Friday, December 23, 2011

Newt Gingrich for the win

Way to reserve, Newt Gingrich

Friday, September 23, 2011

Foreign Leaders and Visiting Ground Zero

So a friend of mine posted a video of Binyamin Netanyahu visiting the Ground Zero site in New York (he's in New York because of the Palestinian unilateral statehood resolution thing), and wondered what other world leaders have bothered to visit (a perfectly fair question).

Now, I remembered that Ahmadinejad was (understandably) prohibited from going to Ground Zero (understandable since Iran is a state sponsor of terror and Ahmadinejad has blamed the attacks on what he calls the "Zionist regime", sparking rebukes from everyone up to Al-Qaeda themselves).

However, I wasn't aware of which world leaders had visited. So I did some Googling.

Monday, August 8, 2011

RIP Sen Mark Hatfield-A Republican WAY out of step with today's party

Update: As my esteemed colleague Dr. J-Rob has pointed out, it is Keith Poole, not Ken Poole

Mark Hatfield, a former Senator from Oregon, died yesterday. He was one of those Republicans who don't exist anymore.

As the obituary notes, he increasingly became more and more out of step with his caucus. Let's look at Keith Poole's lifetime numbers. Poole's scoring is from -1 to 1, with -1 being the farthest left, 1 being the farthest right

Early in his career, in the 92nd Congress, he was the Republican with the 6th most liberal lifetime score from Keith Poole, behind Jacob Javits, Edward Brooke, Clifford Case, Charles Mathias and Lowell Weicker (who at the time was, albeit a bit more conservative). 3 other Republican Senators had lifetime scores less than; Robert Stafford, Richard Schweikert and Charles Percy. 6 more had lifetime scores between 0 and 0.1; Marlow Cook, John Sherman Cooper, George Aiken, Hiram Fong, Bob Packwood, Margaret Chase Smith and Marlow Cook.

In his last term, he was the Republican with the most liberal lifetime score. Only 3 others had lifetime scores of less than 0 (Jeffords and Specter, who later quit the party, and John Chafee, whose son Lincoln, who basically followed in his footsteps, also quit the party). Only 3 others had lifetime scores between 0 and 0.1 (Cohen, Packwood and Snowe [although Snowe may not anymore since those numbers are from 2004]).

In the 92nd Congress, Ted Stevens' lifetime score (up to 2004) of .183 placed him in the center of the Republican caucus (22nd most liberal of 45 Senators [including Prouty who died mid-Congress]). By the 104th Congress, Stevens was the 10th most liberal Republican out of 56.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Silliest Letter to the Editor Ever in the Atlanta Journal Constitution

So by this point, I have gotten used to the right-wing rants in the Letters to the Editor in the Atlanta Journal Constitution. However, I have not gotten used to the letters that are mind-boggingly stupid for reasons that have nothing to do with ideology.

Today's Letters to the Editor had one that really stands out in the mind-boggingly stupid category.

Savings bonds should be used to cut national debt

Much of the American expense of World War I and World War II was paid by war bonds. Today, federal savings bonds must be used to reduce the national debt. Professional athletes and entertainers should be used to promote the plan.

The mature dates for the bonds should be five years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, 25 years and 30 years. President Barack Obama and Congress must use bipartisan reason. Reasonable budget cuts must be made in defense and social justice programs.

Roy Wetherington, Tifton

Seriously, Mr. Wetherington thinks "Federal Savings bonds should be used to reduce the national debt." There's just one little problem with that thought.


I apologize for the all-caps, but I feel this situation warrants it. From the Treasury Department's FAQ about the national debt:

What is the Debt Held by the Public?

The Debt Held by the Public is all federal debt held by individuals, corporations, state or local governments, foreign governments, and other entities outside the United States Government less Federal Financing Bank securities. Types of securities held by the public include, but are not limited to, Treasury Bills, Notes, Bonds, TIPS, United States Savings Bonds, and State and Local Government Series securities.

This is really concerning that neither the author (who seems to be on the more well-read side given that I'm finding letters to the editor from him in all sorts of publications including the Christian Science Monitor) nor the Atlanta Journal Constitution staff realize how silly of a suggestion this is. Moreover, it may give a picture of just how little the American people (especially the less well-read ones) understand the national debt.

At the highest level, the national debt can be broken down into "debt held by the public" and "intergovernmental holdings." Debt held by the public is described above, while "intergovernmental holdings" refer to debt that parts of the U.S. government owe to other parts of the U.S. government.

