Carpe Diem

Earth Day dilemma: UK wind turbine kills rare bird – white-throated needletail – sighted only 8 times in UK since 1846

On Earth Day 2014, its sponsors want us to both “utilize wind,solar and other form of energy for better future,” and also “help save endangered species.” Although it’s not yet classified as endangered, there have only been eight recorded sightings of the white-throated needletail bird in the UK since 1846. So when one was sighted off the west shores of Scotland last summer, birdwatchers were understandably excited. According to the Daily Mail:

A group of 40 enthusiasts dashed to the Hebrides to catch a glimpse of the brown, black and blue bird, which breeds in Asia and winters in Australasia. But instead of being treated to a wildlife spectacle they were left with a horror show when it flew into a wind turbine and was killed.

John Marchant, 62, who had made the 500-mile trip all the way from Norfolk, said: ‘We were absolutely over the moon to see the bird. We watched it for nearly two hours. “But while we were watching it suddenly got a bit close to the turbine and then the blades hit it. We all rushed up to the turbine, which took about five minutes, hoping the bird had just been knocked out the sky but was okay. Unfortunately it had taken a blow to the head and was stone dead. It was really beautiful when it was flying around, graceful and with such speed. To suddenly see it fly into a turbine and fall out the sky was terrible.”

The last sighting of a white-throated needletail was 22 years ago. A relative of the common swift, it is said to be capable of flying at an astonishing 106mph.

MP: What’s an environmentalist to do — a) support wind energy, or b) save endangered and rare species of birds? Reminds me of the joke about the young boy who says to his father, “Dad, I want to grow up and be a musician.” The father says, “Well, son, you’re going to have to make a choice.”

Carpe Diem

PETA-sponsored bossettes put Michelle Obama in a ‘timeout’ and boss her around about using real eggs at the White House

Although it’s now been documented that it’s based on outdated research, false or misleading claims, and “junk science,” Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and the Girl Scouts are leading a national “Ban Bossy” campaign to ban the word “bossy” from the English language. Reason? It allegedly hurts the self-esteem of girls and women, and undermines girls and women who exhibit leadership skills by labeling them with pejoratives like “bossy.

Well, PETA apparently didn’t get the memo or sign the “I will #BanBossy pledge.” Because in the PETA-sponsored video above, titled “Michelle Obama, We Need to Talk,” a female-only cast of young girls bosses the First Lady around for more than a minute about using real eggs at the 136th annual White House Easter Egg Roll taking place on Monday. According to the Washington Times the young bossy bossettes gang up on Mrs. Obama and put her in a “timeout” to “think about the ramifications of wastefully using thousands of hens’ eggs every year in the White House Easter Egg Roll.” Rather than use real eggs, the young bossettes want Michelle to switch to using reusable, plastic eggs.

Questions: Where are the boys, why are the girls being so bossy, and what about the carbon footprint of the plastic eggs?

Carpe Diem

Friday afternoon links

sowell1. Quotation of the Day from Thomas Sowell above.

2. Coming Soon: Facebook to Introduce a Feature that Will Notify Users When Their Friends are Nearby.

3. Cash-Only, Old School Medicine: I think we can expect more of this:

In a post-Affordable Care Act enrollment landscape, some say a steady trickle of primary care physicians will abandon insurance companies and government regulations for the simplicity of charging patients directly. And more patients who have insurance may decide to also pay an additional fee on their own, because they want more one-on-one time.

4. The Overprotected Kid: A preoccupation with safety has stripped childhood of independence, risk taking, and discovery—without making it safer, writes Hana Rosin in The Atlantic.

When my daughter was about 10, my husband suddenly realized that in her whole life, she had probably not spent more than 10 minutes unsupervised by an adult. Not 10 minutes in 10 years. It’s hard to absorb how much childhood norms have shifted in just one generation.

5. The Overprotected Kid II: Income Inequality Institute to Pay Infamous Class Warrior Paul Krugman $25,000 per Month to Do Basically Nothing.

6. Demon Ethanol: It benefits special interests, hurts consumers, and harms the planet, says A. Barton Hinkle. It’s also one of the few (only?) subjects on which all corners of the ideological map agree.

7. University of Michigan News: Black student from Detroit with ACT score of 23 (68th percentile) was “unfairly” rejected by the University of Michigan, and she demands to be admitted. Jennifer Gratz challenges her to an affirmative action racial profiling in college admissions debate.

