24 December 2009

Happy Christmas

In Hoc Anno Domini

This editorial was written in 1949 by the late Vermont Royster and has been published in The Wall Street Journal annually since.

When Saul of Tarsus set out on his journey to Damascus the whole of the known world lay in bondage. There was one state, and it was Rome. There was one master for it all, and he was Tiberius Caesar.

Everywhere there was civil order, for the arm of the Roman law was long. Everywhere there was stability, in government and in society, for the centurions saw that it was so.

But everywhere there was something else, too. There was oppression -- for those who were not the friends of Tiberius Caesar. There was the tax gatherer to take the grain from the fields and the flax from the spindle to feed the legions or to fill the hungry treasury from which divine Caesar gave largess to the people. There was the impressor to find recruits for the circuses. There were executioners to quiet those whom the Emperor proscribed. What was a man for but to serve Caesar?

There was the persecution of men who dared think differently, who heard strange voices or read strange manuscripts. There was enslavement of men whose tribes came not from Rome, disdain for those who did not have the familiar visage. And most of all, there was everywhere a contempt for human life. What, to the strong, was one man more or less in a crowded world?

Then, of a sudden, there was a light in the world, and a man from Galilee saying, Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's.

And the voice from Galilee, which would defy Caesar, offered a new Kingdom in which each man could walk upright and bow to none but his God. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. And he sent this gospel of the Kingdom of Man into the uttermost ends of the earth.

So the light came into the world and the men who lived in darkness were afraid, and they tried to lower a curtain so that man would still believe salvation lay with the leaders.

But it came to pass for a while in divers places that the truth did set man free, although the men of darkness were offended and they tried to put out the light. The voice said, Haste ye. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness come upon you, for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

Along the road to Damascus the light shone brightly. But afterward Paul of Tarsus, too, was sore afraid. He feared that other Caesars, other prophets, might one day persuade men that man was nothing save a servant unto them, that men might yield up their birthright from God for pottage and walk no more in freedom.

Then might it come to pass that darkness would settle again over the lands and there would be a burning of books and men would think only of what they should eat and what they should wear, and would give heed only to new Caesars and to false prophets. Then might it come to pass that men would not look upward to see even a winter's star in the East, and once more, there would be no light at all in the darkness.

And so Paul, the apostle of the Son of Man, spoke to his brethren, the Galatians, the words he would have us remember afterward in each of the years of his Lord:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

14 December 2009

The Progressive Religion

As Christmas approaches, my thoughts have naturally turned towards things of a more religious nature.

The cause of this change in mindset hasn't all been Christmas-related activity. Much of what has oriented my thinking has been the religion of progressivism.

This is a topic I've addressed numerous times before--so many times, in fact, that I don't dare do a search of my archives and post every link to every article in which I've treated the subject. You'd be bored (more than usual) and I wouldn't have time to go and pick up my laundry from Tony all the way out in Queen's Park.

Suffice it to say that the progressive religion, though perhaps as not clearly outlined as other, more organized and defined religions is, in fact, a religion.

And the leftists--liberals and members of the Democrat party--who reject and sometimes mock Christianity and other religions (not all leftists, but a sizable vocal minority), are no less devout and pious in their belief system than their country bumpkin hick Christian friends on the right.

Indeed, as Byron York points out in latest article, leftist progressives are just as superstitious (in some cases, depending on definition, more so) as conservatives.
"Conservatives and Republicans report fewer experiences than liberals or Democrats communicating with the dead, seeing ghosts and consulting fortunetellers or psychics," the Pew study says. For example, 21 percent of Republicans report that they have been in touch with someone who is dead, while 36 percent of Democrats say they have done so. Eleven percent of Republicans say they have seen a ghost, while 21 percent of Democrats say so. And nine percent of Republicans say they have consulted a fortuneteller, while 22 percent of Democrats have.
There's more. Seventeen percent of Republicans say they believe in reincarnation, while 30 percent of Democrats do. Fourteen percent of Republicans say they believe in astrology, while 31 percent of Democrats do. Fifteen percent of Republicans say they view yoga as a spiritual practice, while 31 percent of Democrats do. Seventeen percent of Republicans say they believe in spiritual energy, while 30 percent of Democrats do.
There are some areas in which the two partisan groups are similar. When Pew asked respondents whether they have had a religious or mystical experience, 50 percent of Republicans said yes, as did 50 percent of Democrats. But overall, there are sizable disparities.
Progressives behave in all the same ways that conservatives do--it just so happens that their religion is become the public religion that Christianity was in Europe in preceding centuries and like Catholicism and early Protestant churches, they use public/government bodies to enforce the right amout of piety.

By recycling (in some areas here in London, you must recycle under penalty of law).

By purchasing carbon indulgences offsets (to rectify past--or future--"bad" behavior).

By paying a forced tithe (taxes) to fund "research centers" like the CRU and other so called "green initiatives" whose goals generally center around public information/marketing campaigns that guilt individuals into donating even more of their money. Or, if you have none, into supporting legislation that will compel those who do, but who do not want to pay (how unrighteous of them!) to pay higher taxes to fund Al Gore's next PowerPoint.

Whatever happened to the separation of Church & State?

Whatever happened to the separation of Church & Science?

Let's take the first, church & state. The consensus opinion in the United States is that separation of church and state has largely aided individual religious liberty. For the most part, I agree. However, if you look at Europe today, the involvement of the state with church seems to have done more damage to the latter than anyone anticipated. No one goes to church. Churches, cathedrals, meetings houses (mosques excepting) are all empty. Religion has become secularized and is no longer compelling to the masses.

In this instance, America's separation of church, while initially about religious liberty, seems to have saved American churches from the same fate as their European brethren.

It is possible, therefore, to surmise that a similar forced adoption of progressivism as the public religion would create the same sort of generational backlash that public religion did in Europe. Granted, it took centuries, but now the youth pay no mind to the faith of their fathers. Indeed, they know practically nothing about it.

The problem, of course, is that those of us who do not want to worship mother Gaia would be forced to do so until the zealotry of the current generation of environmental fanatics died out. Given the haste with which fads seem to pass nowadays (and the blatant cooking of the books at the CRU), this would probably only really hurt (and by hurt I mean kill) people in lesser developed countries while those of us in the developed world would only have to deal with the inconvenience of much higher taxes, lower standard of living, etc. I'm a poor student so whatever.

Before we go any further, take a little time to watch this enlightening Q&A with Michael Crichton:

Second & lastly (if you're still with me), science & religion. Look, I have no problem with those who honestly believe (whilst I'm a heretical "denier." note the religious language) in the religion of progressivism with environment, multiculturalism, tolerance, government, taxes (tithes) as their tenets. I wouldn't criticize your belief system at all, except that you insist on turning your beliefs into public policy.

The other major problem I have with you is this--the complete bastardization of science. If you've been following (at all) what's been happening with the scandal at the CRU, you know what I'm talking out. If you don't, here's a pretty good place to start. What has been done is nothing short of a triumph of tribal politics (the sort of stuff they're supposed to leave to me) over science. Where the data didn't produce the right graphs, they "massaged" it. Where the data contradicted their findings, they deleted it. Where skeptical scientists published articles in good academic journals, they ganged up and tried to keep them out or discredit the journal. And where all of this failed, they fantasized about beating up those who disagreed with them.

Whatever climate science has become (or ever was) it is no longer science. The only ones permitted into the inner sanctum and given access to the holy raw data are those who can be trusted to apply the right sorts of "homogenizing" effects or use the tricks of those who actually know how to use (and by use I mean really, you know, use) statistics.

If all of this only hurt their own cause, I would just laugh and laugh and laugh. But no, their complete misrepresentation, misuse and abuse of the scientific method and the peer-review process has done damage to science as a whole. And that really ticks me off. The pressures of faith and money (the environment business is worth tens of billions of dollars after all) have turned "climate science" into nothing more than propaganda machine. Like other rent-seekers, their whole goal is to do whatever is necessary to get more money (see your local newspaper for the latest alarmist prediction).

