must be submitted to the Senate for a two-thirds vote to ratify. This trend didn't start with President Obama. Trade agreements such as NAFTA weren't treated as a treaty, but did receive a vote in both houses of Congress. But TPP and the Iran nuclear agreement weren't even submitted to Congress.

25% Off in Office and School Supplies

Deals in Office Products

Deals in Home and Kitchen

I never trust polls asking people what they think about some complicated policy matter. Most people don't pay attention to the ins and outs of any policy debate. They'll just hear the basic question and not think about the consequences and tradeoffs involved with such proposals. The polling on the proposal in California to institute single-payer healthcare is a prime example of this. If just asked about the proposal, support is overwhelming.
The poll released Wednesday night by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found that 65% of adults surveyed support the creation of a single-payer state healthcare program to cover all of the state's residents, and 56% of likely voters approved of the idea.
But the plan is predicted to cost $400 billion. This is for a state whose entire budget is $180 billion. So where is the extra money going to come from?
Proponents of Lara’s bill claim that half of the $400 billion in question would be covered by the existing healthcare funds doled out at all levels of government, and the other $200 billion would be raised through increased tax revenues.
And guess what? People aren't so fond of the proposal when they learn that it isn't free and won't be paid for with rainbows and buttercups.
Asked about taxes, support drops to 42% of the adults surveyed and 43% of likely voters.
What a surprise! And the proposal seems to be based on magic thinking that somehow the funding will appear even though proponents don't want to identify where the funding will come from.

For a state facing a huge pension crisis, will people really want to take on an unfunded entitlement? Well, if there are liberals, that's perfectly fine with them. But here is just a little bit of what California communities are facing regarding unfunded pensions. Check out this short video from the LA Times explaining how California got in this mess.
When the state auditor gauged the fiscal health of California cities in 2015, this port community on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay made a short list of six distressed municipalities at risk of bankruptcy.

Richmond has cut about 200 jobs — roughly 20% of its workforce — since 2008. Its credit rating is at junk status. And in November, voters rejected a tax increase that city leaders had hoped would help close a chronic budget deficit.

“I don’t think there’s any chance we can avoid it,” said former City Councilman Vinay Pimple, referring to bankruptcy.

A major cause of Richmond’s problems: relentless growth in pension costs.

Payments for employee pensions, pension-related debt and retiree healthcare have climbed from $25 million to $44 million in the last five years, outpacing all other expenses.

By 2021, retirement expenses could exceed $70 million — 41% of the city’s general fund.

Richmond is a stark example of how pension costs are causing fiscal stress in cities across California. Four municipalities — Vallejo, Stockton, San Bernardino and Mammoth Lakes — have filed for bankruptcy protection since 2008. Others are on the brink.

“The truth is that there are cities all over the state that just aren’t owning up to all their problems,” said San Bernardino City Manager Mark Scott.

Increasingly, pension costs consume 15% or more of big city budgets, crowding out basic services and leaving local governments more vulnerable than ever to the next economic downturn.
And California courts have struck down attempts to trim those generous pension benefits that the legislature (controlled by Democrats of course) gave to government workers when times were flush in the 1990s or later on when they needed the votes of public employees. And then we have legislators voting to add a huge new entitlement into the mix without any way to pay for it besides increasing taxes on Californians who will already have to pay increased taxes to pay for other promises that their legislators have committed them to pay for. Such blithe irresponsibility is mind-blowing, but unfortunately, not atypical.

Reason links to this confounding fact.
Here's a weird criminal justice fact: The folks who look at kiddie porn often get longer sentences than the people who molest children in real life.

Reporter Lex Talamo at The Shreveport Times
just delved into this disparity, and found a dismayingly simple reason for it. Charges against actual child rapists are hard to prove. Kids can be unreliable witnesses, and often the social dynamics are thorny. The perp could be a family member that loved ones don't want to see go to jail, or the accusations can come out long after the act.

But child porn? There it is on the computer. It's a simple slam dunk for prosecutors.

Best Deals in Vitamins and Supplements

Interesting Finds at Amazon: Updated Daily

Spring Savings in Grocery and Gourmet Food

Home and Kitchen Markdowns

George Will is exactly right that it doesn't make any sense why the federal government is still subsidizing public broadcasting.
As changing technologies and preferences make government-funded broadcasting increasingly preposterous, such broadcasting actually becomes useful by illustrating two dismal facts. One is the immortality of entitlements that especially benefit those among society’s articulate upper reaches who feel entitled. The other fact is how impervious government programs are to evidence incompatible with their premises.
While there might have been reasonable when there were only three networks, that isn't the case today. And please spare me the Sesame Street argument. Children's Workshop makes millions from licensing; they don't need any federal help. In this era of cord-cutting, why should we be subsidizing a dying model?
Compelling taxpayers to finance government-subsidized broadcasting is discordant with today’s a la carte impulse and raises a point: If it has a loyal constituency, those viewers and listeners, who are disproportionately financially upscale, can afford voluntary contributions to replace the government money. And advertisers would pay handsomely to address this constituency.

Often the last, and sometimes the first, recourse of constituencies whose subsidies are in jeopardy is: “It’s for the children.” Big Bird, however, is more a corporate conglomerate than an endangered species. If “Sesame Street” programming were put up for auction, the danger would be of getting trampled by the stampede of potential bidders.
A policy established for circumstances a half-century ago isn't necessarily appropriate for today.

When the Supreme Court voted in the case regarding the University of Michigan law school they ruled that achieving diversity is a compelling state interest to justify affirmative action. It was thought that schools needed a diverse population to encourage discussions and awareness among students. Today, diversity seems to call for separation with universities allowing and even encouraging separate graduation ceremonies for different races or sexual identities. Harvard held a commencement for black graduate students. But they're not alone.
This spring, tiny Emory and Henry College in Virginia held its first “Inclusion and Diversity Year-End Ceremonies.” The University of Delaware joined a growing list of colleges with “Lavender” graduations for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students. At Columbia, students who were the first in their families to graduate from college attended the inaugural “First-Generation Graduation,” with inspirational speeches, a procession and the awarding of torch pins.

Some of the ceremonies have also taken on a sharper edge, with speakers adding an activist overlay to the more traditional sentiments about proud families and bright futures....

Participants say the ceremonies are a way of celebrating their shared experience as a group, and not a rejection of official college graduations, which they also attend. Depending on one’s point of view, the ceremonies may also be reinforcing an image of the 21st-century campus as an incubator for identity politics.

“It’s not easy being a student, being a student anywhere, but especially at a place like Harvard,” Ward Connerly, president of the American Civil Rights Institute and a former University of California regent who campaigned against racial preference in admissions, said sympathetically.

But events like black commencements, he continued, serve only to “amplify” racial differences. “College is the place where we should be teaching and preaching the view that you’re an individual, and choose your associates to be based on other factors rather than skin color,” he said.

“Think about it,” Mr. Connerly added. “These kids went to Harvard, and they less than anyone in our society should worry about feeling welcome and finding comfort zones. They don’t need that.”
Is this what diversity is today - more separation among students by race and sexual identity? Inclusivity seems to have morphed into exclusivity.