Convergence in Action A socialist columnist writes a libertarian article for a conservative magazine.
I don't agree with all the points, but do enjoy a good screed when I encounter one.
November 17, 2008 Issue
A Long Train of Abuses
By Alexander Cockburn
If there’s one thing defenders of civil liberties know, it’s that assaults on constitutional freedoms are bipartisan. Just as constitutional darkness didn’t first fall with the arrival in the Oval Office of George W. Bush, the shroud will not lift with his departure and the entry of President Barack Obama.
As atrocious as the Bush record on civil liberties has been, there’s no more eager and self-righteous hand reaching out to the Bill of Rights to drop it into the shredder than that of a liberal intent on legislating freedom. Witness the great liberal drive to criminalize expressions of hate and impose fierce punitive enhancements if the criminal has been imprudent enough to perpetrate verbal breaches of sexual or ethnic etiquette while bludgeoning his victim to death.
No doubt the conservatives who cheered Bush on as he abrogated ancient rights and stretched the powers of his office to unseen limits would have shrieked if a Democrat had taken such liberties. But now Obama will be entitled to the lordly prerogatives Bush established.
Growing up in Ireland and the United Kingdom, I gazed with envy at the United States, with its constitutional protections and its Bill of Rights contrasting with the vast ad hoc tapestry of Britain’s repressive laws and “emergency” statutes piled up through the centuries. Successive regimes from the Plantagenet and Tudor periods forward went about the state’s business of enforcing the enclosures, hanging or transporting strikers, criminalizing disrespectful speech, and, of course, abolishing the right to carry even something so innocuous as a penknife. Instructed by centuries of British occupation, my native Ireland, I have to say, took a slightly more relaxed attitude. My father once asked an Irish minister of justice back in the 1960s about the prodigious size and detail of the Irish statute book. “Ah, Claud,” said the minister equably, “our laws are mainly for guidance.”
President Bush was also a man unbound by law, launching appalling assaults on freedom, building on the sound foundation of kindred assaults in Clinton’s time, perhaps most memorably expressed in the screams of parents and children fried by U.S. government forces in the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Clinton, too, flouted all constitutional war powers inhibitions, with his executive decision to rain bombs on the civilian population of the former Yugoslavia.
Bush has forged resolutely along the path blazed by Clinton in asserting uninhibited executive power to wage war, seize, confine, and torture at will, breaching constitutional laws and international treaties and covenants concerning the treatment of combatants. The Patriot Act took up items on the Justice Department’s wish list left over from Clinton’s dreadful Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, which trashed habeas corpus protections.
The most spectacular abuses of civil liberties under Bush, such as the prison camp at Guantanamo, are acute symptoms of a chronic disease. The larger story of the past eight years has been the great continuity between this administration and those that have come before. The outrages perpetrated against habeas corpus under Republicans and Democrats alike, for example, have been innumerable, many of them little publicized. Take the case of people convicted of sexual felonies, who reach the end of their stipulated terms only to find that they face continued imprisonment without any specified terminus, under the rubric of “civil confinement,” a power as fierce as any lettre de cachet in France’s ancien régime.
Free speech is no longer a right. Stand alongside the route of a presidential cavalcade with a humble protest sign, and the Secret Service or local law enforcement will haul you off to some remote cage labeled “Designated Protest Area.” Seek to exercise your right to dispense money for a campaign advertisement or to support a candidate, and you will fall under the sanction of McCain-Feingold, otherwise known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002.
In the case of public expressions of protest, we may expect particular diligence by the Secret Service and other agencies in the Obama years, though his reneging on a campaign promise to accept only public financing has stopped campaign-finance reform in its tracks. Liberals joyously eying Obama’s amazing $150 million haul in his final weeks have preserved a tactful silence on this topic, after years of squawking about the power of the corporate dollar to pollute democracy’s proceedings.
Worse than in the darkest days of the ’50s, when Americans could have their passports revoked by fiat of the State Department, citizens and legal residents no longer have the right to travel freely even inside the nation’s borders. Appearance on any of the innumerable watch lists maintained by government agencies means inability to get on a plane. And today you need your papers for more than just travel. The Indiana statute recently approved by the Supreme Court demands that persons lacking “proper” ID only cast provisional ballots, with a bureaucratic apparatus for subsequent verification. Thus, Americans no longer have an unimpaired right to vote, even if of appropriate age.
The late Murray Kempton used to tell me he remembered that Alf Landon, campaigning against FDR and specifically Social Security back in 1936, used to shout to the crowds words to the effect of “Mark my words, those Social Security numbers will follow you from cradle to grave.” Landon was right. Today you might as well have the SS number tattooed on your forehead, along with all other significant “private” data, preferably in some bright hue so the monitoring cameras along highways and intersections can get a clean hit. “Drill baby drill” has been the war cry of the government’s data-mining programs throughout the Bush years, and we can expect no improvement ahead.
Fourth Amendment protections have likewise gone steadily downhill. Warrantless wiretappers had a field day under Bush, and Congress reaffirmed their activities in the FISA bill, for which Obama voted in a turnaround from previous pledges. Incoming vice president Joe Biden can claim a significant role here since he has been an ardent prosecutor of the war on drugs, used since the Harrison Act of 1914—and even before then with the different penalties attaching to opium as used by middle class whites or Chinese—to enhance the right of police to enter, terrorize, and prosecute at will. Indeed, the war on drugs, revived by President Nixon and pursued vigorously by all subsequent administrations, has been as powerful a rationale for tearing up the Constitution as the subsequent war on terror. It’s like that with all wars. Not far from where I live in northern California, combating narcotics was the excuse for serious inroads in the early 1990s into the Posse Comitatus statutory inhibition on use of the U.S. military in domestic law enforcement, another constitutional abuse whose roots have continued to sink deeper during the Bush years.
In the past eight years, Bush has ravaged the Fourth Amendment with steadfast diligence, starting with his insistence that he could issue arrest warrants if there was reason to believe a noncitizen was implicated in terrorist activity. Seized under this pretext and held within America’s borders or in some secret prison overseas, the captive had no recourse to a court of law. Simultaneously, the “probable cause” standard, theoretically disciplining the state’s innate propensity to search and to seize, has been systematically abused, as have the FBI’s powers under the “material witness” statute to arrest and hold their suspects. Goodbye habeas corpus.
Not only individual liberties but federalism and the rights of states have been relentlessly eroded in the Bush years, often amidst liberal cheers at such excrescences as the No Child Left Behind law. Property rights, too, have suffered great setbacks. Government’s power to seize land under the canons of “eminent domain” received sinister buttress by the Supreme Court in the 2005 Kelo decision.
Have there been any bright patches in the gloom? I salute one: the vindication of the Second Amendment in the Supreme Court’s recent Heller decision, written by Justice Scalia. Liberals would do well to acknowledge the wisdom of that ruling, just as conservatives should recognize the continuity between the outrages they decried under Clinton and the strip-mining of American liberties that has taken place under Bush.
Alexander Cockburn is coeditor of the newsletter and website CounterPunch (counterpunch.org) and has written a biweekly column for The Nation for many years. Next spring CounterPunch Books will publish his A Short History of Fear: The Rise and Fall of Global Warming.
Schumer’s Fairness Doctrine fatuity Published by Briggs at 6:37 am under Philosophy, Politics
First listen to the appalling Chuck Schumer responding to a question about the proposed Fairness Doctrine (link from Unfair Doctrine):
Let’s summarize. He said:
I think we should all try to be fair and balanced, don’t you? [Radio broadcasts]: It’s not like printing a broadside…Do you think we should allow people to put pornography on the air? Absolutely not. The very same people who don’t want the Fairness Doctrine, want the FCC to limit pornography on the air. But you can’t say “Government, Hands off” in one area to a commercial enterprise, “But you’re allowed to intervene in another.” That’s not consistent. Schumer is treasure trove to people like me who are always on the lookout for examples of appallingly bad reasoning to use for teaching students logic. Almost any Schumer speech can be milked for at least one lesson—you could probably get half a semester from this bare minute.
Now, nobody knows what any new Fairness Doctrine might be since it is now in its “trial balloon” phase. But we can look to an earlier, abandoned incarnation of it for some clues. We can also glean hints from Schumer’s words.
Schumer thinks we should try to be “Fair & Balanced.” A fine thing, but not something that can be mandated. This is not a question of opinion or morality. For example, supposed on some matter the truth is A (where this is some argument or proposition about a decision we have to make). I set up a newspaper to tout A. Another group, unhappy with the reality of A, says “B is better because it shows we care.” But since A is true, it is absurd for me to publish anything else. It is even more absurd for the government to threaten me with criminal liability for my refusal to explain the merits of B.
Of course, we don’t often know the truth of some thing, but we can make a rational guess. It might be, conditional on some evidence, that A is nearly true, or more than likely true, and that every other alternative to A is less likely to be true. Again, it is absurd for me to publish anything else, and equally or more absurd for the government to intervene.
Can the government ban certain opinions from being published? The answer is yes. In certain circumstances, it is rational to proscribe behavior. Some examples: calls for armed insurrection, pleas for murder or other crimes, for sedition and so on. It is not only right the government should ban these, but it is its duty to do so. The exact limits of opinion that can and should be banned are, of course, unknown, and will be, in some cases, flexibly defined. But in no case does it make sense for the government to say, “Ok, make your plea for murdering the president, but you also have to allow Mr X 5 minutes to offer his counter opinion.” The ludicrousness of any such an argument is apparent. In short, either an idea is banned or it is allowable (a trivial tautology, but one that bears mentioning).
