masthead-highres

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

British Doctors Disillusioned with Central Control

A poll of 3,000 British doctors, says the London Times, "shows a profession disillusioned with central control, angered by the growth of bureaucracy, and deeply skeptical..."

Government-run medicine seems to be working out great in Britain, doesn't it?

Hat tip: Socialized Medicine.

Addendum: More on the same theme. In a post Monday, NHS Blog Doctor says, among other things:
...Currently there is a compulsory 22 week wait for routine surgery at the local hospitals I use. This is end-of-year cost saving.

I have had a patient die of lung cancer before she got to the top of the waiting list for radiotherapy; radiotherapy that would most likely have extended her life.

...there are not enough radiation oncologists, and [the British government health minister's] attempt to paper over the cracks with the cheap alternative of the ludicrous touchy-feely 'lung cancer nurse specialists' has fooled no one...
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:21 AM

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

NASA Climate Guru: Pretend I'm Being Quoted as a Private Citizen

"Private citizen" James Hansen gets headlines for his personal opinion on the construction of coal plants.

Never mind that the headline ("NASA climate guru: Don't build coal plants") refers to his job at NASA, or that an AP article's text identifies him as "NASA scientist James Hansen" and "Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York."

No, Hansen's government job has nothing to do with whether he gets speaking appearances, or is quoted by the press. The AP runs stories on the opinions of ordinary Tom, Dick and Harrys all the time. Especially on attention-grabbing topics like the construction of new coal plants.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:16 PM

Al Gore's Energy Use

From the Tennessee Center for Policy Research comes this interesting information about Al Gore's energy use:
[Al] Gore's mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.

Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.
The Tennessee Center for Policy Research has more details on its website, including the pattern of Gore's energy use since his documentary was released, and the size of Gore's natural gas bills in 2006. You can read it all here.

Hat tip: David Hogberg

Addendum: Brooke Oberwetter, writing on OpenMarket, had another amusing observation about the carbon emissions message at the Academy Awards.

Addendum II, 2/28/07: Daily Kos has an article alleging that this post is illegal. In case anyone is wondering, the blogger, "Enternal Hope," is completely wrong on the legal point, but his/her post nonetheless managed to gather over 100 comments. He/she also posted a poll on the question, which was running against me, 2-1.

Addendum III, 3/1/07: Wulf at Atlas Blogged is having a little fun with the notion that this post is illegal. He also has the single best line about carbon offsets I've ever read:
The logic [behind carbon offsets] is no different from saying that it’s okay to drive one’s Hummer through wetlands and over tortoise eggs, if one is wealthy enough to purchase extinction offsets.
Exactly. And a P.S. to Wulf: I didn't bother to vote for me, either.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:00 AM

Monday, February 26, 2007

Social Security Quiz

What percentage of U.S. GDP does Social Security cost each year?

A) 0.0042 percent
B) 0.042 percent
C) 0.42 percent
D. 4.2 percent

Visit WILLisms.com for more information about the answer (including a pretty scary chart showing what the future holds for Social Security, sans reform), and go back every Thursday for a new Willism post on the importance of Social Security reform.

The correct answer, by the way, is "D."
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:10 AM

Saturday, February 24, 2007

National Heritage Area Elitism Gone Wild

From Peyton Knight:
One of the anti-property rights activists fighting for Rep. Frank Wolf's (R-VA) "Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act" revealed her confusing, yet interesting, take on American government recently.

In response to critics who point out that Rep. Wolf's bill would harm the rights of the property owners within the boundaries of the proposed Heritage Area, the Piedmont Environmental Council's Andrea McGimsey let loose with this head-scratcher:

"Whose taxes are paying for your property rights? Mine are."

I don't know quite what to make of Ms. McGimsey's statement. Seriously. I haven't the foggiest. Suffice it to say she probably skipped more than few remedial government classes in her day. The right to private property is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. It is not made possible by Ms. McGimsey's (or anyone's) tax dollars.

But if it's the plight of the taxpayer that concerns her, she really ought to oppose Rep. Wolf's boondoggle, as it would siphon millions of federal tax dollars to a collection of special interest groups, who would in turn spend that money lobbying for land use restrictions on property owners.

Then again, Ms. McGimsey's outfit is one of the groups that would benefit from this pork-barrel windfall.

So more accurately, she wants every taxpayer in America to pay for her group's mission to take the property rights of citizens in Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Oh yeah. And she's tired of her tax dollars paying for your property rights. (???)
-Peyton Knight


Addendum, 3/5/07: The Other Club interprets Ms. McGimsey's remarks.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:12 AM

Bad News For The "Tax Cuts Cause Deficits" Crowd

From David Hogberg:
A new report (pdf) out by the GAO looks at how two different simulations affect future budget deficits. The first one assumes that spending continues at the same rate of recent years and the Bush tax cuts are extended. The second assumes that the Bush tax cuts expire after 2010 and that increases in discretionary spending is held to increases in inflation, a rate much lower than recent years.

Unfortunately for the tax-cuts-cause-deficits folks, the reports states, "Although the timing of deficits and the resulting debt build up varies depending on the assumptions used, both simulations show that we are on an unsustainable fiscal path."

Looks like spending is the number one culprit of deficits. And the two biggest culprits, based on numbers in the report, are Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

The lesson: Entitlement reform, not tax increases.

-David Hogberg
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:09 AM

Friday, February 23, 2007

Top Ten Global Warming Myths

Christopher Horner, author of "The Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and Environmentalism)," refutes what he considers the top ten global warming myths in Human Events.

Here are the myths (go to Human Events for his rebuttals):
10. The U.S. is going it alone on Kyoto and global warming.

9. Global-warming proposals are about the environment.

8. Climate change is the greatest threat to the world's poor.

7. Global warming means more frequent, more severe storms.

6. Global warming has doomed the polar bears!

5. Climate change is raising the sea levels.

4. The glaciers are melting!

3. Climate was stable until man came along.

2. The science is settled -- CO2 causes global warming.

1. It’s hot in here!
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:57 PM

Marginal Revolution: Tree Owners are Tree Huggers

Looks like a case of property rights helping the environment.

Hat tip: Heritage Policy Weblog.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:41 PM

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

This is What Happens When You Only Read the Press Release

David Hogberg has a bone to pick with the Health Care Blog.

Says David:
Over at the inaptly named Health Care Blog ("Socialized Medicine Blog" would be more accurate), Matthew Holt gives a mini-seminar on the dangers of only reading a press release and not reading the actual study on which the press release is based.

At issue is a recent study, "Self-Pay Markets In Health Care: Consumer Nirvana Or Caveat Emptor?," in the journal Health Affairs by researchers at the Center for Studying Health System Change that examined LASIK eye surgery. LASIK surgery is an ideal area for researching how well markets work in health care, since most LASIK surgery is paid for directly by the consumer and not by third-party payers like insurance companies or government programs.

