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|Wednesday, 23 November 2011 08:04|
1.) Contractors Score Major Victory: Congress Approves Contractor Withholding Tax Repeal
2.) Fresh round of hacked climate science emails leaked online
3.) Unchanging Science: Why Climate Skepticism Is A Virtue, Not A Vice
4.) Obama Administration & EPA Use Clean Water Act for New Overreach
5.) Peak Oil & My SUV:
Contractors Score Major Victory: Congress Approves Contractor Withholding Tax Repeal
Bill Davis, RegulatorySurvival.com 11-22-11
In an action that proves the rule "Persistence is a Virtue," we are happy to report that five years of persistence in asking for repeal of the 2006 law setting up a three percent withholding on all government contracts has finally paid off.
Both houses of Congress unanimously passed a bill (H.R. 674) to repeal the 3 percent government contractor withholding tax. President Obama signed the legislation today.
Repealing the 3 percent withholding law has been a top priority for years. Created by Sec. 511 of the 2006 Tax Increase Prevention Reconciliation Act, this onerous tax would have required federal, state and local government entities whose annual expenditures exceed $100 million to withhold 3 percent of all payments made to any individual or company that provides goods or services to the government. The law would have effectively forced contractors to make interest-free loans to the federal government. In some cases (since 2008), the amount would have exceeded a business' profit margin. The tax was set to go into effect at the end of 2013.
As an active member of the Government Withholding Relief Coalition, SCCA through ARTBA, has been working with more than 100 other organizations to encourage the law's repeal. CDTOA has been a member of ARTBA since 1999. A massive grassroots push over the summer built tremendous support for repeal in both chambers, with more than half of the House and a third of the Senate co-sponsoring repeal legislation.
Thanks to all our members who helped show lawmakers the folly of this ill-conceived law by discussing the matter with lawmakers at ARTBA's Washington Fly-In each May and local visits with your Congressional members. This campaign was a part of every Congressional visit for the past five years....Thank you for your efforts!!
Fresh round of hacked climate science emails leaked online
A file containing 5,000 emails has been made available in an apparent attempt to repeat the impact of 2009's similar release
Two years ago today, a group calling itself FOIA.org (Freedom of Information Act.org) dumped a treasure trove of e-mails from climate-change advocates and researchers that revealed abundant evidence of data manipulation and dishonest attempts to silence and discredit critics. Called "Climategate," the exposure greatly damaged the standing of the scientists involved and their public statements. Now the same group has celebrated the second anniversary of the Climategate release with the new release a 173MB zip file called "FOIA2011" containing another release of 5,000 e-mails, it was made available to download on a Russian server called Sinwt.ru today. An anonymous entity calling themselves "FOIA" then posted a link to the file on at least four blogs popular with climate skeptics – Watts Up With That, Climate Audit, TallBloke and The Air Vent. The same tactic was used in 2009 when the first 160MB batch of emails were released after being obtained – possibly illegally – from servers based at the University of East Anglia, where a number of the climate scientists involved were based. One marked difference from the original 2009 release is that the person or persons responsible has included a message headed "background and context" which, for the first time, gives an insight into their motivations. Following some bullet-pointed quotes such as "Over 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day" and, "Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels," the message states:
"Today's decisions should be based on all the information we can get, not on hiding the decline. This archive contains some 5.000 emails picked from keyword searches. A few remarks and redactions are marked with triple brackets. The rest, some 220.000, are encrypted for various reasons. We are not planning to publicly release the passphrase. We could not read every one, but tried to cover the most relevant topics."
The use of points instead of commas to mark the thousands when writing a number – highly unusual in both the UK or US – is sure to lead to speculation about the nationality of those responsible.
What appears to be a new batch of emails and other documents from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit has been released.
Contents include more than 5,000 emails and other documents, some relating to work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
A similar release in 2009 triggered the "ClimateGate" affair and accusations of fraud that inquiries later dismissed.
