Monday, July 31, 2006

I Didn't

Fans of Senator Ted Kennedy's work on the Senate Judiciary Committee may find this irksome.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:17 PM

I Had to Read it Twice to Believe It Said That

The left is blaming workplace shootings on..

...Ronald Reagan.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:38 PM

Medicare for All? No Thanks, Part III

The latest on the "Medicare for All" conversation between our David Hogberg and Alternet's Joshua Holland:
Joshua Holland argues in favor of "opening up the Medicare program to anyone who wants to enroll." He argues that such a system would cost Americans less than our current health care system for various reasons, one of which, he said, is that Medicare has lower administrative costs than private insurers.

I dispatched that argument in my last post by showing that 1) administrative costs for Medicare are in fact higher than are commonly reported, and 2) Medicare's lack of administrative oversight results in greater costs in waste and fraud than the amount incurred by the private sector.

Now let's move on to Holland's other reasons why a "Medicare for All" single-payer health care system would cost less.

This passage from Holland sums up his other reasons:
Medicare costs less than private insurance across the board, not only in terms of administrative costs but also because Medicare has a huge amount of bargaining power with healthcare providers (except for Bush's new prescription drug plan, in which lobbyists from Big Pharma prevented the government from negotiating prices).

So, opening up Medicare starts a virtuous cycle (what private insurers and doctors would view as a vicious cycle). Employers would switch in a flash. Sure, they dump millions into think-tanks that bemoan the evils of single-payer healthcare, but if they're able to have contented employees and cut costs by 30-40 percent, they will. Then there are millions, like me, who want health insurance, are nowhere near the poverty line, but still can't afford private insurance. They'd sign up in droves, and the number of uninsured patients would decrease.

Uninsured patients often forego preventative care, and only seek treatment when they get sick and have to be treated, which results in higher costs. Lowering the number of uninsured will decrease overall healthcare expenses in the U.S. Having many more patients in the system will, in turn, expand Medicare's buying and negotiating power, resulting in further cost reductions (which would bring still more people into the system).
First, a point of clarification. Medicare does not bargain, per se. Rather, it sets its prices for both hospitals and physicians. It does so based on various formulas. (See here for hospitals and here (part (d)(4)) for physicians.)

Exactly how employers dumping their employees into Medicare will cut employers' costs is difficult to see. It will require money for Medicare to pay for all those new enrollees, and that money won't grow on trees. It will take the form of new taxes; thereby offsetting whatever cost savings employers might get by eliminating their private coverage. (And that's to say nothing of businesses that don't currently offer coverage but will have to pay new taxes to fund "Medicare for All" -- their costs will go up.)

Holland may believe most of that would be offset by lower costs due to newly-insured people seeking more preventative treatments, thereby reducing larger costs down the road. An examination of our past experiences with Medicare can help us evaluate that claim.

Despite funding preventative care, Medicare can't seem to keep its costs down. For example, the monthly premiums for Medicare Part B -- which funds doctor visits and other outpatient care -- have risen from $50 in 2001, to $54 in 2002, $58.70 in 2003, $66 in 2004, $78.20 in 2005, and $88.60 in 2006. Those are increases of 8%, 8.7%, 12.4%, 18.5%, and 13.3%, respectively. While the deductible for Part B stayed steady at $100 for a number of years, in 2005 and 2006 it took jumps of 10% and 12.7%, respectively.

Looking at the doctors' fees of Part B also shows that Medicare costs are growing rapidly. The formula used to determine these fees is set so that if Medicare expenses in Part B rise too quickly year-to-year, the fees are to be cut. That is exactly what has now happened. Indeed, it is possible the fees paid to doctors under Medicare may have to be cut annually for the next ten years (after doctors protested, Congress delayed the scheduled cut for this year and may do so again next year), which inevitably would cause many doctors to stop accepting new Medicare patients just as the huge "baby boom" generation begins becoming eligible for Medicare. As David Gratzer noted in the January 26 Wall Street Journal, over 30% of American doctors already do not accept new Medicare patients.

So why doesn't Medicare reduce health care costs? It is likely due to two reasons. First, since Medicare is a government program, the bureaucrats who run it have to find ways to hold down costs. One way is to delay the approval of payments for new procedures until it is near certain that they are cost-effective. Consider colonoscopies. It was well established by the early 1990s that colonoscopies were good for preventing colon cancer. Yet, it wasn't until 2001 that Medicare decided to fund them for most recipients. Thus, Medicare was slow to reap preventative benefits of colonoscopies. Medicare patients were as well.

A second reason is overuse. When people perceive that they are getting something for free or -- in the case of Medicare -- at a discount, they use more of it than if they were paying the full cost. As Medicare recipients overuse all types of services, it offsets any cost reduction that might be achieved from preventative care. (In fact, overuse of preventative care contributes to the cost, as this article on colonoscopies shows). Overuse is a reason why nations such as Canada and Britain have bursting health care budgets and resort to rationing measures such as waiting times and cancelled surgeries.

Opening Medicare to anyone who wants in would result in a vicious circle of escalating costs. As people overuse care, more and more taxes will be required to pay for Medicare. The government will respond by rationing care. This reduced quality of health care will eliminate preventive care cost savings, in turn leading to higher health care costs.

Wash, rinse, repeat.
Next up: Why one should be skeptical of claims the U.S. has worse health outcomes than nations with single-payer health systems.

Past posts in this series: #1 is here; #2 is here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:09 AM

Friday, July 28, 2006

Energy Realities

As the Senate debates offshore drilling legislation, senior fellow Dana Gattuso says Americans -- "even with gas prices rising and Chicken Little-like speculations that we're tapping out supplies" -- are not quite ready to quit their oil habit.

What's more, at least one highly-touted "alternative" may make no sense whatsoever.

Dana notes that although "$3.00+ a gallon at the pump is hard to swallow, it is still inexpensive compared to alternative sources of energy like ethanol, solar and wind, and hydrogen technology."

About ethanol, for example, Dana says:
Take corn-based ethanol. In the U.S., the industry currently produces 3.4 billion gallons, used mostly as an octane-boost additive in gasoline. Billions of dollars in annual federal subsidies doesn't change the fact we don't and -- due to limitations on the amount of land, can't -- grow nearly enough corn to meet our food and energy needs.

Some experts question whether the production of ethanol even nets a positive amount of energy. Scientists David Pimentel of Cornell University and Tad Patzek of University of California Berkley found after considering energy inputs to separate, ferment, distill, and extrude the corn, that ethanol uses 29 percent more fossil fuel in its making than it yields for energy use. If the findings are true, it makes absolutely no sense for the government to spend billions of tax dollars subsidizing an entity that uses more energy than it gives off.
There's more. Read Dana's full piece, "Oil Addiction Fiction," on the web at National Review Online.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:20 AM

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Medicare for All? No Thanks, Part II

More on AlterNet's prescription of "Medicare for All" from our senior policy analyst David Hogberg:
Continuing my deconstruction of Joshua Holland's AlterNet polemic in favor of single-payer health care, let's now look at administrative costs.

Holland claims:
People grumble quite a bit about their private HMOs, but survey after survey -- for years -- have shown high levels of satisfaction among Medicare patients. Two percent of Medicare's costs are administration and management while 20 percent of private "Medigap" plans are sucked up by administrative costs. Medicare, which doesn't need to turn a profit, does that with a much sicker (and more treatment-intensive) population than private insurers deal with.
In that first sentence Holland seems to suggest (it's not fully clear) that recipients of Medicare are much happier, on average, than those with private insurance.

Holland should check out the 2005 Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) Survey (pdf). On a variety of ratings, the CAHPS survey shows that only slightly more people are dissatisfied with their private plans than are dissatisfied with Medicare -- Medicare is hardly winning a popularity contest by a wide margin.