To sum up: Believe in Global Warmism if you want. I'll leave you to your religion the same way you leave me to mine. However, do not conflate your religion with science, impose it by the state, or try other public policy shenanigans to compel my observance.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

02 December 2009

Unemployment By County, Now In Easy-To-View Youtube Format

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

Christina Romer, Tribal-Economist For President Obama, Still Blaming Bush

She also still thinks Cash for Clunkers was a good idea--willful suspension of disbelief and all that.

Apart from repeating the company line about how much things sucked when Obama took office and how he's done everything humanly possible to right the ship, Romer proposes even more government intervention in the private sector. This intervention will require even more government spending, natch.

Among other things, I'm reading Rose & Milton Friedman's "Free to Choose" (incidentally, an excellent Christmas gift idea). Given the incredible increase in the money supply over the last year both through government spending and the actions of Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, Friedman's cautions regarding the dangers of inflation seem timely. Page 275:
It takes time for these reactions to occur. On the average over the past century and more in the United States, the United Kingdom, and some other Western countries, roughly six to nine months have elapsed before increased monetary growth has worked its way through the economy and produced increased economic growth and employment [ed. note: matches up well with the recent "good" news that the US economy shed only ~167k jobs last month]. Another twelve to eighteen months have elapsed before the increased monetary growth has affected the price level appreciably and inflation has occurred or speeded up. The time delays have been this long for these countries because, wartime aside, they were long spared widely varying rates of monetary growth and inflation. On the eve of World War II wholesale prices in the United Kingdom averaged roughly the same as two hundred years earlier, and in the United States, as one hundred years earlier. The post-World War II inflation is a new phenomenon in these countries.
As sure as Obama and co. will continue to propose increased government spending, inflation will come.

When it does, it will act as a tax that robs the rich and poor alike.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

President Obama Owes Our Troops More Than What He Promised Last Night (UPDATED)

Ace runs through it all more extensively than I am either able or have time to do, but I do want to make a couple three points.

1. If he is worried about government spending, why is he focused on the relative pittance it would cost to fully fund the fight in Afghanistan and not the ridiculous cost of spending related to the Spendulus, Obamacare, & his bloated budget?

2. Why opt for an alternative that was not one of the 4 suggested by your commanders on the ground? Do you really know better than they?

3. A drop-dead date? Really? You think that will help either us or our allies? Enough with appeasing the leftists--they make up a small fraction of the 52% who voted for you in 2008. This is a stupid, stupid strategy.

I had a conversations a couple of weeks ago with several intelligence types and they all agreed that President Obama taking time tot sort this thing out was a good thing. None of them anticipated that the way in which he would "sort this thing out" would be an irresponsible plan that is more appeasing the extreme left of his party than legitimate solution to the Afghanistan question.

President Obama's inexperience is showing, once again.

Our troops deserve better.

You ought to read Byron York, too, who writes about Democrat party political lies calculations w/re: to Iraq & Afghanistan:
Democratic voters and candidates were playing a complex game. Nearly all of them hated the war in Iraq and wanted to pull Americans out of that country. But they were afraid to appear soft on national security, so they pronounced the smaller conflict in Afghanistan one they could support. Many of them didn’t, really, but for political expediency they supported candidates who said they did. Thus the party base signed on to a good war-bad war strategy.


Other top Democrats adopted the get-tough approach, at least when it came time to campaign. In September 2006, as she was leading the effort that would result in Democrats taking over the House and her becoming speaker, Rep. Nancy Pelosi said George W. Bush “took his eye off the ball” in Afghanistan. “We had a presence over there the past few years, but not to the extent that we needed to get the job done,” Pelosi said. The phrase “took his eye off the ball” became a Democratic mantra about the supposed neglect of Afghanistan — a situation that would be remedied by electing ready-to-fight Democrats.

But now, with Democrats in charge of the entire U.S. government and George Bush nowhere to be found, Pelosi and others in her party are suddenly very, very worried about U.S. escalation in Afghanistan. “There is serious unrest in our caucus,” the speaker said recently. There is so much unrest that Democrats who show little concern about the tripling of already-large budget deficits say they’re worried about the rising cost of the war.

It is in that atmosphere that Obama makes his West Point speech. He had to make certain promises to get elected. Unlike some of his supporters, he has to remember those promises now that he is in office. So he is sending more troops. But he still can’t tell the truth about so many Democratic pledges to support the war in Afghanistan: They didn’t mean it.
I have friends who support our efforts in Afghanistan who thought they could vote Democrat and do no damage to our efforts there.

Guys, I hate to tell you, you were wrong.

President Obama unveils his new Afghanistan strategy today, and in the nick of time Senator John Kerry has arrived with a report claiming that none of this would be necessary if former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had only deployed more troops eight years ago. Yes, he really said more troops.

In a 43-page report issued yesterday by his Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Kerry says bin Laden and deputy Ayman Zawahiri were poised for capture at the Tora Bora cave complex in late 2001. But because of the "unwillingness" of Mr. Rumsfeld and his generals "to deploy the troops required to take advantage of solid intelligence and unique circumstances to kill or capture bin Laden," the al Qaeda leaders escaped.

This in turn "paved the way for exactly what we had hoped to avoid—a protracted insurgency that has cost more lives than anyone estimates would have been lost in a full-blown assault on Tora Bora."

The timing of the report's release suggests that Mr. Kerry intends this as political cover for Mr. Obama and Democrats, and some in the press corps have even taken it seriously. But coming from Mr. Kerry, of all people, this criticism is nothing short of astonishing.

In 2001, readers may recall, the Washington establishment that included Mr. Kerry was fretting about the danger in Afghanistan from committing too many troops. The New York Times made the "quagmire" point explicitly in a famous page-one analysis, and Seymour Hersh fed the cliche at The New Yorker.

On CNN with Larry King on Dec. 15, 2001, a viewer called in to say the U.S. should "smoke [bin Laden] out" of the Tora Bora caves. Mr. Kerry responded: "For the moment what we are doing, I think, is having its impact and it is the best way to protect our troops and sort of minimalize the proximity, if you will. I think we have been doing this pretty effectively and we should continue to do it that way." The Rumsfeld-General Tommy Franks troop strategy may have missed bin Laden, but it reflected domestic political doubts about an extended Afghan campaign.

Remarkably, Mr. Kerry is now repeating those same doubts about Mr. Obama's troop decision, saying that the "Afghans must do the heavy lifting" and that he supports additional troops only for "limited purposes" and wants the U.S. out within "four to five years." Adapting his legendary 2004 campaign locution, Mr. Kerry is now in favor of more troops after he was against them, but in any case not for very long.
Since Senator Lieberman left in 2006, there are few responsible adults left in the Democrat party.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

01 December 2009

The Power Of Markets In Healthcare: I Have Seen A Vision Of The Future And This Is It

Division of labor and specialization.

The approach has transformed health care in India through a simple premise that works in other industries: economies of scale. By driving huge volumes, even of procedures as sophisticated, delicate and dangerous as heart surgery, Dr. Shetty has managed to drive down the cost of health care in his nation of one billion.

His model offers insights for countries worldwide that are struggling with soaring medical costs, including the U.S. as it debates major health-care overhaul.

"Japanese companies reinvented the process of making cars. That's what we're doing in health care," Dr. Shetty says. "What health care needs is process innovation, not product innovation."

At his flagship, 1,000-bed Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital, surgeons operate at a capacity virtually unheard of in the U.S., where the average hospital has 160 beds, according to the American Hospital Association.

Narayana's 42 cardiac surgeons performed 3,174 cardiac bypass surgeries in 2008, more than double the 1,367 the Cleveland Clinic, a U.S. leader, did in the same year. His surgeons operated on 2,777 pediatric patients, more than double the 1,026 surgeries performed at Children's Hospital Boston.

But Jack Lewin, chief executive of the American College of Cardiology, who visited Dr. Shetty's hospital earlier this year as a guest lecturer, says Dr. Shetty has done just the opposite -- used high volumes to improve quality. For one thing, some studies show quality rises at hospitals that perform more surgeries for the simple reason that doctors are getting more experience. And at Narayana, says Dr. Lewin, the large number of patients allows individual doctors to focus on one or two specific types of cardiac surgeries.

