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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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Saturday
Feb122005

Power Line: Remembering Mr. Lincoln

Power Line honors Abraham Lincoln on this anniversary of Lincoln's birth.

Saturday
Feb122005

Person of the Year 2005 Prediction

Congratulations to the bloggers who held CNN's chief news executive to the same standard to which the news media often holds others.



Michelle Malkin has the run-down on who did what.



Prediction: Time magazine's Man/Person/Thing/Planet of the Year in 2005 will be Bloggers.

Saturday
Feb122005

Associated Press Watch: Channeling Jan Egeland

Pretty much every loyal American, from the White House on down, scoffed at U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland when he said the U.S. was cheap.

I've been critical of AP writer Charles P. Hanley for following the Sierra Club line in his environmental reporting.

Here's a news report in which the two of them get together. Egeland says some moronic things about global warming and weather-related disasters such as hurricanes, while Hanley elevates his musings into an international story.

Notice as you read this story, taken here from the San Diego Union-Tribune, that Hanley provides no counterbalance to Egeland's and the left's thesis that modern science has proven human beings are causing global warming and that this will cause more natural disasters.

U.S. seeks to scuttle conference text linking climate change to disasters

By Charles J. Hanley
ASSOCIATED PRESS

January 19, 2005

KOBE, Japan - The U.S. delegation to a global conference on disasters wants to purge a U.N. action plan of its references to climate change as a potential cause of future natural calamities.

The U.S. stand reflects the opposition of the Bush administration to treating global warming as a priority problem.

"It's well known that there's controversy" about the consequences of climate change, deputy U.S. delegation head Mark Lagon told reporters Wednesday at the World Conference on Disaster Reduction. "It's our desire that this controversy not distract this conference."

The chief U.N. official here had a different view.

"I hope there will be a global recognition of climate change causing more natural disasters," said Jan Egeland, U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-organized network of scientists, said in its latest major assessment of climate science that the planet is warming and that this is expected to cause more extreme weather events, such as hurricanes and droughts, as the century wears on.

A broad scientific consensus attributes much of the warming to the accumulation of "greenhouse gases" in the atmosphere, such as carbon dioxide from fossil fuel-burning. The Kyoto Protocol, which takes effect Feb. 16, mandates cutbacks in such emissions, but the United States, the biggest emitter, has rejected that international pact.

In its preamble, the "framework for action" drafted for adoption at the Kobe conference on Saturday says climate change is one factor pointing toward "a future where disasters could increasingly threaten the world's economy, and its population." Other passages call for strengthening research into global warming and for clear identification of "climate-related disaster risks."

The U.S. delegation, supported by Australia and Canada, has called for all references to climate change to be deleted from the main document. The move is opposed by the 25-nation European Union - a strong supporter of the Kyoto Protocol - and by poorer nations potentially imperiled by the intensified storms, rising ocean waters and other effects of climate change.

The Bush administration has held fast to its rejection of mandatory curbs on greenhouse gases that are blamed for global warming, although Environmental Protection Agency administrator Mike Leavitt says that climate change is not an issue the White House dismisses. In December 2003, the administration said it was planning a five-year program to research climate change.

With global warming, millions more Bangladeshis could be displaced from low-lying coastal regions when oceans expand and rise as they receive runoff from melting ice.

"We feel there will be more calamities unless there is some action on climate change. The number of natural hazards will increase," said Siddiqur Choudhury, a delegate from Bangladesh, where a half-million or more people were killed by cyclones in 1970 and 1991.

Egeland, the U.N. emergency coordinator overseeing the relief effort for the Indian Ocean earthquake-tsunami, which killed more than 160,000 people last month, said the world has seen "a dramatic increase in hurricanes, storm surges and climate-caused natural disasters."

In an Associated Press interview, he noted that he hasn't been involved in the floor debate over document language. But, he said, "there is climate change. That is not really controversial. What is controversial is what causes climate change" - a reference to dissenters who contend the role of greenhouse gases may be overstated.

John Horekens, the U.N. conference coordinator, said he saw room for compromise on the language: Inclusion of a brief reference to climate change in the action plan, and additional references in a less significant annex.

For those interested, here are a few places where the link, or lack thereof, between global warming and various disasters is discussed:
Cato Institute: Tsunami of the Absurd by Patrick J. Michaels January 10, 2005

Washington Post: Apocalypse Soon? by Patrick J. Michaels May 16, 2004

The Commons Blog: Tsunami and Global Warming by Jane Shaw, 1/19/05

National Center for Public Policy Research: Don't Like the Weather? Don't Blame it on Global Warming by David Ridenour, August 1998

Spiked-Risk: Extreme Weather? It's the Norm by Brendan O'Neill, August 17, 2004

Friday
Feb112005

Grassroots Government: Internet Fixes for Government Accountability Problems

I posted Tuesday about Ed Feulner of the Heritage Foundation's suggestion that Congress should post the complete text of legislation on the Internet before it votes.

Mark Tapscott of Tapcott's Copy Desk has taken that idea for a "grassroots government' reform and added two new ideas to it.

I don't want to give the ideas away when folks can easily get the full scoop from Mark, but I will tell you that one idea has to with "grassroots government" reforms relating to judges ruling on Constitutional law questions and the other has to do with regulations on business.

Basically, Mark thinks the Internet can be put to use in creative ways to increase public scutiny of, and control over, the government that serves us.