(And, for those thinking that government health care programs result in higher patient satisfaction, be advised: The worst patient satisfaction ratings are for Medicaid.)

Holland's claims about administrative costs are even more misleading. As a policy study (pdf) from the Council for Affordable Health Insurance states, comparisons of administrative costs are inaccurate because:
The primary problem is that private sector insurers must track and divulge their administrative costs, while most of Medicare's administrative costs are hidden or completely ignored by the complex and bureaucratic reporting and tracking systems used by the government.
Some of the administrative costs that are factored into private sector calculations, but not Medicare, include:
1. Collecting Revenue. What it costs employers and the IRS to collect the payroll tax needed to fund Medicare is not included in Medicare's administrative costs.

2. Company Policy. While the salary cost of executives and boards of directors who set company policy are included in private sector administrative costs, the salaries of members of Congress and their staff members who set Medicare policy are not factored into Medicare's administrative costs.

3. Management. The salaries of the folks who run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and the costs of the buildings where they work are excluded from Medicare's administrative costs. No such luck for the private sector.
When such factors are included, Medicare's administrative costs are over 5%, not 2%.

Furthermore, as the CAHI paper notes, Medicare's lower administrative costs may actually reflect Medicare's greater inefficiency:
Medicare calculates administrative costs as a ratio of identified administrative costs divided by claims. In 2003, the average medical cost for Medicare was estimated to be about $6,600 per person per year (because of the nature of Medicare's beneficiary pool of older and disabled people), while the average medical cost for private health insurance, excluding out-of-pocket cost, was $2,700 per person per year. Because of the higher cost per beneficiary, Medicare's method of calculation makes administrative costs, albeit unintentionally, appear to be lower than they really are. Indeed, if the numbers were adequately "handicapped," they would be in the 6 to 8 percent range.
That paragraph suggests another important point about administrative costs: They are not necessarily superfluous. Administrative costs in the private sector are used to help keep costs down by stopping unneeded care. This lack of oversight is a big problem for Medicare. As Jonathan Skinner, Elliot Fisher, and John E. Wennberg pointed out in a paper for the NBER, "nearly 20 percent of total Medicare expenditures [appear] to provide no benefit in terms of survival, nor is it likely that this extra spending improves the quality of life."

Or how about administrative costs used to prevent fraud? Medicare has been plagued by fraud for years, far worse than the private sector. Ultimately, what matters when evaluating administrative costs is whether they are cost effective. If you spend $1 million on administrative costs, you aren't wasting $1 million if it reaps $2 million in benefits.

In sum, most estimates of Medicare's administrative costs are inaccurate because they leave out important factors that are included in private sector calculations.

To put most of our population in Medicare would put them in a system that is lousy at weeding out unnecessary care and fraud -- hardly a recipe for "efficiency."
(To read David Hogberg's first installment in this series, please go here.)

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:54 PM

Hockey Stick Hearings -- This Time, It's Personal

The House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will hold its second hearing in two weeks on the so-called "hockey stick" temperature studies at 2 PM Eastern today. A live feed is promised.

The hearing has attracted considerable interest among those who follow global warming, as the hearing will feature Dr. Michael Mann, father of the hockey stick, facing off against Steve McIntyre, breaker of said stick, and Dr. Edward Wegman, the eminent statistician who demonstrated significant statistical weaknesses in the hockey stick study in last week's hearing (archived webcast available here).

According to Congressmen at last week's hearing, Dr. Mann had been invited to participate last week, but declined, reportedly because he was on "vacation." More than a few observers supposed Dr. Mann preferred not to appear at a hearing with Steve McIntyre and/or Dr. Wegman (who is said to be an Al Gore voter, ironically), but that rumor, while plausible, is unconfirmed.

Other scheduled witnesses (according to a ClimateAudit report here) are to include president of the National Academy of Sciences/atmospheric scientist Ralph J. Cicerone and a biological scientist, Jay Gulledge, from the Pew Center on Global Climate Change (which calls global warming "the most pressing global environmental problem"). Dr. Gulledge will not, presumably, be sitting in the skeptics' chair.

Dr. James Hansen is not on the witness list. Could that be because Dr. Dr. John Christy is?

Scientists will tell you there's no "facing off" in science, but don't believe a word of it. These guys just use bigger words than most of us when they argue. (In my experience, the best two places to find a truly artful insult is in 1) the pages of a Jane Austen novel, or 2) an argument on a scientists' blog.)

The main protaganists in this debate have blogs. RealClimate is Michael Mann's; ClimateAudit is Steve McIntyre's. Don't skip the comments sections. Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr.'s Prometheus blog will offer a more neutral view.

The mainstream press has been ignoring the demise of the hockey stick, preferring to cover stories like the predicted impact of global warming on poison ivy (darn critical, to be sure), but this is an important conversation. Not only was the hockey stick theory held up as substantial evidence of the global warming theory among pro-Kyoto cataclysmic-warming-is-upon-us lobbyists, but it has been promoted by quite a few oft-quoted scientists in non-peer reviewed (whatever peer review really means) articles as well. Furthermore, there are a few issues -- hence the hearing being held by the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations -- of interest to taxpayers who don't give a fig about global warming that may come up today as well.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:13 AM

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Medicare for All? No Thanks, Part I

Senior policy analyst David Hogberg takes issue with a health care policy prescription made on the popular leftie website AlterNet:
Over at AlterNet, Joshua Holland argues that the way to universal coverage - which he inexplicably supports -- is to open Medicare to all of those who want to join, not just those age 65 and older.

Holland's article is so riddled with ignorance that it is going to require more than one blog post to set it straight.

Let's begin with the type of health care system that Holland believes is superior to the one in the U.S.:
Holland: The day you pass a law opening up Medicare enrollment to everyone who wants in is the beginning of the end for our bloated, overpriced private health care system. Within ten years, we'd have universal, single-payer health care, with just a small percentage of Americans sticking with private insurance (like in the UK).
If we were to go the UK route, we would soon end up with a health care system that would be overused because people would think (erroneously) they are getting something for free. In response, the government would have to ration care, yielding a system characterized by bureaucracy and inefficiency:
-We could have a system that results in over 770,000 people on a waiting list to get surgery, like in the UK.

-We could have a system that results in children with heart defects on waiting lists to see a specialist, sometimes for two years, like in the UK.

-We could have a system that results in about 61,000 surgeries cancelled annually due to lack of resources, like in the UK.
Thanks, but I will take what Holland calls "our bloated, overpriced private health care system" over the UK's any day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Coming next: Administrative costs.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:06 PM

The United Nations Legacy of Anti-Semitism

If the intemperate United Nations response to Israel's defense of its citizens, or U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's off-the-cuff, before-any-investigation charge that Israel deliberately targeted U.N. peacekeepers surprises you, check out a small sample of facts National Center policy analyst Ryan Balis collected about the United Nations' shameful legacy vis-a-vis Jews and Israel:
Anti-Israel Activities of Note

* 'Zionism is racism': In November of 1975, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 3379, which determined, "Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” The resolution stood for 16 years, until the General Assembly repealed it in 1991 by a vote of 111-25 (the vote included 13 abstentions and 17 absent or non-voting delegations).

* UNESCO World Heritage: Israel has twice witnessed its management of the Old City of Jerusalem and its Walls thwarted by UNESCO, the U.N. educational, scientific and cultural body that manages a list of significant sites of 'World Heritage,' In the early 1980s, UNESCO permitted Jordan to nominate Jerusalem as World Heritage, although Israel governed the city and was not a party to the World Heritage Convention. Within a year, Jerusalem became listed as one of the 31 sites 'in danger,' a designation it retains today.

* Human Rights Discrimination: The newly 'reformed' U.N. human rights body voted 29-12 in June of 2006 to adopt a resolution requiring UN investigators to report at each Council meeting "on the Israeli human rights violations in occupied Palestine.” The previous U.N. Commission on Human Rights (defunct since March 2006) referred to Israel in 30 percent of its resolutions condemning human rights violations.

