A Few Issues For Progressives To Think About

On its first full day in office, the new Trump administration was greeted with the "Million Woman March," said to have been attended by far more than a million people if you include all of its multiple venues.  But what were they all marching for?  Clearly, they were against everything Trump; but beyond that, If there was an explicit positive policy agenda, they weren't saying much about it.  What I can find are quotes of what some of the speakers said, most of which sound like rather vacuous of platitudes.  For example, there's this from Madonna:

“The revolution starts here,” she told the crowd as thousands of marchers began heading toward the White House. “The fight for the right to be free, to be who we are, to be equal. Let’s march together through this darkness.” 

Well, all right then!  Perhaps it would have been more straightforward if they had just hired Professor Flagstaff (Grouch Marx) from the movie Horsefeathers as their spokesperson to comment on the incoming Trump administration:

I don't know what they have to say/ It makes no difference anyway/ Whatever it is, I'm against it!

To figure out what was actually being promoted here, we'll have to look elsewhere.  Most if not all of the marchers either characterize themselves as "progressives," or would at least agree that by joining this march they were allying themselves with the progressive movement.  Certainly, the list of organizations calling themselves "partners" of the march is a who's who of the progressive establishment.  The problem for the progressive movement, in my view, is that it has steered itself into multiple dead ends, yet offers an agenda of proposals consisting of nothing but more of the same.  In large part, that's why we got Trump.  

So, to all you progressives and fellow travelers who see before you years of implacable opposition to anything and everything Trump, I would suggest that you think about some of the more important of those dead ends into which progressivism has steered itself.  Do these things really constitute the alternative agenda that you support?

Education.  Somehow, it has become a key feature of the progressive movement to oppose educational choice for poor and low-income children and their families.  Actually, it's not "somehow" -- we all know the reason why.  It's because the teachers' unions have immense resources by reason of dues checkoffs from their members who teach in government schools, and that money is the number one source of funds for supporting the progressive movement.  And thus we found last week ultra-progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren at a confirmation hearing doing her best to somehow head off the nomination of school choice advocate Betsy DeVos for Education Secretary.

Is there anyone in politics more sanctimonious than Senator Warren?  Sanctimony is the demeanor that you put on when you claim to occupy the moral high ground; but when you don't occupy the moral high ground, sanctimony just looks ridiculous.  Here are some statistics on New York City charter and public schools reported in the Daily News last August:

Test scores released by the state Friday show 94% of Success Academy students passed the 2016 math exam and 82% passed the reading exam. . . .  By comparison, 38% of students in traditional public schools met state reading standards this year, up from 30.4% in 2015. And 36.4% of city kids passed math tests in 2016, up from 35.2% in 2015.

Isn't anybody in the progressive movement embarrassed by the pathetic performance of the "traditional" schools in our cities?  Of course, here in New York Success Academies is constantly blocked from expanding because of opposition from the teachers' union and the de Blasio administration.  And there among the sponsors of the Million Woman March we find, for example, the American Federation of Teachers (teachers union for, among other places, New York City), and the Alliance for Quality Education (an AFT-backed front group).  Marchers:  Did you realize that you were allying yourselves with these despicable people?

Poverty.  The progressive answer to poverty is government-funded "anti-poverty" programs.  At the beginning of the War on Poverty in 1965, there were no "anti-poverty" programs, and there were about 28 million people said to be in "poverty" in the United States by the government's official measure.  Today, governments at all levels spend about $1 trillion per year on "anti-poverty" programs, and there are about 43 million people said to be in "poverty" by the same government official measure.  OK, progressives, after more than 50 years of abject failure, it is time to take some ownership of this.     

Is there actually anybody today who could still possibly believe that a government "anti-poverty" program, no matter how expensive, is ever going to raise a single person out of poverty?  But the progressive movement continues blindly to promote aggressive expansion of the same failed programs.  At this post back in 2013 I reported on the aggressive efforts of the Obama administration to promote the expansion of the food stamp program, which resulted in the number of recipients exploding from about 28 million to 48 million during a time of supposed economic recovery.  Of course, nobody was removed from poverty.  Similar federal and state efforts, many as part of Obamacare implementation, vastly expanded participation in Medicaid.  After years of rapid expansion of these means-tested programs, people were then supposedly surprised to discover that the reported income and assets of the lowest income people had been driven down.  Of course the poor had become poorer -- they had to, to qualify for the progressive programs!

