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The official blog of the National Center for Public Policy Research, covering news, current events and public policy from a conservative, free-market and pro-Constitution perspective.

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Neal Boortz: Unions, Yes - Momentarily

Regarding the Wal-Mart in Quebec that is closing because demands made by union workers made the store unprofitable, talk show host Neal Boortz says:

There are many things I would like to do or would have liked to have done in my life. Go into space, for instance, or travel to Everest base camp. Also on that list is to form a company, hire about 200 people, treat them well, sit back and watch them form a union, and then fire them all and close down.
And I thought I was anti-union...


The AP's Biased Global Warming Coverage (or, Dan Rather, Call Your Office)

The Associated Press seems determined to spin global warming, even at the cost of its own reputation.

Elsewhere on this website, I have analyzed several recent AP wire stories on global warming, all of which are breathtakingly biased in favor of the theory that human beings are causing global warming -- warming that, theory advocates say, eventually will prove catastrophic.

Bias, however, is standard fare for global warming reporting. What is striking is that objective facts are missreported in the service of that bias. (Dan Rather, call your office).

For example, readers are told that "greenhouse gases" are in the atmosphere "mostly from fossil-fuel burning."

Actually, the major greenhouse gas is water vapor, but in the interest of charity, we'll put that aside and focus on carbon dioxide. "Most" of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not come from burning fossil fuels -- only about 14 percent of it does. Furthermore, carbon dioxide accounts for less than ten percent of the greenhouse effect, as carbon dioxide's ability to absorb heat is quite limited.

There's more.

A year ago, I wrote a similar piece about the AP's global warming coverage, correcting the same errors and several others. It looks like the AP couldn't be bothered with fact-checkers a year ago and it still can't.

In addition to these AP wire stories, I also criticized a different AP wire story that gave the world the impression that a panel of qualified experts had just - stop the presses! - determined that the world has only a short time left to act on global warming, as the world is "approaching the critical point of no return, after which widespread drought, crop failure and rising sea-levels would be irreversible."

But the experts turned out to be led by politicians, not climate scientists, and the groups that assembled them turned out to be former Clinton Administration Chief-of-Staff John Podesta's Center for American Progress and two self-described liberal activist outfits located abroad.


Containing Sprawl: The True Cost

National Center Policy Analyst Ryan Balis has a letter in the Washington Post today on the cost of containing sprawl.

As per usual with environmentalist schemes, the cost of "smart growth" anti-sprawl initiatives tends to be borne by those who can least afford it.

As Ryan says in his letter:

The Feb. 3 Metro story on plans by the District and other area officials to control "suburban sprawl" with ever-denser development ["Building Strategies to Map Out Growth"] did not address the policy's effect on rising home prices.

Suppressing housing development as demand for it grows will cause prices to skyrocket. This is evident in Portland, Ore., long considered a model for "smart growth" planning. There, fewer than half the homes in 2002 were affordable to median-income earners. The city plunged from the 55th-most-affordable city in the country in 1991 to 163rd place in those rankings in 2002.

Is the Washington area going to follow in forcing out thousands of low- and middle-income residents?

Ryan Balis

Policy Analyst

National Center for Public Policy Research

The National Center has published an econometrics study examining the impact of so-called "smart growth" policies. Based on an examination of the record of the policy in practice in Portland, Oregon, the study revealed that smart growth housing restrictions disproportionately penalize minorities, the poor, urban families and the young.

What's more, the policies fail to generate the expected environmental benefits, actually increasing suburbanization rates while failing to reduce vehicle miles traveled or congestion.

Our study asked this question: If cities nationwide had adopted Portland's smart growth policies in 1992, how would America's most disadvantaged populations been affected by 2002? We learned:
1) 260,000 minority homeowners circa 2002 would not have been able to become homeowners;

2) One million homeowners of all races circa 2002 would not have been able to afford their homes by that year;

3) The average home price in 2002 would have been $10,000 more expensive;

4) The average cost of renting a home or apartment in 2002 would have increased six percent over its actual price.
We dubbed our report "Smart Growth and Its Effects on Housing Markets: The New Segregation" -- so named because smart growth policies deter minorities from home ownership at disproportionate rates.

The study is available for download (PDF file) here.


Maybe This is How... warming theory advocates seek their vaunted "scientific consensus" that their theories are right and the data will catch up eventually...

Illarionov Criticizes Censorship Bias at Climatic Conference

LONDON, February 2 (RIA Novosti's Alexander Smotrov) - Presidential economic aide Andrei Illarionov criticizes the policy of censorship practiced at the British Climate Change Conference.

The scientific conference of G8 experts is held in Exeter in the south of Britain on February 1 through 3.

"Its organizers have not accepted reports from many participants whose views are different from that of the organizers,'" Mr. Illarionov told RIA Novosti in the interview.

