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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore



Archive for October, 2011

 

Skewing the news to support an agenda

Monday, October 31st, 2011

I’ve previously written about how news outlets insert code words into articles to get across their message while appearing to report the whole story. But a more insidious method of misreporting to support an agenda is to report only part of a story, the part that supports what you want people to believe.

Take the following short  item from today’s Boston Globe, reproduced in its entirety as it appeared in the “Daily Briefing” section. After reading what the Globe wants you to know, take a minute to follow the link and read the whole story.

Skeptic finds global warming is indeed real

WASHINGTON—A prominent physicist and skeptic of global warming spent two years trying to find out if mainstream climate scientists were wrong. In the end, he determined they were right: Temperatures really are rising rapidly.

The study of the world’s surface temperatures by Richard Muller was partially bankrolled by a foundation connected to global warming deniers. He pursued long-held skeptic theories in analyzing the data. He was spurred to action because of “Climategate,” a British scandal involving hacked emails of scientists.

Yet he found that the land is 1.6 degrees warmer than in the 1950s. Those numbers from Muller, who works at the University of California, Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, match those by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA.

The results will be presented today to a conference in Santa Fe, N.M., expected to include many prominent skeptics as well as mainstream scientists.

Muller’s finding of a warming world is no different from what mainstream climate scientists have been saying for decades.

One-quarter of the $600,000 to do the research came from the Charles Koch Foundation, whose founder is a major funder of skeptic groups and the tea party. The Koch brothers, Charles and David, run a large privately held company involved in oil and other industries, producing sizable greenhouse gas emissions.

“The skeptics raised valid points and everybody should have been a skeptic two years ago,” Muller said. “And now we have confidence that the temperature rise that had previously been reported had been done without bias.”

First, “Daily Briefing” implies you are being given a short, factual summary of all the relevant facts. It seems to me they missed about half of the facts.

The newspaper will argue they had limited space and needed to shorten the story to fit, but that spin is mighty wobbly. They found space to report the scientifically irrelevant “facts” that some of the funding for the study came from “a foundation connected to global warming deniers” and to identify that source as a Koch Brothers foundation yet they couldn’t manage to find space for the very relevant Muller did not address in his research the cause of global warming or Nor did his study look at ocean warming, future warming and how much of a threat to mankind climate change might be.

They also left out exactly what Muller and his team were studying — Muller’s research team carefully examined two chief criticisms by skeptics. One is that weather stations are unreliable; the other is that cities, which create heat islands, were skewing the temperature analysis.

Click graphic to enlarge.

All Muller did was examine two mostly unimportant points of contention. Nothing in his study addressed the real issue, the cause, as he pointed out, as the AP reporter understood was important for an unbiased account to include, but that the Globe left out.

I, and most other “skeptics” have never claimed the Earth was not warming. The Earth is always warming and cooling. All most of us contend is that there is no irrefutable evidence that mankind alone has been causing the recent warming trend and that imagining that even seven-billion humans can impact the Earth’s climate and reverse the planet’s natural warming-cooling process is hubris of the highest order.

Back in the 1970s, the alarmist crowd was warning about global cooling and a coming ice age. Now we’re all going to burn up in a few decades.

Like all alarmist schemes, I think the best way to get to the truth is to follow the money, money that leads to head alarmist Al Gore and lots of others who have profited and stand to profit more by convincing everyone to hop on the bandwagon.

What do you folks think about the way the Globe presented this story?

What do you think about the results of Muller’s study?

Do you think mankind is really responsible for the current warming trend?

And do you think turning our thermostats down to 50 and running out to buy a Prius or a Volt will really make any meaningful difference?

 

Truth in Toons: Halloween Edition

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Comments welcome! Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you saving less and spending more, too?

Saturday, October 29th, 2011

With interest rates on savings hugging zero, many folks around the nation are spending rather than saving according to this article in today’s papers.

Americans spending more with income almost flat

Americans are making a little more money and spending a lot more.

Under normal circumstances, that would be a troubling sign for the economy. But a closer look at some new government figures suggests another possibility: People are saving less money because they’re earning next to nothing in interest.

Saving is already difficult because of more expensive gas and food. It’s even tougher because of the lower returns — the flip side of super-low interest rates that the Federal Reserve has kept in place since 2008 to help the economy.

