Jan 06 2015

An engineer explains why the IPCC climate models failed to predict the reality of the last 20 years

Category: environment,global warming,government,Group-thinkharmonicminer @ 9:39 pm

This is all pretty theoretical, and may be hard for some to follow. But the point is simple: even in purely theoretical terms, IPCC climate models are fatally flawed because they are too simple, and allow themselves to be driven by only a single variable, CO2, and assumptions of CO2 climate sensitivity expressed as a constant (which those models make wild guesses at).

Thankfully, we don’t have to trust only the theoretical reasons that the IPCC climate models are flawed. We have actual data. Global warming essentially stopped around 16-19 years ago. Even the traditional “97 percenters” have had to admit that. The models of the mid 1990s that the so called “97 percent” relied on have been falsified. Simple as that. So the modelers keep coming up with ad hoc and post hoc explanations for why the models didn’t work, none of which can actually be tested, and none of which fit all the available facts. And I thought spinning was limited to political consultants. Oh, I forgot… the whole global warming enterprise IS essentially a political one, not a scientific one. But I digress.

One way to read the attached article is as one explanation for why the known bad models didn’t work. In a way, all of the attempts by the 97 percenters to come up with explanations for why their models failed are an acknowledgement of the second equation in the article linked above, ∆T = k.log( ∆CO2) + f(∆x), where the last term, f(∆x), has nothing at all to do with CO2. Apparently, there is at least one such term in any equation that actually describes the reality we now know. Read the article. It should make at least some sense to you. The triangle is read as “change in.”

The point: CO2 is not the only, or probably even a major, variable in climate change, which is reality, and has always happened over sufficient time.

Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t seem to have caught up with the facts of the situation (namely, that global warming has stopped, the IPCC is dead wrong, but so much entrenched power and privilege is driving the global warming scam that it won’t die easily), and still believe the scare-mongering. It’s kind of sad, really.


Apr 26 2014

Benghazi questions the media doesn’t seem to ask

Category: corruption,government,Group-think,mediaharmonicminer @ 7:18 pm


Aug 06 2012

Winners and losers?

Category: economy,election 2012,government,Group-think,Obamaharmonicminer @ 11:00 am

Some people accuse leftist federal government (namely Obama) of picking winners and losers. That isn’t really fair. Obama just picks losers.

Solar-cell manufacturer Solyndra became a household name when it collapsed, taking $627 million in American taxpayer dollars with it. It’s the poster company for the government picking winners and losers—or really, just losers—in the energy market. But there are 12 more “green energy” losers that have declared bankruptcy despite attempts to prop them up with taxpayer money—and the list is growing.

There’s a reason why these companies could not rely solely on private financing and needed help from the government. They couldn’t make it on their own; they couldn’t even make it with extra taxpayer help.

These green government “investments” take from one (by taxing or borrowing) and give to another, but they merely move money around. They do not create jobs. They send labor and resources to areas of the economy where they are wasted. Proponents of special financing and tax credits for solar companies claim that these benefits will pay for themselves down the line—but when the companies receiving them are going bankrupt, that is highly unlikely.

Kate Adams, a member of Heritage’s Young Leaders Program, and Heritage’s Rachael Slobodien compiled a list of the 12 members of the Green Graveyard—companies that received taxpayer money for green initiatives yet have filed for bankruptcy.

