Monday, April 12, 2010

Polar Ice And Global Warming

SeeWhat's the Next 'Global Warming'? Herewith I propose a contest to invent the next panic by By BRET STEPHENS. From the WSJ, 4-6-10, p. A15.
"..."much of the record breaking loss of ice in the Arctic ocean in recent years is [due] to the region's swirling winds and is not a direct result of global warming." It also turns out that the extent of Arctic sea ice in March was around the recorded average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center."

Freedom Serves Education

See Why Freer Schools Are Better Schools: The charter school movement is succeeding because it liberates teachers and principals from rules and regulations and holds them accountable for results by PHILIP K. HOWARD. From the WSJ 3-25-10, p. A21. Mr. Howard, a lawyer, is chair of Common Good ( and author of "Life Without Lawyers," (W.W. Norton & Co, 2009). Exerpts:
"...a legal library is required to keep up with mandates for due process, special education, work rules, and a jungle of local laws and regulations that try to dictate a uniform response to any issue that might arise. A 2004 study of the rules in one New York City school by Common Good, the legal reform organization I run, found that the daily decisions made by teachers and principals are dictated by thousands of regulations.

Over 60 steps and legal considerations are required to suspend a disruptive student."

"First, we must restore teachers' authority to maintain order. A 2004 Public Agenda survey found that 43% of teachers spend more time trying to maintain order than teaching. The rise of school disorder is directly correlated with the rise of due process, NYU Professor Richard Arum found in his 2003 landmark study "Judging School Discipline." Teachers must be able to remove disruptive students immediately."

Are Speculators Heroes?

Maybe. It was said in the NY Times article titled Those Wall Street Gamblers Might Not Be Bad After All. From the 3-21-10 edition, p. WK 5. It was by NELSON D. SCHWARTZ. Exerpts:
"“If there are heroes in the financial system, these are the heroes,” said Frank Partnoy, a professor of law and finance at the University of San Diego. “They’re the people who bet against Enron, who bet against Lehman and warned it was insolvent.”

It’s not just academics who are coming to the defense of speculators. Earlier this month, BaFin, the regulatory agency that oversees financial markets in Germany, concluded that speculators weren’t behind Greece’s problems. A more likely cause was that investors were simply wary of lending the Greek government any more money following years of heavy borrowing and widening budget deficits."

"“Every time the market goes down, they blame short-sellers and speculators,” said Jim Chanos, a famous short-seller who manages more than $6 billion and was among the earliest voices to warn about Enron as well as the credit crisis. But his trades aren’t gambles at all. “We do as much fundamental research as anybody,” he said.

If that’s the case, speculators are far from being a plague on the markets. Instead, they help reduce risk by taking on the other side of popular trades, resisting the herd mentality that creates bubbles in the first place."

"The speculator “loves freedom, detests cant and abhors restrictions,” Edward Chancellor wrote in his 1999 book, “Devil Take the Hindmost: A History of Financial Speculation.”

According to Mr. Chancellor, a financial strategist in Boston, speculators aren’t motivated by greed, after all. Instead, idealism fuels their trades.

“The essence of speculation remains a utopian yearning for freedom and equality which counterbalances the drab rationalistic materialism of the modern economic system with its inevitable inequalities of wealth,” he argued in his book."

"Victor Niederhoffer, a legendary hedge fund manager and self-described speculator..." said “But when my daughters ask me if my job is as important as the butcher’s, the doctor’s or the scientist’s, I answer that the speculator is a hero, and has been throughout history.”"

The Real Arithmetic of Health Care Reform

That is the title of a New York times article by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was the director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2003 to 2005, is the president of the American Action Forum, a policy institute. From the 3-21-2010 issue, page WK 12. To read it go to The Real Arithmetic of Health Care Reform. He thinks health care will cost more than expected. Here are the relevant exerpts:

Could the health care bill lower deficits? He says:
"The answer, unfortunately, is that the budget office is required to take written legislation at face value and not second-guess the plausibility of what it is handed. So fantasy in, fantasy out.

In reality, if you strip out all the gimmicks and budgetary games and rework the calculus, a wholly different picture emerges: The health care reform legislation would raise, not lower, federal deficits, by $562 billion."

"Gimmick No. 1 is the way the bill front-loads revenues and backloads spending. That is, the taxes and fees it calls for are set to begin immediately, but its new subsidies would be deferred so that the first 10 years of revenue would be used to pay for only 6 years of spending.

Even worse, some costs are left out entirely. To operate the new programs over the first 10 years, future Congresses would need to vote for $114 billion in additional annual spending. But this so-called discretionary spending is excluded from the Congressional Budget Office’s tabulation."

"...the provision to have corporations deposit $8 billion in higher estimated tax payments in 2014, thereby meeting fiscal targets for the first five years. But since the corporations’ actual taxes would be unchanged, the money would need to be refunded the next year."

"... it would use $53 billion in anticipated higher Social Security taxes to offset health care spending. Social Security revenues are expected to rise as employers shift from paying for health insurance to paying higher wages. But if workers have higher wages, they will also qualify for increased Social Security benefits when they retire."

"...the legislation proposes to trim $463 billion from Medicare spending and use it to finance insurance subsidies. But Medicare is already bleeding red ink, and the health care bill has no reforms that would enable the program to operate more cheaply in the future."

"The bottom line is that Congress would spend a lot more; steal funds from education, Social Security and long-term care to cover the gap; and promise that future Congresses will make up for it by taxing more and spending less."