Critics say the Fed is punishing those who play by the rules — those careful enough to set aside money for savings or people who built up a nest egg and are living on fixed incomes that depend on interest.

Americans spent 0.6 percent more in September, three times the increase from the previous month, the government said Friday. Spending was especially strong on durable goods — things like cars, appliances and electronics.

At the same time, what they earned was mostly flat. Pay increased 0.3 percent, and overall income just 0.1 percent. After deducting taxes and adjusting for inflation, income fell for a third straight month.

So to make up the difference, many have cut back on savings…

Click here to read the rest of the article.

It might seem counter-intuitive to spend instead of save, but it all depends on what you are buying.

If you’re spending on vacations and fancy jeans and must-have trendy whatevers, you’d probably be wiser to keep the money in the bank despite the low interest rates.

I’ve always believed it prudent to have enough cash to cover at least six months of expenses. A year would be better. But what to do with cash after that?

Money sitting around does nothing for you, so many would say you should invest it. But in what?

There are many financial instruments – stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc. – in which to invest, but they all carry the risk of loss if markets tank. Gold and silver can be hedges against inflation, but both have been bid up pretty high of late.

I like the idea of investing in things that will cost more tomorrow, or next year. Stocking a pantry, buying extra work clothes or a few more animals if you live in a rural area can all provide a better return than a savings account. What about ammunition? Or lumber?

If you own a home, there are many places to “invest” the money. I recently had the outside of my home patched and painted because I knew it would probably cost me ten percent more next year. I’m looking into upgrading my heating system, if I can afford it, for the same reason.

You may also choose to invest in yourself, in knowledge, in classes, books, magazines, anything that will help you earn more and live better.

Where I live, it costs about thirty dollars to go see a movie when you add in the popcorn and soda. For $24.95 you could get a year’s subscription to Backwoods Home, and use the other five bucks to rent five $1 movies at Redbox kiosks. Five times the entertainment, plus knowledge that will last the rest of your life, all for the cost of one trip to the theater.

So what are you doing with your money these days?

Are you just getting by?

Will you be spending more for the holidays than last year or less?

What “investments” have you made to ensure the value of what you have doesn’t vanish when inflation hits?

And how would you advise other readers who may not yet have thought about what to do with extra cash?

 

Does U.S. economic inequality have a good side?

Friday, October 28th, 2011

Watch Professor Richard Epstein’s 8-minute smackdown,  during a recent PBS interview, of Obama’s far-left economic and social policies and the whole premise of the Occupy Wall Street circus.

After watching, please tell me what you think.

 

Paid off your student loans? Now you can pay everyone else’s, too.

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Where is the outrage?

When George Bush ran for reelection, had he blatantly offered to buy the votes of college students by forcing taxpayers to subsidize and eventually pay off their school loans, he’d have been excoriated by the mainstream media. Yet here we have Obama doing exactly that and I’ve not heard or read even a mild spanking from the Hope and Change media sycophants.

Here’s the story:

Class war: Obama offers cash-for-votes student loan policy

President Barack Obama’s new student loan policy will force working class Americans to pay the ballooning college costs of middle class Americans, and will also hinder needed reform of the bloated education sector, say critics.

How much of each student's debt will you be forced to pay if Obama and his henchmen get their way?

Obama is “shifting the burden of paying for college to all of those Americans who did not graduate from college — the waitresses, construction workers, mechanics — and that should infuriate the taxpayers who worked hard to pay off their loans, who decided to live a modest lifestyle to pay off their loans,” said Lindsey Burke, an analyst at the Heritage Foundation.

Obama’s policy is also widening the class division between working-class Americans and those with college credentials, said Matthew Denhart, a researcher at the Center for College Affordability and Productivity in Washington, D.C.

Whatever the real costs, the new subsidy could benefit Obama’s standing among the disenchanted voters in the coveted 20-something demographic. Almost 70 percent of that group voted for him overwhelmingly in 2008.

The new loan policy “will save you money, it will help more young people figure out how to attend college … you will be more comfortable and confident to buy a house … [and] that will give our economy a boost when it desperately needs it,” Obama told a cheering crowd of students at the University of Colorado’s Denver campus.