8. Amazing: Watch How To Cut Tomatoes In Just 5 Seconds!

9. Amazing II: Job applicants for “World’s Toughest Job” get a big shock

10. How Much Do You Care About Grammar? Find out here.

Bonus Cartoon of the Day:payne




Carpe Diem

Just in time for Earth Day, a very inconvenient chart of Great Lakes ice coverage – it’s 15X greater than normal for April


The chart above is from the Canadian Ice Service and shows the percentage ice coverage of the Great Lakes during the week of April 16 for each year from 1981 to 2014. Almost 40% of the Great Lakes are still currently covered with ice, which is far above the median of 2.7% for this time of year. Global what? 

Update: The chart below shows the total accumulated ice coverage of the Great Lakes over the entire winter season from November to April for each winter season since 1980-1981. For the most recent winter the Great Lakes had ice coverage 42.4% of the time, which is more than twice the median ice coverage of 16.12% over the last 33 years.ice2


Carpe Diem

In early observance of Earth Day, some educational wit and wisdom of George Carlin on ‘saving the planet’

Earth Day is coming up next Tuesday (April 22). According to the Earth Day website, “Education is at the heart of Earth Day” and Earth Day 2014 is the “Year of the Climate Voter.”  Therefore, to observe that annual event, I’ll be featuring a series of educational posts about environmental issues over the next week.

Let’s start with some educational comedy from George Carlin in the video above titled “Saving the Planet,” featured annually on Carpe Diem around Earth Day (***some profanity and strong language***).

Also, if you hurry, you might still have time to get your official Earth Day 2014 t-shirt, displayed below featuring a polar bear clinging to a floating wind turbine? Where are the dead eagles?   thsirt


Carpe Diem, Society and Culture

In the latest ‘Factual Feminist’ video, Christina Sommers debunks the junk science behind the ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign

The Ban Bossy campaign and its star-studded brigade to empower girls to lead has garnered lots of media attention. But does their leader, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, have all of her facts straight? In the latest video in the AEI series “The Factual Feminist” resident AEI scholar Christina Sommers takes a closer look the data, and finds what we should really be banning is poor research.

For example, in the March 23 Washington Examiner article “Unmasking the junk science behind the #BanBossy campaign,” commentary reporter Ashe Schow writes that:

Ban Bossy,” a new feminist campaign started by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, uses ancient surveys and misleading facts to claim the word “bossy” hurts girls. And, as you might expect, the claims don’t support the campaign’s mission.

In her article, Ashe Schow debunks 9 bogus claims from the Ban Bossy website that are either false or misleading, or based on outdated research. Ms. Schow concludes that:

Sheryl Sandberg said she was called bossy once and it really affected her. Maybe it did, but she’s a billionaire now and the chief operating officer of Facebook, so it couldn’t have hurt too badly. How did she actually deal with it? By kicking butt and taking names – that’s how. Why isn’t she teaching girls that?

In a related article titled “The ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign misfires,” Cathy Young also points to some of the questionable and shoddy research promoted in Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign and writes that:

Sandberg’s new campaign — “Ban Bossy” — is a spectacular misfire that promises empowerment but promotes the worst stereotypes of feminism: victimhood and speech policing. Let us by all means help girls fulfill their potential. But let’s not invent oppression where it doesn’t exist — and let’s not forget about boys who are falling behind.

Carpe Diem

Minimum wage hikes are largely neutralized by reducing non-monetary fringe benefits and increased work demands

I’ve argued before on CD that saying (or finding empirically) that minimum wage increases have no or very small effects on employment levels is not the same as saying that minimum wage increases have no negative effects on low-skilled and unskilled workers.  Reason? Even if employers maintain the same staffing levels of low-skilled and unskilled workers following a large increase in the minimum wage (e.g. 40% from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour) as before, many businesses will make adjustments to a variety of non-monetary factors to compensate for the higher, government-mandated monetary wage. Those adjustments might include reducing hours, fringe benefits and on-the-job training, and increasing expectations of work productivity (fewer workers or fewer hours to the same or more work). On net, those non-monetary adjustments could mean that many workers who keep their jobs (or find a job) won’t necessarily be any better off following a minimum wage hike, and could even be worse off.