  1. Abound Solar (Loveland, Colorado), manufacturer of thin film photovoltaic modules.
  2. Beacon Power (Tyngsborough, Massachusetts), designed and developed advanced products and services to support stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid operation.
  3. Ener1 (Indianapolis, Indiana), built compact lithium-ion-powered battery solutions for hybrid and electric cars.
  4. Energy Conversion Devices (Rochester Hills, Michigan/Auburn Hills, Michigan), manufacturer of flexible thin film photovoltaic (PV) technology and a producer of batteries and other renewable energy-related products.
  5. Evergreen Solar, Inc. (Marlborough, Massachusetts), manufactured and installed solar panels.
  6. Mountain Plaza, Inc. (Dandridge, Tennessee), designed and implemented “truck-stop electrification” technology.
  7. Olsen’s Crop Service and Olsens Mills Acquisition Co. (Berlin, Wisconsin), a private company producing ethanol.
  8. Range Fuels (Soperton, Georgia), tried to develop a technology that converted biomass into ethanol without the use of enzymes.
  9. Raser Technologies (Provo, Utah), geothermal power plants and technology licensing.
  10. Solyndra (Fremont, California), manufacturer of cylindrical panels of thin-film solar cells.
  11. Spectrawatt (Hopewell, New York), solar cell manufacturer.
  12. Thompson River Power LLC (Wayzata, Minnesota), designed and developed advanced products and services to support stable, reliable and efficient electricity grid operation.

Is there a company somewhere that you don’t like? See if you can get the Obama stimulus spenders to give money to it. It’s the kiss of death.


Jul 30 2012

Learning from experience… the hard way

Category: election 2008,election 2012,government,Group-think,humor,media,Obamaharmonicminer @ 10:44 am


Feb 29 2012

Repeating an atrocity with “preventive” care

If you read this when it was first posted, check out the three UPDATES made to it since.  Just scroll on down.

As Mrs. Miner wrote in Hey, What About MY Choice?, there is enormous pressure from the medical establishment to do invasive “prenatal testing” (including amniocentesis) under the guise of “preventive care,”  as if killing a disabled child before it’s born is treatment of a medical condition, instead of simply murder of the helpless.

Mark Leach writes in the Washington Examiner about Repeating an atrocity with “preventive care”

President Obama signed “Rosa’s Law,” sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and named for one of her constituents, a little girl with Down syndrome, in 2010.

The law eliminates the phrase “mental retardation” from federal laws and regulations, replacing it with “intellectual disability.” Another law sponsored by Mikulski threatens to eliminate girls like Rosa and my daughter, Juliet, from future generations.

Rick Santorum recently attacked President Obama for the Department of Health and Human Services’ mandate requiring no-cost prenatal testing. This mandate is part of Mikulski’s amendment to Obamacare requiring preventive care services for women.

Genetic conditions like my Juliet’s Down syndrome and Santorum’s daughter Bella’s Trisomy 18 can be prenatally diagnosed, but not treated prenatally. The HHS mandate begs the question: How does prenatal testing for genetic conditions that cannot be treated prenatally qualify as “preventive” care?

Obama’s campaign spokeswoman responded to Santorum’s concerns by saying prenatal testing is for the health of the mother and baby and to bring about safer deliveries.

Not so in the case of prenatal testing for genetic conditions. Instead, most women terminate following a positive test result — a decidedly unhealthy and unsafe delivery for the baby.

Indeed, this is the effect of prenatal testing for genetic conditions. Last summer, a report from Denmark predicted the country would be “Down syndrome-free” by 2030, due to its prenatal testing program.

Isn’t that nice.  Europe seems to have learned little of moral worth from its experience with German eugenics programs in the Nazi era.

In Switzerland, 87 percent of all Down syndrome pregnancies are terminated. In France, 96 percent of fetuses with Down syndrome are aborted following a prenatal diagnosis.

This effect is not limited to other countries. California has had a prenatal testing program for Down syndrome since the 1980s. Researchers found that 47 percent fewer children with Down syndrome were born than would have naturally occurred.

They flatly admitted that California’s prenatal testing program’s purpose is to reduce the number of children born with Down syndrome through earlier abortions.

As if we didn’t know that already.  It’s made pretty explicit by the “medical providers” who pressure women to have amniocentesis.  ”Could you live with a Down’s child?” they say.  This is exactly what Mrs. Miner experienced in the glorious people’s republic of California.

Did Mikulski intend for her preventive care services amendment to eliminate children like Rosa, Juliet, Bella and others with genetic conditions from future generations?