But, he added, “young guys, I need you involved, I need you active … I need you to get the word out.”

Colorado is a swing state, and his polls show him well below the 50 percent approval mark.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

When my son graduated in 2004, he was only saddled with about $40K in student loan debt thanks to scholarships and grants and driving an hour to and from school so he could live at home and not have to pay for room and board. And thanks to working hard, some frugal living, and paying more than the minimum each month, he made the final payment earlier this year.

Now, Our Dear Leader wants him, and me, and you, and everyone else to start picking up the tab for the current crop of students and those who’ll come after them.

The reason a college education costs so much to begin with is the distortion of the education market by the creation and promotion of federal loans and loan guarantees. Schools had no incentive to keep their costs low to attract customers. Just the opposite. With two or three or more applicants for each available classroom seat, schools raised tuition through the roof. Anyone who understands how supply and demand works could have predicted it. We saw it with the Internet bubble in the 1990s, the housing bubble in the 2000s and now Obama wants to make sure the education establishment gets it’s chance to implode later this decade as he buys votes for reelection with your money.

So what’s your take on this latest assault on your wallet?

Is it reasonable for the nation as a whole to foot the bill for millions of college degrees that qualify their debt-saddled recipients for nothing in the real world?

Is there some benefit to the nation Mr. Hope & Change sees but I’m missing?

Or does the phrase “latest leftist election scam” apply as I think it does?

 

Does drinking soda really cause kids to be more violent?

Wednesday, October 26th, 2011

Does drinking soda really cause kids to be more violent?

Soda-drinking teens found more violent

Teenagers who drink soda are more likely to carry a weapon and act violently, according to new research.

Sara J. Solnick of the University of Vermont and David Hemenway of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston analyzed data collected from 1,878 14- to 18-year-olds in grades nine through 12 in 22 public schools in 2008.

Those who drank five or more cans of non-diet soft drinks every week were significantly more likely to have also consumed alcohol and smoked cigarettes at least once in the previous month, the researchers found.

Moreover, even after taking other factors into consideration such as age, gender and alcohol consumption, the researchers found that heavy use of carbonated non-diet soft drinks was significantly associated with carrying a gun or knife and violence towards peers, family and partners.

About 23 percent of those who drank one or no cans of soda a week carried a gun or knife, and 15 percent had perpetrated violence toward a partner. In comparison, among those who consumed 14 or more cans a week, 43 percent carried a gun or knife and 27 percent had been violent toward a partner, the researchers found. Similarly, violence towards peers rose from 35 percent to 58 percent while violence towards siblings rose from 25.4 percent to 43 percent.

That was the entirety of what the Boston Globe printed of a story first reported by the Washington Post.

The clear implication, and what the Globe, with it’s nanny-state-loving agenda wants folks to believe, is that drinking a lot of sugary soda causes kids to be violent, carry weapons, drink alcohol, smoke tobacco, etc. But an association between two things, even a statistically strong one, does not prove or even imply cause and effect.

For example, an equally valid, perhaps more valid conclusion would be that kids predisposed to risky behavior are more likely to carry weapons, consume alcohol and drugs , smoke, behave violently, and drink a lot of soda.

The researchers made this clear as Globe readers would have learned if the newspaper had not chosen to leave out the final two paragraphs of the Post article. (I bolded text for emphasis)

“There was a significant and strong association between soft drinks and violence. There may be a direct cause-and-effect relationship, perhaps due to the sugar or caffeine content of soft drinks, or there may be other factors, unaccounted for in our analyses, that cause both high soft drink consumption and aggression,” the researchers wrote in the journal Injury Prevention in a paper titled: “The ‘Twinkie Defense’: the relationship between carbonated non-diet soft drinks and violence perpetration among Boston high school students.”

The Twinkie Defense refers to Dan White, who was tried for the 1979 assassinations of San Francisco city district Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. White’s lawyers argued he had “diminished capacity” in part because he was depressed and had recently changed from a health-conscience diet to eating junk food such as Twinkies.

The agenda-driven intellectual dishonesty exhibited by the Globe is all too common today in all media. It’s one of, if not the primary reason newspapers and other traditional media have become ever-more irrelevant as their downhill slide toward oblivion continues apace.