The unavoidable and inevitable adjustments to non-monetary factors following minimum wage increases is the main topic of an op-ed in today’s Investor’s Business Daily by economist Richard McKenzie titled “Minimum Wage Hike Often Offset By Fringe Benefit Cuts.” Here are Richard’s key points:

…. wage income is not the only form of compensation with which employers pay their workers. Also in the mix are fringe benefits, relaxed work demands, workplace ambiance, respect, schedule flexibility, job security and hours of work. Employers compete with one another to reduce their labor costs for unskilled workers, while unskilled workers compete for the available unskilled jobs — with an eye on the total value of the compensation package. With a minimum-wage increase, employers will move to cut labor costs by reducing fringe benefits and increasing work demands…

Proponents and opponents of minimum-wage hikes do not seem to realize that the tiny employment effects consistently found across numerous studies provide the strongest evidence available that increases in the minimum wage have been largely neutralized by cost savings on fringe benefits and increased work demands and the cost savings from the more obscure and hard-to-measure cuts in nonmoney compensation.

MP: The government can pass a law making it illegal for an employer to pay an unskilled worker less than $7.25 or $10.10 per hour in monetary wages, but the government can’t prevent employers from reacting to higher minimum wages in ways that help businesses and hurt unskilled workers including: a) cutting workers’ hours or laying them off (or refusing to hire them in the first place), b) reducing or eliminating non-monetary forms of employee compensation, and c) investing in labor-saving technologies that substitute automation for unskilled workers. Many of those employer responses will be hard to quantify (or even detect) and will not show up in official employment levels or jobless rates for entry-level workers. But those responses will make low-skilled workers worse off, and could either completely neutralize the higher money wage, or could even be large enough to make workers worse off overall.

One more point from my previous post: Let’s not forget that the compassionate-sounding minimum wage law is in reality a coercive government-mandated price control, which prevents private citizens from engaging in mutually beneficial exchanges, with the threat of fines or jail time. The minimum wage law coercive government-mandated price control gives politicians and government bureaucrats control over the lives of ordinary citizens, and we’re all a little bit less free when price controls are imposed on the citizenry by government fiat and voluntary transactions are outlawed. If you’re willing to allow and accept government control over the wages for unskilled workers, what other powers are you willing to grant the government, and what other freedoms are you willing to sacrifice?

Carpe Diem

Quotation of the day on extractive industries…

… is from Karl Rove writing in today’s WSJ (“The Political Payoff Behind ‘Paycheck Fairness’“):

Mr. Obama is deeply hostile to extractive industries like oil and gas drilling and coal mining. But there’s one extractive industry—personal-injury lawyers separating corporations from their cash—that the president likes, even if every American ultimately picks up the tab for these lawsuits. Until the election is over and all value has been wrung from the Paycheck Fairness Act, Mr. Obama will use it to further the Democrats’ “War on Women” theme while offering his party’s paymasters images of future big paydays.

Carpe Diem

Shortest US graduation speech ever? Nobel economist Thomas Sargent’s list of 12 valuable economic lessons

Nobel economist Thomas Sargent really economized on words when he gave a graduation speech at his undergraduate alma mater UC-Berkeley on May 16, 2007. The entire text of his 335-word, two-minute speech appears below:

I remember how happy I felt when I graduated from Berkeley many years ago. But I thought the graduation speeches were long. I will economize on words.

Economics is organized common sense. Here is a short list of valuable lessons that our beautiful subject teaches.

1. Many things that are desirable are not feasible.

2. Individuals and communities face trade-offs.

3. Other people have more information about their abilities, their efforts, and their preferences than you do.

4. Everyone responds to incentives, including people you want to help. That is why social safety nets don’t always end up working as intended.

5. There are tradeoffs between equality and efficiency.

6. In an equilibrium of a game or an economy, people are satisfied with their choices. That is why it is difficult for well-meaning outsiders to change things for better or worse.

7. In the future, you too will respond to incentives. That is why there are some promises that you’d like to make but can’t. No one will believe those promises because they know that later it will not be in your interest to deliver. The lesson here is this: before you make a promise, think about whether you will want to keep it if and when your circumstances change. This is how you earn a reputation.

8. Governments and voters respond to incentives too. That is why governments sometimes default on loans and other promises that they have made.

9. It is feasible for one generation to shift costs to subsequent ones. That is what national government debts and the U.S. social security system do (but not the social security system of Singapore).

10. When a government spends, its citizens eventually pay, either today or tomorrow, either through explicit taxes or implicit ones like inflation.

11. Most people want other people to pay for public goods and government transfers (especially transfers to themselves).

12. Because market prices aggregate traders’ information, it is difficult to forecast stock prices and interest rates and exchange rates.

HT: Craig Newmark