Holt states: "There's been lots of BS about how the price reductions in those ads for LASIK 'prove' that cash based consumer payment works in health care." And what is that alleged bovine fecal matter regarding LASIK surgery? In a nutshell, it is inconsistent bundling of services, misleading advertising, and lack of information on quality.

However, if you dig into the study, which Holt clearly didn't, LASIK surgery performs very well on two crucial market factors: price and customer satisfaction. As market advocates have argued, when people pay for a service directly, providers compete on price, thereby driving prices down. And that is exactly what you have seen in LASIK surgery. From page w219 in the study:
In the decade that LASIK has been performed in the United States, price and volume have fluctuated; overall, the average price for conventional LASIK has declined nearly 30 percent in inflation-adjusted terms. Two factors appear to be largely responsible for this market's price-competitiveness: (1) On the provider side, a large number of providers (ophthalmologists) can enter the market relatively easily; and (2) on the consumer side, price quotes can be obtained at little cost and inconvenience.
Let me suggest that you are going to have a hard time finding any other area of our medical system where price has dropped by 30% over the last decade.

As for customer satisfaction, this is what the researchers noted on w221:
Satisfaction rates among LASIK patients are high: about 93 percent nationwide, according to one survey. Among premium-price practices, especially those emphasizing careful screening and patient preparation, satisfaction rates can reach the high 90s. Even among high-volume discounters, some of which have received negative publicity for questionable business practices and some bad outcomes, satisfaction rates range in the 80s.
Lower prices and high customer satisfaction. Looks like markets are working exactly the way they are supposed to.

But what about the other problems? First, what's notable is that the authors of the article do not quote any free-market health care advocates claiming that in a market there will be no inconsistent bundling or misleading advertising. Of course these things are going to exist! On inconsistent bundling, the press release states, "The package of services included in LASIK procedure fees varies across providers. For example, one critical factor is whether the cost of enhancement surgery is included in the fee." The "package of services... varies across providers"! Goshen To Christmas!!! You mean that when I go to buy a car, some providers are going to provide leather seats and CD players, while others will offer none, while still other will offer only one of those two? Or when I go to buy a computer, different providers will provide different levels of computer speed, different quality monitors, etc., etc.? In most markets we call that "diversity" and it is a good thing, since not everyone needs exactly the same product. Apparently it is a bad thing in health care. Why that is so the authors don't say.

As for misleading advertising, sure, it undoubtedly exists. So what? It exists in almost every market, be it cars, computers, or even essentials like food and housing. Is there any particular reason to expect that health care will be any different? And could someone please point me to the free-market advocate who ever said that misleading advertising wouldn't exist in LASIK?

As for the final criticism, that of lack of quality information, the press release states, "Even when consumers are interested in obtaining quality information, the study finds that it is not easy; those wishing to compare provider quality must gather information on success and complication rates from each LASIK surgeon's practice." The study goes further, complaining that there is "No centralized source" for consumer information on doctors who perform LASIK, and that most LASIK consumers choose their surgeon on the basis of "word of mouth."

Who ever said that a centralized source on LASIK quality would exist? There are plenty of services that have no centralized source on quality. Try hiring a gardener, landscaper, or real estate agent if you don't believe me. Nor is "word of mouth" undesirable. Indeed, it is an excellent information shortcut, reducing costs such as time and money. If you have a friend who had LASIK, is there a better way to determine the quality of the doctor than by asking that friend about his experience? Maybe I'm way off base here, but I'll bet that word of mouth - i.e., relying on friends and family for advice on purchasing services and products - is a very widespread practice and a pretty effective one, too.

Columnist Mike Adams recently made the excellent point that the political left "always manage to win the argument as long as they are arguing against something we aren't saying." That seems to be the case with the way the authors of this article treated advocates for more markets in health care.

And that seems to fit Matthew Holt's agenda just fine, as long as he doesn't read beyond the press release.
-David Hogberg

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:08 AM

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Feeling Good About Saving the Planet

So what if these tops require a great deal of energy to create and transport -- they make the wearer feel like they're helping save the planet.

That's what it's all about, right?

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:50 AM

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Another Bit Of "Unbiased" Reporting On the U.S. Health Care System

Our David Hogberg found the following press release on Yahoo!:
The United States may be the wealthiest country in the world, but we rank only 15th in overall health care for chronic disease sufferers, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And our health is suffering as a result: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 600,000 people are admitted to U.S. hospitals every year because of diabetes, and almost 300,000 people die from the disease and its complications, many of which could be avoided -- if our health care system were different.
Says David, in response:
Of course, any statistic coming from the WHO has to be taken with a grain of salt the size of Mount McKinley. Remember, this is the same organization that in 2000 released a report that ranked the U.S. health care system 37th in the world, behind the health care powerhouses of Colombia, Morocco, Dominica and Costa Rica.

The WHO defines chronic diseases as cardiovascular diseases, mainly heart disease and stroke; cancer; chronic respiratory diseases; and diabetes (see page 35 of this WHO report). I constructed two tables using data available at this WHO webpage. I compared the twenty most developed nations in the world and created tables based on total deaths from chronic diseases and those from diabetes.

Table 1: Deaths Due to Chronic Diseases
RankCountry Age Standardized
Death Rate Per 100K
1Japan275
2Switzerland343
3France349
4Sweden364
5Canada371
6Iceland374
7Spain379
8Israel380
9Italy387
10Luxembourg396
11Austria398
12Finland411
13Belgium413
14U.K.419
15Germany433
16U.S.442
17Portugal446
18Greece450
19Ireland468
20Denmark484



Table 2: Deaths Due To Diabetes
RankCountry Age Standardized
Death Rate Per 100K
1Greece4
1Japan4
3Finland5
3U.K.5
3Iceland5
6Belgium7
6Luxembourg7
8Austria8
8Ireland8
8Sweden8
9France9
12Switzerland11
12Germany11
12Spain11
15Canada13
16Italy14
17Denmark15
18Portugal17
18U.S.17
20Israel 36


You can see that we are ranked 16th on total deaths (that's pretty close to 15th, so let's assume that the press release got it basically right). We rank just above last on diabetes.

The problem, though, is that the statistic is "age standardized death rate per 100,000." In other words, the death rate is adjusted only for age of the population, not for any other factor. That matters because the U.S. has a much higher population of people of African descent than those other nations, a population that is at much higher risk (see here and here) of diabetes and heart disease than the white population. Were the different racial makeup of these nations accounted for, the numbers would probably look much different.

