Thursday, October 20, 2011

Laugh Out Loud, Freeway Edition

Just saw a funny post on Someone in California decided that banning hybrids from freeway HOV lanes would reduce traffic congestion. Uh, not so much.
Whodathunk that banning hybrid vehicles from California's High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes would lead to additional congestion on the state's highways and even longer commute times? Transportation engineers at the University of California, Berkeley did, and that's why the University's researchers are now pushing for HOV access to be granted to more vehicles, not less.
Wow, ya think? Who's running CDOT these days, Gurney the Green Dinosaur, who never got past 2nd-grade math? Here you've got this perfectly good freeway with X lanes. But we don't want everyone to use the whole thing, so we restrict people from using the leftmost Y lanes. Now instead of distributing traffic load across all lanes, it can only freely distribute across the rightmost X-Y lanes. OF COURSE traffic will become more congested in those lanes: you've got more traffic on them. And OF COURSE traffic will get worse for all lanes, because the privileged users won't drive exclusively in the restricted lanes, at least not if they want to enter or exit the freeway. This causes lane changes, which slows down everyone.

It's a perfect example of why price controls don't work.

(H/T Instapundit)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Laugh Out Loud, Paul Krugman Edition

Paul Krugman thinks Ben Bernanke can solve the nation's economic problems by having the Fed perform some or all of the following:
  • Purchase long-term government debt to push down interest rates and thus borrowing costs
  • "[Announce] that short-term interest rates would stay near zero for an extended period, to further reduce long-term rates"
  • "[Announce] that the bank was seeking moderate inflation, 'setting a target in the 3-4% range for inflation, to be maintained for a number of years,' which would encourage borrowing and discourage people from hoarding cash" (emphasis mine)
  • Depreciate the dollar

I'm no economist, and I never gave economic advice to Enron, but even I can see the holes in these proposals. First, the Fed's been buying government debt for two years in order to lower interest rates, but private borrowing hasn't increased. Second, as Krugman notes, the Fed has all but announced that short-term rates would stay zero through mid-2013. Call me stupid, but how is a bleak economic forecast for 2012 supposed to increase businesses' and consumers' confidence? Third (I'm taking this out of order), the dollar has already been depreciated against world currencies. In fact it's been depreciating for years. And yet imports continue to rise and exports continue to fall. How does that help the economy?

But here's what really got me laughing: years worth of increased inflation to "discourage people from hoarding cash." Who is he talking about? Who in the world is hoarding cash right now?! Who even has cash to hoard?! Is he talking about large corporations like Apple, Google, and GE, who according to their 2011 Q2 filings had cash reserves of $12, $10 and $91 billion respectively? That's a lot of cash, to be sure. But why would increased inflation motivate these companies to spend more? What would they spend it on? In any case Krugman doesn't say "companies from hoarding cash," he says "discourage people." What does he think "people" will do with all this cash he thinks they've hoarded? Buy more Chinese imports? Buy real estate in Detroit? Invest in precious metals? Trade in their SUV's for sleek new EV's?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Arctic Ice Tipping? Maybe Not

BBC News reports a Danish research team is suggesting that the Arctic ice tipping point is not likely under current conditions.
Dr Funder and his team say their data shows a clear connection between temperature and the amount of sea ice. The researchers concluded that for about 3,000 years, during a period called the Holocene Climate Optimum, there was more open water and far less ice than today - probably less than 50% of the minimum Arctic sea ice recorded in 2007.

But the researcher says that even with a loss of this size, the sea ice will not reach a point of no return.

"I think we can say that with the loss of 50% of the current ice, the tipping point wasn't reached."

Friday, August 5, 2011

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be As Smart As Eugene Volokh

Others have been punditing on the rhetoric from the recent debt ceiling debate/crisis, but I think Volokh has the best analysis...
...when people are exercising whatever existing legal and constitutional rights they have to withhold their cooperation, and to threaten to withhold their cooperation, I don’t think that labeling them “extortionists” or “hostage-takers” is a useful analogy. If you want people to work with you, to give you their votes, or to promise to pay for more debts, you may have to make concessions that you shouldn’t have to make when all you want is for people to leave you and your property alone.
If Mr. Volokh ever chooses to run for President, he's got my vote.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Warming? Not As Much

Roy Spencer of NASA has a study showing atmospheric heat has been dissipating much faster than predicted by UN climate models.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Laugh Out Loud, Robert Reich Edition

Reich's a smart guy. I usually learn something when I read his stuff. But not today.

He's attacking the President for not having a good jobs plan. Fair enough, the President deserves such attacks. Reich writes:
This job recession shows no sign of ending. It can no longer be blamed on supply-side disruptions from Japan, Europe's debt crisis, high oil prices, or bad weather.

We're in a vicious cycle where consumers won't buy more because they're scared of losing their jobs and their pay is dropping. And businesses won't hire because they don't have enough customers.

Hard to argue with that. But as part of his solution, he suggests (emphasis mine):
Second, we'll recreate the WPA and Civilian Conservation Corps -- two of the most successful job innovations of the New Deal -- and put people back to work directly. The long-term unemployed will help rebuild our roads and bridges, ports and levees, and provide needed services in our schools and hospitals. Young people who can't find jobs will reclaim and improve our national parklands, restore urban parks and public spaces, recycle products and materials, and insulate public buildings and homes.