Well, yes.  The believers in using abortion to filter out the unfit defend it on a variety of grounds, from financial burden on society to pretended concern about the “poor quality of life” the soon-to-be murdered unborn child would have without the beneficently performed therapeutic dismemberment.

We are left to wonder because, unlike Santorum, Mikulski has not spoken out on this issue. Other voices have so far been silent, too.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton recently stormed out of a hearing on the HHS mandate for birth control. Norton is a co-chair of the Congressional Down Syndrome Caucus and a mother to a young lady with Down syndrome.

Perhaps she’ll express the same indignation about Obamacare’s policy to prevent children like her daughter from being born in future generations? Likewise, the CDSC lists more than 50 members, including Norton’s co-chairs and fellow parents, Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, R-Wash., and Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.

Perhaps, they, too, and many others, regardless of political party, will wonder why a regulation expresses the view that unborn children with genetic conditions should be prevented from being born.

Last century, people who thought themselves upstanding citizens stood by silently while a segment of their society was targeted for elimination based solely on their fundamental nature.

Civilized nations said “never again.” Yet, here we are at the turn of this century dealing with the next challenge to whether we believe our creed that we are all created equal.

Voices are needed to call for the rescinding of the HHS’ mandate for no-cost prenatal testing for genetic conditions as “preventive” care, before we repeat a historic atrocity.

It was always the intent of the Margaret Sangers of the world, and their ideological kin such as Planned Parenthood, to eliminate the unfit from society, hopefully by keeping them from being born in the first place, even if that involved killing them in the womb….  or out of it, for that matter.

UPDATE:

The day has brought an embarrassment of riches from the point of view of pro-life bloggers, but an embarrassment of moral poverty on the part of some “medical ethicists,” who seem to have stood on its ear the meaning of the word “ethics.”  This just in:

Killing babies no different from abortion, experts say

Parents should be allowed to have their newborn babies killed because they are “morally irrelevant” and ending their lives is no different to abortion, a group of medical ethicists linked to Oxford University has argued.

The article, published in the Journal of Medical Ethics, says newborn babies are not “actual persons” and do not have a “moral right to life”. The academics also argue that parents should be able to have their baby killed if it turns out to be disabled when it is born.

The journal’s editor, Prof Julian Savulescu, director of the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, said the article’s authors had received death threats since publishing the article. He said those who made abusive and threatening posts about the study were “fanatics opposed to the very values of a liberal society”.

The article, entitled “After-birth abortion: Why should the baby live?”, was written by two of Prof Savulescu’s former associates, Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva.

They argued: “The moral status of an infant is equivalent to that of a fetus in the sense that both lack those properties that justify the attribution of a right to life to an individual.”

Rather than being “actual persons”, newborns were “potential persons”. They explained: “Both a fetus and a newborn certainly are human beings and potential persons, but neither is a ‘person’ in the sense of ‘subject of a moral right to life’.

“We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her.”

As such they argued it was “not possible to damage a newborn by preventing her from developing the potentiality to become a person in the morally relevant sense”.

The authors therefore concluded that “what we call ‘after-birth abortion’ (killing a newborn) should be permissible in all the cases where abortion is, including cases where the newborn is not disabled”.

They also argued that parents should be able to have the baby killed if it turned out to be disabled without their knowing before birth, for example citing that “only the 64 per cent of Down’s syndrome cases” in Europe are diagnosed by prenatal testing.

Once such children were born there was “no choice for the parents but to keep the child”, they wrote.

“To bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care.”

However, they did not argue that some baby killings were more justifiable than others – their fundamental point was that, morally, there was no difference to abortion as already practised.

They preferred to use the phrase “after-birth abortion” rather than “infanticide” to “emphasise that the moral status of the individual killed is comparable with that of a fetus”.

You have to give these infanticide enablers this: they’re very logical in proceeding from the starting point of abortion-on-demand. It was bound to come to this. And it has.