Asked by the RIA Novosti correspondent why his name is not in the list of speakers, Mr. Illarionov said: "Making a report here is impossible because organizers practice a policy of censorship against people having different points of view."

Mr. Illarionov is against the Kyoto Protocol, which intends the cutting of greenhouse gas emissions.

He draws a parallel between the refusal of organizers of the British conference to allow a number of reports to be made to the similar situation prevailing on eve of the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. "The situation is the same here as well as in Davos and in the organization called the IPCC (Interparliamentary Panel on Climate Change)," the presidential economic aide said.

Last week he refused to participate in the Davos forum because he was not allowed to speak up at the sessions on climate change...

-From the Russian News and Information Agency Novosti, February 2, 2005
Addendum: I suppose I should have pointed out that Andrei Illarionov is an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, not to President Bush, as not everyone will know.


Heritage Foundation Congressional Reform: Posting Before Voting

The notion that Congress should post the text of bills on the Internet before voting is an interesting one.

See Tapscott's Copy Desk for more on Heritage Foundation President Ed Feulner's idea.


Cites, Please

Steve Weinberg, writing in the Baltimore Sun, scolds non-fiction writers whose books fail to provide indexes and sourcing.

He singles out two famous writers for special criticism: Kitty Kelley and Bob Woodward.

Weinberg says:

Authors such as Woodward, and, by extension, editors such as Mayhew and publishers such as Simon & Schuster, offer all sorts of reasons for failing to provide source notes: They clutter a book. Readers never look at them anyway. Readers trust us. The sources are too sensitive to be identified. Adding extra pages drives up book prices.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it conveys the tenor of the discussion. The point is that every reason stated to me over 35 years of discussion is garbage.
I agree. I never take a non-fiction book seriously if it lacks sourcing and an index.


SI: Steelers Top NFL Dynasty

Gotta agree with Sports Illustrated on their #1 pick.

Those were very good years.

Hat tip: Professor Bainbridge.


Wishing Europe Well

I wrote an entire post about this.

And then I erased it. I'd rather be writing something positive.

So here goes: After Europe collapses, may something nice rise in its place.


Michelle Malkin: Easongate Interviews with Gergen and Frank

Michelle Malkin has interviewed David Gergen and Rep. Barney Frank, both of whom were part of the panel at Davos where Eason Jordan made his remarks about journalists and the U.S. military.


A Penny or a Pistachio

Ed Haislmaier writes to say:

Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has an intriguing "thinking outside of the box" idea for the rewards the U.S. is offering for the capture of bin Laden and al-Zarqawi. Friedman writes:
The U.S. should announce that it is lowering the reward for bin Laden from $25 million to one penny, along with an autographed picture of George W Bush. At the same time, it should reduce the $25 million reward for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the chief terrorist in Iraq, to one pistachio and an autographed picture of Dick Cheney.

Don't get me wrong. Bin Laden and Zarqawi have murdered people. I want them brought in dead or alive - and preferably the former. If I thought $100 million would do it, I'd be for it. But these mega-rewards clearly are not working, and in many ways they are sending the totally wrong signals.

First, both of these guys are obviously megalomaniacs, who think the world is just hanging on their every word and video. All we are doing is feeding their egos, and telling them how incredibly important they are when we put a $25 million bounty on their heads. We are just enhancing their status on the Arab street as the Muslim warriors standing up to America, and encouraging other megalomaniacs out there. We should be doing just the opposite-letting these two know we don't think they are worth more than a penny or a pistachio.

But there is an even more important issue of principle at stake. We should not be paying Iraqis or Arabs or Pakistanis to get rid of their problem. Osama bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi are a curse on their civilization. Their capture will have real value to them, to us and to the world, only if it is done by Arabs and Muslims for the sole purpose of purging their civilization of these two cancer cells.

Also, if bin Laden's or al-Zarqawi's own neighbours turn them in for nothing, it will have a much greater deterrent effect on others. After all, what story would you rather read after bin Laden's capture?

"Osama bin Laden was apprehended this morning after villagers turned him in to local police. The villagers collected the $50 million reward and then fled their country in ski masks, not wanting anyone to know their identities."

Or, "Osama bin Laden was captured this morning after villagers tipped off local police. One of the villagers, Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed, told reporters: 'This man sullied the name of Islam, a religion of mercy and compassion. There is a special place in hell for him. I will dance on his grave...'"
While Friedman's suggestion may seem to some to be too clever by half, I actually think it has some merit following the successful elections in Afghanistan and now Iraq. In the context of Middle Eastern cultures -- which take far more seriously than ours the giving and receipt of personal insults and are almost as concerned as the Japanese about "face" -- it would be seen as a deliberate, calculated insult and a loss of face for the terrorist masterminds. It would also show who is the "strong horse" and who is the "weak horse," to turn bin Ladens's phrase against him. In that regard, it should be noted that it was similar logic that motivated Ariel Sharon to crack down on Palestinian terrorists in Gaza at the same time he pushed through the Knesset the removal of Israeli settlements in Gaza. It was widely commented on that Sharon did that to send the Palestinians the clear message, "Israel is withdrawing from Gaza for its own reasons, not because you forced us to."