Holy green gravy. He's done it! He's solved the nation's problems! We'll just take all those chronically unemployed middle-managers, salesmen, lawyers and put them to work building stuff. What a great idea!

And all those urban and suburban youth who can't get jobs in fast food? We'll send them out into the wilderness, where they will also build stuff. Well, except for the ones sorting stinky milk cartons and tuna fish cans down at the recycling center. Or those installing insulation in buildings that are already R33.

Yeah, that'll happen. I laughed out loud when I read that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

President Holds Twitter Town Hall

Check out this pic...

Presumably that's supposed to be the President responding to tweeted questions. What an awful image, the world's most powerful government figure standing at a podium, not answering verbal questions, but typing answers to the world's tweets.

Fortunately I'm pretty sure that particular picture was taken another time, in another context.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Resolving the U.S. Debt Crisis

The Washington Post and others report that debt crisis talks between the President and Congressional leaders have stagnated. By insisting on tax hikes, and by refusing to negotiate with Republicans, it's clear the President thinks a government shutdown and potential default will benefit Democrats politically. He might be right.

Both Boehner and McConnell have said they're not interested in forcing a default. They're willing to pass a smaller compromise bill that includes fewer spending cuts, but also raises the debt limit by less, requiring another debt hike sometime before the 2012 elections. Democrats of course don't want this.

If Democrats hold the line and insist on tax increases, and refuse to pass a smaller debt limit increase, here's what House Republicans should do: pass a bill raising the debt limit by the exact amount needed to make federal debt payments through 2012, thus providing the means to avert default. They should pass this without any spending cuts or tax increases. This would take the default threat off the table, and force Democrats to confront the primary budget deficit.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

You know your candidacy is off course...

...when you're trying to steal supporters from Ron Paul.
The two-minute video (embedded at the end of the column) is a somewhat confusing attack on the Federal Reserve, which appears to be part of an attempt by Gingrich to appeal to supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), a fierce critic of the Fed.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Greatest Scandal Since Watergate?

David Brooks says Fannie Mae is a huge political scandal that isn't getting enough attention.
[T]he Fannie Mae scandal is the most important political scandal since Watergate. It helped sink the American economy. It has cost taxpayers about $153 billion, so far. It indicts patterns of behavior that are considered normal and respectable in Washington.

I agree. I'd like to see more attention paid to the nexus of politicians, lobbyists, and financial industry executives. In the meantime, the so-called GSA's should be completely privatized. Whatever benefit they're providing the mortgage business is outweighed by their potential for risk and corruption.

But it's interesting how Brooks brings up Bachmann at the end of his column. He warns Washington insiders that they need to police themselves, or someone like Bachmann will be elected to do it for them. It's almost like he thinks she's some sort of bogeyman: "You better watch out, or Michelle Bachmann's gonna eat your face!"

Friday, June 10, 2011

One in Five Americans Receive Medicaid?

In a letter to Pres. Obama, Sen. Rockefeller and 36 other Senate Democrats wrote...
We are unwilling to allow the federal government to walk away from Medicaid’s 68 million beneficiaries, the providers that serve them and the urban and rural communities in which they live.

This was sent in response to the Republican proposal to turn Medicaid into a block grant program, which would end the Federal match for state Medicaid spending and distribute the Federal subsidy as a defined amount. It's an interesting debate, but what caught my attention was the "68 million beneficiaries."

According to this website, the current U.S. population estimate is approximately 311 million. If there are really 68 million Medicaid beneficiaries, that means approximately 21% of the U.S. population is currently receiving Medicaid benefits.

Huh?! One in five Americans are currently on Medicaid? Really?

I figured the Senate Democrats had to be exaggerating the number, so I did a search for the "real" number. That led me to this website, which says that as of May 2010 there are 48 million Medicare beneficiaries. Medicare and Medicaid are not the same thing. But I'm pretty sure there aren't as many Medicaid beneficiaries as there are for Medicare. So I kept searching.

And found this, posted at, which appears to be a division of the Department of Health and Human Services. It says that as of June 30, 2009, there were over 50 million Medicaid enrollees. Un. Bee. Lee. Vuh. Bull. That's 16% of U.S. population, or one in six.

So yeah, it looks like the Senate Democrats' number is wrong. But not by as much as I thought.

(via Peter Suderman via Insta.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Milbank on Risk-Taking Politicians

I don't normally agree with Dana Milbank's politics, but I think he nailed today's column:
The discussion, before Spitzer moved on to “other stories I’ll be drilling down on,” was about Weiner’s “strategy” for political survival. That’s a fun parlor game, but whether Weiner survives is hardly important. Of more consequence is what’s driving all these men (and the occasional woman) to reckless behavior.

Some apologists claim these men simply have more testosterone, and greater libido, than the general population. More likely, it’s the same thing that is causing many more of their colleagues to engage in reckless behavior in their professional lives: a sense of invincibility.

Milbank concludes by writing "We’d be better off if lawmakers gambled more with their private parts and less with the public good." Makes me wonder if Milbank is spending any time thinking about what additional limits we should impose on government in general, and Washington in particular.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Eclipse Command Shortcut

Wow, long time no post.

Just ran across something very cool in Eclipse: Ctrl+Shift+L pops up a list of editor commands, displaying the shortcut for each. Handy way to recall those hard-to-remember commands (like Shift-Alt-Z).