According to Anne Bayefsky of the Hudson Institute, the U.N. has never issued a specific resolution on anti-Semitism or issued a single report on discrimination against Jews. In 2003, the first resolution on anti-Semitism was offered before the General Assembly but withdrawn because of Arab and Muslim opposition. The first mention of the word "anti-Semitism" in a U.N. resolution occurred in November of 1998 on a document to eliminate racism and racial discrimination.

* Singled Out: According to the Permanent Mission of Israel to the U.N., the "General Assembly devotes seven out of 179 items of its agenda to issues concerning Israel" and annually adopts 19 anti-Israeli resolutions.10 Of the 10 emergency sessions of the U.N. General Assembly, six of them have concerned Israel. The Tenth Special Session on the continuing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is convened without end.

* Second-State Status: Israel is the only U.N. member country not to have permanent membership in one of the five U.N. regional groupings, which are organized by geography. In May of 2000, Israel accepted temporary membership (extended in 2004) in the Western European and Other States Group (WEOG). Therefore, Israel may participate in WEOG meetings in New York, but this designation prevents Israel from seeking membership on many U.N. agencies that are not organized by the WEOG.

Anti-Semitic Remarks of Note

* "Is it not the Jews who are exploiting the American people and trying to debase them?" - Dr. Ali Treiki, Libyan Representative to the U.N. before the U.N. General Assembly

* "The Talmud says that if a Jew does not drink every year the blood of a non-Jewish man, he will be damned for eternity." - Marouf al-Dawalibi, Saudi Arabian delegate before the 1984 U.N. Commission on Human Rights conference on religious tolerance

* In 1991 Farouk al-Chareh, the Syrian Representative to the U.N., accused Jews of using the blood of Christian children in their religious rituals.

* In 1997 Nabil Ramiani, Palestinian Representative to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, accused "Israeli authorities" of injecting "300 Palestinian children with the HIV virus during the years of the intifada.”
Ryan says there are many more.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:55 PM

Muzzling Facts about the Violence Against Women Act

Looks like global warming isn't the only issue in which folks try to win by muzzling those who disagree. Trudy Schuett writes to say that it also happened regarding the Violence Against Women Act:
Global warming isn't the only issue where it seems Congress only wants to hear one side of the story.

In fall of 2005, when Senate hearings on the Violence Against Women Act were upcoming, Phyllis Schlafly attempted to get me an invitation to the hearings, as I've researched the issue extensively, know the agencies well, and she felt another side of the issue needed to be aired. While it's far more complex than can be covered in a single e-mail, our stance is that the vast network of over 2000 programs and services funded by VAWA provide to victims little or no actual assistance related to their problem. In addition, VAWA-funded state coalitons on domestic violence function primarily as lobbying groups for legislation friendly to radical feminist ideology, which demonizes men and restricts the rights of women to make their own life choices. We feel this is an inappropriate use of public funds.

She was told no opposing points of view were welcome. They were only interested in hearing positive statements related to the reauthorization of VAWA.

It's not as if there was an overwhelming amount of interest in the passage of the act by the general public, either. Over the summer, The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence put out a call for victims who would come forward and testify to the Senate on why this act needed reauthorization to keep their programs running. When we saw the congressional record later, after the hearings, we expected to see the names of a number of women who?d been through shelter programs show up to say how they had been helped. Yet the list of those speaking included only employees of agencies who directly benefit financially from VAWA grants, and an actress with a movie to promote.

There is quite clearly something wrong here.

Trudy W. Schuett
Don't worry, Ms. Schuett. One day we'll have a Republican Congress, and left-wing pork like this will end.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:27 PM

Peace Prize Winner Tells Kids She Wants to Kill President Bush

I missed this story about the Nobel Peace Prize winner who told an audience of children that she "would love to kill George Bush."

I've come to believe that anyone who wins a major award is best avoided. Awards seem mostly to go to the scum of the Earth.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:34 AM

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Evangelical Leaders Say Carbon Dioxide Caps Would Harm Poor

Our Peyton Knight files a report from a Heritage Foundation event he attended today:
Today, at an event hosted by The Heritage Foundation, the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance released a new paper titled "A Call to Truth, Prudence and the Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Response to Global Warming."

According to the Interfaith Stewardship Alliance, the paper is a direct response to the Evangelical Climate Initiative's "Call to Action," which was released earlier this year and has been the subject of some controversy within the evangelical community.

The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance's "A Call to Truth" takes on the Evangelical Climate Initiative's assertion that carbon dioxide emissions are causing soon-to-be catastrophic global warming, and, therefore, mandatory carbon dioxide emissions reductions are needed to prevent the catastrophe.

As they claim that global warming affects the poor the most, the Evangelical Climate Initiative signers presumably support Kyoto-style caps on carbon dioxide emissions because of their desire to help the poor. However, as Interfaith Stewardship Alliance panelists pointed out today, mandatory caps on carbon dioxide actually pose the bigger threat to the world's poor, as their implementation would deny them basic necessities such as heating, cooling, modern health care and clean energy.

The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance paper states:
...the destructive impact on the poor of enormous mandatory reductions in fossil fuel use far exceeds the impact on them -- negative or positive -- of the moderate global warming that is most likely to occur. Indeed, the policy promoted by the Evangelical Climate Initiative would be both economically devastating to the world's poor and ineffective at reducing global warming...

If the aim is to help the poor, what matters from the policy point of view is supporting the development process by which countries acquire greater ability to deal with adverse economic, climatic, and social conditions, regardless of cause. Put simply, poor countries need income growth, trade liberalization, and secure supplies of reliable, low-cost electricity. Rather than focusing on theoretically possible changes in climate, which varies tremendously anyway with El Nino, La Nina, and other natural cycles, we should emphasize policies -- such as affordable and abundant energy -- that will help the poor prosper, thus making them less susceptible to the vagaries of weather and other threats in the first place.
The Interfaith Stewardship Alliance's "A Call to Truth" has been endorsed by over 130 leading evangelical scholars, theologians, scientists, economists, pastors and others with special expertise in one or more of the following: Climatology or related sciences, economics, environmental studies, theology or ethics.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:14 PM

Think Progress's Double-Standard

I notice that Think Progress is drawing attention to Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK)'s comparison of the public relations effort promoting the global warming theory to Adolf Hitler's "Big Lie."

For those unfamiliar with the "Big Lie," Think Progress describes it as "telling lies 'so colossal' that no one would believe 'others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.'"

It took a while to figure out who Think Progress is quoting there, but a little digging revealed the sentence directly above is Think Progress quoting Wikipedia quoting Adolf Hitler.

(It's hard to imagine that I'll ever quote any combination as dubious as that ever again.)

To the best of my knowledge, Think Progress hasn't said anything about global warming theory marketers comparing global warming skeptics to holocaust deniers.

For example: CBS's Scott Pelley doing it (here or here), Nature doing it to Bjorn Lomborg (see here), folks doing to the Competitive Enterprise Institute's Iain Murray (see here), or various other examples (see here, here, or here, among others).

Addendum, 7/26/06: I'm getting e-mail on this -- folks saying I have been too nice. I'm told I neglected to mention the bloggers' "Digital Brownshirt Alliance," formed after Al Gore complained about Internet-based activists on the right. Said Gore in 2004: "The [Bush] Administration works closely with a network of rapid response digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors..." (See here, here, here. or here, among other blogs, for more details.)

Mr. Gore has made Nazi analogies on other occasions as well.

And then there are those who noted that climate scientist James Hansen, in his "my employer is censoring me" complaint (not that he phrased it so) compared our own U.S. government to Nazi Germany.

From the Washington Post's February 11, 2006 article "Censorship Is Alleged at NOAA":
James E. Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who sparked an uproar last month by accusing the Bush administration of keeping scientific information from reaching the public, said Friday that officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also muzzling researchers who study global warming.

