Thursday, May 29, 2008

Health-care providers – not consumers – are always asking for tighter regulation, because they profit from making everyone subsidize generous plans that cover, say, podiatry or infertility treatment. Given the choice, consumers might choose policies that cover some services but not others.
Regulation is a very misunderstood and often mistaught concept (the above comment, by the way, was taken from a WSJ editorial touting a new Florida state law that would get the Florida government out of health insurance).

We were all taught when we were young that regulators like Teddy Roosevelt "fought" against the powerful big businesses to provide a more governed and regulated (and thus, the argument goes, more "fair" or safe) industrial world. But the truth is that the so-called "fat cats," the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, etc., co-authored the very regulations that Teddy Roosevelt, among others, was supposedly shoving down their throats.

And why would big business so readily agree to MORE regulation?

Simple. Regulation kills competition. The "fat cats," then, no longer need worry about smaller, more nimble companies undercutting their profit margins. Instead, the government makes the business of doing business so expensive that only the largest corporations will survive.

Whatever the regulation costs the corporations the cost is far less then the cost of competing, and what's more, those costs can just be passed onto the customers, and the customers will just have to eat it because the government killed whatever competitive choice there would have been had government never involved itself in order to "save" us.

The law of unintended consequences strikes again!

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The following retort of Scott McClellan's book-bash of Bush is from Peter Wehner, a former deputy assistant to the president, who knew and worked along side Scott McClellan.

He [Scott McClellan] would have us believe that the Bush administration was, at bottom, massively and deeply deceitful and corrupt — but this has only dawned on Scott since he started writing his book, years after the fact. Let's just say that for these revelations to spring forth as if truth were like a time-released capsule, in which things magically get clearer with the passage of time (and the signing of book contracts), is, well, suspicious. And my former colleagues are absolutely right to point out that Scott not only never raised any objections contemporaneously, in meetings or with his superiors; in fact, he said almost nothing at all, at any time, about anything of consequence. ... Scott seems to be that rare bird who kept those concerns suppressed, if he had them at all. And now, years later, he finally feels liberated to make arguments he didn't appear to believe at the time.

Scott's broader claim that "in some small way" his hope is to "move us beyond the destructive partisan warfare of the past 15 years" and that he wants to "contribute to [a] national conversation" about making our politics higher and better is not terribly persuasive. The same can be said about his complaints about his disdain for "the Washington game." In fact, one of the oldest games in Washington is to turn against those in power who cared for you and gave you the greatest opportunity in your life to serve this nation — and to do so in a book, for which you received a hefty advance.

It's also been pointed out that one of McClellan's suppossed turning points was upon learning that he had been lied to by Karl Rove, who claimed he had nothing to do with the leak of Valerie Plame's name. Just one problem with that -- the man who admitted to leaking Plame's name was Richard Armitage, not Karl Rove. How can one be betrayed by someone who didn't betray?

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'll say this for Scott McClellan, at last he learned how to communicate. He was, to my mind, one of the worst press secretaries in presidential history — at least in modern times, continually cowed by the press, never able to show any confidence, and making us all wince whenever he held a briefing.

His book, titled What Happened, seems to go after Karl Rove, Scooter Libby, the president and others. The main releases we read about are how the president bollixed the response to Katrina and how the White House made a political campaign of the Iraq war, using, as Scott puts it, "a propaganda campaign."

The first thing to ask about these kinds of books is "does it help history, does it shed light, does it add to the sum total of knowledge about a topic history or contemporary analysis can use to shed light on an administration?" OR, rather, "is this a self-aggrandizing after-the-fact justification to bolster one's own reputation and credibility?" especially after having done such a poor job in the first place.

I think we'll probably find this book is mostly of the latter category. The evidence I've seen does in fact show that the administration had different justifications for the liberation of Iraq — but we saw them plainly and in the open before as well as after the invasion. The president, the secretary of state, the VP, and many others gave lots of reasons for the invasion of Iraq. There were international legal cases, there were public policy cases, there were national security cases all to be made. And they were. The idea that the press didn't do its job and was too soft on the president — as McClellan writes — is, frankly, laughable. Raise your hand if you have any evidence that the press was too soft on the administration.

As far as Katrina, I think we all know and can admit it was both a public policy and public relations disaster. We had a bad FEMA director, the president should not have flown over the disaster, or said Michael Brown was doing a good job. But it wasn't just the administration that didn't do so hot. I seem to recall state and local officials, those who had more access to the facts on the ground, those tasked with evacuation plans, those responsible for the city and state, were pretty unprepared as well. Heck, the mayor's family fled the state. Not the city, the state.

Finally, we'll learn more as those written about in his book speak out. I note Fran Townsend is already on record saying she recalls no meeting where Scott McClellan ever objected to what was being said or made his dissenting views known. And I'll just leave you with this — having not read the book and having no plans to do so: don't you think that when someone has an objection to what is being done, they owe it to the public and as a mark of duty to do something about it or say something about it at the time, rather than wait two years and save it for a book? Does that in and of itself not cut down some of the credibility.

