November 2011 Archives

Bret Stephens argues that the religion of global warming is dying as its predictions fail and its followers grow bored.

But religions don't die, and often thrive, when put to the political sidelines. A religion, when not physically extinguished, only dies when it loses faith in itself.

That's where the Climategate emails come in. First released on the eve of the Copenhagen climate summit two years ago and recently updated by a fresh batch, the "hide the decline" emails were an endless source of fun and lurid fascination for those of us who had never been convinced by the global-warming thesis in the first place. ...

The reply global warming alarmists have made to these dislosures is that they did nothing to change the underlying science, and only improved it in particulars. So what to make of the U.N.'s latest supposedly authoritative report on extreme weather events, which is tinged with admissions of doubt and uncertainty? Oddly, the report has left climate activists stuttering with rage at what they call its "watered down" predictions. If nothing else, they understand that any belief system, particularly ones as young as global warming, cannot easily survive more than a few ounces of self-doubt.

Our children will look back on fear of "climate change" with wry amusement, like the "overpopulation" fears of past decades. has some pictures of the first Geithner-signed bills in circulation! Time to put those tax cheat stamps to work!


The actual burden of a tax doesn't always fall on the person who pays the tax -- this concept is called tax incidence.

In economics, tax incidence is the analysis of the effect of a particular tax on the distribution of economic welfare. Tax incidence is said to "fall" upon the group that, at the end of the day, bears the burden of the tax. The key concept is that the tax incidence or tax burden does not depend on where the revenue is collected, but on the price elasticity of demand and price elasticity of supply.

More simply: the person who is required to pay the tax will try to shift the cost of the tax onto someone else. Easy example: your employer nominally pays 6.2% Social Security and 1.45% Medicare taxes on your behalf, but the tax incidence falls entirely on the employee -- your salary would be 7.65% higher without these taxes.

Tyler Cowen points out that the difficulty of tax incidence makes it hard to successfully tax high-earners no matter how you craft the tax structure.

Let's turn to taxation of the top 0.1 percent, and focus on these CEOs. If the tax rate on their income/K gains goes up, the firm will compensate by giving them more equity/options, to keep them working hard. In other words, the tax rate on the top earners can be hiked without much effect on CEO effort because there is an offset internal to the firm. At some margin the firm's shareholders will be reluctant to chop off more equity/options to the CEO, but the marginal value created by maintaining the incentive seems to be very high, for reasons presented above, and so the net CEO incentives will be maintained, even in light of new and higher taxes on CEO earnings.

But here's the problem, if that's the right word. The incidence of that tax is going to fall on shareholders in general and thus on capital in general. These top CEOs could even get off scot-free, if the shareholders up the equity/options participation of the CEO to offset completely the effects of the new and higher tax rate.

More simply: when you raise taxes on the wealthy, they just increase their income and pass the cost of the tax onto their shareholders, employees, etc. Taxes "trickle down" just like wealth does. Perhaps this is a partial explanation of why so many wealthy people seem to support the Left's high-tax agenda... they expect to avoid the effects of the taxes by passing the costs down the line.

New research reveals that millions of printers are vulnerable to rogue firmware updates.

One particularly vexing part of the fix: Printers that are already compromised by rogue software likely cannot be fixed. An attacker could easily shut down the pathway for future updates that would "cure" an infected printer.

"If and when HP rolls out a fix, if a printer is already compromised, the fix would be completely ineffective. Once you own the firmware, you own it forever. That's why this problem is so serious, and so different," Cui said. "This is nothing like fixing a virus on your PC."

Such inability to help consumers manually secure their printers could ultimately have disastrous consequences, Stolfo said.

"It may ultimately lead to telling everyone they just have to throw their printers out and start over," he said. "Fixing this is going to require a very coordinated effort by the industry," Stolfo said.

Bonus conspiracy theory: follow the money. What's the best way to sell millions of new printers in a bad economy?

(HT: RB.)

Why are there so few blacks at the #Occupy camps?

Many a brow was furrowed in concern, many a chin was earnestly wagged on the subject of Tea Party racism. Did Blacks avoid Tea Party events, the press wondered, because racist Tea Partiers kept them away, or because Blacks were smart enough to realize that the Tea Party agenda was a racial hate and oppression agenda?

