HORSERACE Obi Wan: 'Believe me, there is someone in the Obama campaign who is deathly afraid of the 'McCain pulls even or goes ahead' poll.' My mentor - who goes by the nickname Obi Wan Kenobi - has reappeared again, and remains generally optimistic about McCain's chances. He felt the final debate had worked for McCain because he had finally found themes that he kept coming back to in answer after answer.
Obi-Wan particularly noted McCain's observation that Obama keeps saying he wants to "look at" drilling instead of doing it — implicitly raising the question of whether the most eloquent and melodious talker is better than a guy who actually gets things done. Even more importantly, the candidates spotlighted the clear and fundamental difference between the two on economics. Obama is clear that he will try to tax and spend his way out of a recession; McCain will cut both. Obama spoke to Joe the Plumber as if he was okay with raising taxes on those making $250,000, as if Obama presumed Joe thought he would never make $250,000.
Obi-Wan expected some sort of bump or goose for McCain after the debate, and thought we were seeing it with the Gallup poll's traditional model that had McCain only down by 2 percent. Today, that model now has Obama ahead by 5 percent. But just about every other tracking poll has shown a narrow Obama lead, too. (The RCP average has shrunk from 8.2 percent to 5.3 percent.)
Obi Wan is wondering about the timing of the Colin Powell endorsement, too. I had figured that Powell's nod would have been a bigger help to Obama earlier in the race - recall the rumors of Powell speaking at the Democratic Convention. Obi-Wan figures this was one of the best cards Obama had left to play, and he played it in the next-to-last weekend instead of the final weekend. He wonders if internal polling prompted the Obama camp to roll out Powell a bit earlier than planned.
"McCain had a very good week," he told me. "He looked presidential at Al Smith dinner and he had everybody talking Joe the Plumber and taxes the next few days. And the debate performance may have been as big as Kennedy in '60 — that important, because the undecideds were watching."
"We have just seen the greatest economic scare since the Great Depression and everybody is looking at polls as if they are business as usual. That's crazy."
I wondered aloud whether the media's day by day coverage could push people off those gut reactions - suspicion of "spreading the wealth around," relating to Joe the Plumber, etc.
"If so, the American people aren't the American people anymore," Obi Wan responded. "Believe me, there is someone in the Obama campaign who is deathly afraid of the 'McCain pulls even or goes ahead' poll." (And in Gallup, it was within 2 percent.) "That Obama strategist knows how much depends on the whole Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel approach —.work with the media to demoralize conservatives, and keep the perception of a juggernaut going. But a day or two of a few bad polls, and that strategy backfires. The conservatives know they've still got a shot at this."
Much of the case against private firearm ownership is made via loaded terms with little empiric meaning. "Assault weapons," "junk guns," "Saturday night specials," and recently "disposable AK 47s," are all terms that defy meaningful definition. "Gun show loophole" is one of the more recent terms that fit this pattern; a new study suggests that this boogeyman also is little evident when the evidence is examined.
Gun shows do not increase homicides or suicides
BY JARED WADLEY October 1, 2008
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A new study finds no evidence that gun shows lead to substantial increases in either gun-related homicides or suicides.
The University of Michigan and University of Maryland study also shows that tighter regulation of gun shows does not appear to reduce the number of firearms-related deaths.
"We believe that this analysis makes an important contribution to understanding the influence of gun shows, the regulation of which is arguably the most active area of federal, state, and local firearms policy," said Brian Jacob, a professor at the University of Michigan's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.
"To our knowledge, this is the first study that directly examines the impact of gun shows on gun-related deaths."
Jacob wrote the study with co-authors Mark Duggan and Randi Hjalmarsson from the University of Maryland.
The researchers analyzed data from Texas and California, chosen because they are the nation's two most populated states, have large numbers of gun shows, and are at opposite ends of the spectrum regarding gun show regulation. California has some of the most aggressive gun show regulations, including background checks for all gun show purchasers and a 10-day waiting period to obtain the firearm. Texas has no similar regulations.
Data came from the dates and locations of more than 3,400 gun shows, and firearm-related deaths from 1994 to 2004. More than 105,000 homicides and suicides were reported in the two states during the 11-year period.
To determine the impact of gun shows, the authors traced the number of gun-related deaths in ZIP codes close to where gun shows took place, looking at how the number of deaths changed leading up to and following the shows. Researchers looked at the gun-related deaths in the weeks immediately after gun shows and actually found a small decline in the number of homicides following shows in Texas.
"The absence of gun show regulations does not increase the number of gun-related deaths as proponents of these regulations suggest," said Jacob, director of its Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP).
The researchers offered two caveats to their analyses. The study focused on the geographic areas surrounding the gun shows, and would not capture the effect when weapons were transported more than 25 miles away. In addition, the data tracked the effects only up to four weeks after the gun shows, which would exclude later gun-related deaths.
Jared Wadley is a writer for the University of Michigan News Service
Something New Here Radical? Check. Tied to ACORN? Check. Redistributionist? Check.
By Stanley Kurtz
During his first campaign for the Illinois state senate in 1995-96, Barack Obama was a member of, and was endorsed by, the far-left New Party. Obama’s New Party ties give the lie to his claim to be a post-partisan, post-ideological pragmatist. Particularly in Chicago, the New Party functioned as the electoral arm of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). So despite repeated attempts to distance himself from ACORN, Obama’s New Party ties raise disturbing questions about his links to those proudly militant leftists. The media’s near-total silence on this critical element of Obama’s past is deeply irresponsible
Socialist? While a small group of bloggers have productively explored Obama’s New Party ties, discussion has often turned on the New Party’s alleged socialism. Was the New Party actually established by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA)? Was the New Party’s platform effectively socialist in content? Although these debates are both interesting and important, we needn’t resolve them to conclude that the New Party was far to the left of the American mainstream. Whether formally socialist or not, the New Party and its ACORN backers favored policies of economic redistribution. As Obama would say, they wanted to spread the wealth around. Bracketing the socialism question and simply taking the New Party on its own terms is sufficient to raise serious questions about Obama’s political commitments — questions that cry out for attention from a responsible press.
In 2002, Micah L. Sifry, a former writer and editor with The Nation magazine, published Spoiling for a Fight: Third-Party Politics in America, a book that contains what is probably our best account of the rise and fall of the New Party. Although Sifry leaves us hanging on the socialism question, his chapter on the New Party is more than enough to raise disturbing questions about Obama’s radicalism, and about his ties to ACORN.
Sifry reports a quip by New Party co-founder, Daniel Cantor: “The shorthand strategy for accomplishing all this is to get the Bruce Springsteen, Lauryn Hill, and Pete Seeger vote united in one party.” The Peter Seeger vote does sound like shorthand for the old-time socialist Left — but also for far-left-leaning baby boomers in general. Bruce Springsteen and Lauryn Hill point to young blacks and whites on the left, perhaps including, but not restricted to, openly socialist sympathizers. In short, the New Party was a mid-1990s effort to build a “progressive” coalition to the left of the Democratic party, uniting left-leaning baby boomers with minorities, relatively militant unionists, and “idealistic” young people.
Party Within a Party In contrast to Ralph Nader’s recent third-party campaigns, the New Party’s strategy was to work through “fusion.” Fusion parties were popular in the 19th century. Although these small parties had a separate line on the ballot, they often endorsed one of the major party candidates. That meant these third parties didn’t have to act as “spoilers” in close elections. Yet by constituting themselves as separate entities and offering their endorsement as bait, fusion parties tended to push the major parties further to the right or the left. We see remnants of the old fusion-party pattern in New York state, where separate Liberal and Conservative parties sometimes shift elections by endorsing one or another major party candidate.
As the New Party’s founders put it, they were looking for a cross between the “party within the party” strategy favored by leftist Democrats and the “plague on both your houses” stance later adopted by the Naderites. That means Obama’s New Party ties place him on the far left end of the Democratic party, arguably with one foot outside and to the left of the party itself.
Does this make Obama “socialist?” Maybe so, but according to Sifry, the vague “New Party” name was chosen precisely to avoid such ideological pigeonholing. Maybe that vagueness was designed to avoid exposing the party as the socialist sympathizer it was. Or maybe the name was a way of avoiding complex internal struggles between competing ideological factions, some socialist and some not. (The answer is “both of the above,” I tend to think.) In any case, the New Party was clearly far to the left of mainstream Democrats, and according to Sifry, the party explicitly thought of itself as made up of committed “progressives,” rather than conventional “liberals.” That is entirely consistent with a famous 1995 profile of Obama by Hank De Zutter, which portrays him as closely tied to ACORN, and holding a world-view well “beyond” his mother’s conventional liberalism.
To get a sense of where the New Party stood politically, consider some of its early supporters: Barbara Dudley of Greenpeace, Steve Cobble political director of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coaltion, and prominent academics like Frances Fox Piven coauthor of the “Cloward-Piven strategy” and a leader of the drive for the “motor-voter” legislation Obama later defended in court on behalf of ACORN, economist Juliet Schor, black historian, Manning Marable, historian Howard Zinn, linguist Noam Chomsky, Todd Gitlin, and writers like Gloria Steinem, and Barbara Ehrenreich. Socialist? Readers can draw their own conclusions. At one point, Sifry does describe the party’s goals as “social democratic.” In any case, the New Party clearly stands substantially to the left of the mainstream Democratic party.
ACORN Connection Unquestionably, ACORN was one of the most important forces behind the creation of the New Party. According to Sifry: “Wade Rathke, ACORN’s lead national organizer, was in on the founding discussions that led to the New Party, and the group’s political director, Zach Polett, also came to play a big role in guiding New Party field organizing for the party [in Chicago and Little Rock].” In fact, Sifry portrays ACORN’s leading role in the New Party as the result of a conscious decision by the organization to move into electoral politics in a more substantial way than they had been able to solely through their political action committee. In addition to Rathke and Polett, a key early supporter of the New Party was Obama’s closest ACORN contact, Madeline Talbott.
While ACORN played an important founding role for the New Party nationally, ACORN was clearly the main force behind the New Party chapter in Chicago. In general, New Party chapters build around an ACORN nucleus were the most disciplined and successful party outposts. Nationally, the New Party’s biggest wins were in Chicago, very much including Obama’s victory in his 1996 run for the Illinois state senate. Chicago’s New Party was actually formed around two core elements, ACORN and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 880. Yet, as Sifry notes, SEIU 880 was itself an ACORN offshoot.
Together ACORN and SEIU 880 were the dominant forces in Chicago’s New Party. True, there was also participation by open socialists, but these were not a majority of New Party organizers. You can certainly argue, as libertarian blogger Trevor Louden has, that whether openly or not, the New Party in Chicago and beyond was effectively socialist. It’s a powerful argument and worthy of consideration. After all, according to Rutgers University political scientist Heidi J. Swarts, ACORN’s leaders see themselves as “a solitary vanguard of principled leftists.” So a party outpost built around ACORN would be a party built around “principled vanguard leftists.” Sounds pretty socialist to me. Yet, as I’ve emphasized, we needn’t resolve the “socialism” question to conclude that the New Party, and particularly its Chicago branch, was far to the left of the Democratic party, and largely under the control of ACORN.
Consider “The People Shall Rule,” a look at some of Chicago ACORN’s electoral efforts co-authored by Madeline Talbott, Obama’s closest ACORN contact and a key New Party supporter. In describing former Chicago ACORN leader Ted Thomas’s successful run for alderman, Talbott stresses that, even after election, Thomas retained his ACORN ties. Thomas was invited to retain his seat on ACORN’s Chicago board, ACORN members continued to treat him as a leader, and Thomas continued to brainstorm and strategize with ACORN’s other organizers. Talbott is so busy detailing Thomas’s continued links to ACORN that she doesn’t even bother to mention that Thomas actually ran on behalf of the New Party. (See “NP Chair elected to Chicago City Council.”)
As so often with ACORN, technically separate organizations are often relatively meaningless designations for different branches of ACORN itself. And in Chicago, the New Party was very much an ACORN-dominated operation. Ted Thomas was a city alderman, de facto ACORN leader, and New Party chair all at once. So Obama’s ties to the New Party represent yet another important, and still unacknowledged, link between Obama and ACORN.
We already know that Obama’s ties to ACORN’s Madeline Talbott ran deep. Less known is that Obama’s links to Chicago ACORN/New Party leader Ted Thomas were also strong. Thomas was one of a handful of aldermen who stood with Obama in his unsuccessful 2000 race for Congress against Bobby Rush. Obama is also had long-standing ties to SEIU Local 880, an ACORN union spin-off and a bulwark of Chicago’s New Party. In his 2004 race for the Democratic Senate nomination, SEIU Local 880 strongly endorsed Obama, citing his long history of support for the group.
Revealing Tie So the fact that Obama received the New Party’s endorsement in his first run for office in 1995-96 cannot be dismissed as insignificant. On the contrary, Obama’s ties to the New Party, and the New Party’s backers at ACORN (often the very same people), are long-standing, substantial, and reveal a great deal about his personal political allegiances. Because it was a fusion party, the New Party did not require that all the candidates it endorsed be members. Yet the New Party’s endorsements were carefully targeted. There was no attempt to endorse candidates in every race, or even to set up nationwide chapters. Carefully selected races in carefully targeted cities were seized upon — and only when the candidate fit the profile of a decidedly left-leaning progressive Democrat. In this way, the New Party set out to form a hard-left “party within a party” among the Democrats.
More than this, we now have substantial evidence that Obama himself was in fact a New Party member. We even have a photograph of Obama appearing with other successful New Party candidates. Clearly, then, it is more than fair to identify Obama with the hard-left stance of the New Party and its ACORN backers. In her recent study of ACORN and the Gamaliel Foundation, the two groups of community organizers to which Obama was closest, Heidi Swarts describes their core ideology as “redistributionist.” Joe the Plumber take note. Whether formally socialist or not, Obama ties with ACORN and its New Party political arm show that spreading your wealth around has long been his ultimate goal.
All this means that Barack Obama is far from the post-partisan, post-ideological pragmatist he pretends to be. On the contrary, Obama’s ideological home is substantially to the left of the Democratic-party mainstream, so far to the left that he has one foot planted outside the party itself. And since the New Party Chicago was essentially an electoral arm of ACORN, Obama’s New Party tie, is yet another example of his deep links to the far-left militant organizers of that group. Obama’s account of his limited ties to ACORN in the third debate was clearly not truthful. Likewise, his earlier denials of ties to ACORN have fallen apart.
At what point will the press force Obama to own up to the full extent of his ties to ACORN? At what point will the press demand a full accounting of Obama’s ties to the New Party? At what point will the depth of Obama’s redistributionist economic stance be acknowledged? Barack Obama is hiding the truth about his political past, and the press is playing along.
— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
Genetic-based Human Diseases Are An Ancient Evolutionary Legacy, Research Suggests
ScienceDaily (Oct. 19, 2008) — Tomislav Domazet-Lošo and Diethard Tautz from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany, have systematically analysed the time of emergence for a large number of genes - genes which can also initiate diseases. Their studies show for the first time that the majority of these genes were already in existence at the origin of the first cells.
The search for further genes, particularly those which are involved in diseases caused by several genetic causes, is thus facilitated. Furthermore, the research results confirm that the basic interconnections are to be found in the function of genes - causing the onset of diseases - can also be found in model organisms (Molecular Biology and Evolution).
The Human Genome Project that deciphered the human genetic code, uncovered thousands of genes that, if mutated, are involved in human genetic diseases. The genomes of many other organisms were deciphered in parallel. This now allows the evolution of these disease associated genes to be systematically studied.
Tomislav Domazet-Lošo and Diethard Tautz from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön (Germany) have used for this analysis a novel statistical method, "phylostratigraphy" that was developed by Tomislav Domazet-Lošo at the Ruđer Bošković Institute in Zagreb (Croatia). The method allows the point of origin for any existing gene to be determined by tracing the last common ancestor in which this gene existed. Based on this information, it is then possible to determine the minimum age for any given gene.
Applying this method to disease genes, the scientists from Plön came to surprising findings. The vast majority of these genes trace back to the origin of the first cell. Other large groups emerged more than one billion years ago around the first appearance of multi-cellular organisms, as well as at the time of origin of bony fishes about 400 million years ago. Surprisingly, they found almost no disease associated genes among those that emerged after the origin of mammals.
These findings suggest that genetic diseases affected primarily ancient cellular processes, which emerged already during the early stages of life on Earth. This leads to the conclusion that all living organisms today, i.e. not only humans, will be affected by similar genetic diseases. Furthermore, this implies that genetically caused diseases will never be beaten completely, because they are linked to ancient evolutionary processes.
Although it was already known that many disease associated genes occur also in other organisms distant to humans, such as the fruitfly Drosophila or the round worm Caenorhabditis, the analysis of Domazet-Lošo and Tautz shows now for the first time that this is systematically true for the vast majority of these genes. At present it remains unknown why the more recently evolved genes, for example those involved in the emergence of the mammals, do not tend to cause diseases when mutated.
The research results of the scientists from Plön also have some practical consequences. It will now be easier to identify candidates for further disease genes, in particular for those involved in multi-factorial diseases. Furthermore, the results confirm that the functional knowledge gained about such genes from remote model organisms is also relevant for understanding the genes in humans.
That is why it is necessary not to be careless about the science; not to believe grand-sounding international organizations which put their own political predispositions and financial interests ahead of the common interest and even the life of humanity; not to accept the case for climate alarm merely because it suits you to be seen to reach out to the millions of young people who have been relentlessly propagandized in their schools, or to cross the political divide and attract voters from the Democratic electorate; not to advocate or adopt policies which originate with an organization that had knowingly adopted and inflicted on the US and the world a policy that it had been told would kill tens of millions, but pursued that policy regardless.
That is why it is necessary that you should have the courage and honesty to do what marks out the statesman from the mere politician: to change your mind; to admit that, in relying upon a policy advocated and promoted by the lavishly-funded Environmental Defense Fund, you do not wish to repeat the slaughter of the innocents; to cast aside the corrupt folly of the climate scare and of the policies which its promoters self-servingly advocate; and to tell the people that not another penny will be diverted from the real environmental problems of the world to the non-problem of "global warming" unless and until compelling scientific evidence of the imagined planetary threat shall have been provided. For the avoidance of doubt, the diffuse and corrupt ramblings of the UN's climate panel do not constitute scientific evidence, but a deliberate, artful, systematic fraud.
Let me end this section of my letter by summarizing the moral arguments against alarmism. A certain tendentious Democrat politician goes about saying that what he fatuously calls the "climate crisis" is "a moral issue." So it is. To "announce disasters", as the UN climate panel's first scientific chairman admitted he was doing, or "scary scenarios", as one of the handful of extremist scientists who support the more wayward conclusions of the UN admitted he was inventing, or "over-represent factual presentations", as a certain Democrat politician admitted he was doing, in place of adherence to the scientific truth - that is a moral issue.
To let politicians insert data into official scientific documents; to alter those documents so as to contradict scientific findings; to manipulate decimal points so as to engender false headlines by exaggerating tenfold - those are moral issues.
To exaggerate twenty-fold not only the atmospheric lifetime of a trace gas but also the effect of that gas on temperature; to reduce the magnitude of its predicted influence on temperature without reducing the predicted temperature itself - those are moral issues.
To claim scientific unanimity where none exists; to assert that catastrophe is likely when nearly all scientists do not; to exalt theoretical computer models over real-world observations; to misstate the conclusions of scientific papers or the meaning of observed data; to overstate the likely future course of climatic phenomena by several orders of magnitude - those are moral issues.
To reverse the sequence of events in the early climate; to infect the minds of children with baseless propaganda intended to terrify them; to persist in false denial that past temperatures exceeded today's; to state that climate events that have not occurred have occurred; to ascribe these non-events as well as specific extreme-weather events unjustifiably to humankind - those are moral issues.
To propose, as you have proposed, solutions to the non-problem of climate change that would cost many times more than the problem itself, if there were one; to advocate, as you have advocated, measures to mitigate fancifully-imagined future climatic changes when adaptation would cost far less and achieve far more; to ignore, as you have ignored, the real problems of resource depletion, energy security, bad Third World government and fatal diseases that kill millions - those are moral issues.
To advance, as you have advanced, policies congenial to the narrow, short-term political or financial vested interest of some mere corporation or faction at the expense of the wider, long-term general interest of us all - those are moral issues.
Above all, to propose, as you have proposed, to inflict upon the nations of the world a policy of ever-grimmer energy starvation calculated not merely to inconvenience the prosperous but to condemn the very poorest to remain imprisoned in poverty forever, and to die in their tens of millions for want of the light and heat and power and food which we have long been fortunate enough to take for granted - that is a moral issue.
Sir, in each of us, however far apart in mere distance or origin or wealth or achievement, there is the image and likeness of our Creator. By this intimate communion with our Maker each of us, however poor, is of unique and precious value. Therefore there is only one race, the human race. The suffering, starving children of Africa, of Asia and of South America, imploring us with their hopeless, hopeful eyes, are our people. They cannot look to their own. They look to us. We must get the science right or we shall get the policy wrong. We have failed them and failed them before. We must not fail them again.
The strategic threat to your nation's leadership of the world
You have said: "We need to keep our eyes on big goals in energy policy, the serious dangers, and the common interests of the American people."
The central "goals of energy policy" are security of supply, security of supply, and security of supply, in that order. All other goals are secondary to security of supply. If you run out of energy, then you have no energy policy. Resource depletion will be the hard reality of the 21st century. Demand for gasoline and for electrical power is already outstripping the capacity of the world's fossil-fuel corporations: therefore the iron law of supply and demand is driving up the price of oil and of electrical power worldwide.
And what does your speech say about these increases in the price of oil and electricity which you and I can perhaps afford, for now, but which the poorer people of your own nation and of other nations cannot? Your speech says nothing about security of supply, except to express a vague, pietistic hope that windmills and waves and tides and sunshine will at some imagined future date, in some unspecified manner, replace the 98.5% of the world's energy that is currently supplied by nuclear power and by fossil fuels.
The "serious dangers" that you speak of are not dangers arising from the very slightly warmer weather that the world may enjoy as a result of enrichment of the atmosphere by fractional increases in the proportion of the air we breathe in that is occupied by carbon dioxide such as that which we breathe out. The climate scare is, as you will now realize, a mere bugaboo - a horror story for children, that only children and those with a mental age on a par with children can be expected to swallow. The real, pressing, "serious dangers" to the peace, prosperity, and freedom of the world are the dangers that spring from the very measures you propose to drive away the fearsome-sounding but harmless climate bugaboo.
The world needs the United States to continue as the engine-house of prosperity, the wellspring of invention, the hope of freedom, the guarantor of peace. You must not transform your great nation into merely another stifling, inept, corrupt, bureaucratic-centralist dictatorship such as China, Russia, or the European Union.
At the national election in which you are the Republican candidate, the fate not merely of the United States but also of the world will be decided. We owe you much, and, because you have given us much, we look to you to give us more. We look to the United States for a continuation of her leadership of the world, for what you have called "the common interests of the American people" are the strategic interests of humanity itself.
Not for a single moment longer must you allow yourself to be distracted by the murderous foolishness of the climate alarmists. If the United States does not stand firm against cruel, pseudo-scientific nonsense of the sort that is already killing millions through purposeless starvation, then who will stand firm? Not Britain, alas, nor Europe, for we are closed countries now, administered by closed minds.
Only your "athletic democracy" can save us now - save us from the follies of policy that will merely inconvenience the prosperous but is already killing the poor. Therefore, Sir, I end this letter with the words of your poet Longfellow, addressed by Winston Churchill to your great wartime President in that darkest hour before the new dawn of freedom:
The threat that your policies pose to international free trade
You have said: "If the efforts to negotiate an international solution that includes China and India do not succeed, we still have an obligation to act. In my approach to global climate-control efforts, we will apply the principle of equal treatment. We will apply the same environmental standards to industries in China, India, and elsewhere that we apply to our own industries. And if industrializing countries seek an economic advantage by evading those standards, I would work with the European Union and other like-minded governments that plan to address the global warming problem to develop a cost equalization mechanism to apply to those countries that decline to enact a similar cap. ... Pressing on blindly with uncontrolled carbon emissions is in no one's interest, especially China's."
Those who oppose the freedom that capitalism brings with it have always and everywhere been opposed to free trade. Once again, it is baffling that a Republican presidential candidate should threaten to gang up with the European dictatorship (which has always been implacably opposed to free trade, and has repeatedly done its best to wreck the settlement rounds of the World Trade Organization) to try to bully China, India, and other heavy emitters of harmless carbon dioxide into emitting less. Your "cost equalization mechanism" is protectionism under a fancy name. It would have catastrophic economic consequences worldwide: but the greatest harm it would cause would be to America herself.
