Monday, April 28, 2008

The Real Cost of Tackling Climate Change

The usual chorus of environmentalists and editorial writers has chimed in to attack President Bush's recent speech on climate change. In his address of April 23, he put forth a goal of stopping the growth of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2025.

"Way too little and way too late," runs the refrain, followed by the claim that nothing less than an 80% reduction in emissions by the year 2050 will suffice – what I call the "80 by 50" target. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have endorsed it. John McCain is not far behind, calling for a 65% reduction.

We all ought to reflect on what an 80% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050 really means. When we do, it becomes clear that the president's target has one overwhelming virtue: Assuming emissions curbs are even necessary, his goal is at least realistic.

The same cannot be said for the carbon emissions targets espoused by the three presidential candidates and environmentalists. Indeed, these targets would send us back to emissions levels last witnessed when the cotton gin was in daily use.

Begin with the current inventory of carbon dioxide emissions – CO2 being the principal greenhouse gas generated almost entirely by energy use. According to the Department of Energy's most recent data on greenhouse gas emissions, in 2006 the U.S. emitted 5.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, or just under 20 tons per capita. An 80% reduction in these emissions from 1990 levels means that the U.S. cannot emit more than about one billion metric tons of CO2 in 2050.

Were man-made carbon dioxide emissions in this country ever that low? The answer is probably yes – from historical energy data it is possible to estimate that the U.S. last emitted one billion metric tons around 1910. But in 1910, the U.S. had 92 million people, and per capita income, in current dollars, was about $6,000.

By the year 2050, the Census Bureau projects that our population will be around 420 million. This means per capita emissions will have to fall to about 2.5 tons in order to meet the goal of 80% reduction.

It is likely that U.S. per capita emissions were never that low – even back in colonial days when the only fuel we burned was wood. The only nations in the world today that emit at this low level are all poor developing nations, such as Belize, Mauritius, Jordan, Haiti and Somalia.

If that comparison seems unfair, consider that even the least-CO2 emitting industrialized nations do not come close to the 2050 target. France and Switzerland, compact nations that generate almost all of their electricity from nonfossil fuel sources (nuclear for France, hydro for Switzerland) emit about 6.5 metric tons of CO2 per capita.

The daunting task of reaching one billion metric tons of CO2 emissions by 2050 comes into even greater relief when we look at the American economy, sector-by-sector. The Energy Department breaks down emissions into residential, commercial (office buildings, etc.), industrial, and transportation (planes, trains and automobiles); electricity consumption is apportioned to each.

Consider the residential sector. At the present time, American households emit 1.2 billion tons of CO2 – 20% higher than the entire nation's emissions must be in 2050. If households are to emit no more than their present share of CO2, emissions will have to be reduced to 204 million tons by 2050. But in 2050, there will be another 40 million residential households in the U.S.

Today, the average residence in the U.S. uses about 10,500 kilowatt hours of electricity and emits 11.4 tons of CO2 per year (much more if you are Al Gore or John Edwards and live in a mansion). To stay within the magic number, average household emissions will have to fall to no more than 1.5 tons per year. In our current electricity infrastructure, this would mean using no more than about 2,500 KwH per year. This is not enough juice to run the average hot water heater.

You can forget refrigerators, microwaves, clothes dryers and flat screen TVs. Even a house tricked out with all the latest high-efficiency EnergyStar appliances and compact fluorescent lights won't come close. The same daunting energy math applies to the industrial, commercial and transportation sectors as well. The clear implication is that we shall have to replace virtually the entire fossil fuel electricity infrastructure over the next four decades with CO2-free sources – a multitrillion dollar proposition, if it can be done at all.

Natural gas – the preferred coal substitute of the moment – won't come close. If we replaced every single existing coal plant with a natural gas plant, CO2 emissions from electric power generation alone would still be more than twice the 2050 target. Most environmentalists remain opposed to nuclear power, of course. It is unlikely that renewables – wind, solar, and biomass – can ever make up more than about 20% of our electricity supply.

Suppose, however, that a breakthrough in carbon sequestration, a revival of nuclear power, and a significant improvement in the cost and effectiveness of renewables were to enable us to reduce the carbon footprint of electricity production. That would still leave transportation.

Right now our cars and trucks consume about 180 billion gallons of motor fuel. To meet the 2050 target, we shall have to limit consumption of gasoline to about 31 billion gallons, unless a genuine carbon-neutral liquid fuel can be produced. (Ethanol isn't it.) To show how unrealistic this is, if the entire nation drove nothing but Toyota Priuses in 2050, we'd still overshoot the transportation emissions target by 40%.

The enthusiasm for an 80% reduction target is often justified on grounds that national policy should set an ambitious goal. However, claims on behalf of alternative energy sources – biofuels, hydrogen, windpower and so forth – either do not match up to the scale of the energy required, or are not cost-competitive in current form.

How on God's green earth will we make up the difference? Someone should put this question to the candidates. And not let them slide past it with glittering generalities.

Mr. Hayward is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of the annual "Index of Leading Environmental Indicators," from which this article is adapted.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008
This is long but great op-ed by Jonah Goldburg. I love the correction of the oft-misquoted Thomas Jefferson.

'Unity is the great need of the hour," insists Barack Obama. Unity and the hope for unity and the need for unity in the pursuit of hope and the hope that our unified hopefulness will carry us to ever greater heights of hopeful unity until each and every one of us is the person he longs to be: That's what Barack Obama is all about. And don't you dare say otherwise. These are not "just words."

One might be forgiven for asking, What the heck do these words mean? Specifically, what's so special about unity? Unity for what? Unity around what? Obama has an answer: We need unity "not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it's the only way we can overcome the essential [empathy] deficit that exists in this country." His wife, Michelle, dilates on the subject: "We have to compromise and sacrifice for one another in order to get things done. That is why I am here, because Barack Obama is the only person in this who understands that. That before we can work on the problems, we have to fix our souls. Our souls are broken in this nation."