Hansen, speaking in a panel discussion about science and the environment before a packed audience at the New School university, said that while he hopes his own agency will soon adopt a more open policy, NOAA insists on having "a minder" monitor its scientists when they discuss their findings with journalists.

"It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States," said Hansen, prompting a round of applause from the audience. He added that while NOAA officials said they maintain the policy for their scientists' protection, "if you buy that one please see me at the break, because there's a bridge down the street I'd like to sell you."

NOAA Administrator Conrad C. Lautenbacher denied Hansen's charges, saying his agency requires its scientists to tell its press office about contacts with journalists but does not monitor their communications.

"My policy since I've been here is to have a free and open organization," Lautenbacher said. I encourage scientists to conduct peer-reviewed research and provide the honest results of those findings. I stand up for their right to say what they want."
It occurs to me that if Dr. Hansen does not like his employer's rules, he is free to seek employment elsewhere.

This is not Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, after all.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:36 PM

Global Warming and Censorship, Part III

Continuing the followup to my post about climate scientist Dr. James Hansen, global warming, and censorship (which began here):
1) Commenter Wayne Hall on the RealClimate blog suggests that my blog entry about Hansen is so bad, the entire National Center for Public Policy Research "should be excluded from such debate on account of their dishonesty.... [as] toleration of disingenuous input exploiting public ignorance is an unaffordable luxury."

He also says that in the European Union, groups like the National Center and "other NGOs of this kind... would not have access to the deliberations of the Social Forums of the international movement." He recommends enhancing this "censorship mechanism."

RealClimate is no ordinary blog. It is the online home of paleoclimatologist Michael Mann of "hockey stick" fame, and one of two blogs -- the other being ClimateAudit -- whose sparring in part led to two Energy and Commerce Committee hearings this month on global warming. I think it is interesting that RealClimate allows the post to stay there (not that we mind, being believers in transparency ourselves), as RealClimate has a reputation for deleting comments it doesn't like.

To Mr. Hall's views in context, view comment #256 on this page. Don't be confused by the fact that Mr. Hall thinks my name is "Anne."

2) Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr. has a post on his superlative Prometheus blog discussing Dr. Hansen's boycott of the Committee on Government Reform hearing. Dr. Pielke, as it happens, testified at that hearing. (For those interested, Dr. Pielke's written testimony can be downloaded here (pdf)).

In his post about Dr. Hansen's decision, Dr. Pielke says, in part:
Coming from someone who complained about being censored, it sounds like he'd like to do a bit censoring of his own. It also seems a bit odd for a high ranking government employee to refuse to offer testimony when called upon by Congress to do so...
The comments left by others to this post also are interesting.

3) Writing in Blogotional, John Schroeder gets straight to the point: "In science it not supposed to be about who thinks what, you are supposed to be able to tell true from false from the data!

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:21 PM

Monday, July 24, 2006

On Global Warming: Censorship, or Diversity?

My Friday post about NASA scientist James Hansen's reported unwillingness to participate in a Congressional hearing on global warming because the Committee included what Hansen calls "contrarians" in its invitation list brought this thoughtful letter of disagreement:
Ms. Ridenour,

I just read your post on [the July 20] climate conference (you'll be happy to know it popped up on a Google search for "climate science"). I'm writing you directly because your blog doesn't seem to accept comments.

While I think Hansen's e-mail is politically dumb (I think he should have either attended despite his cold or not attended out of protest), I can't blame him for not wanting to attend. Given the Senate's recent attacks on his credibility ( and a frustration with getting into the same debate for the Nteenth time, I probably wouldn't want to show up either.

I think you are overstating the matter in your blog's title and in the conclusion: "Had the House Government Reform Committee taken a page from Dr. Hansen's playbook and refused to invite Dr. Christy solely because of Christy's views, it would have been censorship."

Not inviting Dr. Christy would not have been "censorship" in any sense of the word. Not inviting him may have been politically unwise, but that's not the same as censorship. The Committee's constraints (time, relevance, etc.) force them to consider some standards when drawing its list of invitees. Not inviting an individual solely because of their views, if those views fall outside of a reasonable standard, is reasonable and necessary. Dr. Hansen's view is that Dr. Christy falls outside of this curve of reasonable beliefs. You and the Congressmen clearly disagree. That's fine, but had Dr. Hansen had his way, it still would not have been censorship.

The Committee can't and shouldn't consider all views. I think you would join me in objecting if the scriptwriter to "The Day After Tomorrow" was invited to give his or her take on things (tornadoes in LA and glaciers in New York as early as next Thursday). Hence, you need to carefully limit who gives testimony (and for the record I'm not saying that Dr. Christy's grasp of science is the same as Hollywood scriptwriters).

Considering some of the things that the Committee will be investigating, including manipulation of scientific documents for political purposes (AKA censorship) and muzzling of government scientists, suggesting that Dr. Hansen's sentiment is akin to censorship is hyperbole if not plainly untrue.


Ian Hart

Director of Communications
Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security
Research for People and the Planet
If "censoring" can properly be described as the act of suppressing or deleting things considered objectionable, and a variety of dictionaries assure me it can, then a decision by the Committee to exclude testimony from individuals who have not been convinced beyond reasonable doubt that human beings are causing significant global warming would seem to meet the definition.

I willingly concede to Mr. Hart that some censorship is desirable and unavoidable because of time and other constraints. Had the hearing's purpose been to elicit policy recommendations from firm believers in the anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming theory, even I might have agreed that it would make perfect sense to invite only those scientists whose minds are made up. This hearing was billed, however, as "Climate Change: Understanding the Degree of the Problem," and the Committee determined that it wanted to hear a range of views. It therefore made perfect sense for the Committee to invite persons whose views were not in broad general agreement with Dr. Hansen's.

Dr. Hansen, who is a government employee, first broached the issue of censorship in January by claiming of his employing agency to the national press, "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public." The agency has procedures in place for media interviews, public statements, statements on the agency website, etc. that are to be followed by agency employees. Dr. Hansen objected to these procedures and said, as described by the New York Times, that he "would ignore" them. (Dr. Hansen's views on employer-employee relations are definitely contrarian.)

If an employer telling an employee to coordinate his work-related interviews through a designated office is censorship, then what James Hansen wanted Congress to do -- stop letting "contrarian" scientists testify -- certainly is. And the agency's supposed "censorship" of Hansen, which is procedural rather than content-based, seems on its face to more swiftly meet any test of reasonableness than does Hansen's recommendation to the Committee.

I still believe what I implied Friday: Dr. Hansen is being hypocritical in this instance. I'm also surprised, frankly, that any governmental employee thinks it is proper to reject a request for testimony from Congress. In the private sector, do corporate employees blow off information requests from the board of directors?

As to Mr. Hart's comment that "I think you would join me in objecting if the scriptwriter to "The Day After Tomorrow" was invited to give his or her take on things...," a small side note. One of the people who did testify at the hearing is a Hollywood producer and scriptwriter. He was invited, apparently, because he plans to start a group that will "create the TV commercials, print ads, websites, editorials, events, daily sound-bites for the news media" to promote getting the federal government to "pay for" or "at least indemnify businesses against" the financial costs of getting America to "cut 80% of carbon emissions in ten to fifteen years."

To my knowledge, Dr. Hansen is not on record as objecting to an invitation to appear at a global warming event with a filmmaker who, whoever sincere, has yet even to begin the PR-related work he described to the Committee. Being physically present during this testimony by a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change with qualifications such as these, however, was more than Hansen was prepared to tolerate.

Maybe this is just a case of a man who doesn't like being disagreed with, or, in the case of the dispute with his employer, being told what to do?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:53 PM

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Meanness is a Choice

According to this story in the Salt Lake Tribune, Kallie and Darren Galbraith of Nelphi, Utah are are -- well, choose your own adjectives.