Crime control.  According to FBI statistics here, the average murder rate in the United States as of 2015 was just under 5 per 100,000.  But a not-insubstantial group of big cities has a murder rate that is a large multiple of the national rate.  The leader is St. Louis, where the murder rate is near 60 per 100,000, some 12 times the national norm.  In Detroit, the rate is 44; in Baltimore, 50; in New Orleans, 42; in Chicago, about 30.  Other cities with drastically high murder rates include Cleveland, Oakland, Memphis, Milwaukee, and Newark.  Do you notice anything that these cities have in common?  They have all had mayors from the Democratic Party stretching back as far as human memory can stretch.

But what about New York, you ask?  Its murder rate is only about 4 per 100,000 -- actually below the national norm.  Yes, but when Democratic Mayor Dinkins left office at the end of 1993, the murder rate was close to 25 per 100,000.  We then had 20 years of Republican mayors (Giuliani and Bloomberg), during which the rate declined from 25 to 4, where it remains today.  The difference represents something like 40,000 people just in New York, most of them black, who are alive today, but would not have been under the prior regime.

I frankly do not know what is the "secret sauce" of the Republican mayors and their police commissioners that has brought the murder rate down so drastically in New York.  I do know that the carnage in the high-murder cities is completely unacceptable.  And I do not understand how "progressives" can be willing to associate themselves with the people who continue to run these cities.

Climate change.  Look again at that list of "partners" of the Women's March, and you will find most if not all of the major environmentalist promoters of climate alarmism:  Greenpeace, Sierra Club, 350.org, etc., etc.  Whatever you might think of the hypothesis that human emissions of greenhouse gases might cause catastrophic global warming, there can be no disputing that the solution proposed by these environmental groups is to increase the price and decrease the availability of energy in a way that is guaranteed to keep the poor poor.  I first pointed out the perverse nature of the concept of "climate injustice" in an article back in 2013 titled "The Looking Glass World Of Climate Injustice."    Whether it is a highly-regressive carbon tax or intermittent wind and solar energy sources that will increase the cost of electricity by five or more times, everything proposed by progressives to ameliorate their perceived climate crisis will be a disaster for poor and low income people.  

So, marchers, these are the people and policies with which you have just associated yourselves.  Are you sure that you don't want to think about this a little?  Could a Trump administration really be worse?

Welcome To The Trump Administration

Readers here will remember that I was often critical of Donald Trump during the campaign (see, for example, here and here).  However, I have no doubt that he will do far better by the American people than his opponent would have.  Admittedly, this is a very low bar.  So I wish to welcome the new President and his team, and wish them the very best in governing the country over the next four years.

There are certainly many who disagree with me, but I have been growing increasingly optimistic over the past several weeks as cabinet nominees and plans for the new administration have been announced.  To me, the most important subject is the overall level of government spending and regulation.  Less is better, more is worse.

After George W. Bush's election in 2000, I was modestly optimistic that he would start to attack the ongoing autopilot growth of useless government spending and programs and regulations that were becoming an increasing drag on the American economy.  I say "modestly optimistic" because there were also reasons at the time to be pessimistic about "W," particularly his expressed desire to be known as the "education President" (why is education a proper function of the federal government at all?) and his use of the label "compassionate conservative."  What kind of delusional Republican buys into the idea that giving a growing bureaucracy oodles of taxpayer money to pass around constitutes "compassion"? 

But it didn't take me long to lose my optimism.  In those days, some friends of mine knew a guy with a mid-level job in the White House, and from time to time this guy would come to New York and have dinner with us.  We got a chance to ask him some questions about what was going on in D.C.  And on the three or four occasions when this occurred, my question was always essentially the same:  "When are you guys going to start cutting spending and programs?"  The answer was always something like, "You know that we could never get something like that through Congress.  And besides, there are so many other pressing priorities right now, so we just can't spend our political capital on that."

