Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Prop 23: "We're in a crisis at least 90% of the time!"

Prop 23 on the California ballot this year proposes to repeal the climate change restrictions in the law AB 32 until the state's unemployment rate drops below 5.5%, and stays there for 4 consecutive quarters.  It embodies the spirit of the "We're in a crisis!" mentality; that is, "We'd love to reduce our impact on the environment, but the economy is bad, so Now Is Not The Time!" 

One might wonder, though, just how often does our unemployment rate drop below 5.5%, anyway?

The answer, as the plot above shows, is not very often.  Out of the 416 months for which CA has kept unemployment rate monthly values (since 1976), only 81 of those months had unemployment rates below 5.5%.  That's 19.5% of the time.

But Prop 23 goes further with its requirements: If it passes, then we will only be able to enforce the restrictions in AB32 AFTER we've had 4 consecutive quarters of unemployment rates below 5.5%.  That means that you have to watch the unemployment rate for 12 months, and if it has been below 5.5% for all 12 of those months, then on the 13th month you can start enforcing the climate change restrictions, and continue to do so until the rate pops above 5.5% again, at which point you have to wait until it stabilizes below 5.5% for another 12 months before you can start enforcing the law again.

So, if we assume that prop 23 passes and that the next 34 years will be statistically similar to the last 34 years, how much of the time will AB32 be enforceable?

Answer: 4.8% of the time.

(Actually it depends on how you count the unemployment rates.  If you are using monthly rates, and interpreting the "4 consecutive quarters" as 12 consecutive months, then only 20 out of the 416 months of the past 34 years would meet Prop 23's requirements, hence 4.8%.  If you are using quarterly unemployment rates (3-month averages of the monthly unemployment rate), then 13 out of the 136 quarters in the past 34 years would meet Prop 23's requirements, which is 9.6% of the time.)

Thus, according to those who would vote for Prop 23, we shouldn't worry about the environment when we are in an unemployment crisis. . . 

. . . and (oh yeah) we are in an unemployment crisis over 90% of the time.

Gee, it's almost as if the backers of Prop 23 (oil companies) chose 5.5% so that AB32, which was passed by a Democratic legislature and signed by a Republican governor, could never be effectively enacted.  And all they had to do was get enough signatures to get Prop 23 on the ballot.

Vote no on prop 23.

(Data for the plot was obtained here: http://www.labormarketinfo.edd.ca.gov/?pageid=164)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Some thoughts on the LOST season premiere. . .

1.) That Juliet is such a great practical joker! When I die, I am going to wait until the last minute, then pull my family members close to me and tell them "I have to tell you something! It's REALLY REALLY REALLY important. . ." and then die right then. Man I'll be chuckling all the way to oblivion!  

2.) I know that guy is a U.S. Marshall and all so he's rough and tough. . . but still. . . don't pick stuff up off the floor of the airport bathroom. That's just gross. Even Kate knew not to do that!  

3.) So, let me get this straight. The leader of the temple Others can speak English just fine, but chooses not to and instead has his version of Mr. Smithers on hand to repeat every dang thing he says. What kind of a total jerk of a leader has the ability to speak English, and yet, during an emergency (like oh, say, a murderous smoke monster on its way to kill everybody) STILL shouts out his defense orders in another language while his English-speaking subordinates have to wait for Smithers to repeat it? No wonder the Others lost that war in Yugoslavia.  

4.) Can anyone explain to me why a hydrogen bomb would have enough energy to disintegrate an entire island, and all the land beneath the island down 100+ feet below the ocean surface. . . and still not be able to damage that foot statue? What is that thing made of, anyway? (Also, was that the Dharma shark down there?)  

5.) Apparently, the most secure way to send someone a message is to write it down on a paper note, roll it up, then build a giant wooden egyptian ankh around it. Slap that puppy in a guitar case, and it's good to go! Jacob clearly never went to junior high school. Can you imagine him trying to pass a secret note in class? Teacher: "Jacob! are you passing a note?!" Jacob: (holding a giant wooden ankh behind his back) "No. . .".  

6.) It's nice to know that the enigmatic rules of time-travel and parallel-universe-hopping at least take convenience into account. Jack et al. time-jumped when the H-bomb went off because it would have changed their histories. But what a pain it would have been if that Volkswagon bus hadn't time-jumped with them!  

7.) Oh, Charlie. How dumb are you? I've never taken heroin in my life, but even I know you're not supposed to try to inhale it until AFTER you take it out of the plastic baggie. I thought the way you died in the underwater station was dumb (with the door you could have opened OUT into the non-water-filled moon pool room), but this death would have been even dumber. Headline: "ex-Rockstar dies in airplane lavatory somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Choked on plastic baggie full of heroin." . . . come to think of it, that's actually kind of awesome.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The latest new Vision for Space Exploration

The Obama administration released its plan for NASA's budget in the coming year today, and with it comes an attempt to largely change the goals for NASA's manned spaceflight program. I like the most of the plans for increasing funding for Earth and Planetary sciences, as well as Heliophysics and extending the operational life of the International Space Station. But I am highly skeptical that the plans for giving up on the Constellation program in favor of giving some seed money to small start-up space companies are a good thing.

I'm all for stimulating spaceflight innovation in the private sector, but not at the expense of the existing NASA plans for continued human spaceflight. I would much rather they continue the Constellation program and tack on some additional money to NASA's budget to be used for this X-prize-like private stimulus. Obama's current proposal means we just stop putting people into space using the tried-and-true methods we've been using for the past 49 years, and say "Here's some seed money, private sector. Reinvent the wheel for us while we sit on the sidelines and wait." I'd love to see the private sector come up with a cheaper method of getting people into space. . . but let them do it in parallel and demonstrate that it outclasses what NASA is already using. Yes, this would come down to increasing NASA's budget, but as we both know that ought to happen anyway.  

Also, since we are extending the life of the ISS (a good thing), shouldn't we consider extending the life of the Shuttle program as well? The whole idea back in the '60's and '70's was to have a space station and a "shuttle" to ferry people and cargo to/from it. Now that we actually have both in operation, how does it make sense for the U.S. to announce a continued commitment to the ISS, but WITHOUT the ability to ferry either cargo or crew to/from the station at all? Bush's reasoning for cancelling the shuttle program was that we could free up money to use on human spaceflight outside of LEO, and it wouldn't be that big a deal because the ISS would only be around a few more years after the shuttle was retired. Obama is basically proposing we extend the life of the ISS without having the most useful tool for servicing it.  

I predict this will only serve to lengthen the amount of time that the U.S. is without the ability to put people into space. Then, at some point, as India, China, and Russia are all able to launch humans into space, the American people will get restless and start to wonder why again did we just give up doing that? Congress will get spurred into action, and the next President will have his or her own new vision for space exploration that essentially returns to the idea of NASA creating and operating (through a big company like Boeing or Lockheed) its own manned spacecraft.  

At JSC, in the ISS flight control room, they have several models of Space Station Freedom hanging from the ceiling. Each model looks a little different, and the joke we'd make when giving tours was that "this is the 100th Congress's plan for space station freedom, this is the 101st Congress' plan for space station freedom, this is the 102nd. . .". Just as Bush tried to overhaul the Vision for space exploration 6 years ago, and Obama is doing this now, so it will be overhauled again by the next politician. Sigh.