The WHO number in the press release is not the only one that is misleading. The press release also states that, according to the CDC, 600,000 people are hospitalized each year in the U.S. due to diabetes and "almost 300,000 people die from the disease and its complications." Looking over the CDC's website, I found that 597,000 Americans are hospitalized each year-about 600,000. But the website also shows that 224,092 of those die. Is that really "almost 300,000"? It would seem that the number would have to be closer to 300,000 than 200,000 for the adjective "almost" to apply. It's a bit like saying that when Barry Bonds hit 73 home runs in 2001, he hit "almost 80."

No need to worry, though. Despite the use of questionable statistics, you can be sure that the news program on diabetes that this press release is announcing will be the utmost of fair, objective, balanced journalism. Just look at the very next sentence of the press release: "The sorrowful state of diabetes care in America is examined this week on dLifeTV, the weekly, national show about diabetes, airing this Sunday on CNBC at 7:00 PM ET (6:00PM CT/4:00PM PT)."
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:08 AM

Party for the Planet

Dan Gainor looks at the environmental side effects of Al Gore's planned “Live Earth” concert.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:56 AM

Global Warming's Predicted Effects - With a Twist

"Melting polar ice caps to raise the level of seas and flood the continents... the great ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic are melting and pouring their torrents into the oceans... The earth is steadily growing warmer... the sea level will rise fifty feet... Fish will swim in Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, for most of England will lie beneath the waves... if what are now frozen tracts around the North and South Poles are to bear sub-tropical life, man's food supply will not be what it is now."

Read all about it in the New York Times, May 15, 1932.

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:29 AM

Friday, February 16, 2007

Jonathan's Law

The Carey family of New York State has been promoting "Jonathan's Law," a proposal to make records concerning the care of disabled children available to the child's parents.

The Careys are promoting this law after the state's Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities kept them from viewing records relating to the investigation of allegations that their autistic son Jonathan was physically abused while attending a private school specializing in the education of autistic youngsters. Jonathan was unable to speak, and as such, he could not tell his parents what had happened to him at school.

The Careys removed Jonathan from the school in question and enrolled him in another. As this story shows, Jonathan liked his new school.

Tragically, last Thursday, Jonathan was killed while in the second school's care. As the Albany Times Union reports the story:
The 13-year-old child who died while being transported from the O.D. Heck Developmental Center was the same boy who was allegedly abused while a resident of the Anderson School in Dutchess County in 2004, his parents confirmed to the Times Union today.

Mike and Lisa Carey said authorities told them their son, Jonathan, was inappropriately restrained by two O.D. Heck workers in a transport van Thursday night going through Colonie and couldn't be revived.

"We are devastated,'' Mike Carey sobbed. "He was such a special human being. Jonathan loved Jesus. And maybe this is the Lord's way of getting Jonathan's law passed as soon as possible.''

The two center employees -- identified by town police as Edwin Tirado, 35, of 1634 6th Ave., Schenectady, and Nadeem Mall, 32, 9 Plaske Drive, Schenectady -- have been charged with second-degree manslaughter.

The two men drove around for 1 1/2 hours after the boy stopped breathing said Colonie Police Chief Steven Heider in an afternoon press conference. They went to a Hess Mart for drinks and then drove to a toy store in Mohawk Commons, a short distance from O.D. Heck, to buy a video game and drop it off at Tirado's Schenectady home.

Mall was driving a van to take the 13-year-old and a 14-year-old patient from O.D. Heck to Crossgates Mall. They first stopped at the Hannaford on Wolf Road so that Mall could get cash from an ATM. When he returned, Heider said, Tirado was restraining the boy in the back seat of the van.

The boy soon stopped breathing. "The two adults rendered no aid and they did not return to O.D. Heck for an hour and a half,'' Heider said.

More than two hours after they left for the mall, they finally returned and told O.D. Heck workers they had a medical emergency. Efforts were made to revive the boy there, and he was then taken to St. Clare's Hospital where he was pronounced dead...
I have not read Jonathan's Law, and would not make a recommendation regarding its passage unless I had, but I hope legislators will keep in mind the very special circumstances of children who, due to age or disability, cannot tell their parents about the things that happen to them. Regardless of how it comes about, Jonathan's parents deserve to know the full story of what happened to him -- in both schools. I do not believe the government at any level has the right to withhold information about a child from his parents. It is shocking to me that it even tries.

As a matter of deterrence, persons who work with nonverbal individuals should know that the government won't cover up details in the event they abuse their charges. In my experience, most people who work with special students like Jonathan are wonderful, committed folks who work very hard and shower their students with a lot of loving care. Unfortunately, it would be naive to assume that those who would hurt a child wouldn't be emboldened by the fact that a nonverbal child can't tell anyone about the abuse.

Everyone deserves to be safe. Thos who cannot help protect themselves need extra protection, including sufficient transparency of records to permit their families to know everything it is possible to know about the quality of their care.

In closing, here's an article with a picture of Jonathan. My heart goes out to his family.

Addendum, 5/23/07: Jonathan's Law has been adopted by the New York state legislature and signed into law by New York Governor Elliot Spitzer.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:33 PM

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Social Security Nominee Rejected Because He Believes in Personal Accounts

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has announced he is refusing even to hold hearings on President Bush's nominee, Andrew Biggs, to be the #2 official at the Social Security Administration.

Baucus is refusing to schedule a hearing not because Biggs is unqualified, but because Baucus doesn't like his opinions. Biggs, you see, believes Social Security would be improved if the law were to be changed to allow Americans to put some of money they pay in Social Security taxes into personal retirement accounts they control (and can leave to their heirs after their deaths). Baucus wants the government to continue to control every dime, to continue taxing retirees to "give" them their own money back (with a lousy rate of return), and to keep all leftover funds, if any, when the retiree dies.

If you're thinking that Biggs, had he been approved for the #2 spot, would have been unable to create personal retirement accounts, you're right. Such a change would require an act of Congress. So Biggs essentially is being rejected for his personal views -- views he couldn't impose on anyone, had he gotten the job.

We wrote about this earlier here.

Addendum: Michael Tanner, writing about the Biggs nomination on the Cato Institute blog last November, put it very well:
Anyone who thinks that Democrats might be prepared to work in a bipartisan manner to reform Social Security should be quickly disabused by their disgraceful treatment of Andrew Biggs, President Bush’s nominee to be the next deputy administrator of the Social Security Administration. Biggs, who once worked for me, is a distinguished economist and expert on Social Security, who has earned the respect of people on all sides of the Social Security debate. During the time we worked together, he proved to be a rigorous analyst, who followed the numbers wherever they led, always choosing facts over ideology. No one ever criticized his character or the quality of his research.