If you go on to read or listen to more of this stuff, you'll eventually see what they're getting at: Americans need to rally around Obama and his platform if they are going to mend their souls and make this a better country. You might buy this or you might think it's hogwash, and there's no shortage of arguments out there for both perspectives, but what is it with this obsession with unity? American politicians used to have a word to describe their appeals to collective action for the betterment of the whole society. They called it patriotism. But that word summons the banshees of the Democratic party. To raise the issue of patriotism, say the Democrats, is to question whether someone is patriotic at all — at least when Republicans do it.

Except that Republicans don't actually use the word "patriotism" very much. Nevertheless, Democrats hear it in almost everything Republicans say. When Republicans disputed John Kerry's commitment to national defense, Democrats said they were questioning his patriotism. When John McCain released an ad calling himself the "American president Americans have been waiting for," one could hear outraged caterwauling from the Democratic jungle: What's John McCain trying to say? We're un-American? Who's he calling unpatriotic? Fred Barnes, writing in The Weekly Standard, calls this anticipatory offense "patriotism paranoia." Indeed, there does seem to be psychological insecurity on display. If I say to a male friend, "Those are nice shoes," and he responds with "How dare you call me gay!" it's fair to say he's the guy with the issues.

Obama himself has gotten in on this act: "In this campaign, we will not stand for the politics that uses religion as a wedge and patriotism as a bludgeon." His campaign manager, David Plouffe, chimed in later: "Questioning patriotism is something we don't think has a place in this campaign."

This is a mess. Barack Obama and other Democrats use the word "unity" as a substitute for something like "patriotism." They consider "questioning the patriotism" of Democrats — even when it's not actually being questioned — beyond the pale and "divisive." All the while they use the word "divisive" with diuretic abandon as code for "unpatriotic." And if that's not confusing enough, many Democrats routinely declare flat-out that Republicans are unpatriotic. For example, Howard Dean, when running for president, insisted that John Ashcroft was "not a patriot. John Ashcroft is a direct descendant of Joseph McCarthy." John Kerry complained that Bush's "creed of greed" led him to "unpatriotically" allow corporations to move overseas. And what is the "chickenhawk" epithet if not an attack on the patriotism of war supporters who do not enlist, lubricated with the spittle of anti-hypocrisy hysteria?

Perhaps we should "unpack" some of these concepts, as the academics say.


Suppose there were someone who believed it might do America "a ton of good to have our butts kicked" (in the words of left-wing novelist Tom Robbins). Or that the world would benefit from "a million Mogadishus," and that "the only true heroes are those who find ways to defeat the U.S. military" (Columbia professor Nicholas De Genova). Or that America is "just downright mean" — brimming with "broken souls" — and hasn't done anything worthy of pride in her lifetime (Michelle Obama). Or that because of the racism of "U.S. of KKK A" at home, and its cruelty abroad, we shouldn't sing "God bless America" so readily as "God damn America" (Rev. Jeremiah Wright). It would stretch the bounds of neither reason nor decorum to say these people are less in love with America than is your typically patriotic person. Try replacing "America" in the above quotes with just about any other noun. "The only true heroes are those who find ways to defeat the New York Yankees!" "Cleveland is downright mean!" "God damn my KKK-car!" And so on. In any of these instances, a reasonable person might question the speaker's love for the Yankees, Cleveland, or Chrysler. But no reasonable person may ever — ever! — question someone's love of country when he attacks it with similar words.

If patriotism is a thing, if it has meaning as a concept and as a description of attitudes or behaviors, it isn't surprising that some people will be more patriotic than others — whatever definition we finally settle on. And we need not settle on just one, because there are many kinds of patriotism. Walter Berns argues in his book Making Patriots that, because America is a nation founded on individual rights, American patriotism differs markedly from, say, Spartan patriotism, which extolled loyalty to the collective and the state above all else. Many liberals would agree with this at first blush. But they can't seem to hold on to the idea that American patriotism has something to do with America.

John Edwards, whose bifocal vision of "two Americas" involves pity for one and contempt for the other, says, "Patriotism is about refusing to support something you know is wrong, and having the courage to speak out with strength and passion and backbone for something you know is right." Well, no. Dissent is about all that. Patriotism is about loving your country. So, yes, dissent could be patriotic — or it could be treason. Everyone from American Communist spies and saboteurs dedicated to the overthrow of the U.S. government during the Cold War to the protesters carrying signs saying "Bomb Texas, Not Iraq" at your typical ANSWER rally is patriotic, according to Edwards's definition, which is 200-proof nonsense.

Or consider this supposedly brilliant bumper-sticker insight: "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism." Mark Steyn has had great fun with that line, pointing out that Thomas Jefferson — usually credited as its author — never said anything of the sort. Steyn traces the fakery back to a 1991 quote from Nadine Strossen, the head of the ACLU, an organization with a vested interest in putting the founders' imprimatur on relentless knee-jerk complaining. (The oldest reference I can find in major newspapers is a 1969 line from New York mayor John Lindsay, who was congratulating anti-Vietnam protesters at Columbia for their patriotism. He was booed after he left the stage, and Paul Boutelle — a cab driver and Socialist Workers party mayoral candidate known after 1979 as Kwame Montsho Ajamu Somburu — vilified him in absentia. The crowd loved it.)

It is worth pointing out that if Jefferson had in fact said something like that, he would have been what social scientists call a moron. As John O'Sullivan once noted, tongue firmly in cheek, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism. Treason is the highest form of dissent. Therefore treason is the highest form of patriotism." Yet when you listen to the verbal contortions many on the left go through to defend the New York Times's efforts to reveal national-security secrets, or to journalists who think expressing open sympathy for America in the international arena is a grave sin, or simply to the usual battiness of countless America-haters, you can appreciate the wisdom of the Italian proverb that the truest things are said in jest.

