Cloud Cover

Cosmics Leaving OUtdoor Droplets
“If there is a causal relation between cosmic ray flux and cloud cover it is expected that the long term variations in cosmic ray should reflect variations in Earth’s temperature and should be important in an explanation of the high correlation between solar cycle length and global temperature.”~ Dr. Henrick Svensmark, 1998

Lawrence Sullivan writes in The Financial Post  that we now have scientific proof that the Sun controls the Earth's climate:
The science is now all-but-settled on global warming, convincing new evidence demonstrates, but Al Gore​, the IPCC and other global warming doomsayers won’t be celebrating. The new findings point to cosmic rays and the sun — not human activities — as the dominant controller of climate on Earth.

The research, published with little fanfare this week in the prestigious journal Nature, comes from ├╝ber-prestigious CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, one of the world’s largest centres for scientific research involving 60 countries and 8,000 scientists at more than 600 universities and national laboratories. CERN is the organization that invented the World Wide Web, that built the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider, and that has now built a pristinely clean stainless steel chamber that precisely recreated the Earth’s atmosphere.

In this chamber, 63 CERN scientists from 17 European and American institutes have done what global warming doomsayers said could never be done — demonstrate that cosmic rays promote the formation of molecules that in Earth’s atmosphere can grow and seed clouds, the cloudier and thus cooler it will be. Because the sun’s magnetic field controls how many cosmic rays reach Earth’s atmosphere (the stronger the sun’s magnetic field, the more it shields Earth from incoming cosmic rays from space), the sun determines the temperature on Earth.
Dr. Svenmark's theory was derived for correlation of sunspot activity, solar winds and cloud formations in our Heliosphere.  In 2007, Danish scientists launched a project known as SKY using a high energy particle accelerator beam, which according to this paper, first confirmed the Svenmark hypothesis.

Update: This National Post  editorial that I just linked succinctly describes the impact of the sun and clouds on the Earth's climate and it rightly laments the political influence that has CERN scientists downplaying their own successful scientific experiment. To paraphrase President James A. Garfield: “He who controls the money supply of a world controls the world.” Government funding seems to be more important to scientists (especially those chasing the new field of climate science) than the immediate economic impact that would result from declaring the magnificence of this proof of the Sun's influence. Man-made global warming has now been disproved.

Dead Letter Office: In Search Of A New Paradigm

The battle lines have been drawn and the expected alliances have been formed, but both sides acknowledge that the assets (if there are any) of the dying patient known to us as the U.S. Post Office (but whose epitaph will read: "Dead Letter Office") is at stake. The family gathered for the preliminary reading of the last will and testament include the politicians and their allies, with the Republicans and taxpayers on one side and the Democrats, their hired hands in the media and in the unions on the other. The losers under most scenarios that can play out are the management, employees and customers of the postal service. The left-wing on-line magazine Slate , sums up the whole problem nicely (with a little editing on my part) in "Deliverance: The U.S. Postal Service must make massive changes if it is going to survive."
America's postal service is [seemingly] elegant, efficient, even amazing, given the enormous size of the country and the low cost of stamps. But the U.S. Postal Service is a hulking, foundering, money-hemorrhaging bureaucracy. A government watchdog has deemed the whole business unsustainable. . . . It raises the question: How is the postal service going to be viable as mailed letters become increasingly obsolete?

One thing is for sure: The fiscal situation at the USPS is bad—really bad. According to its most recent quarterly report, the USPS lost $3.1 billion between April 1 and June 30. Add that to billions of dollars in losses racked up since the recession hit—the USPS has been in the red for 18 of the last 20 fiscal quarters. It has also amassed tens of billions in unfunded liabilities, mostly in pension [$18B] and retiree health-benefit obligations [$49B].

The problem is not mismanagement [??? "We said, 'What's your 10-year plan?' " . . . "They didn't have one." ???]. The problem is that the USPS has an enormous, expensive physical and [unionized] human infrastructure. It operates more than twice as many U.S. outlets as McDonald's. It runs the largest vehicle fleet on Earth. It has a [extremely bloated] staff of nearly 600,000, despite considerable reductions in the last decade. To pay for all those people, trucks, and buildings, the USPS needs to handle a lot of mail.

The catastrophe is twofold. The USPS is going to need a higher debt limit or big changes pronto, or it is going to run out of cash. Then it needs significant—maybe even radical—changes to return it to fiscal stability. Indeed, a congressionally ordered Government Accountability Office report from April 2010 starts with the blunt line: "USPS's business model is not viable due to USPS's inability to reduce costs sufficiently in response to continuing mail volume and revenue declines." The "business model" is not "viable." Changes are necessary. So what might those changes look like?
Most of the press coverage talks about short-term solutions which will ultimately result in the termination of government-distributed "snail mail." Tim Pawlenty, The Cato Institute, and Rich Geddes favor privatization of the enterprise (with and without employee ownership i.e. ESOP), but that will guarantee that the American taxpayer will get soaked since the largest part of Post Office assets were paid with tax dollars and retirement and union termination contract clauses will likely have to be honored by "you guessed it."

