Let's mandate that the health care plan for U.S. Senators and Congressmen be the Medicare system.
That way, our legislators will be highly motivated to fix it and to keep it stable, and they'll have first-hand experience with any of its weaknesses, now and in the future.
Let's mandate that the health care plan for U.S. Senators and Congressmen be the Medicare system.
America's labor unions are fighting tooth and nail against a proposal that would make their books transparent. Why? In this piece by David Kendrick of the National Legal and Policy Center, union officials seem to be admitting that they want their financial accounts kept secret because union members wouldn't like what's in them -- and, besides, opening the books might show that unions have violated campaign finance laws.
Another interesting and informative e-mail just now from Mike Catanzaro of the staff of the U.S. Senate on Environment and Public Works:
THE SCIENCE OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Euro-climate alarmists are stewing over the heatwave sweeping the continent. There's much handwringing about how all of this is being caused by (what else?) global warming. The following is an excerpt from an op-ed piece in London's Daily Telegraph (August 10, 2003) by Bjorn Lomborg, who debunks the causal linkage between global warming and extreme weather. And as for the notion that a warming world necessarily results in more people dying, Lomborg shows why such thinking is bunk:
"But it is simply not correct to claim that global warming is the primary explanation of the kind of heatwave we are now experiencing. The statistics show that global warming has not, in fact, increased the number of exceptionally hot periods. It has only decreased the number of exceptionally cold ones. The US, northern and central Europe, China, Australia and New Zealand have all experienced fewer frost days, whereas only Australia and New Zealand have seen their maximum temperatures increase. For the US, there is no trend in the maximum temperatures - and in China they have actually been declining.
Having misidentified the primary cause of the heatwave as global warming, we then tend to make another mistake: we assume that as the weather gets warmer, we will get hotter and more people eventually will die in heatwaves. But, in fact, a global temperature increase does not mean that everything just becomes warmer; it will generally raise minimum temperatures much more than maximum temperatures. In both hemispheres and for all seasons, night temperatures have increased much more than day temperatures. Likewise, most warming has taken place in the winter rather than the summer. Finally, three quarters of the warming has taken place over the very cold areas of Siberia and Canada. All of these phenomena are - within limits - actually quite good for both agriculture and people.
The idea of comparing this with weapons of mass destruction is, to put it mildly, misleading. Yes, more people will die from heatwaves - but what is forgotten is that many more people will not die from cold spells. In the US, it is estimated that twice as many people die from cold as from heat, and in the UK it is estimated that about 9,000 fewer people would die each winter with global warming. But don't expect headlines in the next mild winter reading '9,000 not dead.'
It is a typical example of the way that we ignore the fact that climate change has beneficial effects as well as damaging ones, allowing ourselves to be scared witless by every rise in temperature. All the same, you may say, isn't it true that the effects of the weather extremes we do experience are getting more serious? Yes it is - but the explanation for this is simply that there are more people in the world, they are wealthier, and many more prefer to live in cities and coastal areas. Accordingly, extreme weather will affect more people than before and because people are more affluent, more absolute wealth is likely to be lost."
States Attorneys General have received nice publicity for themselves by calling on the federal government to investigate the cost of gasoline, neatly implying that something fishy is going on while simultaneously admitting they have no evidence any crimes have been committed. Meanwhile, the Cato Institute has published a paper by Steve Moore and Phil Kerpen pointing out that in historical terms, America had higher retail gasoline prices as recently as 1985, and significantly higher prices from 1979 to the mid 1980s.
Professor James Miller of Smith College has a fun idea for combatting eco-terrorism on today's TechCentralStation.com.
He proposes that the government compensate victims of eco-terrorism from a government fund supplied by, among other options, selling federally-owned land to mining companies.
The Attorneys General of Connecticut and Maine have written a letter to U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft asking Ashcroft to investigate whether the White House asked the free market Conservative Enterprise Institute to sue the Administration.
Mr. Blumenthal is known for being a left-wing activist on environmental issues, undertaking actions such as suing the Bush Administration essentially for having a different point of view than he has on global warming, but this seems extreme, even for him.