Like the layers of steel in a Japanese sword, the logic of "Jefferson's" wisdom folds in on itself until one is left with an adamantine blade of invincible ignorance and razor-sharp asininity. For example, if George Bush and conservatives are little better than Prussian heel-clickers for wearing their patriotism on their sleeves, what does it say about you when you wear your patriotism on your bumper? After all, "Dissent is the highest form of patriotism" is bandied about almost exclusively by self-styled dissenters. "This is not the first time in American history when patriotism has been distorted to deflect criticism and mislead the nation," harrumphed the Great Dissenter John Kerry in 2006. "No wonder Thomas Jefferson himself said: 'Dissent is the greatest form of patriotism.'" Get it? John Kerry is bragging about what a great patriot he is by calling attention to what a wonderful dissenter he is. "I am more patriotic than thou" sneaks up on us in the Trojan Horse of "I dissent more than thou."

Now it must be said that no conservative standing upon the shoulders of Burke, Nock, Buckley, Hayek, Goldwater, and Reagan would for a moment dispute the suggestion that dissent for the right reason can be one high form of patriotism. But it depends on the reason. The dissenter-for-dissent's-sake is among the most common species of pest in the human ecosystem. The reflexive contrarian who cares not what he is contradicting is quite simply the most useless of citizens.

When confronted with the assertion that the Soviet Union and the United States were moral equivalents, William F. Buckley Jr. famously responded that if one man pushes an old lady into an oncoming bus and another man pushes an old lady out of the way of a bus, we should not denounce them both as men who push old ladies around. Likewise, we should not say that the man who dissents from a church-burning mob and the man who dissents from a fire brigade are morally equivalent "dissenters."


Part of the problem is that many on the left think patriotism is essentially fascist, another name for nationalism and jingoism. And some may use it that way — but some may also call a duck a "cat," which doesn't mean we should all be hostage to this usage. The misuse of "patriotism" and "dissent" is worse, because a country without a word to describe its love for what is best within it is a country ill-equipped to defend what is best within it. And, for the record, it should be noted that fascism wasn't about patriotism, but nationalism. Hitler himself insisted he was no patriot, but a nationalist. In the United States, a creedal nation dedicated to limited government and individual rights, fascist nationalism is almost the complete opposite of patriotism.

Alas, that's too much for many liberals to process, so they have come to extolling the word "unity." But here's the thing: Unity by itself has no moral worth whatsoever. The only value of unity is strength, strength in numbers — and, again, that is a fascist value. That's the symbolism of the fasces, the bundle of sticks that in combination are invincible. Rape gangs and lynch mobs? Unified. The mafia? Unified. The SS? They had unity coming out the yinyang. Meanwhile, Socrates, Jesus, Thomas More, and an endless line of nameless souls were dispatched from this earth in the name of unity. Returning to Buckley, the mob that pushes old ladies in front of a bus and the posse that tries to stop the mob are not morally equivalent. Indeed, the lone man who faces the mob with justice on his side is the greatest of heroes.

American patriots pay heed: The founding fathers dedicated a great deal of thought to the subject of unity, and they found it was something to view with skepticism at best and, more often than not, with fear. Hence we have a constitution designed to thwart the baser forms of unity. Our government is set up so that the Senate cools the populist passion of the House, the executive thwarts the passions of the legislature and vice versa, and the Supreme Court checks the whole lot, to which its composition is in turn ultimately subject. "Divisiveness" — the setting of faction against faction, one branch of government against another, and the sovereignty of the individual above the group — was for the founders the great guarantor of our liberties and the source of civic virtue.

Rightly ordered unity in a democratic republic is the end result of ceaseless debate and discussion. But today, ceaseless debate and discussion is precisely what many liberals object to. As Al Gore is fond of saying about global warming, "The time for debate is over." Legions of liberals insist that we must move beyond ideology and partisan differences on this, that, and the other. But have you ever heard anyone say that we need to "move beyond ideology" for the sake of bipartisan unity and then abandon his own position? Of course not. When someone says that we need to get past labels and move beyond ideology, what he means is that you need to drop your principled objections and get with the program. That is why Time magazine heralded Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Bloomberg as "new action heroes": These "post-partisans" had dropped any pretense of a Republican vision and simply embraced the liberal agenda. That's what the AARP intends when its ad campaign for health-care reform proclaims: "Divided we fail." The mascot for this campaign is a chimera, the GOP elephant's head and the Democratic jackass's body. Of course, such a creature cannot be created without shrinking the Republican brain or vastly inflating the Democratic ass.

The fact that we take liberals seriously when they talk about patriotism doesn't mean they are doing the same. John Edwards wouldn't call a Communist saboteur a patriot, and Barack Obama's love of unity would hardly drive him to praise the virtue of the mob. But what's important to understand is that it is the Left, not the Right, that speaks in code. The supposedly neutral language of "unity" and "division" is not neutral at all. "My rival in this race," Obama proclaimed early in 2007, "is not other candidates. It's cynicism." His insistence that "divisiveness" is his greatest enemy is belied by the fact that he is unwilling to repudiate Jeremiah Wright, who is about as divisive a character as we've seen in American politics in a generation. Meanwhile, Obama sees nothing wrong with demonizing Geraldine Ferraro — or even his own grandmother — for crass political purposes. He uses seemingly conciliatory language to give the impression that he is above the fray, transcendent and enlightened. Only those who see through his act are cynical, only those who disagree with his agenda are divisive. But he won't name names, because that would spoil the illusion. "It would," in the words of Andrew Ferguson, "at last be plain that his politics of unity, his politics of 'addition not subtraction,' is simply another way of recasting the old 'politics of us vs. them' that he says he disdains."

It's worth asking, then: If Obama and the Democrats believe unity in all things is the supreme political value, but the American tradition holds that liberty is a greater good, then could it not be argued that Barack Obama's rival in this race is not the other candidates, but patriotism?

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The allegedly lame duck Bush administration has--if this report is correct--hit a home run. CENTCOM is the central theater of the war on terror, and the president is putting our best commander in charge of it. What Odierno achieved as day-to-day commander in Iraq was amazing (see Fred and Kim Kagan's article, "The Patton of Counterinsurgency"), and he's clearly the right choice for MNFI. Bush has done the right thing, overriding opposition from within the Pentagon. He deserves congratulations--and thanks.

-- Bill Krystol commenting on reports that Gen. David Petraeus has been tapped to run US Central Command

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"In my opinion, the four greatest achievements of America are its Revolution, the freeing of Europe, the freeing of slaves, and the freeing of Iraq. But it will take time to comprehend."

