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5501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: May 16, 2009, 09:48:16 AM
"I simply went from one form of aggression to another."

I try to only get bent out of shape in 3 situations:  attacks on life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.
5502  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 16, 2009, 12:03:11 AM
BBG, Squeegee man looks more even-handed to me than the 9th circus.  What's illegal in their venue is not in yours or mine.  How 'bout that for equal protection.  We are into about the 6th round of pretending the issue is "criminality".  Before the digression it was "free speech we all value", with values being the process of trying to make distinctions between right and wrong.  But that failed so we went for the straw man.

For now, the ignore button rests somewhere between the urge and the click finger and I failed the test miserably.
5503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Selective Literalism (continued as a Rant) on: May 14, 2009, 03:42:26 PM
From Islam in Europe,  I agree with Huss exactly on choosing and encouraging positive immigration before the fact.  Mass deportations never seem to happen.

The JDN conversation with the Justice was interesting for him.  Bringing it here is what the Justice would call 'heresay' because the paraphrasing of cherrypicked answers to cherrypicked questions might not tell the whole story.

I suspect he wasn't asked the question about protesters rights in the checkout lane or dead-baby delivery room at an abortion clinic because they are banned to the sidewalk.  I doubt he was asked whether a gang with "straight power" signs could remove gay oriented products from stores shelves and I doubt he would say no problem on the record, or whether shingles protesters could disrupt a job site by moving the neatly stacked materials in carts and dropped in a pile at a different point on the property.  In that scenario, I think we would be discussing second amendment rights more than the first.

Even more ridiculous than saying the boycotted and removed goods might have been paid for by the hate-Israel people is to believe this justice would have allowed them a protest, with speeches and cameras, removing Israeli-made chairs from their arrangement in his courtroom, while in session, under his watch, without consequence, and even he did, that would be on public property, not in a privately owned store. 

But let's assume he does think I am obligated to host your free speech in my living room or business showroom and vice versa because it's 'free speech' and that you get Justices Breyer and Ginsburg along with Mother Theresa to agree with you, that does not change my view that their utter disrespect for the sanctity of private property is contemptible.
5504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 13, 2009, 05:24:12 PM
BBG, Thanks for kind words, the appreciation is mutual.  Problem here is that this isn't supposed to be a debate IMO, just each person who wants to make their own observations about a situation.  I am here to look for a wider and deeper understanding, not here to dish out punishment.

I made the mistake of repeating points already made as if saying again would help.  It didn't.

My interest was not to narrow the focus to the contents of a promo film for a hate group, but to widen the focus and learn more about the context, who these people really are, what else do they do, how do they decide which cars to torch, who are they linked with and what will they do next.

I came across the video originally on powerline, a rare conservative voice out of MN.  I posted it mostly because of the interest here in the subject of Islam in Europe.'The most telling part was to translate their website and read their hate views on Obama and their adoration of the mob violence in Malmo, Sweden.  They literally put their "boycott" label right over their posting of the thugs throwing bricks at the authorities.  So I know that "Boycott Israel", to them means 'Destroy Israel' and it means 'Destroy the U.S.' too as time permits and their reach widens.

The violence in Sweden preventing spectators at the Davis Cup is a tragedy.  Assuming tennis is one of the top two sports in Sweden, keeping fans out is an act of war in my book, but a fact of life in Malmo and a feather in their cap to these thugs.

So Islam or middle easterners in Europe are tied to these business disruptions and car fires, riots and events canceled in Sweden, the cartoon violence in Denmark, the Theo van Gogh murder in the Netherlands, the threats to Salmon Rushdie, the bombings in London and Madrid and one other important one: these thugs attacked me on my last trip to Europe..

Forget my brush with Islam, or the murders, the car fires, the riots and the bombings... it is offensive and intimidating beyond words for these groups or any protesters, smiling or masked, to enter a private store and stage their event.  I share no values that I know of with anyone who thinks that is 'free speech we all value' and that no harm was done to the store when they are tromping all over the rights and freedoms of others.
5505  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Libertarian Issues, cell phone jamming on: May 13, 2009, 09:27:43 AM
The prison application of cell phone jamming is extremely persuasive though I would think guards also need some form of wireless communication for emergencies such as calling for backup.

In a church or music/theatre application I have mixed feelings.  When I turn my ringer off I miss calls half the following day until I discover it off.  But on silent mode in a quiet area I at least might know what calls I've missed and could excuse myself.  Playing tennis or golf with doctors on call for example, it may be rude to take a call,  but if jammed they couldn't participate if they couldn't regularly look to see if calls were missed.
5506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: May 13, 2009, 09:09:36 AM
Previous media post of Huss where the student fools the media but gets caught by wikipedia is funny, but sad.

Similarly, here is the vice glibness spoofing the Washington Post.  Reminds me of Jay Leno on the national enquirer, 'you know it's true because they check, double check and check again before they run with a story' lol.


Washington Post (May 11) served up this headline: "Obama Enlists Biden's Expertise About High Court." The sole source cited by the Post for the proposition that Biden has a major say in selecting the next Supreme Court nominee is Biden himself. The only other source in the portion of the story that deals with Biden's role in policy matters is Ron Klain, Talkin' Joe's chief of staff. Klain touted Biden's foreign travels and asserted that "having a vice president who can do that sort of work has been a huge asset to the president."
5507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 12, 2009, 03:25:51 PM
"suggesting a boycott is a valid and legal method of protest, isn't it?" - No.  They were not "suggesting a boycott", they were physically removing items from the shelves. You can't walk into a department store and take down their display.  You can't walk onto a roofing project, object to their shingles and move the shingles, after they are carried and stacked near the roof, to another location on the property, unstacked.  Not in a civilized country.  But these people would love to turn France, Sweden or the US into a third world country, parts of each are already.

"Baseless accusations"?

"Trespassing" - Yes. They are entering the store, private property, with no intention of buying, applying for a job or anything to do with why the doors are open to them.

"Vandalism" - Yes. Disrupting the flow of business and taking down displays of value to the store.

"Stealing merchandise" - No. Why lie? I didn't write that.  I said stealing the investment they had in the labor etc. invested to place the items in the locations where they wanted them.  I have explained that 4 times now.

"took a few items off a retail supermarket shelf, decided they didn't want to buy these items, and then simply left them in another part of the store" - No. Who are you fooling? Anyone reading this can see the video and that isn't what was happening.

This is what I take away from this exchange: You and I don't have shared values enough to have any kind of back and forth exchange and the time I spent trying to explain myself to you, only to have it twisted back, is part of my life I will never get back.

I will try not to comment on your posts in the future and ask the same in return.
5508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 12, 2009, 10:21:56 AM
"I am always grateful I live in America where we all can express our different views."

 - Same goes for freedom in France.  This group however openly favors the Taliban over the elected government of Afghanistan for example, which means to forcibly remove rights from others that they currently enjoy.

"IF (no proof that I am aware) the product was taken (stolen)..."

 - I will try a third time.  The product was taken from shelves.  If it was left in baskets instead of destroyed or stolen to avoid arrest for theft, they have still taken and stolen from the shopkeeper.  A store is not just a pile of products randomly strewn.  Part of the 'product' IS the placement and design.  The right to have oranges neatly arranged and stacked in the produce section and shampoos of the vendor's choice in the shampoo section.  If one customer takes one item from the shelf, changes his mind and leaves it by the checkout, that may be a nuisance less than a crime.  I have left a loaded cart in a store when I discovered that I had no chance of a checkout in a reasonable amount of time.  But I did not take their products from their shelves WITHOUT the intention of buying them as is the case here, on a massive and systematic scale.

The "product" in "GDP" includes goods and services.  The product of a supermarket is again not a pile of random goods, it is a arrangement, a presentation, an offering to the customer that they will be able to find and purchase that which they expect to be able to find and purchase and we know the shopkeeper wanted THOSE GOODS on THOSE SHELVES until someone takes the quantity they desire for purposes of BUYING them, which is where he can finally recover his sunken from buying the goods and PAYING THE LABOR cost and electric lighting cost and property tax, insurance etc to try to eek out a profit.  The store owner paid to have them put there and pays everyday to have them always look full and neatly arranged!  That is where he wanted them, until sold.  A mob even with a smile that undoes that has STOLEN something from him.  On the third try, do you really still not see that??

"An example of free speech which we all value highly."

 - Please do not include me in your "WE ALL VALUE...".  I certainly don't value any type of "free speech" that tromps all over other peoples rights and freedoms such as the right to conduct business in a legal manner of their choosing, to buy and sell products from the sources of THEY choose and for the shopkeeper's right to design his own displays and have product stay in those arrangements until a customer comes and takes them with the intent of buying.  What you say 'seemed peaceful' I witnessed as LITERALLY trespassing and vandalism, even more evident and 'proven' than a brick thrown at a window that did not break glass.
5509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 12, 2009, 12:13:39 AM
JDN, I was wrong and I apologize.  You are only selectively literal since you remain confused over  whether or not the boycott people (boycott means DON'T BUY) were kind enough to pay for the items they ransacked off the stores shelves.  The placement of the items on the shelf is part of the investment of the proprietor and part of the product the store offers its customers.  The placement of the products was taken by the protesters WITHOUT COMPENSATION and they also should all be hauled off to jail for theft and destruction as much as the 'Swedish' rioters who were unable to break a window.