The most recent monthly report from June 2011 gives the "debt held by the public" to be 9.742223 trillion dollars and the "intragovernmental holdings" to be 4.600864 trillion dollars.

Most of the "intragovernmental holdings" (about 4.3 trillion) is for retirement and disability trust funds, including the Social Security Trust fund and the Medicare trust fund(s).

Of the "debt held by the public", most of it (9.32 trillion) is held in various forms that can be bought and sold on the open market.

Of those types the cannot, 169,754 million dollars (or .169754 trillion dollars) is held in the form of United States Savings Bonds, which are distinct from market-tradeable bonds in that they can only be redeemed by the person in whose name they are issued.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Appalling Dishonesty in Robert Bryce's "Gas is Greener" Op-Ed

I suppose we should expect this sort of thing from someone supported by the Koch Industries/Foundation (their money has come from oil & natural gas), but it's still disappointing that the New York Times would print the Op-Ed.

Now, my title is perhaps overly harsh, because (unlike some other Manhattan Institute Op-Eds) there is a perfectly legitimate point at the core of the Op-Ed. This point is that solar power and even more so, wind power, do, in fact, have some significant environmental costs. Second of all, (unlike some other conservative groups/institutes) the Op-Ed implicitly acknowledges that global warming exists and that greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for it, and at least he isn't praising "clean coal" in the article.
However, it's rather dishonest to claim that natural gas is "low-carbon"; the natural gas industry itself claims that for an equivalent amount of energy, burning natural gas releases 55% as much carbon dioxide as coal. That's not close to as bad as coal, of course, but it is hardly "low." Moreover, with natural gas, you have to worry about the fact that its principle component, methane, is a far worse greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide; drilling inevitably results in leaks of natural gas that would have otherwise overwhelmingly stayed underground.

However, by far the most dishonest part of the article is the part pertaining to California's new mandate for 33% of its electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2020.

Consider California’s new mandate. The state’s peak electricity demand is about 52,000 megawatts. Meeting the one-third target will require (if you oversimplify a bit) about 17,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity. Let’s assume that California will get half of that capacity from solar and half from wind. Most of its large-scale solar electricity production will presumably come from projects like the $2 billion Ivanpah solar plant, which is now under construction in the Mojave Desert in southern California.

Now, the last sentence, while not the most egregious part of the paragraph, nevertheless is pretty bad. It sets up a straw man of assuming that increased solar capacity will have to be from building large-scale solar projects at all. It can be from solar panels on rooftops. In fact, The Luskin Center at UCLA recently released a major, detailed study estimating that Los Angeles County alone has a potential rooftop solar capacity of 19,000 megawatts, which, using Robert Bryce's numbers, would meet the 1/3 renewable requirements of the entire state of California on its own.

However, the worst and most dishonest part of the article is this:

Meeting the one-third target will require (if you oversimplify a bit) about 17,000 megawatts of renewable energy capacity. Let’s assume that California will get half of that capacity from solar and half from wind.

What's so dishonest about that? It ignores all of renewable energy capacity/production California already has; primarily hydroelectric, wind and geothermal, with some biomass and a bit of solar. If you look at data files from the Energy Information Administration and do some calculating in the spreadsheets that they provide, you will see that back in 2009, California was already generating 26.09% of its electricity from renewable sources.

In fact, for the first three months of 2011, California already MET its renewable energy standard (35.47% of its electricity was from a renewable source). Now, this is primarily from significantly higher-than-usual hydroelectric generation rather than from the smaller increase in capacity for wind, solar (and maybe geothermal?). Nevertheless, if they installed another 17,000 MW of capacity of renewable, California would easily be getting a majority of its electricity from renewable sources.

I have not talked up the additional geothermal capacity in California, but it does exist (Disclaimer: I am invested in two geothermal companies).

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Atlanta 2010 Census Population Seems to Have Been Undercounted

Above, is a scatterplot I made comparing the July 2009 Census Bureau estimated populations of cities with at least 100,000 people (according to the Jul 2009 estimates).

You can look at the spreadsheet I used/created for this here

Missing are the cities with over 1,000,000 people (because they make the rest of the scatterplot too small) as well as those cities with between 100,000 and 1,000,000 people from states the Census Bureau still has to release ( Maine, Massachusetts,Michigan,New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, South Carolina and West Virginia).

Notice how the data fits very well(even though the populations in July 2009 were slightly different from those in April 2010), with one glaring exception-the city of Atlanta, where, as it so happens, I now reside.