It does not follow that because the vast majority of Americans want to ban or limit pornography from being broadcast, that the government can ban, limit, or regulate any other opinion. Whether or not it is right to ban or limit certain opinions, or what constitutes the definition of those opinions, it does not follow—it is idiotic to propose—that the government should allow airing of the controversial opinion but then require the broadcaster provide time for counter opinions. If that were the case, then we could have a station air Deep Throat followed by a plea for proper dental hygiene.
Proper dental hygiene? Why not “The evils of pornography”? Why not, indeed. Now comes the easiest refutation of any implementation of a Fairness Doctrine. Suppose I say “A is true!” The government wants to say, “You may say A is true, but I mandate that you allow fair time for opponents of A. You shall also bear the expense of this.” Who are the legitimate opponents of A? Those that say B? C?, D, E, F…?
This is the meat of it, friends. Pay attention. In order to enforce any “Fairness” Doctrine, the government will be forced to define the opposite of A. Because, for any matter that is uncertain, there are an infinite or certainly an enormously huge number of alternatives to A. You cannot, in finite time, broadcast every alternative to A even if you wanted to. The only way to mandate broadcasting alternatives to A is by the government dictating—and dictating requires a dictator—what those alternatives are.
For example, in the earlier incarnation of this naked power grab, a prominent person who was “attacked” on the air was to be allowed time to offer his defense. What defines an “attack”? Does any negative opinion about the Great Leader in power constitute an “attack”? The Great Leader proposes a tax increase, and a broadcaster says, “This will negatively effect credit and so make it more difficult to get home loans.” Is this an “attack”? Who can say? The government wants to say. In fact, it must say.
There is no way around this fact: the government must get into the business of defining what an “attack” is, what are its limits, and so on. There is no alternative if you require a Fairness Doctrine. There must come into an existence an office to administer Fairness (I propose “Ministry of Truth”).
Of course, many, like Schumer, would like nothing better than to be in the business of defining what are the limits of opinion on political matters. The reason for this is obvious as it is odious.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
It is impossible for any Fairness Doctrine to be consonant with those words. It is not a debatable point: it is logically impossible. Unless, as Schumer and other advocates of the “living constitution” want to do, you change the meaning of the plain-English words “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of the press.” They must interpret this to mean “Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of the press unless that law allows us to respond to people who hurt our feelings or otherwise pick on us, or that the speech printed or broadcast is hateful.” This is so absurd that I am shocked that anybody but an academic could ever think it.
Well, that’s enough. I’m already sick of this. There are no subtleties involved in this argument, not anywhere. To see these power-hungry politicians licking their chops over the possibilities due to them because of their recent electoral victory is truly frightening.
Sigh. I didn’t even get to the obvious logical absurdity in Schumer’s phrase “But you can’t say…” I’ll leave that for homework.
Five Myths About the Great Depression Herbert Hoover was no proponent of laissez-faire.
By ANDREW B. WILSON The current financial crisis has revived powerful misconceptions about the Great Depression. Those who misinterpret the past are all too likely to repeat the exact same mistakes that made the Great Depression so deep and devastating.
Here are five interrelated and durable myths about the 1929-39 Depression:
- Herbert Hoover, elected president in 1928, was a doctrinaire, laissez-faire, look-the-other way Republican who clung to the idea that markets were basically self-correcting. The truth is more illuminating. Far from a free-market idealist, Hoover was an ardent believer in government intervention to support incomes and employment. This is critical to understanding the origins of the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt didn't reverse course upon moving into the White House in 1933; he went further down the path that Hoover had blazed over the previous four years. That was the path to disaster.
Hoover, a one-time business whiz and a would-be all-purpose social problem-solver in the Lee Iacocca mold, was a bowling ball looking for pins to scatter. He was a government activist fixated on the idea of running the country as an energetic CEO might run a giant corporation. It was Hoover, not Roosevelt, who initiated the practice of piling up big deficits to support huge public-works projects. After declining or holding steady through most of the 1920s, federal spending soared between 1929 and 1932 -- increasing by more than 50%, the biggest increase in federal spending ever recorded during peacetime.
Public projects undertaken by Hoover included the San Francisco Bay Bridge, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, and Hoover Dam. The Republican president won plaudits from the American Federation of Labor for his industrial policy, which included jawboning business leaders to refrain from cutting wages as the economy fell. Referring to counteracting the business cycle and propping up wages, Hoover said: "No president before has ever believed that there was a government responsibility in such cases . . . we had to pioneer a new field." Though he did not coin the phrase, Hoover championed many of the basic ideas -- such as central planning and control of the economy -- that came to be known as the New Deal.
- The stock market crash in October 1929 precipitated the Great Depression. What the crash mainly precipitated was a raft of wrongheaded policies that did major damage to the economy -- beginning with the disastrous retreat into protectionism marked by the passage of the Smoot-Hawley tariff, which passed the House in May 1929 and the Senate in March 1930, and was signed into law by Hoover in June 1930. As prices fell, Smoot-Hawley doubled the effective tariff duties on a wide range of manufactures and agricultural products. It triggered the beggar-thy-neighbor policies of countervailing tariffs that caused the international economy to collapse. Some have argued that the increasing likelihood that the Smoot-Hawley tariff would pass was a major contributing factor to the stock-market collapse in the fall of 1929.
- Where the market had failed, the government stepped in to protect ordinary people. Hoover's disastrous agricultural policies involved the know-it-all Hoover acting as his own agriculture secretary and in fact writing the original Agricultural Marketing Act that evolved into Smoot-Hawley. While exports accounted for 7% of U.S. GDP in 1929, trade accounted for about one-third of U.S. farm income. The loss of export markets caused by Smoot-Hawley devastated the agricultural sector. Following in Hoover's footsteps, FDR concentrated on trying to raise farm income by such tactics as setting quotas on production and paying farmers to remove acreage from production -- even though this meant higher prices for hard-pressed consumers and had the effect of both lowering productivity and driving farmers off their land.
- Greed caused the stock market to overshoot and then crash. The real culprit here -- as in the housing bubble in our own time -- is the one identified by the economic historian Charles Kindleberger in the classic book "Manias, Panics, and Crashes": a speculative fever induced by excessively easy credit and broken by the inevitable return to more realistic valuations.
In the late 1920s, cheap and easy money fueled a tremendous increase in margin trading and a proliferation of "investment trusts" that offered little in the way of dividends or demonstrable earnings per share, but still promised phenomenal capital gains. "Speculation," as Kindleberger neatly defined it, "involves buying for resale rather than use in the case of commodities, and for resale rather than income in the case of financial assets."
The last thing Hoover wanted to do upon coming to office was to rein in the stock market boom by allowing interest rates to rise to a more normal level. The key to prosperity, in his view, lay not in sound money and rising productivity, but in letting the good times roll -- through government action aimed at maintaining high wages and high stock market valuations.
- Enlightened government pulled the nation out of the worst downturn in its history and came to the rescue of capitalism through rigorous regulation and government oversight. To the contrary, the Hoover and Roosevelt administrations -- in disregarding market signals at every turn -- were jointly responsible for turning a panic into the worst depression of modern times. As late as 1938, after almost a decade of governmental "pump priming," almost one out of five workers remained unemployed. What the government gave with one hand, through increased spending, it took away with the other, through increased taxation. But that was not an even trade-off. As the root cause of a great deal of mismanagement and inefficiency, government was responsible for a lost decade of economic growth.
Hoover was destined to fill the role of the left's designated scapegoat. Despite that, the one place where he and FDR truly "triumphed" was in enlisting the support of leading writers and intellectuals for government planning and intervention. This had a lasting effect on the way that generations of people think about the Great Depression. The antienterprise spirit among thought leaders of this time (and later) extended to top business publications. "Do you still believe in Lazy-Fairies?" Business Week asked derisively in 1931. "To plan or not to plan is no longer the question. The real question is who is to do it?"
In his economic policies and his incessant governmental activism, Hoover differed far more sharply with his Republican predecessor than he did with his Democratic successor. Calvin Coolidge, president from 1923 to 1929, made no secret of his disdain for Hoover, who served as his secretary of commerce and won praise from such highly regarded liberals as John Maynard Keynes and Jean Monnet. "That man has offered me unsolicited advice for six years, all of it bad," Coolidge said. He mockingly referred to Hoover as "Wonder Boy."
With the vitality of U.S. and world economies at stake, it is essential that the decisions of the coming months are shaped by the right lessons -- not the myths -- of the Great Depression.
Mr. Wilson, a former Business Week bureau chief, is a writer based in St. Louis.
Milwaukee Puts a Vote-Fraud Cop Out of Business Local Democrats don't take the issue seriously.
By JOHN FUND Last week Mike Sandvick, head of the Milwaukee Police Department's five-man Special Investigative Unit, was told by superiors not to send anyone to polling places on Election Day. He was also told his unit -- which wrote the book on how fraud could subvert the vote in his hometown -- would be disbanded.
"We know what to look for," he told me, "and that scares some people." In disgust, Mr. Sandvick plans to retire. (A police spokeswoman claims the unit isn't being disbanded and that any changes to the unit "aren't significant.")