The Galbreaths posted a sign in their yard saying "CAUTION, RETARD'S IN AREA" -- a sign that is targeted against a 13-year-old boy in the neighborhood.

The boy has autism.

The story does not note the irony that the Galbraiths' incompetence in basic English grammar rendered them unaware that no apostrophe is necessary for the word "retard."

Are the Galbraiths re-...? Nah, I won't stoop to their level. People can't help it if they are born with cognitive disabilities, and I have no evidence to prove another definite possibility: Both Galbraiths were simply too lazy to pay attention in school or to look up basic English grammar facts themselves.

So, the Galbraiths' ignorance may not be their fault.

Meanness, however, is a choice.

Addendum: The Salt Lake Tribune reports that the Galbraiths took down the sign.

Ironically, in doing so, the newspaper misused the apostrophe twice.

Addendum 2, 7/24/06: The Associated Press has an update with more details.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:54 PM

Friday, July 21, 2006

On Global Warming: Who's Censoring Now?

Next time you hear U.S. government physicist James Hansen claim the government is trying to censor him, consider this (paid subscription required) from Environment & Energy Daily (7/21/06):
A chronic illness only partly explains why James Hansen decided to skip the House Government Reform Committee's first hearing on global warming in seven years. The embattled NASA scientist also passed on yesterday's event because lawmakers are "still in denial" about the reasons for dramatic changes in the Earth's climate, he said last night in an e-mail.

In the message Hansen sent to reporters to explain his absence from yesterday's hearing, the director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies said he had a conflicting doctor appointment to deal with a cold that interacts with his asthma... But he also indicated he would have adjusted his schedule if the witness list did not also include skeptical points of view.

"I would get out of my sickbed to testify to Congress on global warming, if they were ready to deal responsibly with the matter," Hansen wrote. "But obviously they are still in denial, inviting contrarians to 'balance' the science of global warming."

Hansen apparently was objecting to the House panel's late addition of John Christy, a professor and director of the Earth System Science Center at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. In his testimony yesterday, Christy told lawmakers that scientists "cannot reliably project the trajectory of the climate" for large regions of the United States.

Christy also said it would be a "far more difficult task" to predict the effects should the United States adopt a mandatory greenhouse gas policy.

Hansen's e-mail said skeptical points of view cloud the climate debate rather than enlighten it. "The function of the contrarians is to obfuscate what is known, so as to keep the public confused and allow special interests to continue to reap short-term profits, to the detriment of the long-term economic well-being of the nation," he said.

Hansen said Congress should direct the National Academy of Sciences to update its 2001 report to President Bush on the state of the science surrounding global warming. "Until then, it is just a charade," he wrote...
Perhaps he meant it to be perceived differently, but Dr. Hansen's actions fit the description of a hissy fit. If Hansen disagrees with Dr. John Christy (whose testimony to the commitee can be found in pdf form here), why not participate in the hearing and explain why?

Science is supposed to be about considering all points of view and then rejecting those that cannot be proven valid, not about throwing hissy fits because alternative points of view are under consideration.

Had the House Government Reform Committee taken a page from Dr. Hansen's playbook and refused to invite Dr. Christy solely because of Christy's views, it would have been censorship.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:13 PM

Green Economics

This paragraph by Jonathan Last in the Weekly Standard is amusing:
A car dealer in Washington, Don Beyer Volvo, is offering a new promotion. If you buy one of their cars, the dealership will give you free tickets to Al Gore's global warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. Mr. Beyer is a Democrat in good standing, having been lieutenant governor of Virginia and national treasurer of the Dean for America campaign, so he must be down with the global warming program. But giving away movie tickets with the purchase of every climate-destroying luxury automobile (the 2005 Volvo XC90 gets 15 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway) probably isn't, in the long run, the most effective way to save the planet...
Al Gore has often said that we need not sacrifice economic prosperity in order to promote environmental protection. I guess he had a point.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:05 PM

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Education Roundup

A few pieces to recommend on education:
Nick Cheolas says: "Affirmative action allows those responsible for the failures of urban education to shirk accountability with a simple, ineffective solution..."

Deneen Moore says : "In Harlem, at last, there is now a ray of hope..."

And the blogosphere's own Mark Tapscott pointed me toward an excellent editorial in the D.C. Examiner, asking: Who will speak the truth about D.C. schools?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:34 PM

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Jump to Prevent Global Warming

Jump at 11:39:13 GMT on July 20 to prevent Global Warming.

Consensus to follow.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:58 PM

Sebastopol Meadowfoam-Gate?

I suppose it was inevitable that it would come to this.

In California, the Endangered Species Act may be being manipulated to stop "sprawl."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:11 PM

Monday, July 17, 2006

Advisor to Soros, Headed to Bush Administration?

The Prowler is reporting in the American Spectator that new Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson is "expected" to fill a senior advisory position on his staff with "a current aide to and Bush hater par excellence, George Soros."

P.S. The Washington Post has a little front page news today about one of George Soros's current projects.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:18 AM

Friday, July 14, 2006

Glenn Greenwald and the QandO Debate

Regarding what I posted here about opposing threats of violence, Jon Henke at the QandO Blog says I, Patterico and McQ at QandO misunderstood Glenn Greenwald's original post, which inspired my own.

Supposedly, Greenwald's post entitled "Prominent right-wing blogger today calls for the murder of Supreme Court Justices - the Right fails to condemn it," was, in Jon's words, "not a serious suggestion that the Right has an obligation to denounce any incidence of that kind of rhetoric; it was a response to the recent suggestion from some Right wing bloggers that the Left had been remiss in not denouncing an obscure blogger for obscene rhetoric."

I guess he's saying that Greenwald was being sarcastic the entire time, and readers were supposed to be able to tell. Otherwise, the "right fails to condemn it" would seem like a complaint about, well, a lack of condemnation from the right.

I re-read the original Greenwald post a few times, and (regardless of what Greenwald says now) the overwhelming message I still take from it is that Greenwald would like right-wing bloggers to condemn, for lack of a better term, inappropriate suggestions/language by other right-wing bloggers more often than is currently done.

Greenwald's original post ends with these two paragraphs:
...Nobody needs to wade through the depths of comment sections to find this rhetoric on the Right, nor does anyone need to seize on totally obscure individuals and -- a la Ward Churchill or Deb Frisch -- absurdly try to transform them into some sort of political leader in order to impose responsibility for their moronic statements on people who never even heard of them before. One need only peruse the routine hate-mongering of the Right's opinion leaders and their prominent bloggers -- the Malkins and the Mishas and the David Horowitzs and the Ann Coulters -- and one will find more hateful and deranged rhetoric than one can stomach. And it is almost never condemned, including by those who self-righteously parade themselves around as Defenders of Civility and have the audacity to demand that others condemn such rhetoric when it comes from far less significant and influential corners.

Based on the grieving rituals we had to endure this weekend over Jeff Goldstein's sensibilities, I presume it's fair to infer that the silence from right-wing bloggers over Misha's calls for the deaths of journalists and Supreme Court Justices means -- as one of the most-cited sermons put it -- that "one might be tempted to think that this absolute lack of condemnation was a tacit acceptance of these tactics." One might be particularly tempted to think that given that such rhetoric flows not merely from obscure commenters on right-wing blogs, but also from the Right's leading bloggers and pundits, with virtually no condemnation of any kind.
There is, somewhat unbelievably, a very long debate involving many people over at the QandO blog between Glenn Greenwald, McQ and others over the meaning of Greenwald's original post. I won't recap it, since folks can read it themselves. I will, however, say three brief things:

1) If a long debate breaks out between multiple people about what a post means, it probably was not written clearly. This, if true, is not a big deal. We're talking about blog posts here, not Shakespearean plays.