I agree. In fact, I'd like to add two ideas to Mark's "grassroots government" collection, in the area of criminal justice:

* The resolution of criminal cases should be posted on the Internet by District Attorneys' offices (and their equivalents). Information should include the charges made against a defendant and the resolution, including any plea bargains agreed to, dropped charges, verdicts and sentencing. The public has a right to know how often cases are plea bargained and what really happens when someone is arrested for car theft in their neighborhood.

* Announcements of pending parole hearings should be posted on the Internet, along with information about the offense(s) for which the inmate was convicted and time served, and the address for writing the parole board. The public would then have the ability to attend parole hearings and testify when warranted. Furthermore, parole hearings should be simulcast on the Internet. The parole board's decision should be posted as well.

Not every "grassroots government" idea can work, and most would require modifications and limitations to work in the real world (victims' privacy concerns would have to be addressed for my ideas to work, for instance). But as the Internet makes it possible to transmit large amounts of information at very low cost, couldn't we use it more than we presently do as a tool to make government more accountable?

Friday
Feb112005

Not the Wedding of the Century

Ed Haislmaier has some thoughts about the civil wedding bells that soon will be ringing in Britain:

Hearing the news that Prince Charles has publicly announced his intention to marry Camilla Parker-Bowles, I immediately remembered that the best take I'd ever seen on the subject was the following from Florence King's "The Misanthrope's Corner " column in the February 12, 1996 issue of National Review:
Currently, I side with Prince Charles and think he deserves a feminist award. Most men ditch their dear old Dutch for a trophy wife but he ditched the trophy wife for his dear old Dutch. No one gives him credit for preferring time-ravaged Lady Camilla Parker-Bowles to firm-fleshed Di, or realizes her ladyship's value to the state. Plebeianized England needs Queen Camilla: any woman can ride a horse but it takes a true aristocrat to look like one.
That is still, for my money, one of the wittiest comments ever from a very witty writer. But on a more sober note, King was writing during the "Chuck and Di Split" period, and re-read today, in the light of Diana's subsequent death, her next two paragraph's seem prophetic:
Charles is regarded as an odd duck because his hobbies of architecture and the cello fall outside the Pale du jour. Diana, on the other hand, is considered normal because her hobbies -- throwing up, hurling herself into glass cabinets, hating her husband -- conform to acceptable feminist standards of assertiveness and self-expression.

Actually she's one diamond short of a full tiara. Not like those royals of yore called the Mad and the Simple; full-bore insanity with its connotations of blue blood would offend our anti-elitist age. Democracy demands neurosis and Diana delivers. So far she has indulged in common-garden masochism, but falling through glass eventually loses its charm. Needing bigger and better crashes, she is courting self-destruction by assaulting what she dimly realizes is her only identity: the monarchy itself.

At Ed's suggestion, I read Florence King's column and have to say I was struck by a completely different section of her column -- her hilarious memories of arguments about the British aristocracy between her parents, one of whom was British; the other, American.

But then, I have an American spouse. Ed's is English.

Friday
Feb112005

Mailbag: Smart Growth's "Agenda of Exclusion"

Among the mail to our post about Ryan Balis's letter on "smart growth" in the Washington Post:

I enjoyed Ryan Balis' letter in the Washington Post yesterday and I agree completely with him.

Many of the policy makers in local government know that what Ryan has pointed out is true but they look at this as a positive benefit of their efforts to control sprawl. In fact, for many of them the goal of limiting sprawl is really about protecting and enhancing their local tax base, keeping their local governments costs down and enhancing the value of their constituents' property. Protecting the environment is often a facade for land use policies that push lower income families into neighboring jurisdictions and schools and significantly raise real estate values.

One of the reasons for the proliferation of such methods is the absence of renters and lower income citizens at the polls in local elections. In many jurisdictions, local governments behave more like homeowners associations than like governments of all the people. I've had enough experience here in Charlottesville/Albemarle to firmly believe that a not so hidden agenda of exclusion is really the foundation of many local governments anti-sprawl land use policies...

Kevin Cox

Friday
Feb112005

Mailbag: No Rebuttal on AP's Bias

Among the mail received regarding my criticism of the AP's environmental reporting was this:

Who provides funding for your operation. It wouldn't be from large corporations would it? Ones involved in the fossil fuel industry? Gee , I wonder if you are just paid hacks and spin doctors? No,no that would be unthinkable. You are just interested in correcting errors in the media reporting on global warming.Yes,yes that is it. I will always be thankful that we have such right thinking organizations protecting us from big lies and fabrications. You make us feel warm all over.

Richard
rddrummond@shaw.ca

Minus the typos, this is the sort of question we get pretty much everytime we discuss environmental issues on talk radio.

Here's how we answer: Yes, The National Center does receive support from the fossil fuel industry -- equal to eight-tenths-of-one-percent of our total annual funding.

However, even if we got 100 percent of our funding from the fossil fuel industry, the AP's reporting would still be biased.

Thursday
Feb102005

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...

Thursday
Feb102005

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.

Wednesday
Feb092005

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

Washington
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.

Wednesday
Feb092005

Maybe This is How...

...global 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.

Tuesday
Feb082005

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.

Tuesday
Feb082005

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.

Tuesday
Feb082005

SI: Steelers Top NFL Dynasty

Gotta agree with Sports Illustrated on their #1 pick.



Those were very good years.



Hat tip: Professor Bainbridge.

Monday
Feb072005

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.

Monday
Feb072005

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.

Monday
Feb072005

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?

Sunday
Feb062005

Three Cheers

Three cheers for these doctors and lawyers.

Sunday
Feb062005

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.

Saturday
Feb052005

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.