The job of press secretary is not easy, but it can be done well, as Tony Snow and Dana Perino have shown. You want a Democratic example, I always thought Mike McCurry did a good job — and with good cheer in a tough time. But I'll say one other thing, too. I think this genre of book is losing its cachet, and people are getting a little tired of the game which goes something like this: Get a high-level job, make your name and reputation, do an average job at it, then write a book after you leave that helps nobody but bolsters your own reputation at the expense of those without book contracts. It's one of the uglier things in Washington, and as I say, I think its days will soon be over. People are tired of it.

-- Seth Leibsohn

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Investors Business Daily has a quick retort of the factually-challenged HBO film, Recount, suggesting that Bush stole the 2000 election. What was it Joesph Goebbels said? "...when one lies, one should lie big, and stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous."

Goebbels was attempting to criticize Churchill at that time, but the concept of the big lie -- that saturation and repetition of propaganda will revise memory of factual history -- has been elevated to pathetic heights vis-a-vis liberal romanticizing of the 2000 election.

In all its specific and unambiguous language, the [Florida state] law clearly stated in section 102.111: "If the county returns are not received by the Department of State by 5 p.m. of the seventh day following election, all missing counties shall be ignored, and the results shown by the returns on file shall be certified."

All the U.S. Supreme Court decided was to reaffirm that, according to the U.S. Constitution, the manner in which elections are conducted is up to each individual state and that the will of the people as expressed through the laws enacted by the popularly elected Florida legislature stood and could not be overturned by a Florida Supreme Court legislating from the bench.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia says: "The principal issue in this case, whether the scheme that the Florida Supreme Court had put together violated the federal Constitution, that wasn't even close. The vote was 7 to 2." It was Al Gore, he adds, "who made it a judicial question. It was he who brought it into the federal courts."

All the votes were counted, and recounted, and counted again. And not a single recount, either by local boards or major news organizations, found a way for Gore to win. A comprehensive review of 64,248 ballots in all 67 Florida counties by the Miami Herald and its parent company, Knight Ridder, in partnership with USA Today, found that Bush's slender margin of 537 votes would have tripled to 1,665 votes even under the generous counting standards advocated by Gore.

Another review conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the request of CNN, the New York Times and other news organizations found that Bush still would have won Florida even if the U.S. Supreme Court had not ended the nonsense.

In 2000, the election boards of Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties were all controlled by Democrats. The infamous butterfly ballot was designed by a Democrat. The attorney general of Florida at that time was Democrat Robert Butterworth.

Voters were instructed at the polling place: "After voting, check your ballot card to make sure your voting selections are clearly and cleanly punched and there are no chads left hanging on the back of the card."

The fact is, Gore himself requested recounts in only four counties where he thought he might gain votes, not lose them. Gore lost not because Florida was "stolen," but because he couldn't carry his home state of Tennessee, the people who knew him best.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jim VandeHei and Josh Kraushaar report that "the GOP is heading into the 2008 election without a single minority candidate with a plausible chance of winning a campaign for the House, the Senate or governor." First, note the weasel words: "plausible chance of winning." That's meant to exclude candidates like Allen West. Why didn't VandeHei and Kraushaar simply write: "The five to ten GOP candidates who have a shot of winning Democratic seats are white"? Well, that's not provocative enough to make it up on Drudge, now is it?

Also, VandeHei and Kraushaar ask: "So who's to blame for this diversity deficit?" They cite Jack Kemp, who says it's due to a "pitiful" recruitment effort, and a former black GOP candidate, who says it's because the GOP is broke. Good points. But VandeHei and Kraushaar never mention the vile attacks by liberals upon GOP minority candidates. For example, Democrats darkened Bobby Jindal's skin in a 2003 election, and even after his victory, he still endures accusations of "being a 'potato': brown on the outside, white on the inside," as the Washington Post reported.

And who can forget the case of 2006 Maryland Senate candidate, Lt. Gov. Michael Steele? The Washington Times reported: "attacks against the first black man to win a statewide election in Maryland include pelting him with Oreo cookies during a campaign appearance, calling him an 'Uncle Tom' and depicting him as a black-faced minstrel on a liberal Web log."

So Howard Dean's got a pretty good racket. First, slam the GOP as a "white Christian party." Then ruthlessly attack GOP minority candidates for betraying "their people." When the GOP fails to recruit a decent number of minority candidates, sit back, relax, and wait for the mainstream media to publicize your talking points.

-- Mike Goldfarb, Weekly Standard

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Here's a rather odd splitting of hairs -- Time Magazine's "objective" reporter Joe Klein takes John McCain to task because Barack Obama has never said he'd talk with Ahmadinejad specifically, just Iran's leaders, which is to say Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Um, Joe, how is that better than talking to Ahmadinejad?