In smaller U.S. and Indian hospitals, he says, there aren't enough patients for one surgeon to focus exclusively on one type of heart procedure.

Narayana surgeon Colin John, for example, has performed nearly 4,000 complex pediatric procedures known as Tetralogy of Fallot in his 30-year career. The procedure repairs four different heart abnormalities at once. Many surgeons in other countries would never reach that number of any type of cardiac surgery in their lifetimes.

Dr. Shetty's success rates appear to be as good as those of many hospitals abroad. Narayana Hrudayalaya reports a 1.4% mortality rate within 30 days of coronary artery bypass graft surgery, one of the most common procedures, compared with an average of 1.9% in the U.S. in 2008, according to data gathered by the Chicago-based Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

It isn't possible truly to compare the mortality rates, says Dr. Shetty, because he doesn't adjust his mortality rate to reflect patients' ages and other illnesses, in what is known as a risk-adjusted mortality rate. India's National Accreditation Board for Hospitals & Healthcare Providers asks hospitals to provide their mortality rates for surgery, without risk adjustment.

Dr. Lewin believes Dr. Shetty's success rates would look even better if he adjusted for risk, because his patients often lack access to even basic health care and suffer from more advanced cardiac disease when they finally come in for surgery.
In addition to keeping costs low so the people of his country can afford life-saving heart surgery, Dr. Shetty also turns a profit--about 7.7% after taxes and more than the 6.9% average in the United States.

This is the sort of thing I'm talking about when I refer to market reform of healthcare. Neither I, nor anyone else has to come up with all the answers, indeed, we couldn't possibly do so. That is for a market, full of enterprising, profit-seeking individuals to figure out.

The role of government is not to provide healthcare for everyone through some sort of trojan horse-like public option that morphs into British- or Canadian-style socialized medicine. It is to get the hell out of the way of a free market that would lower costs and improve quality.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

30 November 2009

I Love BYU Football

Congratulations to Bronco Mendenhall, Max Hall, Dennis Pitta, Andrew George, Manase Tonga, the graduating seniors and all the rest of the BYU footballers.

Also, if anyone could email me and tell me what it was that Jan said to the ref that got him the unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, I'd really appreciate it. Kthanks.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

California Senate: Carly Fiorina Vs. Barbara Boxer

I've got questions about her conservatism, but in California, you take what you can get.

John Fund, of WSJ Political Diary fame, has this week's Weekend Interview with Carly Fiorina--former HP CEO and candidate for the United States Senate.

Look, Barbara Boxer is sooo bad on every issue. Whoever we can nominate in California will be a better alternative. Although, like Fiorina points out in her interview, Boxer's singular inability to really do anything makes her somewhat valuable.

You know the old joke, about a player on the other team being so bad that they are your team's MVP.

Yeah, that's Barbara Boxer.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

25 November 2009

Radical Islamism & American Intelligence

One of the British critiques of American intelligence--specifically the FBI--is that because it focuses on crime--gathering evidence to be used in court--it misses things like, for example, guys who are learning to fly planes, but not land them.

So that's one blind spot. The other is the knee jerk political correctness that hamstrung everyone who should have seen Major Hasan for what he was and is--an Islamic jihadist.

For the FBI, religion remains a much too sensitive subject, much more so than the threatening ideologies of yesteryear. Imagine if Maj. Hasan had been an officer during the Cold War, regularly expressing his sympathy for the Soviet Union and American criminality against the working man. Imagine him writing to a KGB front organization espousing socialist solidarity. The major would have been surrounded by counterintelligence officers.

A law-enforcement agency par excellence, the FBI reflects American legal ethics. Because the FBI is always thinking about criminal prosecutions and admissible evidence, its intelligence-collecting inevitably gets defined by its judicial procedures. Good counterintelligence curiosity—that must come into play before any crime is committed—is at odds with a G-man's raison d'ĂȘtre. And much more so than local police departments—which are grounded to the unpleasantness of daily life—it is highly susceptible to politically correct behavior.

Powerfully intertwined in all of this is liberal America's reluctance to discuss Islam, Islamic militancy, jihadism, or anything that might be construed as invidious to Muslims. The Obama administration obviously doesn't want to get tagged with an Islamist terrorist strike in the U.S.—the first since 9/11. The Muslim-sensitive 9/11 Commission Report, which unambiguously named the enemy as "Islamist terrorism," now seems distinctly passĂ©.

Thoughtful men should certainly not want to see a U.S. president propel a "clash of civilizations" with devout Muslims. However, clash-avoidance shouldn't lead us into a philosophical cul-de-sac. The stakes are so enormous—jihadists would if they could let loose a weapon of mass destruction in a Western city—that we should not prevaricate out of politeness, or deceive ourselves into believing that a debate between Muslims and non-Muslims can only be counterproductive.
Political correctness is not a principle--like liberty & freedom--for which guilty liberals should be willing sacrifice the lives of others.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

24 November 2009

24 November Links Round-Up

David Colley writes in the NYT (h/t Scott L.) that Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower missed an opportunity to end WWII early.

What he doesn't point out is that if Allied armies had pushed further, faster, into Germany and other Nazi occupied parts, they might have changed the course of the Cold War too.

Meanwhile in this week's Global View, Bret Stephens makes some scary comparisons between President Obama and Jimmy Carter. We should be so fortunate to have a one & done from Obama.

The WSJ's Review & Outlook editorial examines the revealing emails written by climate scientist-hacks in England and other parts and draws the obvious conclusions--that scientists are not a-political and they have an agenda.

And finally, William McGurn writes about my favorite Democrat, Joe Lieberman. Senator Lieberman stood tall on Iraq, and won re-election in 2006 against a Democrat & a Republican as an Independent. And now he's standing tall against Obamacare--specifically the public option.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

23 November 2009

Global Warmists: Squelch Dissent & Delete The Evidence

The correspondence between dozens of climate-change researchers, including many in the U.S., illustrates bitter feelings among those who believe human activities cause global warming toward rivals who argue that the link between humans and climate change remains uncertain.

Some emails also refer to efforts by scientists who believe man is causing global warming to exclude contrary views from important scientific publications.

"This is horrible," said Pat Michaels, a climate scientist at the Cato Institute in Washington who is mentioned negatively in the emails. "This is what everyone feared. Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult for anyone who does not view global warming as an end-of-the-world issue to publish papers. This isn't questionable practice, this is unethical."


A partial review of the hacked material suggests there was an effort at East Anglia, which houses an important center of global climate research, to shut out dissenters and their points of view.

In the emails, which date to 1996, researchers in the U.S. and the U.K. repeatedly take issue with climate research at odds with their own findings. In some cases, they discuss ways to rebut what they call "disinformation" using new articles in scientific journals or popular Web sites.

The emails include discussions of apparent efforts to make sure that reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that monitors climate science, include their own views and exclude others. In addition, emails show that climate scientists declined to make their data available to scientists whose views they disagreed with.


In one email, Benjamin Santer from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif., wrote to the director of the climate-study center that he was "tempted to beat" up Mr. Michaels. Mr. Santer couldn't be reached for comment Sunday.

In another, Phil Jones, the director of the East Anglia climate center, suggested to climate scientist Michael Mann of Penn State University that skeptics' research was unwelcome: We "will keep them out somehow -- even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!" Neither man could be reached for comment Sunday.

The emails were published less than a month before the opening of a major climate-change summit in Copenhagen.
Given the state of the world economy, the climate for a radical reordering of world economies to show obeisance to Mother Gaia and line the pockets of the High Prophet Al Gore and the rest of the Climate-Industrial complex was already not good.

Now that we know that some of the leading "scientific" hacks are stifling dissent, well, I'm guessing people will be even less inclined to go back to living in caves to heal the earth.