In February, Mr. Sandvick's unit released a 67-page report on what it called an "illegal organized attempt to influence the outcome of (the 2004) election in the state of Wisconsin" -- a swing state whose last two presidential races were decided by less than 12,000 votes.
The report found that between 4,600 and 5,300 more votes were counted in Milwaukee than the number of voters recorded as having cast ballots. Absentee ballots were cast by people living elsewhere; ineligible felons not only voted but worked at the polls; transient college students cast improper votes; and homeless voters possibly voted more than once.
Much of the problem resulted from Wisconsin's same-day voter law, which allows anyone to show up at the polls, register and then cast a ballot. ID requirements are minimal. If someone lacks any ID, he can vote so long as someone who lives in the same city vouches for him. The report found that in 2004 a total of 1,305 "same day" voters gave information that was declared "un-enterable" or invalid by election officials.
According to the report, this loophole was abused by many out-of-state workers for the John Kerry campaign. They had "other staff members who were registered voters vouch for them by corroborating their residency."
The investigative unit believed at least 16 workers from the Kerry campaign, and two allied get-out-the-vote groups, "committed felony crimes." But local prosecutors didn't pursue them in part because of a "lack of confidence" in the abysmal record-keeping of the city's Election Commission.
Pat Curley, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett's chief of staff, told me he was very upset by the surprise release of the report. "I don't believe all of the facts are necessarily accurate," he said. Which ones? He only cited the report's interpretation of state policy on homeless voters. He denies the mayor's office had any role in disbanding the unit.
Mr. Sandvick says the problems his unit found in 2004 are "only the tip of the iceberg" of what could happen today. His unit has found out-of-state groups registering their temporary workers, a college dorm with 60 voters who aren't students, and what his unit believes are seven illegal absentee ballots.
"The time to stop voter fraud is prior to when the questionable ballot is mixed in with all the valid votes," he says. Former police captain Glenn Frankovis agrees: "This issue could be solved if [the police chief] would assign police officers to the polling locations as was customary about 20 years ago." But election monitors are now viewed as "intimidating" in minority precincts and have been withdrawn.
Mr. Sandvick's report concluded "the one thing that could eliminate a large percentage of the fraud" it found would be elimination of same-day voter registration (which is also in use in seven other states). It also suggested that voters present a photo ID at the polls, a requirement the U.S. Supreme Court declared constitutional this spring.
But weeks after the vote fraud report was released, Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold introduced federal legislation to mandate same-day registration in every state. He claimed the system had worked well in Wisconsin and if "we can bring more people into the process, [it] only strengthens our democracy." Democrats tell me his bill is a top priority of the new Congress.
"They say voter fraud isn't a problem," notes Mr. Sandvick, "but after this election it may be all too clear it is." Now that Mr. Sandvick is resigning from the force after a long, honorable career, let's hope someone else is allowed to follow up on the spadework he's done.
'Space invader' DNA infiltrated mammalian genomes 22:00 20 October 2008 NewScientist.com news service Jessica Griggs
Parts of mammalian DNA are so alien they have been dubbed "space invaders" by the researchers that found them. The discovery, if confirmed, will change our understanding of evolution.
We normally get our genes "vertically" – handed down from our parents and theirs before them. Bacteria get theirs in this way too, but also "horizontally" – passed from one, unrelated individual to another.
Now biologists at the University of Texas, Arlington, have found the unexpected: horizontal gene transfer has occurred in mammals and amphibians too.
The culprit is a kind of "parasitic" DNA found in all our cells, known as a transposon. Study leader Cédric Feschotte says that what he calls space invader tranposons jumped sideways millions of years ago into several species by piggybacking onto a virus.
The transposon then assimilated itself into sex chromosomes, ensuring that it would get passed onto future generations. "It is very interesting conceptually – the idea that some parts of a mammal's DNA don't come from an ancestral species," he says.
Out of 26 animal genomes, the team found a near-identical length of DNA, known as the hAT transposon, in seven species, separated by some 340 million years of evolution.
These include species as widely diverged as a bush baby, a South American opossum, an African clawed frog and a tenrec – a mammal that looks like a hedgehog, but is actually more closely related to elephants.
The fact that invasive DNA was seen in a bush baby but not in any other primates, and in a tenrec but not in elephants, hints that something more exotic than standard inheritance is going on.
However, this patchy distribution by itself does not rule out the traditional method, as some of the species could have lost the transposon DNA throughout evolutionary history.
So the team looked at the position of the hAT transposon – if it had been inherited from a common ancestor it would have been found in the same position, with respect to other genes, in each species. But they could not find a single case of this.
Since first entering the genome, the hAT has been able to reproduce dramatically – in the tenrec, 99,000 copies were found, making up a significant chunk of its DNA. Feschotte speculates that this must have had a dramatic effect on its evolutionary development.
"It's like a bombardment", he says. "It must have been evolutionarily significant because the transposon generated a huge amount of DNA after the initial transfer."
Feschotte says he expects many more reports of horizontal gene jumping. "We're talking about a paradigm shift because, until now, horizontal transfer has been seen as very rare in animal species. It's actually a lot more common than we think."
The team thinks that the hAT transposon invasion occurred about 30 million years ago and spread across at least two continents. "It's like a pandemic, and one that can infect species that weren't genetically or geographically close. It's puzzling, scary almost," Feschotte says.
It may not be a coincidence that the time of the invasion coincides with a period in evolutionary history that saw mass mammal extinctions. This is usually attributed to climate change, Feschotte says, but it is not crazy to suppose that this type of invasion could contribute to species extinction.
The hAT transposon does not occur in humans, but some 45% of our genome is of transposon origin.
Feschotte's work on the hAT transposon is the first time that a "jumping gene" has been shown to have entered mammalian genomes, and the first time it has been shown to do so in at around the same time, in a range of unrelated species, in different parts of the world.
Feschotte admits that we cannot rule out another transposon offensive occurring in mammals, and thinks that bats are the species most likely to be the source. For some reason, he says, they seem to be most susceptible to picking up transposons – possibly because of the viruses they carry.
"Bats are notorious reservoir species for a plethora of viruses, including some very nasty to humans like rabies, SARS and perhaps Ebola," he says.
"Since these bats are full of active DNA transposons and are frequently involved in viral spill-over, the door for the transfer of an active DNA transposon to humans seems wide open. Rather scary."
Greg Hurst, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Liverpool, UK, says that the arrival of a new transposable element can be evolutionary significant, because new elements tend to be more active. "They will jump a fair bit more than older elements, which the resident genome will have evolved to suppress."
Most of the consequences of having a transposon jump around in your genome will be deleterious, Hurst says, but some will be advantageous. "The evolutionary life of the species could certainly hit the fast lane for a bit when it happens."
Journal reference: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0806548105)
'Junk' DNA Proves Functional; Helps Explain Human Differences From Other Species
According to a new study, what was previously believed to be "junk" DNA is one of the important ingredients distinguishing humans from other species. (Credit: iStockphoto) ScienceDaily (Nov. 5, 2008) — In a paper published in Genome Research on Nov. 4, scientists at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) report that what was previously believed to be "junk" DNA is one of the important ingredients distinguishing humans from other species.
More than 50 percent of human DNA has been referred to as "junk" because it consists of copies of nearly identical sequences. A major source of these repeats is internal viruses that have inserted themselves throughout the genome at various times during mammalian evolution.
Using the latest sequencing technologies, GIS researchers showed that many transcription factors, the master proteins that control the expression of other genes, bind specific repeat elements. The researchers showed that from 18 to 33% of the binding sites of five key transcription factors with important roles in cancer and stem cell biology are embedded in distinctive repeat families.
Over evolutionary time, these repeats were dispersed within different species, creating new regulatory sites throughout these genomes. Thus, the set of genes controlled by these transcription factors is likely to significantly differ from species to species and may be a major driver for evolution.
This research also shows that these repeats are anything but "junk DNA," since they provide a great source of evolutionary variability and might hold the key to some of the important physical differences that distinguish humans from all other species.
The GIS study also highlighted the functional importance of portions of the genome that are rich in repetitive sequences.
"Because a lot of the biomedical research use model organisms such as mice and primates, it is important to have a detailed understanding of the differences between these model organisms and humans in order to explain our findings," said Guillaume Bourque, Ph.D., GIS Senior Group Leader and lead author of the Genome Research paper.
"Our research findings imply that these surveys must also include repeats, as they are likely to be the source of important differences between model organisms and humans," added Dr. Bourque. "The better our understanding of the particularities of the human genome, the better our understanding will be of diseases and their treatments."
"The findings by Dr. Bourque and his colleagues at the GIS are very exciting and represent what may be one of the major discoveries in the biology of evolution and gene regulation of the decade," said Raymond White, Ph.D., Rudi Schmid Distinguished Professor at the Department of Neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, and chair of the GIS Scientific Advisory Board.
"We have suspected for some time that one of the major ways species differ from one another – for instance, why rats differ from monkeys – is in the regulation of the expression of their genes: where are the genes expressed in the body, when during development, and how much do they respond to environmental stimuli," he added.
"What the researchers have demonstrated is that DNA segments carrying binding sites for regulatory proteins can, at times, be explosively distributed to new sites around the genome, possibly altering the activities of genes near where they locate. The means of distribution seem to be a class of genetic components called 'transposable elements' that are able to jump from one site to another at certain times in the history of the organism. The families of these transposable elements vary from species to species, as do the distributed DNA segments which bind the regulatory proteins."