Your tolerance is not reciprocated.  They hate you the exact same amount that they hate GM or myself.

I'm guessing you don't own a store and never had a gang come in and 'peacefully' strip your shelves.

Arrest and prosecution did not not happen because of car fires, arson and intimidation.  Even though you don't see that, God Bless your right to hold and express a view.
5510  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: May 11, 2009, 11:51:30 PM
"...called on the intelligence community to declassify documents..."
"In a letter to CIA Director Leon Panetta..."

Thank God they didn't pick someone political for that critical job, lol.
5511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: May 11, 2009, 02:36:14 PM
Huss,  I don't disagree with your point that this mess is not over.  Would just add to points on econ stats: Unemployment tends to be a trailing indicator and that large job layoffs get widely publicized and hirings rarely do.

On another point, it is amazing that we have come to a point where 17 billion is chump change.  If I could every man, woman and child to pay in a full dollar to support a fund, I would raise only $300 million.  If I could get a full dollar from everyone who really makes any money, we are down to about $100 million.  17 Billion is 170 times that amount and still a drop in the bucket.  The near term spending that needs to be cut is about $10 Trillion.  To do any part of that we need to change our view government.  Too bad the view of the founders is so out of date. sad
5512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe, Protest videos France and Sweden on: May 11, 2009, 12:58:56 PM
We received two types of responses from the 'BOYCOTT' video, one a literalist who saw nothing other than peaceful, free expression, and all others who connected this intimidation with car fires and property crime at the least, the implied threat of burning the store and ‘I am going to cut you until you die' at the worst.

I wanted to ask the one who saw nothing wrong in the France 'boycott' what he thought of the brick throwing rioters attacking 'Polis' cars in Sweden, but anticipating the answer that there was no connection, I refrained, but there is a connection.

I went to 'boycotters' website (google will translate websites but not videos) and found that they hate more than Jews and they support and applaud more that non-violence.  They attack Obama's war in Afghanistan and they link and post nice comments about the Swedish riot protesters.  Reading the website in its entirety it is pretty easy to ascertain that the expression "boycott" is meant in jest, allowing them more freedom to operate in France but that their view is that this is a war, they are participants, and you very likely are the enemy.

Computer translations are not so perfect, here is 'europalestine' on Obama:
Obama stronger than Bush to Massacre the Population of Afghanistan

Published on 8-05-2009 (

The aviation of NATO has achieved a new record this week, killing more than 140 Afghan villagers, mostly women and children, in the western province of Farah. This is the balance the bloodiest in a single strike, attributed to U.S. troops and their subsidiary, since the launch of the war seven years ago.

The horror, that the U.S. authorities have sought to silence for 48 hours under a stream of lies, has finally been declared Wednesday afternoon, while Barack Obama received exactly the White House its Afghan puppet Hamid Karzai.

The U.S. administration has made a few crocodile tears over the bodies of Afghan villagers, but it has no intention of slowing its destructive madness, quite the contrary.
Obama has just to ask for a special supplementary budget of more than 60 billion dollars only for military operations in Afghanistan during the next fiscal year (October 2009 - September 2010) to finance the dispatch of tens of thousands (including 21,000 in the next quarter) troops as reinforcements.

BOYCOTT BOYCOTT   [Code word for destroy, destroy.  Please read.  - Doug]

No spectators, but many police officers for the Davis Cup in Sweden

Publié le 8-03-2009 Published on 8-03-2009

C'est dans un stade vide de 4000 places, protégé par un millier de policiers, que s'est déroulé le match de la Coupe Davis de Tennis, qui opposait un joueur Suédois à un tennisman israélien, hier à Mälmö. In a stadium of empty seats in 4000, protected by a thousand police, that held the match of the Davis Cup Tennis, a player who opposition to a Swedish tennis player Israel yesterday in Malmo.

La Fédération Internationale de Tennis, a eu beau faire les gros yeux, la Suède a maintenu sa décision de faire jouer cette coupe à huis clos, samedi. The International Tennis Federation, took to the big beautiful eyes, Sweden has maintained its decision to cut the play closed on Saturday.

Plus de 7000 manifestants s'étaient déplacés pour manifester contre les massacres israéliens à cette occasion, et le stade a dû être protégé par un millier de policiers, rapporte Al Jazeera. More than 7000 protesters had come to demonstrate against the Israeli massacres at this time, and the stage had to be protected by a thousand police, reports Al Jazeera.

Pas tout a fait une première en Suède, où la même chose s'était produite en 1975, lorsque la Suède avait accepté de recevoir un joueur d'une équipe chilienne de tennis, alors que le dictateur Augusto Pinochet faisait régner la terreur dans son pays. Not quite a first in Sweden, where the same thing occurred in 1975, when Sweden had agreed to receive a player from a team of Chilean tennis, while the dictator Augusto Pinochet was a reign of terror in his country .

Israël est désormais paria, de la même façon. Israel is now a pariah in the same way.

Et dans tous les cas de figure, c'est sous haute protection policière que ses représentants sportifs, culturels, artistiques, scientifiques, devront désormais se produire, dans le monde entier. And in any case, it is under police protection high that its sports, cultural, artistic, scientific, will now occur throughout the world.

Car aucun de ses sportifs, artistes, intellectuels... Because none of its athletes, artists, intellectuals ... ne conteste la colonisation israélienne et son escorte de crimes. does the Israeli settlement and its escort of crimes. Bon nombre d'entre eux font même partie de l'armée israélienne, et acceptent sans broncher —entre deux matches, deux concerts, ou deux dédicaces de livres— de participer à l'occupation des territoires palestiniens et la répression qu'ils subissent depuis plus de 60 ans. Many of them are also part of the Israeli army, and accept without flinching-two matches, concerts or two book-signings to participate in the occupation of Palestinian territories and the repression they suffered from more than 60 years. Et quand il n'y vont plus eux-mêmes, il y envoient leurs enfants, jouer le rôle de bourreaux. Car on sait le peu de valeur qu'ils accordent à la vie et à la moralité de leurs enfants. And when there are more themselves, send their children, act as executioners. Because we know how little value they attach to life and morals of their children.

BOYCOTT ! So to those who ask in the heart the mouth that "we do not mix politics and sport" or "politics and culture," we answer: BOYCOTT!

The words say "BOYCOTT!"  The photo immediately below the word "BOYCOTT" shows masked protesters trying to break windows on Swedish police vehicles by throwing large bricks.  You do the math.

5513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: May 11, 2009, 12:05:54 PM
The truth in the Thomas Sowell quote of what is happening now is sickening.  We justify our accelerating ignorance of constitutional limits on federal power by pointing to a slippery slope tradition of all recent administration doing the same and court opinions in place that uphold most of it.  We can expand the powers of the federal government simply because of a 53% majority that for the most part didn't know what the were voting for or against.  It used to take a grueling, nationwide amendment process to do that.
5514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: May 10, 2009, 07:19:38 PM
What a great question, Huss wrote:  "If the economy is on the way to recovery why does the FDIC need a new office with 500+ new employees in Georgia whose specific task will be "to manage receiverships and to liquidate assets from failed financial institutions" ?  Keep in mind the office wont be up and running until sept which is still 5 months away and they will only be serving the south east.  what do they know that we dont?"

I don't know the answer.  My guess is that they build government buildings and hire hundreds because they can, probably stimulus and TARP money.  If the recession bottomed, we are probably in for shaky and lethargic growth at best as the investor class is aware of an unprecedented amount of uncertainty going forward. 

I posted that economist Brian Wesbury recently headlined a post 'the recession is over, no more shoes to drop' but we need a bunch of qualifiers on that. Headlines of scientists and economists are usually overblown.  Click on the link, see the data, read the analysis and remember that the best forecasters don't really know the future.  'No more shoes to drop' he means we already know about the collapses of transportation, energy, housing, banking, insurance, release of terrorists, etc. etc.  We are not exactly sitting on the grassy knoll looking at the shining city on the hill.  Disposing of the so-called bad assets and trying to recover some value will be a major industry for some time to come.  At least in the case of FDIC, most people might agree there was some proper role for government, more so than taking over the automakers, insurance companies or the healthcare sector anyway.

Here is my prediction.  Recession I in this series is over and Recession II begins the day Obama and Pelosi ramp up their next attack on the private sector.  They seem to be delaying tax hikes on the wealthy - I wonder why?  Not because they know higher rates destroy economic growth I don't suppose. shocked  But in June - next month - I wouldn't be surprised if the House of Representatives passes both a version of socialized health care and a version of CO2 cap, trade, tax and ban. 

Those two freedom and enterprise killing bills along with the impending expiration of previous tax cuts should be enough to set off some kind public reaction as well as investor reaction.  They will go a little slower in the senate.  Red state Democrats will measure the uproar and the downturn and stake out their positions. In committee we will decide more about the future about this country than we decided with the constitution and the Revolutionary war combined.  I hope I didn't understate the importance of stopping this train wreck. 

In any case the next downturn is on Obama's watch and we will see how smoothly this smart man with a gift can transition our economy into communism or rescue his own career by flip flopping on his own key issues and pulling these proposals back off the table at least for a spell.
5515  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe, france video comments and a sweden video on: May 09, 2009, 12:53:44 PM
Crafty and GM covered most of what my reaction to it is.  We don't need a translation to know that this group is not buying up all the products from Israel.  JDN, I hope you were pulling our chain or just enjoying an adult beverage as you wrote.