Here at Via Meadia we have been noting the relative plenitude of palefaces at the OWS protests and the protesters we personally know have tended to be of the upper middle class white liberal artsy type. We have waited for the wave of investigative journalism seeking the reasons for Black absenteeism -- but so far we have been disappointed. Black failure to attend right wing demonstrations appears to be a mysterious matter demanding detailed investigation, but there is nothing to discuss when they shun left wing ones. Moreover, a relative absence of Black faces in right wing crowds clearly demonstrates the racism of both the protesters and their ideas, while an absence of Black faces in left wing crowds means -- absolutely nothing.

The gulf between blacks and elite whites does not bode well for the Democrats' 2012 election strategy.

For decades, Democrats have suffered continuous and increasingly severe losses among white voters. But preparations by Democratic operatives for the 2012 election make it clear for the first time that the party will explicitly abandon the white working class.

All pretense of trying to win a majority of the white working class has been effectively jettisoned in favor of cementing a center-left coalition made up, on the one hand, of voters who have gotten ahead on the basis of educational attainment -- professors, artists, designers, editors, human resources managers, lawyers, librarians, social workers, teachers and therapists -- and a second, substantial constituency of lower-income voters who are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.

No wonder the Left sees separateness and inequality everywhere they look... they're the heart of it. Perhaps this gulf is not a problem, but is actually essential to the Democrats' plan?

One meme that I've been hearing a lot recently is that Congress is "dysfunctional", but I don't agree. Let's look at some evidence though:

  • Congress hasn't passed a budget since 2009
  • Supercommittee superfails to make even superficial budget reforms
  • Obamacare enacted using procedural gimmicks and against public will
  • No ability to tackle soaring "entitlement" deficits
  • No Congressional authorization for Libya war

These aren't even complaints about good versus bad policy... they're evidence that Congress is completely and hopelessly gridlocked. However, I don't think think that this gridlock is a sign of dysfunction... I think Congress is working as intended.

What? Yes, that's right. Our Constitution separates powers in the government to purposefully make it hard to do stuff. That's a feature, not a bug. Congress is gridlocked because the electorate is gridlocked: we don't want to give up our "entitlements", but we're also slowly realizing that we can't keep borrowing to pay for them.

Either taxes go up a lot, or entitlements get slashed. Which will it be? Congress can't act until there's a relatively broad mandate for one road or the other. Until that time nothing will happen, and it's not Congress' fault.

Here at Master of None we always give people the benefit of the doubt and never question their sincerity. President Obama has given numerous speeches showing that he takes our debt and deficit very seriously, and we believe him! Just as a fun counter-factual though... what would the President have done differently if he didn't really want to reduce the deficit but only wanted it to appear that he did?

The President's press secretary tells us that the President and his Treasury Secretary have "been very engaged with their European counterparts" in addressing their debt crises, but it appears the President's involvement in the American Super Committee was to set a proposal on the table and then leave.

Mr. Carney points to the President's September proposal to the Super Committee, and to the negotiations with Speaker Boehner over the summer, as evidence that the President is trying to reduce the budget deficit. For balance I think it's important to point out five deficit reduction opportunities the President missed.

fps maps.jpg

(HT: Kotaku and Ars Technica.)

Sometimes an institution does something so stupid that it reveals that the institution itself has become fundamentally useless or even malevolent. In the most egregious cases, I believe we need something like capital punishment for entire organizations. Consider the recent ruling in the EU that bottled water manufacturers cannot claim that water reduces the risk of dehydration.

Brussels bureaucrats have been lambasted for conducting a three year study that has resulted in an E.U. ban on bottled water claims that drinking water prevents dehydration.

A three year study by European bureaucrats in Brussels has resulted in a ban on producers of bottled water from claiming that water prevents dehydration. The ban met with widespread criticism in Britain where the advice of the National Health Service is that drinking water helps to prevent dehydration. However if bottled water carries such claims from next month, the producers could face a two year prison sentence, according to Town Hall.