Dr. White also added, "This hypothesis for formation of new species through episodic distributions of families of gene regulatory DNA sequences is a powerful one that will now guide a wealth of experiments to determine the functional relationships of these regulatory DNA sequences to the genes that are near their landing sites. I anticipate that as our knowledge of these events grows, we will begin to understand much more how and why the rat differs so dramatically from the monkey, even though they share essentially the same complement of genes and proteins."
A new study for the most part confirms John Lott's "more guns, less crime" thesis, and calls into serious question the only intervening study that found otherwise. The piece is very statistically dense; abstract and conclusion follow:
Carlisle e. Moody and Thomas B. Marvell
“Shall issue” right-to-carry concealed weapons laws require authorities to issue concealed-weapons permits, allowing the permit holder to carry a concealed handgun, to anyone who applies, unless the applicant has a criminal record or a history of mental illness. The shall-issue laws are state laws, applicable to all coun- ties within the state.3 In contrast, states with “may issue” laws allow considerable discretion to the authorities. In may-issue states, authorities typically require that the applicant demonstrate a particular need for a concealed weapons permit, and self-defense usually is not deemed sufficient. Consequently, shall-issue states are much more permissive of individual freedom to carry concealed handguns. In 1997 John Lott and David Mustard published, “Crime, Deterrence and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns” in the Journal of Legal Studies. They found that shall-issue states had lower violent crime rates, presumably because the laws result in more people carrying concealed weapons. Criminals might be deterred by the greater likelihood of others being armed, and of arms being concealed. Lott and Mustard’s article created a furor and the debate continues. Much of this debate takes place in op-ed columns, letters to editors, internet chat rooms, and web logs. In this article we concentrate on the academic debate. We review the main threads of the discussion in the literature and extend the debate with our own statistical analyses. In particular, we extend the investigation of influential work in Stanford Law Review by Ian Ayres and John J. Donohue III (2003a, 2003b), who, contrary to Lott and Mus- tard, claim to find that shall-issue laws actually lead to an overall increase in crime. The new statistical analysis contained in the present article finds that shall issue laws are generally beneficial. Purists in statistical analysis object with some cause to some of methods employed both by Ayres and Donohue, by us, and by the literature in general. But the new investigation presented here upgrades Ayres and Donohue in a few significant ways, so, at least until the next study comes along, our paper should neutralize Ayres and Donohue’s “more guns, more crime” conclusion. are generally beneficial. Purists in statistical analysis object with some cause to some of methods employed both by Ayres and Donohue, by us, and by the literature in general. But the new investigation presented here upgrades Ayres and Donohue in a few significant ways, so, at least until the next study comes along, our paper should neutralize Ayres and Donohue’s “more guns, more crime” conclusion.
suMMary and ConClusion Many articles have been published finding that shall-issue laws reduce crime. Only one article, by Ayres and Donohue who employ a model that combines a dummy variable with a post-law trend, claims to find that shall-issue laws increase crime. However, the only way that they can produce the result that shall-issue laws increase crime is to confine the span of analysis to five years. We show, using their own estimates, that if they had extended their analysis by one more year, they would have concluded that these laws reduce crime. Since most states with shall- issue laws have had these laws on the books for more than five years, and the law will presumably remain on the books for some time, the only relevant analysis extends beyond five years. We extend their analysis by adding three more years of data, control for the effects of crack cocaine, control for dynamic effects, and correct the standard errors for clustering. We find that there is an initial increase in crime due to passage of the shall-issue law that is dwarfed over time by the decrease in crime associated with the post-law trend. These results are very similar to those of Ayres and Donohue, properly interpreted. The modified Ayres and Donohue model finds that shall-issue laws significantly reduce murder and burglary across all the adopting states. These laws appear to significantly increase assault, and have no net effect on rape, robbery, larceny, or auto theft. However, in the long run only the trend coefficients matter. We estimate a net benefit of $450 million per year as a result of the passage of these laws. We also estimate that, up through 2000, there was a cumulative overall net benefit of these laws of $28 billion since their passage. We think that there is credible statistical evidence that these laws lower the costs of crime. But at the very least, the present study should neutralize any “more guns, more crime” thinking based on Ayres and Donohue’s work in the Stanford Law Review. We acknowledge that, especially in light of the methodological issues of the literature in general, the magnitudes derived from our analysis of crime statistics and the supposed costs of crime might be dwarfed by other considerations in judging the policy issue. Some might contend that allowing individuals to carry a concealed weapon is a moral or cultural bad. Others might contend that greater liberty is a moral or cultural good. All we are confident in saying is that the evidence, such as it is, seems to support the hypothesis that the shall-issue law is generally beneficial with respect to its overall long run effect on crime.
Where Was the Ad? And there must be some excellent reason we didn’t see this from the McCain campaign, right? Right?
By Bill Whittle
Of the many — actually, it approaches infinite — missed Republican opportunities of this campaign season, I feel there is one so obvious I had to try to remedy it — personally.
It’s just a few hours until the polls open, but I wanted it out there just so I could say it was. Here you go.
My friends, I’m John McCain. Back in 2002, I fought hard to limit the amount of money in politics. I thought it was corrosive and anti-democratic. Public financing of campaigns has long been a Democratic rallying cry, and I crossed the aisle to work with my colleague, Senator Russ Feingold, to pass legislation limiting the amount of money being pumped into campaigns. Nothing I have done has damaged me more with the base of my own party, but I thought it was the right thing to do, so I did it.
During the primaries, both Senator Obama and I agreed to make this campaign about issues and not about money, and I was proud and pleased when he joined me in a pledge to accept public financing for the general election.
However, back in June, Senator Obama renounced that pledge. Once it became clear that he could raise more money by breaking his promise – not just to me, and to America, but to the Democratic Party ideal they have fought for for so long – once he realized he could raise more money by breaking that promise, he broke it.
I did not.
So now, Senator Obama has raised over $600 million dollars. Because I remained committed to a principle we both agreed upon, he is able to outspend me at least seven to one. Remember that, next time you see an ad run by Senator Obama. Or the next one. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that. Or the one after that.
And if that doesn’t bother you – at least a little – just ask yourself one question: What if Senator Obama, running on a platform of Change and “a new kind of politics” was the one to accept public financing, and the Republican opponent did not. What if the Democrat, true to his principles and a personal pledge, held true to his beliefs, while the Republican raised six hundred million dollars and turned off the standard credit card anti-fraud protections while doing so? What if the Republican outspent the democrat more than seven to one, and, as a result was up by a few points in key battlefield states.
What would you think then?
Would you not be inclined to say he “bought the election?” And do you think, in the face of that advantage, that anyone will ever accept public financing again?
And what if, in the face of that disadvantage, all you had to trust and depend on was the fundamental integrity of the press to present whatever damaging information they and their army of reporters could uncover, on either candidate?
What if they too failed to live up to their obligation to you? Then where would this principled stand leave you?
Imagine a Republican sitting in a room where people were being disparaged due to their religion or the color of their skin, and then try to imagine a news organization sitting on a video of the incident. Never happen, it'd be all over the airwaves faster than you can say "news cycle."
Alas, you don't have to imagine someone trying to excuse similar behavior by pointing out tangential associations that have nothing to do with the point under discussion as you've done it already. But hey, if sitting on a board that gives money to an organization that has someone in it who supports terror is bad, then I guess serving on a board where the guy sitting next to you supported terror tactics is even worse, right?
This sort of inane equivocation doesn't bode well for informed discussion. . . .
The Los Angeles Times’s Strange Notion of Journalistic Ethics Give us the tape … or at least a transcript of Obama’s radical shindig.
By Andrew C. McCarthy
When it comes to insulting our collective intelligence, the Obamedia soundtrack of the ongoing campaign breaks new ground on a daily, indeed an hourly, basis. Still, the Los Angeles Times takes the cake.
Change you can believe in is a short hop from fairy tales you can be sold. In that spirit, the Times tells us, we’d really, really love to release the videotape we’re holding of that 2003 Khalidi shindig — the one where Barack Obama joined a motley collection of Israel-bashers, including the former terrorists Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, to sing the praises of Rashid Khalidi — former mouthpiece for PLO master-terrorist Yasser Arafat. But alas, our hands are tied by journalistic ethics.
Of course the ever ethical Times would never try to skew election coverage in favor of a candidate it has recently endorsed (after blowing kisses at him for two years). Nor would the newspaper give its readers anything but a complete, accurate, and truthful account of an event like the Khalidi Bash that it deemed worthy enough to cover. You can take that to the bank. But, gosh-darn, it turns out that a “source” the Times won’t name supposedly provided reporter Peter Wallsten with the videotape on the solemn promise that the paper would never let it see the light of day … except to report on it as the Times saw fit.
If you believe that one, I’ve got a tax cut for you.
Let’s suspend disbelief for a moment. Let’s pretend that there is really some sentient being out there who actually leaks a videotape to a reporter wanting and expecting the event depicted to be given news coverage but somehow not wanting or expecting the tape itself to be published. And let’s further pretend that this phantom source who doesn’t want to tape disclosed nevertheless gives the tape to the newspaper rather than keeping control over it himself.