"And this boycott seemed rather peaceful"

Did you miss the intro that explained that this is the area with the car fire riots?

Again, with or without a translation there is a level of intimidation present IMO that you and I can hardly imagine.  

There is a difference between a free speech boycott and physically removing items from shelves that a private store keeper obviously paid people to put on the shelves.  This is a serious violation of the storekeepers private property rights, with or without knowing the laws of France.

At least an implied threat of violence exists to the patrons and the establishment, based on the numbers and the known past of the movement, with or without a visual sign of weaponry.  

The distinction between hating Jewish people and hating all people of Israel is lost on me.  I am neither and I fear these people greatly.  To most Americans, protecting Israel is part of protecting America and for Europe, turning their back on Israel and coddling Israel's enemies has not been helpful to security at home.

Not mentioned was that this is actually a promo video for the group ransacking the store, posted to the internet, obviously encouraging others/all to copy and join them.

An example of a free speech boycott IMO would be to put a sign on YOUR lawn or YOUR website and encourage people not to buy certain products from certain origins.

How about if 500 straight people walked into a shop of gay orientation all wearing colored shirts boldly marked 'straight power' and removed all items from the store that are gay oriented?  Still just an expression of free speech, not tromping on the civil rights of others?  I don't think so.

I posted and removed a video ('wrong thread') from Sweden in March that showed unrest (a peaceful boycott?) against Israel.  The victims were the tennis fans of Sweden because a major event, the Swedish hosted Davis Cup match, had to be played in an empty stadium BECAUSE OF FEAR OF VIOLENCE if they did not succumb to the wishes of the protesters.  Another version or the video is posted below.  My point then was that there is cross-link between the social behavior of these do-nothings and the social programs that pay people who contribute nothing.  Unemployment in the immigrant-ghetto neighborhoods is as high as 40%.  They do not come to the greatest social welfare states in the world for the job opportunities, or to Sweden for the climate or to France out of French pride.  Whether you call it hate-politics, intimidation or jihad, it is an invasion exploiting the generosity (and weakness) of the developed nations, not a friendly merger.

5516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: May 08, 2009, 05:34:40 PM
From WSJ - Crafty's post, Debra Burlingame,sister of Charles Burlingame, pilot of the flight that was crashed into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001:

"bringing unlawful combatants into the federal courts would mean giving our enemies classified intelligence -- as occurred in the cases of the al Qaeda cell that carried out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and conspired to bomb New York City landmarks with ringleader Omar Abdel Rahman, the "Blind Sheikh." In the Rahman case, a list of 200 unindicted co-conspirators given to the defense -- they were entitled to information material to their defense -- was in Osama bin Laden's hands within hours. It told al Qaeda who among them was known to us, and who wasn't."

What a powerful, specific example in the argument about why NOT to criminalize terrorism or bring court prosecutions of enemy combatants in times of war.  Defendants in courts receive rights including the right to see the evidence against them, which creates a motive to commit more acts of terror, get caught, expose our intelligence - information, people and methods - and sabotage our security.
5517  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: May 07, 2009, 12:40:30 PM
From powerline: A video of Israel haters scouring a French supermarket to remove Israeli products from the shelf. There isn't a manager in sight. All the shoppers go about their business like it is 1942 Vichy France. The video was apparently shot in the northeastern suburbs of Paris that gained attention as the scene of the mysterious French "youth" riots of 2005.

This video is even more grotesque than you think. It was shot in a suburb of Paris called Aulnay-sous-Bois. The next-door town to Aulnay is called Drancy, about one mile away. Drancy was used by the Nazis between 1942-1944 as a deportation holding camp for the Jews of Paris prior to the deportation to the extermination camps in eastern Europe. Sixty-five thoursand Jews passed through Drancy, of whom 63,000 were killed. In other words, the Israeli boycotters have chosen, of all the supermarkets in France, the one closest to France's most important Holocaust memorial site. Look on Google Maps to see how close they are.

5518  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: May 07, 2009, 12:30:16 PM
"China registered 6.1 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the first quarter of 2009, down from the 6.8 percent growth rate for the fourth quarter of 2008."

That's a bit hard to believe for an export-based economy with falling exports.  Considering all the false economic statistics bandied around here in the U.S., makes me wonder how accurate theirs are.  Strat goes on to question those numbers as well.  Their analysis is excellent IMO. 

The Chinese economy is less that one third of the US, with more than 4 times as many people to support.  The people's acceptance of the government comes from a) coercion and b) a sense of security including economic.  Not exactly positioned for large downturns or turmoil.

If a Chinese citizen wants accurate economic data I suppose they could just 'Google' it?  No, Google works with the oppressive government to ensure consistent censorship.
5519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: May 07, 2009, 12:10:19 PM
"The lone Democrat voting against the bill opposed it [Islam Day] on church-state separation fears."

That makes sense.  While we struggle to build a conservative party, it would be nice if the ruling party would exercise a little common sense and respect for the history of this country.
5520  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: May 07, 2009, 10:19:57 AM
Speaking of nuclear weapons in the middle east, the Iraq Study Group concluded that although we did not find stockpiles of WMD, that Saddam in 2002 retained the ability and determination to restart his programs and would likely have nuclear weapons capabilities within 5-7 years.  FWIW, 5-7 years has gone by.  Obama and Israel are lucky to have this one threat removed as they attempt to isolate Iran.

I favor Israel dropping its nuclear weapons program also ... dropping in on Iran's nuclear facilities.  wink
5521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: May 07, 2009, 10:05:00 AM
"Huge deal that this is, I believe it understates the number-- and we need to remember that health care is about 15% of GDP.  Put the two together and we are looking at the feds being about 40% of GDP."

And then add in 'Government Motors' and the impending takeover of the energy sector... Luckily you don't have a large state government also.  embarassed

"Clinton says U.S. debt to China threatens security - Monday, March 31, 2008"
GM: "**So, was Hillary right?**"

Of course she had it exactly upside down.  The fact they are invested in the U.S. may be our only security after Obama-Pelosi unilaterally disarm us. 

Couple of months ago I posted: "the only check/balance on the American Left machine is 'Communist China'.  If they stop buying our debt, we will have to cut spending by most of the $10 trillion (and eat the rest as inflation) even without the participation in the process of Republicans."

With the Specter jump and Al Franken likely, China's unwillingness to buy more debt has become the 41st senator. As with other debt ridden third world countries, they may require some restructuring and discipline before agreeing to a 'bailout'.  Hopefully they will also impose their lower business tax rates on us as part of any agreement.

At this point I would rather see Obama inflate than borrow on that scale.  Then maybe we can muster up the political will to spend less.
5522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: May 05, 2009, 10:16:53 AM
"President Obama is pouring more than 20,000 new troops into Afghanistan this year"

Just a note on political support for the wars, I notice most signs and stickers on liberal homes and cars that said "Stop the War" and "End the War" seem to be down.  Turns out it was more about who they were protesting than what they were opposing.
5523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Recession is Over on: May 05, 2009, 12:20:17 AM
May 3rd I wrote that many of the free market economists like Brian Wesbury are optimistic now even with policies they oppose, and on May 4th Wesbury posted"

"Recession is Over; No More Shoes to Drop";_no_more_shoes_to_drop

I'm not saying he's right, just that he's optimistic.
5524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Republicans killed Jack Kemp? on: May 04, 2009, 11:54:57 PM
From 'Rest in Peace' , Sen. Specter blamed the Republican party for the death of Jack Kemp.  My first reaction is just bad manners; sounds like Specter is getting angry and bitter along with growing old. I saw Specter on the shows - he is not senile but getting a little slower and sadly desperate in his cling to power.  For his new party, though, this type of thinking is an accepted pattern.  They said the same things about cures they say should have happened for Christopher Reeves and Michael J. Fox. 

Besides bad manners, one issue with Reeves and Fox is the stem cell issue and the other with Specter, Kemp and cancer is about public spending. (Let's leave stem cell controversy for another day.)

Public spending on medical research is Specter's beef (or maybe he's just rambling because he saw a camera and microphone on - like Biden does).  My view is out of the mainstream, but I think the federal government should be a whole lot smaller, the cost should be a whole lot lower, privately we would be a whole lot wealthier and then our favorite form of charity might be to give money directly to medical research for the ailments that are most likely to strike our families.  Cancer research is certainly at or near the top of anyone's list.

Ironically, prostate cancer might be one of the most likely types many people here might face and the survival rate here is the U.S. under our current, 'failed' system with underfunded research is far higher than in the countries with the national healthcare systems that we strive to emulate.

If we were to slash all the programs out of the budget that aren't called for in the constitution I would hopefully cut medical research last, but I would prefer to see it off of coercion-based funding. That's just me, but I wouldn't put a man on the moon at taxpayer expense either.

One objection I always have is that we measure compassion (and results) in dollars spent.  As some watching the global warming fiasco have noticed, science at major institutions sometimes seems to be more about the funding than about the cure or the truth.  Published results always seem to call for more study needed and more funding.  CCP, you have more real world exposure to the medical research side than most of us so let us know what you see...

Another related point is that in health care we spend a huge portion of the money on the last 6 months of life.  In the federal budget other than medical research we spend zillions on programs that are either counter productive or lower in benefit to cost ratio than crucial medical research.  Setting priorities means putting something AHEAD of something else for funding, not just sending more and more to every feel-good bill that ever passed a previous congress.  Did Specter make clear what we should spend LESS on in order to fund eternal life?