Anecdotal though this may be, when I was young, I and most of my friends and relatives consumed lots of sugary drinks. To my knowledge, the only violence any of us ever engaged in were massive snowball fights in winter. Of course, back then, we didn’t sit on our butts all day playing video games. We were outside burning off all those sugar calories and more. And maybe that made all the difference. Maybe we just kept ourselves too busy having fun to think about gangs and guns and hurting other people.

What’s your take on all this?

Did you drink lots of soda as a kid? Did it drive you to packing heat and hurting your boyfriend or girlfriend?

And isn’t is sad that so many people will read the item in the Globe, and probably other newspapers, websites, and blogs, and never realize how they are being misled.

 

Should American citizenship be for sale?

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner, Mike.

***

Should American citizenship be for sale?

It was the first question that crossed my mind this morning as I read the following story.

Green cards for job creators
Program gets push even as critics question its fairness

JAY, Vt. – Birinder Bhullar had grown weary of the long business trips between his native India and the United States, so he decided to make his home in New York. But the white-haired former engineer soon realized that he would have to wait years for a visa to move to America.

Instead, Bhullar and hundreds of other wealthy immigrants found a faster way into the United States, through a ski resort in Vermont. In exchange for investing $500,000 in the resort to create jobs, the US government gave him a green card three months ago.

The 55-year-old businessman is among 450 investors from India, China, Russia, South Africa, and dozens of other countries who obtained the green cards through their investments in Jay Peak Resort, part of a controversial national program that the Obama administration is increasingly promoting in hope of creating thousands of jobs across the United States.

“I chose the investor route because it was simple and much faster,’’ said Bhullar, now a mystic in New York offering seminars in life guidance. “I could see that it would be a waste of time – it would take very long – if I chose any other option other than Jay Peak.’’

The immigrant investor program, created in 1990 by Congress to compete with a similar initiative in Canada, helps foreigners slash through the red tape in the US immigration system while allowing businesses such as Jay Peak Resort to raise the money they need to expand.

With job creation now a top political issue and traditional sources of capital hard to find, the program is being aggressively marketed to businesses and potential foreign investors. It has incited critics who condemn it as a questionable business practice or as an immigration policy that effectively allows some foreigners to buy their way into the country.

Click here to read the rest of the story.

First, I don’t understand what critics mean by calling it a questionable business practice.

People invest because they want a return on their investment. Traditionally, the return is more money. But many folks “invest” in things like land and houses and collectibles not because they seek a monetary gain,  but because they want isolation or status or the joy of collecting. They may profit monetarily some day, but profit is not the prime motivation.

Given that, how is seeking citizenship as a return on an investment any different? They face the same risk of loss as any investor. If they invest and the new jobs do not materialize within two years, their green cards are revoked and they’re sent home on top of losing their investment.

Then there is the question of what kind of new citizens do we want?

Some would say the words Emma Lazarus penned in 1883 still apply: Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

A century ago, even half a century ago, when America and the world were far different places, it was easy to embrace the sentiment behind those words. Were it not for that sentiment, I’d not be writing this post today because my father and my mother’s grandparents might never have emigrated here. But after decades of allowing illegals to pour across our borders unchecked, America no longer needs masses of unskilled labor. We have plenty of home-grown unskilled collecting welfare checks who could use a job. What we really need are new citizens with assets we can tax to help fund those welfare checks and these millionaire investors certainly fit that bill. Plus, their investments create new jobs, new opportunities for others to invest, and create even more jobs.

I say we should not only welcome these foreign investors and reward them with citizenship if they and their investments come through for us, we should be actively promoting the offer worldwide.

If we can induce ten thousand new investors here each year, the current visa limit, that translates into between five and ten billion dollars of new investment in America each year, plus millions or billions more spent here as these families set up housekeeping and go about their lives, plus at least one hundred thousand new jobs and probably many more.

I’d say that’s a damn sight better deal for America than we’ve seen from the trillions Washington has wasted on non-stimulus programs and bailouts over the past few years.

What do you think?

Good program or bad? And why?

 

 

OWS protesters get a lesson in how real life works

Monday, October 24th, 2011

They want $lice of the occu-pie

Even in Zuccotti Park, greed is good.

Occupy Wall Street’s Finance Committee has nearly $500,000 in the bank, and donations continue to pour in — but its reluctance to share the wealth with other protesters is fraying tempers.