Let’s say we buy that this highly unlikely scenario actually happened. That would still not prevent the Los Angeles Times from putting out a transcript of the Khalidi testimonials and other speechifying.
We know, for example, that Barack Obama spoke for several minutes. Yet the Times has provided us with only the most cursory summary — to be more precise, not a summary but an account. A summary is a synopsis that fairly reflects what was said. Reporter Wallsten, to the contrary, fleetingly tells us only that “Obama adopted a different tone [from rabid anti-Israel speakers] in his comments and called for finding common ground.”
How so? We’re not told. Here’s the entirety of the Times description of Obama’s remarks:
His many talks with the Khalidis, Obama said, had been “consistent reminders to me of my own blind spots and my own biases. . . . It’s for that reason that I'm hoping that, for many years to come, we continue that conversation — a conversation that is necessary not just around Mona and Rashid's dinner table,” but around “this entire world.”
How very enlightening. What were the topics of the dinner-table talk? What blind spots and biases was Obama referring to? Did anything in his speech provide clues? We have no idea: the Times doesn’t tell us.
Moreover, we also know that several speakers that night sang paeans to Khalidi — who regards the establishment of a Jewish state in “Palestine” as the Nakba (i.e., “The Catastrophe”) and justifies terrorist attacks against Israeli military and government targets. The Times concedes the party was a forum “where anger at Israeli and U.S. Middle East policy was freely expressed.” Yet, again, we are given only two blurbs:
[A] young Palestinian American recited a poem accusing the Israeli government of terrorism in its treatment of Palestinians and sharply criticizing U.S. support of Israel. If Palestinians cannot secure their own land, she said, “then you will never see a day of peace.” One speaker likened “Zionist settlers on the West Bank” to Osama bin Laden, saying both had been “blinded by ideology.”
You know there was a lot more where that came from, spouted by several other speakers whom the Times story fails to name. Why not put out a transcript of what was said and by whom? And if the Times has information about what was in the commemorative book that was prepared for the occasion of Khalidi’s triumphant departure to assume the Edward Said chair at Columbia University, why not put that out too?
Even if you accept for argument’s sake the bunk about honoring the “source’s” supposed wishes, the newspaper wouldn’t need to release the tape in order to give us a more comprehensive account of what happened that evening. So it’s not that the Times is simply withholding the tape. The Times is trying to suppress the story. Not the story as Wallsten spun it back in April. The full story.
The full story couldn’t be more relevant. Barack Obama says he is a staunch supporter of Israel. The importance of the Khalidi festivities isn’t simply that Obama lavished praise on a man who was an Arafat apologist — although that is troubling in itself. What also matters is that many speakers (no doubt including Obama’s good friend Khalidi himself) said extremely provocative things about Israel and American policy.
While that went on, Obama apparently sat there in tacit acceptance, if not approval. He didn’t get up to leave. He wasn’t roused to a defense of his country. He didn’t deliver a spirited condemnation of Islamic terror. He just sat there. And when it came his turn to speak, he spoke … glowingly … about Khalidi. He was clearly comfortable around the agitators and, equally crucial, they were clearly comfortable spewing their bile in front of him — confident that they were certainly not giving offense.
Why would the Times think it’s not newsworthy to tell us in detail what Obama sat through and chose not to refute? He says he supports Israel, but shouldn’t we get a peek at what he actually does when Israel is under attack. After all, he wants to be in charge and soon the attacks may be more than just verbal.
All of that could be made known by the publication of a transcript, without breaching any purported promise to the purported source.
But, the Times sputters, we’ve already done that news story back in April. The material facts have already been publicized thanks to our crack reporting.
Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn were at the party. Given the controversy over their extensive relationship with Obama — sitting on boards together, doling out millions of dollars together, lauding each other’s writings, joint appearances at conferences, Obama’s introduction to Chicago politics in the Ayers/Dohrn home, etc. — didn’t the Times think their attendance together at a party for Khalidi was worth reporting?
Given that Obama now preposterously claims he and Ayers barely know each other, didn’t the Times think it was worth mentioning that guest-of-honor Khalidi, a very close friend of Obama, just happens also to be a very close friend of Ayers?
The party was sponsored by the Arab American Action Network (AAAN) — an organization founded by Khalidi and his wife (who also worked for the PLO’s press agency) and lavishly funded by Obama and Ayers when they sat together on the board of the Woods Fund. Did the Times think that was newsworthy?
Again, apparently not. Wallsten’s article does not mention the AAAN’s role in the party. He describes the AAAN “a social service group” which is headed by Khalidi’s wife and was given a $40,000 grant by the Woods Fund when Obama sat on the board. In fact, AAAN is an activist Palestinian organization that regards Israel as illegitimate and supports driver’s licenses and welfare benefits for illegal aliens. Further, it was founded by both Khalidi and his wife, it actually received almost twice as much Woods Fund support as the Times said (i.e., $75,000, not $40,000), and, at the time of those grants, one of Obama’s partners on the board was Bill Ayers.
Besides Obama and Khalidi (about whose speeches the Times tells us precious little), who else spoke at the party? What was said? What was written in the commemorative book prepared for the occasion? The Times doesn’t tell us.
In fact, though the Times’s story runs 2000 words, very little of it is about the party the Times now contends it covered adequately. Most of it is dedicated to probing what Wallsten frames as the alluring mystery of Barack Obama’s position on the Israeli/Palestinian dispute. Is he really a strong Israel supporter? Do anti-Israeli Palestinians really have good reason to regard him as a friend? Would he shift away from the strong U.S. alliance with Israel to a more “even-handed” approach—as one Chicago Palestinian-rights activist claims to have heard Obama say he favored (Obama denies it)?
We don’t know. The Times raises these and other questions, acknowledges that they are vexing, but then withholds from us critical information by which we might draw our own informed conclusions.
The mainstream press, of course, is urging Congress to enact a “shield law,” protecting reporters from government subpoenas. To a former prosecutor, that’s worth noting. You see, in matters of great public importance, prosecutors have ethical obligations, too. One of them says that if you provide an incomplete or misleading version of an event to the public’s courts, and you have information in your file that would clarify the situation, you are duty-bound to disclose that information. That way, the factfinder is equipped to make an intelligent, informed decision about what the truth is.
By contrast, the mainstream media want the right to mislead you, to provide you with a woefully incomplete record, but to deprive you of clarifying information even when it is readily at their disposal. You just have to take their word for what happened, and never you mind the details.
Are you comfortable taking the Obamedia’s word for it? Or do you think you ought to have a look at what Los Angeles Times has unilaterally decided not to show you?
The time for a newspaper to start worrying about journalistic ethics is when it publishes the story, not six months later when, in the stretch run of a crucial election, it gets called on an obviously incomplete report. Ethics, furthermore, are about fair and honest treatment. If the videotape at issue involved John McCain rubbing elbows with radicals or the CIA trying to protect national defense secrets, the Times would publish it and revel in the inevitable Pulitzer for its “courage” in doing so.
Let’s see the tape … or at least a transcript.
— National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy chairs the FDD’s Center for Law & Counterterrorism and is the author of Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the Jihad (Encounter Books 2008).
Media's Presidential Bias and Decline Columnist Michael Malone Looks at Slanted Election Coverage and the Reasons Why
Column By MICHAEL S. MALONE Oct. 24, 2008 —
The traditional media are playing a very, very dangerous game -- with their readers, with the Constitution and with their own fates.
The sheer bias in the print and television coverage of this election campaign is not just bewildering, but appalling. And over the last few months I've found myself slowly moving from shaking my head at the obvious one-sided reporting, to actually shouting at the screen of my television and my laptop computer.
But worst of all, for the last couple weeks, I've begun -- for the first time in my adult life -- to be embarrassed to admit what I do for a living. A few days ago, when asked by a new acquaintance what I did for a living, I replied that I was "a writer," because I couldn't bring myself to admit to a stranger that I'm a journalist.
You need to understand how painful this is for me. I am one of those people who truly bleeds ink when I'm cut. I am a fourth-generation newspaperman. As family history tells it, my great-grandfather was a newspaper editor in Abilene, Kan., during the last of the cowboy days, then moved to Oregon to help start the Oregon Journal (now the Oregonian).
My hard-living -- and when I knew her, scary -- grandmother was one of the first women reporters for the Los Angeles Times. And my father, though profoundly dyslexic, followed a long career in intelligence to finish his life (thanks to word processors and spellcheckers) as a very successful freelance writer. I've spent 30 years in every part of journalism, from beat reporter to magazine editor. And my oldest son, following in the family business, so to speak, earned his first national byline before he earned his drivers license.
So, when I say I'm deeply ashamed right now to be called a "journalist," you can imagine just how deep that cuts into my soul.
Now, of course, there's always been bias in the media. Human beings are biased, so the work they do, including reporting, is inevitably colored. Hell, I can show you 10 different ways to color variations of the word "said" -- muttered, shouted, announced, reluctantly replied, responded, etc. -- to influence the way a reader will apprehend exactly the same quote. We all learn that in Reporting 101, or at least in the first few weeks working in a newsroom.
But what we are also supposed to learn during that same apprenticeship is to recognize the dangerous power of that technique, and many others, and develop built-in alarms against them.
But even more important, we are also supposed to be taught that even though there is no such thing as pure, Platonic objectivity in reporting, we are to spend our careers struggling to approach that ideal as closely as possible.