Two ideas for government involvement in research:  a) offer rewards for results instead of funding for study, or b) consider buying up the best patents and then making 'the cures' available everywhere for free, a public good.

MD's here may see it differently but I doubt that there is 'a cure' or elimination for cancer.  I think that we just trudge forward with better preventions, better treatments, better results and longer life expectancies just like we are doing and seeing now.

[If Specter really wanted to save lives and protect the weakest among us, he could change his position on the first issue he mentioned having in common with his new party, pro-choice support for abortion rights.]

CCP and others, your thoughts?
5525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Souter Retiring: Ayers, Wright Downplay Rumors on: May 03, 2009, 04:34:34 PM
Souter Retiring: Ayers, Wright Downplay Rumors

by Scott Ott for ScrappleFace ·

(2009-05-01) — As speculation runs rampant about who President Barack Obama will pick to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice David Souter, two long-time associates of the president have downplayed rumors that their names might be on the president’s short list.

William Ayers, a Chicago educator and Jeremiah Wright, Mr. Obama’s former pastor, each denied they had been in recent contact with the White House.

“While I have been a vocal advocate of justice for years,” said Rev. Wright, “I’m enjoying my retirement, traveling around, and spreading the good news of God’s condemnation of America. I’m certainly qualified for the high court, and I already have the wardrobe, but these rumors are premature.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Ayers, who exploded onto the national scene in the 1960s and 70s, and has intimate knowledge of the legal system, said he’s “too busy preparing youth to live in the new America to mull a court appointment at this time.”

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said it’s unlikely that the president would appoint either Mr. Ayers or Rev. Wright, “since he knows many other similarly-qualified candidates with less name recognition.”
5526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re. Jack Kemp, RIP on: May 03, 2009, 03:40:00 PM
God Bless Jack Kemp.  He was an inspiration to many including Ronald Reagan (and me).

What an optimist and believer in the best of all people.  A great life and great accomplishments, but I am also left to wonder about what could have been.

IMO he was much fit to follow President Reagan than the sitting Vice President was.  It didn't turn out that way.  People I suppose doubted he was strong enough to defeat a candidate with the gravitas of Mike Dukakis.  I don't know if he would have handled the Saddam crisis of 1990-91 as well as Pres. Bush I did but I think he would have been much better for the country economically which might have prevented the door for opening for the then governor of Arkansas. 

In 1996 as a Republican I think we had the ticket upside down.  Kemp was a poor fit with Dole because of different philosophies.  Also I thought Kemp choked a bit in his VP debate, as any one of us might in that situation.  It was disappointing because I know he was such a brilliant, enthusiastic, articulate and persuasive guy.  I think his performance would have been different if he was there to defend his own views instead of those of the top of the ticket.

Pretty hard to find anyone who knew him who didn't find him to be a wonderful man and a great American.

As a footnote to the obits who give him credit for Reagan's Kemp-Roth tax cuts but point out that critics say the policy brought us deficits and debt, I would note that revenues doubled in the 1980's ( and that the deficits came clearly from the spending side, just as they do today.
5527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: May 03, 2009, 02:55:19 PM
Very interesting read Rachel, Isenberg is very thought provoking. 

Small point of clarification, when he says 97% of the homes still don't have fiber, I think he means they don't have fiber all the way to the home.  Pretty close to 100% of our communications other than face to face run mostly over fiber.  Cell towers and WiFi, even dial up internet over ordinary telephone lines lead into fiber lines that would not work the way they do, or facebook or cloud computing,  if not for the capital investments that someone made in the 'ducts and spices'.  Also an aside, Google would not locate new facilities near the wind farms in Iowa if not for the fiber optic buildout that cost billions in private, capital investments.
5528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: May 03, 2009, 02:07:46 PM
Rachel, I agree with everything you wrote in this post quoted below.  We probably strike the balance in a different place.  My comment of central planning vs. market choice was not aimed at you or intended to oversimplify, I just believe we already moved way too far in the wrong direction from my point of view and we want to correct by moving further, so I am referring to direction rather than destination.  Sorry about when my posts drift from what started me going to addressing what others may have wrote or said elsewhere.  My admitted anti-government bias is really against government doing things other than governing; setting up health plans and running the automakers would be examples.

I strongly favor roads, bridges, libraries, police, fire, snow plowing and national defense.  Also level playing field laws like insider trading laws etc. and a far stricter interpretation of equal protection under the law.

Interestingly, many of the free market /  supply side economists I read (cf. Brian Wesbury and Scott Grannis are rather optimistic now even with policies they oppose, not sky is falling or buy gold. They were optimistic up to the fall while most doomsayers were predicting doom throughout the boom period so all we can do is read and sort out our own view.  This is nice opportunity here to do that.

My complaint and my point which I didn't actually make was--

I tend to get annoyed by articles  about how the world is ending, the sky is falling and it will never get better.  I  dislike  economic advice  that says  keep  all you money in cash  or better gold,  buy lots of guns,ammo and learn how to farm.  Learning how to farm etc is not  necessarily bad  but  it is not great economic  advice.   Huss's article  on demographics didn't  actually  say any of that  but it shared some common themes.     Maybe the buy gold  people are right -- we will see but they do not have a crystal ball and the sad little data we do have is not all bleak. 

I was  actually  not discussing the difference between central planning and  market choice.  It is not black and white anyway.

Unless you think market choice should pay for the military, police,fire, road system. etc.

Taxes  obviously have a negative economic effect but the interesting  question is  what is worth  the negative economic effect and what isn't.

Obviously you can be in very different ball parks about the correct size of our government  but no one here anyway wants anarchism or communism.

This a philosophical discussion not scientific one because the data is so weak. Correlation is not causation etc
Philosophically, Do we want to be more like " Old Fashion America" or more like Europe?

I happen to like America philosophically  better in many things  but Canada and the UK are not Nigeria or Russia.
5529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs - fifty cents on the dollar on: May 02, 2009, 09:21:03 PM
Just wanted to offer my street knowledge as an inner city landlord that the conversion rate to trade EBT dollars (government paid cash card) for real currency is 50 cents on the dollar.  The card spends like cash but is limited to items like groceries; important things like cigarettes require real money.  Unfortunately the taxpayer pays double.  Just like tax loopholes and campaign finance laws, money finds a way.
5530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: May 02, 2009, 09:05:59 PM
"What happened to basic contract law? ...But why should the Secured Creditors go along?
One of the many things that has made our country great is the concept of risk/reward."

Great Points JDN!  I am with you on this one.  We are in the process of neutralizing the upside and downside of risk, degrading reward and eliminating consequences and corrections, all from leadership in the executive and legislative branches that are disdainful of the economic system that made America great.
5531  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: May 02, 2009, 12:17:12 AM
We will stop 'intensive interrogations' in order to impress the Arab-street with our civility.  Let's look at theirs for a moment.  Water tricks and underwear photos don't compare with these guys...

"A 45-minute tape shows a man that the Government of Abu Dhabi has acknowledged is Sheikh Issa bin Zayed al-Nahyan — one of 22 royal brothers of the UAE President and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince — mercilessly and repeatedly beating a man with a cattle prod and a nailed board, burning his genitals and driving his Mercedes over him several times."

This was over a grain deal gone bad.
5532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / U.S. Census 2010 on: May 01, 2009, 11:47:19 PM
Next year's Census has already begun as I have met workers the last couple of days that are beginning to track the housing units with GPS and preparing to find, count and interpolate results for the number of people living in each jurisdiction in the United States.

This could have been broken down into a rant, a glibness post, an economic discussion, a media issue, an election fraud entry, and an illegal immigration comment but IMO they are all intertwined in this process that should NOT be a political issue but it is so it deserves its own topic.(? We'll see what the boss says...)

First, the direction of the Obama Census was pulled out of the Commerce Department and into the White House because specific and crucial political objectives are at stake. Imagine the media reaction if Bush-Cheney had done that. At the heart of the matter is to make sure we count, interpolate and extrapolate all potential Democratic constituencies, legal or not, at least once and then do some tweaking of the data as we do with global warming temperatures to make sure that the results fit our preconceived notions of what they should or might be.

Second, as I have whined often, the Census workers will be directed to make sure that income of the lower income groups is under-counted so that the rich will look richer and the disparity figures will look as disturbing as possible as that is the premise for the entire current governing philosophy.  As usual we will not count any of major sources of income for the underclass; we will not count subsidized housing as income, we will not count the EBT card as income (Electronic Benefits Transfers, formerly called food stamps etc.) even though they spend just like cash would for the benefits, we will not count free health care as income even as its value starts to climb into the tens of thousands per family and we will not Section 8 housing or energy assistance as income even though these programs often pay 90% or more of a family's housing cost, another 5 digit 'income' stream not counted.

And last for now, at a time when the number of trespassers in this country has reached into the tens of millions, we will spend well over ten billion dollars to send a million and a half ACORN organizers, xx I mean census workers, out to 'accurately' count every person living in this country.  STUPID QUESTION (?): wouldn't this also be a good time to find out who is a citizen, who is a legal, documented visitor and who is trespassing?? And do something about it!  Otherwise aren't we also going to be gerrymandering congressional and electoral vote representation to people who can not even vote in this country??

