Non-Local Politics

The headline in the local paper was: “This Is Not Hypothetical.”  Then they go on to talk about how Mayor Tim Kabat of our modest hamlet had decided that he needs to help the The Donald with climate change.  We hate to go all Webster on folks but Dictionary.com says hypothetical means:

1. assumed by hypothesis; supposed:

a hypothetical case.
2. of, pertaining to, involving, or characterized by hypothesis:

hypothetical reasoning.
3. given to making hypotheses.
4. Logic.
  1. (of a proposition) highly conjectural; not wellsupported by available evidence.
  2. (of a proposition or syllogism) conditional.

We left the fourth definition in to give some hope to the headline writers.  They were trying to discuss a logic problem.

Climate change, nee global warming, is part of science and science is about hypotheses.  Climate change is a hypothesis or a bunch of hypotheses.  It is exactly a hypothetical.  In science a hypothesis is accepted until evidence leads to its rejection.

Sidebar: An enormous problem with climate change is the lack of precision.  For example, the efficient market hypothesis (EMH) has weak, semi-strong, and strong versions.  We suggest, partly in jest, that climate change adopt historical, reasonable, and hysterical.  End Sidebar.

There is also a second level of science: economics.  Once we decide about climate change then there is the issue of economics.  The cost to have a substantial impact on hypothesized climate change is large.  Is it worth the cost?  For example, we would support a modest carbon tax because the cost is small and the incentives are right.

The local paper has tied Mayor Tim to the local head of the Sierra Club:

Van Gaard warned that without immediate and drastic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, millions of people will be left without clean water and food and millions more will be refugees as a result of extreme weather events.  “This is not a hypothetical. This is already happening. This is our future if we don’t take this seriously right now. Fuel efficiency standards are a necessary step to move us away from that future,” Van Gaard said.

We are unconvinced that the fuel efficiency standards are a necessary step. We need to analyze the alternatives.  Immediate and drastic actions will have enormous costs.  The millions and millions have turned out to be wrong several times.  The Sierra Club is welcome to try to influence policy.  It doesn’t look like a good trade-off but let’s look at the full cost of the alternatives.  It is hypothetical and we need to consider the alternatives and the risk involved. Meanwhile, we need our mayor to be worried about serious city stuff.

 

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Hillary And Russia

James Freeman at Best Of The Web on the WSJ discusses the issue of how much trouble the previous administration should be in over its investigation into The Donald’s campaign and administration.  He is taking issue with the NYT over their recent reporting:

The NYT lays out a dossier-free explanation of the genesis of the federal investigation of the opposition political party [NYT follows]:

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton. [Emphasis added]

You should read it all if you are a subscriber.  We would like to take a different issue with the NYT: the words startling and revelation.  This is not startling.  It is not a revelation.  If you picked the Patriots to win the AFC East [either 2016 or 2017] at the same time you were not nearly as safe as George.  Is there any sentient being that thinks that Russia and several other countries do not have political dirt on Hillary and The Donald?  Even if you are not certain that Russia hacked Hillary’s email you know that Russia is serious about spying and Hillary is careless.  Of course Russia has dirt on Hillary and The Donald.  The difference is that Hillary knows that the press will keep her dirt under the rug unless somebody like Russia forces the issue.  The Donald doesn’t seem to care about the dirt.  The leverage that the dirt on Hillary would give Russia might matter.

What we can’t understand is why a top diplomat from Australia would be surprised about this.  Was it George’s certainty?  Australia’s diplomats don’t seem very up on world events.  Or perhaps it is the NYT that isn’t up on world events.

Exchange Rates Still Matter

Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt is discussing the history of protests and pundits relative to Iran.  Then Jim brings up the Iran ransom and gives two views of the situation:

This morning, Matthew Dowd looks back at the Obama administration’s Iran deal and laments, “I am wondering how many folks are aware that the money the US sent Iran as part of nuclear deal was actually Iran’s assets to begin with. It was their own money we returned. It wasn’t taxpayer money.” Yes, but we froze those assets after they raided our embassy, took American diplomatic staff hostage in violation of just about every international law and treaty, paraded them before the cameras, and beat them. Think of the seized assets as a criminal fine, one of the few ways we could punish the Iranians for their barbaric acts against our people.