That means constantly challenging our own prejudices, systematically presenting opposing views and never, ever burying stories that contradict our own world views or challenge people or institutions we admire. If we can't achieve Olympian detachment, than at least we can recognize human frailty -- especially in ourselves.
For many years, spotting bias in reporting was a little parlor game of mine, watching TV news or reading a newspaper article and spotting how the reporter had inserted, often unconsciously, his or her own preconceptions. But I always wrote it off as bad judgment and lack of professionalism, rather than bad faith and conscious advocacy.
Sure, being a child of the '60s I saw a lot of subjective "New" Journalism, and did a fair amount of it myself, but that kind of writing, like columns and editorials, was supposed to be segregated from "real" reporting, and, at least in mainstream media, usually was. The same was true for the emerging blogosphere, which by its very nature was opinionated and biased.
But my complacent faith in my peers first began to be shaken when some of the most admired journalists in the country were exposed as plagiarists, or worse, accused of making up stories from whole cloth.
I'd spent my entire professional career scrupulously pounding out endless dreary footnotes and double-checking sources to make sure that I never got accused of lying or stealing someone else's work -- not out of any native honesty, but out of fear: I'd always been told to fake or steal a story was a firing offense & indeed, it meant being blackballed out of the profession.
And yet, few of those worthies ever seemed to get fired for their crimes -- and if they did they were soon rehired into even more prestigious jobs. It seemed as if there were two sets of rules: one for us workaday journalists toiling out in the sticks, and another for folks who'd managed, through talent or deceit, to make it to the national level.
Meanwhile, I watched with disbelief as the nation's leading newspapers, many of whom I'd written for in the past, slowly let opinion pieces creep into the news section, and from there onto the front page. Personal opinions and comments that, had they appeared in my stories in 1979, would have gotten my butt kicked by the nearest copy editor, were now standard operating procedure at the New York Times, the Washington Post, and soon after in almost every small town paper in the U.S.
But what really shattered my faith -- and I know the day and place where it happened -- was the war in Lebanon three summers ago. The hotel I was staying at in Windhoek, Namibia, only carried CNN, a network I'd already learned to approach with skepticism. But this was CNN International, which is even worse.
I sat there, first with my jaw hanging down, then actually shouting at the TV, as one field reporter after another reported the carnage of the Israeli attacks on Beirut, with almost no corresponding coverage of the Hezbollah missiles raining down on northern Israel. The reporting was so utterly and shamelessly biased that I sat there for hours watching, assuming that eventually CNNi would get around to telling the rest of the story & but it never happened.
The Presidential Campaign
But nothing, nothing I've seen has matched the media bias on display in the current presidential campaign.
Republicans are justifiably foaming at the mouth over the sheer one-sidedness of the press coverage of the two candidates and their running mates. But in the last few days, even Democrats, who have been gloating over the pass -- no, make that shameless support -- they've gotten from the press, are starting to get uncomfortable as they realize that no one wins in the long run when we don't have a free and fair press.
I was one of the first people in the traditional media to call for the firing of Dan Rather -- not because of his phony story, but because he refused to admit his mistake -- but, bless him, even Gunga Dan thinks the media is one-sided in this election.
Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those people who think the media has been too hard on, say, Republican vice presidential nominee Gov. Sarah Palin, by rushing reportorial SWAT teams to her home state of Alaska to rifle through her garbage. This is the big leagues, and if she wants to suit up and take the field, then Gov. Palin better be ready to play.
The few instances where I think the press has gone too far -- such as the Times reporter talking to prospective first lady Cindy McCain's daughter's MySpace friends -- can easily be solved with a few newsroom smackdowns and temporary repostings to the Omaha bureau.
No, what I object to (and I think most other Americans do as well) is the lack of equivalent hardball coverage of the other side -- or worse, actively serving as attack dogs for the presidential ticket of Sens. Barack Obama, D-Ill., and Joe Biden, D-Del.
If the current polls are correct, we are about to elect as president of the United States a man who is essentially a cipher, who has left almost no paper trail, seems to have few friends (that at least will talk) and has entire years missing out of his biography.
That isn't Sen. Obama's fault: His job is to put his best face forward. No, it is the traditional media's fault, for it alone (unlike the alternative media) has had the resources to cover this story properly, and has systematically refused to do so.
Why, for example to quote the lawyer for Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., haven't we seen an interview with Sen. Obama's grad school drug dealer -- when we know all about Mrs. McCain's addiction? Are Bill Ayers and Tony Rezko that hard to interview? All those phony voter registrations that hard to scrutinize? And why are Sen. Biden's endless gaffes almost always covered up, or rationalized, by the traditional media?
Joe the Plumber
The absolute nadir (though I hate to commit to that, as we still have two weeks before the election) came with Joe the Plumber.
Middle America, even when they didn't agree with Joe, looked on in horror as the press took apart the private life of an average person who had the temerity to ask a tough question of a presidential candidate. So much for the standing up for the little man. So much for speaking truth to power. So much for comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, and all of those other catchphrases we journalists used to believe we lived by.
I learned a long time ago that when people or institutions begin to behave in a matter that seems to be entirely against their own interests, it's because we don't understand what their motives really are. It would seem that by so exposing their biases and betting everything on one candidate over another, the traditional media is trying to commit suicide -- especially when, given our currently volatile world and economy, the chances of a successful Obama presidency, indeed any presidency, is probably less than 50/50.
Furthermore, I also happen to believe that most reporters, whatever their political bias, are human torpedoes & and, had they been unleashed, would have raced in and roughed up the Obama campaign as much as they did McCain's. That's what reporters do. I was proud to have been one, and I'm still drawn to a good story, any good story, like a shark to blood in the water.
So why weren't those legions of hungry reporters set loose on the Obama campaign? Who are the real villains in this story of mainstream media betrayal?
The editors. The men and women you don't see; the people who not only decide what goes in the paper, but what doesn't; the managers who give the reporters their assignments and lay out the editorial pages. They are the real culprits.
Why? I think I know, because had my life taken a different path, I could have been one: Picture yourself in your 50s in a job where you've spent 30 years working your way to the top, to the cockpit of power & only to discover that you're presiding over a dying industry. The Internet and alternative media are stealing your readers, your advertisers and your top young talent. Many of your peers shrewdly took golden parachutes and disappeared. Your job doesn't have anywhere near the power and influence it did when your started your climb. The Newspaper Guild is too weak to protect you any more, and there is a very good chance you'll lose your job before you cross that finish line, 10 years hence, of retirement and a pension.
In other words, you are facing career catastrophe -- and desperate times call for desperate measures. Even if you have to risk everything on a single Hail Mary play. Even if you have to compromise the principles that got you here. After all, newspapers and network news are doomed anyway -- all that counts is keeping them on life support until you can retire.
And then the opportunity presents itself -- an attractive young candidate whose politics likely matches yours, but more important, he offers the prospect of a transformed Washington with the power to fix everything that has gone wrong in your career.
With luck, this monolithic, single-party government will crush the alternative media via a revived fairness doctrine, re-invigorate unions by getting rid of secret votes, and just maybe be beholden to people like you in the traditional media for getting it there.
And besides, you tell yourself, it's all for the good of the country . . .
This is the opinion of the columnist and in no way reflects the opinion of ABC News.
Michael S. Malone is one of the nation's best-known technology writers. He has covered Silicon Valley and high-tech for more than 25 years, beginning with the San Jose Mercury News as the nation's first daily high-tech reporter. His articles and editorials have appeared in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, the Economist and Fortune, and for two years he was a columnist for The New York Times. He was editor of Forbes ASAP, the world's largest-circulation business-tech magazine, at the height of the dot-com boom. Malone is the author or co-author of a dozen books, notably the best-selling "Virtual Corporation." Malone has also hosted three public television interview series, and most recently co-produced the celebrated PBS miniseries on social entrepreneurs, "The New Heroes." He has been the ABCNews.com "Silicon Insider" columnist since 2000.
Perhaps Doug can chime in here as I don't have the economic background to explain this sense if full, but the problem with most redistributionist schemes is that most "wealth" is based on symbols in some account somewhere. Those symbols have value based on their liquidity and ability to trade them for goods and services. If the government comes along and starts taking a greater percentage of each symbol as it is passed around--symbols they ultimately create and arbitrate--then not only are the number of symbols in a given account reduced, but the belief that a given symbol will purchase X amount of goods or service also takes a hit. After all, if the government can take back 10 percent of every one of their symbols when transferred, there's nothing to prevent them from snagging 20, 40, or 60 percent, particularly when "soak the rich" is the shrill cry.
The sad thing here is that the rich are much more versant in the language of symbols, and have many more options when a given government starts redistributing symbols. The rich find precious metals, offshore accounts, different currencies etc. in which to warehouse their symbols, or, more sadly still, say wealth creation is not worth tax hit, and pick their chips off the table and move on. It's the middle and lower classes who don't have the option of moving what symbols they do have elsewhere and hence end up sucking it up when the government dilutes what can be obtained with their symbols by taking a greater percentage off the top.