In W's defense, there was more than nothing to what this guy was telling us.  Even though Congress was controlled for much of his eight years by Republicans, the situation was very different from today.  In the Senate, the margin of the majority was mostly extremely narrow (the Senate was actually 50-50 from 2001-2003, although VP Cheney could theoretically break a tie if every Republican held the line and there was no filibuster), and the filibuster was more widely usable than it is now.  In the House, the Republicans under Hastert were a very different crowd from today's bunch.  Mostly they regarded being in the majority as only an opportunity to give some of the money to their own friends, rather than the other side's friends.  And then, of course, there was 9/11, followed by the Iraq War, to provide plenty of distraction.  Bottom line:  In W's eight years, nobody ever focused on cutting spending or regulation, not even a little.

So will Trump actually go for major reductions in any spending, programs or regulations.  It remains to be seen, but the early indications are very strong:

  • Multiple sources have reported in the weeks leading up to the inauguration that Trump is planning cuts of up to 20% in federal employee headcount in at least some areas.  Washington Examiner on January 17:  "Insiders said that the spending reductions in some departments could go as high as 10 percent and staff cuts to 20 percent, numbers that would rock Washington if he follows through."   Fox News had the same story on the same day, again attributing it to those mysterious "insiders."
  • How about cutting regulation?  Trump has repeated since the election his campaign promise to require the bureaucracy to rescind two regulations for every new one.  That was reported, among other places, in the Washington Post here on November 21.
  • And some other things to make the job of federal bureaucrat far less cushy.  From the same Washington Post article:  "Hiring freezes, an end to automatic raises, a green light to fire poor performers, a ban on union business on the government’s dime and less generous pensions — these are the contours of the blueprint emerging under Republican control of Washington in January."

I'll believe it when I see it, but it sure sounds like a good start.

The Greatest Scientific Fraud Of All Time -- Part XII

Perhaps the most gratifying part of writing this series comes from the comments.  Not only are the large majority of the comments favorable, but they make clear that there is an enormous reservoir of people out there who have figured out that they are being systematically lied to by the government and the mainstream media on the subject of claimed world temperature records.  And indeed, as soon as you catch onto some of the real data, you quickly recognize that what comes out of the government and mainstream sources like the New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg, and the major television networks on this subject is insulting to your intelligence and is transparent propaganda. 

In my last post in this series, on January 4, I made the following prediction:

Expect that breathless announcement from NASA [that 2016 temperatures have set a new record] within the next couple of weeks. . . .  If you want to make a prediction of the future about as safe as predicting the time of tomorrow's sunrise, you can predict that every mainstream news source in the country will parrot the upcoming NASA press release without mentioning that the new supposed "record" is not supported by the far-more-accurate satellite data.

The NOAA/NASA press release of 2016 temperatures came out yesterday.  Let's see how I did at predicting the future!

I'll start with just a little background to help with understanding this issue.  First, as reported on January 4, the UAH satellite data had shown 2016 to be 0.02 deg C warmer than the previous record, which, although a new record, is within the measurement accuracy of the instruments, and therefore was described by Roy Spencer of UAH as a "statistical tie" with the previous record warm year (1998 in the satellite record).  Next, recall from the many prior posts in this series that the NASA and NOAA data come from a different source, namely a network of ground-based thermometers -- and that the data from the thermometers have been "adjusted" over the years, somehow always to lower older temperatures and raise recent ones.  What is the total of the "adjustments"?  The excellent Tony Heller of the Deplorable Climate Science Blog has two charts in a brand new post from January 13.  He calls the actual temperatures measured at the time "measured," and the adjusted version appearing in the latest government statistics "reported."  Here are the charts:

  

As you can see, the total amount that the government has "adjusted" the 1890 - 2016 temperature data is about 1.5 deg F, with all adjustments prior to 2000 being to lower the temperatures, and the adjustments getting larger the farther back you go, while all adjustment post-2000 have been to raise temperatures, with the adjustments getting larger the closer you get to the present.