[From Joe Klein's blog] At a press conference here, I just asked John McCain about why he keeps talking about Obama's alleged willingness to talk to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has no power over Iranian foreign policy, rather than Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who does. He said that Ahmadinejad is the guy who represents Iran in international forums like the United Nations, which is a fair point. When I followed with the observation that the Supreme Leader is, uh, the Supreme Leader, McCain responded that the "average American" thinks Ahmadinejad is the boss. Didn't get a chance to follow up to that, but I would have asked, "But isn't it your job to correct those sorts of mistaken impressions on the part of the American public?" Oh well... As I said below, there is a real debate lurking beneath all this bluster--whether we directly engage our adversaries, as we did during the cold war. McCain says no. Obama says yes. They should have it out in debate.
Again, nonsensical hair splitting.

Sure, technically, the Ayatollah and his Supreme Council (i.e., the Ayatollah and 11 mullahs) call all the shots. But Ahmadinejad, as McCain pointed out, is their boy, and he's hardly powerless.

In any event, this is irrelevant.

What is relevant is Klein's second point - that we "engaged" our adversaries during the Cold War. The thing is, Klein is backwards on his conclusions. Then again, reporters are often ignorant of history.

Many key points:

* Iran is not the Soviet Union. It is nowhere near as powerful or influential and thus it's a mistake to elevate them as such.

* We didn't have direct talks with the Soviets and Chinese because we wanted to. We did so because we had to. See point one.

* This isn't the Cold War. Under Nixon, we talked with China in large part to leverage them off of the Soviets. We correctly identified a weakness in their supposed Communist alliance. Thus, we didn't talk with our enemies out of anything but a strategy to undermine them, not because of some highbrow liberalism like Obama and company propose.

* Finally, Reagan didn't get elected, pick up the telephone and start talking to the Soviets, as our misinformed revisionist-history liberal friends keep stating. Indeed, Gorbachev wasn't even leader of the USSR when Reagan took office, Leonid Brezhnev was. Reagan met with Brezhnev with preconditions (namely, the US brazenly placed scores of Pershing II missiles in Europe), not without preconditions, as Barack Obama's own website claims he'd do with Iran (Obama's website: "Obama is the only major candidate who supports tough, direct presidential diplomacy with Iran without preconditions.")

* It wasn't until Gorbachev took office that Reagan got anywhere with the Soviets, because the West recognized that Gorby was someone we could reason with. So even if one wants to elevate Iran to the status of the USSR (folly #1), neither the Ayatollah nor Ahmadinejad are anywhere near the reasonable guy that Gorby was (folly #2).

* At bare minimum, Reagan only talked with his enemies from a position of strength (did I mention the Pershing II missiles parked in Russia's back yard?). He likewise didn't fail to call a spade a spade. He reminded the Soviets at every turn of their cruelty - calling them the "Evil Empire," or telling them that "the march of freedom and democracy" would "leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history." I don't see any strength like that from Obama or Democrats in general. In fact, they go out of their multi-cultural, diversity-lovin', kumbayah way NOT to dare insult the Iranians. With the exception of far left Kool-Aid drinkers, the Obama camp looks whimpy to everyone, espeically to the Ayatollah and Ahmadinejad.

In summary: Joe Klein needs to open up a frakin' history book, because his knowledge has been found lacking.

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Candidates Vie to Be The Anti-Lobbyist
Obama Cites Conflicts in McCain Camp

BILLINGS, Mont., May 19 -- Sen. Barack Obama accused Sen. John McCain on Monday of running a presidential campaign bought and paid for by lobbyists and criticized the presumptive Republican nominee for waiting more than a year to address the conflicts of several key advisers.

During a speech at a high school here, Obama said voters should be concerned that "after nearly three decades in Washington, John McCain can't see or won't acknowledge what's obvious to all of us here today -- that lobbyists aren't just part of the system in Washington, they're part of the problem."

McCain's campaign shot back quickly, challenging Obama to "shed light on the long list of federal lobbyists advising him on policy issues" and accusing him of diverting attention from more serious matters.

There are two important points to make regarding demonization of lobbying.

Point #1: Whether you philosophically agree with it or not, and whether you like it or not, the US constitution protects lobbying. Period. There's no debate on this, and so race to see which politician lobbys the least is a collossal waste of time. The First Amendment gives the "right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." Petition the government for a redress of grievances is what we today call "lobbying."

Point #2: We don't need more regulation because of lobbying. Rather the reverse is true: We have a lobbying juggernaut exactly because the government interferes so much and so often in the private sector. The day that government butts out of commerce is the day that companies and businesses don't find it necessary to spend so much of their precious resources "petitioning the government"!