Also, Bjorn Lomborg has the latest in his series of articles about practical solutions to environment-related problems in the world. This time he tackles the damage cyclones and hurricanes cause in the poor, coastal areas of the world.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

My Kind Of American

Meb Keflezighi won the recent New York City Marathon. Keflezighi and his family lived the Horatio Alger, up-by-the-bootstraps American dream liberal elites disparage. The WSJ's Weekend Interview explores his family's immigration to the United States and his experience as a marathoner.
Born in 1975, Mebrahtom (his full name means "let there be light") grew up in an Eritrean village with no electricity and no running water. Besides poverty, Meb's parents, Russom and Awetash, feared for their family's safety because of Russom's involvement with the Eritrean Liberation Movement and because of the ongoing war with Ethiopia. Meb's father decided to flee. "He walked all the way"—60 miles—to Sudan, Meb says. Russom eventually made his way to Milan, Italy, where he worked to raise the money to bring his family out of East Africa.

On Oct. 21, 1987, a date that rolls off Meb's tongue, the family immigrated to San Diego as refugees with the help of the Red Cross and the sponsorship of Meb's half-sister, Ruth. "Dad used to wake up at 4 a.m. so we could learn English," Meb says. "He worked as a taxi driver and worked in restaurants to be able to feed the family."

Meb adds, "You start on the bottom, work hard, and your dreams will come true—and that's what happened. We have a very successful family because my parents always emphasized using the opportunity you have to the maximum: 'There are a lot of people that don't have this opportunity, so make sure you use it.' That stuck in our head."
(image from the WSJ article by Zina Saunders)

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

Ghost Of Socialized Medicine (Read: Obamacare) Yet To Come

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21 November 2009

Mr. Obama, Do More Than Just 'Witness' Democratic Rallies In Iran

Believe it or not, sometimes I find good stuff in the unlikeliest of places (like The New Republic).
A few days before the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the wall in Berlin, there occurred the thirtieth anniversary of the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. The dictators' commemoration of that happy day in the history of their dictatorship was ruined by rallies of democrats and dissidents. Obama's response was to intone wanly that "the world continues to bear witness to their powerful calls for justice." So does "witness" count as "work"? Was the Soviet Union brought down by "witness"? We did not, on our own, bring the Soviet Union down—it collapsed, pathetically, on itself; but we assisted keenly in its collapse. Are we assisting in the mullahs' collapse? I think not. Our Iran policy seems not to have discovered the connection between Iranian nuclearization and Iranian liberalization. The only sure solution to the former is the latter. It is no longer a fantasy to contemplate a new Iran. For this reason, American support for the democracy movement in Iran (he sounds like Bush! and he calls himself a liberal!) is not only a moral duty, it is also a strategic duty. Such support might indeed be "destabilizing," but there is no stability in Iran anymore, there is only a vicious tyranny fighting for its life against a popular uprising that explains itself with principles that we, too, espouse. It makes sense that the man who takes no side in that fight did not make it to Berlin.
(via the WSJ)

Related: This week I attended a conference entitled "The Cold War & It's Legacy" at Churchill College, Cambridge. There were lots of interesting things to come out of the conference, but I was particularly struck by the speech given by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoriy Karasin.

In his speech, he made a lot of points making moral equivalence between the behavior of the USSR and the USA during the Cold War. At the conclusion, most of the audience sat in stunned silence. Finally someone asked him about the Katyn massacre and other immoral behaviors by the USSR, wondering if that's what he meant by both sides behaving similarly.

I could not believe my ears: Karasin, who had already fielded a question or two before this tough one, started his answer by saying that (and he laid the accent on thick) his 'English [was] not too good.'

True or not, I was shocked that he would fall back on the old Soviet question dodge that, frankly, hasn't seen as much play since the end (if, indeed, you believe it ended) of the Cold War.

Anyway, I took pages of notes, some of which may be of interest to you, dear reader. Stay tuned this week as I try and get it up between my teaching, supervision, and visits to the archives. Oh, and I'm off to Berlin. I'll be sure and take a picture next to the new Ronald Reagan monument by Checkpoint Charlie.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

Weekend Cartoon

(from the WSJ)

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20 November 2009

Kim Strassel: 'Wanted By The Democrats: Wildly Optimistic Individual To Oversee National-Jobs-Creation Program. PhD In Imaginary Numbers Required'

Maybe those people who said Obama was Jimmy Carter-lite (or heavy, depending) were right?
Description: The Democratic Party seeks a wildly optimistic individual to oversee a national jobs-creation program. Jobs can be real, or not, so long as the public thinks the party is "doing something." The National Jobs Creator will have at his disposal Congress to pass new "jobs legislation" (aka The It-Is-Not-Another-Stimulus Act of 2009).

The NJC will oversee a dynamic team whose side responsibilities include selling this to the public and saving our behinds in next year's election. This is a potential career status position.

Minimum Qualifications:

Masters Degree from an accredited program in communications/spin. Candidate must be able to explain to the public why "new jobs legislation" is necessary despite assurances the "old jobs legislation"—a $787 billion "stimulus"—is working. Applicant must demonstrate ability to explain why, despite a global recession, we continued socializing health care, and only just noticed that, wow, Houston, we have a problem. (Candidate might consider researching McDonnell, Bob, Gov.-elect of Virginia, who just kicked us in an election and did it talking about "jobs." That got us wondering.)

Candidate must explain the "new jobs legislation" to a wary public. Candidate must clarify how extending unemployment benefits will create jobs; how extending health insurance for the unemployed will create jobs; how taxing financial transactions to pay for this will create jobs. Candidate is responsible for immediately restoring party credibility on this issue, despite all past failed Keynesian spending and, let's be honest, some (holy moly!) embarrassing stimulus "job counting."
Mostly I'm just embarrassed for all my liberal (they probably prefer progressive), Obama-supporting friends who thought Bush was just so horribly irresponsible when it came to spending and the economy and that Obama would be so much smarter and economically savvy.

Sorry, guys. Hope/change perception ≠ reality.

Related & awesome (h/t Matt L.): The Decline: The Geography of a Recession. Do yourself a favor and check out this excellent graphic showing the recession in geographical terms, county-by-county, across the United States. It's painful.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

David Harsanyi On Sarah Palin & Her New Book

These days, where you fall on the crucial issue of Sarah Palin tells the rest of us all we need to know about your character. You’re either a:

A) Scum-sucking, terror-loving elitist, or a

B) Radical, tea-bag-loving simpleton.

Yet, believe it or not, one can (as I do) admire Palin’s charisma and roots, appreciate her dissent on the policy experiments brainy folks in Washington are cooking up and at the same time believe she has no business running for president in 2012.

In fact, all you haters out there force me to root for her.

There’s nothing wrong, for instance, with The Associated Press assigning a crack team of investigative journalists to sift through every word of Palin’s book, “Going Rogue” (HarperCollins, November 2009) for inaccuracies. You only wish similarly methodical muckraking was applied to President Barack Obama’s two self-aggrandizing tomes—or even the health care or cap and trade bills, for that matter.
Comparing Sarah Palin to Barack Obama is the perfect case study of the different treatment given by the liberal media to conservative vs. liberal personalities. Palin goes through the ringer and Obama gets a pass.

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17 November 2009

Bret Stephens On The Circus Trial Of KSM, 'A Third Look At Ground Zero'

Wake up, folks. It's time to pay attention to what's happening with the Obama administration's politicization of American prosecution of the war on terror and intelligence gathering. Trying KSM & co. in NYC is just the latest example, not the only one.
The third way to consider the trials is to look at Ground Zero itself. After eight years of deliberation, planning, money and effort, what have we got? The picture nearby is the answer.

Let me be more precise. After eight years in which the views and interests of, inter alia, the Port Authority, NYPD, MTA and EPA, the several governors of New York and New Jersey, lease-holder Larry Silverstein, various star architects, the insurance companies, contractors, unions and lawyers, the families of the bereaved, their self-appointed spokespersons, the residents of lower Manhattan and, yes, even the fish of the Hudson river have all been duly consulted and considered, this is what we've got: a site of mourning turned into a symbol of defiance turned into a metaphor of American incompetence—of things not going forward. It is, in short, the story of our decade.