The timing is not accidental. The UN's IPCC is about to hold another climate summit, and the people behind the shadowy FOIA.org group clearly want to disrupt their narrative. The BBC says that the group holds another 220,000 e-mails, but won't release them all at once, employing a drip strategy to keep the AGW-theory advocates on the defensive.
So what's in the new e-mails? The blog TallBloke has already begun crowd-sourcing the cache, and finds a few tidbits from Penn State's Michael Mann, among others, assuming that these are genuine (via Watts Up With That):
<1939> Thorne/MetO: Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere unless you accept one single study and approach and discount a wealth of others. This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find time to discuss these further if necessary [...]
<1611> Carter: It seems that a few people have a very strong say, and no matter how much talking goes on beforehand, the big decisions are made at the eleventh hour by a select core group.
<2884> Wigley: Mike, The Figure you sent is very deceptive [...] there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors and by IPCC [...]
<3373> Bradley: I'm sure you agree–the Mann/Jones GRL paper was truly pathetic and should never have been published. I don't want to be associated with that 2000 year "reconstruction".
<3115> Mann: By the way, when is Tom C going to formally publish his roughly 1500 year reconstruction??? It would help the cause to be able to refer to that reconstruction as confirming Mann and Jones, etc.
<3940> Mann: They will (see below) allow us to provide some discussion of the synthetic example, referring to the J. Cimate paper (which should be finally accepted upon submission of the revised final draft), so that should help the cause a bit.
<0810> Mann: I gave up on Judith Curry a while ago. I don't know what she thinks she's doing, but it's not helping the cause [...]
Well, we all know that today public health science especially is all about supporting a cause rather than testing hypotheses and eliminating them when evidence arises to their contrary. Maybe the previous whitewash on the first Climategate will have to get revisited. In the meantime, if these e-mails are genuine, expect skepticism about AGW theory to rise even more.
According to the summary provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the mean global surface temperature (both land and oceans) has increased 0.64 F ± 0.13 C from 1956 to 2005 at 95% confidence. All this for that, and there is no assurance that it is caused by man, nature or both?
One of the most widespread human weaknesses is our readiness to accept claims that fit our beliefs and reject those that clash with them. We demand impossible standards of proof when confronted with something we don't want to hear, but will believe any old gossip if it confirms our prejudices.
Unchanging Science: Why Climate Skepticism IS A Virtue, Not A Vice
Joseph Bottum & William Anderson, The Weekly Standard, 11-19-11
Science is a methodological tool by which we coordinate observation, logic, and experiment to attempt to discover facts. Science doesn't deal in either certainty or consensus. Every well-formed theory contains a set of testable hypotheses. When these hypotheses fail confirmation by repeated experiment, the theory has to change. Thus the progress of science is halting and erratic, ultimately convergent on, but never achieving, final explanations of our world.
In retrospect, we probably should have paid more attention when, around 2005, activists shifted their primary vocabulary from global warming to climate change to the latest - extreme weather events to describe the impact of human beings on this biosphere we call the Earth. The phrases had been around for a while, of course. Global warming got its modern start back in 1975, when the journal Science published a feature asking, "Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?" In one form or another, climate change has been in use since the physicist Joseph Fourier wrote of the greenhouse effect in the 1820s.
For that matter, all are unexceptionable meteorological terms with reasonably clear meanings: global warming a particular species or instantiation of general changes in the globe's climate. The public purpose of those words, however—the political intent: That was a different thing altogether. For decades, global warming seemed a powerful, dynamic term to use—an apocalyptic phrase that summoned a grim vision of the eschaton (the end of the present world), our world reduced to a lifeless wasteland. The only trouble was that it required the world to be, you know, warming. Constantly. A cold winter, and people started to wonder. A chilly spring, and people started to doubt.