USPS management has a plan that will downsize the service by eliminating 220,000 employees, stripping the unions of collective bargaining power, closing thousands of facilities, mostly post offices, freeing itself from unrealistic postage pricing rules and (take a breath) abandoning government retiree health and defined pension plans. Yeah - that could work - but I cannot see the regime and the its unions buying into that fairy tale. If there is a buy-in, the Postal Commission will end up granting the same excessively enhanced reduction-in-force (RIF) provisions already given to APWU to all other postal unions. My guess is that the "All Bailout -- All The Time" Obama will suggest a massive infusion of freshly-printed cash to "save" 220,000 postal jobs in his "jobs" speech after Labor Day.

Notice that the solutions addressed thus far recognize that the government cannot run "for-profit" enterprises and, despite stated desires to make the Post Office self-sufficient and self-funding, no USPS administration has ever attempted to break the USPS umbilical cord - until now. Sadly, that will not happen because of a deep-seeded need among career politicians and bureaucrats (the no-risk crowd) for government protection.

If I am correct, the U. S. Postal Service or whatever new name (not likely the Dead Letter Office) or form it will take, will rollback to the protective bosom of Mother Gov. The good news available for U.S Snail Mail is that 30% of its customer base has drawn the line in the sand against electronic mail and another 55% appear to be willing to get correspondence from both physical and electronic sources. Even more surprising is the public's attitude toward transactional mail. Studies show that "although mail volumes have been declining rapidly in the US, 71% of US consumers still feel more secure holding an official paper copy of their bills and statements, and that to push them forcibly into digital channels could risk losing those customers altogether." This flies in the face of society's increase in computer literacy and the attitude prevails despite pressure from most companies that want to save costs by sending billings and receiving payments electronically.

A behemoth the size ot the Post Office has to select a new business model that permits "dancin' with the one what brung ya." That means continuing to physically deliver hard-copy correspondence, advertising and parcels to the addressee. The paradigm shift that has to happen is the removal of the long-distance hauling of mail for ridiculously low prices; actually the secret probably involves the elimination, for all intents and purposes, of the hauling of most paper correspondence to any and all locations throughout the country. The change also must permit delivery of mail electronically to those who want such service.

The business models have been developed to deliver mail electronically and front end data capture systems have been perfected to permit handling of electronic document files. The USPS already has Optical Character Recognition Scanners which possibly could be converted to document reading and conversion. Zumbox, a relatively new start-up that likely would be willing to lease its technology, has launched a paperless electronic postal mail service which will encourage advertisers and transaction mailers to deposit their correspondence into electronic mail boxes available for every address in the United States. The mailing party pays and access and registration are free to end users -- but the Zumbox system does not provide for delivering  physical mail. In a limited geographic area, Earth Class Mail offers scanning and forwarding of mail electronically, but their service costs are in addition to other shipping cost and they must first receive your mail, open it, then scan it for your benefit and of course they then have the opportunity to read your mail. Earth Class Mail service is aimed at business customers with large mail volumes.

The New Post Office, as I see it, would provide brick and mortar locations where customers can register their address and specify service levels, compose electronic mail, scan physical documents and even chat with a favorite postal employee. The New Online Post Office would also provide all of the above services except visiting time, since postal patrons would have to do all the work themselves.

The intriguing possibilities for customized mail service include (1) a mechanism for banning junk mail by source, since all mailers would have electronic I.D.s; (2) the ability to lower your mailing costs by doing the scanning and preparation work yourself; (3) the option to upgrade information received electronically by purchasing a filing cabinet service which can organize and classify your mail receipts; and (4) most importantly, the joy of receiving printed paper correspondence delivered into your real mailbox  -- if you so desire.

There should be no doubt that the Post Office would operate at a lower cost and much more efficiently. There would be fewer brick and mortar post offices needed, less route trucks would be required, physical deliveries could be computer scheduled to run as often as needed. Instead of sorting, stamping and hauling mail, time would have to be taken to print scans onto paper already in an envelope ( like your W-2). Do I believe any of this pipe dream ? No, the New Post Office would still be run by the bureaucrats and manned by worthless union thugs armed in advance with a mountain of work rules and an "I get mine first" attitude.

Meanwhile . . . back to the drawing board!