Barack Obama, energetic and smart, was elected largely to change all that. But the thrust of his presidency so far has been in the direction of bloated government, deficits and health-care bills; paralysis over Afghanistan and Iran; the convulsions over Gitmo and the CIA torture memos. And now this: An effort to demonstrate the purity of our methods and motives that is destined, as all these things have been, to wind up as the legal equivalent of Ground Zero. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for whom no real justice will ever be meted, understood his targets well.
Taken together with Holder's (read: Obama) decision to investigate intelligence officials who carried out interrogations under the Bush administration (already cleared of wrongdoing once), this is Obama appeasing, as I said yesterday, the bloodthirsty, Bush-hating crowd.

They'll never get at President Bush or Dick Cheney, but they'll crow like they crowed when they got Scooter Libby for... what? For supposedly obstructing justice when there was no crime committed in the first place.

In the United States, when we don't like the policy of one administration, we replace that group of idiots with another group of idiots. We do not have show trials and kangaroo courts and prosecute people. That's the sort of thing they do in autocracies when they go from one corrupt & murderous regime to the next. If you read that sentence and thought, "but that's exactly what the Bush administration was!" then you must be a moonbat.

Clearly the leftists looked at Afghanistan, Iraq, & Iran and learned the wrong lesson.

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16 November 2009

John Yoo: 'KSM Trial Will Hurt US Intelligence, Be A 3-Ring Circus'

Now, however, KSM and his co-defendants will enjoy the benefits and rights that the Constitution accords to citizens and resident aliens—including the right to demand that the government produce in open court all of the information that it has on them, and how it got it.

Prosecutors will be forced to reveal U.S. intelligence on KSM, the methods and sources for acquiring its information, and his relationships to fellow al Qaeda operatives. The information will enable al Qaeda to drop plans and personnel whose cover is blown. It will enable it to detect our means of intelligence-gathering, and to push forward into areas we know nothing about.
President Obama is subordinating American security & intelligence to the demands of the extreme left wing of his party.

This is foolish & stupid in the extreme--just the latest example of President Obama putting politics before what's good for the country.

You might be saying to yourself, especially if you're a knee jerk Obama apologist like some of my friends, 'What's political about this move?'

I'm glad you asked. Here's Andrew McCarthy:
The continuing investigations of Bush-era counterterrorism policies coupled with the obsession to disclose classified national-defense information from that period, enable Holder to give the hard Left the 'reckoning' that he and Obama promised during the 2008 campaign. The defendants will demand every bit of information they can get about interrogations, renditions, secret prisons, undercover operations targeting Muslims and mosques, etc., and -- depending on what judge catches the case -- they are likely to be given a lot of it. The administration will be able to claim that the judge, not the administration, is responsible for the exposure of our defense secrets.
The bloodlust of leftists afflicted with Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) will not be sated until Bushitler is put on trial for his crimes against humanity!!1!!!eleventy!!

Well, they'll get their wish and the rest of us will add this to the list (of examples where Obama put party politics before country).

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'Where The Hell Does Congress Get The Power To Do That?'

Last year's District of Columbia v. Heller, in which the court held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own firearms, exemplifies Mr. Lipsky's point that the language of the Constitution retains its power even when long ignored. "We've had 200 years, and nothing's ever been done about this," he says. "For 50 of the 200 years, the New York Times has been sneering at the idea of an individual right, and everybody's been talking about how this right belongs to the 'militia.'"

Yet by carefully analyzing the language of the Second Amendment, the court cast aside that musty conventional wisdom. Mr. Lipsky, who describes himself as "a partisan of the plain-language school of the law," applauds not just the result but the method the justices, in an opinion by Antonin Scalia, employed to reach it: "They really get into the language. I mean, the actual grammar, the sentence structure, the subordinate and not-subordinate clauses, which—forgive me, but I've been arguing for a generation and a half as an editorial writer, the plain language of this thing is plain."
The Constitution provides that ordinary citizens can challenge legislation in court and overturn the law the of the land.

What a great document, that Constitution.

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Bjorn Lomborg: 'Focusing On Global Warming At The Expense Of Food Aid Is Immoral'

As my econ-savvy friends always tell me, in a world with limited resources, there are always going to be trade-offs.

With a chimeric threat like "global warming" on the policy agenda, everything loses to the productivity, quality of life, liberty-reducing measures proposed by people whose real goal is to remake civilization and society in an image they see fit.

Poor families in Ethiopia struggle to survive, and global warming will make it tougher for them. In some of the poorest areas on earth, global warming is expected to increase hunger in the future. Mr. Mekonen has heard talk of global warming but, he said, "it does not affect our lives."

What does affect his life is high food prices. His family can afford to eat meat just once a month. Global food aid is at a 20-year low. Prices soared in 2008, partly because rich countries' biofuel mandates—designed to fight global warming—have meant that land once used to grow crops to feed people is now being used to grow crops to feed cars.

Investing in malnutrition assistance helps countries like Ethiopia because it reduces the burden that malnourished people place on health systems. Spending money on HIV prevention and treatment is a highly effective use of aid money. In economic terms, these investments have benefits that far outstrip their costs.

Malnutrition should not be neglected as developed countries concentrate on global warming. Oxfam has warned that at least 4.5 million children could die and 8.6 million fewer people could have access to HIV/AIDS treatment if rich countries divert aid to help poor countries tackle climate change instead of malnutrition as part of an agreement to be negotiated in Copenhagen next month.

Oxfam argued that developed countries should both increase aid and spend more to pay off countries that will suffer the worst of global warming. But the harsh truth is that resources are limited. Money spent on global-warming policies is likely to reduce the funds available for food aid.

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15 November 2009

Eric Holder's Ridiculous Decision To Try KSM In NY, &c.

The WSJ's Review & Outlook editorial for yesterday pretty well sums up all the legal, historical, practical, and terror-fighting implications of Holder's leftist-appeasing move to abolish the military commissions specifically designed to try KSM & others for whom normal evidentiary rules, among other things, would be difficult.
Please spare us talk of the "rule of law." If that was the primary consideration, the U.S. already has a judicial process in place. The current special military tribunals were created by the 2006 Military Commissions Act, which was adopted with bipartisan Congressional support after the Supreme Court's Hamdan decision obliged the executive and legislative branches to approve a detailed plan to prosecute the illegal "enemy combatants" captured since 9/11.

Contrary to liberal myth, military tribunals aren't a break with 200-plus years of American jurisprudence. Eight Nazis who snuck into the U.S. in June 1942 were tried by a similar court and most were hanged within two months. Before the Obama Administration stopped all proceedings earlier this year pending yesterday's decision, the tribunals at Gitmo had earned a reputation for fairness and independence.
No one doubts these men's guilt, but what if--what if--they receive reduced or no sentence because of some procedural rule that ought not apply to enemy combatants?

Then, there's the ridiculous leftists & media (but I repeat myself) response to the mass murder of US soldiers at Ft. Hood by Islamic terrorist-in-US-uniform, Nidal Hasan.

51 people were shot, of which, 13 eventually died, including one unborn child. But to hear the liberal take on things (& that idiot Gen. Casey), the biggest tragedy would be the loss of diversity.

One must not speak of such things. Not even now. Not even after we know that Hasan was in communication with a notorious Yemen-based jihad propagandist. As late as Tuesday, the New York Times was running a story on how returning soldiers at Fort Hood had a high level of violence.

What does such violence have to do with Hasan? He was not a returning soldier. And the soldiers who returned home and shot their wives or fellow soldiers didn’t cry “Allahu Akbar!” as they squeezed the trigger.

The delicacy about the religion in question — condescending, politically correct, and deadly — is nothing new. A week after the first (1993) World Trade Center attack, the same New York Times ran the following front-page headline about the arrest of one Mohammed Salameh: “Jersey City Man Is Charged in Bombing of Trade Center.”