-- Dr. Shafeeq Al Mahdi, director for the National Directorate of Film and Theater.

That quote above comes from an interesting article in the Wall Street Journal regarding how the Arts have flourished with the downfall of Saddam Hussein. Obviously the transition to post-Saddam rule is quite dangerous for artists who now dodge religious extremists. But Saddam's oppression against the Arts was systemic:

A millennium later it was no longer the sultan's eye, but Saddam's. Under Saddam, virtually all cultural institutions had Baath party spies in their midst. Nonparty folk seldom progressed. Extensive Stasi-like files monitored everyone. A well-directed whisper led not just to the downfall of rivals but often also to their sudden disappearance. In theater, film and academe, unconfirmed suspicions and silent hatreds flourished, none of which -- who did what to whom and why -- has come clear in the post-Saddam era. Instead, many intellectuals have been anonymously killed and most of the Baath party files have disappeared -- including those deliberately stolen in the sacking of the National Archives after the allied invasion.

...Finally, I met a group of young art and movie festival organizers, named the Contemporary Visual Arts Society (CVAS), with no political ax to grind. They had organized a short-films festival in 2005 at a former children's theater in Baghdad and were since collaborating with festivals in Italy and Britain to train 20 new Iraqi filmmakers. CVAS's director, Nazar Rawy, an art academy graduate, minced no words: "Americans help only the politics; they don't help the culture. You can't have a normal paying audience today, so you must keep culture alive for now with help. That means either political money or cultural help from abroad. We have a strange situation: endless politics but almost no culture. Who has heard of such a situation before?"

According to Mr. Rawy, only three major Iraqi films have come out in recent years, all "allegories of the situation," all debuted outside of Baghdad. The first, "Underexposure," was filmed between 2003 and 2005 with help from Kodak. Mr. Rawy explains: "When the looting started, some film enthusiasts tried to save the National Film Archives and they found reels of old underexposed film. They tested it and found it usable, so they decided to make a movie with it, a fictional story about an Iraqi filmmaker trying to chronicle Saddam's collapse and the aftermath."

The second movie, with Dutch and British backers, appeared in 2006 and was titled "Dreams." It told the story of a woman political prisoner, locked up in a mental asylum by Saddam, suddenly being liberated into the post-Saddam chaos. "It's about the search for sanity in a nightmare," says Mr. Rawy. During the filming, the director was taken hostage by kidnappers. He was then rescued and detained by U.S. forces for three days. "The terrorists thought he was a foreign agent, and the Americans thought he was a terrorist," says Mr. Rawy.

The last film, "Crossing the Dust," in Kurdish and Arabic, also came out in 2006, and was backed by Kurdish cultural sources, according to Mr. Rawy. "It told the story," he says, "of a lost Arab boy found by two Kurds who lose their car in a dust storm, and all three wander around helping each other."

Mr. Rawy says that "these films all got acclaim and prizes around the world. But they were fortuitous successes, beginnings. Iraqi culture needs to gel. We are isolated and lost from each other. We need to be freed from politically directed culture. This will be the true liberation. Where are the intellectuals and artists and filmmakers of America -- why don't they help people like us?"

Understandable. But we've seen this before, and recently. Hollywood liberals complain of their own censored liberty and self-expression, which is a phantom as the very fact that they can complain with impunity proves there is no censorship. Conversely, Hollywood cares little for those actually battling violent censorship.

Mike Goldfarb opines:

Funny you should ask, Mr. Rawy. The friends and family of Theo VanGogh have wondered the same thing. So let me give you the answer: American intellectuals, artists and filmmakers, by and large, were against the liberation of your country and the routing of al Qaeda. In fact, they've demanded that President Bush and his cabinet be tried for war crimes. At the same time, their only responses to Islamofacism are excuses, silence or, in the case of the filmmakers, movies about the evil of your country's liberation and our country's government. The reason? Well, I'd suggest you ask them yourself, but they'd duck you in a Hollywood second.

Indeed, Mr. Rawy, you and your fellow artists have shown more courage just running a film festival than your American counterparts will ever possess. Just don't expect anything as trifling as a pat on the back for your troubles.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Why I Left Greenpeace

In 1971 an environmental and antiwar ethic was taking root in Canada, and I chose to participate. As I completed a Ph.D. in ecology, I combined my science background with the strong media skills of my colleagues. In keeping with our pacifist views, we started Greenpeace.

But I later learned that the environmental movement is not always guided by science. As we celebrate Earth Day today, this is a good lesson to keep in mind.

At first, many of the causes we championed, such as opposition to nuclear testing and protection of whales, stemmed from our scientific knowledge of nuclear physics and marine biology. But after six years as one of five directors of Greenpeace International, I observed that none of my fellow directors had any formal science education. They were either political activists or environmental entrepreneurs. Ultimately, a trend toward abandoning scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas forced me to leave Greenpeace in 1986.

The breaking point was a Greenpeace decision to support a world-wide ban on chlorine. Science shows that adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health, virtually eradicating water-borne diseases such as cholera. And the majority of our pharmaceuticals are based on chlorine chemistry. Simply put, chlorine is essential for our health.

My former colleagues ignored science and supported the ban, forcing my departure. Despite science concluding no known health risks – and ample benefits – from chlorine in drinking water, Greenpeace and other environmental groups have opposed its use for more than 20 years.

Opposition to the use of chemicals such as chlorine is part of a broader hostility to the use of industrial chemicals. Rachel Carson's 1962 book, "Silent Spring," had a significant impact on many pioneers of the green movement. The book raised concerns, many rooted in science, about the risks and negative environmental impact associated with the overuse of chemicals. But the initial healthy skepticism hardened into a mindset that treats virtually all industrial use of chemicals with suspicion.

Sadly, Greenpeace has evolved into an organization of extremism and politically motivated agendas. Its antichlorination campaign failed, only to be followed by a campaign against polyvinyl chloride.

Greenpeace now has a new target called phthalates (pronounced thal-ates). These are chemical compounds that make plastics flexible. They are found in everything from hospital equipment such as IV bags and tubes, to children's toys and shower curtains. They are among the most practical chemical compounds in existence.