You don't like lobbying, Sens. McCain and Obama? Then get the heck out of our lives!

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By David Ranson:

Will increasing tax rates on the rich increase revenues, as Barack Obama hopes, or hold back the economy, as John McCain fears? Or both?

[Economist] Mr. [Kurt] Hauser uncovered the means to answer these questions definitively. On this page in 1993, he stated that "No matter what the tax rates have been, in postwar America tax revenues have remained at about 19.5% of GDP." What a pity that his discovery has not been more widely disseminated.

...The federal tax "yield" (revenues divided by GDP) has remained close to 19.5%, even as the top tax bracket was brought down from 91% [during WWII] to the present 35%. This is what scientists call an "independence theorem," and it cuts the Gordian Knot of tax policy debate.

The data show that the tax yield has been independent of marginal tax rates over this period, but tax revenue is directly proportional to GDP. So if we want to increase tax revenue, we need to increase GDP.

What happens if we instead raise tax rates? Economists of all persuasions accept that a tax rate hike will reduce GDP, in which case Hauser's Law says it will also lower tax revenue. That's a highly inconvenient truth for redistributive tax policy, and it flies in the face of deeply felt beliefs about social justice. It would surely be unpopular today with those presidential candidates who plan to raise tax rates on the rich – if they knew about it.

...What makes Hauser's Law work? For supply-siders there is no mystery. As Mr. Hauser said: "Raising taxes encourages taxpayers to shift, hide and underreport income. . . . Higher taxes reduce the incentives to work, produce, invest and save, thereby dampening overall economic activity and job creation."

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31,000 scientists reject 'global warming' agenda
'Mr. Gore's movie has claims no informed expert endorses'

More than 31,000 scientists across the U.S. – including more than 9,000 Ph.D.s in fields such as atmospheric science, climatology, Earth science, environment and dozens of other specialties – have signed a petition rejecting "global warming," the assumption that the human production of greenhouse gases is damaging Earth's climate.

"There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate," the petition states. "Moreover, there is substantial scientific evidence that increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide produce many beneficial effects upon the natural plant and animal environments of the Earth."

The Petition Project actually was launched nearly 10 years ago, when the first few thousand signatures were assembled. Then, between 1999 and 2007, the list of signatures grew gradually without any special effort or campaign.

But now, a new effort has been conducted because of an "escalation of the claims of 'consensus,' release of the movie 'An Inconvenient Truth' by Mr. Al Gore, and related events," according to officials with the project.

"Mr. Gore's movie, asserting a 'consensus' and 'settled science' in agreement about human-caused global warming, conveyed the claims about human-caused global warming to ordinary movie goers and to public school children, to whom the film was widely distributed. Unfortunately, Mr. Gore's movie contains many very serious incorrect claims which no informed, honest scientist could endorse," said project spokesman and founder Art Robinson.

WND submitted a request to Gore's office for comment but did not get a response.

Robinson said the dire warnings about "global warming" have gone far beyond semantics or scientific discussion now to the point they are actually endangering people.

"The campaign to severely ration hydrocarbon energy technology has now been markedly expanded," he said. "In the course of this campaign, many scientifically invalid claims about impending climate emergencies are being made. Simultaneously, proposed political actions to severely reduce hydrocarbon use now threaten the prosperity of Americans and the very existence of hundreds of millions of people in poorer countries," he said.

In just the past few weeks, there have been various allegations that both shark attacks and typhoons have been sparked by "global warming."

The late Professor Frederick Seitz, the past president of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and winner of the National Medal of Science, wrote in a letter promoting the petition, "The United States is very close to adopting an international agreement that would ration the use of energy and of technologies that depend upon coal, oil, and natural gas and some other organic compounds."

"This treaty is, in our opinion, based upon flawed ideas. Research data on climate change do not show that human use of hydrocarbons is harmful. To the contrary, there is good evidence that increased atmospheric carbon dioxide is environmentally helpful," he wrote.

Accompanying the letter sent to scientists was a 12-page summary and review of research on "global warming," officials said.

"The proposed agreement would have very negative effects upon the technology of nations throughout the world, especially those that are currently attempting to lift from poverty and provide opportunities to the over 4 billion people in technologically underdeveloped countries," Seitz wrote.

Robinson said the project targets scientists because, "It is especially important for America to hear from its citizens who have the training necessary to evaluate the relevant data and offer sound advice."

He said the "global warming agreement," written in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997, and other plans "would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind."

"Yet," he said, "the United Nations and other vocal political interests say the U.S. must enact new laws that will sharply reduce domestic energy production and raise energy prices even higher.

"The inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness include the right of access to life-giving and life-enhancing technology. This is especially true of access to the most basic of all technologies: energy. These human rights have been extensively and wrongly abridged," he continued. "During the past two generations in the U.S., a system of high taxation, extensive regulation, and ubiquitous litigation has arisen that prevents the accumulation of sufficient capital and the exercise of sufficient freedom to build and preserve needed modern technology.