The European Food Standards Authority is behind this idiotic decisions and should be immediately disbanded and all the employees should be fired. Any institution that can produce such nonsense has no hope for reform. Kill it and start over.

California's collapse began before the Great Recession:

Another dark sign, largely unnoticed at the time: California's major cities became invalids in the 2000s. Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area had been the engines of California's economic growth for at least a century. Since World War II, the L.A. metropolitan area, which includes Orange County, has added more people than all but two states (apart from California): Florida and Texas. The Bay Area, which includes the San Francisco and the San Jose metro areas, has been the core of American job growth in information technology and financial services, with San Jose's Silicon Valley serving as the world's incubator of information-age technology. During the 1992-2000 period, the L.A. and San Francisco Bay areas added more than 1.1 million new jobs--about half the entire state total. But between 2000 and 2008, as Chart 3 indicates, California's two big metro areas produced fewer than 70,000 new jobs--a nearly 95 percent drop and a mere 6 percent of job creation in the state. This was a collapse of historic proportions.

I grew up in Los Angeles and loved it, but I could see the writing on the wall even five years ago. The recent re-election of Jerry Brown demonstrated that the citizens of the Golden State do not have any desire to change course.

When the singularity comes, will we even notice the transhumans?

Premise #2: Transhumans will be hard to see.

The individuals who elect to be more than human will evolve very, very rapidly. They'll be able to improve themselves continuously, after all. They'll be adding new powers, new abilities, new facets of themselves, all the time. Which means, I suspect, that they'll soon evolve right out of sight.

What do I mean by that? Well, as a character in one of my short stories says, consider the ant. It is a very successful being. It lived long before us. It will exist long after we're gone. But does it see us? Does it think about us as we think about it? As a living being? As an entity with its own goals and aims?

I submit that it doesn't. First, I'm not sure it has concepts like "entity" and "living," but, second, even if it did, I'm pretty sure it would see us as just big, warm, moving, something-or-others. And our constructions? Our cities and farms? No different from any mountain or field.

My point, then, is that once transhumans were as far removed from us as we are from insects, they might be pretty much invisible to us. Or, more precisely, we'd see them, but not know what we were looking at.

The whole thing is worth reading.

Yes, yes... happy Eleven Day!

But especially thanks to the vets who made such numerical whimsy possible.

Ann Coulter describes how David Axelrod secured a Senate seat for Barack Obama by digging through Obama's opponents sealed divorce records.

The reason all this is relevant is that both Axelrod and Daley have a history of smearing political opponents by digging up claims of sexual misconduct against them.

John Brooks, Chicago's former fire commissioner, filed a lawsuit against Daley six months ago claiming Daley threatened to smear him with sexual harassment accusations if Brooks didn't resign. He resigned -- and the sexual harassment allegations were later found to be completely false.

Meanwhile, as extensively detailed in my book "Guilty: Liberal 'Victims' and Their Assault on America," the only reason Obama became a U.S. senator -- allowing him to run for president -- is that David Axelrod pulled sealed divorce records out of a hat, first, against Obama's Democratic primary opponent, and then against Obama's Republican opponent.

The same people frowned on these sorts of allegations when the target was Bill Clinton....

I like Sarah Palin in general, but I'm not a strong supporter of her political ambitions (whatever they may be). However, Mickey Kaus has pointed me towards a fantastic speech Palin gave in September railing against what she called "corporate crony capitalism".

Yeah, the permanent political class - they're doing just fine. Ever notice how so many of them arrive in Washington, D.C. of modest means and then miraculously throughout the years they end up becoming very, very wealthy? Well, it's because they derive power and their wealth from their access to our money - to taxpayer dollars. They use it to bail out their friends on Wall Street and their corporate cronies, and to reward campaign contributors, and to buy votes via earmarks. There is so much waste. And there is a name for this: It's called corporate crony capitalism. This is not the capitalism of free men and free markets, of innovation and hard work and ethics, of sacrifice and of risk. No, this is the capitalism of connections and government bailouts and handouts, of waste and influence peddling and corporate welfare. This is the crony capitalism that destroyed Europe's economies. It's the collusion of big government and big business and big finance to the detriment of all the rest - to the little guys. It's a slap in the face to our small business owners - the true entrepreneurs, the job creators accounting for 70% of the jobs in America, it's you who own these small businesses, you're the economic engine, but you don't grease the wheels of government power.

