Monday, 02 February 2015


Ken Berwitz

Today's quote comes to us from someone who probably deserves more frequent recognition in this series:  Melissa Harris-Perry, a young (by my 68 year old standards) woman, with unfailingly left wing views on everything, who has a weekend show on (where else?) MSNBC.

The Saturday before last, Ms. Perry did a segment involving an Alabama law which says that if a minor becomes pregnant and wants to have an abortion, but her parents refuse to allow it, she can petition the courts to get one. 

It turns out that Ms. Harris-Perry does not understand why the parents or the court should have any say in the matter.  Here, in her own words, is why:

"Are you at all distressed in the ways that I am about the idea that there is a separate interest between an individual and something that is happening in her body that cannot at that moment exist outside of her body? So, the idea, for example, that I would need a court's permission for cancer treatment or the court's permission for a surgery that would remove my hand. Like, if it's my body, I guess I can't understand why the state would have to give me permission."

Interesting issue.

Let's start with the fact that a minor is a minor. Considered by the courts to be too young to make significant life decisions on his/her own. This is not a status exclusive to abortion, it is a status inclusive of almost everything.  So we understand that abortion is not being singled out here, it is just one of the bunch.

Now let's see about those comparisons:

-Cancer treatment:  Call me a zealot, call me whatever you care to, but I find it difficult to compare a pregnancy in progress to a cancerous tumor.  Apparently Ms. Harris-Perry does not.  Maybe if she considered the fact that a pregnancy, left to continue, winds up with you holding a baby and a cancerous tumor, left to continue, winds up damaging/most likely killing you, she might reconsider.  Then again, maybe not. 

-Hand removal:  This one is particularly intriguing.  I am sort of hoping Ms. Harris-Perry understands that, barring truly exigent circumstances (e.g. a horrific accident requiring immediate medical action), if a minor walked into a hospital and asked to have her hand surgically removed, they would not say "Ok, we can fit you in next Tuesday, how's that?".  They would call her parents.  Just like with an abortion. 

Assuming Ms. Harris-Perry does understand this, what can her logic be?  Did she watch too many episodes of The Addams Family as a kid, and start believing that Thing, the family member consisting of a disembodied hand, was real, just like a fetus?  Who knows?

I award Melissa Harris-Perry Quote Of The Day honors for reminding us of just how completely people with an agenda are able to contort logic....and that someone contorting it this completely would be attractive enough for someone like Phil Griffin, President of MSNBC, to give her a show.

Say, I wonder if Phil can find a spot for the Addams Family's cousin Itt.  I admit he could use a haircut, but when he gets flustered he does sound a little like Ed Schultz... and would probably take a lot less in salary.  So what the heck?

Or, as Shakespeare might have said.....Itt too, Phil?


Ken Berwitz

Oil prices are coming back....somewhat.

Last week West Texas Intermediate (WTI) had dropped below $45 a barrel.  Right now it is over $49. 

Let's see if this is little boomlet continues, or turns back into the bustlet it has been since the summer.

gumstick Take the train. Sorry, but my local economy can't go through another mini-depression like the mid to late Eighties. (02/03/15)

Zeke . . . . . . . . . . . . . Oil has gone up; so has wholesale gasoline . . . .. . . . .Note that prices are now the MARCH 15 futures contract (trading for Feb futures has ended) .. . . . . . . . . As the closing date approaches, market forces will come into play. . . . . . . Gasoline is nearly $1.55 a gallon -- by the barge load, in New York Harbor, and before any Federal / State taxes and distribution costs. . . . . . . (02/02/15)


Ken Berwitz

Was 2014 the warmest year in history?

If you believe the global warming/climate change believers, it was (NOTE:  the correct term varies, depending on temperature - if it's warm, the huge scientific grants are to study global warming; if it's cold, the huge scientific grants are to study climate change).

But was it?

Excerpted from syndicated columnist Jeff Jacoby's (typically) excellent commentary at

Unless you've spent the last few weeks in solitary meditation on a remote island, you couldn't miss the wave ofmedia stories breathlessly proclaiming that 2014 was the hottest year in recorded history.

Among those seizing on the news to make a political point was President Obama, who used his State of the Union address to voice disdain for those who don't share his view.

Well, I'm also not a scientist. But I do know that what NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and NOAA's National Climatic Data Center actually reported...the probability that 2014 set a record is not 99 percent or 95 percent, but less than 50 percent. NOAA's number-crunchers put the probability at 48 percent; NASA's analysis came in at 38 percent.