However, Biggs is an advocate of personal accounts. As a result, some Democrats in Congress, the New York Times, and the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare have embarked on a campaign to smear him and scuttle his nomination. Democrats appear to be saying that holding any opinion with which they disagree makes one unfit for public office. If that’s the course they plan to pursue in the next Congress, more than just hope for Social Security reform will go down the drain.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:03 AM

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Hard Look Applies Ockham's Razor

The Hard Look blog applies Ockham's Razor to climate change:
If Franciscan friar William of Ockham were alive today, he would reject the IPCC report and instead point to the work of Dr. Henrik Svensmark, who presents hard data showing variations in solar activity control nearly all global warming and cooling.

Ockham argued that the explanation of any phenomenon should make as few assumptions as possible, eliminating, or "shaving off", those that make no difference in the observable predictions of the explanatory hypothesis or theory. (Hence, Ockham’s Razon, which shaves away the unnecessary assumptions.) As applied to the IPCC Global Warming report, Ockham would shave away pretty much everything between the two covers dealing with anthropomorphic (human caused) sources of global warming. Why? Because...
Visit The Hard Look blog for the rest.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:36 PM

Prosecuting Global Warming Deniers

From Dennis Prager:
...it would not be surprising that soon, in Europe, global warming deniers will be treated as Holocaust deniers and prosecuted. Just watch. That is far more likely than the oceans rising by 20 feet. Or even 10. Or even three.
A few years ao, I would have considered the possibility of prosecuting people for their opinions on environmental issues a preposterous notion, but I no longer do.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:14 PM

"On Behalf of Jeff Immelt and the Other Sane People at GE, I Say...

...[expletive deleted] you."

Why is GE so afraid of a little transparency?

The publicly-traded Free Enterprise Action Fund wants GE shareholders to vote on a proposal to require GE management to explain why GE is lobbying in favor of economically-restrictive global warming regulations.

The Free Enterprise Action Fund also wants shareholders to vote on asking GE management to consider whether the global warming policies GE is publicly advocating would be good for GE's bottom line.

Reasonable request, right? Just a little transparency, and a little thinking things through. The proposal doesn't even ask GE to change its policy -- just to explain it.

GE's management doesn't think it is reasonable at all.

According to the Wall Street Journal, GE was so opposed to letting its shareholders vote on this that it hired the mega law firm of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher to fight the Free Enterprise Action Fund's proposal. But GE's scheme failed. Shareholders will get to vote.

Why is GE afraid to explain its global warming position to its own shareholders?

GE management's sympathizers apparently are very frustrated that shareholders will vote on the transparency measure. The "expletive deleted" sentence cited at the start of this post was taken from the subject line of an e-mail apparently from a former Gibson Dunn partner, Larry Simms, to the Free Enterprise Action Fund Monday afternoon. The e-mail, a copy of which I have seen, is from the e-mail address listed on Gibson Dunn's website as belonging to Simms.

I e-mailed Tom Borelli of Action Fund Management, LLC, investment advisor to the Free Enterprise Action Fund (and a senior fellow here at the National Center for Public Policy Research), to confirm the facts in the Wall Street Journal Law Blog story "Law Blog Email of the Day, By Gibson Dunn's Larry Simms." He did, and added a comment of his own:
Just another example illustrating that CEO Jeff Immelt can't manage his businesses or his consultants. Under his management, NBC News hires William M. Arkin - a Greenpeace activist - as a military analyst and he partners with environmental activists to lobby for global warming regulations that will harm the economy and GE's future earnings. It's no wonder GE stock has underperformed the market. Conservatives should vote for the Free Enterprise Action Fund shareholder proposal on global warming and show up at GE's shareholder meeting - liberal CEOs need to feel the heat.
Meanwhile, Gibson Dunn seems to be backpedaling away from the e-mail as fast as it can. The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog says:
Said a spokesperson for GE to the Law Blog: “If this email was sent, it was clearly without our knowledge or consent.”

“Larry Simms was not involved in representing GE on its proxy statement and is a retired former partner of the Firm,” said a Gibson Dunn spokeswoman in an emailed statement. “As such, Mr. Simms is not authorized to speak for the Firm, nor on behalf of any of its clients. Gibson Dunn did not authorize, nor does it condone, Mr. Simms’ comments.”
By Monday evening, the Gibson Dunn appeared to have scrubbed most of Simms' bio off its website (though Google's cache still had its copy).

I'm unaware of any public comments Simms has made on this matter, but its always possible that politics plays a role. Campaignmoney.com shows Simms to be a donor to Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004.

But if politics is Simms' motivation, what's GE's?

I guess we'll have to wait to see if GE shareholders vote to force GE management to explain.


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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:27 AM

Monday, February 12, 2007

The Totalitarian Left

Randy Hall reports that some Methodists are objecting to President Bush putting his presidential library at Southern Methodist University -- but Jimmy Carter's Carter Center is "partnered" with United Methodist-related Emory University.

Maybe these particular Methodists only like presidents with "Jewish problems."

(Yes, I realize I'm being over-the-top here, but really, these liberals should be ashamed of themselves. They don't want to out-argue conservatives; they just want to keep us from speaking out. Very totalitarian of them.)

Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:58 PM

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Vaclav Klaus: Environmentalism is a New Incarnation of Leftism

Harvard Professor Lubos Motl's website has an English translation of an entertaining, and very hard-hitting, interview Czech Republic President Vaclav Klaus gave recently on global warming.

A couple of quotes:
"...it's obvious that environmentalism is a new incarnation of modern leftism."

"[The idea that Man is demolishing the planet is] such a nonsense that I have probably not heard a bigger nonsense yet."

"Perhaps only Mr Al Gore may be saying [we're ruining our planet]: a sane person can't. I don't see any ruining of the planet, I have never seen it, and I don't think that a reasonable and serious person could say such a thing."

"It's clear that the poorer the society is, the more brutally it behaves with respect to Nature..."

"It's also true that there exist social systems that are damaging Nature - by eliminating private ownership and similar things..."
It's worth reading the whole thing.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:24 AM

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Global Warming Scaredy Cats III

From Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam, last year:
I sat in a roomful of journalists 10 years ago while Stanford climatologist Stephen Schneider lectured us on a big problem in our profession: soliciting opposing points of view. In the debate over climate change, Schneider said, there simply was no legitimate opposing view to the scientific consensus that man - made carbon emissions drive global warming. To suggest or report otherwise, he said, was irresponsible.

Indeed. I attended a week's worth of lectures on global warming at the Chautauqua Institution last month. Al Gore delivered the kickoff lecture, and, 10 years later, he reiterated Schneider's directive. There is no science on the other side, Gore inveighed, more than once. Again, the same message: If you hear tales of doubt, ignore them. They are simply untrue.