The July 2009 Estimate put Atlanta's population at 540,922. Today's Census 2010 release of Georgia put the April 1, 2010 population of Atlanta at 420,003, just barely up from the April 1, 2000 Census population of 416,474.

Putting aside that it just seems like there MUST have more than a 3,500 person gain based on residential development in Atlanta in the last 10 years, the chances of a city (in this case Atlanta) being more than 6 standard deviations away from the mean (no other city was more than 2.67 standard deviations away from the mean) is 1 in 500 million (assuming the error here is normally distributed, which it looks to be).

That is to say, it seems MUCH more likely that there's either a typo or a serious undercount of Atlanta's population (I tend to think they undercounted in a lot of places and not just Atlanta personally ...)

This is a very serious issue; the difference in population here is enough to account for about 1/6th of a seat in Congress, 2/3 of a seat in the Georgia Senate, and 2.25 seats in the Georgia House of Representatives, not to mention millions in population-based federal block grants.

I would strongly urge Mayor Kasim Reed to sue the Census Bureau over an undercount of Atlanta.

Anyway, all of that being said, there is the possibility that they somehow majorly majorly overlooked the "black flight" phenomenon, as the official 2010 Census numbers show a 17% increase in the white population of Atlanta but a 12% decrease in the black population (a whopping 65% increase in the Asian population, which is probably due largely to expansion of Georgia Tech). More on black flight later.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What was Huckabee Taught about the British in Arkansas Schools?

OK, so the obvious part of the stupidity in Mike Huckabee's recent statement is that President Obama grew up in Kenya. I don't even think that's a widely held view among the Birthers.

But consider the context of where Huckabee said it.

"I would love to know more. What I know is troubling enough," Huckabee said of the president in an interview with New York radio station WOR. "And one thing that I do know is his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, very different than the average American."

Huckabee, the former presidential candidate and current Fox News host who has said he is thinking about mounting another campaign, added, "his perspective as growing up in Kenya with a Kenyan father and grandfather, their view of the Mau Mau Revolution in Kenya is very different than ours because he probably grew up hearing that the British are a bunch of imperialists who persecuted his grandfather."

I guess he's got a point. I mean, look at the kind of terrible things Kenyan revolutionaries said about then-Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

  • He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
  • He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

or about the British in general

  • Thousands are already ruined by British barbarity; (thousands more will probably suffer the same fate.)

Wait, those weren't Kenyan revolutionaries; that's in the Declaration of Independence (referring to King George) and in Common Sense (Thomas Paine's famous pamphlet).

Most Americans ARE taught that the British were a bunch of imperialists who persecuted our ancestors (if we had ancestors in the country at the time). Perhaps Arkansas schools were too busy teaching the "War of Northern Aggression" and the terrible persecution of the South to have any time to teach about the British.

Hey, maybe that racist environment he grew up in is what's causing Mr. Huckabee to try to paint a black president as foreign/less-than-American. Huckabee certainly needs to answer some questions on the subject.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why is Michael Lynch still given the opportunity to write about oil?

I am absolutely shocked and disgusted that the New York Times would let Michael C. Lynch write an opinion article on oil and energy.

Now, it's one thing to have conservatives writing op-eds espousing conservative policies. It is another thing to let complete fools and failures like Michael C. Lynch with massive, massive past failures pretending to be experts on energy and writing outright lies.

Now, it wouldn't be fair if I said that without backing it up. So let's take a look at Mr. Lynch's past.

Back in November 1997, Mr. Lynch is quoted in Business Week as saying:

''Oil-price forecasters make sheep seem like independent thinkers,'' gibes Massachusetts Institute of Technology energy researcher Michael C. Lynch. ''There's no evidence that mineral prices rise over time. Technology always overwhelms depletion.''

Notice that he didn't just limit this prognostication to his own field of energy. He made the claim that this holds for mineral prices in general. Now, take a look at the relative real prices (i.e. adjusted for inflation using the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index data) for four important minerals (crude oil, gold, copper, aluminum) over the last 25 years, with the baseline in November 1997. Note: the prices for the commodities can be found here


Now, obviously the prices of these minerals have been influenced to a large extent by general market factors; in particular, copper and crude oil took an especially large price drop (because the Great Recession caused a major demand reduction). Nevertheless, for gold, copper and crude, we've not seen technology overwhelm depletion; all 3 are (even when inflation is accounted for as it is in the above graph) costing about 3 times what they were in 1997, with a general rise starting in 2000. Only aluminum (one of the most abundant elements on the planet, although much of it is not easily accessible) has more or less remained the same.