DANIEL J. FLYNN Obama: The Oak Grown from Acorn The radical group is front and center when it comes to voter fraud. 16 October 2008 Stealing Elections, Revised and Updated: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy, by John Fund (Encounter, 175 pp., $19.95)
Last week, well before news broke today of an FBI voter-fraud investigation of the Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now (Acorn), Nevada authorities raided the group’s Las Vegas headquarters. The offices of Nevada’s secretary of state and attorney general, both Democrats, seized computers, voter-registration cards, and employee information after Acorn submitted numerous fraudulent names and addresses as part of its voter-registration drive. “Some of these [forms] were facially fraudulent; we basically had the starting lineup for the Dallas Cowboys,” Ross Miller, Nevada’s secretary of state, explained. “Tony Romo is not registered to vote in Nevada.” Acorn’s Project Vote alleges that the raid is part of a nationally orchestrated effort to suppress voter turnout. “Project Vote has been attacked all over the country because we registered at least 1.2 million voters,” theorizes Nevada Acorn’s Bonnie Smith-Greathouse. “That could sway an election.”
And that’s just the point, argues John Fund in the updated and timely reissue of his Stealing Elections: How Voter Fraud Threatens Our Democracy. Fund contends that recent changes in election laws have made it easier to “sway an election,” as Smith-Greathouse puts it—through cheating. “The United States has a haphazard, fraud-prone election system befitting a developing nation rather than the globe’s leading democracy,” Fund asserts. At times, Fund’s subject seems more fitting for a magazine exposé than for a book—until one confronts the sheer volume of examples he has compiled. Like a portrait of corruption from a century prior, Lincoln Steffens’s Shame of the Cities, Fund’s Stealing Elections adopts a muckraking style and spotlights a national problem by illuminating it on a city-by-city basis.
In the name of making every vote count, efforts to expand the electorate have resulted in tallying votes that shouldn’t be considered and negating valid votes. Over a century’s worth of reforms designed to protect the concept of “one man, one vote” have been undermined in just a few decades. Fund points out that most states now allow voters to obtain absentee ballots without establishing a need (such as status as a student, soldier, or diplomat, or showing that one would be out of state on Election Day). One state, Oregon, has eliminated polling places entirely. The raison d’être of the secret ballot—to protect the public from having votes bought or coerced—is thus discarded.
Same-day registration, which backers argue further democratizes elections, is, according to Stealing Elections, “not a reform at all but an added opportunity for mischief”—such as vote buying. The comical scheme of an Al Gore–supporting New York socialite offering free cigarettes to homeless Milwaukeeans in exchange for votes could only occur in a state with same-day registration. Voters registering multiple times under the Motor Voter law, some liberals’ hostility toward poll workers checking government-issued identifications, and lawyers invading locales with election disputes—all increase the chances that legitimate votes will wind up cast aside or canceled out by illegitimate ones.
Stealing Elections overflows with examples of electoral shenanigans. The controversial 2004 Democratic primary, for instance, in which Texas Secretary of State Henry Cuellar unseated Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, ran rife with peculiarities that affected the outcome. While Rodriguez boasted a slim 126-vote lead on election night, the recount in Zapata County turned up a missing ballot box with 304 votes, four-fifths of them for Cuellar. “Webb County reported that their recount came up with 115 more votes than they had first reported,” Fund writes. “Cuellar won every one of the newly discovered votes.” In San Antonio, an area the challenger carried decisively, election officials discovered voter-registration applications for 42 dead people.
On election night that same year, Washington State voters elected Republican Dino Rossi over Democrat Christine Gregoire. On Christmas Eve, state lawyers overturned the election after a third recount. “Nearly 2,000 more votes were counted in King County than the number of individual voters who appeared on the list of those who had cast a ballot,” Fund reports. In one Seattle precinct—where most of the voters had curiously registered just that past year—70 percent of voters listed a government administration building as their residential address. Election officials found hundreds of “lost” ballots, accepted the votes of hundreds of ineligible felons, and, in a few instances, counted the votes of those residing in graveyards. One ballot punched for Gregoire but listing Rossi in the “write-in” line was strangely added in the recount to the totals for Gregoire. Given the strange methodology employed by ballot counters, it’s not surprising that Gregoire is now Washington’s governor.
In St. Louis, dogs join the dead on the election rolls. In 2000, voters nationwide let out a collective gasp in the waning hours of Election Day. Lawyers for Jesse Jackson and Al Gore convinced judges in St. Louis to keep polls open in selected African-American neighborhoods, altering election law by extending voting hours for those most likely to support Gore. Along with the discovery of a voting machine in an abandoned lot the day after the election, and the revelation that 56,000 St. Louis voters had registered multiple times, Missouri voters also learned that “Robert Odom”—on whose behalf Gore-Lieberman lawyers had successfully sued to keep the polls open—had voted in the early afternoon, before the court order extending poll-closure times was issued. The lawsuit was clearly premeditated, as the evidence of computerized phone banks, all-too-ready with a get-out-the-vote message, made clear. The exclamation point to the Show Me State’s 2000 horror show was provided by Ritzy, the 13-year-old spaniel who had been on the voter rolls for eight years.
A common thread in many of the cases that Fund spotlights is the shadowy presence of Acorn. Two and a half years after the debacle in Seattle, Washington’s attorney general indicted seven Acorn workers for their role in what he called “the worst case of voter registration fraud” in the state’s history. In St. Louis, eight Acorn workers pled guilty to election fraud this past April. On the other side of Missouri, in 2006, four Kansas City Acorn workers were indicted after officials deemed nearly 15,000 of their 35,000 registrations phony.
In the mid-nineties, Barack Obama ran Acorn’s Project Vote campaign in Illinois. He sued the state of Illinois on the group’s behalf in 1995 to implement the Motor Voter law. “After he joined the board of the Woods Fund,” Stealing Elections notes, “Obama saw to it that substantial grants were given to Acorn.” Senator Obama has championed Acorn’s legislative priorities in Congress. His presidential campaign even donated more than $800,000 to Acorn. Obama is the oak grown from Acorn, a group so proud of its association that it boasts “Obama Organizing Fellows” and runs a “Camp Obama” training event. While Acorn boasts of its Obama association, the candidate, of course, is more reticent. That’s because he well knows that many non-dead, non-animal voters would not find a close association with such a group a desirable quality in a potential president.
“Once a community organizer, then a foundation grant-maker, and now a lobbyist for direct government funding, Barack Obama has been with Acorn throughout his career,” Fund writes. “In return, Acorn is pledging to spend $35 million this year registering voters—both real and fictive. Should Obama become president, look for Acorn to have a vastly more ambitious legislative agenda, and for Obama to be responsive.” Acorn, in other words, has a lot riding on Tony Romo voting early, often, and everywhere.
Daniel J. Flynn is the author of A Conservative History of the American Left. (Crown Forum, 2008).
I'm no fan of McCain, and if it weren't for the likelihood of a couple Supreme Court nominations, I'd be hoping for a BHO win with Democratic Control of both House and Senate so that the GOP would be inspired to return to its more Libertarian roots and be poised to throw the bums out after what I anticipate would be 4 not particularly fruitful years. In short we wouldn't have had a Reagan if Jimmy Carter hadn't come first. . . .
October 22, 2008 The Second Coming of Jimmy Carter
By Rick Richman Barack Obama is taking America down a path modeled by Jimmy Carter, and threatens to be as bad a president as his trailblazer. A unlikely guide unwittingly will help make the case.
David Brooks asserted in the New York Times last week that, after watching Barack Obama for two years, it is "easy to sketch out a scenario in which he could be a great president."
[Obama] has shown the same untroubled self-confidence day after day. . . .
Brooks connected these personality traits with the "unshakable serenity" of FDR and Reagan, which in turn led to the Brooksian "scenario" of potential Obamian greatness.
I have no idea what Brooks means by an "organized unconscious;" nor exactly what a "deep, bottom-up process" is; nor how Obama's "untroubled self-confidence" differs from George W. Bush's "untroubled self-confidence." Still less do I understand how these esoteric personality traits relate to seeing "reality unfiltered," as opposed to representing a filter of their own.
What interests me, however, is Brooks' belief that, based on personality traits he has observed for two years, he can predict a presidency reminiscent of FDR and Reagan.
Such a prediction -- made before the man takes office, before he has even made a single cabinet choice, much less made a presidential policy decision; before he has faced a single crisis, much less handled one successfully -- is transparently absurd. But more than that, it brings forth a sense of déjà vu.
We have been down this road before, with an inexperienced driver, and the car crashed.
On November 3, 1976, the day after Jimmy Carter's election, the New York Times ran a profile explaining his remarkable political victory -- how a one-term governor from Georgia, with no significant record, began planning his presidential campaign in the second year of his one-and-only four-year term, and then went on to secure the nomination from more experienced rivals and defeat a sitting president:
He believed passionately that if he could talk to enough voters about a "Government as good as the American people," he could win. . .
Words, skillfully used, could play dual roles for him. Liberals came to conceive of him as one of their own. Conservatives responded to him sympathetically as well. Blacks in Harlem voiced their support. Whites in Mississippi got behind him. . . .
[T]he theme was always visible: a government as good as the people. It was voiced a hundred different ways, but the impact on his listeners was constant.
Americans, he said, were entitled to decent, compassionate, honest, competent government because Americans are decent, compassionate, honest and competent.
In other words: Jimmy Carter won by constantly telling Americans that he was the one they were waiting for.
He made them think that by voting for him, it reflected well on them. He played on the electorate's hope for change, and he offered a blank slate on which that hope could be projected. His speeches were secular sermons that would later translate into presidential addresses about the need to transcend our inordinate fear of communism and to overcome our malaise that was hindering his policies.
