Posted by: Bill | July 14, 2010

Quick note on Climategate

Clive Crook, writing for the Atlantic, sums up my latest thoughts on Climategate pretty well. I have not had enough time to follow the reports from various committees that “investigated” the climate scientists. However, it looks like these reports were exactly as expected. The one from Penn State made me laugh out loud.

All that being said, this post from Ezra Klein actually made me think….that maybe I need to reconsider some things. If we are going to spend a boatload of money on this, I have always preferred we tax carbon rather than use a hair-brained cap and trade system. Here are a few paragraphs of his argument that caused me, for the first time in a long time, to think that maybe such a tax is a half-decent idea rather than just the best of a group of bad ideas.

There’s a range of likely outcomes from a tax on carbon, and we can handle most of them. There’s also a range of outcomes from radical changes in the planet’s climate, and we’ve really no idea which we can handle, and which we can’t. We don’t even really know what that range looks like. And although a tax can be undone or reformed, there’s no guarantee that we can reverse hundreds of years of rapid greenhouse gas buildup in the atmosphere. If you want proof, look at our inability to deal with an underwater oil spill, and consider how much more experience we have repairing oil rigs than reversing concentrations of gases in the atmosphere.

One of the oddities of the global warming debate, in fact, is that the side that’s usually skeptical of government intervention is potentially setting up a future in which the government is intervening on a planetary scale. I don’t think of myself as particularly skeptical of the feds, but I’m a lot more comfortable with their ability to levy a tax than their capacity to reform the atmosphere. That’s why, when faced with the choice between being risk averse about a tax or about the planet, I tend to choose the planet.

Posted by: Bill | July 14, 2010

Facial Hair Poll results

As anyone who looked can tell, as of this writing we have 13 votes with 7 in favor of the Walt Whitman style beard. Unfortunately, I am forced to disappoint those voters. You see, there is the issue of “Heather’s opinion is worth…a lot more than 1 point”. There is also the problem that this blog operates like the US Senate right now. In other words, we like to talk a lot, debate things over and over and we can’t actually act without 60% agreement. 7 out of 13 is only 54%. I will leave the poll open for a few more days though and see what happens. Maybe Heather will change her mind or I, as requested, will include options for some of these.

Posted by: Bill | July 10, 2010

Back, by Popular Demand!

Ok, that isn’t true at all unless you consider 2-3 requests popular demand. I should be able to blog more frequently across the next month as I have left ABCTE. More on this in future posts.

In the meantime, since I have a month with no office to visit, I have the opportunity to grow some facial hair. I offer you all a vote. Your opinion’s are worth 1 point. Heather’s opinion is worth…a lot more than 1 point. Some reference points are below followed by your chance to vote.

Well-groomed beard


Walt Whitman

Posted by: Bill | April 21, 2010

More on the Stanford run charter

The post is short. Read the comments if this topic interests you as that is where the meat of the discussion lies. It doesn’t really change how I feel about this, but tells a better story than the NYT’s article which was, shockingly, poorly reported.

Posted by: Bill | April 19, 2010

Stanford run charter denied extension

I’m not surprised at all. Here is the perfect example of why this school did not live up to expectations. From  the NYT article:

After the vote, Beth Injasoulian, who teaches statistics at the high school, said, “This was such an act of courage to start this school despite the challenges.”

Courage? This was a public charter school that outspent its peers. How about “We opened a school in a neighborhood with characteristics shared by thousands of schools in the US and we failed to live up to expectations.” This is, once again, the beauty of a charter. It’s time runs out and it needs to be renewed. The churn is not fun for the families involved, but cannot be avoided. I would love to add more about how the touchy-feely is not a great approach when kids start out behind, but I don’t have enough evidence to label this school.

Posted by: Bill | March 30, 2010

Simple math for small businesses

Another health insurance legislation post. The math here is hard to argue with. There is time to change how this will be implemented. Otherwise, I think we are going to have a problem. From John Cassidy at the New Yorker web site:

Take a medium-sized firm that employs a hundred people earning $40,000 each—a private security firm based in Atlanta, say—and currently offers them health-care insurance worth $10,000 a year, of which the employees pay $2,500. This employer’s annual health-care costs are $750,000 (a hundred times $7,500). In the reformed system, the firm’s workers, if they didn’t have insurance, would be eligible for generous subsidies to buy private insurance. For example, a married forty-year-old security guard whose wife stayed home to raise two kids could enroll in a non-group plan for less than $1,400 a year, according to the Kaiser Health Reform Subsidy Calculator. (The subsidy from the government would be $8,058.)

