masthead-highres

Thursday, August 31, 2006

We'll Know Global Warming is No Longer a Problem When All the Clouds are Gone

In an effort to fight global warming, California cites water vapor as a "pollutant."

Hat tip: Greenie Watch

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:38 PM

Disagreeing with Ann Coulter

Novelist Orson Scott Card disagrees with Ann Coulter.

Liberals, he says, "are certainly not godless."

Hat tip: Open Market.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:56 PM

Real Men Don't Sell Out

Regarding this rumor, as reported by Time's Mike Allen...
Bush's aides maintain that they're in no funk either. Previewing the final quarter of Bush's presidency, officials disclosed to Time that the Administration is formulating a huge energy initiative designed to 'change the whole nature of the discussion' and challenge the g.o.p., Democrats, the oil and electricity industries, and environmentalists. An adviser said Bush's views about global warming have evolved. 'Only Nixon could go to China, and only Bush and Cheney -- two oilmen -- can bring all these parties kicking and screaming to the table,' the adviser said.
...environmentalists don't go to 'tables.' Their fundraising depends on unremitting alarmism.

Addendum: I've been asked if I'm accusing the President of being a sell-out. On the contrary. I'm saying that, as I know he is a real man, I have every confidence that he has no intention of selling out.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:39 PM

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

More on Senator George Allen's Surprising Initiative

Speaking through the Richmond Times Dispatch, Senator George Allen's office has responded to a National Center press release discussed here regarding a proposal by Senator Allen and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) to create a new national heritage area covering parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia.

We reply, excerpted below:
John Reid of Senator Allen's staff told the Times-Dispatch: "I don't think [the National Center for Public Policy Research has] read the legislation... this bill is directly consistent with the principle of protecting personal, private property rights."

It would be no more appropriate for the National Center to criticize a piece of legislation without reading it than it would be for a Senator or Congressman to introduce a bill without reading it. We have not done so.

Mr. Reid may be referring to Section 10 of S. 2645, which states, in part: "Nothing in this Act shall be construed to modify the authority of Federal, State, or local governments to regulate land use."

Unfortunately, Section 10 does not prevent harm to property rights. We reluctantly suspect the provision is a cosmetic measure designed to immunize the bill's sponsors from expected criticism by property rights and limited government advocates.

Section 10's "property rights protections" do not extend to land use restrictions and property acquisition performed by local officials at the behest of the new "management entity" the bill creates. In short, the Senator's office is literally correct that the bill itself does not harm property rights, but the bill creates a new federally-funded "management entity" charged with activities that are likely to do so.

In short, the bill subcontracts the dirty work.

Re-reading the legislation reminds us of another troubling aspect of this bill.

Section 3 states:

"The management entity for the Heritage Area shall be The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, a Virginia corporation, the Board of Directors of which shall include representatives from a broad cross-section of the individuals, agencies, organizations, States, and governments that were involved in the planning and development of the Heritage Area before the date of enactment of this Act."

Why does the bill limit leadership in the management entity to a pre-selected group that presumably shares a common ideology?

Though Jefferson's Monticello home is among the assets the new Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership would be tasked with preserving, Thomas Jefferson himself would have been ineligible to serve on its board of directors.
Read it all here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:45 AM

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Katrina 's Anniversary

Project 21 national advisory council member Kevin Martin was one of the many Americans who dropped what they were doing and rushed to the Gulf Coast to help clean up the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. As we mark the first anniversary of Katrina's landfall, Kevin has these words to share:
Journeying through Mississippi and Louisiana last year, I remember the sense of pride I felt in seeing Americans of all ages, creeds, colors and economic backgrounds coming together to work side-by-side, committed to rebuilding their lives alongside people such as myself who came simply to lend a helping hand.

While partisan politicians and self-appointed leaders continue to play the blame game and use Katrina and its aftermath to advance an agenda, the spirit of man continues to prevail throughout the Gulf Coast as what I believe will be a better place slowly emerges from the old.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:16 PM

Interesting

Bruce Bartlett has written an intriguing column on how a recent court decision may lead to a shakeup in our tax code.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:13 PM

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Pick Your Poison

Global warming causes glaciers to grow.

Global warming causes glaciers to shrink.

And all this just in the Himalayas!

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:02 AM

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Heat Deaths and Global Warming

Under a sub-headline "Warning signs [of global warming] today," the National Resources Defense Council says:
In 2003, extreme heat waves caused more than 20,000 deaths in Europe and more than 1500 deaths in India.

More than 250 people died as a result of an intense heat wave that gripped most of the eastern two-thirds of the United States in 1999...
Writing in the American Spectator Wednesday, Dr. Patrick Michaels observes that heat-related deaths are declining significantly.

Pat Michaels, I caution to note, explains that the number of heat deaths is not directly correlated to global temperature, but I couldn't help wondering how the fine folks at the NRDC would view this data.

Since NRDC believes a high number of heat deaths is a global warming "warning sign," will it now argue that a reduced number of heat deaths is a sign of global cooling?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:20 AM

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Traducing a Legacy in Order to Save It

John McCaslin's widely-read Inside the Beltway column covered Peyton Knight's and R.J. Smith's work opposing the expansion of federal control over local land-use policies today:
Where's the beef?

Now it's the property-rights advocates who are critical of embattled Sen. George Allen, the Virginia Republican under fire for uttering what some consider a racial slur against immigrants.

'Senator Allen often describes himself as a 'Jeffersonian' conservative, which he defines as someone who doesn't like 'nanny, meddling, restrictive, burdensome government,'' said Peyton Knight, director of regulatory affairs at the nonpartisan National Center for Public Policy Research. 'However, if you fail to support your rhetoric with substance, you're all hat and no cattle.'

The senator who often sports a cowboy hat and boots is behind legislation that would create a federal 'National Heritage Area' stretching from Thomas Jefferson's Monticello near Charlottesville in central Virginia (Mr. Allen once filled the Virginia General Assembly seat previously held by Jefferson), to the battlefields of Gettysburg in southern Pennsylvania.

Among concerns of the property-rights crowd are new preservation measures and land-use policies.

Roger Pilon, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies, doesn't let one 'irony' go unnoticed: 'Overzealous' preservationists at Monticello 'corrupting' Jefferson's legacy in order to protect it. 'They want to traduce Jefferson's views in order to save his views,' he said.
To be honest, I had to look up "traduce" to see what it means. Once I did, I saw it was the perfect word for this situation. Limited government is apparently easier to support in theory than in practice.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:22 PM

A Global Warming Alarmist's Lament, Part II

Could tropical storms be on the take from ExxonMobil?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:57 AM

A Global Warming Alarmist's Lament

I wonder how many global warming alarmists are trying to prove this study was funded by ExxonMobil right about now.

Hat tip: The Other Club.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:46 AM

Sunday, August 20, 2006

"Club CSR" - A Corporate 'Get-Out-of-Jail Free' Card?

Tom Borelli says participation in "Corporate Social Responsibility" initiatives is often a sign that a company is having difficulty making money or, possibly, meeting its legal responsibilities:
[Corporate Social Responsibility] is an insurance policy for image-sensitive CEOs.

By paying an ideological and financial cover charge to social and environmental causes, CEOs gain admittance to Club CSR and enjoy a host of membership privileges. One major club benefit is protection from advocacy actions such as protests and boycotts wielded by anti-business activists.

Membership requires the creation of a public relations campaign or business strategy that serves the CSR agenda. By feeding into politically correct themes, these campaigns frequently distract the media and shareholders from failed business practices and poor stock performance. Being viewed as socially responsible buys great latitude for struggling CEOs. No longer considered selfish capitalists, these CEOs can finally gain access to elite social circles...

...the giant energy company BP has enjoyed a free ride from activist attacks because of the company’s aggressive advertising campaign promoting global warming concerns, carbon footprints and alternative energy.

Meanwhile, BP’s record includes a deadly explosion at one of its refineries and a major oil pipeline leak in Alaska. Because of these incidents, the company is under investigation by an alphabet soup of federal and state agencies – EPA, OSHA, and DOJ – for possible law violations. More recently, the company has been accused of illegally controlling propane prices, which drove up cooking and heating costs for consumers – many of them poor.

Even though the company is responsible for the tragic loss of life, polluting the environment and potentially ripping off poor consumers, there is a deafening silence of criticism from social and environmental activists.

Instead, BP is heralded as an environmental leader...

Another global warming disciple is GE...

...GE is now partnered with ...an environmental activist non-profit – in seeking national regulations to address global warming. By joining the global warming cult, GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt is enjoying the benefits of a capitalism convert – favorable media coverge for the company’s green strategy and protection from critical reporting on GE’s profitability.

Media scrunity of GE’s business would expose the fact that its share price has been flatlined ever since Immelt took the helm...

...CSR gives CEOs immunity from criticism, allowing them to enjoy a peaceful and highly prosperous tenure. Until it's recognized that company support for CSR initiatives is often a sign of a troubled business, CEOs will be eager participants. In the meantime, shareholders and consumers will be left paying the price.
On August 14, the New York Times published an op-ed by John Kenney, a member of the advertising team that created of British Petroleum's "Beyond Petroleum" advertising campaign (TimesSelect subscribers can read it on the Times website; Truthout has a copy online here). Read it for an insight into how "corporate social responsibility" really works.

Addendum: Some thoughtful mail:
You are rubbish and your man Borelli is worse-Move on to Iran -you might fit right in-

Jon Barrows
[email protected]

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:17 AM

Friday, August 18, 2006

What is a "Squish"?