Carter had built his campaign on something that was, at the time, unique in modern American politics: the thoughtful campaign autobiography. Written while he was governor, it was re-published in paperback in June 1976 and given a New York Times review, written by a member of the editorial board. The review extolled both the book and its author:
Jimmy Carter has contrived a new literary form, the campaign biography written as autobiography by the candidate himself. It is a skillful, simply-written blend of personal history, social description and political philosophy that makes fascinating reading. . . .
Critics, friendly as well as unfriendly, worry whether Jimmy Carter believes in anything larger than his own success. This book does not provide conclusive answers. . . . Basically, however, Carter reminds one of two earlier Presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy. Although both were of a progressive bent, they were really neither liberal nor conservative by conviction. Rather, they believed in governing.
Carter was certified as the One in the closing benediction at the 1976 Democratic convention, given by no less a figure than the father of Martin Luther King, Jr. Televised on all three networks (the entire visual media at the time), the benediction heralded Jimmy Carter as someone sent to redeem the country: "Surely the Lord sent Jimmy Carter to come on out and bring America back where she belongs."
Thirty-two years later, no one associates Jimmy Carter with Roosevelt or Kennedy, or with "governing." Few people believe the Lord sent him, or that he brought America back where she belonged.
What were we thinking when we elected him? The answer is: some of the same things we are thinking now.
He was a blank slate to be filled with visions of Roosevelt and Kennedy. People thought his unique background and perspective would unite North and South, black and white. He had accomplished little in his political career, but he had written a thoughtful autobiography, with an audaciously hopeful title: "Why Not the Best?" He gave good speeches.
There was little substantive content to his campaign, which instead endlessly repeated his government-as-good-as-its-people mantra. His one specific proposal was "zero-based budgeting," under which each year the federal budget would start at zero and be analyzed by him line by line. He had no national or foreign policy experience.
But as a liberal governor from a Southern state, Carter was thought to have a remarkable "temperament." The New York Times thought he was a "keenly intelligent man" because the cover page of his autobiography featured quotations from Reinhold Niebuhr ("The sad duty of politics is to establish justice in a sinful world"), Bob Dylan (about "a funny ol'world that's a-comin' along"), and Dylan Thomas ("A hand rules pity as a hand rules heaven").
Now flash forward thirty years. In April 2007, shortly after Obama announced his candidacy, David Brooks had a one-on-one interview with him. They were speaking about effective aid to Africa. As Brooks related the conversation the next day in "Obama, Gospel and Verse":
Out of the blue I asked, "Have you ever read Reinhold Niebuhr?"
Obama's tone changed. "I love him. He's one of my favorite philosophers."
So I asked, What do you take away from him?
"I take away," Obama answered in a rush of words, "the compelling idea that there's serious evil in the world, and hardship and pain. And we should be humble and modest in our belief we can eliminate those things. But we shouldn't use that as an excuse for cynicism and inaction. I take away ... the sense we have to make these efforts knowing they are hard, and not swinging from naïve idealism to bitter realism."
My first impression was that for a guy who's spent the last few months fund-raising, and who was walking off the Senate floor as he spoke, that's a pretty good off-the-cuff summary of Niebuhr's "The Irony of American History." My second impression is that his campaign is an attempt to thread the Niebuhrian needle, and it's really interesting to watch.
A less credulous commentator might have noted that Obama had used 70 words and four sentences to express a cliché: we can't do everything, but we must do everything we can. He might have noted that "threading the Niebuhrian needle" is simply the Goldilocks principle applied to idealism and realism (not too much; not too little - just right). He might have observed that Obama spoke well but did not really say anything. But Obama already had him at "Niebuhr."
Nine months later, after Obama won the Iowa caucuses, a "vibrating" David Brooks (in Leon Wieseltier's observation) wrote that it was "a huge moment."
Whatever their political affiliations, Americans are going to feel good about the Obama victory, which is a story of youth, possibility and unity through diversity -- the primordial themes of the American experience. . . .
At first blush, his speeches are abstract, secular sermons of personal uplift -- filled with disquisitions on the nature of hope and the contours of change.
He talks about erasing old categories like red and blue (and implicitly, black and white) and replacing them with new categories, of which the most important are new and old. . . .
It was like the second coming of the 1976 Jimmy Carter -- the one who would unite North and South, black and white, and provide us a government as good as we were; it was the second coming of the man who knew Niebuhr! By last week, Brooks was speaking of FRD and Reagan.
If elected, Obama will be the least experienced president since Jimmy Carter. No one knows what Obama really thinks, much less what he will actually do, since he had one set of policies in the primaries and another during the general election, and his rhetoric is as unspecific as Carter's was (except Obama did say in the debates - twice - that he intended to go through the federal budget "line by line").
He has released no records from college or law school, nor his law firm client list, nor the files relating to his legislative experience in Illinois. He has acknowledged a history of drug use and the fact that he currently smokes, but he refuses to release any medical records. He has spent most of his still-unfinished first term in the Senate running for president, which his supporters argue is the executive experience that qualifies him for the presidency.
His own running mate has told us Obama could have made a better vice-presidential choice, and has warned us that Obama's inexperience will result in multiple international crises in his first six months. But Obama wrote an excellent autobiography, has an organized unconscious, and knows Niebuhr.
There is a good chance that if we elect him, we will one day ask: what were we thinking?
McCain Feingold and his very tepid support of the Second Amendment are two of the reasons I have a very hard time getting behind McCain. With that said, BHO has been turning campaign spending on its ear, with very little notice by the MSM.
October 22, 2008, 8:00 a.m.
Fake Donors, Phony Pledge On campaign finance, Obama declared independence from his promises.
By David Freddoso
Starting in June, Barack Obama’s website stopped asking for donations. Instead, it began asking for citizens who would “declare their independence from a broken system by supporting the first presidential election truly funded by the people.”
Perhaps the campaign did not expect that among those “declaring their independence would be donors named “Doodad Pro,” “Derty Poiiuy,” and “Jgtj Jfggjjfgj.” (And you thought Barack Obama had a funny name.) They may not have known that at least four Missourians and one Virginian would declare their independence involuntarily and later find fraudulent donations to Obama’s campaign on their credit card statements. The Obama campaign cannot claim ignorance of “Good Will,” whose address is the Goodwill headquarters in Austin, and whose occupation is “Loving You.” The Goodwill office received a letter from Obama last month indicating that Mr. Will had exceeded the legal limit with his $7,000 in contributions, and asking whether part of the money could be directed to Obama’s general election campaign.
Such abuse of the system may just be the inevitable consequence of a political system driven by massive amounts of money — or at least, that’s what Barack Obama used to say, before he figured out how to use that system to his advantage.
Reporters now note dryly that Barack Obama promised to take public matching funds for the presidential election, which would have limited the amount he could spend, and that he then reneged on his promise in June. This narrative understates the case.
Obama actually went much farther than merely giving his word that he would accept matching funds. In February of 2007, he challenged all of the Republican candidates for president to pledge, along with him, that they would take matching funds. It was supposed to be a rare display of political courage on his part, for the sake of principles he believed in.
Sen. John McCain, who has long clashed with conservatives on issues of campaign finance, accepted Obama’s challenge on Obama’s terms. Obama would later write on a November 2007 questionnaire from the Midwest Democracy Network: “If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.” In February of this year, he wrote an op-ed stating again that he would “aggressively pursue” an agreement with McCain that would set “real spending limits.” He repeated this promise on FOX News on April 27.
Then, all of the sudden, Barack Obama announced in June that the public campaign-financing system was “broken” and so he could not participate in it. Presumably, someone went and broke the public campaign-financing system sometime between April and mid-June of this year.
Who did it? Barack Obama did. He broke the system as soon as it became clear to him that by rejecting public financing, he might be able to raise half a billion dollars and drown his opponent in money, as he is doing now.
It may all seem like a minor point now — just an occasion for a bit of Republican whining as Obama’s attack ads dominate the airwaves thanks to his broken promise. After all, Obama has raised quite a bit of money. But his donations from fake donors evoke the fake promise he made on principle just months ago to restrict campaign spending and limit the influence of special interests.
News reporters often assume, incorrectly, that the numbers in the FEC reports they scour each quarter are put on the Internet by magic. In fact, each one has to be recorded individually by a human being in what is really a painstaking process. This applies not only to the larger amounts contributed by Mr. Will and Mr. Jfggjjfgj, but also to amounts less than $200. A pair of human eyes has to check each one, even if amounts smaller than $200 are not required by law to be disclosed in any report.
Obama’s finance team missed quite a few obviously troubling large donations, from such unsavory individuals as Mr. Jfggjjfgj, “Mong Kong,” “Test Person,” and “Jockim Alberton,” who lives at a fictional address on a street that does not exist in Wilmington, Delaware. How many fictional characters might there be among the $220 million that Obama has collected in small, undisclosed contributions?
Obama’s small donors have all been recorded, and he could easily follow McCain’s lead by disclosing this major source of his campaign’s money. Hopefully the list of donors contains no one with Asdfjkl as a surname, and it bears no resemblance to an ACORN voter-registration list.
— David Freddoso is a staff reporter for National Review Online and author of The Case Against Barack Obama.
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
EMAIL | PRINT | RESPOND
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.