Some drummers — incensed they got no money to replace or safeguard their drums after a midnight vandal destroyed their instruments Wednesday — are threatening to splinter off.

“F–k Finance. I hope Mayor Bloomberg gets an injunction and demands to see the movement’s books. We need to know how much money we really have and where it’s going,” said a frustrated Bryan Smith, 45, who joined OWS in Lower Manhattan nearly three weeks ago from Los Angeles, where he works in TV production.

Smith is a member of the Comfort Working Group — one of about 30 small collectives that have sprung up within OWS. The Comfort group is charged with finding out what basic necessities campers need, like thermal underwear, and then raising money by soliciting donations on the street.

“The other day, I took in $2,000. I kept $650 for my group, and gave the rest to Finance. Then I went to them with a request — so many people need things, and they should not be going without basic comfort items — and I was told to fill out paperwork. Paperwork! Are they the government now?” Smith fumed, even as he cajoled the passing crowd for more cash.

Click Here to read the rest of the story.

I really love it when life teaches lessons to the clueless.

I almost choked on my coffee from laughing when I read “…and I was told to fill out paperwork. Paperwork! Are they the government now?”

Yes, Bryan, they are the government. They are your government, the one you all presumably elected to do the work of running your little encampment. And unlike the pink sky world of the far left, where everyone gets what they want, when they want it, just by asking, in the real world, where resources are limited, someone has to decide how to prioritize how they are used. And when the coming accounting is made, don’t be surprised if some portion has been taken off the top for maintenance of the decision makers themselves.

What do you think, folks?

Am I just reinforcing Mr. Smith’s presumed opinion of nasty, evil, uncaring, unfeeling capitalists by enjoying his introduction to reality?

Should I, instead, have penned comments commiserating with his drum set’s misfortune and his inability to instantly get what he wants?

Or was my laughter just what the situation called for?

***

In a related story, the video below presents a possible reason why Smith’s drums were vandalized.

Frankly, I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t show up en masse three weeks ago to disable all the drums. Can you imagine constant drumming outside your home or business, day and night for a day much less a month?

Note how one neighbor was told she and her business are “collateral damage.” Isn’t “collateral damage” the language of the very people the OWS protestors are protesting against?

And doesn’t the sign being displayed at the end of the video tell you everything you need to know about what’s really going on with OWS?

 

Truth in Toons: Occupy Wall Street Edition

Sunday, October 23rd, 2011

Comments welcome! Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Anonymous the future of protesting?

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Today’s newspaper carried a story (Online political hacker group hits Boston police websites) about Boston Police websites being hacked by the group Anonymous in retaliation for the cops arresting a hundred or so “Occupy Boston” protesters earlier this month. Apparently, Anonymous has been hitting police sites in other cities as well.

The story got me thinking about which group and which method of protest would ultimately be more effective.

The Occupiers certainly have made a lot of noise and garnered a lot of press. They remind me of the nationwide anti-war, anti-business, anti-everything but sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll protests of my youth, way, way back in the 60′s and 70′s.

The truth is, the anti-war protests did little to nothing to actually end the war. They went on for fourteen years and could have gone on for fourteen more if Nixon had not decided it made more political sense to leave than to stay in Southeast Asia.

Some will say all the protesting engendered real change in America, but I would argue that it was the protesters growing up and gaining political and social power that effected the changes. And let’s not forget that many of the long-haired, pot-smoking, peace-sign-wearing protesters grew up to embrace the establishment once they matured and married and started families and realized money does not, in fact, grow on trees unless you’re a farmer.

Which brings me to Anonymous. They are one group who are very good at their form of protest. They do more than make noise, they “out” those they consider to be the bad guys.

I’m not passing judgement on whether what they do is right or wrong, but either way, I have to wonder what might happen if there were dozens or hundreds of such groups?

Would a thousand groups like Anonymous make things better or worse?

Would the Internet fall to anarchy?

Would it become as tightly controlled world-wide as it is in China or North Korea?

If it did, would the hacker groups move from releasing information to more destructive forms of hacking in response?

I don’t have any answers, only questions. But I’d very much like to know what you folks think.

 

 

 
 


 
 

 
 
 
 
 
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