Ah yes, those Jersey men — so resentful of New York, so prone to violence.
And Mark Steyn:
“Diversity” is one of those words designed to absolve you of the need to think. Likewise, a belief in “multiculturalism” doesn’t require you to know anything at all about other cultures, just to feel generally warm and fluffy about them. Heading out from my hotel room the other day, I caught a glimpse of that 7-Eleven video showing Major Hasan wearing “Muslim” garb to buy a coffee on the morning of his murderous rampage. And it wasn’t until I was in the taxi cab that something odd struck me: He was an American of Arab descent. But he was wearing Pakistani dress — that’s to say, a “Punjabi suit,” as they call it in Britain, or the shalwar kameez, to give it its South Asian name. For all the hundreds of talking heads droning on about “diversity” across the TV networks, it was only Tarek Fatah, writing in the Ottawa Citizen, who pointed out that no Arab males wear this get-up — with one exception: Those Arab men who got the jihad fever and went to Afghanistan to sign on with the Taliban and al-Qaeda. In other words, Major Hasan’s outfit symbolized the embrace of an explicit political identity entirely unconnected with his ethnic heritage.

Mr. Fatah would seem to be a genuine “multiculturalist”: That’s to say, he’s attuned to often very subtle “diversities” between cultures. Whereas the professional multiculturalist sees the 7-Eleven video and coos, “Aw, look. He’s wearing . . . well, something exotic and colorful, let’s not get hung up on details. Celebrate diversity, right? Can we get him in the front row for the group shot? We may be eligible for a grant.”

The brain-addled “diversity” of General Casey will get some of us killed, and keep all of us cowed. In the days since the killings, the news reports have seemed increasingly like a satirical novel the author’s not quite deft enough to pull off, with bizarre new Catch 22s multiplying like the windmills of your mind: If you’re openly in favor of pouring boiling oil down the throats of infidels, then the Pentagon will put down your e-mails to foreign jihadists as mere confirmation of your long established “research interests.” If you’re psychotic, the Army will make you a psychiatrist for fear of provoking you. If you gun down a bunch of people, within an hour the FBI will state clearly that we can all relax, there’s no terrorism angle, because, in our over-credentialized society, it doesn’t count unless you’re found to be carrying Permit #57982BQ3a from the relevant State Board of Jihadist Licensing.

Ezra Levant, my comrade in a long battle to restore freedom of speech to Canada, likes to say that the Danish cartoons crisis may one day be seen as a more critical event than 9/11. Not, obviously, in the comparative death tolls but in what each revealed about the state of Western civilization. After 9/11, we fought back, hit hard, rolled up the Afghan camps; after the cartoons, we weaseled and equivocated and appeased and signaled that we were willing to trade core Western values for a quiet life. Watching the decadence and denial on display this last week, I think in years to come Fort Hood will be seen in a similar light. What happened is not a “tragedy” but a national scandal, already fading from view.
It used to be that the pursuit of "diversity" in the form of affirmative action put some less qualified people in school or a job in place of a more qualified applicant. While stupid & unjust, such behavior rarely resulted in the deaths of 13 people and injury of dozens more.

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13 November 2009

Leftists Say We're Crazy Lunatics For Thinking The Country Is Headed In A Socialist, Freedom Reducing Direction (UPDATED)

Stone: Do you think it’s fair to send people to jail who don’t buy health insurance?

Pelosi: … The legislation is very fair in this respect.
Look, folks, there are different paths to collectivist, socialist, repressive, Orwellian states, just because the United States isn't on the exact same one as, say, the former Soviet Union, doesn't mean that what the current group of leftists (including our President) is doing isn't of a piece with what was done elsewhere to limit the freedom of individual Americans.

This is how it's done in Nanny States. 20 years ago, the social democracies of Western Europe (including the UK) didn't look like they do now. Now, per the Telegraph, new environmental regulation could result in carbon rationing cards for subjects of the crown (remember, they're not citizens).
An Environment Agency spokesman said only those with "extravagant lifestyles" would be affected by the carbon allowances.
He said: "A lot of people who cycle will get money back. It will probably only be bankers and those with extravagant lifestyles who would lose out."
However, some have criticised the move as "Orwellian" and say it will have a detrimental impact on business.
Ruth Lea, an economist from Arbuthnot Banking Group, told the Daily Mail: "This is all about control of the individual and you begin to wonder whether this is what the green agenda has always been about. It's Orwellian. This will be an enormous tax on business."
Under the Climate Change Act, Britain is obliged to cut its emissions by 80 per cent on 1990 levels by 2050. This means annual CO2 emissions per person will have to fall from about 9 tonnes to only 2 tonnes.
Do you have an "extravagant lifestyle" as defined by the Holy Church of the Environment & Mother Gaia?

Prepare to have your unrighteous behavior curbed.

My friends here in the UK don't even know to be upset about most of these things. Like a frog in a pot of water, with the temperature slowly increasing, they're lives are managed and regulated to the Nth degree and they don't even know it.

President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid 2009 alone have shown their government control-loving, liberty-reducing in just the last 10 months. Card check to take away the secret ballot and sneak unionize wherever they can. Cap & trade to regulate 1/6th of the economy. Health "reform" to control another 1/5th or so. Takeover of domestic automakers. Takeover and regulation of the financial sector. Am I missing anything? I feel like I'm missing something.

The shocking thing about this is that I had no idea how wide reaching their grasp for power was until I started typing it all into this blog post.

My liberal-leftist friends are always convinced of the power of ever-greater reform and policy tweaking and technology and other knowledge advancement to bring efficiency to the inherently inefficient government bureaucracy.

But here's the thing, you cannot efficient-ize the government enough to make up for the concurrent loss of liberty.

UPDATE 14 November 6:17p BST: Ryan Decker's comment from the Facebook thread:
You could have ended the sentence thus: "you cannot efficient-ize the government." Even if the liberty/efficiency tradeoff did exist the point would be moot because government is not capable of increasing efficiency. Policymakers simply face the wrong incentives, lack the competence, and cannot process the information required to increase the efficiency of anything.

So there's no trade-off in which government policy could somehow increase efficiency at the cost of liberty. If they're taking your liberty, they're doing it inefficiently.

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12 November 2009

In The Wake Of Ft. Hood, What Should President Obama Do?

Dan Henninger has the answer:
Everyone has seen the pictures of inconsolable grief amid the coffins of Fort Hood. Only one person can resolve the confusion that let this happen: the president.

This is the president who told his attorney general to decide if the CIA officers who water-boarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be held criminally liable.

But two weeks ago, Mr. Obama met 18 coffins returned from Afghanistan. Whatever he decides about the Afghan troop deployment, what won't change is that over there or here at home, they will keep trying to kill us.

To give us better odds of protection than we had last week, President Obama should do two things: Call off the CIA investigation. Then call in the guys who didn't make the right call on Hasan and ask why not. Then, whatever set the bar too high, lower it. His "base" won't like it. So what? What he saw in Texas was worse.

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Want To Lower Healthcare Costs, Thereby Making Insurance More Affordable For Everyone? Try Tort Reform

Never mind that reducing medical lawsuits is a rare reform provision that really would reduce health-care costs. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the savings at $54 billion over a decade. Consulting firm Tillinghast Towers-Perrin has suggested the direct cost of medical tort litigation is more like $30 billion annually. PriceWaterhouseCoopers estimates that last year $240 billion in health expenditures were the result of doctors ordering unnecessary procedures to protect against the risk of lawsuits.
This is another one of those things President Obama said he would do & didn't. As in, he said he would introduce tort reform as one piece of his overall healthcare reform, but the legislation leaving the House includes, per the article above, a proviso that will actually undermine existing state tort law.

I get it. I really do. Obama and his Democrat friends are just paying back one of their biggest campaign cash cows--trial lawyers.

Kind of like with Card Check and the Unions.

And cap & trade and the Climate-Industrial Complex.

And I don't even really blame my friends in the legal profession who are opposed to tort reform. I understand that by opposing any check on their ability to litigate, they are only acting in their self interest.

Don't blame Obama, Democrats, & trial lawyers, blame the system.

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The Pacific: 2 Trailers

First, the old one, you've probably already seen:

And the new one, you probably haven't:

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

11 November 2009

Holman Jenkins: 'Unable To Do Anything About Global Warming, Policy Defaults To Satisfying Demands Of Organized Interests For Climate Pork'

Compare and contrast the very able in-house editorial writers of the Wall Street Journal and any other given daily newspaper--take the New York Times if you like. I guarantee you any objective analysis of the writing, to say nothing of the actual merit of the ideas expressed, will come out in favor of the WSJ's Daniel Henninger, Holman Jenkins, Bret Stephens and the rest.