The lawsuit questions the scientific accuracy of a three-year-old study on global warming.
An AP story August 27 says Blumenthal also is asking the federal government to investigate the price of gasoline, even though he has no information that a crime has been committed, and another story of the same date says he and other state AGs are asking Hollywood to cut down on the number of scenes showing smoking in movies.
Chris Burger and I put together one of our Ten Second Response newsletters in response to the EPA's New Source Review announcement earlier today.
We included a number of quotes from those who oppose the EPA's decision along with quotes from those who support it, as we do.
Some of the over-the-top rhetoric from opponents amazes me. For instance, the Albany Times-Union said in an editorial "President Bush's proposed overhaul of the Clean Air Act would eliminate the new source review provision."
Well, no, not by a longshot. The New Source Review provisions are part of the 1977 Clean Air Act Amendments -- aka, they are federal law. No President has the authority to repeal laws.
Some of our past Presidents have broken laws, but that's different.
"You are full of s---," reads the headline on an e-mail we received this morning from a Daniel F. Hellman, whose e-mail address reveals him to be a partner in Hellmuth & Bicknese Architects, LLC, of St. Louis. The e-mail goes on to say, apparently about our website's environmental materials, "This is the most disgusting propaganda I have ever seen."
Then another e-mail arrived from Mr. Hellman, headlined "Stooges of the Bush Administration." It referred us, not politely, to a page on the website of the Natural Resources Defense Council which contained this improbable but confident assertion: "Oil from the Arctic Refuge... doesn't promise any relief from dependence on foreign oil."
Finally, a third message, saying in full: "I hope someone turns your neighborhood into a toxic waste dump."
This, dear readers, is the level of discourse of the environmental left. On a good day.
In 1633, the astronomer Galileo was sentenced to house arrest by the Catholic Church for promoting his belief in Copernicus' theory of heliocentrism in a politically-incorrect manner.
The Catholic Church has now reconciled with science, but not so science with itself.
Consider the attacks on scientists who dare to express non-PC views.
Today's Washington Times op-ed page carries a piece by the director of the Center for Climatic Research at the University of Delaware about efforts to smear two Harvard astrophysicists and the editor of a scientific journal who published them because the astrophysicists believe that the Earth's climate over the last 1,000 years has varied.
This is actually not a new theory, nor even a minority view among scientists, but it is politically-incorrect to mention it publicly because it is inconvenient to those who promote the ultra-PC global warming theory.
Thus the scientists, like Galileo, are condemned not because they are wrong, but because their outspokeness gets in the way.
Consider also the attacks on medical researchers who say smokeless tobacco products are a safer nicotine-delivery option than traditional cigarettes. As described in this National Center paper by our own James Gelfand, some anti-smoking activists are so zealous they attack scientists who recommend harm reduction strategies for tobacco use -- even though these strategies could save up to 400,000 lives a year.
The Catholic Church apologized for its treatment of Galileo. Will today's politically-incorrect inquistors learn from the Church's mistake?
An excellent, easy-to-understand summary of New Source Review in today's Wall Street Journal. A sample:
New Source Review dates back to the 1977 Clean Air Act amendments. In that era of petroleum shortages and fear of nuclear power, Congress realized the coal would continue to be a major source of American energy. So it wrote rules to ensure that any new power plants or other major pollution sources be fitted with the latest emissions-control technology. It did not, says Carter Energy Secretary James Schlesinger, intend for existing plants to make the upgrade. So everyone else believed and behaved for two decades.
But then the Clinton Administration, with its famous regard for the rule of law, got mad that utilities weren't reducing emissions beyond what Congress had required. Dozens of companies were brought to court on the novel charge that routine maintenance like replacing a steam duct or a turbine blade amounted to a "major modification," triggering NSR and requiring the installation of expensive scrubbers. The alleged scofflaws included the Feds' own Tennessee Valley Authority, as well as Detroit Edison, whose crime was installing more efficient (i.e., less polluting) turbines.