We want to be more direct with Matt.  Most of it was taxpayer money.  Below (no, we don’t cite ourselves) we explain the deal.

Given the turmoil in Iran it is not a surprise that the USD has been the stronger currency over the past 37 years.  So when it is stated in millions of USD we say that we received $400 and paid $1,700 37 years later.  But when we put it in IRR [Iran’s currency], we say that we received 28 billion IRR (an exchange rate of about 71 to the dollar) and repaid 52,904 billion IRR (an exchange rate of 31,120 to the dollar).

So the decision to add interest increased the payment by a factor of four.  The decision to denominate the assets in dollars increased the payment by a factor of over a thousand.  The previous administration caved in every possible way to make a large parent to Iran.  It was a bad idea to give Iran anything but it took fancy accounting to give them $1.7 billion rather than $1 million or so.

 

 

American Players Theatre

Terry Teachout at WSJ has his best theater in 2017.  Wisconsin’s own American Players Theatre (APT) gets a winner and a mention.  If you haven’t been there yet plan to go next year. If you have been the donate this year.  With the tax code timing it is the time for an additional MWG donation (assuming the bill passes) and it could be for you as well.

APT’s winner was best classical production

Eric Tucker’s crowd-pleasing outdoor staging of “Pericles” at Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre was a riotous explosion of pure joy.

We had tickets but sadly had to miss the show because of family issues.  Jim Devita was mentioned as a best actor:

and five terrific regional-theater actors: Jim DeVita in “A View From the Bridge” at Wisconsin’s American Players Theatre,

We’ve seen him many times and completely agree.  Check with the site to see when APT tickets for 2018 go on sale.  Up The Hill is under the stars while Touchstone is air conditioned and intimate.

Yea Democrats, Boo Press

Al Franken is resigning under pressure from Democrats. The AP says:

Minnesota Sen. Al Franken’s departure from the Senate solves one problem for Democrats, demonstrating their will to push out one of their own when sexual harassment allegations pile up.

Good for the Democrats!  Neither party has covered itself in glory over policing its own but it has been a particular problem for the Democrats since Harry Truman left.  On the other hand, the press wants him to leave as the lion of the Senate.

Sidebar: Yes this is our less subtle dig at the Democrats as Ted Kennedy is often given that mantle.  Teddy is the one who left Mary Jo Kopechne to die, invented Borking, and had problems with females.  He is evidence of the difficulty that Democrats have in policing their own. End Sidebar.

He is a 66 year-old celebrity back bencher who is the poster boy for ballot integrity.  Yet one AP report we couldn’t find online called him a rising star.  Perhaps it was a subtle dig at the Democrats age problem.  Another AP report said:

Franken, 66, had gained respect as a serious lawmaker in recent years and had even been mentioned in talk about the 2020 presidential race.

We had not mentioned Al so don’t blame us.  We expect Cory or Kamala.  Perhaps there is hope for the Democrats but until the press comes around it seems unlikely.

Picking Winners

It is hard to pick winners in a sporting event.  It is much harder to pick winners in the economy because you don’t know who is playing.  Arsenal hosts Tottenham tomorrow.  Get the odds from Ladbrokes for win, lose or draw.  You could bet on other events like which player gets the first goal.  Wisconsin hosts Michigan is even easier because it can’t end up in a tie.

Economic events are much harder because the set of alternatives is not known.  It would be like if Chelsea (or even better example, a team that does not yet exist) could win the Arsenal-Tottenham match.  Picking economic winners involves ignoring prices and markets to say X is the best.  Recent evidence shows the problems when the warmists and their allies try to pick winners.

Sidebar One: There are two main issues in global warming (whoops, climate change).  The first is the science side of it.  What determines global temperatures?  To date we have some evidence that carbon dioxide and temperatures are positively related.  The models have been unimpressive in forecasting temperatures but the ability to explain the past suggests we need to pay attention.  The bigger problem is what to do about the forecasts.  The warmists, with the exception of a few like Bjorn Lomborg, want to take action now.  That means picking winners.  End Sidebar One.