Recent news reports have been dominated by squabbles between Berkeley's Richard Muller and Georgia Tech's Judith Curry, both involved in research that led to the release of data in October from the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperatures study. Muller claims that the fact of global warming now leaves "little room for doubt," while Curry tells the Daily Mail that there exists "no scientific basis for saying that warming hasn't stopped." And yet, even in the midst of touting the study, Muller admits that the Berkeley data show that temperatures have not risen over the last decade.
Which confirms, more or less, what seems to be emerging as the feeling of the general public: These recent winters have been cold, and the summers themselves not so hot. That, in turn, creates a problem, for no sense of impending apocalypse survives widespread disbelief. And so—right around the point where it all started to seem a little hard to swallow—the phrase climate change, more generic if less picturesque, began to slip into public pronouncements, supplanting the old, falsifiable term global warming. A bitter January in the Midwest could well be a sign of climate change. Hurricanes in the Caribbean, mudslides in Latin America, floods in Australia. Earthquakes, even. Everything and anything, the whole wild uncertainty of the world, proved that we were right to feel under the gun—faced with an eschatological doom of our own creation.
The more the term embraced, however, the less it explained. That's not as contradictory as it may seem. There's a simple epistemological process (a branch of philosophy that investigates the origin, nature, methods, and limits of human knowledge) by which, as we move up the genus-species tree, we arrive at ideas that cover more cases but convey less information: Lots more mammals exist in general than marmosets (small squirrel-like monkeys) in particular, but mammal doesn't tell us as much about the beast in question as marmoset does. Move up high enough into the linguistic arbor, and you arrive at terms that refer to all but mean none: thing, for example, or being.
Or climate change, as far as that goes. The great emotional gain of the shift from global warming to climate change was that the name had become so generic that nothing imaginable could prove it wrong. Every shift in weather is a confirming instance. The only problem left was the pesky little scientific one that, well, nothing imaginable could prove it wrong. In its public use, in the mouths of activists and the titles of organizations such as the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the phrase had come to describe something non-falsifiable.
This is what was in the background when Ivar Giaever, a Nobel laureate in physics, resigned recently from the American Physical Society—in protest over the society's loudly declared position that evidence of human-caused climate change is "incontrovertible." Giaever is not some committed global warming skeptic, but he decided that he just couldn't stomach the claim that anything in science is incontrovertible. If you can't imagine conditions under which it might be controverted, then you're no longer doing science.
It was back in the 1930s that Karl Popper popularized the idea of "falsifiability" as a necessary property of a scientific proposition. Several of the intellectual currents of the era combined to make Popper's work seem a major breakthrough. The mechanisms of inductive logic had become a crisis point in philosophy, for example, and the commonly used "fact-value distinction" lacked clarity.
None of these philosophical problems seem particularly pressing these days, but the concept of falsifiability still grants some insight into the vagaries of modern environmentalism. In politics, the notion that climate change can't be falsified—everything only serves to confirm it, nothing imaginable can contradict it—has been a marvelous boon. In science, the fact that climate change can't be falsified seems to prove, mostly, that climate change isn't science: There's no way to test for it, no way to quantify it, and no way to demonstrate it.
If politics is the human activity by which collective decisions are made, then (whatever the structure of the regime, from the most coercive authoritarianism to the most radical democracy) all government depends on some kind of agreement. Our political instincts have developed over many millennia, but the essential commonality is that we are most comfortable when we shape our opinions to the consensus of our group. As a general matter, we'd rather be wrong in a group than right but alone.
Science, on the other hand, is a methodological tool by which we coordinate observation, logic, and experiment to attempt to discover facts. Science doesn't deal in either certainty or consensus. Every well-formed theory contains a set of testable hypotheses. When these hypotheses fail confirmation by repeated experiment, the theory has to change. Thus the progress of science is halting and erratic, ultimately convergent on, but never achieving, final explanations of our world.