Fair and Equal

H/T: Cartoonist Gary Trudeau

Accounting 101 for the Post Office

An onslaught of crying jags by the postal unions and by the liberal media has followed the announcement this week that things have to change at the United States Postal Service to preserve its very existence.  Postal unions are claiming that Republicans irreparably harmed the Post Office by requiring annual payments of about $5.5 billion each year until 2015, which according to the WaPo,  is designed “to prepay into an employee retirement fund each year to ensure that its increasing financial woes will not leave taxpayers shouldering costs.”

Balderdash!  The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act” calls for compliance with GASB Statement 45  and SFAS #106 which bring USPS accounting for health and other non-pension benefits for retirees in line with private company standards by funding “the actuarial present value of all future benefits payable from the Fund  . . .  to current or former employees of the United States Postal Service”.

Oddly, Post Office Accounting has ignored the implications of the law by failing to record a liability (or a pre-payment) on its balance sheet. The annual payment has been expensed on a cash basis rather than booking an accrual that is required of single-employer plans under the ERISA law. To this accountant’s way of thinking, the unfunded liability for retiree health (and defined-benefit pension) coverage must, at this very moment,  far exceed the required payments made over the past four years, else a balance sheet item would show.  If my assumption is correct, this GAO assessment of the dire straits through which the Post Office is sailing, indicates that America's taxpayers (rather than USPS's ratepayers) are going to get royally shafted yet again!

The U.S. Government Accountability Office made these findings:
USPS cannot fund its current level of service and operations from its revenues and urgently needs to restructure to reflect changes in mail volume, revenue, and use of the mail.
  •         Although USPS reports $12.5 billion in cost savings since fiscal year 2006, it has not been able to cut costs fast enough to offset the large decline in mail volume and revenue—particularly costs related to its workforce, retail and processing networks, and delivery services.
  •         Furthermore, its revenue initiatives have had limited results. USPS can borrow up to $3 billion from the Treasury annually but expects to reach its statutory $15 billion borrowing limit in fiscal year 2011.
  •        USPS must align its costs with revenues, generate sufficient funding for capital investment, and manage its growing debt (see table).

The President Lies and Cries -- The Market Sighs and Dies

I am their leader. Where have they gone? 

Nothing more succinct than Jennifer Rubin's description of Obama's speech today:
It was a bit like a slow-motion car crash. After a while, one stopped listening to the blather and simply watched the stock ticker go down and down. And down some more.
This illuminated Obama’s predicament — devoid of ideas, bitter about political opposition and completely in over his head. If the election were held today, I bet he’d lose. By a lot.

Latest Greek Bailout Just Cost US Taxpayers $780M

Zero Hedge  reports that the US has spent $780 million dollars to cover 17 percent of the International Monetary Funds payment for July and August interest to hedge funds holding Greek debt paper issued by European banks but later sold to speculators such as  John Paulson.  Yes, I know that all we have heard since April is that the US debt ceiling had to be raised to prevent American default on its own debts. The IMF directors have committed to the second EU bailout for the Greek government in just two years -- and our commitment to the monetary fund links us to liabilities not in US government control. What's more frightening is that the Greeks are not the only socialist nation in Europe with enormous debt that are "too big to fail." It is time to listen to Fred Sauer:

In another complete perversity, Obama’s socialist forefathers, who prescribed and implemented liberalism’s economic theory in Western Europe, had the foresight to provide a rescue facility for the new Europe. They would use the administrative procedures of the IMF to seize more and more money from the remaining market-based economies to subsidize those nations failing from liberalism’s excessive spending.

All the IMF elites need to do to get more American taxpayer money is to “have a board meeting.” But Greece is just the tip of the iceberg. Are there other EU nations that also might need to procure bailout funds? The instability of this situation will increase as interest rates rise in the future.
But no one listened to Senator Jim Demint (R-SC) when  he offered a bill in 2010 which would have forbidden the IMF from using US Taxpayer funds for the first Greek bailout tranche. DeMint's argument one year ago is familiar today:
"We haven’t even begun to seriously address our own economic difficulties, so it makes no sense to continue bailing out failing European countries,” said DeMint. “If we don’t reverse our reckless fiscal course, America will be the one in need of a bailout. We need to stop the spending, stop the debt, and pass a balanced budget amendment.”
The scary scenario about the immediate EU crisis is that America is at risk for over $50 billion in default payments.  Then there is the question as to whether of not the agreement to provide funds to the IMF is really debt as defined in the 14th amendment or under the debt ceiling limits.  Either way, we are spending money that could be used to meet domestic obligations.  Meanwhile back at the Mediterranean, they are rioting in Athens and withholding payment of government fees.  Greek socialists perfectly understand that  their economic dilemma is caused by Germans and Americans who are overcharging for interest and who fail to honor the entitlements that have always been available since the Marshall Plan began.