"These unfavorable political trends have severely damaged our energy production, where lack of industrial progress has left our country dependent upon foreign sources for 30 percent of the energy required to maintain our current level of prosperity," he said. "Moreover, the transfer of other U.S. industries abroad as a result of these same trends has left U.S. citizens with too few goods and services to trade for the energy that they do not produce. A huge and unsustainable trade deficit and rapidly rising energy prices have been the result.

"The necessary hydrocarbon and nuclear energy production technologies have been available to U.S. engineers for many decades. We can develop these resources without harm to people or the environment. There is absolutely no technical, resource, or environmental reason for the U.S. to be a net importer of energy. The U.S. should, in fact, be a net exporter of energy," he said.

He told WND he believes the issue has nothing to do with energy itself, but everything to do with power, control and money, which the United Nations is seeking. He accused the U.N. of violating human rights in its campaign to ban much energy research, exploration and development.

"In order to alleviate the current energy emergency and prevent future emergencies, we need to remove the governmental restrictions that have caused this problem. Fundamental human rights require that U.S. citizens and their industries be free to produce and use the low cost, abundant energy that they need. As the 31,000 signatories of this petition emphasize, environmental science supports this freedom," he said.

The Petition Project website today said there are 31,072 scientists who have signed up, and Robinson said more names continue to come in.
In terms of Ph.D. scientists alone, it already has 15 times more scientists than are seriously involved in the U.N.'s campaign to "vilify hydrocarbons," officials told WND.

"The very large number of petition signers demonstrates that, if there is a consensus among American scientists, it is in opposition to the human-caused global warming hypothesis rather than in favor of it," the organization noted.

The project was set up by a team of physicists and physical chemists who do research at several American institutions and collects signatures when donations provide the resources to mail out more letters.

"In a group of more than 30,000 people, there are many individuals with names similar or identical to other signatories, or to non-signatories – real or fictional.
Opponents of the petition project sometimes use this statistical fact in efforts to discredit the project. For examples, Perry Mason and Michael Fox are scientists who have signed the petition – who happen also to have names identical to fictional or real non-scientists," the website said.

The petition is needed, supporters said, simply because Gore and others "have claimed that the 'science is settled' – that an overwhelming 'consensus' of scientists agrees with the hypothesis of human-caused global warming, with only a handful of skeptical scientists in disagreement."

The list of scientists includes 9,021 Ph.D.s, 6,961 at the master's level, 2,240 medical doctors and 12,850 carrying a bachelor of science or equivalent academic degree.

The Petition Project's website includes both a list of scientists by name as well as a list of scientists by state.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Shakespeare once wrote, "Methinks the lady doth protest too much." Protesting too much is exactly what faux-outraged Democrats are doing in response to a speech in which President Bush told the Israeli Knesset that, "We also believe that nations have a right to defend themselves and that no nation should ever be forced to negotiate with killers pledged to it's destruction." He referenced Neville Chamberlain, and that appeasement never worked with Nazis. That's it.

What's fascinating in all this is that Bush (1) made no mention of Barack Obama or any Democrat, and (2) simply repeated what American presidents have been saying about our Israeli relationship since Harry Truman more than 60 years ago.

That Democrats are so oddly defensive when no attack was made simply underscores that they are as weak in the face of autocracies from Burma to China to North Korea to Tehran as everyone suspects.

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Oh, what a surprise, our Congressmen waste our tax dollars for personal luxury.

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Great commentary by Dan Henninger.

Among the Western intellectual classes in the U.S. and Europe, there is no idea more routinely mocked than George Bush's proposition that what the world needs today is more democracies. Much of this has to do with the Iraq war and the apparently bottomless, neurotic antipathy to Mr. Bush. But make no mistake: The steady stream of pushback against "exporting democracy" as quixotic or inappropriate has gone far toward throwing out the democratic baby with the Bush bathwater.

Tectonic plates in motion don't distinguish between democracies and autocracies, but the record shows that getting hit by an earthquake or cyclone in an authoritarian government is a high-risk proposition for the survivors.

Communist China's Tangshan earthquake of 1976 was the 20th century's most devastating, killing 255,000. (All data here from U.S. Geological Survey.) Managua under the Somoza dictatorship in 1972: at least 5,000 dead and most of the city destroyed.

Mexico City's 1985 earthquake under the one-party PRI government killed 9,500 according to government estimates, but the toll is believed to have been much higher. Soviet Armenia 1988: 25,000 dead. In 2003 an earthquake in mullahfied Iran destroyed the ancient city of Bam and killed at least 31,000.