The Clinton actions were so outrageous that the utilities, which would normally be inclined to settle and preserve cozy relations with the government, stood their ground. But as the cases wend their way through the courts, they've been deferring maintenance and putting the nation's electricity supply at risk.
I think it would be a great public service if the blogging community, or talk radio hosts, or more editorial writers and the public generally, started following the asbestos issue a lot more.
I know, I know, it sounds like a snoozer issue, but like most issues, the more you get into it, the more interesting it gets.
In this situation, sick people are getting ripped off while healthy ones are enriched. 60 percent of the awards in asbestos lawsuits go to lawyers and court costs, not to plaintiffs, and 65 percent of the money that does reach plaintiffs goes to people who don't have a serious asbestos-related disease or disability.
Meanwhile, over 60 companies have gone bankrupt as a result of the lawsuits, putting tens of thousands out of work.
A number of Senators, including Hatch, Grassley, Kyl, Cornyn, Craig, Sessions and a few others, are trying to fix the system, but they are running up against trial lawyers (who like the system the way it is, thank you very much) and a Senate faux filibuster rule that requires 60 votes to get any contentious legislation approved (never mind that this requirement is not in the Constitution).
I believe that if more Americans knew what is going on, there would be more support for reform, and we just might get it. Asbestos victims would be far better off, and so would our economy.
If I've sold you on wanting to learn more, we have a new asbestos information page set up. Please consider visiting.
You'll be hearing a lot about "New Source Review" in coming days, especially during the confirmation battle over Utah Governor Mike Leavitt's nomination to head the EPA.
Of course, only one in a zillion know what the term refers to, so here, as a public service, are two descriptions.
Here's what environmentalist Frank O'Donnell says it means, writing in the ultra-left TomPaine.com:
The issue is a pending Bush proposal to gut a Clean Air Act safeguard designed to prevent dirty old coal-fired power plants from polluting indefinitely. The current rules (known in the jargon as "new source review") require existing smokestack industries to add modern pollution controls when they make big changes that increase pollution. Eventually all the older plants must either clean up -- or shut down and be replaced by cleaner alternatives.Here's what Mike Catanzaro of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee majority staff says it means, in an e-mail circulated August 25:
There are many facets to the NSR debate, all of which environmental groups distort, obfuscate, and confuse blithely and with abandon. One argument propagated by these groups is that NSR reform will allow so-called "grandfathered" power plants to continue to pollute at will. The Sierra Club, for example, says that in 1977, a "deal" was cut, in which existing facilities "only had to install pollution controls when they 'modified' their factories." This rather vague formulation suggests that, absent modification, such facilities faced no other pollution-control constraints. This is, to put it charitably, nonsense. Power plants are, and indeed have been for some time, subject to a myriad of stringent federal clean air regulations in addition to NSR, including, most importantly, the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (the newest incarnation of which goes into effect next year) and the 1990 Acid Rain Program.
To assert that the Bush Administration's NSR reforms, which have been in the works for a decade, and which have support from all across the political spectrum, will result in dirtier air and more pollution is simply not true. Even if NSR were eliminated entirely, power plants would continue to reduce emissions under the law, as they have been doing for years (and, incidentally, if environmental groups stopped opposing it, the President's Clear Skies Initiative would bring about even greater emissions reductions, and over a shorter time frame, than under the existing Clean Air Act). The following exchange, from a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee NSR field hearing in 2000, illustrates the point rather succinctly:
Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio): "Earlier today I was talking to someone and trying to get an understanding of what we're talking about here. And there is some understanding that when the Clean Air Act went into effect that we grandfathered in the pollution that was already being generated at the time, and that nothing has been done since that time to modify the facilities over that period. I'd like you to comment about even though some of the old facilities have been grandfathered, are they still spewing out the same emissions that were there when they were originally grandfathered? I would like you to comment on that."
