28 March 2007

Look at Cartoon, Reader!

(With apologies to G.O.B., Michael, and the Arrested Development Banner.)

Hat tip: Dr. Sanity.

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17 March 2007

Give These Guys Gore's Oscar!

Are you like our friends who insist the debate about global warming is over? Do you believe all scientists agree that human created CO2 is causing global warming? Have you convinced yourself the Kyoto Protocol (or something like it) may actually affect global temperatures?

Think again.

Our brother Matt turned us on to a column by Thomas Sowell which referred to a movie entitled "The Great Global Warming Swindle." Our old man quickly followed with a link to the movie. Thanks Dad.

From Mr. Sowell:
Britain's Channel 4 has produced a devastating documentary titled "The Great Global Warming Swindle." It has apparently not been broadcast by any of the networks in the United States. But, fortunately, it is available on the Internet.

Distinguished scientists specializing in climate and climate-related fields talk in plain English and present readily understood graphs showing what a crock the current global warming hysteria is.
Please, dear lemmings, you owe it to yourselves to watch this movie and listen to a voice of reason before you follow Al Gore and the rest of the Apocalyptic Church of the Holy Environment off the edge of a cliff.

The religious parallels don't end with doomsday predictions as we documented here and here. They even sell indulgences!!! This time, from Charles Krauthammer on carbon credits:
In other words, the rich reduce their carbon output by not one ounce. But drawing on the hundreds of millions of net worth in the Kodak Theatre, they pull out lunch money to buy ecological indulgences. The last time the selling of pardons was prevalent--in a predecessor religion to environmentalism called Christianity--Martin Luther lost his temper and launched the Reformation.
But don't worry, we're sure zealots like the hypocritical, private jet-flying, Tennessee mansion energy-burning, Mr. Gore will cook up another environmental crusade you can feel morally superior about and persecute others for not joining.

**Update: At the request of some of our more sensitive readers, we've toned down the pejorative language of this post. Thus, "deluded" has become "convinced" and "whack job" is now "zealot." We apologize that "lemmings" remains in this draft. Our search of the thesaurus could not produce a satisfactory substitute.

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12 March 2007

We Love Freedom!

On Friday we met with the current Cabinet Secretary and head of all British Civil Servants (544,000 according to his count) Gus O'Donnell. After a brief, high school civics class-like presentation on 'what goes on at the Cabinet and Whitehall,' Mr. O'Donnell opened the floor to a few questions.

In case you've missed the theme, we appreciate and are intensely interested in how basic economic principles inform public policy. You can imagine our delight, therefore, when we learned that Mr. O'Donnell has a background in economics. With that in mind, we posed the following question: we asked, "how he employed his background in economics and understanding of incentives as the head of a notoriously inefficient bureaucracy?"

Reading the question in print, we understand how he might have taken that as a bit of an institutional dig. But it wasn't intended as such.

He proceeded to give a somewhat tedious and patronizing explanation--almost lecturing--on the differences between undergraduate and graduate economics (as though the laws of supply and demand stop after ones bachelors degree!).

Of course, he never really explained how they were different, simply insisting that they were so in order to establish his superiority. What he was really arguing came out when he applied his bureaucratic jargon to a practical example: the National Health Service.

Being the only American accent in the room, he probably understood that we were thinking specifically of Britain's socialized medicine when we asked our question about economic incentives. He explained that with no prices--after all, health care is free--there was no way to employ market forces to bring about any degree of efficiency whatsoever. The overriding principle, and my peers around the table nodded their heads, was equity.

Espousal of egalitarian principles is what all good socialists do. Never mind that everyone gets crummy health care, or that thousands die because cancer isn't diagnosed in time for treatment, or that thousands more wait in queues (brit-speak for lines) for basic procedures. None of this matters, so long as everyone's health care sucks equally.

And suck, it does. Think Walter Reed writ large.

Consider that since we've been in this country, we've had personal experience with two friends who needed medical treatment. Both reflected poorly on socialized medicine.

One friend knocked out all her front teeth and cut up her mouth very badly. Because of the inefficient bureaucracy that is the NHS, she had to wait three weeks before they could begin treatment and repair. Did you catch that? She was forced to wait, teeth presumably in a cup of milk, hidden away because she didn't want to go out in public, for 3 weeks before she could start on a series of procedures that would take longer than a month to complete. "That," as the Brits might say sarcastically, "is just brilliant." What makes this sucky sequence of events even suckier is that this friend doesn't even know any better. That's just how it is. Suckiness has permeated British expectations for their medical care.

Example number two is a friend who took a nasty spill off of his bicycle. His knock on the head was bad enough that a passing driver had time to stop the car, get out, and pick him up off the ground. In this friend's case, he wasn't able to see a doctor that day. The next day, when he turned up for his appointment, he discovered that they had scheduled him during a time when doctors were only seeing "emergency" patients. Finally, three days later, he saw a doctor who was able to properly clean up and bandage his various cuts and scrapes. As for any tests to determine damage to his brain as a result of his head injury and apparent concussion? Well, that would require waiting at least two weeks to see a specialist, and our friend just couldn't be bothered. How many Brits don't get the care they need because the line or wait is too long?