Phthalates are the new bogeyman. These chemicals make easy targets since they are hard to understand and difficult to pronounce. Commonly used phthalates, such as diisononyl phthalate (DINP), have been used in everyday products for decades with no evidence of human harm. DINP is the primary plasticizer used in toys. It has been tested by multiple government and independent evaluators, and found to be safe.

Despite this, a political campaign that rejects science is pressuring companies and the public to reject the use of DINP. Retailers such as Wal-Mart and Toys "R" Us are switching to phthalate-free products to avoid public pressure.

It may be tempting to take this path of least resistance, but at what cost? None of the potential replacement chemicals have been tested and found safe to the degree that DINP has. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recently cautioned, "If DINP is to be replaced in children's products . . . the potential risks of substitutes must be considered. Weaker or more brittle plastics might break and result in a choking hazard. Other plasticizers might not be as well studied as DINP."

The hysteria over DINP began in Europe and Israel, both of which instituted bans. Yet earlier this year, Israel realized the error of putting politics before science, and reinstated DINP.

The European Union banned the use of phthalates in toys prior to completion of a comprehensive risk assessment on DINP. That assessment ultimately concluded that the use of DINP in infant toys poses no measurable risk.

The antiphthalate activists are running a campaign of fear to implement their political agenda. They have seen success in California, with a state ban on the use of phthalates in infant products, and are pushing for a national ban. This fear campaign merely distracts the public from real environmental threats.

We all have a responsibility to be environmental stewards. But that stewardship requires that science, not political agendas, drive our public policy.

Mr. Moore, co-founder and former leader of Greenpeace, is chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"People say all the time: 'We can't pick winners and losers.' Well then fine. Take every single dollar of subsidy out of the federal tax code. Get rid of it all. . . . Let's have a real level playing field where nobody gets a penny in subsidy."
– Hillary Clinton, quoted in USA Today, April 5, 2008

Now, there's a capital idea – and just in time for April 15. The simplest, fairest and most economically efficient tax code would end all special interest tax advantages and flatten tax rates. Except Mrs. Clinton was ridiculing this idea. She went on to say that if subsidies vanish from the tax code, we'd "hear the squeals of protest from Wall Street to Houston to Silicon Valley."

Her philosophy certainly fits with that of the current Congress, which is becoming a tax loophole production factory for the powerful. Exhibit A is the "Foreclosure Prevention Act," which passed the Senate last week and contains $25 billion in tax subsidies for home builders and industry interests hurt by the housing crunch. Builders will be able to offset current losses against taxes paid in the past three years, which will mean billions of dollars of tax rebate checks from Uncle Sam.

This giveaway came only a few weeks after the National Association of Home Builders threatened to suspend their PAC contributions to Congress "until further notice" – meaning until they saw more return on their political investments. Congratulations.

That gambit paid off big time. Other winners include the large Wall Street banks that have lost money in the subprime mortgage meltdown, including Citigroup, Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, which also qualify for rebates to offset current losses.
Republican Johnny Isakson of Georgia won Senate passage of a $7,000 tax credit for those who buy foreclosed properties. This won't prevent foreclosures or make these properties more affordable. Instead it will only prop up the sales price of the inventory of abandoned homes that the banks now own. Meanwhile, the House bill contains a $7,500 tax credit for first-time middle-income home buyers. The powerful Realtors' lobby and mortgage banks that own foreclosed properties blazed the money trail across Capitol Hill to get that one passed.

Oh, and while they were at it, the Senators voted 88-8 to add $6 billion in tax deductions for renewable energy producers. (If you wonder what this has to do with the mortgage "crisis," you just arrived off the turnip truck.) This industry is already teed up to get nearly $10 billion in tax breaks in the energy bill, including subsidies for wind and solar power producers, hybrid vehicles and biodiesel. Much of this social engineering comes from the same people on Capitol Hill who insist that taxes don't change industry or personal behavior.

With this loophole factory open for business on Capitol Hill again, business lobbies are spending more money than ever to curry Congressional favor. The real-estate industry may be in dire financial straits, but housing industry PACs have already contributed $56 million to political campaigns this election cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. reported last week that 40 new business lobbying firms have registered since January to represent the likes of concrete makers, home builders, Freddie Mac and the Realtors. Wall Street investment banks are also pumping up the volume of campaign contributions as they seek financial relief from the subprime mess.

Congress is creating all of these new loopholes even as overall tax revenues are slowing and this year's budget deficit could reach $450 billion to $500 billion. This will play nicely into the hands of Democrats who contend that the lower tax rates of 2001 and 2003 must expire to pay the government's bills. So we could soon have the worst of all worlds: a leaky tax code full of exceptions for powerful interests, but with ever higher rates to make up for the loopholes. Congress gets PAC contributions in return for the loopholes, plus any extra revenue from the tax hike. The losers are taxpayers who aren't powerful or rich enough to afford a tax lobbyist.

At least this exercise is making clear what Democrats really mean by tax "fairness." It means raising tax rates so they can then sell tax breaks to the highest corporate bidder. We have certainly come a long way from 1986, when a Democratic Congress joined with Ronald Reagan to strip the tax code of most tax deductions and lower tax rates to a high of 28%. That reform spirit is dead on Capitol Hill.

Senators Clinton and Barack Obama are racing across the country promising Americans that they will clean up a process that "favors Wall Street over Main Street." Fat chance. Their party and most Republicans just voted for a housing bill that is the biggest victory for corporate special interests in years – and there's much more to follow. Happy Tax Day.

-- Wall Street Journal

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Here's a stop-what-your-doing-and-read-this-now great editorial by Bret Stephens on Jimmy Carter's moral bankruptcy:

Former President Jimmy Carter has an interesting way of saying more than he intends. He lusts in his heart. He turns to his 13-year-old daughter for foreign policy wisdom. He titles a book, "Palestine Peace Not Apartheid." What Mr. Carter means to say is that he is a flesh-and-blood human being, a caring father, a missionary for peace. What he actually communicates is that he is weirdly libidinal, scarily naive and obsessively hostile to Israel.