Joe Bynum, Tennessee Valley Authority: "Absolutely not. In fact, that is a common misperception. As was discussed before, there are national ambient air quality standards, and we have to meet those national ambient air quality standards and those are met with modifications and met by the existing power plants that we have that have been so-called grandfathered. The Clean Air Act of 1990 which, through the acid rain portion, required additional reductions. Those were done with these fossil plants. Literally every plant in our system has had to do some type of change as far as scrubbers--all the way from scrubbers on some units down to fuel switches. But they all have been required to change some mode of operation in order to meet the new--not only the national air ambient quality standards but the acid rain legislation that was placed on top of that. So these facilities have not been exempt from that. In fact, these are the facilities that we have made the adjustments to that have been able to meet those requirements. We've reduced our SO2 by--or will have reduced it by 80 percent. By 2005 we will have reduced our NOx by 70 to 75 percent in the same timeframe on these units."
The Danish restaurant owner who refused to serve French and German would-be customers because France and Germany opposed the war in Iraq is going to prison, according to this London Telegraph story.
Niels-Aage Bjerre was fined the equivalent of approximately $750 but says he will refuse to pay and instead will spend eight days in jail. He was convicted for discrimination against a German couple who ordered pizzas. When Bjerre learned the couple was German, he refunded their money and retrieved their pizzas.
Bjerre says the Danish courts are "traitors" because: "The judges have chosen to support those who do not support the official Danish position on the war against Iraq."
According to the Telegraph, Bjerre says he will end his boycott only "if the governments of France and Germany change their attitude toward the United States and support Washington wholeheartedly."
A note from our Chris Burger:
Tuesday's suicide bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Iraq killed at least 23 people. It has been reported that some of the guards at the headquarters were former Iraqi intelligence officials and might have assisted in the bombing.
Two questions come to mind: Why would the U.N. employ Saddam loyalists as security personnel? Second, why do liberals continue to demand that the U.N. dictate America's foreign policy? If it were not for the tragic nature of this situation, the ineptness of the U.N. would almost be comical. Notch up one more point for President Bush on why he was right to attack Saddam's sadistic regime with or without U.N. approval.
In the Democrats' weekly radio address, NY Senator Charles Schumer has blamed George Bush for the blackout. Meanwhile, a comprehensive energy bill has been stalled in the Senate for two years.
Schumer, of course, serves in the Senate while Bush does not.
Bush's power to upgrade the energy grid all by himself is exceedingly limited.
Matthew Craig makes a point I like very much in his new National Policy Analysis paper, Anti-SUV Activists Versus the American Family. That point is that liberal do-gooders are responsible for mandating air bags in cars, a development which made front seats unsafe for children under 12. Logically, then, families with four children will need, at minimum, a station wagon or SUV with a third row of seats, or a minivan. Families with three children or fewer will be able to travel in most sedans, but will have a strong incentive to buy a minvan or SUV/station wagon with a third row of seats because they are likely to want to be able to transport additional passengers, at least once in a while.
Station wagons, as we have said more than once, were largely pushed out of the market by environmentalist-supported corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards. Environmentalists and liberals who supported CAFE and airbags now decry the growth of the SUV/minivan market. But what did they expect?
At our house, we have two vehicles. One is a compact sedan and one is an SUV with a third row of seats. We have three three-year-olds, and the entire second row of seating is taken up with their three car seats. The backseat of our sedan is too narrow to hold three child car seats. There probably are some large sedans that could hold three car seats on one row, but had we bought one, we would not be able to transport any additional passangers, as we now can with our SUV. Was our SUV -- which, by our calculations, gets a bit over 20 mpg (EPA estimates are similar) -- purchase an immoral choice? Do we deserve a faux "ticket" from activist do-gooders?
Newspapers are continuing to weigh-in on the Medicare proposal now under consideration by Congress. As the Heritage Foundation says: "The growing editorial chorus says the Medicare drug proposal now being worked on by a Capitol Hill committee is flawed and will cost taxpayers billions. The newspapers are liberal, moderate and conservative. But they all agree on this: The Medicare drug proposals must go."
All this was predicable. Medicare reform is too important to rush. Congress initially gave itself a few weeks for the entire job. Senators in committee voted on the Senate version without enough time to read it. Let's not waste this opportunity -- let's do this job right.