So, do you want to know why the permanent political class doesn't really want to cut any spending? Do you want to know why nothing ever really gets done? It's because there's nothing in it for them. They've got a lot of mouths to feed - a lot of corporate lobbyists and a lot of special interests that are counting on them to keep the good times and the money rolling along.

Great stuff -- and stuff that the Tea Partiers and the #OWS crowd should all agree on. Broadly, there are two potential solutions:

1. Create more regulations, watchdogs, inspectors, and bureaucrats to try to prevent the cronyism. Basically, more checks-and-balances on political power.

2. Directly reduce the power of the political class by limiting the functions of (federal) government. Instead of more checks-and-balances on the power, just reduce the power.

Preference for (1) or (2) is what separates the Tea Party from #OWS.

(HT: Mickey Kaus.)

Inside account of Bin Laden raid.

OSAMA BIN LADEN was killed within 90 seconds of the US Navy Seals landing in his compound and not after a protracted gun battle, according to the first account by the men who carried out the raid. The operation was so clinical that only 12 bullets were fired.

The Seals have spoken out because they were angered at the version given by politicians, which they see as portraying them as cold-blooded murderers on a "kill mission". They were also shocked that President Barack Obama announced bin Laden's death on television the same evening, rendering useless much of the intelligence they had seized.

Chuck Pfarrer, a former commander of Seal Team 6, which conducted the operation, has interviewed many of those who took part for a book, Seal Target Geronimo, to be published in the US this week.

Interesting read and insight into Seal Team 6, but take it with a grain of salt.

And all that, of course, assumes that Pfarrer's book truly is based on interviews with today's DevGru SEALs and is correct in its remarks on the helicopters. The Pentagon and CIA spokesman George Little are adamant that at least some of the book is wrong, and the SEALs on the raid have reportedly told their superiors they did not talk to Pfarrer.

Megan McArdle elucidates a point I've attempted to make about meritocracy: qualities that lead to success in a meritocracy can be transmitted across generations as surely as aristocracy can be.

You can argue about why this is--are the upper middle class transmitting real skills, or pull? But does it matter? As an editor at The Economist once noted to me, it's actually rather more worrying if what they're giving their children is a strong education and an absolutely ferocious work ethic. An aristocracy that simply bequeaths money and social position to its children will eventually fall. And aristocracy that bequeaths the actual skills required to earn more money than everyone else is self perpetuating.

And self-legitimating. The old aristocracy was, I think, at least dimly aware that it wasn't quite fair for them to have what they had by mere virtue of being born to the right parents. But in the new aristocracy, it is rarely enough to just get born to the right parents; you also have to work very hard. (Higher earning men are now more likely to work more than 50 hours a week than are men in lower earnings quintiles.) Whatever the systemic injustices, it's also quite clear to everyone . . . even parasitic leeches of investment bankers . . . that their salaries only come as the result of frantic effort.

The ability of one's parents to confer such enduring advantages is obviously unfair. And while I don't want to say that a society cannot last that way--obviously, many have, for hundreds of years--I don't think it's healthy for society. It is hard to get civic engagement, or respect for the law, when the bottom 40% or so feels that the game is rigged.

I'm not sure that the situation is "rigged" in the same way as in an aristocracy, but it is clear that parents and family can confer significant advantages or disadvantages even in a meritocracy. It's not obvious to me how this could be avoided... those in power now will naturally wield that power in a way that gives their children the best possible opportunities.

How would upper-middle-class parents feel about children who had only a 17% chance of achieving a household income above $90,000? They would be horrified. And then they would busily start using the full scope of their talents--their financial resources, their educational skills, and their social capital--to "fix it".

These instincts would operate in a meritocracy, an aristocracy, or a Marxist utopia.

Apparently the #OCCUPY losers have so many rapists that the women have requested their own shelters.

Zuccotti Park has become so overrun by sexual predators attacking women in the night that organizers felt compelled to set up a female-only sleeping tent yesterday to keep the sickos away.