Naturally, that means confusion reigns when scientists dabble in politics and politicians attempt to explain science—as when we are confronted by such oxymorons as "settled science." And, unfortunately, in the worlds of climate change, such confusions seem to be happening a lot—from the United Nations agency that got caught taking an environmental activist group's unsupported (and mistaken) word that Himalayan glaciers would all be melted away by 2035, to the Times Atlas that recently decided global warming would be more striking if 15 percent of the Greenland ice cap were arbitrarily erased from the map. To say nothing of the 2009 case in which bizarre emails between influential scientists and activists, hacked from a server at the University of East Anglia (which is climate-change central, keeper of international temperature records), were released to the public.
Professional scientists are people, of course, and thus participants in the rough and tumble of political debate. Professional politicians are also people, of a sort, and they're always eager to use the prestige of science to claim support for their political goals. Most of the time, these crossover category errors stay relatively minor. Occasionally, however, conflations of politics and science snowball into disasters for both politics and science—and the debate over climate change is as clear an example as we've had since stem cells rolled into public view.
An hour's poking around on the Internet reveals that no scientific consensus on massive human-caused climate change actually exists. Those afflicted with what economists call "perverse incentives," however, want scientific consensus to exist, and they try, hard, to pull that consensus into being. Naturally, the debate is skewed toward the faction which controls the most political and economic resources—particularly the United Nations, on the commanding heights of resource allocation for activists through the mechanism of its various interlocking directorates of committees and NGOs.
The result is an astonishing tangle of mostly ad hominem arguments. Proponents of catastrophic global warming claim that their opponents are in denial and corrupted by corporate funding. Skeptics counter that these alarmists are corrupted by government funding and political pressure. The result has been good for neither politicians nor scientists, with every new poll betraying smaller numbers of those who trust either government or science to speak the truth—much less to fix our strange and broken world.
As far as the actual facts go, they go quickly, the first casualties in the battles at the crossroads of science and politics. We do know that there have been periodic ice ages for the past million or so years, and that the period of those ice ages is on the order of 100,000 years. About 10 percent of discernible history is made up of warm periods (such as our current climate), and the rest much colder, with large portions of the earth covered with thick ice.
The cause of this periodicity is not well understood. Human activity may have contributed to some of it recently, but clearly not to changes occurring over millions of years. Variations in solar irradiance, changes in atmospheric gases, variable ocean currents, and cosmic rays have been hypothesized, each the bearer of a much greater burden than human activity could be. We now appear, on the basis of prior history, to be in the last stages of a warm period which has existed, with some variations, for about 10,000 years.
Within each era, variances of climate occur, as warmer and colder periods of several hundred years come and go. The causes of these changes are similarly uncertain. Is there an ideal global average temperature? If so, what is it? And how do we measure it? Can our species influence these changes? If so, should we? In which direction? What are the costs, risks, and benefits? These questions are not, to say the least, in any realm of settled science.
Enter the climate scientists. The research enterprise in the modern world is a large-scale activity. Difficult questions are raised, and hypotheses are generated to move toward an answer. This requires hiring staff, recruiting experts and consultants, purchasing equipment, and putting all of it in a building, preferably on a university campus. Most of all, what's needed for this kind of research is oceans of money. And where money is the driver, politics is the unavoidable road down which the scientist has to race. Grant-making authorities, whether in government, industries, or foundations, tend to have a preferred perspective on the process and outcome of research. These preferences are not lost on the applicant researchers.
A few research centers have dominated the study of climate change, and these are typically funded by national governments, with the approval of U.N. agencies and the transnational perspective that U.N. agencies represent. What has emerged, in other words, is a political consensus that emphasizes the claim of ongoing climate change which (1) tends toward warming, (2) is caused by human activity, and (3) threatens to be apocalyptic. Groupthink then emerges as the dominant social response, with ostracism of skeptics and excommunication of apostates.