So far, the NHS is 0 for 2. And that's just our count. We hope we don't get injured or sick and have to rely on the NHS for medical care. We don't want to become another cautionary tale.

Sure, it's free--if you consider nearly 50% income taxes free (and with costs spiraling out of control, the tax burden is only going to grow)--but it sucks.

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07 March 2007

Too Bad for Libby, the Media, Jury, and Fitzgerald aren't Fair

Our title, borrowed from the comments of one of our valued, critical readers seems tongue in cheek. It's not. We truly believe Libby is innocent of all wrong doing and on the receiving end of a political witch hunt. But this country is no stranger to prosecutors more intent on making a name for themselves than seeing justice done. Eliot Spitzer comes to mind as do those imperious pinheads who trumped up charges against Martha Stewart. (Of course we don't include Ken Starr in that generalization!)

Something is wrong when prosecutors find there was no original crime committed, but who then must make up a procedural crime to cover themselves and justify the enormous cost of the investigation.

That's prosecution for prosecution's sake, not justice.
The Libby Travesty
(Subscription Required)
March 7, 2007; Page A16

The word "guilty" had barely crossed the airwaves yesterday in the perjury case of Scooter Libby before critics were calling it proof that President Bush "lied us into war" and demanding that Dick Cheney be strung up next. Maybe now Mr. Bush will realize that this case was always a political fight over Iraq and do the right thing by pardoning Mr. Libby.

The conviction is certainly a travesty of justice, though that is not the jury's fault. The 11 men and women were faced with confusing evidence of conflicting memories in a case that never should have been brought. In the end, they were persuaded more by prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald's story line that Mr. Libby, a former aide to Mr. Cheney, had lied to a grand jury about what he knew when about the status of CIA official Valerie Plame, the wife of Bush critic Joseph Wilson.

In hindsight, the defense seems to have blundered by portraying Mr. Libby as the "fall guy" for others in the White House. That didn't do enough to rebut Mr. Fitzgerald's theory of the case, and so the jury seems to have decided that Mr. Libby must have been lying to protect something. The defense might have been better off taking on Mr. Fitzgerald for criminalizing political differences.

For that, in essence, is what this case is really all about. We learned long ago -- and Mr. Fitzgerald knew from the start of his probe in 2003 -- that Mr. Libby was not the source of the leak to columnist Robert Novak that started all this. Mr. Libby thus had no real motive to cover up this non-crime. What he did have strong cause to do was rebut the lies that Mr. Wilson was telling about the Administration and Mr. Cheney -- lies confirmed as lies by a bipartisan report of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2004.

Mr. Libby did talk to some reporters about the Administration's case for war in 2003, and he did mention Ms. Plame in some cases. So the jury apparently decided that, when asked about those conversations by the FBI and grand jury, he had lied about his own sources of information about Joe Wilson and his wife. In other words, he has not been convicted of lying to anyone about the case for war in Iraq, or about Mr. Wilson or his wife.

Rather, he has been convicted of telling the truth about Mr. Wilson and Ms. Plame to some reporters but then not owning up to it. One tragic irony is that if Mr. Libby had only taken the Harold Ickes grand-jury strategy and said "I don't recall," he probably never would have been indicted. But our guess is that he tried to cooperate with the grand jury because he never really believed he had anything to hide. This may also explain why Mr. Libby never retained an experienced Beltway attorney until he was indicted.

None of this has stopped critics of the war from trying to blow this entire case into something far larger. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hailed the conviction as proof that the White House tried to "manipulate intelligence and discredit war critics." But the charges against Mr. Libby had nothing to do with intelligence, and Mr. Wilson was himself so discredited by summer 2004 that the John Kerry campaign dropped him as a spokesman once the Senate exposed his deceit.

What Mr. Reid and others are doing is showing how much all this really has been about a policy dispute over Iraq. The fact that they are now demanding Mr. Cheney's head is further evidence of the political nature of this entire episode. But it should also be a warning to Mr. Bush and his advisers that they too bear much responsibility for Mr. Libby's conviction.

Rather than confront Mr. Wilson's lies head on, they became defensive and allowed a trivial matter to become a threat to the Administration itself. They allowed Attorney General John Ashcroft to recuse himself and Mr. Fitzgerald to be appointed even though Justice officials knew that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had been the first official to leak Ms. Plame's name to reporters. Mr. Libby got caught in the eddy not because he was dishonest but because he was a rare official who actually had the temerity to defend the President's Iraq policy against Mr. Wilson's lies.

As for the media, most of our brethren were celebrating the conviction yesterday because it damaged the Bush Administration they loathe. But they too will pay a price for holding Mr. Fitzgerald's coat. The Bush Administration will soon be history, but the damage Mr. Fitzgerald has done to the ability to protect media sources and to the willingness of government officials to speak openly to reporters will last far longer.

Mr. Bush will no doubt be advised to wait for the outcome of an appeal and the end of his Administration to pardon Mr. Libby. We believe he bears some personal responsibility for this conviction, especially for not policing the disputes and insubordination in his Administration that made this travesty possible. The time for a pardon is now.

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