UPDATE #2:

I would blame this on Britain’s apparent desire to self-destruct, but we have our own apologist for the appalling, right here in the good ‘ole US of A, in the form of Peter Singer.  Of course, he’s really Australian, so maybe he doesn’t count as an American.  He came from the Commonwealth, after all, which may soon be commonly Islamic.  Maybe there’s something in the water that people drink in Australia.

UPDATE #3:

At this link, an Australian “ethicist” argues on a radio show in Iowa that

 after-birth abortions should be permitted if parents decide that they want to prevent their child from having a difficult or painful life. One of the reasons many people abort fetuses, she notes, is due to diseases or other deformities. But, some of these disorders are not detected while the child is in the womb. In cases such as this, Minerva and Giubilini argue in their paper, termination of the newborn should be allowed. This sentiment should also apply then to healthy newborns, she says, because some people abort perfectly health fetuses for a variety of personal reasons as well.

Again, this is the logical conclusion of permitting and encouraging abortion-on-demand for any reason at all, or none.  So on the one hand, these “ethicists” are just being reasonable.

Reasonably monstrous, of course….  along with the rest of the pro-abort crowd.


Feb 15 2012

American Catholicism’s pact with the Devil?

In this article at ToRenewAmerica, I wrote about the failure of the “Seamless Garment” perspective of Cardinal Bernadin to provide a proper moral compass for Catholics and other Christians by equating the moral necessity to resist abortion with the promotion of essentially socialist perspectives on society and government, making resistance to abortion the hostage of socialist policies.  Bernadin’s positions on this have provided cover for way too many Catholics to support leftist, pro-abortion politicians, in the name of vague sounding concern for the poor, politicians whose policies and enacted laws have had a distinctly non-vague, and very negative impact on life in these United States.

And now the comeuppance of these very confused Christians and Catholics has arrived, in the form of a President Obama whom they helped to elect, a president whose plan all along was to find a way to force all Americans to pay for abortifacient birth control, even if it is against their religious beliefs.

Now, Professor Paul Rahe has written on American Catholicism’s Pact With The Devil.

….the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.At every turn in American politics since that time, you will find the hierarchy assisting the Democratic Party and promoting the growth of the administrative entitlements state. At no point have its members evidenced any concern for sustaining limited government and protecting the rights of individuals. It did not cross the minds of these prelates that the liberty of conscience which they had grown to cherish is part of a larger package – that the paternalistic state, which recognizes no legitimate limits on its power and scope, that they had embraced would someday turn on the Church and seek to dictate whom it chose to teach its doctrines and how, more generally, it would conduct its affairs.

I would submit that the bishops, nuns, and priests now screaming bloody murder have gotten what they asked for. The weapon that Barack Obama has directed at the Church was fashioned to a considerable degree by Catholic churchmen. They welcomed Obamacare. They encouraged Senators and Congressmen who professed to be Catholics to vote for it.

I do not mean to say that I would prefer that the bishops, nuns, and priests sit down and shut up. Barack Obama has once again done the friends of liberty a favor by forcing the friends of the administrative entitlements state to contemplate what they have wrought. Whether those brought up on the heresy that public provision is akin to charity will prove capable of thinking through what they have done remains unclear. But there is now a chance that this will take place, and there was a time – long ago, to be sure, but for an institution with the longevity possessed by the Catholic Church long ago was just yesterday – when the Church played an honorable role in hemming in the authority of magistrates and in promoting not only its own liberty as an institution but that of others similarly intent on managing their own affairs as individuals and as members of subpolitical communities.

In my lifetime, to my increasing regret, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States has lost much of its moral authority. It has done so largely because it has subordinated its teaching of Catholic moral doctrine to its ambitions regarding an expansion of the administrative entitlements state. In 1973, when the Supreme Court made its decision in Roe v. Wade, had the bishops, priests, and nuns screamed bloody murder and declared war, as they have recently done, the decision would have been reversed. Instead, under the leadership of Joseph Bernardin, the Cardinal-Archbishop of Chicago, they asserted that the social teaching of the Church was a “seamless garment,” and they treated abortion as one concern among many. 