I ask you: Are these convincing arguments? And directed at journalists, who are natural questioners and skeptics, of all people? What happens when you are told not to eat the apple, not to read that book, not to date that girl? Your interest is piqued, of course. What am I not supposed to know?

Here's the kind of information the "scientific consensus" types don't want you to read. MIT's Alfred P. Sloan professor of meteorology Richard Lindzen recently complained about the "shrill alarmism" of Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth." Lindzen acknowledges that global warming is real, and he acknowledges that increased carbon emissions might be causing the warming -- but they also might not.

"We do not understand the natural internal variability of climate change" is one of Lindzen's many heresies, along with such zingers as "the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940," "the evidence so far suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average," and "Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why."

When Lindzen published similar views in The Wall Street Journal this spring, environmentalist Laurie David, the wife of comedian Larry David, immediately branded him a "shill." She resurrected a shopworn slur first directed against Lindzen by former Globe writer Ross Gelbspan, who called Lindzen a "hood ornament" for the fossil fuels industry in a 1995 article in Harper's Magazine.

I decided to check out Lindzen for myself...
Continue reading here.

If Al Gore et al are so sure the science points to certain climate calamity, why do they so strongly urge the public to ignore, rather than study and reject, alternative points of view?

They're boot-shaking scared of true combat in the battle of ideas, that's why.

Earlier posts in this series are here and here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:49 PM

Regarding Jacques Chirac's Kyoto Tax: A Counterproposal

Jacques Chirac of France has proposed a Kyoto tax, specifically, an import tax against the U.S. and other nations shunning the Kyoto global warming agreement and its successor treaty, the soon-to-be-negotiated Kyoto II: This Time We Mean It (Wink Wink).

Chirac's Kyoto tax is a tad ironic, as it appears the Kyoto-shunning U.S. is cleaning the European Union's clock when it comes to carbon emissions.

From Reuters, by way of ABC News (excerpted):
U.S. cuts emissions better than Europe: White House

WASHINGTON - The White House said on Wednesday the United States had done better at reducing carbon emissions than Europe, where U.S. President George W. Bush's stance on global warming has been sharply criticized.

The Bush administration has taken steps that "demonstrate real seriousness, not simply giving the speeches, but walking the walk," White House spokesman Tony Snow said, adding that "We are doing a better job of reducing emissions" than Europe.

"So the idea that ... we don't understand the arguments, or we're not contemplating or taking seriously the arguments about carbon caps, of course we are," he said.

While many environmentalists have urged mandatory caps on carbon dioxide emissions, as imposed in Europe, Bush opposes the idea and advocates the development of new technologies to reduce dependence on oil.

"I would point out that ... there is a carbon cap system in place in Europe, we are doing a better job of reducing emissions here," Snow said.

The White House said Snow was referring to figures from the International Energy Agency that from 2000 to 2004, U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion grew by 1.7 percent, while in the European Union such emissions grew by 5 percent.

Snow said Bush had acknowledged a link between climate change and human activity and had pursued the "most aggressive program of research and technology ever" on that issue.

The United States has also been providing technology to the developing world, which is not included in the Kyoto Protocol that binds 35 industrial countries to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by at least 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012. The United States is not bound by Kyoto targets...
So, my fellow Americans, I ask you: Should we tax imports from the European Union?

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:21 AM

Don't Squelch Opportunities

Project 21 Fellow Deneen Borelli and the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's Ryan S. Olson are calling on Michigan legislators not to squelch the ability of children in Detroit and elsewhere to attend failing public schools:
Legislators: Listen to Detroit Parents

The start of a new year often carries hope for a brighter future.Yet this hope is not shared by tens of thousands of students trapped in Detroit’s failing public school district. Despite the perennially appalling indications of low school quality in Detroit, the state Legislature has consistently failed to expand the number of charter schools, which provide a successful alternative for desperate students and parents.

Consider recent statistics on school quality. According to the fall 2006 and class of 2006 results, Detroit Public School students failed to score at the "proficient" level on 133,767 state tests in science, reading, mathematics and other subjects. That represents more than half of the Michigan Educational Assessment Program tests taken in Detroit.

Graduation rates are an equally depressing indicator: A Manhattan Institute study released last year estimated that just 42 percent of the DPS class of 2003 graduated from the city’s public high schools.

Parents and community groups must play an important role in increasing support for charter schools.

Perhaps a more revealing indicator of the quality of a school system is parental satisfaction. Parents and guardians who are unhappy with their children’s schools will vote with their feet. Remember that charter schools are public schools to which students have not been assigned by ZIP code, but which are chosen by parents as the best available educational environment for their children.

Last year, charter schools in Detroit enrolled more than one-fifth as many students as DPS, according to a report released late last year by the Michigan Department of Education. Based on a slightly different percentage, a September 2006 report from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked Detroit fifth highest in the nation in charter school "market share." In fact, many charter schools have waiting lists; several received more calls than they could handle from parents during the illegal Detroit Federation of Teachers strike last fall.

This level of charter enrollment indicates dissatisfaction with the schools to which students in Detroit are assigned. The demand for charter schools in Detroit and many other areas is at least in part driven by the failure of many conventional public schools to provide children with safe, quality classrooms.

Unfortunately for Detroit’s parents, children and teachers, the number of available charter schools is limited in part by the statewide cap on university-chartered schools and the districtwide prohibition of new community college-chartered schools.

Many suburban schools accept some students from Detroit, but the number of kids admitted is low compared to the need. Furthermore, fewer and fewer independent and parochial schools are available, and tuition can be prohibitive. Until a full parental choice policy involving all schools — such as the Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s universal tuition tax credit — is implemented, parents will have only limited public school choices.

The paucity of options makes charters a politically viable way for parents to secure the education their children need. To increase parents’ charter options, a number of actions must be taken.

First, the new state Legislature should follow the lead of Detroit Democrat Rep. LaMar Lemmons Jr. in advocating for more charter schools in the district.

Second, Detroit’s education leaders must thwart tactics designed to obstruct opportunities for all students, such as the cynical actions exhibited by the Detroit Federation of Teachers when philanthropist Robert Thompson twice offered $200 million to establish new charter schools in the city. Despite union saber rattling, plans for one new Detroit high school chartered by Grand Valley State University are progressing. Other entrepreneurs should take advantage of the Michigan law that allows chartering authorities to establish 14 more charter high schools in the district.

Third, parents and community groups must play an important role in increasing support for charter schools. Parents can visit charter schools to see students’ progress firsthand and get feedback from teachers and students. They can also work to gain the support of local elected officials, neighborhood leaders and organizations.

Fourth, policymakers and education officials must resist the urge to add to charter schools the burden of further regulations concerning "quality." Quality is effectively addressed by the choices of education consumers — parents — and schools should not be hampered by more rules that limit how school leaders offer the educational services that parents desire.