In the category of "making me feel old," I note this post on the Club for Growth blog, speculating that the word "squish" was first used to I.D. a Republican of less-than-conservative pedigree sometime after 2004.

"Squish" was in frequent use in the College Republican National Committee office when I worked there in 1981 and elsewhere in conservative circles during the era. There was a much firmer line of demarcation back then within the GOP between conservatives and moderates. (For you youngsters, as in Reagan v. Bush, GOP primary '80; Reagan v. Ford; GOP primary, '76.)

After Reagan's '80 election, a good working definition of "squish" would be someone who could not be counted on to back a conservative initiative for philosophical reasons. Therefore, when working in alliance with them, a good conservative (one of the "hard core") would need to watch one's back. A "member of the hard core" would also be fighting "the squishes" behind closed doors in intra-party policy debates.

Examples of prominent (perceived) "squishes," circa 1981: Vice President George H.W. Bush; James Baker III. I recall Baker being seen as the invisible hand behind many, many a squishie plot.

When the National Center manufactured and distributed "Let Reagan Be Reagan" buttons in 1982, it was an meant as an admonition to Reagan Administration squishes to stop undermining the President's conservative philosophy and initiatives. When distributing the button, we did not have to explain to people what it meant.

By '84 the term "squish" was, to the best of my recollection, somewhat less in use, as many a moderate who thought Reagan an extremist in '80 and earlier was quite fond of him by then. "We're all conservatives now," so to speak, at least within much of the GOP in the sense that moderate Republicans had mostly stopped calling the Gipper derogatory names. (Not that Jim Baker was any more popular on the hard core side of the GOP fence by then, and not that grassroots conservatives and conservative movement groups weren't frustrated as heck about 99 percent of the time -- sound familiar?.)

Andrew Roth of Club for Growth wonders about squish's etymology. Husband David remembers at least one source for the term. There were a lot of communications between British and American young conservatives in those days, in part because the federal government paid for "exchanges" between young people from various allied nations and the U.S. (To help us beat the commies.) Among British Conservatives -- the "hard core" small-c Conservative Party members, it was well-established that a liberal (by the American definition) Conservative Party member was identified as such by the derogatory term "wet."

To copycat Americans, a "squish" was someone who was so "wet," his shoes would squish.

And now we return to 21st century programming...

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:10 AM

Senator George Allen's Surprising Anti-Property Rights Initiative

Why is Senator George Allen so enthusiastic about a proposal to increase federal control over local land use in Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia?

A new press release examines Allen's proposal:
Anti-Property Rights Initiative Gets Boost from Unlikely Source: Senator George Allen

Nearly one year after the U.S. Supreme Court's shocking Kelo v. New London decision touched off a firestorm of bipartisan support for stronger property rights protections, some anti-property rights groups are receiving support from a surprising source: Senator George Allen (R-VA).

Senator Allen is the chief sponsor of legislation that would create a massive federal "National Heritage Area" that would stretch from Charlottesville, VA, through Frederick County, MD, and end in Gettysburg, PA. Such areas are best described as heavily regulated corridors where property rights may be strictly curtailed.

Allen's bill would deputize special interest groups -- many with clear anti-property rights agendas -- and federal employees to oversee land use policy in the corridor.

"Senator Allen often describes himself as a 'Jeffersonian' conservative, which he defines as someone who doesn't like 'nanny, meddling, restrictive, burdensome government,'" said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs at the National Center. "However, if you fail to support your rhetoric with substance, you're all hat and no cattle."

Sen. Allen's initiative in some ways resembles a pork-barrel earmark, as it disburses funds to pre-selected preservationist interest groups. Unfortunately, it is even worse than an earmark, as it would threaten property rights by:
1) Creating a "management entity" to oversee land use policy in the area composed of groups that have a record of being hostile to property rights.

2) Directing this management entity to create an inventory of all property it wants "preserved," "managed" or "acquired."

3) Giving the management entity the authority to disburse federal funds for the purpose of land acquisition and restricting land use - an enticement for such activities.
"This is a transparent effort by "not in my back yard" elitists to milk millions of dollars from the nation's taxpayers to mandate gentrification of their rural landscape. These bluebloods want their pretty views and bucolic fields preserved in perpetuity at the expense of property rights, small landowners and farmers, and taxpayers," said Robert J. Smith, a senior fellow at the National Center.

"It is remarkably similar to the exclusionary zoning for 'green space' and 'open space' that roiled New Jersey politics and communities for a quarter century," Smith adds. "Such policies were ruled unconstitutional by the New Jersey Supreme Court in the Mount Laurel decisions for being economically and racially discriminatory, and as an effort to lock out low and moderate income families and especially people of color, blacks and Hispanics."

Mychal Massie, national chairman of the African-American leadership network Project 21, which is affiliated with the National Center, notes the impact of Allen's bill will be felt disproportionately.

"Senator Allen's Heritage Area scheme is further evidence of the chasm that develops between working families and elected representatives once they are in office," said Massie. "Allen's measure would restrict and limit land use to all but the very wealthiest, and would severely and unjustly handicap families and individuals of moderate means."

Dr. Roger Pilon, director of the Cato Institute's Center for Constitutional Studies, notes the irony that overzealous preservationists at Thomas Jefferson's Monticello are corrupting Jefferson's legacy, ostensibly in an effort to protect it: "They want to traduce Jefferson's views in order to save his views."

Citizens of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania might look to property owners caught within the boundaries of the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area in Arizona to catch a glimpse of their possible future...
Read the rest here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:34 AM

Helping the Uninsurable: Tinkering vs. Radical Reform

From David Hogberg:
Over at The Health Care Blog, Matthew Holt has this to say about the collapse of PacAdvantage, a voluntary small business purchasing pool in California:
What happens to voluntary purchasing pools? Simple economics -- they only get customers who can't get a better deal in the underwritten insurance market and so they go into a death spiral where the people in them are too sick to be supported by the premiums they charge.
While the that explanation seems plausible, I'd like to see what state and federal regulations PacAdvantage had to comply with first (which, unfortunately, I don't have time to do right now.) Often what are taken to be market failures turn out to be, on further inspection, caused by dumb bureaucratic rules.

Anyway, while Holt's explanation of what happened may pan out, I can't say the same for his solutions:
PacAdvantage is the type of organization that our friends in the "voluntary universal insurance" world (Cato, Galen et al) think is going to solve all of our problems, with no need for pesky mandates to buy insurance, or for community rating, or standardized benefits packages.
First, community rating and standardized benefit packages are very clumsy solutions to the problem of the difficult-to-insure. They are attempts to restructure the entire health insurance system for the benefit of the 1-2 percent of the population who are uninsurable. In short, using a nuclear weapon to swat a fly.

Community rating laws require health insurance companies to charge the same premium to everyone, regardless of characteristics like health status or age. However, health insurance companies will have to charge a premium high enough to enable them to cover the expenses of the sick and healthy alike. This results in the young and healthy being charged a higher premium than they would in a free market. Thus, many people who are young and healthy figure that the cost is not worth it and go without health insurance. This leads to the pool being composed of more people who are sicker, leading to the cost of the premium to rise -- a phenomenon similar to the one Holt described as the reason PacAdvantage is folding.

Holt tries to get around this problem by calling for a mandate to buy insurance. The problem with that is the young are often just starting out in life and have very limited income. Such a mandate coupled with community rating means that we are imposing a very expensive burden on them. Chances are many will try to find ways of avoiding the mandate, turning otherwise honest citizens into criminals.

Standardized benefit packages also increase the cost of health insurance by requiring all health insurance plans to cover the same set of benefits. Naturally, health insurance companies boost their premiums to be able to pay for those benefits. However, if you are young and have a limited income, you might be better off with a cheaper policy -- a "stripped down" policy that has a high deductible and covers primarily catastrophic costs. However, when standardized benefits are required under law, such an option is not available. The result is, again, that many young and healthy people decline insurance.

This arrangement is great if you are sick -- say, a diabetic with considerable health problems. The standardized benefit package will likely cover diabetes, and the community rating all but guarantees that the premium you will pay is lower than what you would pay in a free market. However, as a way of solving the problem of the uninsurable, it is a lousy scheme. It results in more and more people going without insurance. In the last two decades some state governments have adopted community rating and almost all have passed various benefit mandates. It is not coincidental that during that time the number of people without insurance has risen precipitously.

Community rating and benefit mandates amount to radical reform -- and like most radical reforms they have undesirable and unintended consequences. Far better to pass reforms that target the 1-2 percent who are genuinely uninsurable, and provide those people with government assistance in paying for health insurance.

In short, helping the uninsurable requires tinkering at the edges, not changing the entire system.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:45 AM

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

How to Achieve Scientific "Consensus"

This is fiction.

Officially.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:56 AM

With All the Zeal of a Green Torquemada

An editorial in the Examiner looks at one of the biggest threats facing the planet: Politicians using the power of the state to investigate and intimidate people who disagree with their policy recommendations.

Nice end line: "When you must resort to coercion, you have nothing even remotely deserving the name of "consensus."

Hat tip: Pat Cleary writing at Redstate,

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:19 AM

Monday, August 14, 2006

How to Reform Health Insurance

David Hogberg shares his thoughts about how to make health insurance better and more affordable:
As I noted in the first post of my “Medicare for All: No Thanks” series, I'd take the U.S. health care system "over the U.K.'s any day of the week and twice on Sunday." And while I definitely would make that choice, as I noted in a later post, "it's a bit like having to choose between generic coffee and Folgers. I'll choose the Folgers, but lament the fact I can't have Starbucks. So how do we get the Starbucks version of a health care system?"

