June 15, 2011

Somebody Tell Mitt Romney: The Earth May Be Heading Towards a Cooling Period

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Scams,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:16 pm

FrozenEarth_4hItem from June 3: “‘The world is getting warmer’: Romney” (related BizzyBlog post):

“I believe the world is getting warmer, and I believe that humans have contributed to that,” he told a crowd of about 200 at a town hall meeting in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Well, guess what, oh Objectively Unfit One, you can “believe” all you want, but the facts are not pointing in that direction:

Scientists predict ‘sunspot hibernation’

For years, scientists have been predicting the Sun would move into solar maximum, a period of intense flares and sunspot activity by 2012, but lately a curious calm has suggested quite the opposite.

According to three studies released in the United States on Tuesday, experts believe the familiar sunspot cycle may be shutting down and heading toward a pattern of inactivity unseen since the 17th century.

The signs include a missing jet stream, fading spots, and slower activity near the poles, said experts from the National Solar Observatory and Air Force Research Laboratory.

‘This is highly unusual and unexpected,’ said Frank Hill, associate director of the NSO’s Solar Synoptic Network.

‘But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation.’

The point of bringing this up isn’t to say, “aha, it’s global cooling” (though we may indeed be heading there). It’s to say that the sun has always had far more of an impact on the earth’s temperature than anything we humans do or don’t do, and that no quarter should ever be given to those who attempt to co-opt and misrepresent “science” in the name of advancing statism.

Yet we have GOP presidential candidates (sadly, Romney’s not the only one) who either believe in globaloney (the belief that the earth is irrefutably warming, that humans are contributing to that warming, and that radical changes in the economic world order and/or our standards of living are necessary for our continued survival) or have in the recent past while attempting to act on those bogus beliefs. They, certainly including Mitt Romney, must be rejected.

We the People Convention: July 1-2, 2011

Filed under: Economy,News from Other Sites,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:57 pm

WeThePeopleLogoI am pleased to report that yours truly, as well as one or both of the illustrious proprietors of Weapons of Mass Discussion, will be attending the We the People Convention in Columbus on July 1-2, 2011. I appreciate the invitation to blog from the convention on both days, and to serve on a panel on Saturday afternoon.

Other links: Overall schedule; detailed breakout schedule.

On Friday, June 10, Matt Hurley, Mark Garbett and I interviewed Tom Zawistowski, the event’s director, during the second hour of the TIB broadcast. I was impressed with Tom’s forthrightness, his direct answers to direct questions, his transparency, and his clear passion for his cause. Though WTP will be a challenging logistical undertaking, it seems that Tom and others running the event are up to the challenge.

One important theme Tom brought out was the importance of bringing the activism seen so prominently in last fall’s national elections to the state and local level. That hit home, so to speak, for me, because, though I have the requisite boatload of excuses, I have tended to ignore too many state and local matters, and hope to figure out a way to remedy that (both on the blog and occasionally in person) without unduly sacrificing bigger-picture and national stories.

I’m looking forward to the festivities on July 1-2, and hope as many readers as possible can attend.

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UPDATE: Herman Cain will be there (HT WoMD). Boo-yah!

Pick Up the Darned Phone

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:15 pm

CobwebsOnTelephoneAs the economy languishes, here’s an idea that might actually improve things.

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Note: This column appeared at Pajamas Media and was teased here at BizzyBlog on Monday.

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We had awful unemployment and jobs news on June 3. A week earlier, there was yet another mediocre economic growth report. Friday, May’s Monthly Treasury Statement, but for $45 billion of almost indecipherable accounting gimmickry, would have shown yet another single-month federal deficit of over $100 billion. These are just the latest signs that the economy is not doing well, and that Washington’s elites continue to avoid getting a grip on the nation’s deteriorating fiscal situation.

As expected, President Obama is blaming everyone else for the country’s economic problems. On the Monday after the employment news broke, The Daily Caller reported that the president went into woe-is-me mode, referring to “challenges that have been unaddressed over the course of the previous decade” (translation: George W. Bush), as well as, per the Caller, tagging “investors, consumers and even the media.” In reality, it’s the Obama administration’s policies which have created what Daniel Henninger at The Wall Street Journal has called “The Cloud Economy,” which “is flying without instruments because of the White House’s policy choices.” Given that the departure of Austan Goolsbee leaves the administration with “no economist in a prominent position,” the situation doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon.