Two articles show the problems with trying to pick winners.  One is on Germany from the WSJ and the other is an academic study of ethanol from the University of Wisconsin reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  Let’s start with the WSJ.

Mrs. Merkel’s failure [to reach carbon emission goals] comes despite astronomical costs. By one estimate, businesses and households paid an extra €125 billion in increased electricity bills between 2000 and 2015 to subsidize renewables, on top of billions more in other handouts. Germans join Danes in paying the highest household electricity rates in Europe, and German companies pay near the top among industrial users.

On the other hand, the AP reports on carbon emissions in the US:

In a surprising turnaround, the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the atmosphere in the U.S. has fallen dramatically to its lowest level in 20 years [Emphasis added].

It continues to amaze us how often the press is surprised when pricing mechanisms work.  The odds are to be surprised the other way.

Sidebar Two: We were not supportive of the mandate during the George W. Bush administration to require ethanol on a tactical basis.  We support price mechanisms.  We thought that there was a reason to do it on a strategic basis.  During W’s administration it seemed to us that the warmists had the momentum and there was a chance that the government would do something on an epic level of foolishness.  We made the judgment call that the ethanol mandate was the least foolish option available.  It seemed to sap the warming momentum.  End Sidebar Two.

A University of Wisconsin-Madison study has looked at the impact of the ethanol mandate on carbon emissions.  A word of academic caution.  No one study is definitive and this one has not yet been subject to a formal (everyone gets informal peer reviews as they create a paper) peer review.   The authors found that the trade off between more corn and less fossil fuel did not work as hoped:

The study underscores the unintended consequences of a federal policy meant to reduce America’s reliance on fossil fuels.

While adding ethanol means burning fewer fossil fuels, the study found that the benefits were lost as even greater amounts of carbon held in the soil were released into the atmosphere in newly cultivated farm fields.

It is not a surprise when you ignore market prices.  It would be wise to reduce the amount of ethanol in gas.  We need to eliminate wind subsidies.  We would take a reasonable carbon tax instead.  Eliminate the gas tax and make the carbon tax equivalent to the old gas tax is our idea.  It is revenue positive and makes the incentives right.  We are pretty sure that carbon is a bad thing but we don’t know how bad.  There is time for the market to fix it and there is really no other viable choice than to wait for the market.  Epic foolishness is not called for.

Sticking To Sports

Ryan Huber has a great article on Sticking To Sports that is reposted on NRO.  It also ties into expertise and our current political environment.  How does Bill Simons become an expert about the current football season?  Ryan says:

[Bill], who parks himself in front of multiple TVs 20 Sundays a year to watch football for twelve hours (because it’s his job)

Expertise is hard to acquire.  It requires time to acquire it.  We don’t know if Bill is a football expert having rarely or never heard him but he is meeting one criterion, experience.  We recently commented about another Bill, Texans’ coach O’Brien (we don’t cite ourselves but it is recent if you want to look).  We felt competent because our expertise is not in football but in decision making.

What does Ryan recommend for the wanna-be pundits?  He concludes that all sorts of folks should weigh in on the issues of the day but:

But it does mean that when they enter this realm, a realm in which they will admit no special expertise or insight, they should do so with humility, generosity, and an awareness that their audience is most likely incredibly diverse. If analysts, hosts, and columnists choose to continue to speak about politics in the same way they recently have, more and more people will tune them out. But ESPN already knows that.

Well said.  But beyond that the evidence suggests that expertise is not valued lately.  See “Oh, No, A Pharma Exec” at WSJ:

President Trump said he will nominate the former Eli Lilly & Co. executive to lead the Health and Human Services Department. Mr. Azar was immediately criticized for, well, knowing too much about health care.

Then consider our last two presidents.  They are both good campaigners but neither was practiced in government.  Experts are wrong often because they get the difficult questions.  Sometimes they are wrong because they go outside their expertise or they don’t recognize the knowledge problem.  We need to find a way to identify and respect expertise without attaching God-like qualities to them.  We think it will continue to be a challenge.