Common to all is that their governments never held real elections. In such places, after nature kills people, delay and incompetence kill the rest. Set aside idealism and the flowery rhetoric that must accompany a statement like the 2002 Bush Doctrine. The bottom line is accountability. In democracies, even poor or imperfect ones, public pressure, even outrage, pushes elected officials to act. In nondemocracies, the politicians don't give a damn because they don't have to.

Bureaucracies anywhere are lumpen, but in nondemocracies their sloth can be lethal. Their political masters, in office in perpetuity, are often corrupt, and so too are they. This, not poverty, is mainly why buildings like the Juyuan Middle School collapsed this week. In Bam just five years ago, many died because they were trapped beneath crude houses. Cement up to code isn't that expensive.

Bad people and bad cement exist everywhere. When they kill people in a democracy, the pressure of public outrage calls for heads to roll. After the fiasco of Hurricane Katrina, the head of FEMA went to the block, George Bush's approval rating collapsed and has never recovered. Arguably, one can divide the Bush presidency's status to before and after Katrina.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who saw his fill running Doctors Without Borders, suggested last week that disaster aid to Burma's government would be ripped off. Paul Wolfowitz, a democracy-addicted neocon, came to the World Bank arguing that authoritarian corruption was at the center of many developing-nation horrors. The Bank's bureaucracy drove him out. One wonders how many shoddy buildings their corrupt borrowers have tossed together.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Fortunately, there is hope.

We're not all stupid, and it's proven by the British stiff arm of their government's proposed taxation advocation of carbon output.

Majority of Britons are opposed to increases in green taxation

By Colin Brown, Deputy Political Editor
Friday, 2 May 2008

More than seven in 10 voters insist that they would not be willing to pay higher taxes in order to fund projects to combat climate change, according to a new poll.

The survey also reveals that most Britons believe "green" taxes on 4x4s, plastic bags and other consumer goods have been imposed to raise cash rather than change our behaviour, while two-thirds of Britons think the entire green agenda has been hijacked as a ploy to increase taxes.

Read the rest. Like I said, people aren't stupid. When you try to grab their wallets to "save" a planet that doesn't need saving, they react.

In a critical essay of John McCain -- calling it an "assault on reason" -- Roy Spencer lays the blame on this over-politicization of undetermined science on the scientific community:

When the public finds out how much any legislation that punishes energy use is going to cost them, with no guarantee that anything we do will have a measurable impact on future climate, there will be a revolt just like the one now materializing in the U.K. and the EU. At some point, as they are faced with the stark reality that mankind’s requirement for an abundant source of energy cannot simply be legislated out of existence, the public will begin asking, “Just how sure are we that humans are causing global warming?”

And this is where the science establishment has, in my view, betrayed the public’s trust.

Even though there has never been a single scientific paper published that has ruled out natural variability for most of the warming we’ve seen since 1850, Big Science has managed to convince politicians and much of the public that the science is settled. Apparently, our addition of nine molecules of carbon dioxide to each 100,000 molecules of air over the last 150 years can now be blamed for anything and everything we choose. Hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, floods, glaciers flowing toward the sea…. all of these used to happen naturally, but no more.

The warming that allowed the Vikings to farm in Greenland 1,000 years ago was surely natural. But we are now told that warming in Greenland today is surely manmade. Glaciers retreating in western Canada have revealed evidence of previous forests, showing that warming and cooling cycles do indeed occur, even without SUVs. Yet the SUV is now the scapegoat for retreating glaciers.

McCain pointed to shrinking Arctic sea ice and collapsing Antarctic ice shelves as obvious evidence that humans are to blame, even though the sea ice did the same thing in the 1920s and 1930s, and those ice shelves must break off eventually, as new glacial ice flows toward the sea to take their place.

But McCain has made it clear that the science really does not matter anyway because, even if humans are not to blame for global warming, stopping carbon-dioxide emissions is the right thing to do. And if we had another choice for most of our energy needs, I might be willing to accept such a claim as harmless enough.

But carbon dioxide is necessary for life on Earth, and I have a difficult time calling something so fundamentally important a “pollutant.” Maybe the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is higher now than it has been in hundreds of thousands of years. So what? I am increasingly convinced that its influence on climate pales in comparison to the influence that natural climate events like El Niño and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation have on regional climate. Indeed, most of the warming we’ve seen in the last century might well be due to these natural modes of climate variability alone.

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The ineptness of Republicans never ceases to amaze me. The past few weeks John McCain had a perfect opportunity to capitalize on the Democratic Party infighting between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

So, what did McCain do with this moment in the spotlight? He mimicked Democrats and delivered a speech in Portland, Oregon, on how he would combat climate change...

... say again, John?

McCain does realize he's the Republican candidate, right?

His speech will do one of two things for his intended audience - that is, Republicans: Bore the hell out of them, or (in my case) infuriate them by offering a costly government-intrusive solution to a problem that doesn't actually exist.