As wrong as Obama is about placing pervasive blame, he is accidentally right in the sense that a lot of individuals and companies could be more productive — which leads to the column’s title.

I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that they or their bosses will only accept certain communications by email because they need a digital record “to protect themselves.” From what, the bogeyman? As a result, it takes heaven knows how many email exchanges to slowly work through what could have been accomplished in a single phone call.

I cannot tell you how many stories I’ve heard from employees berated by their bosses for leaving someone a brief voice message instead of sending an email, which of course has to be ever so carefully worded, to “cover our butts.”

I also can’t tell you how many complaints I’ve heard about coworkers, bosses and subordinates who won’t answer the phone — ever — and suffer no consequences.

And I’ll bet that more than a few people reading this have sent unnecessary emails to coworkers or associates whose locations were almost within whispering distance.

In March, Pamela Paul at The New York Times wrote what sadly may not be a minority opinion: “Nobody calls me anymore — and that’s just fine.”

Certainly it seems as if decision-makers at companies which deal directly with the public are heading in that direction, with what I believe could be serious long-term consequences for the bottom line. Recently, Consumer Reports, found that 71 percent of people they surveyed “were extremely irritated when they couldn’t reach a human on the phone. Sixty-seven percent said they hung up the phone without getting their issue resolved.” Those percentages have to be low. Further, “‘There’s a feeling on the part of Americans that companies are deliberately making it difficult for them by burying phone numbers, sidestepping calls and steering customers to online FAQs instead of live human beings,’ said Tod Marks, senior project editor.” You don’t say? It’s not a feeling, Tod. It’s a fact.

Of course I recognize that there’s a cost to babysitting lazy customers who could have found answers in a minute or two on their own. But there’s also a loyalty-building aspect to serving a sincere but ignorant customer and solving their problems. Too many companies have decided to shut such people out completely. As a result, lots of people have no idea how to leverage a great deal of the technology and knowledge which is right there at their fingertips. The economic cost of such ignorance cannot be small.

So pick up the darned phone. Answer the darned phone. And just for the heck of it every once in a while (I know this will be a real toughie), stop sitting, which after all is supposedly as dangerous as smoking, get out of your chair, walk a few feet and have a conversation with your coworker. Y’know, face to face.

I’m not alone in my productivity-related concerns. During July 2009, East Valley OB/GYN in Chandler, Arizona banned internal emails during “Conversation Fridays,” calling it “an opportunity for us to refrain from internal emails and pick up the phone to talk to one another to get our jobs done.” Imagine that. I have confirmed (by phone, of course) that Conversation Fridays also took place last year. The practice claims that “Many companies have established programs like this as a way to synergize including VeriSign, US Cellular, and others.”

In 2003, British company Phones4U went much further, completely banning staff email. I don’t know whether the ban is still in place, and perhaps it was an overreaction, but owner John Caudwell claimed that the ban would “save staff up to three hours a day which translates to a saving of £1m (about $1.65 million at the time) a month.”

Techies may ridicule these companies as Neanderthals, but one thing is true about both which is not true of everyone: They’re still in business.

I would hope that President Obama might heed my call for increased efficiency through judicious use of the telephone and face-to-face contact. Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone will be able to pry the Blackberry from his cold, detached, indifferent hands.

Obama: ATMs Cause Unemployment (See Update)

This should be Obama’s “grocery scanner” moment (actually, his second; although, for the historical record, the Bush 41 “grocery scanner” moment is, per Snopes, false):

BreitbartObamaATMquote

Hey guy, people were using ATMs instead of visiting tellers for decades before you, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid inflicted the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy on America three years ago.

Obama’s response to the question gives one the impression that he believes the trend towards automation only got going in earnest during the past couple of years. Where has he been?

There’s so much more that’s wrong with the video segment in question (go to Breibart to see the 86 seconds to which I’m referring, and here at MSNBC to see the entire NBC Today Show segment). Both Obama and Ann Curry are dreadful. Hopefully I can get to some of that later.