As the grant-achieving scientists congealed their opinions around the hypothesis (and now doctrine) of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming—warmed, themselves, by their presumptive guardianship of truth and virtue—some have succumbed to the temptation to cut corners. Dissenting investigators have been marginalized, their research papers viewed with prejudice by academic journals. The principle of free availability of raw data has been ignored. Peer review has degenerated into pal review. Cases of data destruction and tampering have been documented.
Through all this, public opinion has remained bemused, and only mildly interested, with polls suggesting a small decrease in concern over catastrophic manmade climate change and a gradual increase in disbelief about the whole thing. Which has to concern the people whose livelihood depends on predicting catastrophe. Prophecy demands belief.
Perhaps the greatest reason for any of us to feel skepticism about climate change, however, is the unchanging politics of those who employed it to advance their agendas. Are we wrong to suspect that most global warming activists are merely using global warming as the latest in a long series of tools with which to demand fundamental changes in Western civilization?
Think of it this way: The premise of catastrophe produces the conclusion that the political and economic underpinnings of Western civilization must be discarded. Governments must take control of economies. Capitalism must give way. All decisions must be made by our scientific and political elite, for only they can save us from doom.
Now, in a purely logical world, the rejection of the premise would mean that we don't have to accept the conclusion. If A, then B and not A together produce nothing. But the people who've been lecturing us for more than a decade now about global warming and climate change didn't start by holding A. They began by holding B—the conclusion, the proposition that Western civilization must change. And it is, literally, a non-falsifiable proposition: If global warming and climate change help lead to it, then hurray for global warming and climate change. If not, well, then, they'll find something else.
Yet facts remain stubborn things, and the thesis of climate change, at least, is clearly in decline. The once-proud carbon-trading market in Chicago is now defunct. Similar European schemes have collapsed in confusion and fraud. Alternative scientific theory is beginning to find its footing. Flawed methods have been exposed. Leaked emails indicate a corrupted scientific process. Most of all, public opinion has not been stampeded, in spite of intense climate-change advocacy in the media.
Skepticism, the prime scientific virtue, still lives, in other words. If nothing else, Ivar Giaever may yet be able to rejoin the American Physical Society.
Psychiatrist William Anderson teaches at Harvard University. Joseph Bottum is a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard and author of The Second Spring: Words into Music, Music into Words.
Obama Administration & EPA Use Clean Water Act for New Overreach
Prepare To Have That Puddle in Your Back Yard Regulated
By Ben Howe
Just as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has used the Clean Air Act to broaden the scope of their authority way beyond its original intention with rules like MACT and CSAPR, the Clean Water Act is becoming a tool of overreach by the out of control agency.
Barack Obama and the EPA's Lisa Jackson have made it clear through their actions that they will circumvent the legislature by using regulatory enforcement to enact Obama's green dreams, and now it seems that circumvention includes the Supreme Court of the United States.
During the Bush presidency, a series of Supreme Court decisions acknowledged the limits of reach for the Clean Water Act. Most notably, the Supreme Court clarified that federal jurisdiction did not extend to wetlands and other "waters of the United States" under the Clean Water Act. Through the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook Country v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (2001) and Raponos v. U.S. (2006) the Supreme Court established that private property rights still mattered even in light of the Clean Water Act and that the federal government did not have authority over them.
This of course isn't stopping Barack Obama and Lisa Jackson from moving forward anyway.
It's important to remember the original purpose of the Clean Water Act (1972). It gives the federal government and the EPA the authority to regulate "navigable waterways." In other words, not a ditch out front with a lot of water in it and certainly not acres upon acres of private or state owned wetlands. Yet, regulating these types of waters is precisely what the EPA is in the midst of doing.
The Army Corps (pronounced ">core) of Engineers and the EPA are in the process of finalizing "Draft Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act," which is a fancy way of saying "we're going to go out and change the definition of certain bodies of water so that we can pretend they fall within the Supreme Court's definitions."
The Barrasso-Heller Amendment, introduced by Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) and Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV), was created to prevent the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA from incorporating those Obama changes into the regulatory guidelines, which serves the purpose of distinguishing precisely what the Supreme Court had already covered when it established the clear limitations of the Act.