 

There is more at the link, all worth reading, and pretty forthright in its condemnation of the Catholic church leadership’s “deal with the devil,” that is, its deal with the powers of the state.  Basically, it failed to render unto God what is God’s, and gave way too much away to Caesar, and was aided in this by liberal Christians of all stripes.


Feb 03 2012

Hey, What About MY Choice? Part 3

In the beginning post of this series, I told the story of how California doctors and medical providers just couldn’t get it through their heads that even though I was a 35 yr old soon-to-be-mom, I did NOT want amniocentesis, because of the risk of miscarriage and the fact that it could not reveal any information I would actually be able to use.  But the medical types were really determined.  In the second post of this series, I told of how a doctor threatened to withhold care from me, and a necessary examination, if I didn’t submit to his attempt to coerce me into “genetic counseling,”  at a minimum, with the obvious agenda of getting me to agree to amniocentesis.

How DARE the doctors make me defend my refusal to have a test that could have resulted in my child’s death!  Imagine the news if “just” one percent of school buses on a given day crashed.  Out of ten thousand school buses, that means that one hundred buses crashed.  Now, imagine the public’s reaction if every child on those hundred buses died.  It’s incomprehensible to imagine such a thing.  When a SINGLE bus crashes and ANY children are killed, the tragedy makes national news.  Yet the medical establishment displays a remarkably cavalier attitude toward the fact that given the prevalence of amniocentesis, undoubtedly many healthy, “wanted” children die every year or are born prematurely.

I have since come to understand another disturbing fact surrounding the aggressive push for prenatal testing: many parents demand these tests.  We live in an age where, as Mark Steyn has stated, parents often put off childbearing until later in life and then have “one designer baby.”  And only one.  As fertility invariably decreases with age, some turn to fertility drugs and/or in vitro fertilization, which can result in multiple fetuses.  No worries, though.  Through a process known as “selective reduction,” the mother can have the “extra” babies killed, leaving her with only one child.  And boy, that kid better be perfect.  If the child fails to meet the consumers’ (aka parents’) expectations, the doctor might well find himself slapped with a “wrongful birth” lawsuit.  The heart-breaking fact is that around 90% of children identified with Down syndrome are aborted.  (It’s worth noting, however, that amniocentesis is not completely accurate, which means that a number of “healthy” children are mistakenly thought to have a genetic defect and are then aborted.)  Given the fact that prenatal life is valued so little, I suppose it’s no wonder I was sometimes treated as a socially irresponsible freak for refusing genetic testing.

My next several visits to the obstetrician were uneventful, except that he kept looking at my chart and saying, “Oh, yeah.  You refused amnio.”  Was my choice really that unusual?  Perhaps so.   During that time, I ran into several women, mostly strangers, pregnant women who would say, “I had to have amniocentesis.”  One even said to me (both of us standing there, pregnant, in Burlington Coat Factory’s baby section), “I’m scheduled for amniocentesis tomorrow.  I really don’t want to do it, but I have to.”  How many women are made to feel that they have no choice?

About nine weeks shy of my due date, I began having painful contractions.  It didn’t appear to be labor, but with my doctor’s recommendation, I decided to take a break from my job as a special education teacher at a local junior high.  A short time later, I went into full-blown preterm labor.  My baby wasn’t handling my contractions very well, so the doctor said they were probably going to have to deliver her early.  Thankfully, labor was stopped by a combination of three different medications.  I was confined mostly to bed for the remainder of my pregnancy and continued taking medication.  Given this precarious situation, I couldn’t help but wonder if an earlier decision to have amniocentesis might have resulted in an extremely premature baby – or even a stillbirth.  I’ll never know, but I shudder when I consider the possibilities.

Finally, the day I had been longing for arrived, and I gave birth to a beautiful full-term baby girl.  Shortly before being discharged, a clerical worker from the hospital came to my room and asked me to sign a form.  By signing, I would be acknowledging that I had received certain types of care in the hospital, as well as during my pregnancy.  I noticed three number codes and asked that each be explained.  When she reached the third code, she said that its numbers stood for amniocentesis.   “I didn’t have amniocentesis,” I sighed.  She looked surprised and then asked, “Are you sure?”