In a situation like this, the firm has a strong financial incentive to junk its group coverage and dump its workers onto the taxpayer-subsidized plan. Under the new law, firms with more than fifty workers that don’t offer coverage would have to pay an annual fine of $2,000 for every worker they employ, excepting the first thirty. In this case, the security firm would incur a fine of $140,000 (seventy times two), but it would save $610,000 a year on health-care costs. If you owned this firm, what would you do? Unless you are unusually public spirited, you would take advantage of the free money that the government is giving out. Since your employees would see their own health-care contributions fall by more than $1,100 a year, or almost half, they would be unlikely to complain. And even if they did, you would be saving so much money you afford to buy their agreement with a pay raise of, say, $2,000 a year, and still come out well ahead.

Even if the government tried to impose additional sanctions on such firms, I doubt it would work. The dollar sums involved are so large that firms would try to game the system, by, for example, shutting down, reincorporating under a different name, and hiring back their employees without coverage. They might not even need to go to such lengths. Firms that pay modest wages have high rates of turnover. By simply refusing to offer coverage to new employees, they could pretty quickly convert most of their employees into non-covered workers.

Posted by: Bill | March 30, 2010

Health care snippets

I’ve been away for awhile. Any free time has been spent sleeping, staring at my girls beautiful smiles, taking pictures of said smiles or posting pictures of those smiles on the family blog. I’m rolling the dice tonight though as the girls are sleeping well. I have much to say on many topics (as usual). I am guessing that the only way that I will have time to blog now and then is to not think so much about each post. Isn’t this how blogging/twitter/etc. are supposed to work you ask? Yes, but I have had trouble in the past just throwing the first thing that pops into my head onto the interwebz. I am trying to change that.

Here is an interesting thought from Tyler Cowen on Marginal Revolution:

Many Americans will receive subsidies for insurance, from what I understand roughly in the range of 6k to 12k. Many other Americans — namely those who already have health insurance — will not receive direct subsidies of this nature. Yet the subsidy-receiving and non-subsidy-receiving Americans will very often belong to the same income classes.

This disparity does not bother me personally (I have other worries about the subsidies), but I believe it will be very unpopular once it is publicly understood. One way or another, the “firewall” between the exchanges and the employer-supplied system will break down. Some people will want to spread the subsidies, others will want to limit them. Yet the former is budgetarily problematic and the latter will be politically difficult.

I am still coming to terms with what this bill will actually mean in the long run. My understanding is severely limited right now. I am also trying to keep an open mind.

Posted by: Bill | February 23, 2010

I often feel this way

TNC describes, with brevity, how I often feel when writing a post.The last line made me laugh out loud because it’s perfect.

It really sucks when you spend the morning writing a blog-post, and you can’t convince yourself that you’re right. Hours of writing and thinking, and you don’t so much realize you’re wrong, as you’re just not convinced you’re right. All of that work for naught.

People who talk shit about bloggers need to try it. It’s fucking hard.

Granted, I don’t do this for a living like him so I don’t spend hours on any post. Believe me, I wish I could though. I am comforted by the fact that I have a small audience and that it’s unlikely I will lose my job for sucking at this. Speaking of blogging for a living though, I will be doing more of that under the ABCTE banner given the departure of the big boss.

Posted by: Bill | February 18, 2010

Tom Friedman’s latest column made me laugh out loud

As I have noted before, I used to be a leading Friedman disciple. However his columns and books have increasingly been about one topic and frankly, they just got boring. Are they wrong or off? I think so, but that remains to be seen.

His latest column feels like he didn’t really work that hard on it though. It was that bad. I will leave it to Chris Horner for a detailed critique. Please follow the link, if only to see Friedman’s house.

My apologies. Very cynical today.

Posted by: Bill | February 18, 2010

My hometown featured in the WSJ

Ok, perhaps “featured” is not the right term. Maybe “having their financial laundry aired” is more accurate. It appears that the city of Harrisburg, PA is teetering on the verge of municipal bankruptcy (link might be gated). The article mentions a large amount of debt on an incinerator as part of the issue. My mother has been ranting about that incinerator for years so it appears she was right about it.

In Harrisburg, which is Pennsylvania’s capital and has a population of about 47,000, a March 1 deadline is looming on a payment of $2 million out of the $68 million due this year for the financing of an incinerator plant. The facility has about $288 million in overall debt.

“Bankruptcy is inevitable,” Mr. Miller says. “We are in a terrible bind.” A budget passed Saturday by Harrisburg’s city council didn’t include any funds to cover the debt payments, according to the city clerk’s office.

I thought the former mayor had been appointed for life. He was first elected in 1981 and finally lost the Democratic primary in 2009. 28 years! Maybe he saw the financial writing on the wall and threw the election. Anyhow, I don’t usually have much to say about the ‘Burg because this blog concentrates on the here and now, but I should devote a post to it someday. It’s a good place to grow up and I’m sad to see they are facing such large debt issues.

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