The Property Rights Alliance and the American Farm Bureau Federation support the amendment, although its been met with predictable opposition from the left who have branded the amendment a "destructive measure." One such bit of opposition is coming from the editorial page of the New York Times who incredibly claims that upholding the Supreme Courts decisions on the limitations of the Clean Water Act is somehow a "subversion" of its mandate.
Republicans just won't give up on their misguided attempts to subvert the Clean Water Act. Senators John Barrasso of Wyoming and Dean Heller of Nevada plan to offer a rider denying protections to one-fifth of the nation's wetlands and as many as two million miles of small streams. The House has approved a similarly destructive measure, so it is crucial that the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, and his Democratic colleagues block this legislation.
In April, the Obama administration proposed new guidelines restoring inclusive protections and promised to codify them in permanent regulations. This infuriated home builders and anyone else with an interest in filling in streams and wetlands. The House then voted to prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers from carrying out the new guidance. The Senate bill would permanently prevent action to clarify the law. As always, the legislators driving these campaigns say their goal is to remove regulatory barriers to job creation. But the real issue is whether the country gets the clean water it wants and needs.
Of course. Believing that certain waters should either be at the discretion of the property owner or (gasp!) the state is exactly equivalent to wanting all Americans to drown in dirty water. Because let's face it: without interference by the federal government, there's nochance that we as mindless citizens could figure it out on our own.
Want to see how the EPA can use this type of authority to mess with law-abiding, tax-paying citizens?
Four years ago the Sacketts were filling in their lot with dirt and rock, preparing to build a simple three-bedroom home in a neighborhood where other houses have stood for years. Then three federal officials showed up and demanded they stop construction. The agency claimed the .63-acre lot was a wetland, protected under the Clean Water Act.
The Sacketts say they were stunned. The owners of an excavation company, they had secured all the necessary local permits. And Chantell Sackett says that before work began, she drove two hours to Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, to consult with an Army Corps of Engineers official. She says the official told her orally, though not in writing, that she didn't need a federal permit. "We did all the right things," she says.
The EPA issued an order requiring the Sacketts to put the land back the way it was, removing the piles of fill material and replanting the vegetation they had cleared away. The property was to be fenced off and the Sacketts would be required to submit annual reports about its condition to the EPA. The agency threatened to fine them up to $32,500 a day until they complied.
But this is about clean water, not federal land grabs, right? Tell that to the Sacketts who sued with the help of the PLF.
Lost in all of this is the fact that, since the introduction of the Clean Water Act (which yes, was needed at the time), our drinking water is remarkably clean. Consider how important it is that when visiting 3rd world countries (or most infamously, Mexico) that you don't even drink the water there because an American's body is ill-prepared for the ravages of dirty water. Our water is so clean, we can't even drink dirty water anymore or we'll die! That's saying something. The same goes for air too!
Yet, the government thinks it's not good enough. And it won't be until they have control overall water in America.
A few years ago, President Obama scolded the Supreme Court in front of the world during his State of the Union Address. I suppose it's not shocking that he has such little respect for the division of powers in our government that he'd use the regulatory process to trump the two out of three of them.
PEAK OIL & MY SUV:
"Peak oil"—the idea that we've reached the peak of oil production and that it's about to run out—is an S & M fantasy scenario designed by liberals to justify their fetish for higher taxation, greater government control, more regulation, and the mass switchover to expensive, pointless energy sources that don't work, such as wind and solar power.
As Dennis Miller says: "Relax. We'll replace oil when we need to. American ingenuity will kick in and the next great fortune will be made. It's not pretty but it is historically accurate. We need to run out of oil first. That's why I drive an SUV—so we run out of it more quickly. I consider myself to be at the vanguard of the environmental movement and I think individuals who insist on driving hybrids are just prolonging our dilemma and I think that's just selfish..."