We will determine citizenship by asking them - just as you might find out if bank robbers robbed a bank - by asking them.
5533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Expect the worst, Obama Supreme Court based on outcomes, not rule of law on: May 01, 2009, 11:01:06 PM
I recall Chief Justice John Roberts saying just the opposite.  (Paraphrasing from memory) Question: Will you side with the little guy? Answer: When the constitution is on the side of the little guy I will side with the little guy; when the constitution is not on his side I won't.

A lawless president looks for a lawless Supreme Court Justice
May 1, 2009  Paul Mirengoff

President Obama made a short statement about the retirement of Justice Souter in which he outlined what he will be looking for in Souter's replacement. He stated, in part:

    "I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation."

    "I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions AND OUTCOMES"
(emphasis added)

By indicating that his concern is not just with just decisions but also just outcomes, Obama reveals the lawless quality of his thinking. The legitimate function of a judge is to reach just decisions, full stop. Once judges, or the president who appoints them, start thinking about just outcomes, we are well down the path to judicial tyranny. And once just outcomes are defined as those that display empathy for "the people," we could be starting down the road to banana republic status.

Obama apparently wants outcomes that will make people feel welcome in their own nation. It's not clear to me what he's referring to here. But whatever it is, the extent to which people feel welcome must be determined by how their neighbors view them and, to the extent (limited, one hopes) the law becomes involved, the rights and benefits conferred by the language of the laws in question.

If Obama wants to appoint a Justice who has run or worked in a soup kitchen, that's fine. But it looks to me like he wants to appoint a Justice who will reach outcomes that establish "soup kitchens" regardless of whether that's the best view of the legal provision he or she is interpreting.

Expect the worst, not just from this judicial nomination but from all subsequent ones.
5534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness - Joe Biden on: May 01, 2009, 09:00:04 AM
Joe Biden was the first clue that Obama would have trouble assembling a competent team, also a clue that he (Obama) is all about politics (neutral Democratic political choice) and nothing about finding the best and the brightest for the country.  Reuters says the administration is "clarifying" his remarks.  The administration should be "clarifying" why Obama picked Biden to be a heart beat away in the first place.

Kerry and Gore were buffoons and Bush often appeared to be one, but Obama is top-of-the-class intelligent while Biden was a bottom-of-the-class flounderer before finding comfort in the Democrat party.  The coalition that elected Obama includes a strange combination highly educated liberal whites along with an underclass of minorities; blacks in particular are very proud of Obama. I don't understand why either group feels any identification with the Obama-Biden ticket rather than just with Obama.

Hard to come up with an analogy, but if the conservative candidate was a scholar like Victor Davis Hanson and the VEEP was Daffy Duck, I would vote for the ticket but only buy the sticker that said 'Hanson', not 'Hanson and the Duck'.
5535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy, Taxing inflationary gains on: April 30, 2009, 06:18:01 PM
Great post, thank you Guinness!

"President Obama's ...proposes raising the tax rate on capital gains from 15 percent to 20 percent.[1] In real terms (that is, adjusted for inflation), the tax rate on capital gains already far exceeds 20 percent."

The feds and even the good analysts always refer to the capital gains as if they are only taxed once - add another 9.5% if you live in our state.  All states with income tax as far as I know tax capital gains as ordinary income, even though they are just taxing inflation and punishing you for being invested with too much for too long; you will often be in the top tax bracket the year you sell your asset no matter how poor you are, and certain asset types can't be split into pieces to stay in lower brackets.

No problem, just use income averaging, you might say.  Sorry, that program was dropped a couple decades ago as a 'loophole'.

So is it a 'gain' or is it inflation?  Maybe if you guessed right on a company and now you own shares in a bigger and better company - so it is partly gain - but they issued more shares during that time also so you own a smaller share of a bigger company.  My (remaining) investments are all trapped in real estate.  In each case, it's still the same damn building on the same damn lot.  I don't own something more than I bought except how someone else values it at a different point in time - it's all inflation from my point of view.  If anything, each house or property is just that much older and closer to its eventual teardown. 

Real estate hedges inflation real nicely, except that you can NEVER sell and keep the money.

I actually think 19-20% would be a reasonable tax - for everyone - on real income or 'real' gains.

Instead the real tax is probably over 50%, so instead I hold the property that I don't want and the Treasury collects zero.
5536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / culture war over free market enterprise on: April 30, 2009, 12:13:26 PM
Crafty, I strongly agree.  I like this quote of Brooks, that there is a moral case against the politics of class envy and confiscation from the rich:

"Advocates of free enterprise must learn from the growing grass-roots protests, and make the moral case for freedom and entrepreneurship. They have to declare that it is a moral issue to confiscate more income from the minority simply because the government can."

Brian Wesbury explained the economics of the so-called tea party movement recently:  Unfortunately I'm not able to cut and paste out of the pdf.  He makes an example of education, but it couold be a local stadium or light rail.  The special interest gets its billion and they all reward each other and make political contributions and succeed politically, but the taxpayer is only hit for a few cents on every small purchase forever etc. until finally all these special interests become trillions and the taxpayer hits the boiling point. 

In the current climate, I think it isn't even the taxpayer who hurts because we aren't paying for the excess spending.  It's just the spending itself that at some point is morally offensive.  Each great idea like health care or home ownership for everyone is wonderful as an idea to discuss in a college classroom, but we can't do them all without collapsing our economy, oops.  But as the piece suggests, there is a moral case against compelling someone else, whether it is 'the rich' or future generations, to pay for all of our wild ideas.

Stealing a quote from JDN yesterday about healthcare, but could be said about any public issue: "something needs to be done, that is a given..."

Yes, but it is not a given that it is the government that needs to do it and it is not a given that doing something should be measured in public dollars spent.

Instinctively people really do know that private sector solutions are better and that our freedoms including free enterprise are what made us great.

I think liberals have even more confidence in the private sector than conservatives.  They are willing to tie its arms and break its kneecaps and still expect that it will perform about the same as before.
5537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: April 30, 2009, 11:29:14 AM
"Doesn't this issue have its roots in the wage and price controls of WW2?  IIRC the govt did allow health insurance to become part of the payments to workers without taxing it-- but if an individual wants to buy insurance on his own, he must do so with after tax dollars.  Yes?"

Yes, though you can make limited pre-tax HSA contributions (health savings account). 

Sure enough, health care was federalized though the tax code.  JDN makes a good point about states rights.  I will indulge him on that and agree with any move that takes the feds completely out of the health care business, and auto manufacturing, and housing/mortgages, and ...
5538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: April 30, 2009, 11:14:39 AM
"And I will let you (not personal Doug) decide not to spend the family's inheritance not to keep your wife alive later in life; it's tough... albeit logical.  We are too emotionally attached."

Don't worry JDN, nothing personal taken, but you read me wrong.  I am saying that it IS a valid choice to spend your own money on heroic health measures, or mansions yachts and trips around the world instead of leaving a nest egg. But it doesn't work for ALL of us to choose the highest cost solutions on everything and then demand that someone else pay for it - and keep costs down.
5539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: April 29, 2009, 11:13:08 PM
"Except for Medicare, the medical system is basically free market"

Guinness answered this better, but I was going to say that sure - it's a free market - about like OPEC, lol.  Government based healthcare and government rules and mandates I think are a huge part of the market and as Forbes demonstrates, set the tone for how things are done in the rest of the market.  I would not favor a totally unregulated market in medicine, but if we want control on costs we have to find a way for competition and consumer choices to flourish.

Healthcare was compared with the market for food but high-tech might be a more insightful comparison.  I can buy a computer model that has been proven for a few years and widely available for a few hundred bucks.  Or I can buy the very latest experimental high tech device barely out of the lab for maybe hundreds of thousands.   In every other area we balance those choices with our budget and our circumstances.  Not with other people's money available and life and health choices on the line.  In health care we keep wanting the newest and latest treatment no matter the price or whether or not the performance is proven and we demand that someone else pay for it.

Do you want government to ration these decisions or prices and individual choices to do that?  Neither is perfect, but I prefer leaning toward the price mechanism and free choices over the bureaucracy as much as possible.

Studies show that a lion's share of health care costs, especially the more recent increases, go toward our treatments during our last 6 months of life.  Basically we are denying our own mortality, and then dying anyway.  If you made those treatment choices out of your own saving, and imagine if you had the right to pass your earned, accumulated wealth on to your family, would you still want to pay any price and fight every fight even the ones not winnable while knowing that you are spending the last of your family's inheritance?
5540  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Steve Forbes: The Fight over 17% of the Economy on: April 29, 2009, 12:08:43 PM
Crafty: "The folks who ran Katrina..."   or as we say in Mpls, the folks who brought us the bridge...  How come the same liberals demanding government-run healthcare aren't clamoring to move into public housing?

Steve Forbes makes many good points in this piece, also some very specific improvements to the current system that could easily be done now at no cost: "Allow mandate-free insurance policies... Permit people to buy health insurance across state lines... Make it easier for small businesses to buy insurance in a pool... Equalize the tax treatment of premiums... Raise limits on contributions to HSAs and on deductibles.