If I could wave a magic wand and make any changes I wanted to the U.S. health insurance system, I'd first eliminate the tax-exemption employers receive for providing employees with health insurance, and I'd reduce Medicare and Medicaid to programs that only serve the truly needy. Since political reality makes those ideas largely academic, let's move on to the next best thing.

Let's restructure the tax exemption so that individuals pay more of their own money for health care. What we need are more innovations like health savings accounts (HSAs) that empower people to truly behave as health care consumers. The problem with the employer-based tax exemption is that it turns health insurance into a third-party payer system. Rather than employees paying for health insurance directly, much of the cost is paid by their employer. When employees go to the doctor or other health-care professional, the insurance company pays the tab. This leads employees to believe that a "third party" is paying the cost for their health care, causing them to overuse it. When employees pay more of the cost directly, as they do with HSAs, they begin to behave in ways that keep costs down: They are more careful about what care they actually need, they compare prices, they make decisions based on price and quality, etc. This, in turn, compels providers to innovate, to find new ways to provide better quality services for lower prices.

Indeed, HSAs are big step toward how health insurance should work: Consumers paying for routine medical care out of their own pockets while the insurance pays for catastrophic care. That is how insurance works elsewhere, be it car insurance or homeowners insurance. That's also why those types of insurance don't have anywhere near the problems the health insurance industry does. Presently, health insurance, because it covers routine expenditures, often isn't insurance per se, but pre-paid health care.

Both Medicare and Medicaid should be reformed along those same lines. Give recipients a set amount of money each year and let them use part of it as an HSA for routine care and the other part to pay a premium for catastrophic care. Florida has reformed its Medicaid system using that approach. Other states should follow suit, and Congress should set up a voluntary experiment with Medicare (one without all the confounded restrictions of Medicare Part C!).

While the left often claims that the mess in the private health insurance market is proof that the market doesn't work in health care, what said mess actually proves is how badly government has mismanaged health care. (Government mismanaging something – say it ain’t so!)

One of the first ways government messed up private health insurance was to exempt health insurance from taxes for employers but not for individuals. One way to solve this is to give individuals without employer-based health insurance a tax exemption for the purchase of health insurance. A further reform would let employers give tax-exempt money to their employees for the employees to purchase their own insurance.

In 1973, the federal government further messed up the health insurance market by passing the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). This permitted companies that self-insure to be exempt from most state insurance regulations. Of course, only big businesses have enough resources to self-insure, so this left small businesses and individuals at the mercy of state governments. Once big businesses no longer had to worry about costly state regulations, they stopped putting pressure on state politicians to keep regulations to a minimum. After that, special interest groups, universal health care activists, social do-gooders and other altruistic-but-misguided persons moved in and persuaded state legislatures to adopt all manner of coverage mandates that add to the cost of insurance policies. To solve this problem, I'd 1) permit (pdf) individuals to purchase health insurance across state lines, so that they can purchase insurance in states with fewer mandates; and 2) permit people to form associations to purchase health insurance, much as the Enzi bill (pdf) would enable small businesses to do.

I have other ideas, such as repealing part or all of COBRA and HIPAA, but those are posts for another day. Ultimately, the solution to our health insurance woes is less government, not more. Get government out of the health insurance sector where possible, and where it's not, like Medicare and Medicaid, institute market-based reforms. These actions would make health insurance affordable for many more people.
David Hogberg's "Medicare for All? No Thanks" series can be read via these links: #1 is here; #2 is here, #3 is here, #4 is here and #5 is here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:50 AM

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Defamation as Tactic: Promoting Global Warming Alarmism by Misleading Readers

I offer here a case study in the way journalists serve the cause of global warming alarmists -- in this particular case, by claiming scientists are associated with the fossil fuel industry using "evidence" even a superficial investigation would have rendered void, and by misleading readers in other ways.

In June, columnist Tom Hennessy of the Long Beach Press-Telegram wrote a laudatory column about Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth." Two readers whose critical letters were published by the newspaper included the Australian scientist Dr. Bob Carter (letter published June 29), and Canadian scientist Dr. Tim Ball (letter published June 26).

Hennessy responded with another column, "Sense Wins in Heated Debate," published July 5, in which he ignored the substance of both scientists' letters, preferring instead to lead readers to believe two things for which he had scant-to-zero evidence: 1) both scientists had received funds from the energy industry, and 2) in exchange for these funds, the scientists have agreed to espouse views they otherwise would not.

Hennessy's July 5 column reads, in part:
My new best friend is reader Kevin Powell. He won me over with an e-mail which, in part, said this:

"Sheeeeeesh! What's going on at the P-T editorial room? You write a nifty, inoffensive piece on Al Gore's new film and the anti-global warming dingbats explode with atomic force."

Powell was referring to Tim Ball, retired University of Winnipeg climatology professor, and Bob Carter, a professor at Australia's James Cook University. Both wrote to the P-T last week, chastising me for suggesting that Gore's film and book, "An Inconvenient Truth," carries a message we should all consider.

Asked reader Powell, "Isn't the editorial board supposed to be on alert for that kind of thing and not let the P-T be used as part of a propaganda campaign?"

It's a valid question. Hand in hand with industry polluters, Ball and Carter seem to be caught up in a movement to debunk Gore and global warming...

...Who are these guys?

Let's start with the Australian global warming skeptic, Bob Carter. Melissa Fyfe, who writes for The Age, a Melbourne newspaper, notes that Carter is a member of the so-called Lavosier Group, a collection of global warming skeptics who are discredited by "the vast majority of scientists."

Debunking climate change, says Fyfe, "has also been taken up by right-wing think tanks, such as the Institute of Public Affairs," which "receives funding from companies such as ExxonMobil." Carter et al., she writes, constitute a "sophisticated machine that has successfully created the impression that climate change science is mired in uncertainty."

In British Columbia, where skeptic Tim Ball lives in retirement, The Tee, an online publication, says "ExxonMobil has been astonishingly successful in delaying action on global warming for more than a decade."

Tyee also says Ball "is in high demand by the front groups sponsored by the fossil fuel industry. Ball's particular niche is the argument that since 1940, the world's climate has actually been cooling."

The online publication says Ball is promoted by the National Center for Public Policy Research, which has received funding from ExxonMobil, and Tech Central Station, which is supported, by, among others, General Motors...
Hennessy's not-so-subtle message: Dr. Carter has been bought by industry, therefore, his views should be disregarded. Hennessy, however, shows no evidence linking Carter to industry, let alone that Carter's views are for sale.

Hennessy's attack on Dr. Tim Ball caught my eye because Hennessy dragged this institution, the National Center for Public Policy Research, into the fray.

Dr. Ball's published letter to the Press-Telegram said, in part:
I have seen the movie [An Inconvenient Truth] and, as someone with a doctorate in climatology, have studied the subject so long that when I began, the scientific consensus was that we were heading for another ice age. But Gore doesn't understand that consensus is not a scientific fact. It is also clear he doesn't understand how science works.

The global warming theory assumed carbon dioxide (CO2) traps heat in the atmosphere, and if it increases because of human additions to the total, then global temperature would rise. Unfortunately, environmentalists and people who saw human use of energy to develop technology and industry as wrong saw it as an opportunity to undermine Western development and civilization.

They politicized the issue and converted a scientific theory to a fact. Scientists like myself who tried to ask questions were called skeptics or more recently deniers with all the holocaust connotations.

The real inconvenient truth is that the fundamental assumption that CO2 causes warming has proven incorrect. Not only is the human portion not the cause, but CO2 itself is not the cause of global warming or climate change. Ice core records covering 420,000 years show temperature changing before CO2, not the other way around as implied by Gore.

In the 20th century most warming occurred before 1940, when production of CO2 was low. From 1940 to 1980, global temperatures went down while human addition of CO2 increased most dramatically. Since 1998 global temperatures have declined while human production of CO2 continues to increase.

I would gladly sit down with Mr. Hennessy and go through Gore's movie, scene by scene, and explain how it is distorted, taken out of context or otherwise manipulated.

Tim Ball
Victoria, British Columbia
On July 7, I wrote to Tom Hennessy, for reasons the letter makes clear:
Dear Mr. Hennessey-

Via Google, I happened upon your July 5 commentary, "Sense Wins in Heated Debate."

With all due respect, isn't it just a bit misleading to report that "[Dr. Tim] Ball is promoted by the National Center for Public Policy Research, which has received funding from ExxonMobil"? This makes it appear as though Dr. Ball received cash from us, and by extension ExxonMobil, when in fact all we did was reprint a small amount of his writing on one of our websites.

By that standard, every newspaper that publishes an op-ed by an outside pundit is a "promoter" of the pundit, and the pundit becomes associated with the beliefs and practices of the newspaper's advertisers.

Google also reveals that Dr. Ball has had his writing published in a number of newspapers. Are they "promoters" as well? I wouldn't be surprised if some of those papers have from time-to-time run ads for the fossil fuel industry, or, perhaps, from automakers. Horrors.

As it happens, Dr. Ball has never received a penny from us, and our support from ExxonMobil amounts to less than one percent of our budget. This leaves Dr. Ball with zero percent of less than one percent. Not much! Yet, apparently, worthy of note in the press.

Even though I've never met, talked to, or otherwise communicated with Dr. Ball, I know he has extensive scientific expertise. Possibly his ideas should be evaluated on their merits, instead of on the basis of his supposed association with us?