Here's how I would modify Friedman's basic idea if I were the President. I'd announce that the rewards offered were being reduced to a much more modest, but still attractive, amount (say, something between $10,000 and $25,000). Such an amount would be equivalent to that for a garden variety murderer in the U.S. but still a big inducement for tipsters in those impoverished countries, while still clearly communicating the calculated insult that Friedman intends. Furthermore, I would say that the reason the U.S. is taking such a step is that the successful elections in Afghanistan and Iraq clearly demonstrate that the peoples of those countries are well on the way to responsible self-government, that neither terrorist leader has any meaningful support left in either nation, and that the vast majority of Afghans and Iraqis understand that they need to get rid of those guys if they want to build free, secure and prosperous societies. Of course, we will continue to work with the Afghan and Iraqi governments and our other allies (Coalition partners, Pakistan, etc.) to hunt them down, but doing so is now a "mopping-up" operation.

The other, and bigger, quibble I have with Friedman is that I don't think there is much value to his idea (not excerpted above -- see linked full version) of reprogramming the money into some kind of Arab scholarship fund.

Remember, some of the top terrorists, including a number of the 9/11 hijackers, have (or had) wealthy, western educated backgrounds and established their key cells in the U.S. and Western European countries. I think the better approach would be to announce that the funds will be redirected to a couple of major, high-profile infrastructure/reconstruction projects in those countries (I'm thinking power plants, water treatment plants, sewage treatment plants, etc.) that the "masses" will benefit from, and I would publicly identify where and what they will be -- effectively daring the terrorists to stop us from building them. Given their egos, that would either drive them to attack those sites (where, of course, we would position troops and armor to deal with them), or force then to accept further humiliation by effectively conceding that they can't stop us from going ahead.

Another aspect of the PR effect would be that such projects would be a kind of "reward" to the common people of those countries who have suffered from the terrorist depredations, and a "thank you" for seizing the opportunity for self-government that our troops have provided them.

Thus, we could simultaneously insult the terrorists and reward and flatter those who braved the terrorists to vote in the Afghan and Iraqi elections. Kind of a "two-fer" and the sort of thing the State Department calls "public diplomacy." How about it Mr. President? Madame Secretary?


Three Cheers

Three cheers for these doctors and lawyers.


Ronald Reagan's Birthday

Today would have been Ronald Reagan's 94th birthday.

Trey Jackson has assembled a collection of Reagan tributes and links on his Jackson's Junction site in honor of the man and the President.

This was my favorite link (accessed via the "trip down memory lane" link on Jackson's Junction). The quality of the picture isn't much but when you read that President Reagan kept it in his desk and why, it gets interesting.

Addendum: Jeff Harrell of the blog Shape of Days, who is too young to properly appreciate Reagan as President, says "President Reagan has been a bigger influence on me in the years since his retirement than he ever was while he was in office." Read his post here.


Dutch Flag Banned -- in Holland?

It has been several years since I have been in Europe, so perhaps this won't surprise others as much as it surprised me.

Read the comments, too -- some are good, as is this suggested link to an article entitled "Europe: They Name is Cowardice," translated from the German press.


Cookie Lawsuit

Eric Berlin describes another mind-boggling lawsuit: Two teenage girls get sued for baking cookies for a neighbor.

The problem wasn't the cookies. It was the neighbor.

See also: The Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler.

Addendum, Feb. 6: Wizbang reports that radio station KOA in Denver has raised money to pay the damages the girls were ordered to pay to the neighbor. Click the link on Wizbang to read an AP report saying the husband of the plaintiff (the lady for whom the girls baked cookies) allegedly has been making harassing phone calls to the family of one of the girls.


Regarding Ward Churchill: Abolish Tenure

Rarely do I criticize another for being old-fashioned, but I find the very notion of tenure distastefully medieval.


In the Middle Ages there were few institutions offering scholars the opportunity to ponder -- not just few alternatives to universities, but very few universities, period. If that were the case today, perhaps tenure for the purpose of protecting academic freedom would make some sense. But it isn't, and it doesn't.

A simple question: If professors at universities need tenure to feel free to think, how is it that think-tanks do so well without it?

Associate Professor Mike Adams at the University of North Carolina says: "Tenure is supposed to foster academic freedom on our nation's campuses. Instead, it fosters socialism, laziness, and incivility."