All policy salesmanship naturally defaults toward the proposition of huge benefits and negligible costs (i.e., free lunchism). Isn't that where Al Gore is today?

Mr. Gore notes that he has poured his own money into two climate action nonprofits, but, whatever his self-felt motives, aren't these nonprofits functionally propaganda arms (i.e., advertising) that benefit his for-profit investments?

The truth is, evidence of man's impact on climate remains maddeningly elusive, in part because man's impact on climate is so small as to be hard to disentangle from natural variability. This is not Mr. Gore's position, of course. If anything, however, the case for action has become less closed since he pronounced it closed in 1989, if only because of the huge sums and manpower poured into the subject to little avail.

In retrospect, a significant moment was the falling apart or debunking of two key attempts seemingly well-suited to clinch matters for a scientifically literate public. One, the famous hockey stick graph, which suggested the temperature rise of the past 100 years was unprecedentedly steep, was convincingly challenged. The other, a mining of the geological record to show past episodes of warming were sharply coupled with rising CO2 levels, fell victim to a closer look that revealed that past warmings had preceded rather than followed higher CO2 levels.

These episodes from a decade ago testified to one important thing: Even climate activists recognized a need for evidence from the real world. The endless invocation of computer models wasn't cutting it. Yet today the same circles are more dependent than ever on predictions made by models, whose forecasts lie far enough in the future that those who rely on them to make policy prescriptions are in no danger of being held accountable for their reliability.

For a while the media could patch over the scientific shortfall by reporting evidence of warming as if it were evidence of what causes warming. Inconveniently, however, just as temperature-measuring has become more standardized and disciplined and less reliant on flaky records from the past (massaged to the Nth degree), the warming trend seems to have faded from the recent record.
It seems to me that the climate of opinion surrounding climate change is beginning to change.

As in, people aren't willing to give up Western Civilization in the vague and vain hope that it may forestall some far off future, unproven, and ridiculous prophecy of doom.

(h/t Scott L.)

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Martin Feldstein: 'Obamacare Could Have Unintended Consequence Of Raising Premiums & Reducing Number Of Insured'

The Congressional Budget Office is required to estimate the cost of the law as it is written, not as it may evolve. But we as taxpayers will have to pay those future costs.
As with nearly every other government program, the cure is far, far worse than the disease.

(h/t Scott L.)

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Soldiers Of Ft. Hood, RIP

Casualties in the War on Terror.

Whether here or in Iraq or Afghanistan, these soldiers gave their lives for the same country.

I thank them for their service and their sacrifice.

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

10 November 2009

Thank Goodness For President Awesome's Stimulus That Saved Us From 10%+ Unemployment

It's like someone said once, 'economics doesn't lie, but economists do.'

I'm sure the President's economic team--Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Christina Romer, Austan Goolsbee--are perfectly fantastic economists in their own right. But when they join a political team, they, like everyone else, cherry pick the results to fit their worldview.

And that's how you get ridiculous graphs like the one above.

Also, for the interested, the NYT has this interactive unemployment graph. (h/t Matt L.)

If you have tips, questions, comments or suggestions, email me at lybberty@gmail.com.

You Know How Pres. Obama & The Liberal Propagandists Said Conservatives Were Deluded About Government Funding Of Abortion?

President Obama and other "fact checking" groups explicitly stated that the President's plan (really, whatever Speaker Pelosi put forward) didn't and wouldn't fund abortions. They wrote long articles and gave speeches about how conservative, right-to-lifers were wild eyed and deluded--that abortion was one of the "myths" of the Obama plan that wasn't really true.

You know, that it was a myth just like the death panels were a myth.

Fortunately, there are some life-loving, honest Democrats in the House of Representatives--63 of them, to be exact.
For months, the Michigan Democrat has been threatening to bring down any health-care bill unless the House was given the opportunity to vote to extend the ban on taxpayer dollars for abortion to the new federal programs being created. On Saturday night, Mrs. Pelosi caved and Mr. Stupak prevailed.

The result is one of the few, real up-or-down votes we ever get on abortion—and the only part of the health-care mess that shows any bipartisan consensus. In the end, 63 Democrats and Mr. Stupak joined all but one Republican on an amendment that does two things: prohibits federal funds for an abortion or for abortion coverage; allows (notwithstanding pro-choice propaganda) private insurers to offer abortion coverage so long as tax dollars are not involved.

Not that the press ever noticed. Up until almost literally the 11th hour, Mr. Stupak's push for a vote was treated as a sideshow. Nor was President Barack Obama ever called to answer for his flatly contradictory public statements on the place of abortion (the preferred term is "reproductive health care") in any health-care reform.

Mr. Stupak has just changed all that. On Sunday, the president of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, sent out an action alert asking supporters to tell Mr. Obama to "make good" on his "promise to put reproductive health care at the center of [his] health care reform plan." She should know: She was standing next to Candidate Obama in 2007 when he declared that "reproductive care is essential care, it is basic care, so it is at the center and at the heart of the plan that I propose."

Unfortunately for Ms. Richards, during his recent appearance before a joint session of Congress, Mr. Obama promised something different: "no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions."

Notwithstanding the president's promise, page 110 of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's bill authorized the secretary of Health and Human Services to determine when abortion is allowed under the government-run plan. All Mrs. Pelosi's preferred "compromises" left this undisturbed, using what in effect would be a money-laundering scheme to cloak the reality of a federal agency paying for abortion.

But Mr. Stupak stood firm, and Mrs. Pelosi realized something would have to give if she wanted to get a health-care bill passed. So she gave Mr. Stupak his vote—and his victory.
Big ups to Bart Stupak and his 62 fellow, pro-life Democrats.

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09 November 2009

Yes, Ronald Reagan Is One Of My Heroes

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08 November 2009

Roger Kimball On The Fall Of The Berlin Wall

Was there ever a more fitting monument to tyranny than the Berlin Wall? Conceived in desperation, this brutal barrier was erected in 1961 by the state not for the protection but for the incarceration of its citizens. . . . [It] was also an inescapable indictment, not just of a particular society but of an entire world view, the world view of Soviet Communism with its rhetoric of justice and class struggle in one hand and its reality of the Gulag and the systematic obliteration of human freedom in the other. . . .

What, finally, brought down the wall? The candidates for that honor are many, from the impersonal operation of History to the people-power of movements like Solidarity and the spiritual leadership of Pope John Paul II. Among Western academics, the role of Mikhail Gorbachev enjoys pride of place. His mantras of glasnost and perestroika ("openness" and "restructuring") became favored terms in English. In the late 1980s, Gorbachev, the true-believing Communist, was the hero. Never mind that he wished to salvage the Soviet empire: he spoke to the hearts and minds of the Western intelligentsia in a way Ronald Reagan never did. Reagan, after all, had the temerity early on in his tenure to describe the Soviet Union as an "evil empire." How the liberal establishment recoiled from, how it ridiculed that phrase. "The Western diplomatic firmament," William F. Buckley Jr. recalled in 1990, "shook with indignation." Then came "Star Wars" and Reagan's military buildup. How the Left scorned that. How the Soviets scrambled to keep up. After one of his chummy sight-seeing tours of Moscow in 1984, the Harvard economist John Kenneth Galbraith wrote an article about his trip for The New Yorker. The Soviet's "great material progress" impressed him, as did the look of "solid well-being of the people on the streets."
Death to tyranny & tyrants wherever they may be found. And may their enablers, like John Kenneth Galbraith, hang their heads in shame.

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07 November 2009

Angela Merkel On The Fall Of The Berlin Wall On 9 November 1989

[F]or me America seemed completely out of reach . . . then on the 9th of November 1989, the Berlin Wall fell.

And this border which had divided a nation, for decades, keeping people in two different worlds, was now open. And this is why for me, today is first and foremost a time to say thank you.