Now the 2002 Nobel laureate is in reprise mode. "In a democracy, I realize you don't need to talk to the top leader to know how the country feels," he said over the weekend, responding to a question from an Israeli journalist who noted that Mr. Carter had been snubbed by most of Israel's top leadership and reprimanded by its president, Shimon Peres. "When I go to a dictatorship, I only have to talk to one person and that's the dictator, because he speaks for all the people."

Come again?

Mr. Carter is on a tour of the Middle East, the most newsworthy aspect of which is a scheduled meeting in Damascus with Khaled Mashal, the head of the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. More on that below. For now, ponder what he could possibly have meant by this statement. On a charitable view, what Mr. Carter had in mind is that in a democracy it is the people who ultimately make the policy, whereas in a dictatorship it is only the dictator's opinion that counts. Or as W.H. Auden put it, "Only the man behind the rifle [has] free will."

That's not quite what Mr. Carter said, however. He said the dictator "speaks" for "all" the people, just as the people in a democracy speak for themselves. Taken at face value, this is a reflection of every dictator's conceit: that his will is also the general will, whether the people agree with him or not. This is what Fidel Castro meant when he praised Cuba's elections, in which only the Communist Party is on the ballot, as "the most democratic in the world." Perhaps Mr. Carter has harbored similar views about the relative merits of his opinion versus the people's since he was turned out of high office by 44 states.

Yet a dictator does not speak for the people. Properly speaking, a dictator speaks for none of the people. A dictator speaks only for himself, while "the people" are transformed, through force and fear, into an abstraction, an instrument, a rhetorical trope. On the contrary, it is only in a democracy where the government can morally and lawfully be said to speak for the people, since it was morally and lawfully chosen by the people to speak for them. Which means that Mr. Carter has matters precisely backwards: It is in democracies such as Israel where the views of the leadership matter most, and in dictatorships such as Syria where they matter least.

Besides Israel, Mr. Carter's trip will take him to the West Bank, Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. What would the logic suggested above mean in terms of his choice of interlocutors?

- In Egypt, Mr. Carter could give an address at the newly established Middle East Freedom Forum. He could call for the immediate release of George Ishak, a lawyer and democracy activist who helps coordinate the liberal Kifaya ("Enough") movement and was arrested by security forces last Wednesday. He could pay a call to journalist Gameela Ismael, the wife of Ayman Nour. Mr. Nour, who contested the 2005 election against President Hosni Mubarak and took 8% of the vote, has spent the past two years in prison on trumped-up charges of electoral fraud.

- In Saudi Arabia, Mr. Carter could raise the case of Fawza Falih, an illiterate woman who was convicted of "witchcraft" and sentenced to death on charges that she used sorcery to render a man impotent. He might also seek out the now famous "Qatif Girl," the woman who was gang-raped by seven men and, as a result of her "crime," sentenced to 200 lashes.

- In Jordan, Mr. Carter might find time for Jihad Momani, editor of the weekly "Shihan," who in 2006 was arrested for reprinting the Danish cartoons of Prophet Mohammed. "Muslims of the world be reasonable," he wrote in an editorial that ran alongside the cartoons. "What brings more prejudice against Islam, these caricatures or pictures of a hostage-taker slashing the throat of his victim in front of the cameras or a suicide bomber who blows himself up during a wedding ceremony in Amman?"

- With the Palestinians, Mr. Carter could denounce the Hamas-operated Al Aqsa TV, whose programming includes a Sesame Street-like show that urges its young viewers to "get rid of the Jews."

- In Syria, Mr. Carter could ask to meet with representatives of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration for Democratic Change. A dozen leaders of this pro-democracy umbrella group were arrested in December on charges of "spreading false or exaggerated news which would affect the morale of the country"; Human Rights Watch charges that at least eight of the men signed false confessions under torture.

Will Mr. Carter do any of this? The odds are long. Instead, he will meet with Mr. Mashal, author of the murder of several hundred Israeli civilians and not a few Americans, too. On a visit yesterday to Sderot, the besieged Israeli town near Gaza, the former president denounced the "despicable crime" of Hamas's incessant rocket attacks of the past several years. Yet he continues to defend the view that all relevant parties, including Hamas, must be partners in a negotiation to bring about a peaceful settlement.

Hamas, it is true, fairly won a parliamentary election in January 2006. It is also true that nobody elected Mr. Mashal to his position, that he is another of Auden's men behind the rifle, and that Hamas has never accepted the Oslo Accords that are the legal basis of the Authority they seek to govern, much like other totalitarian parties of yore that participated opportunistically in a democratic process – cf. Weimar Republic. They do not seek an entente with the Jewish state but its elimination. In meeting with a former U.S. president, they seek to burnish their reputations as legitimate Mideast players, not outlaws. Perhaps Mr. Carter knows this, or perhaps he doesn't. Whichever the case, his actions bespeak more than he intends.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Let's 'Surge' Some More
April 11, 2008

It is said that generals always fight the last war. But when David Petraeus came to town it was senators – on both sides of the aisle – who battled over the Iraq war of 2004-2006. That war has little in common with the war we are fighting today.

I may well have spent more time embedded with combat units in Iraq than any other journalist alive. I have seen this war – and our part in it – at its brutal worst. And I say the transformation over the last 14 months is little short of miraculous.

The change goes far beyond the statistical decline in casualties or incidents of violence. A young Iraqi translator, wounded in battle and fearing death, asked an American commander to bury his heart in America. Iraqi special forces units took to the streets to track down terrorists who killed American soldiers. The U.S. military is the most respected institution in Iraq, and many Iraqi boys dream of becoming American soldiers. Yes, young Iraqi boys know about ""

As the outrages of Abu Ghraib faded in memory – and paled in comparison to al Qaeda's brutalities – and our soldiers under the Petraeus strategy got off their big bases and out of their tanks and deeper into the neighborhoods, American values began to win the war.

