Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another Reason for Warming

More people, bigger cities:

Average temperatures across California rose slightly from 1950 to 2000, with the greatest warming coming in the state's big cities and mostly caused by urbanization -- not greenhouse gases -- authors of a study released on Wednesday said.

The study found that average temperatures in California rose nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit (nearly one degree Celsius) in the second half of the 20th century, led by large urban centers such as San Francisco and Southern California.

"Everybody's talking about the carbon coming out of the SUV exhaust or the coal plant, but in the past 50 years in California the bigger impact has been urbanization and suburbanization," said Bill Patzert of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, one of the study's authors.

"Exhaust from the SUV is just piling on," he said. "One is heating you from above, the other is heating you from below."

The New Equal Rights Amendments

Eugene Volokh posts about the revival of the ERA, and possible implications if it passes. Two problems he mentions are the fears that (1) passage would mean that women could not be excluded from combat and (2) separate girls sports teams would no longer be permitted.

See, this is why I get fed up with courts and lawyers. Any reasonable person can see that these two policies are, at most, minimally nefarious. They are not the reason for passing the ERA, and should not be implicated if it is passed. A general policy against gender discrimination can certainly accommodate well-meaning actions like these. But no, when courts and lawyers get involved, common sense goes out the window.

Look, men and women are physically different. There's nothing that can be done about that through government action. So just allow distinctions to be made where they make sense based on these differences. Sheesh. Courts should be able to deal with this, but if they can't, we can legislate something that will deal with the issues properly.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Leegin Case: Resale Price Maintenance

Here's my view on the Leegin case. Minimum prices through resale price maintenance should be subject to the rule of reason, rather than being considered per se illegal, because manufacturers can set whatever prices they choose if they establish their own distribution network. It doesn't make sense to allow the equivalent of RPM through one distribution arrangement but prohibit it through another.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Cult of No Personality

Paul Krugman refers to "the personality cult the GOP once built around President Bush." That has to be one of the stupidest things Krugman has ever said. I think the best that can be said about Bush is that people used to think he was an affable, harmless idiot, and better than Gore. A cult of personality around Bush? I don't think so.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fred Thompson on Warming

I really don't know much about Fred Thompson, but this was pretty amusing:
Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto.

NASA says the Martian South Pole’s “ice cap” has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter’s caught the same cold, because it’s warming up too, like Pluto.

This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non-signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle.

Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets and moons in our solar system have in common. Hmmmm. Solar system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn’t even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There’s a consensus.

Ask Galileo.

Private vs. Public Health Insurance

Tyler Cowen has a good piece comparing America-style private health insurance with European-style public systems. One of his key points:
On average, European systems are relatively good for the young, who are generally healthy and need treatment for obvious accidents and emergencies, with transparent remedies. European systems are less effective for the elderly, the primary demanders of discretionary medical benefits

It would be nice if Paul Krugman would read the piece. Krugman's articles on health care to date don't really put much thought into the issue. I'd like to see him move beyond the "private is bad" mentality.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

School Rules

Apparently, it's school rules day. Earlier it was "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Now it's wearing a Muslim veil. The UK government says it will "leave it up to individual head teachers to decide what pupils should and should not be allowed to wear in class." I think that makes sense. There has to be some limit to religious freedom in schools. (Presumably, we would not allow Christian Scientist children to refuse medicine when sick.) The veil is a difficult issue for which to balance all the factors, but I can see legitimate reasons for prohibiting it. Whether I would prohibit it myself as principal would depend on the specific school situation, though.

Bong Hits 4 Jesus

I've been struggling to figure out what I think about the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case. If the student in question had been in school, I think the principal would have been within her powers to suspend him. I would give school administrators wide latitude to restrict speech in schools. The main purpose of schools is education, and I think administrators should be able to ban anything that can be reasonably said to undermine the educational purpose.

However, the kid was not in school. He was across the street.

There was a connection to a school-sponsored event, though.

On the other hand, does "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" really undermine a school's educational purpose?

Usually I have strong feelings on these things. Here, though, I'm lost.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Obama in High School

I found this article about Obama's high school experience fascinating. I had assumed that he had been a motivated, overachieving, well-liked student. But instead, he was a bit lost, and while friendly with people, was not particularly popular or well-known. It's surprising that he did not have much direction back then, given how polished and confident he seems now.