However, that's not the worst of Mr. Lynch's failures.

Why is Mr. Lynch a massive failure? Take a look at this article from Forbes in October of 2006.

Don't sell that SUV just yet. Oil, at a recent $66.50 a barrel, will fall to $45 by mid-2007 and could dip briefly into the 20s in 2008. Sometime next year you are going to see a $1.95 price on a gas pump.

So says Michael C. Lynch, 51, president of Strategic Energy & Economic Research in Amherst, Mass. He swears he hasn't been inhaling fumes. His reasoning: New supply, coming online from all corners of the world, is more than ample to satisfy growth in demand and sufficient even to withstand an embargo against Iran, which produces 3.75 million barrels of oil a day. Lynch argues that the threat of disruptions--nuclear brinkmanship, war, terrorism, hurricanes, pipeline corrosion--has larded oil prices with a $20-a-barrel risk premium. As these perils recede, oil prices will fall.

Of course, as you may remember, we didn't see $1.95 in 2007. We saw in the $70 range in mid-2007, and a RISE into the 120s in 2008. The only reason we briefly got even close to his numbers in late 2008/early 2009 was because demand plummeted thanks to the financial crisis/recession. We never saw these "new supplies," and as demand began picking up again, so did prices. And these "new supplies" are in the form of oil shale/oil sands which are far worse pollution-wise than regular oil, and riskier and riskier deep-sea, which we just saw worked out just great this summer.

Yes, Libya/Algeria are a temporary thing (unless they aren't ...), but if relatively smaller producing countries like them result in these kind of price increases, what happens if there's a revolution in Saudi Arabia?

Much to the satisfaction of the peak-oil crowd, the Obama administration is throwing federal subsidies — some $8 billion in its 2012 budget — at all sorts of unproven, unrealistic and inefficient energy technologies like wind farms and electric cars.

Now, even putting his and everyone else's stupidity on climate aside, the man is still silly.

Yeah, so unrealistic/inefficient/unproven is wind; clearly it was the Bush administration's (nonexistent) massive federal wind program that has increased the percentage of U.S. electricity from wind from 0.17% in 2001 to 2.25% in the 12 months ending November 2010 (and growing); still not much, of course, but on the other hand, Libya produces only about 2.1% of world oil and yet it's still having a real effect.

As for electric cars, they're hard to prove without building/encouraging a charging infrastructure, but they are about to start being marketed even without the infrastructure.

Friday, February 25, 2011

List of Libyan Ambassador Resignations

Below is a (non-exhaustive) list of Libyan ambassadors (and other officials) around the world who have resigned and/or broken with the Gadhafi regime as a result of the ongoing protests, with links to articles

Ambassadors/Etc Who Have Resigned

  • Arab League: Ambassador, Abdel-Moneim al-Houni resigned 2/20/2011; entire mission team resigned 2/25/2011
  • Bangladesh: AH Elimam, 2/22/2011
  • France: Mohamed Salaheddine Zarem, resigned 2/25/2011
  • India: Ali El-Assawi, resigned 2/21/2011
  • Indonesia: Salaheddin M El Bishari, resigned 2/23/2011
  • Jordan: Mohammad Hassan Barghathi, resigned 2/24/2011
  • Morocco: And 10 diplomatic staff members, 2/24/2011
  • Portugal: Ali Ibrahim Emdored, 2/25/2011
  • United Kingdom: some staff but not ambassador, 2/21/2011
  • UNESCO: Abdulsalam El Qallali, resigned 2/25/2011
  • UN Human Rights Council: Entire mission resigned 2/25/2011
  • United Nations: Several diplomatic staff including deputy Ambassador Omar Al-Dabashi (not the Ambassador, though), 2/21/2011
  • United States: Ali Suleiman Aujali, called for Gadhafi to quit, 2/22/2011

Ambassadors/Etc Supporting Gadhafi Regime

  • Brazil: Salem Ezubedi voiced support for regime 2/24/2011
  • Malta: Saadun Suayeh says Gadhafi must not go, 2/21/2011

Monday, February 14, 2011

Amusing and Interesting 2010 New York City Write-In Votes

New York City is one of all-too-few places that makes write-in vote totals publicly available on the Internet. I say all-too-few because write-in votes let you vote for whoever or whatever you want.