I thank all those American and Allied pilots who heard and heeded the desperate appeal of then-Mayor of Berlin Ernst Reuter, in 1948, who said, you, the nations of this world, cast your eyes towards the city.

For months, these pilots flew food to Berlin for the airlift, saving the citizens from starvation. Many of these soldiers risked their lives. Dozens lost their lives. We shall remember and honor them forever . . .

I think of John F. Kennedy, who won the hearts of the Berliners, when, during his visit in 1961, after the wall had been built, he reached out to the desperate citizens of Berlin by saying, "Ich bin ein Berliner." I think of Ronald Reagan, who, far earlier than most, clearly saw the sign of the times and, standing in front of the Brandenburg Gate, already in 1987, called out, "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." This appeal shall remain forever in my heart.
10 years ago Monday.

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Bret Stephens: 'When No Means No'

In October 2003, the European diplomatic troika of France, Germany and Britain extracted a promise from Iran to suspend most of its nuclear work and promise "full transparency" in its dealings with the International Atomic Energy Agency. In exchange, the EU3 offered a menu of commercial and technological incentives. Then-French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin hailed the deal as "a promising start."

It soon became apparent that Iran had no intention of becoming transparent, as repeated IAEA reports made abundantly clear. As for the idea that Iran could be made to abandon its nuclear ambitions, then-Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi was unequivocal: "We won't accept any new obligations. Iran has a high technical capability and has to be recognized by the international community as a member of the nuclear club," he said. "This is an irreversible path."

So there was the first Iranian "No." In November 2004, however, Tehran made a second deal with the EU3, this time with an even sweeter package of incentives for Iran. The so-called Paris Agreement lasted a few months, until Iran again spurned the Europeans. "Definitely we can't stop our nuclear program and won't stop it," former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani said in March 2005—a second resounding "No."

Still, the wheels of diplomacy kept spinning, thanks to a Russian offer to enrich Iran's uranium for it. The Iranians "studied" the proposal and even reached what an Iranian diplomat called a "basic agreement" with Moscow. But again they turned it down, on the basis that it is "logical that every country be in charge of its own fate regarding energy and not put its future in the hands of another country." Call that the third "No."

Four months later, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced Iran had successfully enriched uranium. Over the course of the next two years the Security Council approved four successive resolutions demanding that Iran cease enriching and imposing some mild sanctions. Ahmadinejad replied by insisting that all the Security Council resolutions in the world couldn't do a "damn thing" to stop Iran from developing its nuclear programs. That would be the fourth and clearest "No."

Yet even as Tehran's rejections piled up, a view developed that all would be well if only the U.S. would drop the harsh rhetoric and meet with the Iranians face-to-face. So President Obama began making one overture after another to Iran, including a videotaped message praising its "great civilization." Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei replied that Mr. Obama had "insulted the Islamic Republic of Iran from the first day."
I think Obama and his ilk believe that Iran is just like the former Soviet Union, that one can negotiate with them in good faith (though even that is debatable). I've learned a bit about the Cold War in the course of my studies. If Iran gets the bomb, there's a darn good chance they'll use it in downtown Jerusalem.

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your line of thinking, Israel will do anything and everything it can to forestall Iran's planned judgement day.

Good thing the kewlest President ever decided to engage the Iranians directly. I'm sure this time they'll give up their nuke-producin', Israel-hatin' ways.

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05 November 2009

Ian Fisher: Images Of A Young Soldier

Via Ace, the Denver Post followed Ian Fisher as he went from Army recruit, through basic training, to Iraq and home again.

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04 November 2009

Traditional Marriage Wins Big In Maine

No blaming Mormons this time. (who supposedly burned a lot of political capital being on the wrong side of history and all h/t Morgan H.)

Or African Americans who voted "yes" for Hope & Change and "no" for Adam & Steve.

No one would accuse Maine of being a particularly conservative, redneck, backwater state. And yet against the odds--and the overwhelming funding of gay marriage advocates--traditional marriage won the day.

Congratulations to everyone who manned phones, donated what they could, knocked doors and voted to defend marriage.

Given events of a year ago, today is a good day.

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More Good News On Energy

Props to markets, again.

Much the same technology being used to get at shale oil is now being used to access natural gas. And the results are astonishing.
Equally dramatic is the effect on U.S. reserves. Proven reserves have risen to 245 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) in 2008 from 177 Tcf in 2000, despite having produced nearly 165 Tcf during those years. The recent increase in estimated U.S. gas reserves by the Potential Gas Committee, representing both academic and industry experts, is in itself equivalent to more than half of the total proved reserves of Qatar, the new LNG powerhouse. With more drilling experience, U.S. estimates are likely to rise dramatically in the next few years. At current levels of demand, the U.S. has about 90 years of proven and potential supply—a number that is bound to go up as more and more shale gas is found.

To have the resource base suddenly expand by this much is a game changer. But what is getting changed?

It transforms the debate over generating electricity. The U.S. electric power industry faces very big questions about fuel choice and what kind of new generating capacity to build. In the face of new climate regulations, the increased availability of gas will likely lead to more natural gas consumption in electric power because of gas's relatively lower CO2 emissions. Natural gas power plants can also be built more quickly than coal-fired plants.

Some areas like Pennsylvania and New York, traditionally importers of the bulk of their energy from elsewhere, will instead become energy producers. It could also mean that more buses and truck fleets will be converted to natural gas. Energy-intensive manufacturing companies, which have been moving overseas in search of cheaper energy in order to remain globally competitive, may now stay home.
Along with shale oil and clean coal, natural gas is an energy game-changer.

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02 November 2009

Hey Global Warmists, How About Spending Money Where It Can Actually Save Lives?

If the climate change movement were actually about saving lives, then they would welcome cost/benefit analysis of their programs. But it's not.

For most of those in control of the climate change agenda, it's about control & power and making money. It is, for them, a way to reorder economies and society according to their vision of the world.

Bjorn Lomborg has a great piece in today's WSJ about the good just a fraction of the world's 'stop climate change' money could do for people dying of malaria in sub-Saharan Africa.
Ask what he wants to see foreign donors' money spent on, and he is quick to answer: better health care. When he is asked about global warming, Mr. Samson responds: "I have heard about it, but I don't even know how it would affect me. If I die from malaria tomorrow, why should I care about global warming?"

In the West, campaigners for carbon regulations point out that global warming will increase the number of malaria victims. This is often used as an argument for drastic, immediate carbon cuts.

Warmer, wetter weather will improve conditions for the malaria parasite. Most estimates suggest that global warming will put 3% more of the Earth's population at risk of catching malaria by 2100. If we invest in the most efficient, global carbon cuts—designed to keep temperature rises under two degrees Celsius—we would spend a massive $40 trillion a year by 2100. In the best case scenario, we would reduce the at-risk population by only 3%.

In comparison, research commissioned by the Copenhagen Consensus Center shows that spending $3 billion annually on mosquito nets, environmentally safe indoor DDT sprays, and subsidies for effective new combination therapies could halve the number of those infected with malaria within one decade. For the money it takes to save one life with carbon cuts, smarter policies could save 78,000 lives. Mr. Samson has not done these calculations, but for him it is simple: "First things first," he says. Malaria "is here right now and it kills a lot of people every day."

Malaria is only weakly related to temperature; it is strongly related to poverty. It has risen in sub-Saharan Africa over the past 20 years not because of global warming, but because of failing medical response. The mainstay treatment, chloroquine, is becoming less and less effective. The malaria parasite is becoming resistant, and there is a need for new, effective combination treatments based on artemisinin, which is unfortunately about 10 times more expensive.
The extremists in the environmental movement have made no secret of their desire to see global population decline. To them, it is a necessary part of getting in line with the fickle demands of Mother Gaia.

To them, the sick and dying in places like Africa are only useful insomuch as they help them further their own agenda.

Once it is shown (as in Lomborg's article) that their anti-civilizational approaches to stopping climate change are more about reordering society than they are about saving human lives, then it's on to the next justification.

I find it ironic that the group arguing for science, ignores all rationality when deciding what to do about the supposed climate change consensus.

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