Just a thought.

Cordially,

Amy Ridenour
President
The National Center for Public Policy Research
Hennessy's response:
July 10, 1006

Dear Ms. Ridenour

The next time you "happen upon" one of my columns, via Google, I hope you will read it more carefully than you did the last one. You wrote:

"With all due respect, isn't it just a bit misleading to report that '{Dr. Tim} Ball is promoted by the National Center for Public Policy Research, which has received funding from ExxonMobil.'"

That comment did not originate with me. It came from the Tyee, an online publication based in British Columbia. The sentence clearly attributed the thought to the online publication. I assume you have written to them as well.

You also said, "As it happens, Dr. Ball has never received penny from us...” I never said he did.

Since you seem to present yourself as something of an expert on climate change, I assume you are well aware that Dr. Ball's views are among a minority in the scientific community.

Although we seem to be on opposite sides re this change, I appreciate your having written me to share your views.

Cordially,
Tom Hennessy, Columnist
Press-Telegram, Long Beach, Ca
I responded, somewhat less cordially:
July 11, 2006

Dear Mr. Hennessey,

Thank you for your reply. I appreciate it.

I hope my reference to "happening" upon one of your columns was not taken as an insult, as none was intended. If I lived in your area of the country, I am sure I would be a subscriber and a regular reader.

As to the column we are discussing, I read it quite carefully, several times, and again after reading your recent correspondence. I am unable to draw any conclusion other than that you intended to undermine Dr. Ball's credibility as an honest scientist after a letter by him disagreeing with you was published by your newspaper.

You refer to Dr. Ball and another scientist, Dr. Bob Carter, as acting "hand in hand with industry polluters" and say "some readers appear to have been taken in by them."

You use juxtaposition to imply a connection between Dr. Ball and ExxonMobil: "In British Columbia, where skeptic Tim Ball lives in retirement, The Tyee, an online publication, says 'ExxonMobil has been astonishingly successful in delaying action on global warming for more than a decade.'" Whether ExxonMobil has been successful in influencing public policy in British Columbia actually says nothing about Dr. Ball, but a casual reader will infer from your construction that the two are connected.

You further write: "Tyee also says Ball 'is in high demand by the front groups sponsored by the fossil fuel industry...'“ In the Tyee, author Donald Gutstein identifies two organizations as having received "policy briefings" by Dr. Ball. These, presumably, are the "front groups." The first is one of the most respected think-tanks in the world, the 32-year-old Fraser Institute, which receives one percent of its funding from ExxonMobil. It is best known internationally for its work on health care and economics. According to its website, Dr. Ball spoke there in 2005 and co-wrote a paper for them in 2004 on "limitations that hinder the usefulness of climate models." The other "front group" is the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, which, according to its website, receives less than 20 percent of its income from all corporate sources combined, and which does not appear to consider energy policy/climate change among its top priorities. Based on a search of their website, its one connection to Dr. Ball is that he delivered a lecture there in 2004.

The best that can be said in your favor is that these facts paint a far more nuanced picture than what your readers learned from you after you chose to run an unchallenged quote that Ball "is in high demand by the front groups sponsored by the fossil fuel industry."

A more factual description more likely is that, over a two-year period, a retired academic spoke once time each to two of Canada's most prestigious think-tanks, and co-wrote a paper for one of them. I can understand why this latter formulation would not strike a propagandist as a good way to undermine Dr. Ball's professional credibility, but the fact that the Tyee's formulation was stretched beyond reason should have been obvious to a professional journalist, if that professional journalist was doing any fact-checking whatsoever.

Then your article asserts a connection between our group and Dr. Ball: "The online publication says Ball is promoted by the National Center for Public Policy Research, which has received funding from ExxonMobil...” I explained why this is simply silly in my earlier e-mail to you. In your reply, you essentially disavowed responsibility, blaming Donald Gutstein's article in the Tyee for any errors, as that was your source.

I am unwilling to let you off the hook so easily. Donald Gutstein and the Tyee misled its readers, but you misled yours. First, you used juxtaposition and implication to undermine a scientist's reputation for honesty. Then you found and quoted another columnist who was doing the same thing -- tarring a man's reputation by misleading readers. You had the choice of checking the Tyee's facts, and apparently did not take it (let us hope that you did not). Yet, it is your professional responsibility to check your facts. You write a professional column for a significant newspaper. When you write about serious issues, your readers expect more fact-checking than they would from a drunken sophomore posting his personal views for his frat buddies to read on MySpace. They didn't get it. Depending on the sophomore, they may have gotten less.

You could have picked up the telephone. You could have done something even easier, and Googled the terms "Tim Ball" and the name of our group. The #1 entry when one does this is a May 3, 2006 blog post by me demonstrating the unreliability of Donald Gutstein's Tyee article. Likewise, a joint search for "Tim Ball" and "Donald Gutstein" brings up the refutation of the Gutstein piece in #1 position. Even "Tim Ball" and "ExxonMobil" will do it, or "Tim Ball" and "coal."

I realize this e-mail may be considered harsh, but imagine how your column made your targets feel.

Sincerely,

Amy
Columnist Tom Hennessy did not respond to my second e-mail. I checked the Long Beach Press-Telegram later to see if a correction or clarification had been run to acknowledge that the Press-Telegram, through a staff column, had defamed two scientists, but I found no acknowledgement or apology.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:57 AM

Saturday, August 12, 2006

I Wish I Knew

Dear Mrs. Ridenour:

There is yet hope for the Republic. That paragon of blog search engines, Technorati, informs me that your candor in posting my letter has met with bipartisan approbation. Now comes the hard part -- how to persuade the UN to desist from delegating the 'executive summaries' of IPCC reports to juvenile delinquents bent on polemic mayhem?

My thanks, and congratulations.

Sincerely yours

Russell Seitz
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:55 AM

Friday, August 11, 2006

Looking at Cuba

Is Patrick O'Hannigan a "a mercenary paid by the Bush"?

If he read this, Castro would think so.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:48 PM

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Think Progress Libel Update

Think Progress has responded to my post yesterday accusing it of libel.

Today, the group describes yesterday's libel in a grossly inaccurate way and then defends its strawman. Presumably, this is because Think Progress knows it cannot back up its original charge, yet lacks the integrity to admit it.

Meanwhile, the Capital Research Center is wondering why Think Progress attacked the National Center, when the C-Span interview Think Progress was discussing was about a Capital Research Center book.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:02 PM

Al Gore's Do As I Say, Not As I Do Philosophy

Author, Hoover Research Fellow and National Center board member Peter Schweizer has an op-ed in USA Today this morning that is probably giving headaches to former Vice President Al Gore.

It seems that for all Gore's green talk, the former VP isn't exactly acting as though he believes the dire warnings in his movies, slide shows and public appearances.

Says Peter, in part:
Al Gore has spoken: The world must embrace a 'carbon-neutral lifestyle.’ To do otherwise, he says, will result in a cataclysmic catastrophe. 'Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb,' warns the website for his film, An Inconvenient Truth. 'We have just 10 years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tailspin.'

Graciously, Gore tells consumers how to change their lives to curb their carbon-gobbling ways: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, use a clothesline...
Pause for a minute. Has anyone ever seen a picture of Al Gore putting clothes on a clothesline? Even one (staged pics don't count)? Does he even have clotheslines at his residences for his servants to use? Resuming excerpt of Peter's op-ed:
...drive a hybrid, use renewable energy, dramatically cut back on consumption. Better still, responsible global citizens can follow Gore's example, because, as he readily points out in his speeches, he lives a 'carbon-neutral lifestyle....'

... For someone who says the sky is falling, he does very little. He says he recycles and drives a hybrid. And he claims he uses renewable energy credits to offset the pollution he produces when using a private jet to promote his film...
Pause again. Give me a break. Gore can't fly commercial, even to help save the planet? Resuming excerpt...
...Public records reveal that as Gore lectures Americans on excessive consumption, he and his wife Tipper live in two properties: a 10,000-square-foot, 20-room, eight-bathroom home in Nashville, and a 4,000-square-foot home in Arlington, Va. (He also has a third home in Carthage, Tenn.) For someone rallying the planet to pursue a path of extreme personal sacrifice, Gore requires little from himself.

Then there is the troubling matter of his energy use. In the Washington, D.C., area, utility companies offer wind energy as an alternative to traditional energy. In Nashville, similar programs exist. Utility customers must simply pay a few extra pennies per kilowatt-hour, and they can continue living their carbon-neutral lifestyles knowing that they are supporting wind energy...

...But according to public records, there is no evidence that Gore has signed up to use green energy in either of his large residences. When contacted Wednesday, Gore's office confirmed as much but said the Gores were looking into making the switch...

...Maybe our very existence isn't threatened...
There's more.

By coincidence, the Chicago Defender published today (with a disclaimer noting Peter's connection to our group) a review of Peter's last book by National Center Research Associate Nick Cheolas. Nick's review begins:
Most liberals enjoy portraying themselves as the champions of minority interests and "social justice," defending the allegedly defenseless against oppression from the rich and powerful.

But does the liberal elite live by its own rhetorical standards? Not according to author Peter Schweizer. In his new book, Do As I Say (Not As I Do): Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy, Schweizer points out the blatant hypocrisy practiced by many of the liberal community's leading figures…
In a commentary that apparently applies well to Al Gore, Nick concludes: "Liberal rhetoric may be appealing and popular, but it is often hard to live by. Sacrificing for the common good is a noble goal, but it is unfortunate that those on the left who espouse it don't seem to have enough faith to live by their own ideals."