With that background, let us consider the NOAA/NASA announcement of 2016 temperatures came out today.  Drumroll!!!!!!

During 2016, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.69°F (0.94°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all 137 years in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.07°F (0.04°C). The first eight months of the year had record high temperatures for their respective months. Since the start of the 21st century, the annual global temperature record has been broken five times (2005, 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2016). The record warmth in 2016 was broadly spread around the world.

That's right:  In a record where they have made 1.5 deg F of unexplained "adjustments" all to increase the reported warming, they claim a record by 0.07 deg F!  Whoopee!

But, guys, what is the measurement accuracy of your system?  I mean, for starters, you are purporting to measure some kind of "average" world temperatures with a network of thermometers that are by no means evenly spaced to measure all areas equally.  You have a heavy concentration of stations in the U.S. and Europe, and almost none in places like the arctic, Antarctic, oceans, Africa, Amazonia and Siberia.  On top of that, you have made adjustments totaling about 1.5 deg F.  Really, if you can make adjustments that large, how can you say that your measurement accuracy is any better than the whole 1.5 deg F -- and it may be even worse than that.  The fact is that they have no basis for saying that 2016 was actually warmer than 2015, or for that matter, than 1998.

So let's look at that NOAA press release from yesterday and see if we can find any discussion of measurement accuracy.  You guessed it -- it's not there.  Nothing.  Also, of course, no mention of the adjustments, or of the direction of the adjustments.  Do you like the breathless claim that "average temperature . . . was 1.69 deg F . . . above the 20th century average" without even mentioning that the so-called "20th century average" was adjusted downward by them by almost that much?  Hey, government:  We are not idiots!

Now to the mainstream news sources.  Call them the official parrots for government propaganda.  New York Times, "Earth Sets a Temperature Record for the Third Straight Year", by lead climate propagandist Justin Gillis:

Marking another milestone for a changing planet, scientists reported on Wednesday that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016, trouncing a record set only a year earlier, which beat one set in 2014. It is the first time in the modern era of global warming data that temperatures have blown past the previous record three years in a row.

"Trouncing" and "blowing past" previous records?  Really?  Can you even mention the subjects of the quantitative amount by which the prior record was allegedly broken, measurement accuracy, adjustments to the data, or the satellite record?  Of course not.  This is Pravda.  Insulting.  The article is accompanied by a big graphic (that appears prominently on the front page of today's print edition) showing temperatures since about 1880 in the iconic hockey stick presentation -- without ever mentioning that the data have been adjusted in amounts constituting the majority of the entire vertical scale of the chart.  Instapundit comments: Increase is one-hundredth of a degree. Margin of error is a tenth of a degree. So it’s all bullshit.  My further comment:  No way is the margin of error as little as a tenth of a degree.  At best, it's a full degree.  

Bloomberg News: "No Hoax: 2016 Was the Hottest Year on Record":

It’s not a hoax. There’s no conspiracy. And no exaggeration. What follows are 137 years of diligently kept scientific records that show how humans are transforming Earth’s climate. . . .  To say that last year was hot is an understatement. It was 1.69 degrees Fahrenheit (0.94 Celsius) warmer than the 20th century average, according to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration figures released on Wednesday. That may not sound like much, but on a planetary scale it’s a profound shift . . . .  

I love that "137 years of diligently kept scientific records" without the slightest mention that almost all of the warming is in the unexplained government "adjustments."  And of course, absolutely nothing about the quantitative size of the record, or margins of error.

Washington Post, "U.S. scientists officially declare 2016 the hottest year on record":

In a powerful testament to the warming of the planet, two leading U.S. science agencies Wednesday jointly declared 2016 the hottest year on record, surpassing the previous record set just last year — which itself had topped a record set in 2014.  Average surface temperatures in 2016, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, were 0.07 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than 2015. . . .      

I wonder if any reader of the Washington Post is a sufficiently critical thinker to recognize that a record supposedly set by a margin of 0.07 deg F is not a "powerful testament" to anything.