The Fight

The biggest domestic battle since the Clintons tried to nationalize health care in the early 1990s is about to unfold. Sometime in June the Obama Administration will formally introduce its plan to deal with the problem of the 46 million Americans who don't have health insurance. But the proposal will have far larger--and more ominous--implications for the country than the number of uninsured. This will be President Obama's attempt to do what the Clintons couldn't: truly socialize American health care. Make no mistake: Obama's plan will be the Administration's absolute top priority, trumping new energy taxes and the forced unionization of private-sector workers. Irrevocably sinking Washington's claws deep into an area constituting 17% of the economy is too great an opportunity for this Administration to pass up.

The President will propose that the government set up its own health insurance company, a Medicare-for-everyone system. The purpose, as he puts it, will be to provide competition with the private carriers. But this won't be competition; it will be a de facto government takeover.

The Administration will portray opponents as heartless for not wanting to do something about the uninsured. It will proclaim that private carriers make too much money and spend too much on overhead and marketing and that a nonprofit government insurer can make insurance affordable for those who currently don't get it through their employer or are out of a job.

Health care socialists will declare, "Look at Medicare. Despite its flaws and incomplete coverage it still provides a fantastic, affordable safety net for tens of millions of the elderly. Why can't we do that for everyone?"

Such a scheme would be a disaster. It would destroy innovation and lead to shortages and rationing. All the frustrations we experience with our current higgledy-piggledy system will pale beside the replacement's increasingly subpar care, ever lengthening lines for basic services and ever longer waits for "elective" surgeries.

Let's clear up some of the myths. Both Medicare and Medi-caid are heavily subsidized by privately insured patients, to the tune of $90 billion a year. Federal reimbursement in these two programs is far below cost, which is why an increasing number of doctors are refusing to treat or are substantially cutting back on the number of Medicare and Medicaid patients they see.

Medicare and Medicaid are rife with fraud. Unlike private insurers, the government refuses to spend real resources on routing out the wrongdoing: overbilling, overtesting and charging for visits not made or tests not given.

Obama beat them at presidential politics in 2008. Now he hopes to achieve what they conspicuously didn't do in health care.

The quality of care will decline. Health care "outcomes" for Medicaid patients are substantially below those of similar private-insurance patients. Fees are so low that patients are often treated more like ill, undesirable cattle.

Socialized systems are anathema to innovation. Breakthroughs in medications, diagnostic tools and medical devices require substantial capital investment and entail high risk. In the pharmaceutical industry, barely one in 250 promising compounds ever makes it to the marketplace. In the 1960s western Europe was a font of new medicines. But nationalized medicine put a stop to that. Today most of the breakthroughs come from the U.S. Even when another country invents something, it is in the U.S. that the product is fully developed. For example, the MRI breakthrough was achieved by a Brit, but MRIs are much more widely used in the U.S.

Medicare is no exception to this anti-innovation bias. As health care expert John C. Goodman, CEO of the National Center for Policy Analysis, has noted:

"Almost no one talks to his or her doctor on the phone. Why? Because Medicare doesn't pay a doctor to talk to you on the phone. And private insurers, who tend to follow Medicare's lead, don't pay for phone consultations, either. The same goes for e-mail: Only about 2% of patients and doctors e-mail each other--something that is normal in every other profession.

"What about digitizing medical records? Doctors typically do not do this, which means that they can't make use of software that allows electronic prescriptions and makes it easier to detect dangerous drug interactions or mistaken dosages. Again, this is something that Medicare doesn't pay for. Likewise patient education: A great deal of medical care can be handled in the home without ever seeing a doctor or a nurse--e.g., the treatment of diabetes. But someone has to give patients the initial instruction, and Medicare doesn't pay for that."

A federal government insurance company, with its subsidies, will attract more and more people from private plans. Instead of overtly running providers such as Aetna ( AET - news - people ) and UnitedHealthcare out of business, the federal government will take them over through mandating what they can and cannot do, as well as "reinsuring" private carriers for costs above certain levels. In other words, nongovernment insurance companies will become vassals and virtual subsidiaries of the Washington-run system.

What are the alternatives to this health care nightmare? There are many positive, nongovernment things that could instead be done.

--Allow mandate-free insurance policies. True catastrophic health insurance--not the current dollar-for-dollar coverage--is very affordable.

--Permit people to buy health insurance across state lines. Removing such barriers would sharply increase competition.

--Make it easier for small businesses to buy insurance in a pool, whether through trade associations or other kinds of affiliations.

--Equalize the tax treatment of premiums. Companies get a tax deduction for health insurance premiums, as do the self-employed. Why not give that break to employees who choose to buy their own individual policies? They would get a deduction or a refundable tax credit (meaning if they don't have a tax liability they'd get an actual check from Uncle Sam). Many small businesses offer no insurance, or those that do may offer policies some workers find unsatisfactory. These folks should have the ability to easily get their own alternatives.

--Raise limits on contributions to HSAs and on permissible deductibles.

All of these ideas would substantially cut the number of un-insured. For those truly uninsurable, why not give them the medical equivalent of food stamps and subsidize their catastrophic health insurance premiums through private companies?

President Obama says he wants to make health care affordable for all. Applying free-market principles to health care would do just that. Even with private-sector insurance there isn't a true free market--not when most expenses are covered by third parties. The key is to give consumers, not businesses and government bureaucracies, control of their health care dollars. Having businesses put money into workers' HSAs would be preferable to today's system. Once consumers actually control the money, they will apply pressure to get more value for it. After all, it's theirs.

Free-market dynamics have worked in virtually every other part of the economy, spurring production and innovation and helping us get more for less. Food is even more basic than health care. We don't have a third-party-payer system for food (except for food stamps). Result: Today people spend a smaller portion of their income for food than they did decades ago. And the variety of foods is greater than ever. Free markets can do the same with regard to health care; governments manifestly cannot.
5541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues, CO2 graphic, out of control? on: April 28, 2009, 10:11:22 PM
Some science regarding CO2 and global warming:

Some Global Warming Q&A To Consider in Light of the EPA Ruling
April 19th, 2009 by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.

There is no way to know if warming is ‘happening now’. Because natural climate fluctuations on a year-to-year basis are so large, we will only recognize warming (or cooling) several years down the road when it appears in the rearview mirror. The most important statistic to me is that global average temperatures stopped rising in 2001, as shown in the following chart of global tropospheric temperatures that John Christy and I derive from satellite measurements.

As you can see, we might have even entered a new cooling trend. The claim that the warming trend over the last 50 to 100 years is continuing right now, or that it is even ‘accelerating’ is pure speculation, based upon the assumption that what has happened in recent decades will continue into the future.

Well, look at the following recently published proxy reconstruction of global temperatures over the last 2000 years. This graph is based upon 18 previously published temperature proxies, and so provides the most robust estimate available to date. It can be seen that significant warming and cooling periods of 50 to 100 years in duration seem to be the rule, rather than the exception. There were probably even warmer years during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) than we have seen in recent years. Even the warmth of the ‘record’ warm El Nino year in 1998 (see temperature chart above) might well have been surpassed several times during major El Nino events that occurred during the MWP. Unfortunately, there is no way to know how warm individual years were a thousand years ago…the graph below is made up of thirty-year averages. I added the dotted line toward the end showing the modern thermometer record.

Warming, yes. Manmade, no. As can be seen in the following chart, it was just as warm in the Arctic (or nearly as warm) in the 1930s, with loss of sea ice and changing wildlife patterns reported in newspapers. The water levels in the Great Lakes reached record lows during this time, too…just as has happened again in recent years.

No. As can be seen in the graph below (updated here through April 21, 2009), 2007 was the year when summer ice melt resulted in a 30-year record low in sea ice coverage. In 2008, the ice recovered somewhat. And from looking at 2009, we might well see further recovery this summer. Based upon the PDO index (above) it could be we have entered a new cooling phase of the PDO, which might explain this sea ice recovery, as well as our recent return to colder, snowier winters in the Northern Hemisphere.

Generally speaking, no. While 2 sub-populations of polar bears appear to be threatened by the recent reduction in Arctic sea ice, the other dozen or more sub-populations are either stable or growing. Polar bears survived previous periods of Arctic warmth, and they will survive this one, too.

Just as Greenland glaciers will continue to flow downhill and break off into the sea as snow keeps falling on Greenland, the Antarctic ice sheet also slowly flows toward the sea. But in Antarctica, this forms ice ‘shelves’ that can extend out over the ocean a considerable distance. These ice shelves ring the entire continent, and eventually they must break off and float away. It could be that ice shelf collapse events become more common when warmer ocean waters affect a portion of the continent, as has been the case in recent years. Maybe a period of more rapid ice shelf collapse also occurred during the Medieval Warm Period of 1,000 years ago…we just don’t know.

On a whole, Antarctica has not warmed. And because it is so cold there, even a few degrees of warming will not cause the ice sheet to melt anyway. In fact, as can be seen in the following graph, sea ice around Antarctica has increased over the same 30-year period of time that Arctic sea ice has decreased.

Well if you breathe pure CO2, you will die — from a lack of oxygen, not because CO2 is poisonous. But if you breathe pure oxygen for very long, that will also kill you. Carbon dioxide is necessary for life on Earth; photosynthesis by plants on land and by plankton in the ocean depend upon it. And without those forms of life, all the animals (and we humans) would die as well. For something as essential as CO2, it verges on the bizarre for people like Al Gore to liken carbon dioxide to sewage.