Consider what would happen if your "cost equalization mechanism" were imposed on China. Then the workers in your own country whom you had flung out of work under the pretext of "Saving The Planet" would not even have the compensating advantage of being able to buy cheaply from China the goods that they had themselves made until you had stopped them. All goods, worldwide, would become more expensive. Free trade, which has allowed not only the free West but also the emerging tigers of Asia to grow and prosper, would be stifled. That would not only harm the United States: it would also harm those nations against which it was directed.
In any event, the United States no longer has it in her power to interfere with international free trade in the dismal, unconstructive manner you have proposed: for it is the World Trade Organization, not the Federal Government, that now protects world trade against protectionism.
You may answer that a sovereign nation always retains the right - or, if not the right, at least the power - to unmake a treaty that is no longer congenial. Not so. If you tamper with the delicate flower of free trade that the World Trade Organization has so patiently established in recent decades by resiling unilaterally from it and reintroducing protectionism, even for purposes that you imagine (however wrongly) to be beneficial, you will inflict incalculable poverty and misery not only upon your own working people but upon the less fortunate peoples of other nations. No policy could be more irresponsible than this. I urge you and your advisors to reconsider, before it is too late.
The immorality and the cruel consequences of your proposals
The UN's climate panel, in its various quinquennial reports, has in the past advocated the substitution of one gallon in ten of gasoline by "biofuels". Unthinking politicians worldwide, panicked by the nonsensical calculations by the UN's climate panel (calculations that egregiously exaggerate the actually very limited effect of carbon dioxide on climate), rushed to support the "biofuels" program, under which agricultural land that had previously been used for growing food was instead used for growing fuel for automobiles.
The entirely predictable result was a doubling of the world price of all major, staple foods. Previously, food production and consumption had been reasonably in balance, except in those countries where dictatorship rather than democracy was the rule. In Africa, for instance, post-colonial dictators such as Mugabe and his carbon-copy "politburo" in Zimbabwe keep their people starving; and in Europe, the dismal dictatorship keeps millions of acres of productive land lying fallow, notwithstanding the will of its unconsidered peoples (who have no say and no vote in this or any other matter within what is laughably described as the "competence" of the European Union).
Now, in all parts of the world, real and serious harm is being caused by the sudden rise in world food prices that is the direct and obvious consequence of the international dash for "biofuels". It matters not that learned paper after learned paper demonstrates with devastating clarity the fact that the production and use of "biofuels" emit more carbon dioxide than the production and use of the gasoline they so inefficiently replace.
In Haiti, the doubling of food prices that resulted directly from the "biofuels" fiasco has forced the poorest of the poor to live on mud pies. Here is the recipe. Mix 6 oz. of soil with enough water to make a paste. Add a pinch of salt and a tiny knob of butter. Stir vigorously. Bake in the sun until dry and hard. Serve, or sell to neighbours for 3 US cents.
Sir, policies - however well-intentioned - have consequences. No one doubts that your intentions in proposing what you have proposed are honorable. But the road to starvation is paved with good intentions. There have been food riots in poor countries throughout the world, as the first victims of the "climate change" policies that you have so uncritically endorsed can no longer afford to feed themselves or their children.
No surprise, then, that even the UN has begun to reconsider its position. At first, it favored the conversion of food into "biofuels". Then, last year, one of its senior spokesmen called for a five-year moratorium on the conversion of food to biofuels. Now, the UN's rapporteur on food for the poor has said that when so many are starving it is "a crime against humanity" to burn their food in our automobiles. The consequence of the policy to which you have given your enthusiastic support is mass starvation. And that, Sir, is morally unacceptable.
Earlier in this letter I undertook to illustrate the track record of the Environmental Defense Fund, which invented the "cap-and-trade" policy that you advocate with such insouciant enthusiasm. It was the EDF that brought the legal case that led to the ban on the use of DDT first in the US and then throughout the world.
The UN's climate panel makes no mention of the three letters "D", "D", and "T" in its mendacious ramblings about the alleged (but in reality non-existent) link between warmer weather and the prevalence of malaria. Therefore I should explain that DDT is the only effective agent against the mosquitoes that carry malaria; that its inventor won the Nobel Prize for Medicine because the use of DDT had reduced malaria deaths to 50,000 per year worldwide; that DDT is entirely harmless to humans, who can eat it by the tablespoonful and not come to any harm; and that, if sprayed in the interior of dwellings, it will not cause any harm to wildlife, except to mosquitoes.
Yet DDT was banned. The effect of the ban was murderous. Annual malaria deaths swiftly rose from 50,000 to 1 million. In a third of a century, the excess deaths caused by the ban on DDT amount - according to the scientific literature - to between 30 and 50 million. Therefore, Sir, if you or your advisors are ever tempted to say that we should introduce such drastic measures as "biofuel" development or "cap-and-trade" or shutting down three-fifths of the US economy, as a precaution just in case the UN's climate panel and other politicized extremists are right, I pray that you will think again. The "precautionary principle" is not a principle: nor do its advocates pray it in aid for any other reason than to provide a specious credibility for policies that would otherwise be self-evidently purposeless and cruel.
The very body that invented the "cap-and-trade" scam that you now propose to sanctify as a policy of the Republican party in government would have the deaths of 50 million children - for it is children who are nearly always the victims of malaria - on its conscience. If, that is, it had a conscience. And, lest its apologists and spin-doctors dare to challenge my presentation here of its murderous role in the DDT ban, I shall tell you a story.
During the final stages of the case that led to the ban on DDT, the Board of the Environmental Defense Fund met with its lawyer. He said to the Chairman: "Sir, I beg you not to press for a total ban on DDT. If you succeed in getting it banned altogether, tens of millions of children will die of malaria. My advice is that, for pressing scientific reasons, you should allow it to be used indoors, so that children will not be bitten at home."
The lawyer carefully put before the Board the scientific evidence he had accumulated, and just as carefully - for he was scientifically literate and competent - he spelled out exactly why and how a total ban on DDT would kill tens of millions, and undo a malaria eradication program that had almost succeeded in wiping this curse from the Earth.
And what was the reaction of the Board of the Environmental Defense Fund - your allies in introducing yet another mad scheme based on a policy that is already killing people of starvation in the world's poorest countries? They dismissed their Counsel on the spot. As he left the room, he heard the Chairman say to the Board, "That's the last time we ever again employ a lawyer who knows anything about science."
There is, however, some glimmer of what may eventually be a happy ending. On September 15, 2006, the World Health Organization - under intense humanitarian pressure from me and many others - at long last reversed the ban on the production and use of DDT. Not only that, but the WHO now once again recommends DDT as the first line of defense against the mosquito.
Dr. Arata Kochi of the WHO, announcing the end of the DDT ban, said that in this field politics usually prevails, but that it was now time to pay heed to the science and the data.
The Environmental Defense Fund, as one of its lines of argument when obtaining the ban on DDT, had said that, even if there was no scientific case against a ban, a ban should be imposed anyway, as a precaution. That "precaution" killed 30-50 million children.
His testimony - and other founders of Greenpeace have agreed with him - ought to alert you to the reality that the environmental movement in general, and the "global warming" alarmists in particular, may have an agenda that is political rather than environmental - an agenda that is a serious, strategic threat to the peace, security, prosperity, and liberty of the West, and an immediate and pressing threat to the very survival of the poorest peoples of the world.
At the very least, there is an obvious coincidence of interest between those who persistently exaggerate the supposed adverse consequences of "global warming", as you have done in your speech, and those who have long planned and intended to dismantle and destroy the economies and liberties of the free and prosperous West from within. In our schools, the slick, relentless propaganda of the alarmists - based not on fact but on fear - infects the minds of innocent children. Gripping children in a self-serving, manipulative state of fear robs them of their childhood.
In our newspapers and on our television channels, the same half-baked but ingenious propaganda is shamelessly peddled, with little or no attempt either at balance or at genuine identification and presentation of the scientific truth. Among our classe politique, "global warming" is seen not as a crusade to "Save The Planet", but rather as a priceless opportunity to extend the empires of the new and growing aristocracy of overpaid, over-privileged bureaucrats and the politicians who cravenly serve them, and to increase the taxes and imposts inflicted on the people, and to intrude into every aspect of our lives, from the light-bulbs we use to the automobiles we drive.
It is to this admittedly powerful coincidence of interests between the international Left and the powerful educational, media, and political lobby groups that your speech has imprudently pandered. You, of all people, who have served your country and the cause of freedom so gallantly, and who have been tortured and imprisoned to keep us free, ought to be alive to the threat to our liberty that the perversion of environmentalism that is the "global warming" scare ineluctably entails.
As Francis Bacon wrote in one of his Essays, "Walled towns, stored arsenals and the like be to no avail except the spirit of the people be stout and warlike." If the spirit even of a courageous warrior such as you is no longer stout or warlike, what is the point in maintaining armed forces to defend our freedoms and our interests throughout the globe? What is the point of keeping troops in Iraq or Afghanistan, bases in Guam or Diego Garcia, intelligence operations in Cyprus or Beirut?
In giving naïve and uncritical credence to the pseudo-scientific gibberish that is "global warming", you have adopted a policy long beloved of our own Foreign Office - that of the pre-emptive cringe. You have declared to the enemies of liberty and of capital that they have won; and that the opening words of your Declaration of Independence about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" are henceforth irrelevant, meaningless, and one with the Treaty of Westphalia, which Pope Innocent X described as "null, void, invalid, damnable, reprobate, inane, and empty of meaning for all time."
The heavy cost of the economic destruction you propose
You have said: "We will cap emissions according to specific goals, measuring progress by reference to past carbon emissions. By the year 2012, we will seek a return to 2005 levels of emission ... by 2020, a return to 1990 levels ... and so on until we have achieved at least a reduction of sixty percent below 1990 levels by the year 2050. ... In pursuit of these objectives, we cannot afford to take economic growth and job creation for granted ... We want to turn the American economy toward cleaner and safer energy sources. And you can't achieve that by imposing costs that the American economy cannot sustain."
Let us translate what you have said into plain English. You have said that within 42 years - the working lifetime of a high-school graduate today - the policies which you propose to introduce will have shut down, deliberately, consciously, and to no environmental benefit whatsoever, more than three-fifths of the entire United States economy. You propose to throw your nation back in the direction of the Stone Age - electricity one day a week if that, automobiles replaced by horses and carts, elevators replaced by stairs, all aircraft grounded, the conquest of space abandoned, factories silent, at least one hundred million jobs destroyed and transferred to China, the machine-press and combine-harvester replaced by the hammer and sickle.
You have naively assumed that, somehow, new technologies will emerge to replace fossil fuels and nuclear power (for, like oil and gas, uranium will also be largely exhausted and at best prohibitively expensive by the year 2050). Let us briefly examine the credibility of this assumption. At present, fossil fuels and nuclear power, between them, provide more than 98% of the energy we use. So-called "renewable energy" accounts for less than 2%. Even the UN's climate panel no longer believes that you can close down 98% of your nation's power supplies and retain anything more active than a Stone Age economy.
Already, some 60 coal-fired power-plants have been refused zoning consent for construction in the United States. You have been culpably silent in the face of this attack on the economic lifeblood of your nation, and on the jobs and prospects of the working people who extract the coal and convert it into the electric power your nation needs. I say "culpably", because proven reserves of coal will last for at least 300 years, whereas all other major sources of electric power, fossil or nuclear, will be either exhausted or prohibitively expensive within 50 years.
The pretext for this potentially-fatal, self-inflicted wound on your nation's economy is that the burning of fossil fuels will enrich the atmospheric concentration of "greenhouse gases", causing a dangerous warming of the planet which must be prevented at all costs. If you have done me the kindness of reading the first part of this letter, you will have been given good reason - with dozens of references to learned papers in the peer-reviewed, scientific journals - to disbelieve any such apocalyptic nonsense.
At the very least, I implore you and your advisors to look very much more closely at the supposed science behind the notion that the planet would be at risk if the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were once again to reach a concentration one-tenth of that which occurred - without disaster - in the Cambrian Era. One only has to mention that single fact to draw the attention of any reasonably impartial mind to the probability that the supposed threat posed to our planet by "global warming" must have been exaggerated beyond all reason.
The carbon footprint of the economic interferences you propose
You have said: "Over time, an increasing fraction of permits for emissions could be supplied by auction, yielding federal revenues that can be put to good use. Under my plan, we will apply these and other federal funds to help build the infrastructure of a post-carbon economy. We will support projects to advance technologies that capture and store carbon emissions. We will assist in transmitting wind- and solar-generated power from states that have them to states that need them. We will add to current federal efforts to develop promising technologies, such as plug-ins, hybrids, flex-fuel vehicles, and hydrogen-powered cars and trucks. We will also establish clear standards in government-funded research, to make sure that funding is effective and focused on the right goals."
It is understandable that you should have made a conscious decision, in framing your policies for the Presidency, to adopt a "One-Nation" approach, reaching out to those in the Democrat party whose central belief is in government of the people, by the bureaucracy, and for the bureaucracy - in short, in the tyrannical, anti-democratic system of command-economy administration that we in Europe would call Communism, or Fascism, or International Socialism: there is little to choose between them except in the numbers of people they kill.
With respect, however, your proposal vastly to increase the powers and intrusions and costs of the federal administration at the expense of the rights and freedoms and prosperity of the individual citizen goes very much too far. Every attempt made by any government to dictate the future shape or size or direction of its national economy by the fiat of its ruling elite has ended in failure. Your proposal to command the reshaping of the economy from the center has no merit, not merely because there is no scientific or economic need for it, but because, even if there were, it cannot and will not work.
Remember Friedman's multiple. The State consumes twice as much resources as the private sector in performing any given function. Therefore, if you truly believe that the planet is menaced by an insignificant and harmless increase in the atmospheric concentration of a trace gas that is essential to life, then your first duty as President will be to do the reverse of what you propose: in short, to shut down all unnecessary functions of the federal administration altogether, and to transfer as many as possible of the remainder to the private sector, which has already done a better job of disincentivizing the consumption of fossil fuels in just two years than your proposed "cap-and-trade" system is expected to do in almost a third of a century.
We can no longer afford the luxury of over-extended, over-ambitious, centralized government. The framers of your Constitution intended that power and wealth should be and remain in the hands of the people. Your proposal to concentrate vast additional powers in the hands of government is not merely doomed to ignominious failure; it is not merely guaranteed to increase your nation's "carbon footprint" under the guise of taking steps to reduce it; it is an explicit and abject abandonment of the liberty for which the Republican party stands. If you continue to advocate a policy so purposeless and so self-defeating, you will lose the Presidential race, and lose it spectacularly: and you will deserve to lose.
Your pointless devotion to the pointless Kyoto protocol
You have said: "I will not permit eight long years to pass without serious action on serious challenges. I will not accept the same dead-end of failed diplomacy that claimed Kyoto."
Let me, once again, put the facts before you. During the "eight long years" of the Presidency of the current leader of your party, the United States has succeeded in reducing its "carbon emissions", while the European Union has not; and, during those "eight long years", there has been no increase whatsoever in global mean surface temperature; during seven of those "eight long years", worldwide temperature has actually fallen; and, during those "eight long years", more and more peer-reviewed scientific papers have queried every major tenet of the "consensus" that you believe in.
Under the previous administration - that of Clinton and Gore - the Senate voted unanimously, 95-0, to reject the Kyoto Protocol and any other treaty that imposed upon the United States obligations to reduce its "carbon emissions" that were not also imposed upon China, India, and other substantial emitters worldwide. Faced with this clear and entirely sensible expression of united will on the part of all parties in the Senate, combined with the rickety and uncertain scientific case for global panic, why should George Bush have diverted federal energies and funds towards the chimera of "climate change" with any sense of urgency, or in any greater amounts than those which his administration has already so generously spent? Besides, the United States appears to have acted with a greater sense of urgency than most countries that signed Kyoto - for, unlike most of them, it has reduced its "carbon emissions".
The Kyoto Protocol would have failed whether or not the United States had agreed to participate. Why? First and foremost, because nearly every nation that is obliged by that Protocol to reduce its "carbon emissions" to the levels that obtained in 1990 by 2010 will fail to meet its target unless (as some countries have done) it artificially increases the amount of emissions that it made in 1990. As the European Union's dictators lecture the world about the need to control their emissions, its own emissions relentlessly rise year by year, even as those of the United States fall.
Secondly, the Kyoto Protocol was designed to allow its signatories to evade their responsibilities under it. There is no mechanism in the Protocol for enforcing emission control on defalcating signatories: even if the were, there is (thank Goodness) no international army or police force strong enough to carry out the task of enforcement.
And the Protocol was designed to allow, and even to encourage, fraud. Not only have signatories fiddled their 1990 emissions to allow themselves the right to emit more in 2010 than they did in 1990; many of them have set up "cap-and-trade" schemes, such as that which you have proposed, and have then fiddled the operation of the schemes. The European dictatorship, for instance, allowed each of its satrapies to trade quantities of emissions that exceeded their current total emissions by a comfortable margin. That is why the European "cap-and-trade" scheme collapsed.
Kyoto expires in 2010. So far, there is no agreed international mechanism to replace it. Nor is there any need for one - whether urgent or otherwise. The "climate problem" is in truth a non-problem: and the correct policy for addressing a non-problem is to have the courage to do nothing.
Global intervention: your proposed remedy for "market failure"
You have said: "For all the good work of entrepreneurs and inventors in finding cleaner and better technologies, the fundamental incentives of the market are still on the side of carbon-based energy. This has to change before we can make the decisive shift away from fossil fuels. ... As a nation, we make our own environmental plans and our own resolutions. But working with other nations to arrest climate change can be an even tougher proposition. China, India, and other developing economic powers in particular are among the greatest contributors to global warming today - increasing carbon emissions at a furious pace - and they are not receptive to international standards ... The United States and our friends in Europe cannot alone deal with the threat of global warming. No nation should be exempted from its obligations. And least of all should we make exceptions for the very countries that are accelerating carbon emissions while the rest of us seek to reduce emissions. If we are going to establish meaningful environmental protocols, then they must include the two nations that have the potential to pollute the air faster, and in greater annual volume, than any nation ever in history. "
By now I hope I have established in your mind the possibility, at the very least, that there is no need whatsoever for any controls on the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that has previously and harmlessly contained 20 times today's concentration. And I trust that you will at least pass this letter to your advisors and invite them to contact me to verify the truth of the facts which I have spelt out here. You owe your nation and its citizens at least that much consideration before you shut down three-fifths of its economy and transfer three jobs in five to China, increasing the world's "carbon footprint" as you do so.
When Sir Nicholas Stern launched his now-discredited report on the economics of climate change, he made it plain from the outset that his analysis was political, and from a Leftist perspective, by announcing that State intervention on a massive scale was necessary to overcome what he described as "market failure". His then Prime Minister, Tony Blair (a Socialist), also used the phrase "market failure" at the Press Conference at which the Stern report was launched.
What you are suggesting in the above-quoted passage from your speech is dangerously close to the Leftist rhetoric of Stern and Blair. You are saying, in effect, that the free market on its own is incapable of acting fast enough to prevent worldwide damage caused by anthropogenic "global warming", and that there should be a globalization of etatiste interventionism to counter "market failure".
The facts are that the free market can scarcely be blamed for having failed to address an imagined "problem" that has not long been widely talked of; that, now that the free market has been made aware of the imagined "problem", it will be able to deal with the "problem" (to the extent that the "problem" is real) far more quickly and effectively than the State; and that, given the late Milton Friedman's Nobel-prizewinning observation that the State consumes twice as much of the world's resources to achieve a given objective as the free market, it is the State, not the market, that has failed, and it is the State, not the market, that must be cut down to size, regulated, and controlled.
A recent report by an association of manufacturers in the United States, designed to demonstrate how heavy the cost of "carbon trading" would be, said that the consequence of the introduction by the Federal Government of a "cap-and-trade" scheme would be the doubling of electricity prices by 2030. However, the free market has already achieved this doubling in just a couple of years.
This illustrates a central point that your advisors seem to have missed: namely, that even if the fancifully-exaggerated estimates of climate sensitivity generated by the UN's climate panel were correct (and they are not), the world will have largely run out of the fossil fuels that are the alleged cause of the alleged "problem" long before any significant environmental damage can occur. And long before the fossil fuels become exhausted, their price will rise (thanks to the free-market law of supply and demand), so that the market will ration them by price long before any State-imposed system of rationing, whether by "cap-and-trade" or otherwise, could possibly have gained sufficient public acceptance to make any difference.
Therefore the "decisive shift away from fossil fuels" that you say is necessary will occur - and rapidly - quite irrespective of any action by the State. The economic competitors of the Western nations know this perfectly well. Russia, India, and above all China have made it abundantly plain that they do not propose to reduce their "carbon emissions".
China, ingeniously, has said that it will happily reduce its "carbon emissions" to the same level per capita as the West. This would, of course, entail a considerable increase in China's emissions, and she is already the world's largest gross emitter. So, even if the West were to close down all of its industries and transport systems and factories and hospitals and schools and power stations, and even if we were to revert to the Stone Age but without the ability even to light carbon-emitting fires, the growth in China's and India's emissions would entirely replace all of our emissions within little more than a decade.
All that we should achieve, if we inflicted upon ourselves a severe enough system of rationing actually to reduce our emissions by the three-fifths you have suggested, would be to transfer our industries, our workers' jobs, our emissions, and our well-controlled environmental pollution to China, which is opening one or two new coal-fired power stations every week, and whose record of pollution is currently the worst on the planet. What conceivable economic benefit could such a policy have, even if China's dictators were prepared to go along with it (which they are not)?
Some defects of your proposed "cap-and-trade" policy
You have said: "For the market to do more, government must do more ... The most direct way to achieve this is through a system that sets clear limits on all greenhouse gases, while also allowing the sale of rights to excess emissions. And this is the proposal I will submit to the Congress if I am elected president - a cap-and-trade system to change the dynamic of our energy economy ... As part of my cap-and-trade incentives, I will also propose to include the purchase of offsets from those outside the scope of the trading system ... The cap-and-trade system will create jobs, improve livelihoods, and strengthen futures across our country. ... We need to set a better example in Washington, by consistently applying the best environmental standards to every purchase our government makes."
Sir, never did I think to see a Republican uttering the words, "For the market to do more, government must do more." It is, of course, the other way about. For the market to do more, government must do less. Remember the Friedman multiple: government consumes twice as much - and hence emits twice as much carbon - to do any given thing than the private sector.
Your proposal to introduce "cap-and-trade" would require a vast, complex, costly, bureaucratic nightmare of controls, regulations, intrusions, and interferences that would swiftly and forever destroy the economic vigor and prominence of the United States. And, in doing so, it would actually increase the "carbon footprint" of the nation, by transferring into the inefficient public sector a range of activities that - to the extent that they were necessary or desirable at all - would be far more efficiently and cheaply and hence non-emittingly done than the same activities done by the public sector.
The facts are that "cap-and-trade" is a concept invented by the Environmental Defense Fund - no friends of the Republican party. We shall see, when I reach the final section of this letter, the catastrophic worldwide effect of a previous intervention in politics by this organization. Given the unsatisfactory track record of this organization, which has long been bitterly and implacably inimical to the Western freedoms for which the Republican party stands, it is no less than breathtaking that you could so insouciantly advocate the introduction of a system of arbitrary, State-controlled rationing at that organization's instigation.
What is "cap-and-trade"? Let us spell it out. First and foremost, it is a complex regime of State-inflicted rationing, by which government officials interfere in the free market by arbitrarily deciding which industries shall or shall not be permitted to emit, and how much each of them shall have the right to emit. The economic distortions caused by this system would be monstrous. Favored industries, with generous permissions to emit, would gain sudden and immense economic advantages at the expense of unfashionable industries, with strictly-curtailed permissions to emit. The industries not favored by the State would either go under or go off-shore. They would leave behind an increasingly unemployed and disenchanted workforce, which would never forgive the Republican party for so deliberate, so baseless and so insensate a destruction of their livelihoods.
For you cannot escape the central flaw of the Environmental Defense Fund's "cap-and-trade" system. If carbon trading is to work, it will not be cheap; and, if it is cheap, it will not work. And when I say it will not be cheap, I am not talking purely in financial terms but in human terms. If you introduce cap-and-trade, you will destroy millions, and probably tens of millions, of jobs throughout the United States and in all sectors of the economy.
And those jobs - the livelihoods of working people and their families throughout the Republic - will have been sacrificed for no environmental benefit whatsoever: for whatever we cease to make, China will make in our place; whatever we cease to emit, China will emit in our place, and will emit in greater quantities because her systems of power generation are far less efficient than our own.
You will not only destroy the livelihoods of tens of millions: you will also increase the planet's total emissions of carbon dioxide. I am not worried by the extra emissions, for they will be harmless; but, if you actually believe (per impossibile) what you have said in your speech about the imagined dangers of increased emissions of carbon dioxide, then you had better abandon "cap-and-trade" at once: for the policy you propose would be calculated to increase the world's carbon footprint, not to reduce it.