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:13 PM

Law of the Sea Treaty Could Prevent U.S. from Stopping Terrorists

Our newest paper examines the Law of the Sea Treaty, an issue we first tackled over 20 years ago.

Says a press release:
Law of the Sea Treaty Could Prevent U.S. from Stopping Terrorists Before They Reach Our Shores, New Report Concludes

Treaty Would Also Harm U.S.'s Ability Set its Own Environmental Standards

Washington, D.C. - The United States may have more difficulty capturing terrorists, intercepting weapons of mass destruction and conducting routine military operations at sea if the U.S. Senate ratifies the Law of the Sea Treaty, according to a just-released report by The National Center for Public Policy Research.

The report, "Ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty: A Not So Innocent Passage," was written by David A. Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation.

The Law of the Sea Treaty, formally known as the Third United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS III, was originally adopted in 1983. Its purpose is to establish a comprehensive set of rules governing the oceans. Although the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommended U.S. accession to the treaty in March 2004, the full Senate has yet to act on this recommendation. It could do so at any time.

But, according to report, the treaty contains such serious flaws that the U.S. should be wary of acceding to it.

Among the flaws cited in the report is a provision that specifies that boarding of ships at sea is justified only if "there are reasonable grounds to believe that" the ship is engaged in piracy, engaged in the slave trade, or engaged in unauthorized broadcasting. It makes no mention of those ships engaged in the transportation of terrorists or weapons of mass destruction.

"As objectionable as unauthorized broadcasts - or even authorized broadcasts -- of Jessica Simpson or Brittany Spears might be, shutting them down isn't as important as apprehending terrorists and WMD," said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research. "Under the treaty, the U.S. wouldn't be able to act on intelligence information that Syrian, Iranian or North Korean ships is carrying terrorists or WMD without having to answer to the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). And since the majority of ITLOS judges come from countries that are either openly hostile to the U.S. or are at best unreliable allies such as Russia, China, Brazil, Tanzania and France, the prospects for rulings in the U.S.'s favor would be poor."

The "Ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty: A Not So Innocent Passage" report also suggests that treaty could harm the United States' ability to set its own environmental standards and may even provide the means of forcing the U.S. to comply with the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty the U.S. has rejected.

"The Law of the Sea Treaty requires states to 'adopt laws and regulations to prevent, reduce and control pollution of the marine environment from or through the atmosphere,'" said Ridenour. "Since environmentalists argue that human emissions of greenhouse gases - 25% of which are generated in the U.S. - are causing climate change damaging to coral reefs, some environmentalists could use the treaty to compel the U.S. to comply with the Kyoto Treaty."

The report notes other problems with the treaty, too, including:

* Some of the conservation provisions would provide new avenues for environmental activists to pursue legal action in both U.S. and international courts.

* The treaty would for the first time require all unmanned ocean vessels, including those used for mine detection to protect ships exercising the right of innocent passage, to navigate on the surface in territorial waters - effectively eliminating their value for such purposes.

* Potentially impede routine U.S. military operations at sea by stipulating "the high seas shall be reserved for peaceful purposes" and requiring that all parties to the treaty refrain from "any threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state." Under the Law of the Sea Treaty, the principal would enforcement body would not be the U.N. Security Council, where the U.S. holds a veto, but such bodies as the International Tribunal of the Law of the Sea and International Seabed Authority (ISA). The ISA's membership, like ITLOS's, does not favor the U.S. as it includes such countries as Sudan, China, Malaysia, Russia, Namibia and Myanmar (the name given Burma by its military junta)...
The paper can be accessed here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:19 AM

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Think Progress Libels Us

I won't be investing in whichever insurance company provides libel insurance for Think Progress, that's for sure.

In an online article published today, about a C-Span appearance by Bonner Cohen, Think Progress writes (under the heading, "Corrupt Establishment," no less) that Bonner "is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research, where he is paid by the fossil fuel industry to distort the facts about global warming and other environmental issues."

Here is a screen shot of their website, taken earlier today:

The article is false and defamatory. People who are paid by us are paid by us; certainly not by the fossil fuel industry (total donations to to us: less than one percent of our revenues, and for most of our history, zero percent). No one here has ever been instructed to "distort the facts" about any issue, global warming or otherwise, not by management and certainly not by outsiders. Despite the wild-eyed imaginings of an assortment of conspiracy theorists with more Internet access than actual information, no one is even trying.

Disagreeing with Think Progress, by the way, does not constitute "distorting the facts."

I gather Think Progress has some kind of an issue with diversity of opinion, but democratic republics cannot survive without it.

The Think Progress article is off-kilter in other ways, too. Although Bonner Cohen is a senior fellow here, the article does not note that Bonner was on C-Span for another think-tank entirely. He was on C-Span to discuss his new book, "The Green Wave: Environmentalism and Its Consequences," which he wrote for, and which is published by, the non-profit Capital Research Center.


The Capital Research Center describes the book this way:
The Green Wave: Environmentalism and Its Consequences describes how activists created an ideology that now dominates public debate -- and a movement of nonprofit groups that is well-organized and well-funded. Whether the issue is energy exploration or agricultural production, public land use or private property rights, business ethics or government policies, advocates for "the environment" insist that their concerns must always come first. And they usually get their way.

Bonner Cohen's The Green Wave is must-reading. It masterfully exposes the inner workings of the nonprofit groups and foundation philanthropies that set the environmental agenda -- and shape our daily lives.


The book can be purchased online here.

I have not read the book yet, but I ordered one, and look forward to reading it.

Finally, Think Progress has a distorted description of a rather silly call made to C-Span and Bonner's perfectly reasonable answer to it.

I'd wonder why Think Progress doesn't just stick to the facts, but I suspect I know the answer: They may think it puts them to disadvantage in debate. If so, they will learn that, in the long run, the truth will still win out.

Think Progress would be better off if it recognized that sooner rather than later.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:12 PM

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Life Expectancy, Infant Mortality No Way to Compare Health Systems

The Christian Science Monitor printed a letter from Eric Mart of Concord on August 3. It said, in part:
On Health Care Issue, Bass is Simply Wrong

...I took to the internet and checked just where the United States stands in infant mortality and life expectancy in relation to the rest of the world.

I was shocked to find that the United States is rated 183rd of 225 countries and that we're surpassed by countries such as Portugal, Canada and South Korea, all of which have some form of socialized health care and lower GNPs.

The United States is rated 48th in life expectancy and is surpassed by countries such as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece, which have socialized medicine...
David Hogberg disagreed, and the Monitor published his letter today:
Poor Choice of Statistics

Re "On Health Care Issue, Bass is Simply Wrong" (Monitor letter, Aug. 3):

Unfortunately, Eric Mart is using statistics -- life expectancy and infant mortality -- that tell us next to nothing about the effectiveness of a health care system. Research shows that life expectancy is determined by factors such as gross domestic product per capita, literacy, diet and sanitation. Factors such as health care spending or doctors per capita have no effect.

Infant mortality is measured too inconsistently across nations to be a meaningful measure. For instance, Switzerland does not count any baby born under 30 centimeters, thereby eliminating many of its highest-risk infants from its infant mortality rate.

In areas where a health care system can make a difference and that are measured with some consistency, like cancer treatment and five-year survival rates after a heart attack, the United States performs at or near the top.

What meaningful comparisons of health care systems tell us is that socialized medicine is inferior. What is needed to improve health care in this country is more market-based reforms, such as removing meddlesome regulations and moving toward products like health savings accounts.

David Hogberg

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:29 PM

Monday, August 07, 2006

A Letter

Dear Mrs. Ridenour:

Congratulations on your belated discovery of Science.

I hope you start reading it aloud to your children, and husband as well, along with its British counterpart, Nature, as getting a handle on both will enable you to profitaby return to this and other subjets that have eluded coherent analysis by the center.

Godspeed in getting started. The vexing thing about our nation is the deplorable absence of politicized science - it cannot fairly be said to exist until both sides have some inkling of what it is they are trying to politicize.

Yours
Russell Seitz
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:43 PM

Deneen Moore's White House Visit


Speaking of Deneen Moore, she went to the White House the other day and had her picture taken to prove it. I don't know who the guy is.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:07 AM

Medicare for All? No Thanks, Part V

More of the "Medicare for All?" debate between our David Hogberg and Joshua Holland of AlterNet.

From David Hogberg:
Here are various odds and ends, in no particular order:

UK Still a Strawman?: I've exchanged a few emails with Joshua Holland of AlterNet about this, and he maintains that my discussion of the UK in my first post was a strawman because he was talking primarily about Medicare, which unlike the UK, has diverse providers. Thus, it should have been obvious to me that he was talking about something that was not like the UK system. I maintain that a particular sentence in his post led to the confusion, so I doubt we're going to resolve this.

Thinking about it some more, I'm not sure it's very relevant what type of provider system we have. What matters most is the funding mechanism. If we have a system in which the government is the primary funder of health care, as we would with opening Medicare to all, we'd still end up with the same problems as seen in the UK -- long wait times for surgery and cancelled surgeries, among others. The reason is that when government funds something, people do not pay the cost directly. Thus, they often think they are getting something free, leading to overuse. When that happens, the government can raise taxes to pay for it. But since it can't raise taxes infinitely, and since the voters do get upset if you raise them too much, government has to find another way to deal with health care costs. The only other option is to ration care, as happens in places like the UK. Ultimately, a comparison of Medicare for All with the UK's health system is appropriate because they have similar funding mechanisms.