No…and we won’t. But the amount of CO2 we put into the atmosphere is pretty trivial: As of 2009, there are only 38 or 39 molecules of CO2 for every 100,000 molecules of atmosphere, and it will take mankind’s CO2 emissions another five years to raise that total by 1 molecule, to 40 out of every 100,000 molecules. The following graph shows how much the CO2 content of the atmosphere has risen in the last 50 years at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. The graph has a vertical scale that only extends to 1% of the atmosphere, and as can be seen, the increase in CO2 is barely visible. This graph is not a trick…it looks different from what you are used to seeing because CO2 is usually plotted with a greatly magnified vertical scale to make the CO2 rise look more dramatic. Yes, we might double the CO2 concentration of the atmosphere by late in this century…but 2 times a very small number is still a very small number.

No. Water vapor accounts for about 85% or 90% of the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect, clouds account for another 5% or 10%. CO2 represents only about 3%, methane even less. You will see quite a bit of variability in the above percentages because they can only be calculated based upon theory, and involve a variety of assumptions. I have greatest confidence in the 3% number for the CO2 portion, which we have verified with our own calculations: The direct effect of doubling of CO2 would only be a 1 deg. C warming of the surface (this is not disputed, see below), and when you compare that to the 33 deg. C of surface warming due to all greenhouse components of the atmosphere, you get 3%.

Yes, but most of the warming produced by climate models is NOT directly from the CO2, but from assumed changes in clouds and water vapor in response to the small CO2-induced warming tendency. And this is the models’ Achilles heel. While all of those models now change clouds with warming in ways that amplify that warming, some by a catastrophic amount, there is increasing evidence that clouds in the real climate system behave in just the opposite way (peer reviewed papers of ours here and here). This could result in a doubling of atmospheric CO2 causing less than 1 deg. F of warming by the end of this century.

My latest research (as yet unpublished) suggests most of the warming we’ve experienced in the last 100 years is due to natural changes in cloud cover…possibly caused by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation mentioned above. Something climate modelers apparently don’t appreciate is that it would only take about a 1% change in global cloud cover to cause ‘global warming’. Curiously, climate modelers do not believe this happens. Exactly why they don’t, I haven’t been able to figure out. Probably because we’ve not had accurate enough long-term observations of global cloud cover to document any such changes. But just because such changes are too small for us to measure doesn’t mean they do not exist. Most of us who were trained as meteorologists find 1% changes in global cloud cover to be entirely plausible, probably the result of natural, chaotic changes in weather patterns coupled to small chaotic changes in ocean circulation.

No. Climate modelers claim they can only explain global warming by including greenhouse gas increases in their models. But that claim is based upon 2 critical assumptions: (1) the climate system is very sensitive to increasing CO2, a consequence of their climate models not handling clouds properly, and (2) as mentioned above, a lack of accurate observations over a long enough period of time to document potential natural, and stronger, warming mechanisms…such as a slight decrease in global cloud cover letting more sunlight in.

Another “fingerprint” claim is that global warming has been stronger over land than ocean, as would be expected with more greenhouse gases. But warming of the oceans and land in response to fewer clouds would be indistinguishable from warming caused by more carbon dioxide. A decrease in oceanic cloudiness would warm the oceans, which would then send more humid airmasses over land. And since water vapor is our main greenhouse gas, the land will warm in response. The land warming would be then be stronger than the ocean warming because the heat capacity of land is less than that of the ocean. So, don’t be fooled when you hear claims that the “fingerprint” of manmade warming has been found…it hasn’t. In fact, there is no known human “fingerprint”.

No, only storm damage has increased. This is because people keep building along coastlines and in other areas prone to severe weather. And the more stuff we build, the more targets there are for hurricanes and tornadoes to destroy. Some of the records you have heard about for strongest hurricane, etc., are mostly because our technological ability to measure these storms has improved so much in recent years. There is no way to know if some recent storms (e.g. Katrina when it was in the central Gulf of Mexico) were stronger than major hurricanes that occurred in the early 20th Century, before we had weather radar, high resolution satellite data, and instrumented planes to fly into them.

The chemistry of the ocean is still poorly understood from the standpoint of how it varies over time, and how it is controlled. There is a common view among oceanographers that extra atmospheric CO2 has caused the average pH of the ocean to be reduced from 8.18 to 8.10 since the start of the Industrial Revolution. But pH varies widely across the global oceans, and that estimated decrease is more of a ‘theoretically-calculated expectation’ than it is an actual observation. A minority view I have heard is that the buffering capacity of the ocean will prevent ocean acidification. In fact, recent evidence suggests that (just like plants on land) plankton in the ocean will grow faster and be more abundant with more CO2 in the atmosphere.
5542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental Politics, restrictions on exhaling and driving to work on: April 28, 2009, 08:41:06 PM
The EPA named carbon dioxide a dangerous pollutant and opened a 60 day comment period on April 18.  Even if you have never written your government on anything before, please write to them on this one.  Write to the EPA and write to all the senators and members of congress that you can find unless you want a new intrusion that makes the IRS and tax compliance look like child's play.

Please write to them and post what you write here, if you want, to motivate and help others.

Will we arrest polar bears and fireflies as they emit also, and bicyclists? Ticket God for careless volcano activity?

Would you like to be on the honor system or have the feds GPS your carbon excesses 24/7?

Written Comments

Written comments on the proposed finding may be submitted by using the following instructions:

    Mail: Environmental Protection Agency, EPA Docket
Center (EPA/DC), Mailcode 6102T, Attention Docket ID
No. EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171, 1200 Pennsylvania Avenue,
NW, Washington, DC 20460.


When providing comments, please submit them with reference to Docket ID No.  EPA-HQ-OAR-2009-0171.
5543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science, Carbon or Uranium - Take your pick. on: April 28, 2009, 07:51:38 PM
I posted recently Peter Huber's logic of why cap and trade legislation won't reduce carbon emissions on earth.  I was reading some of his older writings and note that he predicted the following about 2 years ago:

"If you're 40 or older, you're going to spend the rest of your life powered by carbon or uranium. Take your pick. Forget about "none of the above" or "less of both." For the next several decades at least, alternative energy sources aren't serious choices; they are pork barrels, delusions, demonstration plants and daydreams."

If you are going to plug in our vehicles someday for cheaper power and lower oil consumption, we are going to need more electricity on the grid.  For the most part that will be coal or nuclear.  One is a heavy carbon emitter.  One is carbon-free, compact, cheap, safe and clean.  You make the call!
5544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Way Forward for Reps, Sen. Specter switches, and Newt opposes cap and trade on: April 28, 2009, 07:23:47 PM
As proverb goes, when a Republican senator crosses the aisle and joins the other side, the average intelligence of both sides improves...  I will not miss Sen. Specter and no one should read anything more into this than the fact that he was trailing challenger Pat Toomey by 20 points in his bid to be endorsed for reelection.  Pat Toomey was Club for Growth president the past several years and will do more for conservatism by running IMO than Sen. Specter can ever do by winning.


Interesting story about Newt regarding 'cap and trade', maybe one of the two biggest domestic issues facing the country (nationalized healthcare being the other.)  Newt previously favored some version of cap and trade.  Is it really a flip flop to decisively move from the wrong side of an issue to the right side? Anyway, here is a hate piece from a left wing publication, Mother Jones, attacking him: it was money from the coal lobby, not logic, honesty, principles or wisdom that changed his position, according to the left.

Gingrich v. Gingrich
— By Kevin Drum | Mon April 27, 2009 11:59 AM PST

It's hard to get too worked up when a politician turns out to be opportunistic, but Media Matters documents a pretty stunning case of cynicism from Newt Gingrich today.  Last week Gingrich vilified a Democratic cap-and-trade plan for carbon emissions as a "command-and-control, anti-energy, big-bureaucracy agenda, including dramatic increases in government power and draconian policies that will devastate our economy."  But two years ago, when he was in his "big ideas for conservatives phase," he was cap-and-trade's biggest fan:

    I think if you have mandatory carbon caps combined with a trading system, much like we did with sulfur, and if you have a tax-incentive program for investing in the solutions, that there's a package there that's very, very good.  And frankly, it's something I would strongly support....The caps, with a trading system, on sulfur has worked brilliantly because it has brought free-market attitudes, entrepreneurship and technology and made it very profitable to have less sulfur.

Well, that's Newt for you: he dumps policy positions as quickly as he dumps wives.  But it also goes to show how fleeting conservative support for "market-oriented solutions" like cap-and trade is.  A lot of the liberal enthusiasm for cap-and-trade over the past decade has been based on the idea that it might be more acceptable to conservatives than a straight tax, but obviously that hasn't turned out to be the case.  Basically, they just don't want to do anything, full stop.
5545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cognitive Dissonance,Glibness response to swine flu threat on: April 28, 2009, 06:49:39 PM
Obama response to flu threat: ask congress for 1 1/2 billion emergency funding.  There wasn't enough cushion in the first 10 trillion passed so far to handle 50 people sick with the flu.  I guessed wrong; I thought he would appoint a bipartisan commission to look into it.
5546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: April 28, 2009, 06:24:19 PM
""Barack Obama is the second most reviled newbie president of the last forty years."

I also love numbers but took that headline to mean the second highest strong-disapprovals in 40 years which the approval numbers posted do not refute.
5547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: April 24, 2009, 04:04:34 PM
Quoting GM:  "3. Terrorists that operate outside the laws of war get no protections of any kind. We teach them fear."