The chimera of "market rewards for alternative energy"
You have said: "As never before, the market would reward any person or company that seeks to invent, improve, or acquire alternatives to carbon-based energy."
The facts are that the greatest market incentive is price. While fossil fuels were plentiful, cheap and not in heavy worldwide demand, there was no market incentive to develop new technologies. Now, the price of oil has increased by 1000% in five years, thanks to the free-market law of supply and demand. Therefore, the market has already multiplied by ten the rewards for developing and deploying alternatives to oil.
Since there is no longer any spare capacity in the system of oil production, and since most oilfields are in nations with unstable regimes at least as inimical to the West as your friends in the Environmental Defense Fund, and since China, India, Indonesia, Russia, and Brazil are growing rapidly and using more and more oil, the market will continue to increase the price of oil and, therefore, the incentive to find and fund alternative technologies. On any view, that is market success, not "market failure".
What, then, would happen if you were to introduce a State-inflicted rationing system on an economy already reeling under the oil-price shock? Even if there were a scientific case for cutting carbon emissions (which there is not), there is now not the slightest economic case for doubling the damage already caused by the increase in oil prices by imposing "cap-and-trade" on top.
If you were to impose "cap-and-trade" on top of steep and inexorably-continuing increases in the price of oil, you would merely drive the economy from recession to destruction. In short, the market has already done your job for you. Gasoline prices are higher than they could ever have been under a "cap-and-trade" regime; so are electricity prices. You can safely leave the market to bring about reductions in carbon emissions. No State intervention is either necessary or desirable.
Capital in the service of freedom: Smith's "invisible hand"
You have said: "It is very hard to picture venture capitalists, corporate planners, small businesses and environmentalists all working to the same good purpose. But such cooperation is actually possible in the case of climate change, and this reform will set it in motion."
Sir, please re-read Adam Smith's Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. It was Smith - the world's first economist, and one of its best - who first drew attention to the fact that entrepreneurs are guided as if by "an invisible hand" to provide what their customers want and need. Capitalism is built upon this foundation. It is precisely because entrepreneurs only prosper by giving people what they want that capital and liberty go everywhere hand in hand.
Directly contrary to what you say, it is not in the least hard to picture venture capitalists, corporate planners, and small businesses working together to the same good purpose. However, environmentalists are not always working to a good purpose. They are a narrow, special-interest group just like any other. It would be foolish to ignore the fact that, after the Berlin Wall fell, many on the Left found a new home in the environmental movement, seeing it as the new hope for the destruction of the Western, capitalist hegemony that they so detest.
One of the founders of Greenpeace - a man with a genuine concern for the environment but otherwise with no political opinions - has told me that he was compelled to leave the movement after a year, when the international Socialist Left took it over and used its true objectives as a mere front for what is in all material respects indistinguishable from Communism.
You have said: "We have seen sustained drought in the Southwest ... In the years ahead, we are likely to see reduced water supplies ..."
The facts about "sustained drought" are these. The atmosphere has been warming for 300 years, as the activity of the Sun has increased from the Maunder Minimum that ended in 1700 towards the Grand Maximum of the past 70 years, during which solar activity was greater than at almost any previous similar period in the past 11,400 years (Solanki et al., 2004; and see Usoskin et al., 2003, and Hathaway, 2004). One of the few proven results in climatological physics is the Clausius-Clapeyron relation, which establishes that, as the space occupied by the atmosphere warms, so its carrying capacity for water vapor increases near-exponentially. The UN's climate panel calls this phenomenon the "water-vapor feedback".
Over a sufficient timescale of decades, then, a warmer climate will entail not a drier atmosphere but a moister one. Sure enough, some of the world's driest regions - such as the southern Sahara - have experienced more, not less, precipitation over the period of the satellite record. The Sahara - contrary to the alarmist claims of a certain Democrat politician - has actually shrunk in area by 300,000 square kilometers over the past 30 years, allowing nomadic tribes to return to regions that they had not occupied within living memory (Nicholson, 1998, 2001).
As to your suggestion that "we are likely to see reduced water supplies", you have yet again blamed "global warming" for a problem that has nothing to do with warmer weather. As the human population expands, its demands on water supplies increase, leading to shortages. That, and not "global warming", is why many parts of the world do not have regular supplies of drinking water.
You may have read John Steinbeck's novel, The Grapes of Wrath. It is set in the Great Plains of the 1930s, and its theme is the prolonged and devastating droughts that occurred in the first half of the 20th century but have been absent in the generally warmer and moister climate since.
Once again, therefore, you have argued from the particular to the general when there was no logical or scientific basis for having done so.
The facts about "extreme weather events"
You have said: "We have seen a higher incidence of extreme weather events ... We are likely to see ... a greater intensity in storms. Each one of these consequences of climate change will require policies to protect our citizens, especially those most vulnerable to violent weather."
Here are the facts about "extreme weather events". The UN's climate panel has said, and said repeatedly, that it is not scientifically possible to attribute any extreme-weather event to anthropogenic "global warming". The most extreme of all extreme-weather events is the hurricane, tropical cyclone, or typhoon. However, there has been no trend in the frequency of hurricanes that make landfall on the eastern seaboard of the United States for a century, even though global mean surface temperatures rose by more than 1 °F during that century. Furthermore, in the past 30 years the frequency of severe tropical cyclones and of severe typhoons has exhibited a pronounced downtrend.
It has long been settled science that a warmer climate would reduce the frequency and intensity of severe storms outside the tropics. Until recently, a minority of dissenting scientists had held that "global warming" might intensify not the frequency but the intensity of hurricanes, tropical cyclones, and typhoons in the region of the Equator. However, it is now known that warmer weather reduces the temperature differential between the Equator and the Poles; and that wind-shear tends to dampen the intensity of the worst hurricanes.
Two prominent dissenters - notably Emanual (2008) - have resiled in recent weeks from their previously-published opinions to the effect that the intensity of hurricanes might be expected to increase with warmer worldwide weather. There is, therefore, no longer any credible, scientific basis for your implicit conclusion that "a higher incidence of extreme-weather events" has occurred because of anthropogenic "global warming", for three reasons: first, there has been no increase in extreme-weather events in the observed record; secondly, it is not possible to attribute any individual extreme-weather event to anthropogenic "global warming"; and thirdly, for the past ten years there has been no "global warming", so that, even if there had been "a higher incidence of extreme-weather events", which there has not, "global warming" (whether natural or anthropogenic) cannot possibly have been the cause.
The facts about "sudden changes" in animal habits and habitats
You have said: "In the frozen wilds of Alaska, the Arctic, Antarctic, and elsewhere, wildlife biologists have noted sudden changes in animal migration patterns, a loss of their habitat..."
The facts about "sudden changes" in animal habits and habitats are not as you have implied. First, since the climate has always changed naturally (it is, after all, a chaotic object in mathematical terms), animals are constantly having to change their migration patterns, or to move to new habitats as old ones disappear. To take one obvious example, sea level has risen 400 feet in just 10,000 years. This rise in sea level occurred naturally. Vast lands that were formerly inhabited by a great variety of land mammals are now underwater, and are inhabited by fish. The North Sea is a good example. It was not there 10,000 years ago, and Britain was joined to Europe.
Secondly, since the fact of the warming that ceased in 1998 tells us nothing of its cause, even where it is possible to attribute significant changes or losses of habitat to warmer weather, and even where such changes or losses are harmful, your implication that the "global warming" that caused these undesirable changes is anthropogenic has no scientific basis.
Thirdly, "global warming" - whether natural or anthropogenic - is by no means the most pressing threat to wildlife. The direct intrusion of humanity into the landscape and seascape is the real danger. Scientifically-unwarrantable tendencies to ascribe every adverse event in the biosphere to "global warming" is actually dangerous to the world's most vulnerable creatures, because it diverts attention and vital resources from the true causes of environmental threats towards the non-problem of anthropogenic "global warming".
Let me take one example - the polar bear, poster-child of the alarmist faction. Acres of print and hours of electronic media coverage have been devoted to the imagined disappearance of the polar bear's habitat - the Arctic ice-cap. A question that ought to have occurred to your advisors is this: How long has the polar bear stalked the Arctic, and has the Arctic ice-cap been there throughout that period? The answer is that polar bears evolved from the land-based brown bear some 200,000 years ago. But 125,000 years ago there was an interglacial period, during which global temperatures - so the ice-core analyses tell us - were about 6 °F warmer than they are today. We may legitimately infer that there was no ice-cap during that interglacial period: yet the polar bears survived. How? Because they are warm-blooded animals and are perfectly capable of surviving on land - such as Greenland, or Siberia, or northern Canada, or Alaska - if there is no Arctic ice-cap.
Therefore, even if it were possible to attribute the disappearance of the Arctic ice-cap to anthropogenic rather than to natural "global warming", it is not scientifically credible to say that the disappearance would in any way threaten the existence of the polar bears. They survived the far higher temperatures of the previous interglacial period: there is no reason to suppose they would not be able to survive this one.
The facts about "polar bears" responding to "new dangers"
You have said: "You would think that if the polar bears, walruses, and sea birds have the good sense to respond to new conditions and new dangers, then humanity can respond as well."
The facts are that polar bears are not intelligent beings. Accordingly, they act not by a conscious effort of will but by instinct. They cannot display "good sense". By natural selection, as they evolved from the brown bear, their coats became white, they became larger and more resistant to cold, and they migrated northward on to the Arctic ice-cap during their hunting season.
The chief danger to polar bears has nothing whatever to do with "global warming" - indeed, a recent survey (Norris, 2001) for the World Wide Fund for Nature shows that in those parts of the Arctic that have warmed the population of polar bears has increased; in those parts that have neither warmed nor cooled the population is stable; and in those parts that have cooled the population has fallen. Polar bears, like us, are warm-blooded animals, and, like us, they prefer warmer weather. The recent bitterly cold winter in the Arctic drove many starving bears to approach human habitations in the hope of finding food.
The real danger to polar bears is hunting. The chief reason for the increase in their population since the Second World War is that both the hunting of polar bears and the culling of the seals on which they feed have been subjected to legislative control. The protection of polar bears and their food supply has worked, is working, and will continue to work. Once again, you have addressed a non-problem by suggesting that the polar bears are at risk (which they are not) because of anthropogenic "global warming", which will be entirely harmless to them, even if the Arctic ice-cap entirely melts away, as it did 125,000 years ago and may well have done during the two-thirds of the past 10,000 years when global temperatures were warmer than they are today.
But the key question is this: Does the polar bear exhibit the key characteristic of a species at risk? Your advisors might have asked that question. And what is the key characteristic of a species at risk? It is, of course, declining population. However, the population of polar bears is not plummeting. Instead, there are five times as many polar bears in the Arctic today than there were in the 1940s. As you may think, that is hardly the profile of a species facing imminent extinction as its habitat shrinks away. Polar bears do not breed on the Arctic ice-cap, but in land-based dens. Though their current staple diet is seal-blubber, their land-based origins are still evident in the fact that their favorite delicacy is blueberries, which do not grow on the Arctic ice-cap, but only on land. Even if the ice-cap vanished, as it has done before, the polar bears would not vanish. There is no scientific basis for your attribution of a non-existent threat of extinction of polar bears to the non-problem of anthropogenic "global warming".
The facts about "more forest fires"
You have said: "We are likely to see more forest fires than in previous decades ..."
The facts about forest fires are that, yet again, you have attributed to "global warming" a problem that manifestly has another and more obvious cause. We have already established (or, rather, the great physicist Clausius established long ago) that warmer weather means a more humid atmosphere, so that "global warming" is not very likely to cause "more forest fires". The obvious principal cause of forest fires is human activities - such as arson, which has accounted for a significant proportion of all forest fires in the United States in recent years, or accidental discarding of cigarette-butts, or arcing power-lines. It would be cheaper, and hundreds of times more effective, to police the forests more efficiently, to educate the population not to light fires near standing timber during dry weather, and to create fire-breaks even in natural forests so that if fires do start they are easier to control.
The facts about "changes in crop production"
You have said: "We are likely to see changes in crop production ..."
The facts about crop production are that it is susceptible to changes in the climate, but only if the changes are very substantial. You have only to look at the wide latitudinal distribution of the world's staple crops to appreciate that - even if "global warming" were continuing, which it is not, and even if humans were the cause, which to a great extent we are not - even substantial rises in temperature are not likely to have an adverse effect on crop yields. Indeed, the UN's climate panel says that increases of up to 4 °F would be likely actually to increase crop yields. The astronomer Herschel, in 1801, noticed when reading a table of grain prices in Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations that the price of grain was inversely correlated with the number of sunspots visible on the surface of the Sun. The warmer the weather, the higher the grain yield, and - in accordance with the law of supply and demand - the lower the price. So there is no scientific basis for your implication that "changes in crop production" will be negative, or that any negative changes will be caused by anthropogenic "global warming".
The facts about "heat waves afflicting our cities"
You have said: "We are likely to see more heat waves afflicting our cities ..."
The facts about "heat waves" are that they can and do occur naturally, and that their frequency is likely to diminish during periods of global cooling, such as the last seven years. Studies of deaths caused by heat waves in Texas and Mexico, which have identical (and hot) climates, show that heat-induced deaths are a function not so much of temperature as of the economic capacity and administrative and medical skill that are available. A heatwave in Mexico can kill thousands: the same heatwave in Texas will kill no one. The United States has the necessary economic strength (which your proposals for shutting down three-fifths of the economy would of course put at risk). And it has the administrative and medical ability. Consequently, it has learned how to deal with heat waves so as to prevent deaths. Therefore there is no scientific basis for saying or implying that anthropogenic "global warming" is or may become the principal cause of death from heat waves. It is lack of economic and social development that causes deaths from heat waves.
Science and the climate: conclusion
Sir, every one of the reasons that you have advanced for alarm and consequent panic action has been demonstrated to be hollow and without any scientific foundation or merit. Yet, if your proposal to close down three-fifths of the economy of the United States is to be justifiable, then not only the false scientific propositions but also the false policy propositions that you have advanced must be shown to be true. Here, then, are ten propositions, with each of which you appear to agree, each of which is actually false. All of these propositions must be proven true before any action is taken to tamper with the climate, still less the fatal, self-inflicted wounds that you would invite your nation to make to her economy: 1. "The scientists, politicians, and media behind ‘global warming' are honest": They are not;
2. "The debate is over and all credible climate scientists are agreed": They are not;
3. "Temperature today has risen exceptionally fast, above natural variability": It has not;
4. "Changes in solar activity do not much impact today's global warming": They do;
5. "Greenhouse-gas increases are the main reason why it is getting warmer": They are not;
6. "The fingerprint of anthropogenic greenhouse warming is clearly present": It is absent;
7. "Computer models are accurate enough to predict the climate reliably": They cannot be;
8. "Global warming is to blame for present and future climate disasters": It is not;
9. "Mitigating climate change will be cost-effective": It will not;
10. "Taking precautions, just in case, would be the responsible course": It would not be.
We have examined the scientific propositions that you have advanced, and found them wanting. We now turn to your policy prescriptions and the basis for them.
You have said: "We need to deal with the central facts of ... rising waters."
The "central facts" about "rising" sea levels are as follows.
Sea level has been rising since the end of the last Ice Age 10,000 years ago. It is 400 feet higher now than it was then. The rate of increase has averaged 4 feet per century. Yet in the 20th century, when we are told that "global warming" began to have a major impact on global temperature and hence on sea level, sea level rose by just 8 inches.
That is just one-sixth of the mean centennial rate over the past 10,000 years. Why so little? Because almost all of the world's ice - including the vast sheets that once covered much of what is now the United States - melted away long ago.
True, the UN imagines that most sea-level rise will come not from the melting glaciers about which the media so frequently fantasize, but from thermosteric expansion - sea water swelling as it warms. However, thermosteric expansion can only occur if the body of water in question is getting warmer. The oceans are not getting warmer (except in certain regions, such as the Antarctic Peninsula, where there is evidence of undersea volcanic activity).
Lyman et al. (2006) reported that the oceans of the world had been cooling since 2003. They published a correction the following year, to the effect that the oceans had not been cooling, but had not been warming either.
Now a definitive study based on readings from 6000 bathythermographs, shows that the oceans have indeed been cooling since at least 2003, in line with the atmospheric cooling noted in the observed temperature record.
It is no surprise, then, that the UN's climate panel [IPCC, 2007] has been compelled to cut by one-third its previous high-end estimate [IPCC, 2001] that sea level would rise 3 feet by 2100. Its new high-end estimate is less than 2 feet, with a best estimate of no more than 1 ft 5 in.
The world's foremost expert on sea level is Professor Niklas Moerner, who has been studying nothing but sea level throughout his 30-year career. In a recent paper (Moerner, 2004), he condemns the IPCC for its baseless exaggeration of future sea-level rise, and says there is no reason to suppose that sea level will rise any faster in the 21st century than it did in the 20th - i.e., by about 8 inches.
There is not and has never been any scientific basis for the exaggerated projections by a certain politician that sea level might imminently rise by as much as 20 feet. That politician, in the year in which he circulated a movie containing that projection, bought a $4 million condominium just feet from the ocean at Fisherman's Wharf, San Francisco.
You may well ask whether he actually believed his own prediction and, if so, why he spent so much buying a condominium that - if his prediction were right - would very soon be worthless. In a recent case in the High Court in London, intended to prevent the transmission of alarmist pseudo-science to children, the judge said of this politician that "the Armageddon scenario that he predicts is not based on any scientific view."
The facts about "receding glaciers"
You have said: "Satellite images reveal a dramatic disappearance of glaciers ... And I've seen some of this evidence up close. A few years ago I traveled to the area of Svalbard, Norway, a group of islands in the Arctic Ocean. I was shown the southernmost point where a glacier had reached twenty years earlier. From there, we had to venture northward up the fjord to see where that same glacier ends today - because all the rest has melted. On a trip to Alaska, I heard about a national park visitor's center that was built to offer a picture-perfect view of a large glacier. Problem is, the glacier is gone. A work of nature that took ages to form had melted away in a matter of decades."
The facts about "receding glaciers" are by no means as "dramatic" as you suggest. You cite evidence from just two glaciers. Even if it were pardonable to deploy anecdotal evidence from a couple of glaciers and then to perpetrate the logical fallacy of arguing from the particular to the general, it is evident that your two examples do not represent a sufficient sample to be credible as a basis for drawing the drastic conclusion that you have drawn.
It may surprise you to learn that there are more than 160,000 glaciers in the world [IPCC, 2001]. Your two examples are a minuscule fraction of one percent of the world's glaciers. Most of these glaciers have never been visited, measured, or analyzed by humankind. The vast majority of them - including the biggest on the planet, which is 250 miles long and 40 miles wide - are in Antarctica, most of which has been cooling for half a century (Doran et al., 2002).
Professor M. I. Bhat, of the Indian Geological Survey, was kind enough last year to communicate to me his results concerning the 9,575 mountain glaciers that debouch from the Himalayan plateau into India. These glaciers, thanks to the British Raj, have been studied and recorded for longer than any others. Professor Bhat reports that most of the glaciers have been receding at a uniform rate since 1880 at the latest. Some of them had begun receding even before this date. His analysis is confirmed on a global scale by Robinson, Robinson & Soon (2007), who report that since 1880 mountain glaciers have receded worldwide at a near-uniform rate, with no appreciable acceleration in the second half of the 20th century, before which time the anthropogenic influence on climate must have been negligible.
Professor Bhat raises the right question: Given that glacial recession began long before humankind could have had any appreciable effect on global temperature, and given that the rate of recession has remained uniform, on what basis can it be said, as you have implied, that it is anthropogenic "global warming" that is causing the glaciers to recede?
The recession of glaciers in the Swiss Alps has revealed mediaeval roadways, forests, and even an entire silver mine that had been buried by ice during the Little Ice Age. The glaciers had not been present in the mediaeval warm period: now they are again absent. There is nothing "dramatic" about this: climate change is indeed real, and has long been occurring for entirely natural reasons. It is far more difficult than the UN's climate panel and certain politicians have suggested to distinguish between natural climatic cycles and any supposed anthropogenic influence in recent decades. And, as you will now appreciate, it is not scientifically credible to state that the Alaskan glacier you mention had taken "ages" to form. Glaciers come and go quite quickly in response to changing climate cycles.
Mount Kilimanjaro has been one of the poster-children for anthropogenic "global warming". A certain politician has publicly suggested that the observed recession of the Furtwangler glacier at the summit - which, he says, may lead to the disappearance of Hemingway's "snows of Kilimanjaro" within a few years - has been caused by anthropogenic "global warming".
However, the scientific facts are remarkably different. As Professor Bhat might say, the right questions that a true scientist rather than a mere politician would ask are these: When did the recession of the glacier begin? And what has been the trend in temperature at the summit of the mountain? The answers are these: the glacier began to recede in 1880, and more than half of the "snows of Kilimanjaro" had already vanished when Hemingway wrote his novel under that title in 1936. Furthermore, since satellite monitoring began in 1970, the surface temperature at the summit has averaged 12.5 °F below freezing, and has never exceeded 3 °F below freezing (Molg et al., 2003). The glacier is not, therefore, melting. It is ablating, not because of "global warming" but because of desiccation of the atmosphere caused by a prolonged and natural regional cooling, compounded by imprudent post-colonial deforestation of the surrounding territory. The High Court judge rightly had harsh words to say about a certain Democrat politician's highly-publicized suggestion that Kilimanjaro had melted because of "global warming".
In the very cold winter of 2007/8, during which the biggest January-to-January fall in global temperatures since records began in 1880 was recorded, several glaciers in Greenland began to re-advance.
Finally, only a tiny proportion of the future sea-level rise imagined by the UN's climate panel is attributed by it to melting glaciers [IPCC, 2007]. It is true that the excitable media reported that melting glaciers would have a very large effect on sea level, but this was because the UN's bureaucrats had inserted into its 2007 report, after the scientists had signed it off, a table in which the estimated contributions to sea-level rise from glaciers and from ice-sheets had each been multiplied by 10, by the simple expedient of moving four decimal points sideways. When I wrote to the UN pointing out this error, the UN quietly corrected, relabeled, and moved the table: but by then it had obtained the alarmist headlines that had been intended: and not one of the newspapers that had printed the incorrect figure bothered to correct it once the UN had been compelled to revise the table. It is episodes such as this that ought to have led you and your advisors to think very carefully about whether the UN's climate panel is as independent, unbiased, science-based, and competent as would be necessary to justify the very drastic damage which you propose to inflict upon the US economy.
The facts about "disappearing Antarctic ice shelves"
You have said: "Satellite images reveal a dramatic disappearance of ... Antarctic ice shelves."
Eight ice shelves, with a combined area that is less than 2% of the area of Texas, have disintegrated in recent years, and one of them has already re-formed. However, it is significant that all of these ice shelves are concentrated in a single area of Antarctica - the Peninsula - which itself represents only 2% of the total area of Antarctica.
There has been no significant recession of ice shelves anywhere in Antarctica except in the Peninsula, where subsea volcanic activity may have contributed to the observed disintegrations, which are in any event to be expected given that global temperature has been rising for 300 years. In the first 250 of those 300 years, humankind could not by any stretch of the most alarmist imagination be conceived to have had any significant impact on temperature or on melting ice.
It is also significant that the Larsen B ice shelf, which disintegrated suddenly a few years ago, had not been present during the mediaeval warm period (Pudsey et al., 2006). As with the glaciers, so with the ice shelves, all we are seeing is a natural cycle in the coming and going of the Earth's ice. Since it was warmer than the present throughout most of the past 10,000 years, it is likely that at many times there has been less ice at either Pole than there is today.
An interesting recent example is the case of what the alarmist clique calls "Warming Island" - a peninsula in northern Greenland that recently turned out to be an island when a small ice shelf joining it to the mainland melted. The news about "Warming Island" flashed around the world, and various news media carried front-page headlines about this latest alleged evidence for "global warming". Setting aside the consideration - which cannot be too often repeated - that the fact of warming tells us nothing of its cause, one methodical researcher decided to see whether there were any earlier maps that showed "Warming Island" to be an island. The researcher did not even have to go back as far as the mediaeval warm period. In fact, he had only to go back to 1957, when a book published by an Arctic explorer plainly showed "Warming Island" as an island. You will recall that in the 1940s the Arctic was warmer than it is today. Therefore "Warming Island was then an island, and was still visibly an island when the explorer made his map in the late 1950s. Then a natural cooling cycle supervened, and "Warming Island" became what we might call "Cooling Peninsula". Now it is "Warming Island" again.
On the evidence, therefore, the satellite images of disappearing ice shelves do not provide any scientific basis for assuming that the warming that caused the disintegrations was other than local; or that it was caused by anthropogenic rather than solar or volcanic warming; or that the ice shelves that disintegrated had always been present until the recent disintegration. In short, these disintegrations provide no basis whatsoever for the drastic policies that you have proposed to remedy what is on any view a non-problem.