One might reasonably question, then, why Medicare doesn't already ration care, since surely there is overuse there? To some extent it does, as I noted in post three about how slow Medicare is to pay for colonoscopies. Another way Medicare deals with its rising costs is to cost-share with seniors. I've noted the rising premiums and deductibles in Part B (see post three). Medicare Part A, which covers hospital stays, requires a $952 deducible for the first 60 days in a hospital. For days 60-90, it requires cost sharing of $238 per day. For days 90-150, it is $476 per day. These cost have been increasing just over 4% per year for the last three years -- not a huge increase, but higher than the rate of inflation. And the rate of increase is slowly creeping upward, suggesting that Medicare still can't control costs. Finally, Medicare does not pay for any days in the hospital beyond 150 -- for that you need a private MediGap policy or you pay 100%.

My Goof: In my second post, I wrote, "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.'" That makes it seem as though I'm suggesting that Holland is advocating forcing everyone into Medicare, which clearly he is not. My bad.

Competition: Next up is this section of Holland's third post:
The reason why this "senior policy analyst" took the time to write two rebuttals to my humble little blog-post (despite the fact that he really has no leg to stand on) is that I didn't write that we should go ahead and enroll everyone in Medicare. I suggested opening it up and letting competition take its course. It's a free-market approach; whichever system can provide the best benefits for the lower cost should prevail. Hogberg and I both know which one would win, and that's a huge danger for the corporate right. If he really believed the private insurance system would do a better job, he wouldn't have a problem putting his belief to the test. The problem for him is the estimated $300 billion dollars per year that would be saved with a single-payer system on reduced paperwork and efficiencies of scale alone.

It's a point that Both David Sirota and Dean Baker made in their recent books: the right falls all over itself lauding the marvels of Big Business and proclaiming its unquestioned superiority over the public sector, and then spends an enormous amount of energy keeping the two from ever competing head-to-head.
First, a clarification. The right does not necessarily laud Big Business, so much as it lauds the free market. They are not the same thing. Indeed, Big Business often interferes with the free market to pad its own bottom line at the expense of taxpayers and consumers. Tim Carney of CEI has just written a great book about this called "The Big Ripoff." (Holland might also be surprised to learn that Big Business, at least as far as the top 100 companies in the Fortune 500 are concerned, contributes more money to groups on the left than to those on the right.)

Anyway, on to this notion of letting Medicare compete with private insurance. As Amy Ridenour has pointed out, a test of government vs. private business is exactly that, not a test of two or more free-market entities competing against one another. Of course many people are going to choose Medicare since, via taxes, they are already forced to pay for it. I can imagine some guy thinking to himself: "Let's see, I can go with Medicare which I'm already forced to pay for, or I can go with private insurance in which case I'll spend more money in addition to the taxes I already pay for Medicare. Yeah, I'm definitely sticking with private insurance. It is better at paying for care for my knuckles which hurt from dragging so much." I could possibly see letting anyone join Medicare as long as those who didn't join wouldn't have to pay the taxes for it. And if you think that the left is going to go for that, stick with private insurance -- you'll need it for your knuckles.

There is also the fact that Medicare will be all the more appealing since many people will think that other people are picking up a good portion of the tab. And since the wealthy will pay more in taxes to fund this Medicare scheme, a lot of people (the ones who aren't wealthy) will probably be right. Especially for those who are in the individual health care market (where the employer doesn't pay for part of the cost), this will make Medicare all the more appealing.

So let's see, forced to pay for it, other people paying much of the cost, what else? Well, since the government gets to both run Medicare and regulate private insurance, it seems the government has a bit of an unfair advantage. Sort of like a referee who both officiates and plays in a game. What do you think is gonna happen the first time private insurance and Medicare come into conflict? You can get a hint by looking at how Congress reacted when seniors who got frustrated with Medicare decided to pay doctors out of their own pocket. Guess what? Congress passed a law saying that doctors can't treat Medicare recipients who want to pay with their own money unless the doctor decides to forego treating any Medicare recipients for two years. Not exactly that "level playing field" Holland refers to, is it?

To expect the government and private enterprise to compete on an equal basis is to expect "cats to bark," to borrow Milton Friedman's memorable phrase. Government starts by holding most of the cards and gets to change the rules of the game whenever it wants. Fair competition is impossible.

Finally, in my first post I said that our current system "over the UK's any day of the week and twice on Sunday." While that's true, it's a bit like having to choose between generic coffee and Folger's. I'll choose the Folger's, but lament the fact I can't have Starbucks. So how do we get the Starbucks version of a health care system? I'll address that in a post later in the week.
Past posts from David Hogberg in this "Medicare for All? No Thanks" series: #1 is here; #2 is here, #3 is here, and #4 is here.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:02 AM

Sunday, August 06, 2006

How the Media Enables Climate Change "Geniuses"

Something doesn't quite seem right with this glowing interview the Washington Post conducted with environmental activist Dr. Lara Hansen of the World Wildlife Fund.

Dr. Hansen is quoted saying, "When I was 5 or 6, my father read me an article in Science magazine about ozone depletion, which is what causes increased ultraviolet radiation..."

Here's a link to Science. Look at it and tell me a 5-or 6-year-old could understand it.

I'm the mom of three six-year-olds, and not a one of them reads articles in Science about ultraviolet radiation. Lest it be said that my kids are simply below-average, allow me to note that I frequently am with other six-year-olds, and none of them have ever once mentioned Science magazine, radiation, ozone depletion or even Al Gore's movie.

But maybe Dr. Hansen is a genius. After all, in 2004, she told the U.S. Senate in testimony that the average global temperature had increased by 0.6 degrees C over the last 100 years, caused specifically by "carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, generated by the anthropogenic burning of fossil fuels."

Most scientists, even those in Al Gore's camp, would say modern science doesn't fully understand all the causes of warming since the Little Ice Age ended a century and a half ago (or temperature fluctuations before then, for that matter). Yet Dr. Hansen apparently knows more than most scientists, as she seems to know nature is not playing any role.

What's more, she believes the matter is so settled, newspapers shouldn't even tell readers alternative theories:
Washington Post: Why is climate change such a contentious issue among scientists?

Dr. Hansen: Climate change isn't a contentious issue among scientists. The belief that it is is actually generated by the belief that in order to create balanced news coverage of climate change, you need to present both sides of the story. That's just not appropriate. It is like doing a story on geography and having to include an opinion about how the Earth was quite possibly flat.
If the science of global warming is settled, Dr. Hansen, does the World Wildlife Fund support zeroing-out federal appropriations for further climate change research? Might as well. We Know Everything Important Already.

The Post, for its part, was unfazed about the notion that newspapers shouldn't cover "both sides" of the climate change debate. (Wait -- didn't Dr. Hansen just say "climate change isn't a contentious issue among scientists"? So what's the other side of the "both sides" she doesn't want covered?) The Post responded with this softball: "Why has the public been so slow to understand climate change?"

Perhaps the Post agrees with the cover-one-side-of-the-science, as the Post adorns the interview of Dr. Hansen with this box:


Note the Post's ad says "the threat of human-induced climate change." Not possible threat, not alleged threat, just "the threat."

And, of course, it is a threat uniformly, not in any way a benefit.

And "human-induced," naturally. (Well, maybe not "naturally." Nothing is more un-P.C. than using the word "nature" in the same sentence as "climate change." Extreme environmentalists worship the awesome power of nature, except when doing so interferes with the propagation of their ideology.)

If it turns out that nature is the primary cause of climate change (which is what I believe) will the Post still call climate change a "threat"? Or will we all be urged to embrace it enthusiastically, sea levels be damned?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:00 PM

Deneen Moore Named Senior Fellow of Project 21 Black Leadership Network

Project 21 has an announcement:
Deneen Moore Named Senior Fellow of Project 21 Black Leadership Network

Members of Project 21 welcome the appointment of Deneen Moore as a senior fellow for the black leadership network. In her new position, Ms. Moore will enjoy an increased role in the organization's outreach efforts.

"I am very fortunate and pleased to serve as a senior fellow with Project 21," said Ms. Moore. "This organization prides itself on communicating the path to prosperity, and independence depends on recognizing the important role of free market principles in meeting today's challenges."

Ms. Moore formally served as a public relations consultant and radio talk show host for the Congress of Racial Equality, one of the nation's oldest civil rights organizations. In her duties as a senior fellow for Project 21, Ms. Moore will author regular New Visions Commentaries and increase her already highly visible role as a spokesperson for the organization.

"Project 21 provides a platform for me to educate the black community on the importance of individual responsibility and self-reliance as means to improve their lives today for a better tomorrow," added Moore...

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:04 AM

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Condoleezza Rice Attacked Again

Project 21 has something to say about the latest racist attacks on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:
Black Activists Condemn Racist Rice Cartoons in Palestinian Press

Project 21 Members Say American Critics Share Blame for Racist Comments Targeting Secretary of State

Members of the black leadership network Project 21 condemn the racist depictions of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that recently appeared in cartoons and statements featured in Palestinian Authority newspapers. While sparing no criticism of these depictions, Project 21 members point out that such despicable criticism of Secretary Rice on the part of the Arab press might not have come so easy had she not already been the target of similar racial attacks by American cartoonists and pundits.

"What we are seeing in the Palestinian press simply follows the lead of cartoonists Ted Rall and Gary Trudeau and talking heads such as Harry Belafonte and the NAACP leadership," said Project 21 member Geoffrey Moore. "While it is insulting, we need to share our anger at those who do similar at home. These people produce nothing but hate, so why should anyone be surprised?"