Sometimes you’ve just got to laugh.


Jan 29 2012

Hey, What About MY Choice? Part 2

The previous post in this three part series is here.

In the beginning post of this series, I told the story of how California doctors and medical providers just couldn’t get it through their heads that even though I was a 35 yr old soon-to-be-mom, I did NOT want amniocentesis, because of the risk of miscarriage and the fact that it could not reveal any information I would actually be able to use.  But the medical types were really determined.  Read on.

I agreed to have a high-resolution sonogram referred to by my doctor as “Level 4” (L4), to be performed by a different doctor when I was about four months pregnant.  When I called to set up the appointment for this procedure, the nurse on the line began discussing the preparations for amniocentesis.  I patiently explained that I had declined this procedure and would be having the sonogram only.  She seemed quite surprised, but finally said that she would put a notation on my chart so that I would not be “hassled” any further.  (But wait, it was ALREADY on my chart.)  About two weeks later, another nurse called to confirm my appointment for the next day and began giving me instructions regarding amniocentesis.  I told her, a bit less patiently this time, that I had declined amniocentesis and would only be having the sonogram.  She told me that I was scheduled for amniocentesis.  I said, “Read my chart.”  She said, “Come prepared for amnio anyway!”

My husband (aka Harmonicminer) and I arrived at the clinic for my L4 sonogram the next day.  I tried to put all thoughts of large needles near babies’ heads, prenatal child kil …. er, I mean “pregnancy terminations,” etc., out of my head.  I just wanted to see my baby.  I was, of course, hoping the exam would bring good news but was prepared to accept whatever the test might reveal.

The clinic’s high-risk specialist, Dr. Shah, entered the room, glanced at his notes and said, “You’re here for an L4 and an amniocentesis.”  Feeling like a broken record, I explained – AGAIN – that I had thoroughly discussed my options with my obstetrician and had signed the form refusing amniocentesis and genetic counseling.  I had only agreed, on my doctor’s advice, to have the L4 sonogram.

Dr. Shah snapped, “You should not have been ALLOWED to sign that refusal without first undergoing genetic counseling!”  He then said, nonsensically, that amniocentesis was “for my own safety.”  Furthermore, he refused to even do the sonogram until, at a minimum, I subjected myself to “counseling.”  Seriously?!?    Was he actually threatening to withhold medical care unless I submitted to his authority?

I was too upset to endure the heated exchange between Mr. Miner and the doctor, so I agreed to see the genetic counselor down the hall.  I walked in her office in a very unhappy frame of mind, and I let her know that I was there under duress.  To her credit, she was very kind, but the questions were truly useless.  To paraphrase one of the more sophisticated queries,  “So, is there any chance you and your husband are biologically related?”

After signing yet ANOTHER refusal of amniocentesis, I returned to the exam room where the doctor, somewhat begrudgingly, finally did the sonogram.

And there she was, my little SOMEBODY…  not “potential life,” but undeniably a miniature human being with unfathomable potential.  Stretching, moving, kicking, growing, EXISTING.  I may have even seen her make a rude gesture to the doctor.  Way to go, kid.

Part three (the last part of this series) is here.


Aug 24 2011

Two stories on the disaster that is the California public employee pension morass

If you’re a lefty, you might be inclined to dismiss this first story, since it’s posted at BIGOVERNMENT.COM, and so biased to the right (although lefties continue to trust the New York Times and the LA Times… funny, that). But the second story, below, is based on a Standford University study…. and we all know what a hotbed of ultra-rightwing radicalism is found at Stanford.  I hate that the state has done this, because I have some family members who are counting on the state system to work properly.  That is, however, what comes of trusting Democrats to run a budget, let alone make financial projections into the next decade.