The facts about "melting polar ice sheets"
You have said: "Satellite images reveal a dramatic disappearance of ... polar ice sheets."
Here, Sir, are the facts about "melting polar ice sheets". There are four great polar ice sheets: the East and West Antarctic ice sheets; the Greenland ice sheet; and the Arctic ice-cap. We shall consider each in turn.
The East Antarctic ice sheet is on a high plateau at high latitude. Since most of Antarctica has cooled over the past 50 years (Doran et al., 2002), so much so that environmental damage caused by cold has occurred in some of the Antarctic glens, there is no danger of this ice sheet disappearing, and there are no satellite images revealing that it has done so, is doing so, or is about to do so.
The West Antarctic ice sheet is grounded below today's sea level. From time to time, therefore, the warmer ocean around it causes sometimes very large pieces of the edge of the ice sheet to disintegrate. However, these edges tend to re-form in the long Antarctic winter. Logs kept by whalers going back hundreds of years record flat-topped icebergs - inferentially, pieces of the West Antarctic ice sheet - many hundreds of miles long. So there is nothing new in these occasional breakages from the edge of the ice sheet. They have happened before; they have happened again; and they tell us nothing about whether or to what extent the warming (whether natural or anthropogenic) that ceased in 1998 was or is responsible. We know, however, that both the summer and the winter extent of the sea ice surrounding Antarctica was greater in 2007/8 than at any time since the satellite record began 30 years ago. Therefore the West Antarctic ice sheet gives no ground for alarm.
The Greenland ice sheet, like that of East Antarctica, is on a high plateau. Also, that plateau is ringed by mountains: for the enormous weight of the ice sheet has borne down heavily on the rock below to create a basin in which the bulk of the ice sheet sits. That is why recent alarmist stories about "moulins" - summer meltwaters getting below the ice sheet and lubricating it so as to allow it suddenly to rush down to the sea - are entirely baseless.
Such moulins are not new: they have often been recorded in the past, and they are a normal part of the Greenland summer climate. Some glaciers debouching from the plateau through gaps in the ring of mountains that surrounds it have indeed receded: recently, however, others have advanced. In late May 2008, in south-western Greenland, one would normally have expected spring flowers: however, the snow still lay thick on the ground.
But the most telling evidence of all is that of Johannesen et al. (2005), who used satellite interferometry to determine that the mean thickness of the Greenland ice sheet increased by 2 inches per year - a total of 1 ft 8 in - during the decade 1993-2003. Once again, there is no cause for alarm.
The last time the Greenland ice sheet melted was 850,000 years ago: and that melting, of course, occurred entirely through natural causes. The UN's climate panel [IPCC, 2007] says that if the Greenland ice sheet melts again, it will only do so if global temperature was sustained at 4 °F above today's for several millennia. Even then, according to the UN, the cause of any such disintegration would be natural rather than anthropogenic.
The facts about "reduced snowpack"
You have said: "Our scientists have also seen and measured reduced snowpack, with earlier runoffs in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere."
The facts about "reduced snowpack" are not as you have been led to think they are. Once again, after some three centuries of gradual warming, one would certainly expect to see less rather than more snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere. That would not be surprising. Yet, even if it were so, the fact of the warming that caused the reduction in snow cover would tell us nothing of the cause. However, there has been no reduction in overall snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere in the 30 years since satellites were first able to measure its extent.
Your advisors needed to go no further than the Rutgers University Snow and Ice Lab, which has monitored snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere in the vital winter months for 30 years. During that time, there has been no trend in winter snow cover. There has been no decline at all, either in any individual winter month or at all. Indeed, new records for the extent of Northern-Hemisphere winter snow cover were established in 2001-2 and again in 2007-8, the winter immediately before your speech.
There is, therefore, no scientific basis for the notion that there has been any downtrend in snow cover during the past 30 years. Since natural climate change occurs on regional as well as hemispheric or global scales, there will be some regions with more snow cover and others with less from time to time. But to focus only on those regions with less snow cover, and then to argue from the particular to the general as you have done, drawing the improper implicit conclusion that anthropogenic "global warming" has caused a decline in snow cover, is not only a fallacy of logic but also lacks any scientific foundation in the observed record.
You have said: "We know that greenhouse gasses are heavily implicated as a cause of climate change. And we know that among all greenhouse gasses, the worst by far is the carbon-dioxide that results from fossil-fuel combustion."
Sir, the first of your two quoted statements requires heavy qualification: the second is scientifically false. The combined effect of the two statements is profoundly misleading.
Greenhouse gases keep the world warm enough for plant and animal life to thrive. Without them, the Earth would be an ice-planet all of the time rather than some of the time. The existence of greenhouse gases, whether natural or anthropogenic, retains in the atmosphere some 100 Watts per square meter of radiant energy from the Sun (Kiehl & Trenberth, 1997) that would otherwise pass out uninterrupted to space.
According to the UN's climate panel [IPCC, 2007], anthropogenic "radiative forcings" from all sources compared with 1750 account for just 1.6% of this total, or perhaps almost 5% if temperature feedbacks as currently overestimated by the UN are taken into account. I say overestimated because the sum of the UN's high-end estimates of individual temperature feedbacks exceeds the maximum that is possible in the feedback equation used by the UN, implying that the central estimates are also very likely to be excessive. Your words "heavily implicated", therefore, seem somewhat overstated.
As to your second statement, the "worst" greenhouse gas - the one which, through its sheer quantity in the atmosphere, accounts for two-thirds of the 100 Watts per square meter of greenhouse-gas radiative forcing reported by Kiehl & Trenberth (2007, op. cit.) - is water vapor. Carbon dioxide accounts for little more than a quarter.
Two-thirds of the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere is naturally present, and carbon dioxide occupies just one-ten-thousandth more of the atmosphere today than it did 250 years ago (Keeling & Whorf, 2004, updated): for the atmosphere is large and we are small.
The UN's climate panel [IPCC, 2007] thinks that a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration compared with 1750 might occur later this century on current trends, and may lead to a global temperature increase of almost 6 °F. However, numerous papers in the peer-reviewed literature confirm that the UN's central climate-sensitivity projection must be excessive.
Allowing for the fact that the UN's climate panel has exaggerated the effects of temperature feedbacks, the temperature increase in consequence of a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration could be as little as 1 °F. Values as low as this have been suggested in the peer-reviewed literature (e.g. Chylek et al., 2007).
You have proposed, in your speech that three-fifths of the US economy should be closed down by 2060. Do you not think that a far greater degree of scientific certainty as to the effects of minuscule increases in carbon dioxide concentration on temperature would be advisable before strategic damage on any such scale is inflicted upon the US economy from within, and by a Republican?
The facts about the basis of the imagined scientific "consensus"
You have said: "We stand warned by serious and credible scientists across the world that time is short and the dangers are great."
Sir, the implication of your quoted remark is that the "serious and credible scientists" who are warning us that "time is short and the dangers are great" outnumber the equally "serious and credible scientists" who are not warning us of anything of the kind. The reverse is the case. A recent survey (Schulte, 2008) of 539 peer-reviewed scientific papers published since January 2004 and selected at random using the search term "global climate change" reveals that not a single paper provides any evidence whatsoever that "time is short" or that "the dangers are great".
The notion of imminent, catastrophic climate change is a fiction that is almost wholly absent in the scientific literature. Indeed, the only papers that predict catastrophe are written by a tiny clique of closely-connected, extravagantly-funded, politically-biased scientists with unhealthily close political and financial connections to certain alarmist politicians in the party that you nominally oppose.
Suppose, ad argumentum, that the UN's exaggerated climate-sensitivity estimates, proven in the peer-reviewed literature and in the unfolding temperature record to be fantasies wholly unrelated either to scientific theory or to observed reality, are true. Even then, the disasters imagined by the UN's climate panel and by certain politicians are unlikely to occur. Since the UN's estimates are indeed exaggerations, and are known to be so, the only potentially-"credible" basis for the alarmism reflected in your speech falls away. In the scientific literature, there is no "consensus" whatsoever to the effect that anthropogenic "global warming" will be "catastrophic".
It is vital that you should understand the extent to which the UN's case for panic action is founded not upon theoretical proofs in climatological physics, nor upon real-world experimentation (for nearly all of the parameters necessary to the evaluation of climate sensitivity are not directly measurable, and their values can only be guessed) but upon computer models - in short, upon expensive guesswork.
However, using computer models to predict the climate, even if the input data were known rather than guessed, cannot ever be effective or accurate: for the climate, in the formal, mathematical sense, is chaotic. The late Edward Lorenz (1963), in the landmark paper that founded the branch of mathematics known as chaos theory, proved that long-run climate prediction is impossible unless we can know the initial state of the millions of variables that define the climate object, and know that state to a degree of precision that is and will always be in practice unattainable.
Why is such very great precision necessary? Because it is the common characteristic of any chaotic object, such as the climate, that the slightest perturbation, however minuscule, in the initial value of even one of that object's variables can induce substantial and unpredictable "phase transitions" - sudden changes of state - in the future evolution of the object. Unless the initial state of the object is known to an unattainably high degree of precision, neither the timing of the onset, nor the duration, nor the magnitude of these phase transitions can be predicted at all. Accordingly, the predictions go off track very suddenly and dramatically, but ineluctably.
The UN [IPCC, 2001], accepts that the climate is "a complex, non-linear, chaotic object", and, consequently, that "long-term prediction of climate states is impossible". Yet it then attempts the impossible by making predictions of climate sensitivity that are already being proven exaggerated by the failure of temperatures to rise as the computer models had predicted (or, recently, at all).
All of the climate models relied upon by the UN predict that the distinguishing characteristic or "fingerprint" of anthropogenic greenhouse-gas forcing as opposed to any other forcings is that in the tropical mid-troposphere, about 6 miles up, temperature over the decades should rise at two or even three times the rate of increase observed at the tropical surface. However, this predicted "hot-spot" over the tropics is not observed in any of the tropospheric temperature datasets since reliable measurements were first taken by balloon-borne radiosondes 50 years ago.
Douglass & Knox (2006) and Douglass et al. (2008) have established that the absence of the "hot spot" predicted by the UN's models is real, and is not (as was suggested by Thorne et al., 2007) a measurement error or artifact within the estimated uncertainty interval of the observed record. Lindzen (2008) estimates that in the absence of the "hot-spot" the UN's estimate of climate sensitivity must be divided by at least three. Thus, making this adjustment alone, a doubling of carbon dioxide concentration would raise global temperature not by 6°F but by a harmless and beneficial 2 °F.
You also need to know that the values for climate sensitivity in the computer models - in short, the central estimates of how much the world's temperature will increase in response to a given rise in the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere - are not outputs from the models, but inputs to them. The computers are being told to assume high climate sensitivity [Akasofu, 2008].
Let me summarize the irremediably shaky basis for the UN's alarmist case. It is not based on physical theory. It is not based on real-world observation. It is based on computer modeling, in which - astonishingly - the models are told at the outset the values for the very quantity (temperature response to increased carbon dioxide concentration) that they are expected to find.
Now you will appreciate how ridiculous it is, to any competent mathematician, to hear the IPCC claiming that it is "90% certain" that most of the observed warming during the 50 years before the warming stopped in 1998 is anthropogenic. For a start, a 90% confidence level is not a recognized statistical interval: 95% confidence, or two standard deviations, is a recognized interval, but that would be even more absurd than trying to claim 90% confidence for a proposition that depends absolutely for its validity upon parameters that cannot be measured and can only be guessed: and a proposition that is demonstrated to be false with each successive year during which no further "global warming" takes place. It is regrettable that anyone should seek to make policy, as you have done, on such a manifestly unsound basis.
Open letter from The Viscount Monckton of Brenchley to Senator John McCain about Climate Science and Policy.
Dear Senator McCain, Sir,
YOU CHOSE a visit to a wind-farm in early summer 2008 to devote an entire campaign speech to the reassertion of your belief in the apocalyptic vision of catastrophic anthropogenic climate change - a lurid and fanciful account of imagined future events that was always baseless, was briefly exciting among the less thoughtful species of news commentators and politicians, but is now scientifically discredited.
With every respect, there is no rational basis for your declared intention that your great nation should inflict upon her own working people and upon the starving masses of the Third World the extravagantly-pointless, climatically-irrelevant, strategically-fatal economic wounds that the arrogant advocates of atmospheric alarmism admit they aim to achieve.
Britain and the United States, like England and Scotland on the first page of Macaulay's splendid History of England, are bound to one another by "indissoluble bonds of interest and affection". Here in this little archipelago from which your Pilgrim Fathers sailed, we have a love-love relationship with what Walt Whitman called your "athletic democracy". You came to our aid - to the aid of the world - when Britain had stood alone against the mad menace of Hitler. Your fearless forces and ours fight shoulder to shoulder today on freedom's far frontiers. The shortest but most heartfelt of our daily prayers has just three words: "God bless America!" For these reasons - of emotion as much as of economics, of affection as much as of interest - it matters to us that the United States should thrive and prosper. We cannot endure to see her fail, not only because if she fails the world fails, but also because, as the philosopher George Santayana once said of the British Empire and might well now have said of our sole superpower, "the world never had sweeter masters." If the United States, by the ignorance and carelessness of her classe politique, mesmerized by the climate bugaboo, casts away the vigorous and yet benign economic hegemony that she has exercised almost since the Founding Fathers first breathed life into her enduring Constitution, it will not be a gentle, tolerant, all-embracing, radically-democratic nation that takes up the leadership of the world.
It will be a radically-tyrannical dictatorship - perhaps the brutal gerontocracy of Communist China, or the ruthless plutocracy of supposedly ex-Communist Russia, or the crude, mediaeval theocracy of rampant Islam, or even the contemptible, fumbling, sclerotic, atheistic-humanist bureaucracy of the emerging European oligarchy that has stealthily stolen away the once-paradigmatic democracy of our Mother of Parliaments from elected hands here to unelected hands elsewhere. For government of the people, by the people and for the people is still a rarity today, and it may yet perish from the earth if America, its exemplar, destroys herself in the specious name of "Saving The Planet".
Science and the climate: the facts
The facts about "rising temperatures"
You have said: "We have many advantages in the fight against global warming, but time is not one of them. Instead of idly debating the precise extent of global warming, or the precise timeline of global warming, we need to deal with the central facts of rising temperatures ... Today I'd like to focus on just one [challenge], and among environmental dangers it is surely the most serious of all. Whether we call it ‘climate change' or ‘global warming', in the end we're all left with the same set of facts. The facts of global warming demand our urgent attention, especially in Washington. Good stewardship, prudence, and simple commonsense demand that we act to meet the challenge, and act quickly. ... Across the world average temperatures ... seem to reach new records every few years."
Here, Sir, are the facts about "rising temperatures". The facts which I shall give you in this letter are taken not from my own imagination, nor from the obscurantist reports of the UN's climate panel, nor from any lobby group, but from the peer-reviewed scientific literature.
Very nearly all of the citations that support the crucial facts which your advisers seem not to have put before you, and which I shall set forth in this letter, are from peer-reviewed papers. Some, however, such as the documents of the UN's climate panel, the IPCC, are not peer-reviewed in the accepted sense of the term. Peer-reviewed papers will be indicated by citations with the date in parentheses, thus: Boffin et al. (2008). Papers that are not peer-reviewed will be indicated by square brackets, thus: IPCC .
I begin with a geological and historical perspective on global mean surface temperature that your advisors seem to have withheld from you. For most of the past 600 million years, the mode of temperature - the temperature that most often prevailed globally - is thought to have been 12.5 °F higher than today's temperature: for today's temperature, in the perspective of the long recent history of our planet, is unusually low.
During each of the last four interglacial periods over the past half-million years, temperature was 5 to 8 °F warmer than the present (Petit et al., 1999).
For 2000 years in the Bronze Age, during the Holocene Climate Optimum (which is called an "Optimum" because warmer is better than cooler), temperature was up to 5 °F warmer than the present. Thanks to the warmer weather, on many continents simultaneously, the world's first great civilizations emerged.
It was also warmer during the 600 years of the Graeco-Roman warm period, when the twin civilizations that were the foundation of our own flourished in the Mediterranean. And it was warmer during the half millennium of the Mediaeval Climate Optimum, when the Renaissance reawakened humanity after the Dark Ages, and the great cathedrals and churches of Europe were built.
In 2001 the UN's climate panel made a maladroit and disfiguring attempt [IPCC, 2001] to heighten the baseless alarm that underlies all of its reports by denying that the Middle Ages were warmer than the present. However, three eminent statisticians working at the instigation of your own House of Representatives produced the definitive report [Wegman et al., 2005], confirming the peer-reviewed research of McIntyre & McKitrick (2003, 2005) establishing that the UN's graph had been doctored so as falsely to deny the reality of the mediaeval warm period, to whose existence hundreds of peer-reviewed papers from all parts of the globe attest.
At both Poles, it was warmer only half a century ago than it is today. For temperatures in the Arctic, see Soon et al. (2004). For the Antarctic, see Doran et al. (2002).
During the Maunder Minimum, a period of more than half a century ending in 1700 when there were no sunspots on the surface of our Sun, a Little Ice Age occurred all over the world (Hathaway, 2004). In 1700 there began a recovery in solar activity that has continued ever since, culminating in the 70-year Solar Grand Maximum that seems recently to have ended. During the Grand Maximum, the Sun was more active, and for longer, than during almost any previous similar period in the past 11,400 years (Solanki et al., 2005; and see Usoskin et al., 2003; and Hathaway, 2004). A symposium of the International Astronomical Union  concluded that it is the Sun that was chiefly responsible for the warming of the late 20th century.
From 1700-1998, temperature rose at a near-uniform rate of about 1 °F per century [Akasofu, 2008]. In 1998, "global warming" stopped, and it has not resumed since: indeed, in the past seven years, temperature has been falling at a rate equivalent to as much as 0.7 °F per decade [Hadley Center for Forecasting, 2008; US National Climatic Data Center, 2008]. Very few news media have given any prominence to this long and pronounced downturn in the temperature trend.
It is now thought possible that no new global annual temperature record will be set until at least 2015 (Keenlyside et al., 2008). Yet the projection of the UN's climate panel had been that temperature would rise by about 1 °F during the 17 years to 2015. It is no surprise, then, that Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the panel's chairman, has called for a re-evaluation of its hitherto very high estimates of "climate sensitivity" - the temperature change in response to the ever-increasing atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.
The facts about supposedly "rising temperatures" which I have set out above, can be readily verified by your advisors. If you like, I can assist them in finding the relevant peer-reviewed papers and global temperature datasets. On these facts, there is no scientific basis for your assertion that "We have many advantages in the fight against ‘global warming', but time is not one of them."
Since the world is not warming at the rate projected by the UN's climate panel, it follows that the urgency relentlessly suggested by that panel and echoed in your speech is by no means as great as the UN's reports would have us believe.
The correct question, posed by Akasofu , is this: Since the world has been warming at a uniform rate in parallel with the recovery of solar activity during the 300 years following the Maunder Minimum, and since humankind could not have had any significant influence over global temperature until perhaps 50 years ago, if then, is there any evidence whatsoever that the observed anthropogenic increase in carbon dioxide concentration over the past half-century has had any appreciable influence, at all, on global temperature?
Another relevant question may occur to you: Is it not strange that the "global warming" scare has been rising in the media headlines and in the rhetoric of the classe politique throughout the past seven years, even though global temperature has been falling throughout that period?
Finally, now that you have the facts about temperature before you, it will be evident to you that you were not correct in having said that a new temperature record seems to be set every few years. Despite rapidly-rising carbon dioxide concentrations, there has been no new record year for global temperature in the ten years since 1998; and, in the United States, there has been no new record year for national temperature since 1934 - a record set almost three-quarters of a century ago, and well before humankind could have had any significant influence on temperature.
Obama the Healer? Casting McCain as a race-baiter is an extraordinary — and dishonorable — rhetorical feat.
By Charles Krauthammer
Let me get this straight: A couple of agitated yahoos in a rally of thousands yell something offensive and incendiary, and John McCain and Sarah Palin are not just guilty by association — with total strangers, mind you — but worse: guilty according to the New York Times of “race-baiting and xenophobia.”
But should you bring up Barack Obama’s real associations — 20 years with Jeremiah Wright, working on two foundations and distributing money with William Ayers, citing the raving Michael Pfleger as one who helps him keep his moral compass (Chicago Sun-Times, April 2004) and the long-standing relationship with the left-wing vote-fraud specialist ACORN — you have crossed the line into illegitimate guilt by association. Moreover, it is tinged with racism.
The fact that, when John McCain actually heard one of those nasty things said about Obama, he incurred the boos of his own crowd by insisting that Obama is “a decent person that you do not have to be scared (of) as president” makes no difference. It surely did not stop John Lewis from comparing McCain to George Wallace.
The search for McCain’s racial offenses is untiring and often unhinged. Remember McCain’s Berlin/celebrity ad that showed a shot of Paris Hilton? An appalling attempt to exploit white hostility at the idea of black men “becoming sexually involved with white women,” fulminated New York Times columnist Bob Herbert. He took to TV to denounce McCain’s exhumation of that most vile prejudice, pointing out McCain’s gratuitous insertion in the ad of “two phallic symbols,” the Washington Monument and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Except that Herbert was entirely delusional. There was no Washington Monument. There was no Leaning Tower. Just photographs seen in every newspaper in the world of Barack Obama’s Berlin rally in the setting he himself had chosen, Berlin’s Victory Column.
Herbert is not the only fevered one. On Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Jonathan Alter of Newsweek fell over themselves agreeing that the “political salience” of the Republican attack on ACORN is, yes, its unstated appeal to racial prejudice.
This about an organization that is being accused of voter registration fraud in about a dozen states. In Nevada, the investigating secretary of state is a Democrat. Is he playing the race card too?
What makes the charges against McCain especially revolting is that he has been scrupulous in eschewing the race card. He has gone far beyond what is right and necessary, refusing even to make an issue of Obama’s deep, self-declared connection with the race-baiting Jeremiah Wright.
In the name of racial rectitude, McCain has denied himself the use of that perfectly legitimate issue. It is simply Orwellian for him to be now so widely vilified as a stoker of racism. What makes it doubly Orwellian is that these charges are being made on behalf of the one presidential candidate who has repeatedly, and indeed quite brilliantly, deployed the race card.
How brilliantly? The reason Bill Clinton is sulking in his tent is because he feels that Obama surrogates succeeded in painting him as a racist. Clinton has many sins, but from his student days to his post-presidency, his commitment and sincerity in advancing the cause of African-Americans have been undeniable. If the man Toni Morrison called the first black president can be turned into a closet racist, then anyone can.
And Obama has shown no hesitation in doing so to McCain. Just weeks ago, in Springfield, Missouri — and elsewhere — he warned darkly that George W. Bush and John McCain were going to try to frighten you by saying that, among other scary things, Obama has “a funny name” and “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills.”
McCain has never said that, nor anything like that. When asked at the time to produce one instance of McCain deploying race, the Obama campaign could not. Yet here was Obama firing a pre-emptive charge of racism against a man who had not indulged in it. An extraordinary rhetorical feat, and a dishonorable one.
What makes this all the more dismaying is that it comes from Barack Obama, who has consistently presented himself as a healer, a man of a new generation above and beyond race, the man who would turn the page on the guilt-tripping grievance politics of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
I once believed him.
— Charles Krauthammer is a nationally syndicated columnist.
Word From Obi Wan, Another Insider, and a Third Sign for Optimism
My mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi, checked in, perhaps worried by this post, as a few other readers were. (Folks, I don't like sharing bad news, but what am I supposed to do when I hear it?)
Obi Wan was very positive about last night's debate.
"McCain won every question, looked like a leader and not the law professor that Obama looked like. McCain hit the themes of Joe the Plumber and big government as the basic difference and then hurt Obama's credibility on issue after issue.
The media types will try and take the win away. — they tried in 1980 to say Carter won or that the debate was a draw. But the voters thought otherwise. It may take more than a couple of days, but as people start making judgments and ending their mood swings, the numbers should really help McCain."
The second bit of good news for McCain is comes from a source in the Midwest, plugged into various GOP operations, who told me that “key metrics” in “bellweather areas” of Ohio are showing very favorable McCain numbers and that these indicators may also signal important metrics for Pennsylvania, esp. western Pennsylvania. This source has no illusions, and is worried about other states — the same ones you and I are worried about when we look at an Electoral College map — but those two states are looking surprisingly strong for McCain, with some evidence that the same folks who were skeptical of Obama in the Democratic primary are still not on board and may not ever be on board.
(Interestingly the Dayton Daily News released its own poll on Sunday showing McCain winning Ohio statewide by 2 percent.)