They don't have to be alive. They don't have to be real. It doesn't have to be a physical entity. You can even try to vote for a SQL injection

Anyway, interesting write-ins in New York City in 2010 include:

For Governor:
  • Big Bird
  • Constantine
  • Christopher Christie (Governor of New Jersey)
  • Dan Malloy (Governor of Connecticut)
  • Declined Phantom
  • Duke Nukem
  • Eternal Father & Lord
  • Full Public Funding
  • Fund Autism
  • Gay Marriage
  • God Jesus Christ
  • I Am Government Rachel E Boschey
  • I Object to No Term Limits
  • Ish Pee Pee (Unless this is actually a real person ...)
  • Lisa Murbowski (some joker referencing the write-in campaign in Alaska, intentionally misspelling Senator Murkowski's name, no doubt)
  • Norman H. Finkelstein (Ewwwwww!!!!)
  • Nuchem Rosenberg (ultra-Orthodox agitator against child abuse)
  • Pimky & the Brain
  • T. Party 
  • The Hippo at the Bronx
  • The Hoff (don't know what this is ...)
  • William Marly Tweed (a mistake for the last name of the man better known as Boss Tweed
For Senator (Schumer seat)

  • A (3 votes ...)
  • Boycott Parthed Israel! (shows the level of education and intelligence among that crowd ...)
  • D-Bag
  • Eternal Father & Lord
  • European America
  • Feisal Rauf (the imam-to-be at that controversial mosque)
  • Full Public Funding
  • Gay Marriage
  • Ham Sandwich
  • Harpo Marx
  • Ish Pee Pee (again)
  • Jeffrey Lebowski
  • Jimmy McMillan (5 votes, because the rent is too ... damn ... high)
  • King Kong
  • Lisa Murkowstz (same joker, varying) 
  • Lizard People (hell yes!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
  • Lord Jesus Christ the Son of God
  • Medicare for All
  • Miss Peggy
  • Mort Zucker-man (because of the spelling)
  • Noam Chousky 
  • Rachel Maddow of MSNBC
  • Ron Paul (because you gotta vote for him)
  • Single Payer
For Senator (Gillibrand seat)
  • Barack H. Obama
  • Bernard Madroff 
  • Captain Kirk
  • Caroline Kennedy (got like 18 votes under various name-spellings; guess she and her family were mad she wasn't appointed)
  • Free Palestine
  • Full Public Funding
  • Jack the Pumpkin King
  • Lady Ga Ga
  • None of the Foregoing (that's an amusing spelling)
  • RN
Other Races
  • (EXPLETIVE) Chanders (shame on New York for censoring!!!)
  • LEARNED HLND (if intended to be Learned Hand, amusing)
  • Lisa Munkowski (someone still having fun)
  • My Dog Karma
  • My Dog Riley
  • Non English Character (obviously it was actually some non-English character, shame on them for not letting Unicode handle it if possible)
  • Overturn Citizens United
  • Pee Wee Herman
  • Revolution
  • RX
  • Snake People 
  • Tim Lincicum
  • Bull Shit! (if they didn't censor that ...)
  • Immanuel Kant Liberal
  • Anyme But
  • Tony Soprano
  • Axl Rose
  • Comeone Qualifid 
  • Fiscus Tree
  • Fuhrer Williamsburg (heh)
  • Pupa Rabi (this was for Supreme Court, so maybe they want his Beit Din?)
  • Rabbi Judu Levin (please let this not have been an attempt to vote for Yehuda Levin ...)
  • Bernard Goetz
  • Biggie Smalls
  • Bono the Boston Terrier
  • Butt Head
  • Dick Hertz
  • Dick Hurtz
  • Frank Zappa
  • MR. X
  • SCUM
  • YODA
  • SCREW GARY ACKERMAN (for Ackerman's seat in Congress)
  • Kodos (Don't blame him/her!)
  • George Habash (seriously??? And yet no votes for Meir Kahane?????)
  • George Orwell
  • Grimm
  • JUDGE REINHOLD (to be a judge, of course)
  • LIZARD PEOPLE (3 votes, hell yes I loves NYC)
  • ROBERT DROP THE STUDENTS (was this an attempted SQL injection; I hope so ...)
  • YO MAMA!
  • BOGIE LOWENSTEIN (From 10 things I hate about you, unless it's actually a real name)
  • ADOLF HITLER (Okay, not so amusing)
  • 8 BALL
  • JOEL TEITELBAUM (But why no votes for Schneerson???)