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UPDATE: Well, I was writing up a related post that ended up being good enough to turn into a Pajamas Media column, which I just submitted a short time ago. I’m told it may go up at PJM fairly quickly (but not before tomorrow), so most of what I wanted to say will have to wait until it comes out.

There is one point I didn’t make in the column which I’ve been meaning to make for some time, and it’s embodied in this Obama quote found in the middle of Breitbart’s interview snippet:

We are now in a process where the economy is growing again and we’ve created 2 million jobs in the last 15 months.

First, the usual error correction: Over “2 million jobs” were created in the private sector (actually 2.144 million) during the past 15 months, but only 1.817 million overall (both figures are seasonally adjusted).

But the big point is in the bolded words: “we’ve created.”

The heck you have. Businesses have created them.

Say what you will about Bush 43, but he understood that government doesn’t create private-sector jobs (except occasionally for some economically inefficient crony-capitalist jobs emanating from federal largesse, which amount to very little in the grand scheme of things):

  • State of the Union Address, 2007 — “We are now in the 41st month of uninterrupted job growth, a recovery that has created 7.2 million new jobs so far.
  • State of the Union Address, 2008 — “To build a prosperous future, we must trust people with their own money and empower them to grow our economy. As we meet tonight, our economy is undergoing a period of uncertainty. America has added jobs for a record 52 straight months, but jobs are now growing at a slower pace.”
  • State of the Union address, 2006 — “In the last two-and-a-half years, America has created 4.6 million new jobs — more than Japan and the European Union combined.”

Ronald Reagan, of course, had that same understanding, and was more blunt about who got the credit:

  • State of the Union Address, 1986 — “Tonight the American people deserve our thanks for 37 straight months of economic growth, for sunrise firms and modernized industries creating nine million new jobs in three years, interest rates cut in half, inflation falling over from 12 percent in 1980 to under 4 today, and a mighty river of good works – a record $74 billion in voluntary giving just last year alone.”
  • State of the Union Address, 1987 — “The unemployment rate – still too high – is the lowest in nearly seven years, and our people have created nearly 13 million new jobs.

With Obama, it’s all about him and his supposedly wondrous federal government. Apparently, nothing happens without his and their involvement.

Hmm — maybe that’s why almost nothing happens.

UPDATE 2: The inevitable and logical response from the ATM industry (HT Instapundit).

Positivity: Catholic sculptor seeks to reflect God’s work in his art

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

From Sacramento, California:

Jun 12, 2011 / 05:58 pm

Ten years ago, Dave Hanson retired from his job as a corrections officer at California’s Folsom State Prison. Now the 71-year-old works full-time to create sculptures of Padre Pio, St. Francis and other figures for schools and institutions across the country.

“At one point, I began to inquire about Padre Pio,” Hanson told CNA. “I knew only that he was a saint and had displayed the Lord’s stigmata. The more I studied him, the more committed I became.”

“After completing the bust, I was able to place copies in various Catholic schools in the Sacramento area, and am currently placing one at the Padre Pio Academy in Ohio,” he explained.

Hanson’s years as a corrections officer made him want to bring beauty and goodness into the world through his art. But his Catholic faith also helped him see his “day job” as a calling from God.

“If you wish to provide a Christian service to someone, prison is the place to work,” he noted.

A turning point in Hanson’s career came when he made a sculpture of an angel, in response to a heartbreaking case in which a mother was convicted of beating her son to death.

He inscribed the words, “Angels sleeping,” without knowing that a homeless children’s center would later place the statue close to where the children slept.

“It gives me chills to think about it,” he reflected. “God knew, and wanted that statement there.”

He continued to place his angel sculptures in various schools and children’s areas while continuing his work at the prison.

Years before, Hanson said, visual art had become “lodged in his soul” when he discovered the world of classical masterpieces as a young man.

“I just kept practicing and taught myself how to sculpt through trial and error,” he remembered, with a soft chuckle.

After graduating from college, he ran his own statue and fountain manufacturing business in the 1970s. During those years, he became dismayed at the lack of moral leaders in the U.S. He felt compelled to present examples of virtue through his sculpting. …

Go here for the rest of the story.