Finally, my third sign is a bit lighter, but interesting in measuring GOP enthusiasm for McCain, which I think had been waning in the past two weeks or so. I've got a reader who writes in regularity, reminding me that I am a gutless squish, that John McCain is just about indistinguishable from a Democrat, that it's up to real conservatives like him to keep fighting the good fight (which apparently consists mostly sending me e-mails reminding me that I am a gutless squish). He's never had a good word to say about John McCain that I can recall. And then, this morning, he writes:
IF, and that's a big if, McCain stays on the message that he had last night for the next two weeks, next year you won't even remember who "B.O." is.....for two reasons:
1. [Reagan Democrats] will not vote for a commie, liberal, anti-American, anti-military, anti-guns, baby killing, tax raising, al qaeda sleeper cell member from indonesia who pals around with and accepts $ from terrorists while his con men buddies in congress steal billions from the U.S. taxpayer.
2. Hillary Democrats do not want "BO" to win because "you know who" has only one more chance to become prez and that has to be in 4 years.
The undecided vote has increased and will break enough for McCain to put him over the top no matter what the [conservatives in name only] and liberals will be saying for the next two weeks.
(Lest there be any doubt, I remain unconvinced that Barack Obama is an al-Qaeda sleeper cell member.)
UPDATE: A fourth sign. Another state-level GOP guy I talk to regularly says that what he is seeing in internal polling lines up with the commentary you see in this RedState post, purportedly from an Obama campaign internal pollster, indicating that they are "very worried about how Palin appears to be energizing whole groups of people who don't typically get energized about politics, precisely because she appeals so strongly to the middle class, as well as women and dissatisfied republicans that stayed home in 2006."
"This article or section has been nominated to be checked for its neutrality."
I know nothing about Alinsky, but in reading the talkback page, it seems the wikipedia posting is poorly sourced and severely contested.
Read Alinsky's book Rules for Radicals, which is about his most succinct expression of his philosophy.
I came up in the Chicago area under a bunch of Alinsky trained street workers; much of BHO's community organizer days has a familiar ring. Big difference from back in the day and current manifestations of Alinsky's tactics is that back in the day we knew it was political theater and that we were lying through our teeth. These days it seems like everybody has drunk the kool-aid and treats the theater like revealed truth.
Alinsky was a cynical SOB who knew full well that media manipulations and focus on singular, helpful aspects of a narrative were required to inspire direct action. I much prefer crusty old socialist goats who know what strings they are pulling to the current crop of True Believers. My politics have since taken a serious libertarian veer, but when I need to make something happen some of my tactics are still informed by Alinsky's cynical and pragmatic advice.
It looks like Jeremiah Wright was just the tip of the iceberg. Not only did Barack Obama savor Wright’s sermons, Obama gave legitimacy — and a whole lot of money — to education programs built around the same extremist anti-American ideology preached by Reverend Wright. And guess what? Bill Ayers is still palling around with the same bitterly anti-American Afrocentric ideologues that he and Obama were promoting a decade ago. All this is revealed by a bit of digging, combined with a careful study of documents from the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, the education foundation Obama and Ayers jointly led in the late 1990s.
John McCain, take note. Obama’s tie to Wright is no longer a purely personal question (if it ever was one) about one man’s choice of his pastor. The fact that Obama funded extremist Afrocentrists who shared Wright’s anti-Americanism means that this is now a matter of public policy, and therefore an entirely legitimate issue in this campaign.
African Village In the winter of 1996, the Coalition for Improved Education in [Chicago’s] South Shore (CIESS) announced that it had received a $200,000 grant from the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. That made CIESS an “external partner,” i.e. a community organization linked to a network of schools within the Chicago public system. This network, named the “South Shore African Village Collaborative” was thoroughly “Afrocentric” in orientation. CIESS’s job was to use a combination of teacher-training, curriculum advice, and community involvement to improve academic performance in the schools it worked with. CIESS would continue to receive large Annenberg grants throughout the 1990s.
The South Shore African Village Collaborative (SSAVC) was very much a part of the Afrocentric “rites of passage movement,” a fringe education crusade of the 1990s. SSAVC schools featured “African-Centered” curricula built around “rites of passage” ceremonies inspired by the puberty rites found in many African societies. In and of themselves, these ceremonies were harmless. Yet the philosophy that accompanied them was not. On the contrary, it was a carbon-copy of Jeremiah Wright’s worldview.
Rites of Passage To learn what the rites of passage movement was all about, we can turn to a sympathetic 1992 study published in the Journal of Negro Education by Nsenga Warfield-Coppock. In that article, Warfield-Coppock bemoans the fact that public education in the United States is shaped by “capitalism, competitiveness, racism, sexism and oppression.” According to Warfield-Coppock, these American values “have confused African American people and oriented them toward American definitions of achievement and success and away from traditional African values.” American socialization has “proven to be dysfuntional and genocidal to the African American community,” Warfield-Coppock tells us. The answer is the adolescent rites of passage movement, designed “to provide African American youth with the cultural information and values they would need to counter the potentially detrimental effects of a Eurocentrically oriented society.”
The adolescent rites of passage movement that flowered in the 1990s grew out of the “cultural nationalist” or “Pan-African” thinking popular in radical black circles of the 1960s and 1970s. The attempt to create a virtually separate and intensely anti-American black social world began to take hold in the mid-1980s in small private schools, which carefully guarded the contents of their controversial curricula. Gradually, through external partners like CIESS, the movement spread to a few public schools. Supporters view these programs as “a social and cultural ‘inoculation’ process that facilitates healthy, African-centered development among African American youth and protects them against the ravages of a racist, sexist, capitalist, and oppressive society.”
We know that SSAVC was part of this movement, not only because their Annenberg proposals were filled with Afrocentric themes and references to “rites of passage,” but also because SSAVC’s faculty set up its African-centered curriculum in consultation with some of the most prominent leaders of the “rites of passage movement.” For example, a CIESS teacher conference sponsored a presentation on African-centered curricula by Jacob Carruthers, a particularly controversial Afrocentrist.
Jacob Carruthers Like other leaders of the rites of passage movement, Carruthers teaches that the true birthplace of world civilization was ancient “Kemet” (Egypt), from which Kemetic philosophy supposedly spread to Africa as a whole. Carruthers and his colleagues believe that the values of Kemetic civilization are far superior to the isolating and oppressive, ancient Greek-based values of European and American civilization. Although academic Egyptologists and anthropologists strongly reject these historical claims, Carruthers dismisses critics as part of a white supremacist conspiracy to hide the truth of African superiority.
Carruthers’s key writings are collected in his book, Intellectual Warfare. Reading it is a wild, anti-American ride. In his book, we learn that Carruthers and his like-minded colleagues have formed an organization called the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC), which takes as its mission the need to “dismantle the European intellectual campaign to commit historicide against African peoples.” Carruthers includes “African-Americans” within a group he would define as simply “African.” When forced to describe a black person as “American,” Carruthers uses quotation marks, thus indicating that no black person can be American in any authentic sense. According to Carruthers, “The submission to Western civilization and its most outstanding offspring, American civilization, is, in reality, surrender to white supremacy.”
Carruthers’s goal is to use African-centered education to recreate a separatist universe within America, a kind of state-within-a-state. The rites of passage movement is central to the plan. Carruthers sees enemies on every part of the political spectrum, from conservatives, to liberals, to academic leftists, all of whom reject advocates of Kemetic civilization, like himself, as dangerous and academically irresponsible extremists. Carruthers sees all these groups as deluded captives of white supremacist Eurocentric culture. Therefore the only safe place for Africans living in the United States (i.e. American blacks) is outside the mental boundaries of our ineradicably racist Eurocentric civilization. As Carruthers puts it: “...some of us have chosen to reject the culture of our oppressors and recover our disrupted ancestral culture.” The rites of passage movement is a way to teach young Africans in the United States how to reject America and recover their authentic African heritage.
America as Rape Carruthers admits that Africans living in America have already been shaped by Western culture, yet compares this Americanization process to rape: “We may not be able to get our virginity back after the rape, but we do not have to marry the rapist....” In other words, American blacks (i.e. Africans) may have been forcibly exposed to American culture, but that doesn’t mean they need to accept it. The better option, says Carruthers, is to separate out and relearn the wisdom of Africa’s original Kemetic culture, embodied in the teachings of the ancient wise man, Ptahhotep (an historical figure traditionally identified as the author of a Fifth Dynasty wisdom book). Anything less than re-Africanization threatens the mental, and even physical, genocide of Africans living in an ineradicably white supremacist United States.
Carruthers is a defender of Leonard Jeffries, professor in the department of black studies at City College in Harlem, infamous for his black supremacist and anti-Semitic views. Jeffries sees whites as oppressive and violent “ice people,” in contrast to peaceful and mutually supportive black “sun people.” The divergence says Jeffries, is attributable to differing levels of melanin in the skin. Jeffries also blames Jews for financing the slave trade. Carruthers defends Jeffries and excoriates the prestigious black academics Carruthers views as traitorous for denouncing their African brother, Jeffries. Carruthers’s vision of the superior and peaceful Kemetic philosophy of Ptahhotep triumphing over Greco-Euro-American-white culture obviously parallels Jeffries’ opposition between ice people and sun people.
More of Carruthers’s education philosophy can be found in his newsletter, The Kemetic Voice. In 1997, for example, at the same time Carruthers was advising SSAVC on how to set up an African-centered curriculum, he praised the decision of New Orleans’ School Board to remove the name of George Washington from an elementary school. Apparently, some officials in New Orleans had decided that nobody who held slaves should have a school named after him. Carruthers touted the name-change as proof that his African-centered perspective was finally having an effect on public policy. At the demise of George Washington School, Carruthers crowed: “These events remind us of how vast the gulf is that separates the Defenders of Western Civilization from the Champions of African Civilization.”
According to Chicago Annenberg Challenge records, Carruthers’s training session on African-centered curricula for SSAVC teachers was a huge hit: “As a consciousness raising session, it received rave reviews, and has prepared the way for the curriculum readiness survey....” These teacher-training workshops were directly funded by the Chicago Annenberg Challenge. Another sure sign of the ideological cast of SSAVC’s curriculum can be found in Annenberg documents noting that SSAVC students are taught the wisdom of Ptahhotep. Carruthers’s concerns about “menticide” and “genocide” at the hand of America’s white supremacist system seem to be echoed in an SSAVC document that says: “Our children need to understand the historical context of our struggles for liberation from those forces that seek to destroy us.”
When Jeremiah Wright turned toward African-centered thinking in the late 1980s and early 1990s (the period when, attracted by Wright’s African themes, Barack Obama first became a church member), many prominent thinkers from Carruthers’s Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations were invited to speak at Trinity United Church of Christ, Carruthers himself included. We hear echoes of Carruthers’s work in Wright’s distinction between “right brained” Africans and “left brained” Europeans, in Wright’s fears of U.S. government-sponsored genocide against American blacks, and in Wright’s embittered attacks on America’s indelibly white-supremacist history. In Wright’s Trumpet Newsmagazine, as in Carruthers’s own writings, blacks are often referred to as “Africans living in the diaspora” rather than as Americans.
Asa Hilliard Chicago Annenberg Challenge records also indicate that SSAVC educators invited Asa Hilliard, a pioneer of African-centered curricula and a close colleague of Carruthers, to offer a keynote address at yet another Annenberg-funded teacher training session. Hilliard’s ties to Wright run still deeper than Carruthers’s. A close Wright mentor and friend, Hilliard died in 2007 while on a trip to Kemet (Egypt) with Wright and members of Wright’s congregation. Hillard was scheduled to deliver several lectures to the congregants, and to speak at a meeting of the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilization, which he co-founded with Carruthers and other “African-centered” scholars. On that last trip, Hilliard accepted an appointment to the board of Wright’s new elementary school, Kwame Nkrumah Academy. Speaking of the need for such a school, Wright had earlier said, “We need to educate our children to the reality of white supremacy.” (For more on Wright’s Afrocentric school, see “Jeremiah Wright’s ‘Trumpet.’”)
Wright delivered the eulogy at Hilliard’s memorial service, with prominent members of ASCAC in the audience. To commemorate Hilliard, a special, two-cover double issue of Wright’s Trumpet Newsmagazine was published, with a picture of Hilliard on one side, and a picture of Louis Farrakhan on the other (in celebration of a 2007 award Farrakhan received from Wright). In short, the ties between Wright and Hilliard could hardly have been closer. Clearly, then, Wright’s own educational philosophy was mirrored at the Annenberg-funded SSAVC, which sought out Hilliard’s and Carruthers’s counsel to construct its curriculum.
Perhaps inadvertently, Wright’s eulogy for Hilliard actually established the fringe nature of his favorite African-centered scholars. In his tribute, Wright stressed how intensely “white Egyptologists recoiled at the very notion of everything Asa taught.” As Wright himself made plain, it seems virtually impossible to find respectable scholars of any political stripe who approve of the extremist anti-American version of Afrocentrism promoted by Hilliard and Carruthers.
Ayers’s Pals An important exception to the rule is Bill Ayers himself, who not only worked with Obama to fund groups like this at the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, but who is still “palling around” with the same folks. Discretely waiting until after the election, Bill Ayers and his wife, and fellow former terrorist, Bernardine Dohrn plan to release a book in 2009 entitled Race Course Against White Supremacy. The book will be published by Third World Press, a press set up by Carruthers and other members of the ASCAC. Representatives of that press were prominently present for Wright’s eulogy at Asa Hilliard’s memorial service. Less than a decade ago, therefore, when it came to education issues, Barack Obama, Bill Ayers, and Jeremiah Wright were pretty much on the same page.
Obama’s Knowledge Given the precedent of his earlier responses on Ayers and Wright, Obama might be inclined to deny personal knowledge of the educational philosophy he was so generously funding. Such a denial would not be convincing. For one thing, we have evidence that in 1995, the same year Obama assumed control of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, he publicly rejected “the unrealistic politics of integrationist assimilation,” a stance that clearly resonates with both Wright and Carruthers. (See “No Liberation.”)
And as noted, Wright had invited Carruthers, Hilliard, and like-minded thinkers to address his Trinity congregants. Wright likes to tick off his connections to these prominent Afrocentrists in sermons, and Obama would surely have heard of them. Reading over SSAVC’s Annenberg proposals, Obama could hardly be ignorant of what they were about. And if by some chance Obama overlooked Hilliard’s or Carruthers’s names, SSAVC’s proposals are filled with references to “rites of passage” and “Ptahhotep,” dead giveaways for the anti-American and separatist ideological concoction favored by SSAVC.
We know that Obama did read the proposals. Annenberg documents show him commenting on proposal quality. And especially after 1995, when concerns over self-dealing and conflicts of interest forced the Ayers-headed “Collaborative” to distance itself from monetary issues, all funding decisions fell to Obama and the board. Significantly, there was dissent within the board. One business leader and experienced grant-smith characterized the quality of most Annenberg proposals as “awful.” (See “The Chicago Annenberg Challenge: The First Three Years,” p. 19.) Yet Obama and his very small and divided board kept the money flowing to ideologically extremist groups like the South Shore African Village Collaborative, instead of organizations focused on traditional educational achievement.
As if the content of SSAVC documents wasn’t warning enough, their proposals consistently misspelled “rites of passage” as “rights of passage,” hardly an encouraging sign from a group meant to improve children’s reading skills. The Chicago Annenberg Challenge’s own evaluators acknowledged that Annenberg-aided schools showed no improvement in achievement scores. Evaluators attributed that failure, in part, to the fact that many of Annenberg’s “external partners” had little educational expertise. A group that puts its efforts into Kwanzaa celebrations and half-baked history certainly fits that bill, and goes a long way toward explaining how Ayers and Obama managed to waste upwards of $150 million without improving student achievement.
However he may seek to deny it, all evidence points to the fact that, from his position as board chair of the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, Barack Obama knowingly and persistently funded an educational project that shared the extremist and anti-American philosophy of Jeremiah Wright. The Wright affair was no fluke. It’s time for McCain to say so.
— Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
I suppose. It also appears you can’t post empiric data about the problems associated with data mining without being minutes away from other sorts of circular discussions, too.
****Again, what are the problems? It's not a silver bullet for finding terrorists? It's just kind of scary in an undefined way?****
And again, the piece that started, that remains undiscussed, pointed out problems arising from data mining. In short it had little to do with nebulous fear, and a lot to do with efficacy.
I expect any shredding that is currently being done is pretty well concealed, and hence can’t speak to it.
****So it's bad, just in a way you can't quite describe?****
There are plenty of examples where government entities used unlawful means of gathering information. The misuse of new tools is not all that difficult to extrapolate.
I do recall the hubbub when Judge Bork’s video rental records were obtained by the press.
****The press, not the police.****
We are discussing the misuse of data mining, of which this is a clear case. I’m willing to cede that police behave more honorably than journalists; I would not be surprised at all if they use similar investigative techniques, however.
As someone who’s had his internet postings come back to bite him on other fronts, I am concerned about misuse of mined information.
****If you put things out into the public forums, it becomes PUBLIC.****
And then can be misused, which was the point of the original piece. Postings of mine lead to the claim that I’m an “ultra-right wing martial arts expert.” I'm neither an expert or ultra-right wing, as this exchange demonstrates.
If you’re unable to see how, say, protections against illegal search and seizure may be subverted by data mining, I’m not sure anything I say can drive the point home.
****Yeah, I don't see how sorting through voluntarily supplied information violates any constitutional protection. I have yet to see anyone here explain how it does.****
I guess you could claim that my ex-wife’s current address is “voluntarily supplied information.” And I guess the fact that a failed business formerly used the same address is voluntarily supplied, also. But having that address and failed business show up on my credit report has no voluntary component that I can discern.
The so far unsuccessful effort to purge that information certainly informs my feelings on the matter, and supports the conclusions of the piece that started this thread.
Not seeking to ban police work or medical research. Have no problem creating checks against bad police work and bad medical research, however. I can identify checks meant to prevent bad meds and bad shootings; I can’t ID checks against extra-legal use of mined data. Perhaps you know of some?
****Again, how does datamining violate any constitutional protections?****
Data mining itself may not violate constitutional protections—I’ve yet to encounter case law short of some of the Guantanamo litigation seeking to ID sources—but concerns about it’s efficacy and misuse are what the original piece spoke to. I’ve already given examples where it’s impacted my professional and financial life, stories abound about how travelers get on no-fly lists due to errors that can be called data mining anomalies, so it’s not like these problems are unknown.
Data mining involves the collation of vast amount of information from numerous sources; with all those 1s and 0s flying about you can’t imagine errors creeping in? Call it 300,000,000 people in this country; an error rate of 1/10 of 1 percent means 300,000 citizens get errata stapled to their name. Is that a consequence you can live with?
**What laws are violated? Who brings this before what court? What jury would find that a crime was committed?**
I expect those were the sorts of questions that went through Randy Weaver’s mind. . . .
****I don't see how Randy Weaver applies to this. He was a fringe associate of the Aryan Nations that was charged with violations of federal firearms laws and rather to going to court he hid behind his family, forcing a confrontation with federal law enforcement. No datamining was involved.****
Though no fan of the Aryan foolishness he was associated with, Randy Weaver was well and truly hosed by run amok law enforcement efforts, and that conclusion has been confirmed by the various courts who have heard his case and the judgments that resulted. That hosing occurred at the point of a .308 and with the press gathered a ways down the hill. You don’t have to be a white supremacist to wonder how mined data might be misused at the point of a keyboard in a quiet datacenter far from the antiseptic gaze of the press or courts.
Indeed, the whole concept of data mining means somewhere in some very large database lives a lot of names with a lot of data associated with them. Where is that matrix? Who has access to it? How is it expunged? How do the people affected by its contents review the information contained therein? If medical or pay-per-view viewing habits data is encountered, do you think it gets added to the matrix, or is it considered off-limits and tossed in the bit bucket? The President has the Secret Service collecting his sh!t and p!ss to keep medical information out of the wrong hands; are the other 299,999,999 of us in need of similar services?
As that may be, unless something really gets my goat in this topic, this is likely my last response. You can hit the asterisk key and type stark questions quicker that I can provide reasoned responses. Think there’s plenty in this thread and in the original piece to justify nervous feelings where data mining is involved, and my limited dealings with the results certainly confirms these feelings are justified. It doesn’t appear that any amount of argumentation or evidence will sway your opinion, so there not much of a percentage in engaging further.
Two former military intercept operators, both Arab linguists, have independently told ABC News that the National Security Agency routinely listens to the telephone conversations of innocent Americans in the Middle East, including soldiers, aid workers, and journalists, when they call people in the United States. "These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones," one said. She described the conversations as "personal, private things [involving] Americans who are not in any way, shape or form associated with anything to do with terrorism." The other whistleblower said intercept operators would often share especially risqué or amusing conversations, including calls to spouses and girlfriends, with each other. "Hey, check this out," he said colleagues at the NSA center in Fort Gordon, Georgia, would tell him, "there's good phone sex or there's some pillow talk, pull up this call, it's really funny, go check it out. It would be some colonel making pillow talk." As ABC notes, this sort of idle snooping is rather different from the sort of by-the-book professionalism that Bush administration officials have repeatedly insisted characterizes the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program:
"There is a constant check to make sure that our civil liberties of our citizens are treated with respect," said President Bush at a news conference this past February....
In testimony before Congress, then-NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden, now director of the CIA, said private conversations of Americans are not intercepted.
"It's not for the heck of it. We are narrowly focused and drilled on protecting the nation against al Qaeda and those organizations who are affiliated with it," Gen. Hayden testified.
He was asked by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), "Are you just doing this because you just want to pry into people's lives?"
"No, sir," General Hayden replied.
In June I noted that Barack Obama supported the legislation that gave the executive branch permission to monitor Americans' international communications at will, while John McCain seems to think the president did not need Congress' permission.
A couple points, however. The synopsis and original piece point out problems with data mining that remain undiscussed. We do get to point out problems with law enforcement techniques and discuss them, right? Examination of issues and intelligent discussion thereof is more likely to lead to a resolution than blind adherence to the party line, so pardon me if I don't stand mute lest I be blamed for the next smoking hole.
**An informed discussion would be nice, however what usually happens is that any use of technology for law enforcement purposes means we are but minutes away from a dystopian police state.**
I suppose. It also appears you can’t post empiric data about the problems associated with data mining without being minutes away from other sorts of circular discussions, too.
Speaking of which, the smoking hole or unfettered access damn the constitutional issues dichotomy strikes me as a false one. I've little doubt that there is an intersection at which security imperatives and founding principles can both be serviced. Citing one extreme to excuse the other does a great job of representing the margins, but does little to find the ground where the hole is avoided and the Constitution isn't shredded.
**How exactly does datamining shred the constitution?**
I expect any shredding that is currently being done is pretty well concealed, and hence can’t speak to it. I do recall the hubbub when Judge Bork’s video rental records were obtained by the press. As someone who’s had his internet postings come back to bite him on other fronts, I am concerned about misuse of mined information. If you’re unable to see how, say, protections against illegal search and seizure may be subverted by data mining, I’m not sure anything I say can drive the point home.
Finally, as I've pointed out several times, the powers we're discussing are ones mullahs can only dream about. You can't imagine these capabilities being misused?
**Anything can be misused. There have been bad police shootings, and there will be more in the future. Is the answer to then disarm the police? Iatrogenic disease is a concern, but the answer isn't banning medical science, right?**
Not seeking to ban police work or medical research. Have no problem creating checks against bad police work and bad medical research, however. I can identify checks meant to prevent bad meds and bad shootings; I can’t ID checks against extra-legal use of mined data. Perhaps you know of some?
You can't imagine someone with autocratic leanings winning an election, defining people who own guns and discuss politics on a militant martial arts web site to be security threats, and using the power of collection and collation to build a case against those who, quite coincidently, of course, don't agree with his politics?
**What laws are violated? Who brings this before what court? What jury would find that a crime was committed?**
I expect those were the sorts of questions that went through Randy Weaver’s mind. . . .
Publish and be wrong Oct 9th 2008 From The Economist print edition
One group of researchers thinks headline-grabbing scientific reports are the most likely to turn out to be wrong IN ECONOMIC theory the winner’s curse refers to the idea that someone who places the winning bid in an auction may have paid too much. Consider, for example, bids to develop an oil field. Most of the offers are likely to cluster around the true value of the resource, so the highest bidder probably paid too much.
The same thing may be happening in scientific publishing, according to a new analysis. With so many scientific papers chasing so few pages in the most prestigious journals, the winners could be the ones most likely to oversell themselves—to trumpet dramatic or important results that later turn out to be false. This would produce a distorted picture of scientific knowledge, with less dramatic (but more accurate) results either relegated to obscure journals or left unpublished.