NBC News, "Earth Sets Record Temperature in 2016 -- for Third Year in a Row":

Last year was the hottest year ever recorded, marking the third year in a row that average global temperatures hit record-setting levels, NASA and NOAA said Wednesday.

I could go on with this all day, but you get the picture.  Of course my prediction was absolutely right; but then, I could also predict the time of tomorrow's sunrise to within a tiny fraction of a second.  To revert to my opening, I am extremely gratified that so many people have seen through the ceaseless drumbeat of government  and media propaganda.

How Much Spending Will It Take To End "Homelessness"?

Bill de Blasio, when he ran for Mayor of New York in 2013, made "homelessness" one of his big issues.  Prior Mayor Bloomberg had had what City Limits here described as an "incredibly ambitious" program to tackle homelessness; but somehow after twelve years in office and dramatically increased spending, homelessness had only increased.  In December 2013, after his election and on the eve of taking office, de Blasio was quoted by Think Progress on the subject of homelessness as saying, “We are simply not going to allow this kind of reality to continue.”

On taking office in 2014, de Blasio immediately started implementation of all the policies on homelessness that the progressive advocates had been advocating for years:  more funding, more shelters, more permanent "affordable" housing.  He even appointed as Commissioner of the Human Resources Administration one Steven Banks, formerly of the Legal Aid Society, and the lead advocate for years of the forces demanding more government money as the solution to the homelessness problem.

On November 20, 2016, Josh Dawsey in the Wall Street Journal had an article summarizing, after nearly three years, how de Blasio's efforts were doing at solving homelessness.  The headline is "New York City's Homeless Spending Surges to $1.6 Billion":  

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has increased spending on homeless services by about 60% since he took office nearly three years ago, reaching a historic $1.6 billion this year.  At the same time, the population in city shelters is up by nearly 20%, raising questions about whether the spending has been effective in combating homelessness. Last week, more than 60,650 people, including about 23,800 children, slept in a city shelter.

The $1.6 billion includes all direct spending on services to the homeless, which is more than just the shelters.  According to Dawsey, in addition to spending about $1 billion per year on the shelters, there are these additional categories:

$350 million a year on rent for those who they believe could become homeless or are leaving shelters. . . .  $79 million annually on street outreach, $62 million on legal services—up 10 fold from Mr. de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg—and $190 million on shelter security, up by $90 million. 

And yet somehow the numbers of homeless people just keep increasing:

When Mr. de Blasio took office in 2014, the city shelter system had a budget of about $1 billion and a population of about 50,700. . . .  Last week, more than 60,650 people, including about 23,800 children, slept in a city shelter.

And the $1.6 billion does not include plenty of other spending supposedly to solve the problem of homelessness, most notably subsidies to existing low-income housing and additional subsidies in the form of tax breaks for new "affordable" housing.  For example, the New York City Housing Authority alone absorbs about $2.5 billion of subsidies from federal and state governments every year.   

Funny how this works, isn't it?  It kind of reminds you of the results of government efforts to solve the problem of poverty:  When the War on Poverty began in 1966, the government's "poverty rate" was about 15%.  Then government spending to combat poverty began, and by the 2010s had been ramped up to some $1 trillion per year.  Yet somehow, by 2014, the poverty rate was still 14.8%.  (The government did report a drop in the poverty rate by 1.2% in 2015, to 13.6%, but that change was the result of a change in methodology engineered to assist Hillary's campaign, as discussed by me here.)  Meanwhile, the population of the country nearly doubled between 1966 and 2015, such that the number of people said to be in "poverty" had increased from under 30 million in the mid-1960s to over 43 million, despite the huge amount of spending.

It's as if these people have no idea that a gusher of government spending attracts people who try to get in on the handouts by defining themselves into the right categories.

But don't worry, Commissioner Banks is sure that the spending is actually working (without all the spending, the problem would have been a lot worse!), and moreover the next round of increased spending is going to turn everything around and solve the problem once and for all!

“The [shelter] population is significantly lower than it would have been had the administration not took the actions it took,” Mr. Banks said. “The additional investments are going to bend the curve back in the other direction.”

Sure, Steve.  