But ...The report from the UK Met Office noted only that "2014 was one of the warmest years in a record dating back to 1850." Given the size of the margin of error, it acknowledged, "It's not possible to definitively say which of several recent years was the warmest." Similarly, the Berkeley Earth summary of its 2014 calculations explained that last year's bottom line was statistically identical to other recent years.

All of which reasonably leads to the conclusion not that the planet has been relentlessly warming, but that the warming trend that peaked at the end of the 1990s has neither resumed nor reversed. Global warming has more or less been on hold since the turn of the 21st century. That hiatus poses something of an inconvenient truth to those who believe that anthropogenic carbon-dioxide is the key driver of climate change, since CO2 emissions have continued without letup.

Translation:  2014, statistically, was a very warm year.  But to call it the warmest year on record is a huge stretch (that's the nice way of calling it a hot, steamy load).  And, even if it were the warmest year on record, the fact remains - as Jeff shows, using a table I have previously posted in this blog and is repeated below - that there has not been a trend of "global warming over the past 18 years...

makes that claim look less like a scientific finding and more like a rationale to keep those grants coming.

Moreover, even if there were such a trend, where is the proof that the warming/change/whatever qualifies today is primarily created by humankind?

The truth? Cow farts, burps and manure - all of which create methane - may well have more to do with "global warming" than anything humankind has inflicted on the planet.

Look, I concede there is a genuine issue here. But genuine issues have more than one side.  And when the adherents to a given side sneer out insults and condemnations to everyone else, it is no longer an issue to be addressed with objective science, it is a crusade.

Uh.....did I mention grant money?

Zeke . . . . . . There REALLY is a 'Dan Pangburn' who writes technical articles on climate change; his posiiton is that it is not anthropogenic (man made), , , , , , , , , Off hand, I'd say his posting, above, is a [misplaced] reply to something appearing in another blog. . . . . . . .. (02/03/15)

Dan Pangburn Forcings (per unit area) have units Watts i.e. Joules/sec. To produce energy change (Joules), the forcing must exist for a time period. Temperature change is energy change divided by effective thermal capacitance. Thus a scale factor times the time-integral of the forcing produces the temperature change. CO2 has been considered to be a forcing. Because, during the previous glaciations and inter-glacials, the CO2 level and temperature went up and down nearly together, the energy change is obviously not a result of a scale factor times the time integral of the CO2 level. This observation actually proves that CO2 has no significant effect on temperature at least up to about 280 ppmv. This same type assessment over the entire Phanerozoic demonstrates that ‘climate sensitivity’ (the average global temperature increase caused by a doubling of the CO2 level to 580 ppmv from the pre-industrial level of 280 ppmv) is not significantly different from zero. The two natural factors that do explain average global temperature since before 1900 (including the flat since before 2001) with 95% correlation are disclosed in a peer reviewed paper published in Energy and Environment, vol. 25, No. 8, 1455-1471 or search "agwunveiled". (02/02/15)


Ken Berwitz

6:00AM:  About 2" of snow which fell during the night has has been turned into an equivalent amount of gooey slush by rain and temperature that rose in to the mid to high 30's.

12:00 Raw, still slightly raining, temperature dropping, near freezing

1:PM: Temperature about 30-31 degrees and sleeting.

Now (2:10PM):  Temperature under 30 and dropping.  Slush turning to ice.  heavy snow.

This is doing nothing for my tan............


Ken Berwitz

Common sense tells me that the issue of whether to charge bowe bergdahl with desertion should have, and could have, been resolved almost immediately. 

On June 30, 2009, bowe bergdahl went missing from his post.  Where did he go?  In 2010 the Pentagon conducted its own investigation and determined that he deserted.

When added to the fact that, one after another, the soldiers who served in his outfit also accused him of desertion (can anyone find even one who said otherwise?), it is self-evident that he should be charged, and brought to trial.

So how come almost 9 months have by and the Obama administration has not allowed release of its investigation, let alone allowed a trial date to be set?

Well, here's a possibility: how about the fact that President Obama traded five high-ranking taliban terrorists for bergdahl - one of whom, it was barely reported in media last week, has already sought out his taliban cohorts, presumably to resume his activities (can the others be far behind?).