» California Admits to Almost $1 Trillion in Unfunded Pension Obligations

 

The three largest California public retiree plans (CalPERS, CalSTRS, and UCRS) that administer pensions of approximately 2.6 million State and Local public current and retired employees have been under tremendous scrutiny since last year’s release of the Stanford University Institute for Public Policy report: “Going For Broke”. The study concluded that California retirement plans liability was under-funded by over $500 billion.

The report blamed most of the shortfall on the pension plan’s expectation of future annual investment returns of 7.75%; versus a realistic expectation of a 4.14% annual return. The cabal of California politicians, bureaucrats, and crony consultants that justified granting lucrative benefits to employees while failing to contribute enough to support the true pension costs; solemnly dismissed the Stanford report as unsophisticated reflections by academics. But now that a swarm of local governments want to abandon the floundering retirement trusts; the State plans are only willing to credit a 3.8% expected return. If the California State pension plans adopted the same 3.8% rate they are only willing to credit when participants want to leave; their published $288 billion in pension shortfall would metastasize into an $884 billion California State insolvency.

It doesn’t take a Stanford MBA to realize producing consistently high investment returns since 2007 has been a difficult in the extreme. The California State pension plans that currently control $432 billion in assets, suffered a $109.7 billion in losses during the 2008 to 2009 recession. Pension plans normally require employers and their employees to mutually increase contributions to make up pension shortfalls. But public pension plans are notorious for not requiring employees to make significant contribution. California police, prison guards, firemen, and lifeguards can retire at age 50, but have never been required to contribute to fund pensions. With headlines that California plans are in big trouble; many government agencies applied to withdrawal from the State plans. But as calculated below; compounding investments at 7.75% grows to more than three times the amount of compounding investments at a 3.8% rate of return.

When I was elected as Orange County, California Treasurer in 2006, I was flabbergasted to discover that the County’s $8 billion of retirement investments was covertly leveraged up by $22 billion of derivatives. I quickly learned that many unions see pension benefits as contracted rights; and pension investing as a no risk crap-shoot for extraordinary returns.

 

If the pension investment returns sky-rocket, the unions will bargain for increased benefits. If the pension investment returns crash; the public employees are protected by rock-solid contract law that prevents any reduction in benefits. In 2007, I was fortunate to gain the support of enough OC Pension Trustees to reduce speculative derivative use by 90%. At the time, Trustees for the California public pension plans solemnly dismissed Orange County as unsophisticated. Shortly thereafter the stock market crashed and the State Pension Trustees stopped making comments.

Once famous as the Golden State for leading the nation in high tech growth industries that provided excellent wages; California is now tarnished for having the second highest unemployment and worst state credit rating in the nation. Forbes recently quoted a top venture capitalist that compared the California business climate to France: “I try not to hire here, and I certainly would not launch a company here. But the wine is good.” Tripling of the burden for under-funded pension liability to almost $1 trillion will probably ruin the taste of California wine for most taxpayers.

 

California state pension funds going broke, Stanford study finds

 

California state pension funds going broke, Stanford study finds

New calculations by Stanford graduate students show that California’s three main public employee pension funds are in more dire financial trouble than previously believed.

L.A. Cicero
Howard Bornstein and Lisha Wang 

 

Students Howard Bornstein and Lisha Wang spoke with reporters after a news conference where they and the other members of their research group announced their findings about the state retirement system.

BY GWYNETH DICKEY

California public employee pension systems are worse off than anyone previously projected, according to a new report generated by five graduate students in Stanford’s graduate Public Policy Program. The result could be greater pressure on the state budget and a shortage of pension funds in the future.

“This is a really dire situation,” graduate student Howard Bornstein said today at a press conference at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), which is publishing the students’ findings. “If we don’t do something now, we’re going to have major issues in just a few years.”

Bornstein and his fellow graduate students examined public records of past performance of three pension funds – the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS), the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the University of California Retirement System (UCRS), which together administer pensions for approximately 2.6 million Californians.