The Economist

There is some discussion about this recent article which argues that the Economist is overrated. Let me weigh in with an opinion: The Economist is by far the best weekly newsmagazine around. The Economist is to Time as Time is to People. When I read Time, Newsweek, US News, etc., I come away feeling empty, having gained no new information or insights. By contrast, each week the Economist packs immense amounts of information and analysis into each issue. Sure, they have a particular worldview, and you have to recognize that everything is filtered through that. But so what? Everyone has a worldview. The Economist is just up-front about it.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Global Warming Skeptics

From a U. of Alabama climatologist: " all we really know is that we are warmer now than we were during the last 400 years." I think that's a good way to sum things up.

The UK sees things differently, though, and is proposing domestic laws that mandate carbon emissions:
Milliband said failure to meet targets could land governments in court. Governments that fail to meet the stipulations of the bill will be subject to judicial review. It will be for the courts to decide what sanctions to apply," he said.

Honestly, I can't think of a better way to bog down the process of cleaning up the enivironment than getting the courts involved.

Now, if they really wanted to lower carbon emissions, they could spend lots of money replacing existing power plants with solar and wind power. But that would require action rather than vague promises to fix the problem later, which is much easier.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Obama's Parking Tickets

Apparently, Obama paid off some old parking tickets just before entering the Presidential race. Doesn't make him look great, but seems like pretty small potatoes. Personally, I might have just not paid them, then if it came out say I forgot and pay them at that point.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Obama's Investments

So far I'm not concerned about the Obama investment revelations. From what I gather, his broker bought the stocks without his knowledge, and as soon as Obama found out about it, he sold them (at a loss). There's no question that politicans should avoid holding individual stocks that their official actions could affect. Obama realized that and took the appropriate action.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bill Richardson's "Credentials"

The AP writes:
A former congressman, U.N. ambassador and energy secretary, Richardson has arguably the best credentials of any contender.
What makes these the "best credentials"? He's been an elected politician and bureaucrat. So what? If you're looking for the "best" person, why look at people who have had those jobs? Why not a businessperson? A lawyer? A teacher?

Maureen Dowd on Obama

Maureen Dowd says the following about Obama:
I’m just not certain, having watched the fresh-faced senator shy away from fighting with the feral Hillary over her Hollywood turf, that he understands that a campaign is inherently a conflict.

The Democrats lost the last two excruciatingly close elections because Al Gore and John Kerry did not fight fiercely and cleverly enough.

This is why I like Obama and dis-like Maureen Dowd. It's all just a game to her. A battle. A competition. The issues are secondary. But I don't want to hear about the game, the battle, or the competition. I want to hear about the issues. We haven't had anyone in recent years who could bring them out. I'm hoping Obama can (even if I disagree with him).

Oh, and Gore and Kerry did not lose because of a failure to fight fiercely and cleverly. They lost because they could not connect with the people and could not articulate an appealing vision. They lost to George W. Bush -- that's embarassing.

(Actually, Gore lost because of Nader. But it shouldn't even have come to that. Gore should have trounced him).

More Alcohol and Health Nonsense

The latest "alcohol is good for you" study is out: "Older men who drink moderate amounts of alcohol may function better physically than either those who abstain completely or those who abuse alcohol, a new study suggests. " Here was the methodology:
Cawthon and colleagues compared functional limitations, physical performance and drinking history for 5,962 men aged 65 or older who were classified into 5 categories. Men who consumed 5 or more drinks on most days were classified as having a history of sustained excessive drinking, while those who responded positively to a questionnaire used to diagnose alcoholism were classified as problem drinkers.
Moderate drinkers were those who consumed between 7 and 20 drinks per week and heavy drinkers were men who consumed 21 or more drinks weekly. Abstainers made up the final group.
Once again, a useless study. They compare people who drink alcohol to whose who don't without distinguishing what the non-drinkers are drinking instead of alcohol. Most people drink soda. As a result, these kinds of studies simply show that drinking alcohol is less unhealthy than drinking soda. No surprise there. What they should do is compare alcohol drinkers to soy milk/water/juice drinkers.