A Dose Of Renewable Energy Realism

In the campaign to jettison fossil fuels as the main source of our energy and replace them with so-called "renewables," a notable feature is the lack of discussion of the costs and practicalities of trying to make intermittent sources like wind and solar work to run a 24/7/365 electricity grid.  Is there any problem here that deserves consideration?  In Tuesday's post I noted that in my home state of New York we are about to try to replace our big Indian Point nuclear power plant with mostly wind-generated power.  Actually, we already have wind turbines with approximately the same "capacity" as Indian Point, but unfortunately over the course of a full year they only generate about one-quarter as much electricity as Indian Point.  Still, can't that problem be solved just by buying four times as many wind turbines?  It may be a little pricey, but is there any reason why that won't work?

In a publication called Energy Post on January 10, prominent German economist Heiner Flassbeck has a piece that addresses this question.  The headline is "The End of the Energiewende?"   Of course the problem is that the wind turbines don't just run steadily and predictably at one-quarter of capacity; rather, they swing wildly and unpredictably back and forth between generating at near 100% of capacity and generating almost nothing.  The "almost nothing" mode can persist for days or even weeks.  In Germany under a program called Energiewende ("energy transition"), in effect since 2010, they have been pushing to raise the percentage of energy they obtain from wind and solar, and have gotten the percent of their electricity supply from those sources all the way up to 31%.  But Flassbeck now looks at what just occurred during the month of December 2016:

This winter could go down in history as the event that proved the German energy transition to be unsubstantiated and incapable of becoming a success story. Electricity from wind and solar generation has been catastrophically low for several weeks. December brought new declines. A persistent winter high-pressure system with dense fog throughout Central Europe has been sufficient to unmask the fairy tale of a successful energy transition. . . .  

Here is a chart from Flassbeck's piece showing German electricity demand through the first half of the month of December, against the sources of the electricity that supplied that demand.  Among the sources, solar, on-shore wind, and off-shore wind are broken out separately:

As you can see, at some times wind and solar sources supplied as much as half or more of the demand for electricity, but at other times they supplied almost nothing.  Flassbeck:

The data compiled by Agora Energiewende on the individual types of electricity generation have recorded the appalling results for sun and wind at the beginning of December and from the 12th to 14th. . . .  Of power demand totaling 69.0 gigawatts (GW) at 3 pm on the 12th, for instance, just 0.7 GW was provided by solar energy, 1.0 by onshore wind power and 0.4 offshore. At noontime on the 14th of December, 70 GW were consumed, with 4 GW solar, 1 GW onshore and somewhat over 0.3 offshore wind. The Agora graphs make apparent that such wide-ranging doldrums may persist for several days.

By the way, according to charts at Wikipedia, Germany has about 40,000 MW of installed solar "capacity" as of 2015, and another about 44,000 MW of installed wind "capacity" as of the same year.  Thus, if only the sun had shone and the wind had blown both at full strength on December 12 and 14, those facilities would have been more than sufficient to supply 100% of German's demand of 69,000 MW on the 12th and 70,000 MW on the 14th.  But instead Germany got only about 3% of the electricity it needed from these sources on the 12th and 7% on the 14th.  If you wanted to get all of Germany's electricity from wind and solar on the 14th, you would have needed about 15 times as much "capacity" as the demand; and on the afternoon of the 12th, you would have needed 35 times as much "capacity" as the demand.

Hence what Flassbeck calls the "futility" of trying to solve the intermittency problem of wind and solar power by just trying to build more capacity.  Even in a country as large as Germany and with one hundred times as much capacity as usage, you could still have a completely calm night where the power goes out.  To have a full solution to the intermittency problem, and to make your system work 24/7/365 with full reliability, you will need not just massive excess capacity of wind and solar facilities, but also some combination of other expensive features, such as fossil fuel backup, storage capacity, and/or transmission capacity to bring in power from somewhere where the wind is blowing.  Germany continues to have the 100% fossil fuel backup.  They also have residential electricity rates about triple the American average.  Really, what good are all those wind turbines and solar arrays if you can't get rid of a single fossil fuel burning power plant?