Despite numerous impediments, charter schools are in high demand in Detroit. That demand should not be squelched by those who force children to attend failing public schools and thereby dim children’s chances for a bright future.
This article was published by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy on February 5.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:48 AM

Friday, February 09, 2007

Ronald Reagan's Birthday Party

Ronald Reagan birthday cake
David Almasi and his wife Nancy had a birthday party for Ronald Reagan this week. They've shared a picture of the cake.

Here's something we wrote in commemoration of Reagan's birthday in 2005. I particularly draw your attention to this link to a picture of a rainbow's pot of gold falling right on the house where Reagan was born on February 6, 1911. The picture was snapped at 4 PM local time on November 4, 1980, the day Reagan was first elected president. By 4 PM, the public had probably put him over the top, although the race wouldn't be called for another three hours or so yet.

I worked for the Reagan-Bush campaign in 1980. Reagan won so quickly, we didn't even have time to get to the victory party before the networks called it.

I'd tell you we minded but... we didn't. It was a great day.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 9:27 PM

An Apology for Slavery is Redundant, Says Project 21's Mychal Massie

As quoted in the Dallas Morning News, Project 21 Chairman Mychal Massie says an apology for slavery -- presently under consideration in the Virginia legislature -- is redundant:
"Not every black person in this country is a descendent of slaves. Not every white person in this country is a descendent of people who owned slaves," he said. "It worsens the tensions between blacks and whites."

Moreover, an apology won't cure community ills, said Mychal Massie, with the National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives.

That will come from blacks emphasizing two-parent homes, education over fast money and personal responsibility for life choices, Mr. Massie said.

"A willing disregard for responsibility, a willing disrespect for education, ad nauseam, is not attributable in any way to slavery," said Mr. Massie, who considers an apology redundant.

"We see black leaders on every level," he said. "America has apologized."
Read the full article here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:58 AM

We've Got Political Leaders Who Rely on Blacks Being Slaves and Underdogs, Says Project 21's Reginald Jones

Project 21 member Reginald Jones spoke frankly about Black History Month at a speech at Ohio University earlier this week.

As reported by the Athens News (excerpted):
Black conservative activist Reginald Jones discussed his controversial view of Black History Month, criticizing the media and politicians, in a lecture Tuesday night at Ohio University.

"Black History Month is a month-long funeral to bemoan the condition of black people so we will be seen as underdogs who need special help," Jones alleged.

A native of South Bronx, Jones is a 20-year veteran of the music industry and founder of The Reggitainment Group, an entertainment company that manages, promotes, and publishes music.

He is also a spokesman for Project 21, The National Leadership Network of Black Conservatives. He has hosted his own radio and television shows and has appeared on programs on various networks, including MSNBC, CBS Radio, and the Fox News Channel...

..."Accomplishments in arts, sciences, literature -- you name it -- go unnoticed," he said. "Black History Month is a month-long political message on the suffering of black people."

But that's a distorted picture of black America, he claimed. "We don't all live on food stamps. We don't all wind up in prison," Jones said. "We've just got political leaders whose lives rely on blacks being slaves and underdogs."

What this means, he said, is that uplifting role models are ignored in favor of victims.

"Any success stories, any miraculous life stories are swept under the rug and people will never know," Jones said. "We have overcome insurmountable odds. It cannot be denied the lengths we have gone from what we once were. The majority of us have overcome and are still overcoming and defying odds. That is the true story of Black History Month."

Jones blamed the media for the common perception of African Americans.

"Those who make it and make a difference go unnoticed. They don't fit the template of what black people are supposed to be," Jones said. "We have to know how dangerous it is that the media constantly portray one message and one message only."

He used Hurricane Katrina as an example of the one-sided media portrayal of blacks. "The majority of faces of victims we saw were black," Jones said. "Heroes were predominately black, too, and you never saw their faces. You never even heard of them."

Jones also criticized the media for turning to Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson for comment on all African American issues.

"Media always run to the same two people and never get any other black opinion," Jones said...

..."We feed black youth the idea that the only way out of the ghetto is to dribble a ball or get on a mic and cuss out everyone," Jones said. "We use Black History Month to waste a golden opportunity to educate youth. Things are being left out."

...Jones' visit was sponsored by the Ohio University College Republicans, with the help of Young America's Foundation....
Read it all here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:54 AM

Wal-Mart Calling for Socialized Medicine?

Hard to tell, since the statement their executives apparently agreed to is meaningless pap, but the presence of the Center for American Progress and some ardently left-wing labor unions at an event calling for universal access to health coverage hardly makes it sound like a call for more health savings accounts.

The statement on the Wal-Mart website plays down the socialism angle without actually ruling it out, but this AP story seems to play it up.

Should future Americans be forced to wait six months for life-saving operations because Wal-Mart wanted a jot of good publicity?

Socialized medicine systems offer COVERAGE, not CARE.

Which means, when they kill you, the bill comes in the form of taxes rather than an invoice.

How sweet.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:43 AM

Thursday, February 08, 2007

"I Was Shocked at the Ignorance and Rudeness of the Members of Congress"

Joe Roche attended Rep. Henry Waxman's hearing on private military contractors on February 7. He wasn't very impressed -- with Rep. Waxman and his colleagues, that is.
Dear Amy,

The House Governmental Reform Committee hearings, led by Rep. Henry Waxman, are an absurd display of abuse, distortion and recklessness. I attended it today because there were some people testifying who deserve America's greatest thanks. Instead, they were treated horribly and made to look very bad.

It wasn't a hearing to actually learn of the work and value of the private military contractors (PMCs) who serve our country. Instead, it was a fiasco performance meant to demonize and humiliate them. I was shocked at the ignorance and rudeness of the members of Congress there.

PMCs, like Haliburton, perform an absolutely critical role for our nation and our military. They take care of things that we, the military, simply can't do for a number of reasons. Food, supplies, housing units, things like that they take care of thus allowing us soldiers to be the spear of the nation. I believe that what they save us financially because of the competitive marketing they go through, as opposed to sinking all this into a federal bureaucracy, is far more than any lost sums of money in waste and fraud.

The people who run and work the PMCs are frequently people of absolutely heroic character. I remember some in Iraq I worked with who had been soldiers in Vietnam. Now, after 30-plus years, they want to continue serving our country, so there they are in every war zone we are involved in today. They suffer and die just like the rest of us soldiers, and leave behind families for many months at a time.

The Members of Congress on the Committee were hiding behind the suffering of the families who lost loved ones in attacks on the PMCs in Iraq. That was disgusting! They made the PMCs look bad, insinuating all sorts of malicious things, all the while saying they're doing this for the families. Nonsense!