Iraqis came to respect American soldiers as warriors who would protect them from terror gangs. But Iraqis also discovered that these great warriors are even happier helping rebuild a clinic, school or a neighborhood. They learned that the American soldier is not only the most dangerous enemy in the world, but one of the best friends a neighborhood can have.

Some people charge that we have merely "rented" the Sunni tribesmen, the former insurgents who now fight by our side. This implies that because we pay these people, their loyalty must be for sale to the highest bidder. But as Gen. Petraeus demonstrated in Nineveh province in 2003 to 2004, many of the Iraqis who filled the ranks of the Sunni insurgency from 2003 into 2007 could have been working with us all along, had we treated them intelligently and respectfully. In Nineveh in 2003, under then Maj. Gen. Petraeus's leadership, these men – many of them veterans of the Iraqi army – played a crucial role in restoring civil order. Yet due to excessive de-Baathification and the administration's attempt to marginalize powerful tribal sheiks in Anbar and other provinces – including men even Saddam dared not ignore – we transformed potential partners into dreaded enemies in less than a year.

Then al Qaeda in Iraq, which helped fund and tried to control the Sunni insurgency for its own ends, raped too many women and boys, cut off too many heads, and brought drugs into too many neighborhoods. By outraging the tribes, it gave birth to the Sunni "awakening." We – and Iraq – got a second chance. Powerful tribes in Anbar province cooperate with us now because they came to see al Qaeda for what it is – and to see Americans for what we truly are.

Soldiers everywhere are paid, and good generals know it is dangerous to mess with a soldier's money. The shoeless heroes who froze at Valley Forge were paid, and when their pay did not come they threatened to leave – and some did. Soldiers have families and will not fight for a nation that allows their families to starve. But to say that the tribes who fight with us are "rented" is perhaps as vile a slander as to say that George Washington's men would have left him if the British offered a better deal.

Equally misguided were some senators' attempts to use Gen. Petraeus's statement, that there could be no purely military solution in Iraq, to dismiss our soldiers' achievements as "merely" military. In a successful counterinsurgency it is impossible to separate military and political success. The Sunni "awakening" was not primarily a military event any more than it was "bribery." It was a political event with enormous military benefits.

The huge drop in roadside bombings is also a political success – because the bombings were political events. It is not possible to bury a tank-busting 1,500-pound bomb in a neighborhood street without the neighbors noticing. Since the military cannot watch every road during every hour of the day (that would be a purely military solution), whether the bomb kills soldiers depends on whether the neighbors warn the soldiers or cover for the terrorists. Once they mostly stood silent; today they tend to pick up their cell phones and call the Americans. Even in big "kinetic" military operations like the taking of Baqubah in June 2007, politics was crucial. Casualties were a fraction of what we expected because, block-by-block, the citizens told our guys where to find the bad guys. I was there; I saw it.

The Iraqi central government is unsatisfactory at best. But the grass-roots political progress of the past year has been extraordinary – and is directly measurable in the drop in casualties.

This leads us to the most out-of-date aspect of the Senate debate: the argument about the pace of troop withdrawals. Precisely because we have made so much political progress in the past year, rather than talking about force reduction, Congress should be figuring ways and means to increase troop levels. For all our successes, we still do not have enough troops. This makes the fight longer and more lethal for the troops who are fighting. To give one example, I just returned this week from Nineveh province, where I have spent probably eight months between 2005 to 2008, and it is clear that we remain stretched very thin from the Syrian border and through Mosul. Vast swaths of Nineveh are patrolled mostly by occasional overflights.

We know now that we can pull off a successful counterinsurgency in Iraq. We know that we are working with an increasingly willing citizenry. But counterinsurgency, like community policing, requires lots of boots on the ground. You can't do it from inside a jet or a tank.

Over the past 15 months, we have proved that we can win this war. We stand now at the moment of truth. Victory – and a democracy in the Arab world – is within our grasp. But it could yet slip away if our leaders remain transfixed by the war we almost lost, rather than focusing on the war we are winning today.

Mr. Yon is author of the just-published "Moment of Truth in Iraq" (Richard Vigilante Books). He has been reporting from Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2004.

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Okay, sure the economy sucks. But portraying it as never been worse is silly.

Take the headline "Food Stamp Use Nears Record," which is only partially accurate. True, the 28 million Americans who will use food stamps in 2008 is the highest number ever. But that raw number is a poor measure; it doesn't provide context.

What's relevant is the percentage of the population that's on food stamps. And the worst years there are 1993, 1994 and 1995.

Yes, it was during the second Camelot presidency that the largest portions of the population were using food stamps: 10.4% in 1993 and 1994, and 10% in 1995.

Even if 28 million Americans use food stamps in 2008 as projected — and eagerly reported — with 303.5 million people in the country, the rate of 9.2% would still be lower than those three Clinton years.

That's from Investors Business Daily. Read the rest.

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Saturday, April 05, 2008

Krauthammer hits one out of the park.

'A Rank Falsehood'

By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, March 28, 2008; A19

Asked at a New Hampshire campaign stop about possibly staying in Iraq 50 years, John McCain interrupted -- "Make it a hundred" -- then offered a precise analogy to what he envisioned: "We've been in Japan for 60 years. We've been in South Korea for 50 years or so." Lest anyone think he was talking about prolonged war-fighting rather than maintaining a presence in postwar Iraq, he explained: "That would be fine with me, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."

And lest anyone persist in thinking he was talking about war-fighting, he told his questioner: "It's fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintained a presence in a very volatile part of the world."

There is another analogy to the kind of benign and strategically advantageous "presence" McCain was suggesting for postwar Iraq: Kuwait. The United States (with allies) occupied Kuwait in 1991 and has remained there with a major military presence for 17 years. We debate dozens of foreign policy issues in this country. I've yet to hear any serious person of either party call for a pullout from Kuwait.

Why? Because our presence projects power and provides stability for the entire Gulf and for the vulnerable U.S. allies that line its shores.

The desirability of a similar presence in Iraq was obvious as long as five years ago to retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, one of Barack Obama's leading military advisers and his campaign co-chairman. During the first week of the Iraq war, McPeak (an Iraq war critic) suggested in an interview that "we'll be there a century, hopefully. If it works right." (Meaning, if we win.)