See, if people are reminded that we handed five high-ranking taliban terrorists - with their significant histories of engaging in the terrorism and murder the taliban exists for, and who, it is very likely, will be terrorizing and murdering again as they did previously - for a will not look good for Mr. Obama.  It will look very bad for him. 

Actually it will look like President Obama and the people around him made an astoundingly stupid, disastrous foreign policy blunder. 

And then people might think of Egypt, and Libya, and Syria, and Russia, and our all-time-low quality of relations with an ally like Israel, and Obama's no-show during the Paris march against terrorism, etc. etc. etc.  This might cause them to conclude that astoundingly stupid and disastrous foreign policy blunders are not one-time occurrences for Obama & Co., they happen all the time.

And, from that, people might conclude that the Democrats who supported every one of these astoundingly stupid, disastrous foreign policy blunders do not deserve their support.....which just might translate into whomever wins the Democrat presidential nod for 2016.

Think that has anything to do with the bergdahl blockade?  

Me too.

Zeke . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Obama DID promise to close down the Guantonamo detention facility. . . . . . . . At the rate he's going, there won't be any prisoners left. . . . . . . . . . . (02/02/15)


Ken Berwitz

Why do I - a supporter of unions per se -  rail against teachers' unions?  Why do public school children in New York City do so poorly?  Why is this true of so many other major cities around the country as well - (e.g. Chicago makes New York look good by comparison...and D.C. makes Chicago look good)?

Here's a little insight for you, via excerpts from Susan Edelman's and Amber Jamieson's article in today's New York Post (but please use the link to read it all, because this just skims the surface):

Six strikes and she's not out.

The city Department of Education has failed to fire a teacher rated "unsatisfactory" for six consecutive years. Ann Legra, 44, a first-grade teacher at PS 173 in Washington Heights, racked up "six years of failing her students," the city ­argued in a 16-day termination hearing.

Hearing officer Eugene Ginsberg upheld charges of Legra's "inability to supervise students," excessive lateness and absence and poor lesson planning in the 2012-2013 school year.

He imposed only a 45-day suspension without pay. Legra keeps her $84,500-a-year salary, but is now assigned to a pool of 1,400 teachers who serve as substitutes.

Gov. Cuomo last month called the teacher-evaluation system "baloney" after the latest results revealed that fewer than 1 percent of the state's teachers were rated ineffective.

Job protections for tenured teachers make it difficult to fire bad apples. The system requires that each charge be proven in a trial with witnesses, documents and arguments. The DOE must show the teacher was given training and chances to improve.

The hearing officers - picked jointly by the DOE and the teachers union - frequently balk at termination, instead ordering a fine or suspension and requiring the teacher to take courses.

How can the public school children in New York have a chance, when someone like this has been permitted to "teach" (talk about using a word loosely), after so many demonstrations that she should not be near a classroom?

How can the system itself have a chance when the teachers' union, instead of standing up for the children who are being educationally abused this way, fights tooth and nail for such teachers to keep their jobs?

And how is it possible that less than 1% of all public school teachers in New York City are rated ineffective?  If 99%, or anywhere close, were actually effective, just about every school in New York would be turning out an unending stream of scholars, and would stand as a beacon of learning excellence for the country and the world.  Which most assuredly does not happen.

According to a report from CBS News - New York, from 2009 to 2011, about one-third of fourth grade students in New York Public schools were proficient in math - proficient being just barely OK or more - and 29% were proficient in reading.  Are you impressed?  I know I'm not.

But, as unpleasant as that may be, it is - relatively speaking - the good news.  Because by 8th grade, the proficiency level was 24% for both math and reading. 

Any wonder why I support charter schools which motivated students can escape to?  Where lousy and/or indifferent teachers can't be protected by a union that is more interested in keeping those teachers...and their place than whether students learn?

Please note that I am not saying all public schools are bad and all teachers who belong to unions are incompetent or uncaring.  My wife and I personally know NYC public school teachers who we would have been thrilled to have had for our children.

The problem is not them.  The problem is that teachers with a tiny fraction of their skills and commitment are just as available to students -- and just as valued by the teachers' union.

The more we make charter schools available, and the less we tolerate teachers incapable of teaching, the better off we will be.

Zeke . . . . . . . .. . . President Barry Obama has been exerting his influence to reduce the number of charter schools in Washington DC. . . . . . . . . Mayor Che de Blasio has been doing the same in NYC . . . . . . . . . . . (02/02/15)

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