The large, metal-framed "safety tent" -- which will be guarded by an all-female patrol -- can accommodate as many as 18 people and will be used during the day for women-only meetings, said Occupy Wall Street organizers.

"This is all about safety in numbers," said Becky Wartell, 24, a protester from Portland, Maine.

So many angles.

1. Get a gun.

2. Why the heck are so many of your comrades rapists?

3. Aren't there any good men to protect the women?

The primary function of civilization is to prevent crazies from taking your stuff and raping your women. Let's keep careful notes about how the world would look if the #OCCUPY thugs were in charge of more than a half-acre park.

I don't remember hearing about any rapes at the Tea Party rallies, do you?

Ann Althouse asks if the special tent is discriminatory:

If there were a few attacks by black people, would they set up a white-only section? Why stigmatize all the men as criminals based on the acts of a few?

Allah Pundit notes that the media has been treating the #OCCUPY losers a lot better than they did the Tea Partiers:

This can't be repeated enough: With a few exceptions, foremost among them the New York Post, the coverage of OWS protests compared to the coverage of tea-party protests is the worst media double standard in recent history. Nothing compares, because nothing else involves this much distortion on both ends of the coverage. It's not just that most press outlets (like the protesters themselves) look the other way at depravity happening inside Obamaville, it's that for years they treated the tea-party movement as some sort of feral mob that was forever on the brink of rampaging through the streets -- like, say, Occupy Oakland just did.

Robert Stacy McCain points out that #OCCUPY shouldn't be considered "non-violet" no matter what they claim.

We can no longer tolerate media assertions that this is a non-violent movement. When your purpose is to inspire hatred, to threaten and intimidate, when you trespass and obstruct traffic, when you chant obscenities and deliberately seek to provoke confrontations -- no, you're not being non-violent, no matter how often you claim to be "peaceful."

But who can expect honesty from such savages? And who can any longer doubt that the mainstream media are acting as accessories to this criminal movement by pretending that the "Occupy [Whatever]" mob's regular eruptions of violence and criminality are atypical aberrations?

The longer this goes on, the worse it will get for the Democrats and the Left... so in that sense it's great. Let these losers discredit themselves for a generation.

(HT: Instapundit.)

David Post writes about an atrocious new intellectual property bill that threatens to destroy the internet as we know it as well as eliminate our rights to privacy and due process. It's sponsored by the various media corporations who have been hurt by internet file sharing and the looming death of society's intellectual property regime. Go ahead and read about it... it's pretty absurd.

However, it's hard for me to get worked up over the bill. Why? Because the internet always wins. It won all over the Middle East and North Africa, it's winning in China, it's winning against the Republican political machine, and it will defeat the intellectual property rent-seekers. Any IP that is widely disseminated to the public will not be protected. Deal with it.

And of course it's not going to work. I guarantee that. It's too easy to circumvent -- anyone who understands the technology will agree with that. Sure, it will ensnare many unlawful actors. But at Internet scale, ensnaring some of the bad guys does not and cannot appreciably affect the conduct in question. Think of it this way: If there are 10 bad guys out there, and you've got a way to catch, say, 5 of them, that's usually a pretty good scheme. We'll have 5 fewer bad guys, and who knows, maybe just by probabilistic chance you'll catch all 10; after all, if you're 50 percent likely on average to catch each bad guy, it's unlikely but by no means impossible that you'll get 'em all.

But if there are 10 million bad guys and you get rid of half of them, there are still 5 million bad guys out there. And, with intellectual property, 5 million bad guys can do precisely as much "damage" to your intellectual property as 10 million. If "stamping out copyright infringement" looks like a nightmarish game of whack-a-mole that you can't possibly win -- well, I'm sorry about that, but that's just the way the world is, so get over it. There's more -- much more -- peer-to-peer file-sharing going on today than in the heyday of Napster and Grokster. Deal with it -- not by killing my Internet, thank you very much.

The internet will win. Our modern-day Neanderthals need to adapt.

I previously calculated that every day I work from home instead of going into the office (and buying lunch) saves me about $20.

Cost of Commuting Infographic

(HT: Lifehacker.)

(HT: NC, RC, The Blaze.)

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