2) My thinking in reading the post was very similar to McQ's as expressed here and in the big debate.

3) Even if Glenn Greenwald had never been born, I would still, as I noted here, condemn, retroactively and in advance, all calls for the murder of, or death wishes expressed against, persons other than officially declared mortal enemies of the United States of America. Where's the harm in that?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:18 AM

Thursday, July 13, 2006

The Only Consensus on Global Warming is that the Sun Warms It Every Day

Media Matters seems to be refuting itself.

In the summary of an article criticizing the Media Research Center's Brent Bozell Wednesday, Media Matters said:
Summary: L. Brent Bozell III misleadingly suggested that there is no scientific consensus on the existence of global warming, claiming that scientists were once predicting another ice age. In fact, the magnitude of the consensus among scientists that global warming exists and that human activity is a contributing factor dwarfs the pool of scientists 30 years earlier who warned that the earth was cooling.
If Media Matters was genuinely confident in a "scientific consensus on the existence of global warming," it would not have used the qualifying phrase "the magnitude of the consensus (emphasis added) among scientists that global warming exists" later in the same one paragraph summary.

There either is a consensus or there isn't. No orders of magnitude are involved.

Whoever heard of a "little consensus" or a "big one"?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:17 PM

Is It "Invidiously Discriminatory" to Call Black Conservatives "Uncle Toms"?

I note some irony in the decision by Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson to use the law firm of Proskauer Rose LLP to sue top White House officials in part for supposedly being motivated by "an invidiously discriminatory animus," since, on April 30, 2004, the black conservative group The National Center sponsors, Project 21, received this email, reprinted here in full and unedited, from that firm:
From: "Clarke, Paulette"
Date: April 30, 2004 5:06:27 PM EDT
To: [email protected]
Subject: Black Conservatives

You call youselves "conservatives!" What do Black Americans have to conserve in America? You should be looking to be "progressives"? Black Americans need a lot more progress in order to gain as compared to the White Americans. We don't need to "conserve" things the way they are right now. GET A GRIP, YOU BUNCH OF "UNCLE TOMS."

This message and its attachments are sent by a lawyer and may contain information that is confidential and protected by privilege from disclosure. If you are not the intended recipient, you are prohibited from printing, copying, forwarding or saving them. Please delete the message and attachments without printing, copying, forwarding or saving them, and notify the sender immediately.

I commented about this on the blog earlier, here and here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:12 PM

Corrupting Influences

"Twenty-five billion dollars in government funding has been spent since 1990 to research global warming. If scientists and researchers were coming out releasing reports that global warming has little to do with man, and most to do with just how the planet works, there wouldn’t be as much money to study it."

-Harvard astrophysicist Sallie Baliunas, as quoted by John Stossel, in a column carried by the Manchester Union Leader and other papers

I'm sure the Center for Media and Democracy's SourceWatch and the other watchdog websites are all over this. 25 billion dollars can buy a lot of corruption.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:13 AM

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Some People Just Don't Like Good News

When husband David sent out an op-ed version of this paper to newpapers, a lot of them ran it...

...and boy did he ever get hate mail.

Addendum, 7/13/06: Mick at UNCoRRELATED adds: "Daniel Patrick Moynihan is credited with saying that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one to their own facts."

He also says: "So much political rhetoric exploits our lack of relative experience--a bad hurricane season portends the end of the world, until the fact that this kind of activity is cyclic and has considerable historical precedent is thrown into the mix. Suddenly everything is placed in context.

Checking your premise is a good habit whose benefits extend far past navigating the political maelstrom..."

Go to UNCoRRELATED for more.

Addendum 2: The Night Writer has additional thoughts -- from personal experience.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:40 AM

The Story Has a Happy Ending Anyway

Don't go into a coma in Britain. Based on this story, the government health service will unplug you in just ten days.

Hat tip: Socialized Medicine.

Labels: ,

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:17 AM

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Not for It, No Sir

Leftie blogger Glenn Greenwald is expressing apparently heartfelt concern that conservative bloggers fail to show sufficient vigor in denoucing death wishes when such sentiments are expressed by fellow conservatives.

I was heretofore unaware of our responsibility as conservative bloggers to scour the Internet for posts of this nature and condemn them on an individual basis. Given the overwhelming nature of the task, I fear I will fail to meet the challenge. Number of hours in a day and all that. Yet, I do not wish my all-too-human limitations to be mistaken as an endorsement of murder, homicide, maiming, injury, force or threats of force or any other illegal means of making life unpleasant or nonexistent for another. I'm not for that kind of thing, no sir.

Therefore, let this post serve as a permanent admonition and warning to anyone who actually cares: I do not support, and hereby condemn, retroactively and in advance, all calls for the murder of, or death wishes expressed against, persons other than officially declared mortal enemies of the United States of America. This admonition is permanently in effect and applies to conservatives, liberals, persons of confused or no political persuasion and to all the environmentalists who have written me over the years hoping my children will die in SUV accidents or by other means they have carefully taken pains to describe.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:15 PM

Should Congressmen Make $850,000?

Should members of Congress be paid $850,000 per year?

According to Roll Call, after adjustments are made for inflation, they essentially did in 1873:
Relative to per capita income, 1873 was the highest point Congressional salaries ever reached. According to Economic History Services, the $7,500 wage would be roughly equivalent to $850,000 today. At the time it was about 40 times per capita GDP.
The rumor is true. They clearly didn't have blogs -- or talk radio -- in 1873.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:06 AM

Monday, July 10, 2006

National Heritage Areas: A Debate Among Virginians

In writing us today, Mr. David Spearman (letter below) doesn't indicate which article he's writing about, but based on the context and the reference to Chancellorsville, I'm assuming its this one, or one of our other recent articles about the "Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act," that several federal-level politicians, including Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Senator George Allen (R-VA), are promoting.
I always find it interesting when "property owners" are cited in articles like this. Let's look at the truth, when you say "property owner" what you mean is developer. Developers, especially in northern Virginia, have a rapacious appetite and zero concern for the effect of their deeds. The reason the Chancellorsville corridor is so congested is because a lot of developers decided to knock over every tree in site and name the new streets after them. Then they have the effrontery to claim local and state governments are lacking in concern for the new residents because they won't provide more and larger roads and other infrastructure. The truly sad thing is as soon as the locals give up and satisfy the developer's demands the same developers use the newly expanded infrastructure as an excuse to build even more. Frankly I wish all you developers would go some place where people don't give a damn about quality of life. Several places come to mind, one being very warm.

David Spearman
Based on his email address, it appears that Mr. Spearman works for the government of Henrico County, Virginia. Henrico County regulates development. I'm sure it is the case that not every Henrico resident agrees with every Henrico County planning decision, but is it really reasonable to believe that the citizens would find government more responsive on local land-use decisions if the federal government increased its involvement in the planning process?

My take on that is no. In the vast majority of cases, an individual citizen is able to exert more influence on small, local governments than he can on the federal government.

As another Virginian, Thomas Jefferson, wrote in 1816, "...The way to have good and safe government is not to trust it all to one, but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to."

In our view, local land-use decisions are best left in the hands of local governments.

P.S. As to to thought that we are developers -- no, we're a non-profit think-tank. (If so inclined, see the last four paragraphs of this post for information on the extent of our financial support from developers.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:20 PM

Michael Moore Sicko Alert

David Hogberg reminds movemaker Michael Moore -- producer of the upcoming (no-doubt reliable) film "Sicko!" about health care -- that there's a difference between health care and health insurance.

The former being what we have, and the latter being what Canadians have .