In Public Library of Science (PloS) Medicine, an online journal, John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Ioannina School of Medicine, Greece, and his colleagues, suggest that a variety of economic conditions, such as oligopolies, artificial scarcities and the winner’s curse, may have analogies in scientific publishing.
Dr Ioannidis made a splash three years ago by arguing, quite convincingly, that most published scientific research is wrong. Now, along with Neal Young of the National Institutes of Health in Maryland and Omar Al-Ubaydli, an economist at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, he suggests why.
It starts with the nuts and bolts of scientific publishing. Hundreds of thousands of scientific researchers are hired, promoted and funded according not only to how much work they produce, but also to where it gets published. For many, the ultimate accolade is to appear in a journal like Nature or Science. Such publications boast that they are very selective, turning down the vast majority of papers that are submitted to them.
Picking winners The assumption is that, as a result, such journals publish only the best scientific work. But Dr Ioannidis and his colleagues argue that the reputations of the journals are pumped up by an artificial scarcity of the kind that keeps diamonds expensive. And such a scarcity, they suggest, can make it more likely that the leading journals will publish dramatic, but what may ultimately turn out to be incorrect, research.
Dr Ioannidis based his earlier argument about incorrect research partly on a study of 49 papers in leading journals that had been cited by more than 1,000 other scientists. They were, in other words, well-regarded research. But he found that, within only a few years, almost a third of the papers had been refuted by other studies. For the idea of the winner’s curse to hold, papers published in less-well-known journals should be more reliable; but that has not yet been established.
The group’s more general argument is that scientific research is so difficult—the sample sizes must be big and the analysis rigorous—that most research may end up being wrong. And the “hotter” the field, the greater the competition is and the more likely it is that published research in top journals could be wrong.
There also seems to be a bias towards publishing positive results. For instance, a study earlier this year found that among the studies submitted to America’s Food and Drug Administration about the effectiveness of antidepressants, almost all of those with positive results were published, whereas very few of those with negative results were. But negative results are potentially just as informative as positive results, if not as exciting.
The researchers are not suggesting fraud, just that the way scientific publishing works makes it more likely that incorrect findings end up in print. They suggest that, as the marginal cost of publishing a lot more material is minimal on the internet, all research that meets a certain quality threshold should be published online. Preference might even be given to studies that show negative results or those with the highest quality of study methods and interpretation, regardless of the results.
It seems likely that the danger of a winner’s curse does exist in scientific publishing. Yet it may also be that editors and referees are aware of this risk, and succeed in counteracting it. Even if they do not, with a world awash in new science the prestigious journals provide an informed filter. The question for Dr Ioannidis is that now his latest work has been accepted by a journal, is that reason to doubt it?
Going through all the above point by point is gonna get in the way of painting the house today, and though the wife doesn't do data dumps, she does have methods of expressing her displeasure that are more immediate, so excuse me for not wading through all the above.
A couple points, however. The synopsis and original piece point out problems with data mining that remain undiscussed. We do get to point out problems with law enforcement techniques and discuss them, right? Examination of issues and intelligent discussion thereof is more likely to lead to a resolution than blind adherence to the party line, so pardon me if I don't stand mute lest I be blamed for the next smoking hole.
Speaking of which, the smoking hole or unfettered access damn the constitutional issues dichotomy strikes me as a false one. I've little doubt that there is an intersection at which security imperatives and founding principles can both be serviced. Citing one extreme to excuse the other does a great job of representing the margins, but does little to find the ground where the hole is avoided and the Constitution isn't shredded.
Finally, as I've pointed out several times, the powers we're discussing are ones mullahs can only dream about. You can't imagine these capabilities being misused? You can't imagine someone with autocratic leanings winning an election, defining people who own guns and discuss politics on a militant martial arts web site to be security threats, and using the power of collection and collation to build a case against those who, quite coincidently, of course, don't agree with his politics? The potential for misuse here is enormous, and there have been enough utterly unprincipled politicians in Washington over the years to make examination of the implications of this growing ability prudent.
Off to the roller. Anyone want to learn how to paint cedar siding?
I dunno, I haven't read the entire 352 page report so I can't state categorically that the shorter piece is accurate, but assuming it is, any embedded editorial lies in the long piece and not the synopsis.
**Here is the first clue: "Datamining doesn't work well" Work well as compared to what? Here is your task, find the terrorists hidden amongst 300 million people in the US before they kill innocents your are sworn to protect.**
Your original point was that the the original piece was an editorial. I replied that it appeared to be an accurate synopsis of a much longer report. Rather than responding to the distinction, you are demanding that I defend the 352 pages I've already stated I didn't read. If you think there are false statements in the synopsis or the report, by all means point them out; I'm certainly not claiming it's truth brought down from on high. But, before this piece, I've seen very little empirical study regarding the efficacy of data-mining, and hence when a comprehensive report is published I feel it's worth sharing.
As to your second point, I have no problem with the government narrowly collating information about suspected terrorists so long as they abide by the laws and principles that make this country worth living in in the first place.
**What laws and principles are you alleging that have been violated? How many mass casualty attacks need to take place before you factor that into your quality of life estimates?**
Dude, I merely posted an interesting piece. If you need a list of laws sundry governmental organizations have violated, get on google and have at it. "Ruby Ridge" might be a good initial search term. If our esteemed global moderator doesn't want pieces posted unless all tangents are also fully addressed he can say so. It appears your argument is that we must behave like autocrats lest lotsa people die. My response, to which you didn't speak, is that doing so makes us what we battle.
Unfortunately I suspect the ability to collect and collate data is growing far more quickly than is the case law that would help make sure it's applied in a constitutional matter. I don't think there is any reason to assume the federal government would handle vast amounts of personal data any better than it's handled the banking crisis, ethanol and other farm subsidies, second amendment interpretation, or any number of other items on an endless list.
**Give me a better option.**
I get a lot of grief from members of political parties because I refuse to claim an affiliation. "You can't effect change without belonging to a party within which you can work to achieve that change," seems to be the headset. Balderdash say I. There are principles that can be fought for without affiliation, and indeed I think both major parties have so prostituted themselves that there is value in sitting on the side and yelling at both to pay attention to the founding principles of this country.
Similarly, I'm not much swayed by arguments that say "provide a technique better than the ballpeen hammer or STFU." Even if the hammer is the only tool, I think there is value in making sure it is used as little as possible, stowed sooner rather than later, and that the principles that make us different from our enemy are kept in mind as any tool is wielded.
BTW, if dousing rods were the best means known for finding water, would you be arguing that we should all be walking around with forked sticks?
Banging on peoples feet with a ballpeen hammer may be a really swell way of eliciting information, but I think doing so would turn us into what we are fighting. I expect some mullahs dream of a system that lets them track in minute detail a person's adherence to the one true faith; it scares me that we appear to be developing such a system as it has the potential of turning us into the thing we like least.
**Why do the same emotional arguments that are scoffed at when applied to guns are then embraced wholeheartedly when applied to government? Information technology, like firearms are just tools. It's the user of the tool that brings the element of morality to the equation. A scalpel is just a tool, it can save lives in the hands of medical professionals or be used by killers and rapists to commit crimes. Bemoaning newer, sharper scalpels because the potential for misuse doesn't allow for a realistic examination of violent crime and potential solutions to the problem.**
Exactly. And here arrives an empiric examination of a new tool's utility, and we are supposed to dismiss it out of hand because it doesn't concur with your conclusions. If the tool works without rending asunder our founding principles, by all means use it. But not even being allowed to measure and discuss a tool's appropriate use because it offends your sensibilities is silly. Our government is predicated on principles of checks and balances. My guess is that data mining capabilities are progressing at a faster rate than the checks against misuse are. You don't have to be a flaming ACLU member to express the hope that our shiny new tools don't do more harm than good.
I dunno, I haven't read the entire 352 page report so I can't state categorically that the shorter piece is accurate, but assuming it is, any embedded editorial lies in the long piece and not the synopsis.
As to your second point, I have no problem with the government narrowly collating information about suspected terrorists so long as they abide by the laws and principles that make this country worth living in in the first place. Unfortunately I suspect the ability to collect and collate data is growing far more quickly than is the case law that would help make sure it's applied in a constitutional matter. I don't think there is any reason to assume the federal government would handle vast amounts of personal data any better than it's handled the banking crisis, ethanol and other farm subsidies, second amendment interpretation, or any number of other items on an endless list.
Banging on peoples feet with a ballpeen hammer may be a really swell way of eliciting information, but I think doing so would turn us into what we are fighting. I expect some mullahs dream of a system that lets them track in minute detail a person's adherence to the one true faith; it scares me that we appear to be developing such a system as it has the potential of turning us into the thing we like least.
The Authoritarian Radicals: Barack Obama, Bill Ayers and the Chicago Annenberg Challenge
Stephen F. Diamond Santa Clara University - School of Law
September 1, 2008
Abstract: The Chicago Annenberg Challenge was a $160 million dollar reform effort in the Chicago public school system led by, among others, Barack Obama and Bill Ayers. An analysis of the Challenge suggests that an authoritarian form of politics shared by Ayers and Obama was a critical part of the reform effort. This form of authoritarian radicalism has its roots in the American New Left and Black Power movements. The paper contrasts the authoritarian and anti-union approach of the Challenge with a democratic alternative.
Not sure what the man has to do with the way his foundation is handled. I note "ActivistCash.com" lists the following:
Funding To Activist Groups Total Donated Time Frame World Wildlife Fund $78,333.00 1993 – 2000 Sierra Club $77,500.00 1999 – 2001 Environmental Defense $66,666.00 1993 – 1994 Natural Resources Defense Council $15,000.00 2002 – 2002 American Oceans Campaign $5,050.00 1999 – 2000
I've noted a lot of left-leaning PBS programming was funded by Annenberg, I believe it donates to the Brady campaign and understands it funds Fact Check, which looks to me like it has a left leaning take on things, particularly where the 2nd amendment is involved.
As for what Ayers and Obama did with the Annenberg money, near as I can tell the answer is not much, beyond handing money to their cronies. I've not been able to find any sources that argue the money did anything to improve Chicago's abysmal school system, though there is evidence the money funded means of incorporating social activism into curriculums.
Seeing as Walter Annenberg died in 2002 at the age of 94, I suspect he hasn't been deeply involved in things of late.
The most extensive government report to date on whether terrorists can be identified through data mining has yielded an important conclusion: It doesn't really work. A National Research Council report, years in the making and scheduled to be released Tuesday, concludes that automated identification of terrorists through data mining or any other mechanism "is neither feasible as an objective nor desirable as a goal of technology development efforts." Inevitable false positives will result in "ordinary, law-abiding citizens and businesses" being incorrectly flagged as suspects.
The whopping 352-page report, called "Protecting Individual Privacy in the Struggle Against Terrorists," amounts to at least a partial repudiation of the Defense Department's controversial data-mining program called Total Information Awareness, which was limited by Congress in 2003.
But the ambition of the report's authors is far broader than just revisiting the problems of the TIA program and its successors. Instead, they aim to produce a scholarly evaluation of the current technologies that exist for data mining, their effectiveness, and how government agencies should use them to limit false positives--of the sort that can result in situations like heavily-armed SWAT teams raiding someone's home and shooting their dogs based on the false belief that they were part of a drug ring.
The report was written by a committee whose members include William Perry, a professor at Stanford University; Charles Vest, the former president of MIT; W. Earl Boebert, a retired senior scientist at Sandia National Laboratories; Cynthia Dwork of Microsoft Research; R. Gil Kerlikowske, Seattle's police chief; and Daryl Pregibon, a research scientist at Google. They admit that far more Americans live their lives online, using everything from VoIP phones to Facebook to RFID tags in automobiles, than a decade ago, and the databases created by those activities are tempting targets for federal agencies. And they draw a distinction between subject-based data mining (starting with one individual and looking for connections) compared with pattern-based data mining (looking for anomalous activities that could show illegal activities).
But the authors conclude the type of data mining that government bureaucrats would like to do--perhaps inspired by watching too many episodes of the Fox series 24--can't work. "If it were possible to automatically find the digital tracks of terrorists and automatically monitor only the communications of terrorists, public policy choices in this domain would be much simpler. But it is not possible to do so."
A summary of the recommendations:
* U.S. government agencies should be required to follow a systematic process to evaluate the effectiveness, lawfulness, and consistency with U.S. values of every information-based program, whether classified or unclassified, for detecting and countering terrorists before it can be deployed, and periodically thereafter. * Periodically after a program has been operationally deployed, and in particular before a program enters a new phase in its life cycle, policy makers should (carefully review) the program before allowing it to continue operations or to proceed to the next phase.
* To protect the privacy of innocent people, the research and development of any information-based counterterrorism program should be conducted with synthetic population data... At all stages of a phased deployment, data about individuals should be rigorously subjected to the full safeguards of the framework.
* Any information-based counterterrorism program of the U.S. government should be subjected to robust, independent oversight of the operations of that program, a part of which would entail a practice of using the same data mining technologies to "mine the miners and track the trackers."
* Counterterrorism programs should provide meaningful redress to any individuals inappropriately harmed by their operation.
* The U.S. government should periodically review the nation's laws, policies, and procedures that protect individuals' private information for relevance and effectiveness in light of changing technologies and circumstances. In particular, Congress should re-examine existing law to consider how privacy should be protected in the context of information-based programs (e.g., data mining) for counterterrorism.
By itself, of course, this is merely a report with non-binding recommendations that Congress and the executive branch could ignore. But NRC reports are not radical treatises written by an advocacy group; they tend to represent a working consensus of technologists and lawyers.
The great encryption debate of the 1990s was one example. The NRC's so-called CRISIS report on encryption in 1996 concluded export controls--that treated software like Web browsers and PGP as munitions--were a failure and should be relaxed. That eventually happened two years later.
Interesting video, linked below, about the perverse incentives embodied in the bailout.
What You Need to Know About the Bailout (and Why You Should Be Really Worried)
Nick Gillespie | October 8, 2008, 9:05am
George Mason University economist and author Russell Roberts, who blogs at the always interesting Cafe Hayek, sat down with reason.tv to talk about the nation's shakey economy and the government's bailout plan. Watch this six-minute interview to learn where the problems came from, why the bailout won't address them, and what sort of hurt we're in for over the next several weeks, months, and years. "The real cost of this," warns Roberts, "is that we have said to people, 'Risk taking is not as risky as it used to be.' That's a mistake. It's a horrible mistake and it will lead to a lower standard of living down the road because investment will be more cavalier and less prudent."
In recent days, Barack Obama’s campaign has intensified its attacks on John McCain’s proposal for reform of our health-insurance system. Based on a spate of recent radio and television ads, and on the line Joe Biden took in last week’s vice-presidential debate, McCain should expect some sharp attacks against his bold proposal in this tonight’s debate. He should be ready to respond, because the attacks are either false or grossly distorted, and his plan deserves to be defended and touted.
The McCain plan begins by addressing the fundamental health-care concern of the middle class: that insurance is too expensive, too rigid, and too insecure. Rising premiums are pushing down take-home wages, the choice of insurance plans is made by the company and not by the family, and leaving a job means losing coverage in uncertain times. The solution, McCain argues, is to put more control in the hands of families rather than holding them hostage to their employers’ plans.
Today, most Americans have only as many insurance options as their employer provides — which is usually one, take it or leave it. This is largely a function of bad government policy. Federal law says that if your employer buys your insurance, the money he spends (which is taken out of your wages) is not counted as part of your income, and so is not taxed. But if you buy your insurance yourself, you do pay taxes on the money you use. For six decades, this has provided an enormous incentive to opt for employer-provided health insurance and has kept a real market for individually purchased coverage from developing. This is an enormous disadvantage for those who don’t have the option of employer-based coverage or who have needs that aren’t met by their employer-based plans.
The McCain plan begins by erasing the distinction between employer-provided and individually purchased health insurance. It replaces the existing tax deduction with a tax credit of $2,500 per person (or $5,000 per family) offered to everyone, regardless of whether their employer offers health coverage.
If you now get insurance from work and want to continue to do so, what your employer pays for your coverage will now count as income, but the credit will more than cover your additional taxes — you keep your coverage, and even end up with a little more money in your pocket at tax time. If you now get insurance from work but would rather choose a different plan — or if are dropped from your current coverage — the wages your employer now takes out for insurance would become regular cash wages, and together with the new tax credit will let you buy the insurance you want independently. Again, you end up with more options and more money at the end of the day. If you don’t have insurance today, or are getting it on your own, the tax credit will help you better afford it. In every case, you end up with more money, more options, and more control over your own health insurance.
Meanwhile, the McCain plan also seeks to vastly increase options and reduce costs by allowing competition in the insurance industry across state lines, which would allow many who are now uninsured to get private coverage. It would help protect vulnerable patients with preexisting conditions by expanding risk pools and by providing subsidies for private coverage for those with low incomes.
The Obama campaign’s attacks on the plan have been astoundingly dishonest. In last week’s debate, Sen. Biden claimed McCain’s plan would raise taxes on middle-class families, when every independent assessment has shown it would lower their tax burden. He argued it was tantamount to what has sent Wall Street into a tailspin — but the more accurate analogy to the mess in our housing market is the Obama health-care plan, which would have the government compete with private insurers and distort the market by confusing politics with economics just as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have done.
Indeed, the Obama campaign’s increasingly fervent attacks serve mostly to take attention away from the details of their own health-care proposals, which would price private insurers out of business, subsidize a government-run alternative, levy a heavy new tax on employment, and misspend many hundreds of billions of dollars just as we are entering difficult economic times.
Long-term, Obama’s plan amounts to putting the whole country on Medicare, which would reduce the quality of care, empower bureaucrats over doctors and patients, and, quite possibly, bankrupt the federal government. McCain’s plan envisions instead a competitive market for health insurance, which would give patients more options and more control, leave taxpayers with more money in their pockets, and ensure our thriving biomedical research industry an opportunity to keep developing new treatments and technology.
The McCain plan deserves a defender and champion this week, and John McCain should finally step up and become one in tonight’s debate.
1) Have a fiscal policy that creates immense deficits in good times and bad, burdening America's posterity with staggering burdens of repaying the debt.
2) Eliminate regulation of Wall Street and/or fail to enforce the regulations that already exist, instead trusting Wall Street and other money managers and speculators to manage other people's money with few or no regulations and little oversight.
3) Have an energy policy that disallows producing our own energy and instead requires that we buy energy from abroad, thus making our oil prices highly volatile and creating large balance of payments deficits, lowering the value of the dollar and thus making the problem get progressively worse.
4) Have Congress mandate that banks and other financial entities lend money to persons they know in advance to have poor credit ratings or none at all.
5) Allow investment banks, insurers, and banks to bet their entire net worth and then some on the premise that borrowers known to be improvident will in fact repay those loans.
6) Allow the creation of large betting pools called "hedge funds" that can move markets and control the outcome of trading, thus taking a forum for savings and retirement for families and making it into a rigged casino game that exists primarily to fleece suckers like ordinary working men and women.
7) Have laws that protect corporate officers from being sued for misconduct but at the same time punish lawyers in the private sector who ferret out such misconduct and try to make accountable the people responsible for shareholder and investor losses. If one of those lawyers gets particularly aggressive in protecting stockholders, put him in prison.
Appoint as head of the United States Treasury Department a man whose whole life was spent on Wall Street, who became fantastically rich through his peddling of junk bonds at his firm while the firm later sold short those same sorts of bonds.
9) Scare Americans into putting up $750 billion of their hard earned money to bail out the billionaires and their friends who created the market for loans to poor credit risks (The "subprime" market) and the unbelievably large side bets on those loans, promising that such a bailout would save the retirement savings of Americans, then allow the immense hedge funds to make the market crater immediately afterwards.
10) Propose to save the situation by surtaxing the oil industry, which is owned by our fellow Americans, mostly in their retirement plans, thus penalizing Americans for investing in companies that efficiently and legally produce an indispensable product.
11) Insist that the free market requires that banks and insurers with friends of the Secretary of the Treasury be saved but allow other entities not so fortunate to fail, thus creating total uncertainty and terror among financial institutions, and demolishing all of the confidence built up in financial circles since the days of FDR.
12) Then have the Republican candidate say he would keep on the job the Treasury Secretary who facilitated the crisis, failed to protect the nation from the crisis, got the taxpayers to pony up to save his Wall Street buddies, and have the Democratic candidate, as noted, say he would save the day by taxing the stockholders of energy companies.
I'd be surprised if the NSA didn't have similar capabilities, albeit one that are supposed to be focused outside our shores, and I'd guess that all this data creates such a cacophony that most "mining" ends up in the sluice chute. With that said, the thing that scares the bejesus out of me is that the infrastructure is likely being assembled that will allow everyone's electronic and even biometric traces to be collated and analyzed. Think a government could get into quite a bit of mischief with that kind of power.
Government spies could scan every call, text and email Ministers are considering a £12 billion plan to monitor the e-mail, telephone and internet browsing records of every person in Britain.
By Nick Allen Last Updated: 11:47PM BST 05 Oct 2008 Comments 122 | Comment on this article
The huge eavesdropping programme would involve the creation of a mammoth central computer database to store hundreds of billions of individual pieces of communications traffic. Supporters say it would become one of the security services' most comprehensive tools in the fight against terrorism but critics described it as "sinister".
MI5 currently has to apply to the Home Secretary for warrants to intercept specific email and website traffic but, under the new plan, internet and mobile phone networks could be monitored live by GCHQ, the Government listening post.
The Home Office said no decision had been taken but security officials claim live monitoring is necessary to pick up terrorist plots.
It would allow them to capture records like chat room discussions on password-protected Islamic extremist websites.
The annual number of phone calls and other electronic communications in the UK is predicted to nearly double from 230 billion in 2006 to 450 billion by 2016. Last year 57 billion text messages, or 1,800 a second, were sent. That rose from one billion in 1999.
The number of broadband internet connections rose from 330,000 in 2001 to 18 million last year. Three billion e-mails are sent every day, or 35,000 every second. One of the spurs for a central database is a concern over how that electronic communications data is currently stored by hundreds of different internet service providers and private telephone companies.
Records may only be held for limited periods of time and are then lost which makes it impossible for police and the security services to establishing historical links, or so-called "friendship trees", between terrorists.
If all communications information was centrally stored then links could be made between terrorist cells and other sympathisers could be identified. The telephone and internet companies are currently required to give records of calls or internet use to law enforcement agencies if a senior officer authorises that it is needed for an inquiry.
Last year there were more than half a million such requests.
The cost of monitoring everything, and keeping it on a central database, has been estimated at £12 billion and would dwarf the proposed cost of the identity cards programme. Critics also claim it would be virtually impossible to keep such a vast system secure and free from abuse by law enforcement agencies.
Shadow home secretary Dominic Grieve said: "It would mark a substantial shift in the powers of the state to obtain information on individuals.
"Given the Government's poor record on protecting data, and seeing how significant an increase in power this would be, we need to have a national debate and the Government would have to justify its need."
The Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, has already called for a public debate about Government proposals for the state to retain people's internet and phone records. A spokesman for the commissioner said: "He warned that it is likely that such a scheme would be a step too far for the British way of life. Proposals that threaten such intrusion into people's lives must be properly debated."
Richard Clayton, a security expert at Cambridge University, said the proposal would mean installing thousands of probes in telephone and computer networks which would re-route data to the central database.
Both sides are getting caught up in the debate, when they agree that something needs to be done. Does it matter if your reason for leaving the oil economy behind is because it has a destabilizing result in our national security, or because it is polluting the air? Most people seem to think it needs to happen. We are stuck on the definition of why... its sort of silly don't you think?
Another dichotomy, eh? My argument is that free inquiry should proceed without the constraints two-dimensional continuums impose, so excuse me if I'm not gracious about another one. Nor am I inclined to be gracious about "climate change," as climate change is the norm, rather than some sort of breathless exception. Though it may seem like a small point, these sorts of misnomers and misconnotations have made rational discussion about environmental issues more difficult than it needs to be.
With that said, it again boils down to a benefit cost analysis. It would it be nice to erase humankind's' entire environmental foot print, but that will never happen so arguments that contain that implicit premise strike me as fruitless. Research and argument that seeks to maximize the human benefit and minimize the environmental impact strike me as tactics more likely to bear fruit.
Global warming, and its denial are nothing but a way to dodge the issue. Believers and deniers are just opposite sides of the same coin. Both are not talking about the real problems.
I'm not much a fan of that dichotomy. To my mind there are those who are interested in peer reviewed, replicable science steeped in the traditions of free inquiry, and those who want to stampede to a monolithic conclusion and shove aside all who fail to embrace their singular pursuit. Think deniers v. believers is a relativistic straw man meant to imply that free inquiry and unquestioned belief are part of a continuum, either end of which is equally unpalatable. I'd argue that there is nothing wrong with free inquiry, and everything wrong with monolithic unarguable belief.
As GM points out, no one is arguing for mercury tainted waters or smog. What I like about the skeptical environmentalist's approach is that it's based on a benefit cost analysis approach that I think is most likely to succeed over the long term.