Why is that a hopeful outcome? Because maintaining a U.S. military presence in Iraq would provide regional stability, as well as cement a long-term allied relationship with the most important Arab country in the region.

As McPeak himself said about our long stay in Europe, Japan and Korea, "This is the way great powers operate." One can argue that such a presence in Iraq might not be worth the financial expense. A legitimate point -- it might require working out the kind of relations we have with Japan, which picks up about 75 percent of the cost of U.S. forces stationed there.

Alternatively, one might advocate simply bolstering our presence in Kuwait, a choice that would minimize risk, albeit at the sacrifice of some power projection. Such a debate would be fruitful and help inform our current negotiations with Baghdad over the future status of American forces.

But a serious argument is not what Democrats are seeking. They want the killer sound bite, the silver bullet to take down McCain. According to Politico, they have found it: "Dems to hammer McCain for '100 years.' "

The device? Charge that McCain is calling for a hundred years of war. Hence:

• "He says that he is willing to send our troops into another 100 years of war in Iraq" (Barack Obama, Feb. 19).

• "We are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another 100 years" (Obama, Feb. 26).

• "He's willing to keep this war going for 100 years" (Hillary Clinton, March 17).

• "What date between now and the election in November will he drop this promise of a 100-year war in Iraq?" (Chris Matthews, March 4).

Why, even a CNN anchor (Rick Sanchez) buys it: "John McCain is telling us . . . that we need to win even if it takes 100 years" (March 16).

As Lenin is said to have said, "A lie told often enough becomes truth." And as this lie passes into truth, the Democrats are ready to deploy it "as the linchpin of an effort to turn McCain's national security credentials against him," reports David Paul Kuhn of Politico.

Hence: A Howard Dean fundraising letter charging McCain with seeking "an endless war in Iraq." And a Democratic National Committee news release in which Dean asserts: "McCain's strategy is a war without end. . . . Elect John McCain and get 100 years in Iraq."

The Annenberg Political Fact Check, a nonprofit and nonpartisan project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, says: "It's a rank falsehood for the DNC to accuse McCain of wanting to wage 'endless war' based on his support for a presence in Iraq something like the U.S. role in South Korea."

The Democrats are undeterred. "It's seldom you get such a clean shot," a senior Obama adviser told Politico. It's seldom that you see such a dirty lie.

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Thursday, April 03, 2008

Democrats twisting the facts and words of John McCain? Imagine that. Nice reporting by the Washington Post :

A Century-Long War? Not Exactly.
Thursday, April 3, 2008; Page A06

The charge that Republican Sen. John McCain wants the Iraq conflict to become a "100-year war" has become a recurring theme in Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign. The Democrat has made the claim several times on the campaign trail, as has Susan Rice, one of his top foreign policy advisers. McCain has never talked about wanting a 100-year war in Iraq. But he has talked about a prolonged U.S. military presence there, similar to the stationing of U.S. troops in Germany after World War II or in South Korea after the Korean War.


Take a look at what McCain actually said in Derry, N.H., in January. Cutting off a questioner who talked about the Bush administration's willingness to keep troops in Iraq for 50 years, the Republican senator said: "Make it a hundred." He then mentioned that U.S. troops have been in Germany for 60 years and in South Korea for 50 years, and added, "That's fine with me, as long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed."

Democrats seized on McCain's remarks. At one time or another, both Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton have said that the presumptive Republican nominee is willing to fight a 100-year war in Iraq. When challenged about this assertion on Monday, Obama referred journalists to the YouTube version of the Derry meeting. But the YouTube clip does not back up his case.

Whether the conflict is winnable is a separate question. But there is a difference between fighting a war and occupying a country. World War II lasted nearly six years (3 1/2 years in the case of the United States), but a significant U.S. troop presence still remains in Germany.

McCain has also not been entirely consistent about his thoughts on a long-term U.S. military occupation of Iraq. Interviewed on "The Charlie Rose Show" last November, he rejected the Korea/Germany analogy:

ROSE: Do you think that this -- Korea, South Korea -- is an analogy of where Iraq might be, not in terms of their economic success but in terms of an American presence over the next, say, 20, 25 years, that we will have a significant amount of troops there?

McCAIN: I don't think so.

ROSE: Even if there are no casualties?

McCAIN: No. But I can see an American presence for a while. But eventually I think because of the nature of the society in Iraq and the religious aspects of it that America eventually withdraws.


A more honest line of attack for the Democrats would be against McCain's support for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, whether he has a clear strategy for winning the war, and against the feasibility of a long-term U.S. occupation of a Muslim country. Instead of attacking him on these grounds, they have twisted his words by claiming that he "wants" to fight a 100-year war.

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To hear Mr. [Senator Chuck] Schumer and his fellow-traveling columnists tell it, [President Herbert] Hoover's great policy blunder was to do nothing, all the while insisting that everything was fine. But the problem with Hoover's economic policy isn't that it was passive but that it was actively destructive.

In 1930, he signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, setting off a wave of protectionist retaliation that undid the globalization of the preceding decades and did far more harm to the world economy than the stock-market crash ever did. Two years later, amid a bad recession, he undid the Calvin Coolidge-Andrew Mellon tax cuts, raising the top marginal income-tax rate to 63% from 25%. The recession became a Depression.

Now, since we're talking Hoover, which Presidential candidate has a similar agenda of protectionism and tax increases? Hmmm.

Oh, that's right. Just the other day, one of the candidates for President was saying she'd withdraw from Nafta if the Mexicans didn't do what she demanded, and she wants "a pause" in free trade. She also wants to repeal the Bush tax cuts, more than doubling the rate on dividends back to 39.6% from 15%.

Her Democratic opponent agrees with her, except that he'd raise taxes even more, including by eliminating the $102,000 cap on income subject to the 6.2% payroll tax (12.4% when you include employers), and raising the capital gains tax to at least 25%, and maybe even 28%, from 15%. Add up all of Barack Obama's tax increases and his proposals would get entirely too close to Hoover's top marginal rate of 63%.

-- Wall Street Journal

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