What Waxman, Dennis Kucinich and the other Congressmen are trying to do is bleed out every little shred of suspicion of scandal against the Bush Administration. They acted like vultures, ignoring the important service of the PMCs and instead just kept hammering away on all sorts of scandal-suggesting themes.

Waxman, with an elitism that was grotesque, acted all offended when for reasons of national security or Arab cultural practices, the PMC representatives couldn't answer some things. Waxman, Kucinich and the others know exactly what they are doing. It was all a performance meant to emotionally upset the American people who only catch the short sound-bite news coverage.

For example, it was easy to lament the unaccountable huge sums of money that have been spent on projects. Yes, there was some waste and abuse. More important, though, is that those operations are happening in Arab culture, Iraqi society, where Wall Street accounting just doesn't happen. This doesn't mean all that money was lost and wasted, but just that it was spent differently. This is what happens in war zones, in foreign lands, in places where things have been bad and corrupt.

I sat next to the press corps table and watched as they laughed, snickered, and got excited with every little challenge that was thrown at the PMCs. One reporter said, "I'm just here to see Haliburton get nailed." I glared, but then realized this is just the process that has been unleashed by such hearings as this.

There is no way we are being served well by Congress with hearings like this. The members of Congress gave really bizarre speeches at the beginning that had nothing to do with the real issues. Instead, they were just speaking to impress viewers and readers of the news with short attention spans. Then, after they gave their speeches, only four-or-so remained for the rest of the hours of the hearings. They didn't care about the issues, the PMCs, what is really involved. All they wanted to do was to perform so as to manipulate and fool the American people into thinking there is all sorts of Bush Administration scandal with the PMCs.

I was intrigued how the Democrats harped on the PMCs as being a Bush scandal. The reality is that PMCs became a vital part of our military after the Cold War, DURING the Clinton Administration because of the damaging downsizing that happened in the 1990s. In fact, Haliburton's contract that they are operating on in Iraq was negotiated by the Clinton Administration in 1998.

Rather than all this vulture-like scandal-mongering, I wish someone on the Committee would just say, "Thank you for having a Can-Do attitude and getting the job done!" This is all Patton, Bradley, McArthur or any of our past military leaders did. This nitpicking by Congress against the PMCs could do our military great harm in the future if this Committee fools too many people.

I want to suggest a book to read for those interested in a balanced and clear view of PMCs in Iraq. It is called A Bloody Business: America's War Zone Contractors and the Occupation of Iraq. I'm sorry that the title and cover picture aren't good to have around children, but it is a good book to read.

Joe

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:22 AM

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Gay Marriage Activists Seek to Put the Government in Bedrooms

The folks who try to argue that traditional marriage can't be harmed by the gay rights agenda might want to tell these folks to put a sock in it.

Trying to get a law passed to forcibly annul marriages if the couple does not have children within three years of the wedding is hardly the way to strengthen any marriages. It's not a particularly wise public policy, either. What if a young married couple strongly wants to have children, but thinks it would be wise to finish school or pay off school loans first?

And, of course, those couples having difficulty conceiving will certainly appreciate the extra psychological pressure of a government-imposed reproduction deadline.

The time frame is nothing if not ungenerous. Folks get two years and a few months to get pregnant, or their marriage is kaput -- orders from the state. All you need is for one spouse to get sent overseas with the U.S. military (not necessarily Iraq, either -- we have plenty of long overseas deployments to South Korea and elsewhere) and the two year pregnancy window gets cut pretty short.

The minute a liberal sex activist tells you he wants to keep government out of the bedroom, believe the opposite.

Addendum: I've had e-mail suggesting (or, at the very least, wondering), if the fact that I objected to this "automatic annulment" idea with examples of how it adversely would affect married couples that do have children means that I don't disagree with the idea quite so much when it comes to childless married couples. Not so. I object to the automatic annulment idea across the board, in more ways than I had time to post.

I don't write about the gay marriage issue often, but anyone who is interested in more of my views on the matter might check out a response I wrote to Andrew Sullivan in 2004, when he expressed the opinion that, under the U.S. Constitution, "...under almost any rational understanding of equal protection, civil marriage has to be extended to gay couples." I think he's wrong about that.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:24 AM

Environmentalists are Hypocrites

Environmentalists scream bloody murder when the Administration involves itself in the preparation of government science-related press materials and reports, mistakenly screaming "censorship" when government scientists are required to follow even the most benign editing procedures.

On the other hand...

Environmentalists also demand near-worship of the IPCC, which mandates that its reports undergo, as British Professor Philip Stott has pointed out, "review by governments" before release.

So when the Bush Administration reviews the reports of its own employees, it gets criticized by the New York Times and Bill O'Reilly and others and is subject to a Henry Waxman Hill hearing, but when governments acting through the United Nations involve themselves in the content of the IPCC reports, there's no criticism at all.

In fact, we're expected to treat IPCC reports like Holy Writ.

Addendum: Scarcely had I posted this blog item when I happened to read this story, which says the governor of Oregon wants to fire the state's climatologist because the climatologist does not believe human beings are the main cause of climate changes.

Firing a scientist would seem to censor him more effectively than editing him would. Should we expect a New York Times expose? Will Bill O'Reilly wax indignant on Fox? Will the Union of Concerned Scientists issue a report noting that X percent of state climatologists have "perceived" cases in which a state climatologist was censored? Will Rep. Henry Waxman hold a condemnatory hearing?

We'll wait to see.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:10 AM

Monday, February 05, 2007

Kennedy Mum on Chavez?

Now that several days have passed since Venezuela's "legislature" gave Hugo Chavez a dictator's powers, I thought I'd visit the website of his American buddy, former Congressman and Citizens Energy Corp CEO Joseph P. Kennedy II, to see if Kennedy and his organization, which accepts subsidized oil (in-kind donations) from Chavez, had anything to say, pro or con, about the demise of democracy in Venezuela.

The Citizens Energy Corp website press release page says nothing about Chavez -- or anybody else in 2007, for that matter.

I then checked the websites of organizations on whose board of directors Joe Kennedy serves. I used for my list of boards the following paragraphs from the family bios page of the Robert F Kennedy Memorial:
Joseph P. Kennedy II has provided advice to the CHR on projects involving Capitol Hill and the US State Department.

The former Congressman is currently Chairman and President of Citizens Energy Corporation www.citizensenergy.com, which he had established in 1979. Joe is also active on the Boards of Directors of: Provide Commerce www.prvd.com; Thomas C. Wales Foundation www.walesfoundation.org; Chicago Climate Exchange www.chicagoclimatex.com; I-Flex Solutions www.iflexsolutions.com and the WellChild Foundation www.nubibus.com/wellchild/html/home.html.
(It was nice of the Memorial to include the urls.)