It's hasn't gone over too hot with Republican audiences:

[From the Wall Street Journal editors] The problem is that once government creates an artificial scarcity of carbon, how the credits are allocated creates a huge new venue for political rent-seeking and more subsidies for favored industries. Some businesses will benefit more than others, in proportion to their lobbying influence and how well they're able to game the Beltway. Congress itself will probably take the largest revenue grab, offering itself a few more bites out of the economy and soaking politically unpopular businesses.

Then there's the question of whether any of this will even reduce greenhouse gasses. The McCain plan would allow businesses unlimited use of domestic and international offsets to comply with the carbon cap. So a chemical manufacturer, say, would pay an industry not covered by the program – most notably, agriculture – to reduce its emissions. Or it could pay a coal plant in China for plucking low-hanging efficiency fruit, like installing smokestack scrubbers. In other words, U.S. consumers would be paying higher prices for energy in return for making Chinese industries more efficient and competitive. Europe is in the midst of that experience now under the Kyoto Protocol, and most of its reductions so far have been illusory.

The compliance bookkeeping for this new "market" is vastly complex, and a McCain Administration would create a public-private "Climate Change Credit Corporation" to oversee it all.

And here's the take from NRO.
The Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) estimates that a U.S. cap-and-trade regime like the one discussed in this speech would cause about a one-percent reduction in GDP within five years. In less abstract terms, under that projection, by 2014 something like 1 million people would lose their jobs and the average American family would have about $150 less to spend every month. The costs would ramp up dramatically from there. In short, it would cost a lot. The U.N. IPCC estimates that unconstrained global warming is expected to cause damages equal to about 1-5 percent of global economic output about a century from now. William Nordhaus of Yale has estimated that the net benefit that would be created for the world by a perfectly implemented, globally harmonized carbon tax would be just under 0.2 percent of the present value of future global consumption. That presents a painfully thin margin for error, ignores the fact that costs will be disproportionately borne by the U.S., and does not bear much resemblance to the rhetoric of crisis that Sen. McCain uses in his speech.

It is highly unlikely that we could ever realize this theoretical benefit. Nobody has any realistic plan to get China and India to reduce emissions, and without doing so the costs of cap-and-trade to the U.S. would be dramatically greater than the benefits. Even if we could get the developing world to go along, the theoretical benefits that such a regulatory regime might create would, in the real world, be more than offset by the economic drag that would be created by the side deals required to get China, India, and the U.S. ethanol lobby, among many others, to go along with it.

It's like I've said before... every time I concede for McCain, or even warm up to him, or find myself defending him, he goes and does something to really tick me off.

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Are conservatives happier than liberals?
Right-wingers rationalize (or reason away) nation's problems

By Jeanna Bryner

updated 11:39 a.m. ET, Wed., May. 7, 2008

Individuals with conservative ideologies are happier than liberal-leaners, and new research pinpoints the reason: Conservatives rationalize social and economic inequalities.

Regardless of marital status, income or church attendance, right-wing individuals reported greater life satisfaction and well-being than left-wingers, the new study found. Conservatives also scored highest on measures of rationalization, which gauge a person's tendency to justify, or explain away, inequalities.

The rationalization measure included statements such as: "It is not really that big a problem if some people have more of a chance in life than others," and "This country would be better off if we worried less about how equal people are."

To justify economic inequalities, a person could support the idea of meritocracy, in which people supposedly move up their economic status in society based on hard work and good performance. In that way, one's social class attainment, whether upper, middle or lower, would be perceived as totally fair and justified.

If your beliefs don't justify gaps in status, you could be left frustrated and disheartened, according to the researchers, Jaime Napier and John Jost of New York University. They conducted a U.S.-centric survey and a more internationally focused one to arrive at the findings.

"Our research suggests that inequality takes a greater psychological toll on liberals than on conservatives," the researchers write in the June issue of the journal Psychological Science, "apparently because liberals lack ideological rationalizations that would help them frame inequality in a positive (or at least neutral) light."

The results support and further explain a Pew Research Center survey from 2006, in which 47 percent of conservative Republicans in the U.S. described themselves as "very happy," while only 28 percent of liberal Democrats indicated such cheer.

The same rationalizing phenomena could apply to personal situations as well.

"There is no reason to think that the effects we have identified here are unique to economic forms of inequality," the researchers write. "Research suggests that highly egalitarian women are less happy in their marriages compared with their more traditional counterparts, apparently because they are more troubled by disparities in domestic labor."

The current study was funded by the National Science Foundation.



Wednesday, May 07, 2008

[Rev. Jeremiah] Wright attacks capitalism throughout his sermons, an odd ideological target for a man who reportedly drives a Porsche and whose grateful congregants are building him a $1 million, four-garage home in a predominantly white suburb of Chicago (so much for being “unapologetically black”). He has also praised Cuba’s Fidel Castro and Libya’s Muammar al-Qadhafi. So it’s really no wonder that a huckster such as Wright has emerged as some sort of “reality-based community” folk hero. The political left finds common cause with the religious left and is apparently willing to overlook exactly the sort of racist sectarianism that it would be so quick to condemn were its perpetrator a white conservative.