The students ran computer simulations to predict the unfunded liabilities of the pension funds over the next 16 years.

Major investment needed

“The simulation shows that the state would need to invest more than $200 billion, and possibly as much as $350 billion, today to return the fund to a minimum responsible level of funding,” said Bornstein, who noted that the figure is approximately four times the current state budget.

“It’s an enormous number,” said Joe Nation, a public policy lecturer at SIEPR and the adviser for the research team. He said it’s important to look at the shortfall relative to state resources. Pension funds fluctuate with market performance, but state employees are guaranteed a fixed pension regardless. If the market performs poorly, the state is obligated to step in and provide the missing pension funds. That takes money away from other public projects, such as education and healthcare, Nation said.

“The students did an amazing job providing a better sense of unfunded liability for those three pension funds, and I hope observers out there will begin to understand that this is a financial train wreck that is not very far down the tracks,” Nation said.

In the report, Bornstein and his fellow graduate students suggest policies to fix the shortfall and prevent a similar one in the future.

They propose that the managers of the pension funds project more realistic rates of return, which would indicate higher liabilities in the future.

“The whole approach that the state currently uses is inherently flawed. They look at averages as opposed to a fan of outcomes,” said Bornstein. “If you instead look at the range of outcomes in the future, you’d see there’s over a 60 percent chance of a deficit greater than $250 billion for CalPERS alone. This is something that really scares us.”

The students suggest that the minimum level of caution should be for the pension systems to aim for an 80 percent probability of having at least 80 percent of the funds necessary to cover the pensions. They also advocate investing more conservatively, taking fewer risks.

“Funds in other parts of the country are in similar situations, and they are beginning to invest in riskier assets,” Nation said. “That’s exactly the wrong thing to do. If the market doesn’t perform well, the taxpayer ends up paying.”

Suggested fixes

The students suggest either reducing pension benefits or moving to a hybrid system in which retirees receive a smaller fixed pension combined with a 401(k)-style plan. This would relieve some of the burden on the state and give employees more responsibility for their retirement. Two-thirds of Californians would support such a plan, according to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

“The biggest challenge with this is making sure elected officials understand the severity of the problem,” Nation said. “It’s a political hot potato and most politicians shy away from the issue because you offend a lot of the constituencies by acknowledging the problem exists.”

But, he said, citizens and institutions are increasingly aware of the situation and are speaking out.

“The University of California is engaged in this debate because they finally understand that as pension fund benefits grow, there will be fewer dollars for higher education,” Nation said.

The report was prepared for the Office of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger as part of the Graduate Practicum in Public Policy, a two-quarter sequence required for master’s degree students in the Public Policy and International Policy Studies programs.

In addition to the masters’  program in Public Policy, Bornstein will earn his Masters in Business Administration degree this June.

SIEPR conducts research on important economic policy issues facing the United States and other countries. SIEPR’s goal is to inform policymakers and to influence their decisions with long-term policy solutions.

What’s funny is the heading above, “major investment needed.”  The left wants to make a major investment, alright.  An Obama-style investment, called enormous tax hikes to fund impossible promises made to public employee unions.

Something will have to give.  Higher taxes to fund impossible-to-fulfill promises will just postpone the disaster, and not by very long.  A complete, structural, top-to-bottom readjustment is needed, and people have to lose the idea that they can work for 30 years and retire at the age of 55 and still get paid till they die at 95.


Aug 10 2011

The “mock the spending” youtube channel

Category: Congress,economy,funny but sad,government,Group-think,liberty,mediaharmonicminer @ 11:46 am

Here is the youtube channel that explains in very simple, short videos, what the problem is with government spending, regulation, and general uncalled for interference in our lives, with equal time spent on nannystaters, regulators, and general busybodies.

 

It’s called “Mock The Spending,” obviously a takeoff on “Rock the vote.”

 

Here’s one of the videos, but there are many, and the whole channel is pretty entertaining.

This is an especially funny one called, “If the government patched World of Warcraft”:

 

 


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