Secretary Rice was recently depicted in the Palestinian newspaper Al Qud as pregnant with an armed monkey. The caption to the cartoon read "Rice speaks about the birth of a new Middle East," a reference to her comments about recent events in the region being the "birth pangs" of major change. Additionally, the Israeli group Palestinian Media Watch reports that the Al Hayat Al Jadida newspaper called Secretary Rice "the Black Lady," "raven" and the "black spinster."

Former secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright called the depictions of Secretary Rice "truly ugly." State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called them "ugly attacks," but said, "Secretary Rice is focused on doing her job."

Project 21 members often criticized treatment of Secretary Rice by American cartoonists and political pundits in the past, and point out that these previous attacks may have encouraged the recent attacks in the Palestinian media. Some of these past racial attacks on Secretary Rice included Garry Trudeau's "Doonesbury" comic strip having President Bush refer to her as "Brown Sugar," Ted Rall's cartoon suggesting she was a "house nigga" needing "racial re-education" and Jeff Danziger depicting her a the slave "Prissy" from the movie "Gone With the Wind." Additionally, former entertainer Harry Belafonte referred to Secretary Rice as a "house slave" and "sell-out," while NAACP chairman Julian Bond called her a "shield" used by the Bush Administration to deflect racial criticism.

"It was bad enough that American leftist knuckleheads showed their true racist colors by depicting the first black woman secretary of state as an 'Aunt Jemima' and 'Brown Sugar,' among other things. Now, the Palestinians have sunk into the same cesspool," said Project 21 member Darryn "Dutch" Martin.

"These depictions of Secretary Rice are outrageous and disgusting but also completely expected. The Islamic media is simply taking its cues from the liberal media in the West in general and the United States in particular," added Project 21 member Mark Jordan. "The Jihadists have found willing collaborators in the battle for the hearts and minds of the American public in the likes of American cartoonists such as Garry Trudeau, Jeff Danzinger and Ted Rall."

Moore added, "As we saw with the communists, the far left once again proves themselves to be the "Useful Idiots" for people who hate America...

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:25 PM

Saving Health Insurance from Minimum Wage Increases

John Goodman and Richard McKenzie are raising a point worth consideration by policymakers in their paper "Saving Health Insurance from the Minimum Wage," published by the National Center for Policy Analysis.

They say, in part:
Political support is growing in Congress for another increase in the federal minimum wage. A bill now under consideration would raise the minimum hourly wage from $5.15 to $7.25 over the next two years...

...But a number of studies point to an even more serious consequence: fewer fringe benefits, including health insurance.

An unintended consequence of a minimum wage increase would likely be a rise in the number of Americans without health insurance...
I'm sure many employees realize how expensive health insurance is for employers. Here at the National Center, the health coverage we purchase for employees with families is equal to $6.70 per hour.

So, if we paid any employees the minimum wage (we don't), and provided health insurance for their family, their actual pay would be $11.85, more the double the $5.15 they'd see on the pay stub. And that figure would not include the "employer's contributions" (earned by the employee) to Social Security and Medicare, or the value of other benefits, such as retirement plans.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:12 PM

Friday, August 04, 2006

Earth Cooler During Little Ice Age Than After

The Washington Post reports today that "since 1880 the duration of heat waves in Western Europe has doubled and the number of unusually hot days in the region has nearly tripled."

The paper does not tell readers the Little Ice Age ended in the middle of the 1800s.

Tim Graham of Newsbusters notes more strange things in this article.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:38 PM

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Hockey Stick Denial: This Time, at the Post

The Washington Post is editorializing today against the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Committee Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which held hearings twice in July on questions surrounding the "Hockey Stick" temperature studies.

Says the Post: "Instead of concentrating on the changing climate, the House Energy Committee picks on climatologists."

Whoever wrote the Post editorial seems to be genuinely unfamiliar with the hearings held, their purpose and what they revealed. It was irresponsible of the Post to publish something like this editorial without researching the matter a little bit first.

I realize the editorialist was at something of an information disadvantage, as the editorial page is editorializing against hearings the Post never covered, but occasionally even opinion writers have to do research.

In this case, too, it would not have been hard: The Energy and Commerce Committee has webcasts available of both the July 27 and July 19 hearings. The editorial writer might have watched a few minutes of them, or, perhaps, read the witness testimonies archived online. It would have taken just a few minutes to see that the hearings were serious business, conducted in a serious way (well, maybe not including the statements of the Congresswoman worrying that her grandchildren wouldn't ever get to see polar bears because global warming would make polar bears extinct before they get a few free hours to go to the zoo).

I understand that some blog readers will disagree with my opinion here, and will say this is not a matter of the Post editorialist misunderstanding, but one of the Post misleading its readers because the Post has an agenda of its own.

"They know perfectly well why those hearings are important," readers will write (or something similar), "it's that they're afraid the public will learn the truth about the incestuous nature of federally-funded climate science reviews, cover-ups of flawed studies by scientists who know better but who are afraid to speak out, and other examples of political-correctness gone wild. They're afraid the public will start wondering if several billion tax dollars a year spent on global warming research might be better spent on cancer cures. There is a whiff of a scandal here, and the Post wants desperately to cover it up, as Chairman Joe Barton and Subcommittee Chairman Ed Whitfield are getting uncomfortably close to the truth."

I sympathize with this point of view. I really do. And I agree that the Post is capable of this degree of perfidy. Boy do I ever. But I cannot go down that road, and here's why:

The editorial is so silly, so off-the-mark, and so completely beside-the-point that no one would be willing to publish it unless they really and truly were so clueless they had no idea how ignorant they were showing themselves to be.

There is such a thing as pride.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:51 AM

New Study Critical of U.S. Uses Unreliable Health Care Comparisons

A new press release:
New Study Critical of U.S. Uses Unreliable Measures on Health Care

A new study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) uses misleading statistics on the effectiveness of a health care system, concludes National Center for Public Policy Research Senior Policy Analyst David Hogberg, Ph.D.

In their new study, "Is the U.S. a Good Model for Reducing Social Exclusion in Europe?" CEPR researchers John Schmitt and Ben Zipperer conclude that, "the U.S. health care system is highly inefficient, yielding poor outcomes despite high levels of expenditures." Schmitt and Zipperer base America's alleged poor performance on the measures of life expectancy, infant and maternal mortality, and obesity.

"The statistics used in the report tell us a lot about the biases of the study's authors," say Hogberg, "but next to nothing about a health care system."

As Hogberg showed in a National Policy Analysis paper published by The National Center for Public Policy Research in July, academic research reveals that life expectancy is affected by factors such as GDP per capita, literacy, and sanitation. Measures such as health care spending have no effect. The National Policy Analysis paper also showed that infant mortality is measured too inconsistently across nations to be a reliable indicator of a health care system.

"Maternal mortality also suffers from inconsistent measurement," says Hogberg. "Obesity is determined by individual choices about diet and exercise. Other than some warnings from your doctor, the health care system can't do much about the obesity rate," he says.

When one looks at factors that a health care system can actually influence, like cancer or heart attack survival rates, the U.S. is consistently tops among other nations, Hogberg said.

'When left-wing groups like CEPR examine health care, they always choose statistics that make the U.S. look bad. They seldom ask if the statistics are really meaningful," says Hogberg. "That's good for promoting their agenda favoring more government-run medicine, but bad for actually making informed decisions about health care policy."

The National Policy Analysis paper "Don't Fall Prey to Propaganda: Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality are Unreliable Measures for Comparing the U.S. Health Care System to Others," by David Hogberg, Ph.D., is available online here.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a conservative, free-market think-tank established in 1982 and located on Capitol Hill.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:07 AM

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Is He Kidding?

One of our summer interns attends the University of Michigan. He emailed me a couple of links to college courses he says are offered there.

Here's one of them: How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation.

The question I ask myself: Could this possibly be a real college course as a rather prestigious public university, or is this a case of a summer intern having a little fun playing a practical joke on the boss?

Opinions welcome.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:36 PM

Access for All

Dream Mom has something for people who design buildings and public places to think about.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 7:42 PM

Medicare for All? No Thanks, Part IV

From David Hogberg:
After my first post on this subject, Joshua Holland responded here. If you can get through the ad hominem attacks, he has two basic points. The first is that I'm dishonest when I criticize his post by pointing out the problems with Britain's health care system. Says Holland:
The strawman here is that I never proposed a national health system like they have in the UK; I proposed a single-payer healthcare system with diverse providers, and said it would be like the UK only in that a small percentage of the population would remain privately insured (17% of healthcare in the UK was privately financed in 2004 compared to our 55% (OECD data)).
Here is the quote from Holland's original post that led me to bring up the Britain comparison:
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 healthcare system. Within ten years, we'd have universal, single-payer healthcare, with just a small percentage of Americans sticking with private insurance (like in the UK).
Holland claims that the UK reference only refers to the clause regarding a small percentage sticking with private insurance. However, it's not clear whether that the phrase in parenthesis refers only to the last clause or the entire sentence. Holland should have made that last clause a separate sentence to avoid any confusion.

He now claims what he was really talking about was a single-payer system with "diverse providers." But nowhere does he mention what type of provider set-up we would have. In fact, the term "diverse providers" doesn't appear anywhere in that first post. What was that about dishonesty, Josh?