Lomborg: Well, it means that I'll vote to the center-left, which probably in the U.S. would be extreme left. I support a strong welfare state. I support a strong redistribution from taxes. I think it's important that we have a somewhat egalitarian society.
I'm trying to recapture much of what the left stood for-when we believed in progress, when we believed that scientific understanding could lead us ahead and not just rely on tradition. I think that's the original sort of background for the left. Unfortunately, I find that a fair amount of the left has turned towards a romanticized view of the world.
reason: All of the economic evidence that is being presented here at the Copenhagen Consensus Conference suggests that trade liberalization, a policy that the left does not like, is a very good idea.
Lomborg: Yeah, that's certainly not a universally shared left-wing viewpoint. In the U.S. election, Barack Obama is less interested in free trade, or at least more vocally against it, than John McCain. In this case, it seems that the evidence is just simply against them.
A lot of left-wing parties, many social democratic parties or labor parties around Europe, would support free trade. They will have some caveats, and I understand why, though I think not all of those caveats are good. But the main point here is to say if you want to do a lot of good, you should realize that if the Doha Development Round trade negotiations were successfully concluded, you could probably imagine making the world about $3 trillion per year richer-about three times the size of the economy of India every year. And five-sixths of that $3 trillion would go to the developing world. Wouldn't that be worth following up on?
reason: You're strongly against proposals to cut greenhouse gases with carbon taxes or by capping carbon dioxide emissions and letting companies trade emissions permits, yes?
Lomborg: No. A $2 per ton carbon tax is probably a reasonable thing to do. Cap and trade that would be the equivalent of that would be virtually as good. I would say I'm against cap and trade, as I'm against carbon taxes, when they're excessive. But that's a little bit like saying I'm against speed limits. I'm against a speed limit of five miles an hour, but I'm not against a speed limit, for instance, of 100 miles an hour and possibly even lower. It's about finding the right speed limit.
reason: In Cool It, your main proposal to address climate change seems to be to spend $25 billion a year to develop new low-carbon energy sources. Recent economic research seems to show that government funding of research and development for this kind of applied research has not been very successful. For example, in the 1970s the U.S. government planned to spend $40 billion on developing synthetic fuels. Instead, we created the world's largest public works project, the Synfuels facility up in North Dakota. It was going to turn coal into natural gas and liquid fuels. The price of energy dropped, and the plant was sold eventually to a local utility for three cents on the dollar.
Every U.S. president since 1970 except Reagan has come up with a new car initiative of some sort, to give money to the Department of Energy to spend on research to create more fuel-efficient and alternatively fueled cars. There have been no real results after literally billions of dollars spent.
Lomborg: One important point I make is that if you're going to get technologies that are going to work 20 or 50 years from now, you can't expect private companies to do it. It's very hard to recoup most of the investment, because what you're going to be inventing is ideas that will later be used by others that'll then invent ideas that eventually will lead to something you can patent and actually recoup money from.
Most estimates show that you can only recoup about one-third of what is invested in basic science R&D. That is the standard argument for why you want public research and development. It's a little bit like in the medical sector where you have blue sky research; you have people figuring out what different things you can sell and then later on you have companies take that to market. It's incredibly important that governments do not go in and say, "We believe that you can have synfuels." I'm not even sure what synfuels is.
reason: Turning coal into natural gas or oil.
Lomborg: That's probably a very, very bad idea for so many different reasons, but primarily because, why on Earth would governments be good at making that sort of call? What governments should do is not focus on the production side but focus on getting lots and lots of people doing research.
The way I envision it is that you should have a lot of X Prizes: low-cost prizes that spur individual researchers to come up with slightly better technologies in a lot of different areas-for instance, solar cells. How can you improve this a little bit? How can you, for instance, make it water-tight? How you can make it wrap around so that it's more flexible? The Gates Foundation, I think, did a good job in actually asking researchers to sit down and say what are the 46 things we'd like to see proffers on, and then have people spend money on researchers, not on actual production but researchers to do these kinds of things. Ninety percent of these are going to be dead ends, but that doesn't matter, because they're very cheap and what matters is that we get the last 10 percent.
reason: Let me push you a little further on that. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development did a report in 2003 where economists looked at differential returns to research and development, specifically defense, private, and then public-sector research and development. To their surprise, they could not find that public-sector or defense R&D expenditures had any effect whatsoever on economic growth. In fact, government R&D spending seemed to produce a crowding-out phenomenon and may actually have slowed economic growth.
Lomborg: Your argument could be, well, if we know we almost always do it wrong, why do it time and again? I would say that depends a little bit on the way you think that it's possible to frame the debate. If no matter what you do you end up down the same track, yeah, maybe we shouldn't do it. But I was at the Copenhagen Consensus presentation by [McGill University economist] Christopher Green, who is saying that a big low-carbon energy R&D push is the only thing that will even enable us to be able to fix climate change in the medium and long term.
It takes some effort to get the politicians to understand that $25 billion of research and development doesn't mean that we should build one big factory to do something you like in a district where you need some votes. Instead it means getting a lot of researchers to do R&D.
We have good theoretical arguments why this might work. It might also be that it doesn't work. We'll have to see where the experts rank it.
reason: I listened to Green's presentation, and I read his perspective paper. To me he basically made a plea to economists to start thinking about how one can create ways to direct research without political interference. He was saying we don't know how to do that yet.
Lomborg: I would tend to disagree a little bit because we've done this for 50 years in the medical sector. We have lots and lots of people doing medical research, and I don't know whether there's good evidence whether that's paid off, but it seems to me that we've had quite a number of breakthroughs that came from public money that we wouldn't have had otherwise. These breakthroughs later on led to more or less obvious investments from private companies to make useful products. We would want something on a similar scale for low-carbon energy research.
It's very important to get people to realize that if we're going to fix climate change, we need to invest in a lot of cheap researchers having smart ideas rather than big projects that make the politicians feel comfortable when they cut the ribbon and say, "See, now we've done something about global warming."
reason: Has the Copenhagen Consensus had an effect on public policy? I know the Danish prime minister mentioned that his government shifted development aid to AIDS medicines in developing countries.
Lomborg: I was told by some of the people at the [U.S.] National Security Council that one of the reasons why President Bush gave $1.2 billion to malaria was because of the Copenhagen Consensus result.
Of course, it's always going to be very hard to say what specific outcome was caused by this list. I would argue that the much stronger benefit of the Copenhagen Consensus is that it pushes policy makers and philanthropists way before anything is ever decided. When the first committee meets in the bowels of a big organization to talk about what should be our next big push, somebody's going to have more likelihood of saying, "Why are we talking about No. 17 instead of No. 3 on the list of Copenhagen Consensus priorities?"
reason: The Copenhagen Consensus process does not take into account institutional factors, as far as I can tell. Why is that? After all, most of the problems of the world are the result of flaws in institutions.
Lomborg: It's very clear that money is not the only thing that works or that changes things in the world.
reason: For example, the development economist William Easterly points out that the West has spent $2.3 trillion on development aid for the last 50 years with virtually nothing to show for it.
Lomborg: Yeah. I tend to disagree with the "virtually nothing" claim, but it's very clear that it has been nowhere near as spectacular as many people would have hoped.
The main point is that one thing shouldn't necessarily be the opponent of another thing. The Copenhagen Consensus is one idea. It's only one of many good ideas that are going to bring the world forward, but I think it's an important part of that discussion. Clearly, with regard to the money that we spend, we at least want to think about how we can spend well. This is also one of the reasons why, for instance, corruption is no longer on the Copenhagen Consensus list. Yes, it's incredibly important, but there are no good solutions that the West can come up with and make sure that they implement in the Third World.
I'm perfectly aware that you should also engage people in thinking about institutional change or the setup of the international system, but what we focus on is, given where we are right now, what can you do with a little extra money? What can you marginally do? It's not the only relevant question in the world, but I would argue it's not an unimportant one.
reason: What's the next project?
Lomborg: We have a lot of projects. I'm doing Copenhagen Consensus for individual countries: for Ghana, for Zambia, for Chile, possibly for Peru, possibly for Mali. And then we're thinking of doing something towards the next climate conference in 2009 in Copenhagen. Maybe we should just do a Copenhagen Consensus for climate, where we get some of the world's top climate economists together and say, "There's a bunch of different packages on the table, what do you think?" And perhaps have some of the negotiators play around with what works best, so that we spend our money well, or better.
We're also thinking of doing one for the world's total environment-air pollution, clean drinking water, all the other things. There is a tendency right now in which global warming has subsumed all other environmental issues. While global warming is definitely an important environmental issue, there's a problem if it takes all of the time to the exclusion of everything else.
Bjorn Lomborg on the priorities that should come before global warming
Ronald Bailey | October 2008 Print Edition
Where in the world can we do the most good? That is the basic question addressed by the Copenhagen Consensus Center, a think tank founded six years ago by the Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg. To answer the question, the center periodically convenes panels of leading economists, who weigh and prioritize the solutions experts have proposed to the world's biggest problems.
Lomborg, a boyish 43-year-old, first burst onto the intellectual scene in 2001 with his best-selling book The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World. There the former Greenpeace member argued persuasively that most of the planetary doom scenarios imagined by ideological environmentalists were contradicted by the available ecological and economic data. The book provoked a furious green backlash, the low point of which was a 2003 ruling by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty that "the publication of the work under consideration is deemed to fall within the concept of scientific dishonesty." Lomborg was vindicated later that year when the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation overturned the ruling, calling it "completely void of argumentation."
Lomborg's international reputation had already taken off by then, the odd activist cream pie to the face notwithstanding. In 2001 the World Economic Forum nominated him as one of the Global Leaders for Tomorrow; in 2004 Time named him one of the world's 100 most influential people; in 2005 Foreign Policy ranked him as the world's 14th most influential intellectual; and this year The Guardian dubbed him one of "50 people who could save the planet."
Saving the planet became a specific job description six years ago, when Lomborg was appointed director of the Danish National Environmental Assessment Institute, a group whose explicit aim is to "get the most environment for the money." In 2004, under Lomborg's guidance, the institute convened the first Copenhagen Consensus conference, in which eight leading economists, including four Nobel laureates, were asked to allocate a theoretical $50 billion to solve the world's biggest problems. The panel was presented with 30 proposals from other researchers for ranking and evaluation. The top four priorities left standing at the end of the conference were: controlling HIV/AIDS, providing micronutrients to children, liberalizing trade, and rolling back malaria. Addressing climate change ranked near the bottom. This infuriated many environmentalists, but overall the meeting garnered favorable attention around the world.
In 2007, following with the Copenhagen Consensus theme of sensible policy prioritization, Lomborg published Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming, in which he acknowledged that man-made global warming is a problem but challenged the notion that it is the biggest threat to human well-being. Instead of draconian and poverty-inducing cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, Lomborg argued, rich countries could more effectively tackle the problem through massive research and development into low-carbon energy technologies.
In May 2008, Lomborg convened the second Copenhagen Consensus Center conference. This time eight leading economists, including five Nobelists, considered how to allocate a theoretical $75 billion during the next four years to solve 10 of the world's largest problems. Would it be better, for example, to provide efficient stoves to poor people who are exposed to indoor cooking smoke, or supply middle-aged people in developing countries with cheap pills combining aspirin and cholesterol-reducing statins to prevent heart attacks? The panel's top four solutions: providing vitamin A and zinc supplements to poor children, liberalizing trade, fortifying salt and staple foods with the micronutrients iodine and iron, and expanding childhood immunization. Cutting greenhouse gases came in at the bottom, although another approach to global warming—R&D spending on low-carbon energy technologies—was a mid-list priority.
Ronald Bailey, reason's science correspondent, interviewed Lomborg in a gilt-edged room at the Moltkes Palace in Copenhagen during a lunch break at the 2008 Copenhagen Consensus Conference.
reason: How did you come up with the idea of the Copenhagen Consensus?
Bjorn Lomborg: It really started with my discussion of global warming. The advantages of doing the Kyoto Protocol are fairly small, but the cost of doing Kyoto for just one year is about what it would cost to give clean drinking water and sanitation to everyone.
We did some searches. I was sure somebody had done global priority setting before. We do it implicitly by the way we spend money, but apparently nobody's ever thought about it formally.
reason: What's been the reaction to the Copenhagen Consensus process around the world?
Lomborg: Most people who have no sort of preconceived notions about one thing or another think it's eminently sensible. They're a bit like, "You're telling me people didn't do this before?" But as soon as you get people participating in the public debate about this and that issue, it's incredibly hard for them to disassociate themselves from where their problem and especially their solution came on the list. I think most of the arguments against the Copenhagen Consensus boil down to "my area should also have been high on the priorities list," or "we should do all things" and implicitly therefore also my area.
I gave a presentation to Congress last year, and a congressman-I'll not mention his name or his affiliation-told me, "Bjorn, I understand why you're focusing on prioritization, because Denmark is a small country and you can't do all things." But honestly, even though America is vastly larger and you have done incredible amounts of good, you are also constrained by a bunch of restrictions. You have not fixed all the problems in the world in the last 50 years, and it seems reasonable to assume that you won't in the next 10 years. So for all societies, we have to ask ourselves, "What do we want to spend our money on?" If we spend it on something that does only a little good, it could be to the detriment of things that could've done even more good.
reason: Have the experts put things low on the list that you would've liked to see ranked higher?
Lomborg: These are some of the smartest people on the planet. I think of myself more as an intellectual entrepreneur bringing them all together and making sure they hear all the good arguments for and against and then make their informed decisions. I can conceivably imagine that I would end up disagreeing with them at some point, but these are really smart people and I'll probably defer to their judgment.
About half the proposals are kind of obvious. Yes, it's good to do malaria. Yes, it's good to do HIV/AIDS. But I think most of them are impressive because we don't usually think of them. One of the great examples from this session is heart medicine for the Third World. When we think about the Third World, we think about malnourished black children with incredibly distended bellies who we see with flies all over them. We think about malaria and AIDS, those kinds of problems. Those are important, but the death toll from malaria, TB, and HIV, even in the most stricken countries, is still less than the death toll from heart disease. And we have very cheap aspirins, statins, for dealing with heart disease that work very well. Spending $200 million a year could probably save about 300,000 people dying each year in the developing world, causing a benefit of $25 for every dollar spent.
Now, that's not a sexy proposal. It's not one that you usually hear, but isn't it something we ought to hear? The Copenhagen Consensus is not just about what's fashionable. It's not just about what looks good on TV. It's also about making sure we reveal lots of hidden, reclusive, not very publicized issues that we should also be listening to. Perhaps it's about being a little more rational.
One more thing that actually surprised me this time was air pollution. One environmental problem in the Third World that I've been harping on for some time is indoor air pollution. More than a million people die-maybe two and a half million each year. If we improve stoves, it will do some good; it'll probably get $3 back from the dollar. That's respectable, but it's a lot less than what I thought.
The essential thing is that this is a process that doesn't just make it easier for you to confirm your preconceived notions, but it gives you an opportunity to see what some of the best experts on all these issues come up with.
reason: Are there any things you've changed your mind about since you wrote The Skeptical Environmentalist?
Lomborg: I think the main point of that book was to challenge our notion that everything is going down the drain, and I don't see any reason to revise that. We are in general moving in the right direction, and it's important to say mankind solves a lot of problems. We also create new problems in the process of solving old problems, but typically they're smaller than the old ones we fix, which is why we move ahead on virtually all material indicators. My second point with the book was to say this means we need to start prioritizing; we need to be smart about the kinds of problems that we worry about.
People in the U.S. will worry about pesticides, which kill probably about 20 people a year, but care very little about particulate air pollution, which kills 110,000 people in the U.S. every year. We could probably do something dramatic about particulates at a much lower cost than the pesticides. It's much more about getting those orders of magnitude right, and that's, of course, what the Copenhagen Consensus is about.
I did, just like pretty much everyone else, predict that raw materials would go down in price pretty much indefinitely. They're clearly not right now. I think our long-run expectation is still that they will go down. But it was much easier to make that argument in the '90s than it is in the 2000s. So clearly we all become more knowledgeable, but I think the main point of the book was to say, in general, things are moving in the right direction. That message obviously still stands.
reason: You experienced some heartburn about that book when you were formally accused of scientific dishonesty. How did you react to that charge?
Lomborg: At first I was a little stunned, but I also thought it was going to be a fair process. I thought, yeah, it's a little ridiculous, but we'll take that to the committee and show that they are wrong. The lead guy who brought this in front of the committee explicitly said in his first paragraph of his first letter to the committee that he did this for political reasons. So there was never any doubt of what the motive was. I imagined that this was going to be somewhat of a walk in the park: He would come up with arguments, and I would counter them. The committee would go through all this in a fair and impartial way and find that you could have reasoned differences of opinion, but clearly this was nothing to do with scientific dishonesty. I certainly made very clear where I got my references from and what I based my arguments on.
Instead, the committee came out with what can only be described as an incredibly poorly argued, very obviously tainted point. The committee essentially summarized a critique that was commissioned by Scientific American, by four people, three of whom I criticized in my book. Not surprisingly, they were not particularly favorable towards my book. The committee summarized my answer to those critiques in one and a half lines of the document, about 10 words, and then went on to talk about how unreasonable it was that I was unwilling to accept all of their charges. To them that only underscored the point that I was probably being scientifically dishonest because I was unable to admit to my errors.
Unfortunately, I could only appeal the legality of the decision. I did so to the ministry, and they took a year for their lawyers to go through it. Fortunately, one of the main points of the Danish administrative law is that a decision has to be well argued. That doesn't seem like an unreasonable requirement, but that was the main thing that the ministry struck it down on. They said that the committee actually had no argument whatsoever for making their judgment, and that was why the original decision was annulled.
I'm still surprised by the number of people who will reference the first part, that I was condemned for scientific dishonesty, and ignore the fact that it was later overturned on the fact that there was absolutely no evidence. If anything, it seems to indicate that there was a strong wish without any good arguments to indict me.
reason: When I interviewed you before The Skeptical Environmentalist came out, you were describing yourself as a man of the left.
“If your neighbor’s house is burning, you’re not going to spend a whole lot of time saying, ‘Well, that guy was always irresponsible, he always left the stove on, he always was smoking in bed’ … There will be time to punish those who set this fire, but now is the moment for us to come together and put the fire out.”
So says Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) about the Great Financial Crisis. And he’s right. But once the fire is out, I want to learn a lot more about what happened at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
We know that in May 2006, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight released a report detailing extensive fraud at Fannie Mae under Franklin Raines, the former Clinton White House budget chief who ran Fannie from 1999 to 2004.
We know that many lawmakers ignored signs of trouble at Fannie and Freddie before that. In a 2004 video now playing on YouTube, California Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters lit into a regulator, saying, “We do not have a crisis at Freddie Mac, and in particular at Fannie Mae under the outstanding leadership of Mr. Frank Raines.”
We know that in 2005, some lawmakers tried hard, but unsuccessfully, to impose discipline on Fannie and Freddie. “If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system and the economy as a whole,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a co-sponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005.
And we know that Fannie and Freddie, with significant support on the Hill, stiff-armed all who questioned them. And as they did, they took more and more risks.
Last week, Federal Housing Finance Agency director James Lockhart testified before the Senate Banking Committee.
He told the panel that in 2006 and 2007, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac ignored “repeated warnings about credit risk.” In those years, Lockhart said, Fannie and Freddie “bought or guaranteed many more low-documentation, low-verification and non-standard [adjustable-rate] mortgages than they had in the past.”
In the first half of 2007, Lockhart continued, 33 percent of Fannie’s and Freddie’s new business was in funky mortgages — compared to 14 percent in 2005.
That suggests that executives from Fannie and Freddie — and mind you, these were the people who came after Franklin Raines — became more brazen even as they faced harsh assessments from regulators and calls for reform from lawmakers.
And then, it all went to hell. “The capacity to raise capital to absorb further losses without Treasury Department support vanished,” Lockhart testified.
As we come to terms with all this, some lawmakers are facing up to what has happened.
Criticized for his role in that 2004 hearing, Alabama Democratic Rep. Artur Davis released an extraordinary statement to Fox News.
“Like a lot of my Democratic colleagues, I was too slow to appreciate the recklessness of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” Davis said. “I defended their efforts to encourage affordable homeownership, when in retrospect I should have heeded the concerns raised by their regulator in 2004. Frankly, I wish my Democratic colleagues would admit that when it comes to Fannie and Freddie, we were wrong.”
Now, that is a stand-up thing to say.
Davis also sent some blame Republicans’ way, which is surely deserved.
After the fire is put out, there’s going to be a lot more of it.
York is a White House correspondent for National Review. His column appears in The Hill each week. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
How the Democrats created the meltdown on Wall Street
Oct. 2, 2008
Bloomberg , THE JERUSALEM POST
The financial crisis of the past year has provided a number of surprising twists and turns, and from Bear Stearns Cos. to American International Group Inc., ambiguity has been a big part of the story.
Why did Bear Stearns fail, and how does that relate to AIG?
It all seems so complex.
But really, it isn't. Enough cards on this table have been turned over so that the story is now clear. The economic history books will describe this episode in simple and understandable terms: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac exploded, and many bystanders were injured in the blast, some fatally.
Fannie and Freddie did this by becoming a key enabler of the mortgage crisis. They fueled Wall Street's efforts to securitize subprime loans by becoming the primary customer of all AAA-rated subprime-mortgage pools. In addition, they held an enormous portfolio of mortgages themselves.
In the times that Fannie and Freddie couldn't make the market, they became the market. Over the years, it added up to an enormous obligation. As of last June, Fannie alone owned or guaranteed more than $388 billion in high-risk mortgage investments. Their large presence created an environment within which even mortgage-backed securities assembled by others could find a ready home.
The problem was that the trillions of dollars in play were only low-risk investments if real estate prices continued to rise. Once they began to fall, the entire house of cards came down with them.
Take away Fannie and Freddie, or regulate them more wisely, and it's hard to imagine how these highly liquid markets would ever have emerged. This whole mess would never have happened.
It is easy to identify the historical turning point that marked the beginning of the end.
Back in 2005, Fannie and Freddie were, after years of dominating Washington, on the ropes. They were enmeshed in accounting scandals that led to turnover at the top. At one telling moment in late 2004, captured in an article by my American Enterprise Institute colleague Peter Wallison, the Securities and Exchange Commission's chief accountant told disgraced Fannie Mae chief Franklin Raines that Fannie's position on the relevant accounting issue was not even "on the page" of allowable interpretations.
Then legislative momentum emerged for an attempt to create a "world-class regulator" that would oversee the pair more like banks, imposing strict requirements on their ability to take excessive risks. Politicians who previously had associated themselves proudly with the two accounting miscreants were less eager to be associated with them. The time was ripe.
The clear gravity of the situation pushed the legislation forward. Some might say the current mess couldn't be foreseen, yet in 2005 Fed chairman Alan Greenspan told Congress how urgent it was for it to act in the clearest possible terms: If Fannie and Freddie "continue to grow, continue to have the low capital that they have, continue to engage in the dynamic hedging of their portfolios, which they need to do for interest-rate risk aversion, they potentially create ever-growing potential systemic risk down the road," he said. "We are placing the total financial system of the future at a substantial risk."
What happened next was extraordinary. For the first time in history, a serious Fannie and Freddie reform bill was passed by the Senate Banking Committee. The bill gave a regulator power to crack down, and would have required the companies to eliminate their investments in risky assets.
If that bill had become law, then the world today would be different. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, a blizzard of terrible mortgage paper fluttered out of the Fannie and Freddie clouds, burying many of our oldest and most venerable institutions. Without their checkbooks keeping the market liquid and buying up excess supply, the market would likely have not existed.
But the bill didn't become law, for a simple reason: Democrats opposed it on a party-line vote in the committee, signaling that this would be a partisan issue. Republicans, tied in knots by the tight Democratic opposition, couldn't even get the Senate to vote on the matter.
That such a reckless political stand could have been taken by the Democrats was obscene even then. Wallison wrote at the time: "It is a classic case of socializing the risk while privatizing the profit. The Democrats and the few Republicans who oppose portfolio limitations could not possibly do so if their constituents understood what they were doing."
Mounds of materials
Now that the collapse has occurred, the roadblock built by Senate Democrats in 2005 is unforgivable. Many who opposed the bill doubtlessly did so for honorable reasons. Fannie and Freddie provided mounds of materials defending their practices. Perhaps some found their propaganda convincing.
But we now know that many of the senators who protected Fannie and Freddie, including Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Christopher Dodd, have received mind-boggling levels of financial support from them over the years.
Throughout his political career, Obama has gotten more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from employees and political action committees of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, second only to Dodd, the Senate Banking Committee chairman, who received more than $165,000.