Let's get rid of it. That way, the next time a Ward Churchill situation develops, his employer -- the public, in this case -- can simply do what it thinks best.


Gary Kasparov: With Whom Will the West Side?

Russian chess champion Gary Kasparov asks: In the coming battle for freedom within Russia, with whom will the West side?

Here's part of what he wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

...The Duma recently passed a law that punishes foreigners who "show disrespect to the state of Russia." Without a pause, the director of the federal agency in charge of the media stated that it's time to filter Internet content. Criticism of Mr. Putin and his regime simply will not be tolerated. Censorship and repression are threatening to surpass oil and gas as Russia's biggest exports.

Students and pensioners have recently taken to the wintry streets to protest. In a healthy democracy politicians would step in to lead an angry crowd. Not in Russia, where there's no political advantage to being against any Kremlin policy, no matter how many voters are against it. The only vote that matters is Mr. Putin's.

With the democratic opposition systematically pushed into the margins, real change will come from the people, not from the top. We are starting from scratch. In places like Russia liberty is more than a filler for speeches. Democracy is more than something that interrupts your life every four years. People born in free countries think that we are exaggerating the loss of freedoms when in reality things are even worse. You see Mr. Putin sitting at the table with the G7 leaders and assume he can't really be all that bad.

This is not a plea for help, but a warning about what we're going to have to deal with soon. The patience of the Russian people is wearing thin. With whom will the West side in this coming battle, the Russian people or the KGB?


Better Watch Where You Pitch Your Tent...

...the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand is growing at the rate of 12 feet per day.

For more on glaciers and global warming, I recommend this.


John Samples: Defund Everyone

John Samples of the Cato Institute explains why the Armstrong Williams affair is just the tip of the iceberg: The Bush Administration, he says, "spent $250 million on public relations during its first term," while President Clinton spent about $128 million on publicity during his second term.

A far bigger point, however, and one which Samples makes in his conclusion, is that the government should not be providing subsidies to politically-active groups. Samples doesn't give a figure for federal government grants to groups of this type, but I bet the figure would make $250 million seem like a pittance.

Jonathan Adler has more on the subject on The Commons Blog, with links to information about sizable federal grants to environmental organizations.


First Annual Flat Earth Award

This is an award I would love to earn. But I have to admit that the three finalists are more worthy choices than I. Great men, all.

And, alas, regardless of how hard I work to spread the truth about the global warming theory, I probably won't get a chance to win in future years, since the award for best truth-telling is being awarded by students as part of the course work in a Middlebury College class. The kids are bound to lose interest as soon as they aren't getting college credit for the enterprise.

The class is called "Building the New Climate Movement" (is this climate science or political science?), and it is taught not by a climate scientist, but by an Assistant Professor of Economics.

I majored in economics myself, but I don't recall ever being asked to build a greenie movement for credit. (Back in the old days, we were so deprived.)

The kids cite this article as proof of a scientific consensus in favor of the global warming theory.

I wonder what the kids think of this -- assuming the fine economists at Middlebury College (tuition and fees $40,400 per year) have told them about it.

Is it fair to expect impartial scholarship for a mere forty grand a year?


Previewing the Volcker Investigation

The Heritage Foundation has released a paper providing guidance on how to judge the report the Volcker Investigation is releasing today.

Heritage's Nile Gardner says there is a "strong possibility" the report will be a "whitewash of most of the U.N.'s leadership, including the Secretary-General."

The Volcker Committee lacks, Gardner says, the powers it needs to conduct a full inquiry:

The Independent Inquiry Committee is severely handicapped by its dearth of investigative power. Even if it wanted to, the committee clearly does not possess the means to fully investigate this gigantic scandal. As outgoing U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. John Danforth has pointed out, the IIC is not equipped with the necessary tools to conduct a thorough investigation:
The fact that [Volcker] doesn't have subpoena power, he doesn't have a grand jury, he can't compel testimony, he can't compel production of documents and witnesses and documents that are located in other countries might be beyond his reach...

Those are tremendous handicaps.... [W]hat is possible, is that his focus would move from the bad acts, from the criminal offenses to something that he will view as more manageable - namely the procedures and was it a tight enough procedural system, which might be interesting but not the key question to investigate.
At the same time, there are also major questions regarding the independence of the Volcker Committee.... It remains unclear how many former U.N. employees are involved with the committee. It is self-evident that a truly independent inquiry into U.N. corruption should not be staffed either by former U.N. employees or by any other people with significant ties to the U.N.

Without any kind of external oversight, the Volcker Committee is clearly open to U.N. manipulation...
Addendum, Feb. 4: Everything I Know Is Wrong has a good write-up of the Volcker report.