Holland’s second point is that we don't get more health care than the Brits even though we pay about twice as much per capita. When comparing health care systems, leftists have a Pavlovian response: Trot out statistics like life expectancy and infant mortality. Holland does not disappoint:
Our infant mortality rate is 36 percent higher than the Brits; they live a year longer than we do on average and they have more nurses per patient and more beds per capita.
The fact is that life expectancy and infant mortality tell us next to nothing about the efficacy of a health care system. I examine this at length in this National Policy Analysis paper, but here is a summary:
1. Academic research consistently shows that life expectancy is impacted by factors such as GDP per capita, sanitation, clean water, and literacy rate. Factors such as spending on health care or number of doctors per capita have no effect.

2. The reason the U.S. has lower life expectancy than Britain -- not to mention most of the rest of the industrialized world -- is that it has a much larger population of African descent. Life expectancy in the U.S. for African-Americans is about 72.3 years, while for whites it is about 77.7 years. The reasons for this are primarily ones of genetics and lifestyle. Even studies that suggest disparities in health care have some effect on the lower life expectancy of African-Americans still emphasize the importance of factors such as income, education, and social environment.

3. Infant mortality is an unreliable comparative statistic of health care systems because it is measured inconsistently across nations. For example, Switzerland excludes children under 30 centimeters from its definition of infant mortality, thereby eliminating most high-risk infants. Indeed, as Table 3 in my policy analysis paper points out, the number of infants who die in the first twenty-four hours (when the largest proportion of deaths of low-weight babies occur) seems abnormally low in most European countries. Either they have figured out methods of saving infants that we don't know about here in the U.S. (unlikely), or the way they measure it differs from ours.
As for more nurses per capita and hospital beds per capita, they don't tell us much, either. Surely, it's possible to have too few nurses or hospital beds, but our numbers aren't much lower than those of Britain, so that's not likely in this case. What matters is how efficiently a health care system uses those resources. Given that Britain has long waiting lists of hospital admittance (much of it due to a phenomenon known as bed-blocking), it would seem that the British health system is less efficient than our own.

Finally, Holland also claims that:
It's not only life expectancy -- we're sicker across the board. A study looking at U.S. and British health released earlier this year found that "Americans had higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, strokes, lung disease and cancer -- findings that held true no matter what income or education level.” Of course, that can't all be put on our healthcare delivery system - there are lifestyle factors and whatnot - but, remember, they're getting those outcomes while spending 40 cents to our dollar.
In fact, those phenomena have nothing to do with a health care system, and everything to do with factors such as lifestyle and genetics. After all, if a man comes from a family with a history of heart disease, or he smokes four packs a day, or he eats a plate full of deep fried Twinkies every day for twenty years, what can the health care system do about it? Aside from some public service announcements and maybe warnings from your doctor, it can't do anything. What matters is how well a health care system performs after you become sick. On the few reliable statistics that measure such outcomes, the U.S. performs quite well.

One such statistic is the ratio of the incidence of a disease with its rate of mortality, a measure that yields insight into how well a health care system actually treats an illness once it is diagnosed. The Commonwealth Fund compared a few nations this way on breast cancer and prostate cancer using OECD data. The U.S. outperformed the other countries on these measure (see p.17, here (pdf)), including Britain. (We also did much better on AIDS, although the disparity in incidence numbers leads me to think that there are differences-of-measurement issues.)

A study published in Circulation found that the five-year mortality rate among patients who had severe heart attacks was higher in Canada than the U.S. This was due to the fact that the U.S. does more angioplasty and bypass surgery than Canada. Given that the U.S. does more angioplasty and bypass surgery than other nations, it is probably a safe bet that we have lower post-heart attack mortality rates than those other nations.

In short, it appears that we in the U.S. do get more for at least some of the additional dollars we spend on health care.

Other than that, there are few measures that are internationally comparable-although the OECD along with the Commonwealth Fund is working on that (see here (pdf)). Thus, as measures improve, it is certainly possible that we will find out that health care systems with more government involvement outperform those with less (although I wouldn't bet money on it.)

What we can say for certain is that the statistics that leftists usually trot out - like life expectancy and infant mortality - somehow always show the U.S. health care system to be worse than most other nations'. Those statistics tell us a lot about the left's agenda, but tell us nothing about health care systems.
Next up: Odds and ends.

Past posts in this series: #1 is here; #2 is here, #3 is here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:52 PM

California Outlawing Dissent? The Galileo Precedent

The state of California has declared war on scientific and political dissent and the First Amendment.

Yes, you read that right.

The state of California is taking legal action to intimidate people who believe humankind has much to learn yet about climate.

California's Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, joined by leftie environmental groups the Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense, has asked a federal court to force the disclosure of all communications between certain automakers and an assortment of Ph.D. scientists, journalists and policy analysts who refuse to say it is an unrefutable fact that human beings are causing catastrophic global warming.

If the Galileo Precedent holds, several hundred years from now, a future California attorney general will apologize for this, and everyone will wonder how people in 2006 could have been so backward.

However, there is no reason for the Galileo Precedent to hold. Americans should make clear their revulsion against tactics like this.

Science -- not just climate science, but all science -- requires skeptics and skepticism to advance. Political dissent, meanwhile, is a necessary ingredient to government of and by the people.

It appears that if some governments and some environmental organizations can't get people to go along with the human-caused global warming theory by insisting, they'll try to use the power of government to force them to agree.

Shame on them all.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:56 PM

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

World Trade Center Movie Review

National Center Research Associate Nick Cheolas attended an advance screening of the new Oliver Stone film "World Trade Center," and found it remarkably clear of the controversial politics that often characterize Stone's films. Says Nick:
Oliver Stone is certainly no stranger to controversy - his directorial career is filled with it. So when it was announced that Stone would be directing a feature film about the events of September 11th, many wondered if Stone's left-wing politics would tarnish the cinematic value of the film.

But in "World Trade Center," due to be released on August 9, Stone has put those fears to rest. Instead of a conspiratorial polemic, Stone presents a deeply personal narrative of two real-life Port Authority police officers trapped in the rubble of the North Tower.

Stone depicts the story of Officers John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno in meticulous detail. The effort was "a very austere, technical attempt to be realistic about what happened - to show it as it really was," he told BBC.

By all accounts, Stone has steered clear of political messages his films have become known for. "It seems to me that the event was mythologized by both political sides, into something that they used for political gain, and I think one of the benefits of this movie is that it reminds us of what actually happened that day, in a very realistic sense" he told the New York Times.

There are no running subplots, no distracting romances and few "Hollywood inventions" in the film. There are no complicated plot twists, subliminal messages, or indictments. The film never shows the planes impacting the twin towers, nor does it focus on those behind the attacks. Footage of political figures is kept to a brief minimum - President Bush and Rudy Giuliani make only brief appearances.

In a sense, this is precisely what made the movie powerful and moving. "World Trade Center," more than any other movie in recent memory, relies on the knowledge, emotions and views of its audience to succeed, and relies on its viewers to determine the implicit message.

Perhaps no movie in history can claim to have an audience base so personally connected to the content of the film. September 11 unfolded on TV screens, on the front pages of newspapers and on the Internet. Images of people jumping out windows, planes hitting towers and buildings crumbling were beamed live across the world. The meticulous attention to detail in "World Trade Center" is crucial, given that Americans witnessed the events unfold before their very eyes less than five years ago.

Despite the Stone record, "World Trade Center" is only as political as the viewer makes it out to be. That, more than anything else, serves to respect the sensibilities surrounding such a horrific, recent national tragedy. It is so devoid of conspiracy theories that the conspiracy theorists are now criticizing Stone for failing to spread the "truth" about 9/11.

But there is no denying the "truth" about the heroes of September 11. When Jimeno and McLaughlin are pulled from the rubble and passed down a seemingly endless line of actual rescue workers, it serves as a testament to those who risked their lives to save others. Former Marine Dave Kearns, who originally discovered the trapped officers, stands amongst the rubble and declares, "We're going to need a lot of good men to avenge this."

By avoiding that for which he is known - conspiracy theories and politics - Stone has made a more powerful movie. By the time the closing credits of "World Trade Center" roll, the audience is left in solemn silence, some even brought to tears. It is, fittingly, the same way many of us watched the events unfold in real life, almost five years ago.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:53 PM

A Sample of Our Climate Change Mail

A sample of a typical letter we receive on global warming (except it is unusually polite):
Do you really believe that the educated public can't see the changes taking place before our own eyes? Money and politics won't matter when our environment is beyond repair. Are you all that short-sighted?

Jan
One constant about climate is that it is always changing. So all human beings perceive climate change. How could we not? It changes all around us on a continuous basis from the day we are born.

No individual, however, can (through his own perceptions alone) measure global climate changes, let alone determine the reasons for them or accurately project what changes will occur in the future.

As a result, even if you sincerely believe it is hotter or colder or wetter or calmer where you are now than it was last year or 50 years ago, and even if you are right about that, all that tells you is that it is hotter or colder or wetter or calmer where you are now than it was last year or 50 years ago. Sorry. Climate isn't that simple. Indeed, no one yet born, including those who have devoted a lifetime to its study, has a full understanding of the workings of all the natural systems that drive our extremely complex global climate.

However, Jan, if you are the type who can't help worrying anyway, what is it you suggest? Building more nuclear power plants and hydroelectric dams? Cutting world energy use by 70 percent? Because even if the anthroprogenic (human-caused) global warming theory promoted by Al Gore and others is true and the consequences of it as dire as Gore claims (facts for which there is considerable doubt), the problem won't be solved by sending letters of complaint to conservative think tanks.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:48 AM

Copyright The National Center for Public Policy Research