Clinton, the 12th-ranked recipient of Fannie and Freddie PAC and employee contributions, has received more than $75,000 from the two enterprises and their employees. The private profit found its way back to the senators who killed the fix.
There has been a lot of talk about who is to blame for this crisis. A look back at the story of 2005 makes the answer pretty clear.
Oh, and there is one little footnote to the story that's worth keeping in mind while Democrats point fingers between now and November 4: Senator John McCain was one of the three cosponsors of S.190, the bill that would have averted this mess.
Kevin Hassett, director of economic-policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute, is a Bloomberg News columnist. He is an adviser to Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona in the 2008 presidential election. The opinions expressed are his own.
This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1222017442844&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
Obama’s Friends at Fannie Mae by Lynn Woolley (more by this author) Posted 10/01/2008 ET
To be sure, the nation’s current financial mess is a bipartisan disaster -- but how curious it was to hear Barack Obama at the first debate claim that he sounded warnings two years ago. Perhaps he did, but some us of would like to hear more about the warnings and the letter he says he wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury urging a meeting of all “stakeholders.”
After all, many of Sen. Obama’s friends, advisors and fellow Democrats have direct connections to the quasi-governmental agency at the center all this -- the Federal National Mortgage Association, better known as Fannie Mae.
Back in 2004, Fannie was embroiled in an accounting scandal and in October of that year, the House conducted hearings. According to the Wall Street Journal, the staunchest defenders of Fannie were members of the Congressional Black Caucus. By a strange coincidence, the Fannie Mae Foundation was making annual contributions to the Caucus. And get this – Maxine Waters (D-CA) “cooed all over Mr. Raines” and Clay Lacy (D-MO) “played the race card by calling the hearings a ‘political lynching’ of Mr. Raines.”
That would be Franklin Raines, an African American who stepped down as chairman and CEO of Fannie Mae on December 21, 2004. This followed an investigation by the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (OFHEO) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that accused Fannie of cooking the books so that its officers could “earn” big bonuses. Two years ago, the OFHEO filed suit against Raines to try to recover the $50 million in payments that were made to him based on the faulty accounting. He settled for a small fine that was paid by Fannie’s insurance company.
Connection to Sen. Obama: Both Raines and Obama insist there is no connection, but he is likely a behind-the-scenes advisor. The Washington Post has reported that Raines had “taken calls from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters” and that Raines is a member of Obama’s “political circle.” Obama did not request a correction until after a McCain ad quoted the paper.
Next is J. Timothy Howard, who resigned along with Raines and who was Fannie’s Chief Financial Officer. In that position, he was a key figure in shaping the company’s books to make it seem that Fannie had reached goals that would lead to executive bonuses. Howard was part of the Raines settlement. His connection to Barack Obama: Murky at best but likely since Howard is tied to Raines.
It’s interesting to note that by 2006, both Raines and Howard were being investigated by both the OFHEO and the SEC, by then headed by Christopher Cox, whom Sen. McCain now wants to see fired.
Then there is Jamie Gorelick, a Harvard lawyer who always seems to turn up in interesting places. You’ll remember her as a member of the 9/11 Commission and the criticism of her related to a “wall” that may have limited the ability of agencies to cooperate against terrorism. Turns out that she was Vice Chairman of Fannie Mae from 1997 until 2003 -- smack in the middle of the accounting scandal. On March 25, 2002, Business Week quoted her as saying about the agency, “We believe we are managed safely.” Gorelick was among those who received large bonuses.
Her connection to Obama: None that we know of other than her association with the Democratic Party.
Next is Jim Johnson, a Democratic figure dating back to the Carter years. He was CEO of Fannie Mae from 1991 until 1998 (preceding Raines) and was a subject of the OFHEO investigation. The investigation showed that Fannie had substantially underreported Johnson’s compensation, listing it as $6 million when it was really some $21 million.
Johnson is a strong Obama supporter who was tapped to head up the vice-presidential selection committee. He had to drop out when it was disclosed that he received a sweetheart loan from Countrywide Financial, as had Mr. Raines.
We should also mention former Clinton Commerce Secretary William Daley who served as a Fannie Mae board member collecting stock options and director’s fees and whose son Bill Jr. was a Fannie Mae lobbyist from 2002 until 2005. His connection to Obama: The Politico reports that he is serving as an advisor for the senator and he has been mentioned as a potential Treasury Secretary in an Obama administration.
Of course, Sen. Obama himself is second on the list of campaign contributions from Fannie Mae since 1989. Regardless of what he may have stated at the debate, the Washington Post editorialized on September 19, 2008, “In 2006, [McCain] pushed for stronger regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while Mr. Obama was strangely silent.” Perhaps his $126,000 in contributions kept him that way.
Obama now claims to champion “Main Street” by fighting against so-called golden parachutes for CEO’s. That’s something he should know about since so many of his friends and advisors have hands-on experience with creating them.
Mr. Woolley is a Texas-based talk show host heard on KVCE AM 1160 weeknights at 8 p.m. Visit him at www.BeLogical.com.
I couldn't source the piece Rachel posted, and the white font made it hard to read about half, but with that said, seeing how evil businessmen are cited the source of the woes I guess it was written by a evening TV drama script writer or their ilk.
Here's another take:
How The Fed, Media And Academia Aided And Abetted Lending Debacle
By STEVEN MALANGA | Posted Wednesday, October 01, 2008 4:30 PM PT
In the early 1990s, I attended a conference designed to teach journalists the tools of an emerging field known as computer-assisted investigative reporting. One of the hottest sessions explained how journalists could replicate stories that other papers had done locally using computer tools, including one especially popular project to determine if banks in your community were discriminating against minority borrowers in making mortgages.
One newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, had won a Pulitzer Prize for its computer-assisted series on the subject, and others, including the Washington Post and Detroit Free Press, had also weighed in with their own analyses based on government loan data. Everyone sounded keen to learn if their local banks were guilty, too.
Although academic researchers leveled substantial criticisms against these newspaper efforts (namely, that they relied on incomplete data and did not take into account lower savings rates, higher debt levels and higher loan default rates for many minority borrowers), bank lending to minority borrowers still became an enormous issue — mostly because newspaper reporters and editors in this pre-talk-radio, pre-blogging era were determined to make it so.
Editorialists called for the government to force banks to end the alleged discrimination, and they castigated federal banking regulators who said they saw no proof of wrongdoing in the data.
Eventually the political climate changed, and Washington became a believer in the story. Crucial to this change was a Federal Reserve Bank of Boston study concluding that although lender discrimination was not as severe as suggested by the newspapers, it nevertheless existed. This, then, became the dominant government position, even though subsequent efforts by other researchers to verify the Fed's conclusions showed serious deficiencies in the original work.
For instance, one economist for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. who looked more deeply into the data found that the difference in denial rates on loans for whites and minorities could be accounted for by such factors as higher rates of delinquencies on prior loans for minorities, or the inability of lenders to verify information provided to them by some minority applicants.
Ignoring the import of such data, federal officials went on a campaign to encourage banks to lower their lending standards to make more minority loans. One result of this campaign is a remarkable document produced by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston in 1998 titled "Closing the Gap: A Guide to Equal Opportunity Lending."
Quoting from a study declaring that "underwriting guidelines . . . may be unintentionally racially biased," the Boston Fed then called for what amounted to undermining many of the lending criteria that banks had used for decades:
• It told banks they should consider junking the traditional debt-to-income ratio used by the industry to determine whether an applicant's income was sufficient to cover housing costs plus loan payments.
• It instructed banks that an applicant's "lack of credit history should not be seen as a negative factor" in obtaining a mortgage, though a mortgage is the biggest financial obligation most individuals will undertake.
• In cases where applicants had bad credit (as opposed to no credit), the Boston Fed told banks to "consider extenuating circumstances" that might still make the borrower creditworthy.
• When applicants didn't have enough savings to make a down payment, the Boston Fed urged banks to allow loans from nonprofits or government assistance agencies to count toward a down payment, even though banks had traditionally disallowed such sources because applicants who have little of their own savings invested in a home are more likely to walk away from a loan when they have trouble paying.
Of course, the new federal standards couldn't just apply to minorities. If they could pay back loans under these terms, then so could the majority of loan applicants. Quickly, in other words, these became the new standards in the industry.
In 1999, the New York Times reported that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were easing credit requirements for mortgages it purchased from lenders, and as the housing market boomed, banks embraced these new standards with a vengeance.
Between 2004 and 2007, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became the biggest purchasers of subprime mortgages from all kinds of applicants, white and minority, and most of these loans were based on the lending standards promoted by the government.
Meanwhile, those who raced to make these mortgages were lionized. Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies even invited Angelo Mozilo, CEO of the lender that made more loans purchased by Fannie and Freddie than anyone else, Countrywide Financial, to give its prestigious 2003 Dunlop Lecture on the subject of "The American Dream of Homeownership: From Cliche to Mission."
Many defenders of the government's efforts to prompt banks to lend more to minorities have claimed that this effort had little to do with the present mortgage mess. Specifically they point out that many institutions that made subprime mortgages during the market bubble weren't even banks subject to the Community Reinvestment Act, the main vehicle that the feds used to cajole banks to loosen their lending.
But this defense misses the point. In order to push banks to lend more to minority borrowers, advocates like the Boston Fed put forward an entire new set of lending standards and explained to the industry just why loans based on these slacker standards were somehow safer than the industry previously thought.
These justifications became the basis for a whole new set of values (or lack of values), as no-down-payment loans and loans to people with poor credit or to those who were already loaded up with debt became more common throughout the entire industry.
What happened in the mortgage industry is an example of how, in trying to eliminate discrimination from our society, we turned logic on its head. Instead of nobly trying to ensure equality of opportunity for everyone, many civil rights advocates tried to use the government to ensure equality of outcomes for everyone in the housing market.
And so when faced with the idea that minorities weren't getting approved for enough mortgages because they didn't measure up as often to lending standards, the advocates told us that the standards must be discriminatory and needed to be junked. When lenders did that, we made heroes out of those who led the way, like Angelo Mozilo, before we made villains of them.
Now we all have to pay.
Malanga is an editor for RealClearMarkets and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.
Contact: Kevin Beaver email@example.com 850-644-9180 Florida State University
Study reveals specific gene in adolescent men with delinquent peers
But family environment can tip the balance for better or worse
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Birds of a feather flock together, according to the old adage, and adolescent males who possess a certain type of variation in a specific gene are more likely to flock to delinquent peers, according to a landmark study led by Florida State University criminologist Kevin M. Beaver.
"This research is groundbreaking because it shows that the propensity in some adolescents to affiliate with delinquent peers is tied up in the genome," said Beaver, an assistant professor in the FSU College of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
Criminological research has long linked antisocial, drug-using and criminal behavior to delinquent peers -- in fact, belonging to such a peer group is one of the strongest correlates to both youthful and adult crime. But the study led by Beaver is the first to establish a statistically significant association between an affinity for antisocial peer groups and a particular variation (called the 10-repeat allele) of the dopamine transporter gene (DAT1).
However, the study's analysis of family, peer and DNA data from 1,816 boys in middle and high school found that the association between DAT1 and delinquent peer affiliation applied primarily for those who had both the 10-repeat allele and a high-risk family environment (one marked by a disengaged mother and an absence of maternal affection).
In contrast, adolescent males with the very same gene variation who lived in low-risk families (those with high levels of maternal engagement and warmth) showed no statistically relevant affinity for antisocial friends.
"Our research has confirmed the importance of not only the genome but also the environment," Beaver said. "With a sample comprised of 1,816 individuals, more than usual for a genetic study, we were able to document a clear link between DAT1 and delinquent peers for adolescents raised in high-risk families while finding little or no such link in those from low-risk families. As a result, we now have genuine empirical evidence that the social and family environment in an adolescent's life can either exacerbate or blunt genetic effects."
Beaver and research colleagues John Paul Wright, an associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Cincinnati, and Matt DeLisi, an associate professor of sociology at Iowa State University, have described their novel findings in the paper "Delinquent Peer Group Formation: Evidence of a Gene X Environment Correlation," which appears in the September 2008 issue of the Journal of Genetic Psychology.
The biosocial data analyzed by Beaver and his two co-authors derived from "Add Health," an ongoing project focused on adolescent health that is administered by the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and funded largely by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. Since the program began in 1994, a total of nearly 2,800 nationally representative male and female adolescents have been genotyped and interviewed.
"We can only hypothesize why we saw the effect of DAT1 only in male adolescents from high-risk families," said Beaver, who will continue his research into the close relationship between genotype and environmental factors -- a phenomenon known in the field of behavioral genetics as the "gene X environment correlation."
"Perhaps the 10-repeat allele is triggered by constant stress or the general lack of support, whereas in low-risk households, the variation might remain inactive," he said. "Or it's possible that the 10-repeat allele increases an adolescent boy's attraction to delinquent peers regardless of family type, but parents from low-risk families are simply better able to monitor and control such genetic tendencies."
Among female adolescents who carry the 10-repeat allele, Beaver and his colleagues found no statistically significant affinity for antisocial peers, regardless of whether the girls lived in a high-risk or low-risk family environment.
Commentary: Bankruptcy, not bailout, is the right answer
Jeffrey Miron: Government encouraged lenders to relax their standards Mortgages were given to people unqualified to repay them, he says Miron: Rather than a bailout, government should let firms go bankrupt Talk of economic Armageddon is scare-mongering, Miron says
By Jeffrey A. Miron Special to CNN
Editor's note: Jeffrey A. Miron is senior lecturer in economics at Harvard University. A Libertarian, he was one of 166 academic economists who signed a letter to congressional leaders last week opposing the government bailout plan.
CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts (CNN) -- Congress has balked at the Bush administration's proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street. Under this plan, the Treasury would have bought the "troubled assets" of financial institutions in an attempt to avoid economic meltdown.
This bailout was a terrible idea. Here's why.
The current mess would never have occurred in the absence of ill-conceived federal policies. The federal government chartered Fannie Mae in 1938 and Freddie Mac in 1970; these two mortgage lending institutions are at the center of the crisis. The government implicitly promised these institutions that it would make good on their debts, so Fannie and Freddie took on huge amounts of excessive risk.
Worse, beginning in 1977 and even more in the 1990s and the early part of this century, Congress pushed mortgage lenders and Fannie/Freddie to expand subprime lending. The industry was happy to oblige, given the implicit promise of federal backing, and subprime lending soared.
This subprime lending was more than a minor relaxation of existing credit guidelines. This lending was a wholesale abandonment of reasonable lending practices in which borrowers with poor credit characteristics got mortgages they were ill-equipped to handle.
Once housing prices declined and economic conditions worsened, defaults and delinquencies soared, leaving the industry holding large amounts of severely depreciated mortgage assets.
The fact that government bears such a huge responsibility for the current mess means any response should eliminate the conditions that created this situation in the first place, not attempt to fix bad government with more government.
The obvious alternative to a bailout is letting troubled financial institutions declare bankruptcy. Bankruptcy means that shareholders typically get wiped out and the creditors own the company.
Bankruptcy does not mean the company disappears; it is just owned by someone new (as has occurred with several airlines). Bankruptcy punishes those who took excessive risks while preserving those aspects of a businesses that remain profitable.
In contrast, a bailout transfers enormous wealth from taxpayers to those who knowingly engaged in risky subprime lending. Thus, the bailout encourages companies to take large, imprudent risks and count on getting bailed out by government. This "moral hazard" generates enormous distortions in an economy's allocation of its financial resources.
Thoughtful advocates of the bailout might concede this perspective, but they argue that a bailout is necessary to prevent economic collapse. According to this view, lenders are not making loans, even for worthy projects, because they cannot get capital. This view has a grain of truth; if the bailout does not occur, more bankruptcies are possible and credit conditions may worsen for a time.
Talk of Armageddon, however, is ridiculous scare-mongering. If financial institutions cannot make productive loans, a profit opportunity exists for someone else. This might not happen instantly, but it will happen.
Further, the current credit freeze is likely due to Wall Street's hope of a bailout; bankers will not sell their lousy assets for 20 cents on the dollar if the government might pay 30, 50, or 80 cents.
The costs of the bailout, moreover, are almost certainly being understated. The administration's claim is that many mortgage assets are merely illiquid, not truly worthless, implying taxpayers will recoup much of their $700 billion.
If these assets are worth something, however, private parties should want to buy them, and they would do so if the owners would accept fair market value. Far more likely is that current owners have brushed under the rug how little their assets are worth.
The bailout has more problems. The final legislation will probably include numerous side conditions and special dealings that reward Washington lobbyists and their clients.
Anticipation of the bailout will engender strategic behavior by Wall Street institutions as they shuffle their assets and position their balance sheets to maximize their take. The bailout will open the door to further federal meddling in financial markets.
So what should the government do? Eliminate those policies that generated the current mess. This means, at a general level, abandoning the goal of home ownership independent of ability to pay. This means, in particular, getting rid of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, along with policies like the Community Reinvestment Act that pressure banks into subprime lending.
The right view of the financial mess is that an enormous fraction of subprime lending should never have occurred in the first place. Someone has to pay for that. That someone should not be, and does not need to be, the U.S. taxpayer.
Meat must be rationed to four portions a week, says report on climate change • Study looks at food impact on greenhouse gases • Return to old-fashioned cooking habits urged
All comments (33) Juliette Jowit The Guardian, Tuesday September 30 2008 Article history People will have to be rationed to four modest portions of meat and one litre of milk a week if the world is to avoid run-away climate change, a major new report warns.
The report, by the Food Climate Research Network, based at the University of Surrey, also says total food consumption should be reduced, especially "low nutritional value" treats such as alcohol, sweets and chocolates.
It urges people to return to habits their mothers or grandmothers would have been familiar with: buying locally in-season products, cooking in bulk and in pots with lids or pressure cookers, avoiding waste and walking to the shops - alongside more modern tips such as using the microwave and internet shopping.
The report goes much further than any previous advice after mounting concern about the impact of the livestock industry on greenhouse gases and rising food prices. It follows a four-year study of the impact of food on climate change and is thought to be the most thorough study of its kind.
Tara Garnett, the report's author, warned that campaigns encouraging people to change their habits voluntarily were doomed to fail and urged the government to use caps on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon pricing to ensure changes were made. "Food is important to us in a great many cultural and symbolic ways, and our food choices are affected by cost, time, habit and other influences," the report says. "Study upon study has shown that awareness-raising campaigns alone are unlikely to work, particularly when it comes to more difficult changes."
The report's findings are in line with an investigation by the October edition of the Ecologist magazine, which found that arguments for people to go vegetarian or vegan to stop climate change and reduce pressure on rising food prices were exaggerated and would damage the developing world in particular, where many people depend on animals for essential food, other products such as leather and wool, and for manure and help in tilling fields to grow other crops.
Instead, it recommended cutting meat consumption by at least half and making sure animals were fed as much as possible on grass and food waste which could not be eaten by humans.
"The notion that cows and sheep are four-legged weapons of mass destruction has become something of a distraction from the real issues in both climate change and food production," said Pat Thomas, the Ecologist's editor.
The head of the United Nations intergovernmental panel on climate change, Rajendra Pachauri, also sparked global debate this month when he urged people to have at least one meat-free day a week.
The Food Climate Research Network found that measured by production, the UK food sector produces greenhouse gases equivalent to 33m tonnes of carbon. Measured by consumption - including imports - the total rises to 43.3m tonnes. Both figures work out at under one fifth of UK emissions, but they exclude the indirect impacts of actions such as clearing rainforest for cattle and crops, which other studies estimate would add up to 5% to 20% of global emissions.
The report found the meat and dairy sectors together accounted for just over half of those emissions; potatoes, fruit and vegetables for 15%; drinks and other products with sugar for another 15%; and bread, pastry and flour for 13%.
It also revealed which parts of the food chain were the most polluting. Although packaging has had a lot of media and political attention, it only ranked fifth in importance behind agriculture - especially the methane produced by livestock burping - manufacturing, transport, and cooking and refrigeration at home.
The report calls for meat and dairy consumption to be cut in developed countries so that global production remains stable as the population grows to an estimated 9bn by 2050.
At the same time emissions from farms, transport, manufacturing and retail could be cut, with improvements including more efficient use of fertilisers, feed and energy, changed diets for livestock, and more renewable fuels - leading to a total reduction in emissions from the sector of 50% to 67%, it says.
The UN and other bodies recommend that developed countries should reduce total emissions by 80% by 2050.
However, the National Farmers' Union warned that its own study, with other industry players, published last year, found net emissions from agriculture could only be cut by up to 50% if the carbon savings from building renewable energy sources on farms were taken into account.
The NFU also called for government incentives to help farmers make the changes. "Farmers aren't going to do this out of the goodness of their hearts, because farmers don't have that luxury; many of our members are very hard pressed at the moment," said Jonathan Scurlock, the NFU's chief adviser on renewable energy and climate change.
**The Saudis are far from poor, yet they do all sorts of horrific things, why? The al qaeda leadership, and many of it's high/mid level operatives come from wealth and on average have post-graduate degrees and are multi-lingual. So where does this leave the "poor and uneducated" theory? Why do muslims buy islamic books advocating female genital mutilation while living in first world countries?**
Sheez, GM, you're not paying attention. We're talking about AFRICA, and hence circumlocuting around the unpleasant fact that in many Muslim countries in AFRICA and elsewhere women are horribly treated as a religious tenet. You must therefor ignore sweeping statements made within posts about AFRICA and only heed the parts which don't dance around unpalatable realities. Near as I can tell, at least.
Clearly you need to spend more time on a college campus in an identity politics cloister lest you be nominated for reeducation.
It's amazing that Republicans and objective media (an unfortunate oxymoron) can't identify the policies and the people that got us to collapse BEFORE they ask us to pay our way out. Bush, McCain et al all put a higher priority on making nice and forging deals instead of straight talk and consequences. Result: Bush takes the blame and the McCain candidacy is punished by association while the Obama political philosophy is a perfect match with the programs that already failed. So we learn nothing and move on.
Prophetic piece first published in late July. The original is well annotated with links.
Fannie Mae’s Thugs Vilified Whistleblowers, Told Avalanche of Lies Posted by Hans Bader
A $25 billion bailout of government-backed mortgage giant Fannie Mae is now planned. But Fannie Mae has such political power that its crooked managers will probably never be held accountable for their fraud in any way, unlike the Enron executives who went to jail. Instead, its lending authority will likely expand under federal mortgage bailout bills.
Paul Gigot, a Wall Street Journal editor, describes the personal vilification he has received over the years after the Journal began warning, prophetically, that Fannie Mae was engaged in fraudulent accounting, and that the taxpayers might some day have to pick up the tab. (To award themselves millions of dollars in bonuses, Fannie Mae’s managers used Enron-style fraudulent accounting). Fannie Mae’s managers, he notes, were ”unique in their thuggery” and arrogance.
When conservative Congressmen tried to rein it in, Fannie Mae responded with an avalanche of lies and political reprisals. It told Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s constituents that he wanted to raise the rates on their existing mortgages, a complete fabrication. And when Florida Congressman Cliff Stearns began investigating its fraudulent accounting, it got jurisdiction over its accounting practices transferred to another committee run by Michael G. Oxley, who worked in tandem with liberal stalwart Barney Frank to cover up the abuses at Fannie Mae and kill any reform legislation.
(Congressman Michael Oxley was the co-author of the devastatingly-costly and wasteful Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which ”created more busywork for accountants than real protection against abuses,” according to David Ignatius in the Washington Post. Oxley received generous donations from the big accounting firms, which were responsible for failing to detect Enron’s fraudulent accounting. The Sarbanes-Oxley law has made those firms fabulously wealthy, increasing the volume of work they receive by making auditing of public companies needlessly complicated. The big accounting firms now must be paid to evaluate and supervise companies’ “internal controls,” such as which employee has access to which computer password. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act has cost the stock market over a trillion dollars in value, and imposed ongoing compliance costs exceeding $35 billion per year, while diverting attention away from corporate incompetence at mortgage lender Countrywide Financial, a close Fannie Mae ally. It also created an unaccountable agency, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, to create mountains of red tape to enrich big accounting firms at the expense of productive businesses. Like Fannie Mae, it is nominally “private” to evade accountability and open-government laws (even though in reality, it is a governmental agency, and unlike Fannie, qualifies as such under the Supreme Court’s Lebron decision).
Fannie Mae was run by liberal power brokers like Franklin D. Raines who even now are unrepentant about their thuggery and accounting fraud. Franklin Raines recently took to the pages of the Washington Post to attack as “ideologues” the banking experts in the Bush Administration who had long and prophetically warned about the dangers of Fannie Mae’s risky practices. I published a letter to the editor in response criticizing Raines for his utter gall in lecturing whistleblowers about how Fannie should be managed. But amazingly enough, he continues to be treated like a financial hotshot. Law Professor James Lindgren has a post about Fannie Mae aptly entitled “Fannie Mae’s Thugs.”