Even under the GM doctrine, we are still limited by our own sense of decency and by the context of the situation.  With the beheading videos of Daniel Pearl in mind, the images of people jumping from the towers, and airline passengers crashing into the Pentagon and the struggle above Pennsylvania that ended all dead in the ground, I would like to see if these photos show more than inmates in underwear or water tricks.  I'll bet no one lost an ear, much less got beheaded, dropped from the sky or burnt to death.

For comparison, I would like to see a complete list of all punishments and lost appendages due to criminal sanctions from Islamic governments during the same time frame, such as stoned to death for fraternizing with your rapist.  Let's see who is barbaric and who is trying to protect peace and freedom.  And let's see if Obama prefaces his remarks by saying this isn't nearly as brutal as what is already happening everyday in these terrorists' own home countries.
5548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: April 22, 2009, 08:26:20 AM
I don't like picking on Strat, but...

"Former Vice President Dick Cheney has claimed that their use helped prevent a terrorist attack, though details and evidence of that are scarce."

According to Cheney, the details are not scarce, they are still classified and he called for that information to be declassified so that methods can be seen in that context.
5549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: April 22, 2009, 08:09:53 AM
"The are way less capital intensive options than fiber optic cable and  there is a lot of work being done currently  that is not based  on fiber optic cables"

Your post came through over fiber cables (and that required a huge capital investment).  All google searches and facebook postings run over fiber optic cable as well.  I'm not sure what you refer to.
"Capital investments are certainly important and I would not like to see it shrink..."  Yet we elected people committed to punishing investment returns and demonizing capitalists - the rich aren't paying their share, aren't doing their patriotic duty, we can tax just the 2% - not us and get free health care, etc.

"...but there is a lot of future growth that does not require a lot of capital investments. Our world  is increasing digitized which usually means lower capital costs.  Creating Aps for smart phones is being called the next gold rush. It requires very little capital investment."

I think many apps written free by users will likely end up as freeware/shareware, not economic growth.  Software engineering is extremely capital intensive.  I would put time available of software engineers ahead of copper as the truly scarce resource of this economy.  Iphone apps are of no value without the enormous sunken investment of the 3G networks and enormous capital investment still required for the so-called 4G. 

"Google and Facebook did not start with large amount of capital investments.  Cloud Computing (  Computer technology becoming a Utility )   is reducing costs for starting new businesses."

Maybe you refer to Google as an idea or as a search patent, but google as a money making enterprise requires hundreds of thousands of servers using enormous amounts of electricity.  In spite of their 'going green' campaign, the energy they consume is mostly from fossil fuels.

Cloud computing like using is extremely expensive IMO.  It is like lease versus purchase of your information systems.  Startups still need the capital to pay these services and all their other expenses until their own revenues begin to cover.  Punishing capital lessens the likelihood of more success stories like the ones you cite.

The political argument is not for or against new innovations, it is IMO about central planning and control versus a more free economy. 
5550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics, Peter Huber - Part 2 on: April 20, 2009, 11:06:36 AM
Sorry it didn't fit in one post.  This is very important information.  Please read the previous post first although the first paragraph here will tell you why cap and trade won't work.  (Crafty, please explain your objection to nuclear power when you have time.)

By pouring money into anything-but-carbon fuels, we will lower demand for carbon, making it even cheaper for the rest of the world to buy and burn. The rest will use cheaper energy to accelerate their own economic growth. Jobs will go where energy is cheap, just as they go where labor is cheap. Manufacturing and heavy industry require a great deal of energy, and in a global economy, no competitor can survive while paying substantially more for an essential input. The carbon police acknowledge the problem and talk vaguely of using tariffs and such to address it. But carbon is far too deeply embedded in the global economy, and materials, goods, and services move and intermingle far too freely, for the customs agents to track.

Consider your next Google search. As noted in a recent article in Harper’s, “Google . . . and its rivals now head abroad for cheaper, often dirtier power.” Google itself (the “don’t be evil” company) is looking to set up one of its electrically voracious server farms at a site in Lithuania, “disingenuously described as being near a hydroelectric dam.” But Lithuania’s grid is 0.5 percent hydroelectric and 78 percent nuclear. Perhaps the company’s next huge farm will be “near” the Three Gorges Dam in China, built to generate over three times as much power as our own Grand Coulee Dam in Washington State. China will be happy to play along, while it quietly plugs another coal plant into its grid a few pylons down the line. All the while, of course, Google will maintain its low-energy headquarters in California, a state that often boasts of the wise regulatory policies—centered, one is told, on efficiency and conservation—that have made it such a frugal energy user. But in fact, sky-high prices have played the key role, curbing internal demand and propelling the flight from California of power plants, heavy industries, chip fabs, server farms, and much else (see “California’s Potemkin Environmentalism,” Spring 2008).

So the suggestion that we can lift ourselves out of the economic doldrums by spending lavishly on exceptionally expensive new sources of energy is absurd. “Green jobs” means Americans paying other Americans to chase carbon while the rest of the world builds new power plants and factories. And the environmental consequences of outsourcing jobs, industries, and carbon to developing countries are beyond dispute. They use energy far less efficiently than we do, and they remain almost completely oblivious to environmental impacts, just as we were in our own first century of industrialization. A massive transfer of carbon, industry, and jobs from us to them will raise carbon emissions, not lower them.

The grand theory for how the developed world can unilaterally save the planet seems to run like this. We buy time for the planet by rapidly slashing our own emissions. We do so by developing carbon-free alternatives even cheaper than carbon. The rest of the world will then quickly adopt these alternatives, leaving most of its trillion barrels of oil and trillion tons of coal safely buried, most of the rain forests standing, and most of the planet’s carbon-rich soil undisturbed. From end to end, however, this vision strains credulity.

Perhaps it’s the recognition of that inconvenient truth that has made the anti-carbon rhetoric increasingly apocalyptic. Coal trains have been analogized to boxcars headed for Auschwitz. There is talk of the extinction of all humanity. But then, we have heard such things before. It is indeed quite routine, in environmental discourse, to frame choices as involving potentially infinite costs on the green side of the ledger. If they really are infinite, no reasonable person can quibble about spending mere billions, or even trillions, on the dollar side, to dodge the apocalyptic bullet.

Thirty years ago, the case against nuclear power was framed as the “Zero-Infinity Dilemma.” The risks of a meltdown might be vanishingly small, but if it happened, the costs would be infinitely large, so we should forget about uranium. Computer models demonstrated that meltdowns were highly unlikely and that the costs of a meltdown, should one occur, would be manageable—but greens scoffed: huge computer models couldn’t be trusted. So we ended up burning much more coal. The software shoe is on the other foot now; the machines that said nukes wouldn’t melt now say that the ice caps will. Warming skeptics scoff in turn, and can quite plausibly argue that a planet is harder to model than a nuclear reactor. But that’s a detail. From a rhetorical perspective, any claim that the infinite, the apocalypse, or the Almighty supports your side of the argument shuts down all further discussion.

To judge by actions rather than words, however, few people and almost no national governments actually believe in the infinite rewards of exorcising carbon from economic life. Kyoto has hurt the anti-carbon mission far more than carbon zealots seem to grasp. It has proved only that with carbon, governments will say and sign anything—and then do less than nothing. The United States should steer well clear of such treaties because they are unenforceable, routinely ignored, and therefore worthless.

If we’re truly worried about carbon, we must instead approach it as if the emissions originated in an annual eruption of Mount Krakatoa. Don’t try to persuade the volcano to sign a treaty promising to stop. Focus instead on what might be done to protect and promote the planet’s carbon sinks—the systems that suck carbon back out of the air and bury it. Green plants currently pump 15 to 20 times as much carbon out of the atmosphere as humanity releases into it—that’s the pump that put all that carbon underground in the first place, millions of years ago. At present, almost all of that plant-captured carbon is released back into the atmosphere within a year or so by animal consumers. North America, however, is currently sinking almost two-thirds of its carbon emissions back into prairies and forests that were originally leveled in the 1800s but are now recovering. For the next 50 years or so, we should focus on promoting better land use and reforestation worldwide. Beyond that, weather and the oceans naturally sink about one-fifth of total fossil-fuel emissions. We should also investigate large-scale options for accelerating the process of ocean sequestration.

Carbon zealots despise carbon-sinking schemes because, they insist, nobody can be sure that the sunk carbon will stay sunk. Yet everything they propose hinges on the assumption that carbon already sunk by nature in what are now hugely valuable deposits of oil and coal can be kept sunk by treaty and imaginary cheaper-than-carbon alternatives. This, yet again, gets things backward. We certainly know how to improve agriculture to protect soil, and how to grow new trees, and how to maintain existing forests, and we can almost certainly learn how to mummify carbon and bury it back in the earth or the depths of the oceans, in ways that neither man nor nature will disturb. It’s keeping nature’s black gold sequestered from humanity that’s impossible.

If we do need to do something serious about carbon, the sequestration of carbon after it’s burned is the one approach that accepts the growth of carbon emissions as an inescapable fact of the twenty-first century. And it’s the one approach that the rest of the world can embrace, too, here and now, because it begins with improving land use, which can lead directly and quickly to greater prosperity. If, on the other hand, we persist in building green bridges to nowhere, we will make things worse, not better. Good intentions aren’t enough. Turned into ineffectual action, they can cost the earth and accelerate its ruin at the same time.

 - Peter Huber is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute
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