Poor pro-life activist Edward Atkinson of Great Britain, however, essentially has very little of either.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:44 PM

Sunday, July 09, 2006

When Regulating Wetlands Means Ruining Lives

Writing in Human Events, Senior Fellow R.J. Smith takes a look at recent Supreme Court action regarding wetlands and includes a few stories about wetlands regulations run amuck:
...The Wall Street Journal's Max Boot has referred to this CWA-EPA-Army Corps axis as "The Wetlands Gestapo" for very good reason. In every state of the union, small landowners have faced bureaucratic nightmares when some federal or state agent suddenly showed up and said their property contained protected wetlands -- whether wet or dry. And typically these landowners have entered no-exit mazes of bureaucratic red tape running on for years and years, and even decades, of extremely costly permit-seeking and legal proceedings, vainly seeking to exhaust all available "administrative remedies" so that their cases might become ripe for seeking takings compensation. Meanwhile, they were paying taxes on land they could not use.

The best example of the naked power behind the CWA surfaced in Maine, where Gaston Roberge owned a 2.8-acre commercial lot which he had allowed the town to use to dump fill. When he tried to sell it for his retirement the Corps charged him with having an illegally filled wetland. In the subsequent legal discovery process, an internal Corps memo was located recommending "Roberge would be a good one to squash and set an example" in order to create a climate of fear among landowners and developers.

While most victims suffer "only" substantial monetary losses and the loss of the use of their land, others have fared far worse. James Wilson, a Maryland developer, created some wildlife ponds on his land and was found guilty of violating the CWA and sentenced to 21 months in federal prison and fined $4 million. In Florida, Ocie Mills and his son each spent 21 months in prison for filling a dry ditch with clean building sand in order to construct the son's personal home.

Perhaps the most notorious case was that of John Pozsgai who had escaped Communist Hungary in 1956 to live in the land of the free. He purchased property in Pennsylvania for a home and to build a truck repair shop. He cleaned up part of the land and a storm-water drainage ditch, removing an illegal dump containing more than 5,000 old tires. The tire-filled ditch had flooded during heavy rains. Yet the Feds considered it a stream, declared the dump removal a CWA violation, and Mr. Pozsgai was fined and imprisoned, serving one and a half years in federal prison, another year and a half in a "halfway house," and then five years of supervised probation. The family was forced into bankruptcy and his daughter is still vainly attempting to gain Mr. Pozsgai a presidential pardon...
Read the entire piece here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:04 PM

Reporters: The Fifth Amendment Applies in Newsrooms, Too

Mark Tapscott thinks the reporters discussed in this story have a lot of gall.

I agree. The reporters essentially want to violate the newspaper owner's property rights.

The matter of reporters believing the commonsense rules pf society don't apply to them reminds me of the tax-subsidized National Public Radio using its resources to lobby for more tax dollars, a practice that is certainly corrupt and which ought to be illegal.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:55 PM

Saturday, July 08, 2006

President Putin Kisses Boy

This is just weird.

Addendum: Believe it or not, there's an online poll about this at the Things That Make You Go 'Hmm' blog.

Addendum, 7/9/06: Speaking of Putin, this National Journal overview of Russian politics, history and society at this point in history packs a lot of insight into a short piece. I recommend it.

It doesn't explain the "touch[ing] like a kitten" bit, though.

Hat tip: Flit.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:22 AM

Friday, July 07, 2006

Sob in Private, Please

Our David Hogberg is playing the world's smallest violin on the American Spectator blog today.

Spurring the sad song is a rumor that seniors wanting subsidized nursing home care might have to show an ID to qualify for the expensive free stuff.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 8:55 PM

What Constitutes Hate Speech?

Thoughts about Rush Limbaugh, Senator Joe Biden and differing standards about what constitutes "hate speech" from David Almasi and Project 21's Kevin Martin:
What constitutes "hate speech?" Once again, it seems that it depends upon who says it.

If one is conservative, even the most minor perceived slight can earn a place on the hot seat. For example, when Rush Limbaugh misstated New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin's name - pronouncing it "nay-ger" -- liberals were quick to suggest Limbaugh had barely stepped himself from using the n-word. To them, this theory alone was enough reason for him to be fired from his radio gig (just as when he actually did lose his spot as an ESPN football commentator for suggesting Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was overrated).

Now, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE), a man mentioned as a possible future President of the United States, has made a remark about people of Indian descent that is undeniably belittling. But there is no similar outcry or call for his resignation. Odd? Well, not really.

At a June 17, 2006 event broadcast as part of C-Span's "Road to the White House 2008" series (the pertinent section is available thanks to Expose the Left), Senator Biden said some young Indian men who engaged him in conversation, "In Delaware, the largest growth of population is Indian Americans, moving from India. You cannot go to a 7/11 or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent. I'm not joking."

Such generalizations are expected on "The Simpsons," but not so from the next potential leader of the free world. Unless, maybe, if you're a liberal.

Dr. Raghavendra Vijayanagar, the chairman of the openly-partisan Indian American Republican Council, noted, "[T]his recent gaffe is clearly over the top. But this isn't the first time a Senate Democrat has insulted Indian Americans. In 2004, Senator John Kerry referred to Sikhs as terrorists and Senator Hillary Clinton jokingly referred to Mahatma Gandhi as a gas station owner."

Project 21 member Kevin Martin had this to add about this latest Biden controversy in particular and the senator's demeanor in general:
As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Joe Biden is one of those senators who seems more likely to divine where a nominee stands from his own perceptions rather than the nominee's sworn testimony. It's clearly not a sound policy, and someone who lives by that sword in my opinion is obligated to die by it when they are in the spotlight. Senator Biden's recent comments about Indian Americans, captured on C-Span, should not be dismissed as a mere slip of the tongue. I believe his comments reveal someone who is clearly speaking out of both sides of his mouth.

Indian Americans are active contributors to the greatness of America. They are prevalent not just in the convenience industry as Senator Biden implies, but also in business, teaching and healing among other vocations. For him to offer such a stereotypical view is completely reprehensible for a person of his stature.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:14 PM

Staff Notes

A sad goodbye here at the National Center, as our office manager, Nickie Kelley, is leaving us to become a staff assistant to Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL). Nickie's sunny personality will be missed, but we wish her the best at her new position on the Hill.

In other staff notes, we also welcome aboard Research Associates Rosemarie Capozzi and Nick Cheolas. Nick comes to us from the University of Michigan, where he serves as Editor-in-Chief of The Michigan Review .

Rose is a recent graduate of the University of Maryland, my own alma mater, and past chairman of the Maryland Federation of College Republicans, a post I held from 1978-80. When I told Rose I held the post back then, she said something along the lines of, "I didn't know there was a College Republican federation in Maryland before 1993."

It is nice to be remembered.

Best of luck to Nickie, and welcome aboard to Rose and Nick!

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:56 PM

Center for American Progress Helps Imaginations Run Wild on Global Warming

Thoughts on the way global warming alarmists sell their wares from our Peyton Knight:
How do you get "normal" Americans to imagine that catastrophic, anthropogenic climate change is happening? According to Ana Unruh Cohen, who serves as director of environmental policy at the lefty Center for American Progress, you employ Hollywood, sitcoms and science fiction writers.

In a recent appearance on Environment and Energy Daily's TV program "Onpoint," Cohen tells host Colin Sullivan that, not to worry, it isn't just the Center for American Progress helping folks imagine that catastrophic climate change is happening. It's also Hollywood, other environmental groups and Al Gore.

She also fantasizes about how much "further the down the road" climate change alarmists would be if Ross, a character from the old NBC sitcom "Friends," had been a paleoclimatologist as opposed to a paleontologist. And so Ana and her outfit are busy searching for ways to promote the global warming interpretations of a science fiction writer, a photographer and a film writer to help spur Americans' imaginations on climate change.

Here's the relevant segment from the interview:
Colin Sullivan: OK. Switching topics a little bit. You wrote a column recently about climate change in which you talk about the need to reach out to sort of the common everyday normal American on climate change. How do you, and you talk about the need to sort of get Americans to accept, in their imagination, that climate change is happening? How do you do that? Specifically, in terms of your strategy, how do you reach out to those people?