-- James Kirchick, The Politico

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Call it another case of the folly of environmentally-based central planning. Try as they may, the world's environmental "experts" just can't get around the stubborn laws of economics. Somewhere Adam Smith is smiling.

To create just one gallon of fuel, ethanol slurps up 1,700 gallons of water, according to Cornell's David Pimentel, and 51 cents of tax credits. And it still can't compete against oil without a protective 54-cents-per-gallon tariff on imports and a federal mandate that forces it into our gas tanks. The record 30 million acres the U.S. will devote to ethanol production this year will consume almost a third of America's corn crop while yielding fuel amounting to less than 3% of petroleum consumption.

In December the Congressional Research Service warned that even devoting every last ear of American-grown corn to ethanol would not create enough "renewable fuel" to meet federal mandates. According to a 2007 OECD report, fossil-fuel production is up to 10,000 times as efficient as biofuel, measured by energy produced per unit of land.

Now scientists are showing that ethanol will exacerbate greenhouse gas emissions. A February report in the journal Science found that "corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings, nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years . . . Biofuels from switchgrass, if grown on U.S. corn lands, increase emissions by 50%." Princeton's Timothy Searchinger and colleagues at Iowa State, of all places, found that markets for biofuel encourage farmers to level forests and convert wilderness into cropland. This is to replace the land diverted from food to fuel.

I love it too when the economic arguments additionally note that the environmental solutions don't even come close to attaining the advertised goal of the environmental movement (i.e., "curing" global warming), but at the same time I don't like it, because it implies that one has accepted the junk science to begin with. Don't fret, environmentalists: I'm sure that one of Al Gore's non-peer reviewed computer models will prove next week that Congressionally-mandated fuel cell cars will nullify the power of the Sun -- that huge bright orb that actually contributes 99.99% of all natural global warming and cooling cycles. Okay, so that's not scientific fact. But neither is Al Gore's claim that the Burmese cyclone was caused by global warming. Who needs facts when one peddles in human misery, eh Al?

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Speaking of energy, we can't help but give more attention to a recent press release from some of the Senate's leading liberals. Charles Schumer, Byron Dorgan, Bernie Sanders, Bob Casey and Mary Landrieu are demanding that President Bush tell OPEC nations to increase their oil supplies or risk losing arms deals with the United States. The Senators say U.S. consumers need the price relief that only increased oil production can bring.

Yes, that Senator Schumer and that Senator Dorgan, both of whom voted against increasing U.S. oil production because they couldn't abide drilling across 1% of Alaska's wilderness. Yes, that Senator Casey, who has called for mandatory reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide. At least Senator Landrieu of Louisiana has fought to allow more offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

All of these Senate Democrats are willing to accept greater carbon emissions, as long as we can also outsource jobs in the petroleum industry to Middle Eastern dictatorships. The Senators do aver that "some of us have concerns in general about arming this region to the teeth," but apparently cheap fossil fuel buys a lot of peace of mind.

A special word of concern about Mr. Sanders: He is the only avowed socialist in Congress, but the Vermonter appears to be losing his religion over $122-a-barrel oil. By signing this letter, not only is he officially recognizing the law of supply and demand; he's also proposing a more crassly commercial trade of guns for oil than anything we've ever heard from the most candid realpolitician.

To top it off, the Senator whose Web site proudly proclaims that the first bill he introduced was to combat global warming now wants more fossil fuels ready for burning. We hope his friends are closely watching Mr. Sanders, in case he blows a gasket over all of this cognitive ideological dissonance.

--Wall Street Journal

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Monday, May 05, 2008

ADEN, Yemen -- Almost eight years after al-Qaeda nearly sank the USS Cole with an explosives-stuffed motorboat, killing 17 sailors, all the defendants convicted in the attack have escaped from prison or been freed by Yemeni officials.

Jamal al-Badawi, a Yemeni who helped organize the plot to bomb the Cole as it refueled in this Yemeni port on Oct. 12, 2000, has broken out of prison twice. He was recaptured both times, but then secretly released by the government last fall. Yemeni authorities jailed him again after receiving complaints from Washington. But U.S. officials have so little faith that he's still in his cell that they have demanded the right to perform random inspections.

Two suspects, described as the key organizers, were captured outside Yemen and are being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, beyond the jurisdiction of U.S. courts. Many details of their alleged involvement remain classified. It is unclear when -- or if -- they will be tried by the military.

Ya know... maybe if "allies" like Yemen proved to be more reliable in their counterterrorism policies the United States wouldn't feel the need to even have Guantanamo.

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