Ana Unruh Cohen: Well, it's not just us. Thankfully out in Hollywood, in other environmental groups, people are actively thinking about this issue. But it's something I think Americans really have to internalize the threat. And I think if you look at the polls they're doing that. Al Gore's "Inconvenient Truth" we hope will help that further. But they also need to be given the idea and understand that we could do things in a better way. And so I think one way is through TV. I asked in that column, if Ross from Friends had been a paleoclimatologist, rather than a paleontologist, might we be further down the road? TV is a huge motivator in our culture. It changes things.

Colin Sullivan: So how do you do that? How do you infuse that within popular culture? Do you try to get someone to write a script, a sitcom that has a climatologist prominently featured?

Ana Unruh Cohen: Well, I mean that's one way. We hosted a panel. We had a science-fiction writer, we have a photographer, we had a filmmaker in who were all trying to take what they know and are learning from scientists and policymakers and translate that, through their art and their artistic medium, to get the word out.
Later in the interview, Cohen is all over the map. First, she acknowledges that the science isn't clear on the relationship between hurricane intensity and climate change. Then, she shifts gears and says that the upcoming hurricane season is a good opportunity to hype climate change:
Colin Sullivan: And how aggressively do you try to make the connection with the intensity of hurricanes and climate change? It seems like it's a tough sell. I mean you don't want to go to the American public in the middle of a hurricane crisis and say, well...

Ana Unruh Cohen: Right.

Colin Sullivan: ...this is further evidence that climate change is happening. At the same time, it seems like there's a little bit more of a willingness among environmental groups to start making that argument. Do you think that's an argument that you can safely make?

Ana Unruh Cohen: Well, scientists still have a lot to learn about hurricanes. But I think it's finally becoming clear that we are seeing an uptick in their intensity. It's been predicted for a long time and the first studies coming out are showing that. It's a good way, you can't, you know, the day after Katrina, make that statement. But as we're preparing for another hurricane season I think that's the opportune time to talk to people about the increasing impacts of climate change. What we need to do to mitigate those, as well as prepare. I mean we're already seeing impacts from climate change. There's going to be future impacts no matter what we do. And we need to get ready for that.
Though she says that environmental groups can't talk about climate change "the day after" a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, if they wait just a bit longer, that is apparently okay.

Cohen's Center for American Progress published an article on its website titled "The Unnatural Disaster of Katrina," just a little over a month after Katrina hit Louisiana, which used the ongoing crisis to hype, among other things, global warming.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:23 PM

Global Warming Policy: Who Decides?

Should the Supreme Court determine America's global warming policy?

If you're like me, you'll say "no." Lawmaking powers belong to Congress and, on the state level, state legislatures.

Some state attorneys general and environmentalists disagree, however, as Iain Murray of the Competitive Enterprise Institute warns in this op-ed in The American Spectator:
The Supreme Court, by agreeing to hear a case on whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must take steps to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, will finally judge on the alleged threat of global warming. The stakes are huge. Should the Court find in favor of the plaintiffs, it would put the EPA in control of the U.S. economy for the foreseeable future...
Global warming "skeptics" and "alarmists" famously disagree on 1) if human-caused global warming is happening, AND/OR, 2) if it is happening, if it is significant, AND/OR 3) if it is happening, what the impacts would be, AND/OR, 4) if it is happening, would proposals to stop it actually work, AND/OR 5) if it is happening, would the proposals to stop it, if they worked, be more harmful than any warming.

That said, one thing global warming "skeptics" and "alarmists" should agree on is the basic democratic principle that basic government decisions about public policy and lawmaking should be done by legislatures, accountable to the people of the United States.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:19 PM

Reagan's Security Shield

Good stuff from the Examiner:
"Star Wars" critics must bear the major burden of responsibility for the delays and setbacks that have prevented the missile defense system from becoming fully operational long before the present crisis with North Korea.
Additional thoughts on Mark Tapscott's blog, with links to more thoughts and discussion on Captain's Quarters and Politburo Diktat.

As Ronald Reagan said in his Second Inaugural Address:
"...a security shield that would destroy nuclear missiles before they reach their target... wouldn't kill people, it would destroy weapons. It wouldn't militarize space, it would help demilitarize the arsenals of Earth."
Proven right, as per usual.

As I said Saturday, however, hell freezes over before peaceniks admit mistakes.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:24 AM

Monday, July 03, 2006

And From Such Intrepid Reporting, a Consensus is Born

The Prometheus blog compared a Time magaine blurb about a prominent scientist's views on global warming and Hurricane Katrina with what the scientist says on his own website.

Oops. No match.

The Time magazine piece is here, Dr. Kerry Emanuel posted his document "Frequently Asked Questions about Global Warming and Hurricanes" on his website here.


Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:54 PM

Sunday, July 02, 2006

New National Center Newsletter Online

The latest edition of the National Center newsletter is now online (pdf file).

For the rare few among you who are interested, page one has a picture of the little Ridenours.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:34 AM

Saturday, July 01, 2006

A Strong Attachment

Like Jeff and Iain, I too look forward to the day when the lefties explain why their theory that the Earth was going to suffer catatrophic, man-made global warming didn't come true.

I'm supposing that explanation will come about the same time the older-but-sadly-not-wiser lefties apologize for saying conservative "peace through strength" policies during the Cold War were actually signs of aggressive intent against the Soviet Union and recklessly risked starting World War III.

Then again, even if Hell froze over, I'm not sure Al Gore would give up on the global warming theory. He appears to be emotionally attached.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:40 PM

House Hearing Finds Approval for Health Security Accounts, With Some Dissent

Our David Hogberg attends a House hearing on Health Savings Accounts, and comes away with a few observations:
A good hearing on HSAs took place Wednesday before the House Ways and Means Committee, with CEOs from various businesses, such as Wendy's and Buffalo Supply, talking about the generally-positive experience they have had with HSA policies, while folks from the Commonwealth Fund denounced HSAs as primarily for the healthy and the wealthy. (Testimony can be viewed here.)

Of particular interest was testimony from Larry Lutey of Lutheran Social Services, which is a nonprofit organization, who testified that, without HSAs, for many employees at LSS "the choice was between health insurance, and nothing."

That perspective is worth keeping in mind when considering the testimony of Jean Therrien, executive director of Neighborhood Family Practice in Cleveland, Ohio: "The patients who seek care at our health center who are enrolled in high-deductible plans and those that are uninsured are indistinguishable from one another in their inability to pay for needed services," she said. "They do not have first dollar coverage for preventative care, office visits, lab testing and prescription drugs."

First, how many of those people with high-deductible plans would have no insurance at all if they didn't have the option of a high-deductible plan? Some insurance is better than no insurance.

Second, how many of those people with an "inability to pay for needed services" spend money on cigarettes, alcohol and entertainment? Before you accuse me of insensitivity, look at the Consumer Expenditure Survey. If households making between $15,000 and $19,999 cut out the cigarettes, booze and half of their entertainment expenses they would have, on average, about $900 to put in an HSA.

A number of members of Congress spoke, including Representatives Bill Thomas and J.D. Hayworth. The most entertaining was perhaps Jim McDermott, who asked each person who was with a company that had HSA plans how much of their payroll went to cover health insurance. Despite one of the witnesses saying "4-5%", Rep. McDermott asked why we couldn't provide universal health insurance with 10% of payroll.

Such a question would, of course, come from someone who had never run a small business or was not an economist.

Indeed, he's a psychiatrist!
David is a new member of the National Center team. Welcome aboard!

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:05 AM

If I'm Three, Why Do I Feel Like I'm 46?

I was touched by this.

Thanks for noticing, Tom!

(While we're talking about Tom, go to Bizzy Blog for details on the final settlement in New London, Connecticut. Susette Kelo gets to keep her little pink cottage -- but there's a twist.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:02 AM

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