Interestingly, not only did I find no comments on these websites about Hugo Chavez, I also found that Joe Kennedy is not, as his bio claims, on the board of directors of all of these organizations. He does serve on the Provide Commerce board of directors, but he's not on the Thomas C. Wales Foundation board of directors (he is on their advisory board -- a very different thing), or the Chicago Climate Exchange board of directors (again, he is on the advisory board), or on the I-Flex Solutions board of directors (if they have an advisory board, they don't mention it). I could not find a WellChild Foundation in the United States, although I did find references to one existing in Boston at some time in the past, so who knows: Maybe Kennedy was on their governing board.

On the whole, of five boards listed, I could confirm Kennedy's service on only one, so I doubt these groups are speaking for Kennedy on much of anything.

So, until such time as Joe Kennedy and the CitizensEnergy Corp have something to say about their patron, Hugo Chavez, and his brand-new dictatorship (officially, anyway), I leave you with a few links to what others have to say on the subject:
Don Feder: Joe Kennedy Pimps for Hugo Chavez

American Thinker: The Kennedy, Chavez & Chomsky Pipeline

WSJ's OpinionJournal.com: Dial Joe-4-Chavez

USATODAY.com - OPINION: Poverty vs. Politics: Cynicism, not altruism, is Behind Chavez's Oil 'Gift'
Addendum: A reader has alerted me to to an excellent essay by Robert McHenry, a former editor-in-chief of Encyclopaedia Britannica, on Venezuela taking, as McHenry puts it, its "place in the long, sad train of Paradises on Earth that so disfigured the 20th century."

McHenry's essay begins:
It’s happening again. Another human has succeeded in combining a personal vision of the truly good and just society with the authority to attempt to create it, in the process telling several million other humans precisely how they should live. This time it’s in South America – Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, was granted the power to set aside the country’s constitution and rule by decree for a period of 18 months. The news reports I saw did not comment on whether his powers would include the power to extend his term, but few dictators in history have stepped aside willingly at any time, much less on a date set by mere statute...
I'd quote it all, but for copyright law, but you can read it all free here.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:16 AM

Friday, February 02, 2007

National Center for Public Policy Research Turns 25

I wouldn't want to let the day go by without -- rather self-indulgently -- wishing a happy birthday to us.

Although the National Center for Public Policy Research was legally incorporated on September 14, 1981, our first day of business was February 2, 1982. If memory serves, it was a Tuesday.

At the time, we rented a four-room office 4.2 blocks from the east front of the U.S. Capitol building on the the first floor of 413 East Capitol St., S.E. Now we own our own building at 501 Capitol Court, N.E., a few blocks north of the Senate Hart Building.

One or two other things have changed as well.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:44 PM

300+ Years of Activity Will Lead to Results 100 Years From Now

Check out the math in this AP lede:
Global warming is so severe that it will 'continue for centuries,' leading to a far different planet in 100 years, warned a grim landmark report from the world's leading climate scientists and government officials.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:53 PM

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Is Health Care for the Poor Better Abroad?

The National Center's David Hogberg has noticed a theme among left-of-center polemicists, who, when writing on health care, seem to be assuming that the poor get better health care when they live in nations with government-run systems. But is this assumption based on solid evidence? David examines the question:
I've noticed that a number of folks on the left argue that universal health care in other nations results in more equal treatment for the poor. In a conversation being held over at Cato Unbound on the subject of how well the poor are served by various health care systems, New Republic Senior Editor Jonathan Cohn seems to argue that government systems better serve the poor.

In response to points made by economist Arnold Kling, Cohn says:
In that essay, Arnold, you graciously admitted you had no easy answer for what will happen to the working poor and the chronically ill - and suggested that might be a proper function for government. I appreciate the concession and take your word seriously. I'll simply caution you that we've been trying to take that very approach for the last 40 years or so. And it hasn't worked too well. The reason? Programs exclusively for poor people tend to be poor (because they lack powerful political constituencies). I guess you could also say that programs exclusively for the chronically ill tend to be chronically ill themselves. If you don't know what I mean, I suggest you examine more closely the very checkered history of state high-risk pools - a supposed innovation to help the chronically ill that has a decidedly checkered record.

Now, conservatives typically respond to this explanation by asking why I have faith in government to take care of everybody's health care if it can't even take care of some people's health care. My answer is that they do it, and do it well, abroad.
The notion that government-run systems are better for the poor is also present in this column by University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos:
In one sense, the U.S. clearly does have the best health care in the world: If you're rich, America is a great place to get sick. We do, in fact, have the best doctors and hospitals in the world. So why do we have below-average health, as compared to other developed nations?

The answer is simple: because, if you're poor, America is a much worse place to get sick than any of dozens of other countries that, despite being far less wealthy than the U.S., find a way to provide good medical care for all their residents.
But do the poor in other countries really receive good medical care? It doesn't seem that way. Consider this paragraph from the free-market Fraser Institute's annual report on waiting lists in Canada:
Finally, the promise of the Canadian health care system is not being realized. On the contrary, a profusion of research reveals that cardiovascular surgery queues are routinely jumped by the famous and politically-connected, that suburban and rural residents confront barriers to access not encountered by their urban counterparts, and that low-income Canadians have less access to specialists, particularly cardiovascular ones, are less likely to utilize diagnostic imaging, and have lower cardiovascular and cancer survival rates than their higher-income neighbours.
You can see all of the research the Fraser Institute points to on page 9 of the report, but let me cite just one study. In the New England Journal of Medicine, a number of researchers examined the effect of socioeconomic status on access to cardiac procedures in Ontario, Canada. Their study found that going from the lowest income neighborhood to the highest increased by 23% the use of cardiac angiography (a heart test) and decreased by 45% the waiting time to get one. The study ended with this grim conclusion:
In conclusion, despite universal health insurance coverage, Ontario residents living in lower-income areas have reduced access to invasive procedures, as compared with residents of wealthier neighborhoods, and have sharply higher mortality one year after hospitalization for acute myocardial infarction. The causes of these socioeconomic disparities in access and outcome remain obscure, but their persistence poses a clear challenge to the egalitarian principles of Canada's publicly funded health care system.
It isn't much better in Great Britain. The "Acheson Report" has found that "Although average mortality has fallen over the past 50 years, unacceptable inequalities in health persist. For many measures of health, inequalities have either remained the same or have widened in recent decades." The report noted that, the "weight of scientific evidence supports a socioeconomic explanation of health inequalities."

While the report further noted that income inequality had widened in recent years, income had risen across all groups. So, if income increased for all groups, why did inequalities in health stay the same or worsen? That's beyond my capabilities to answer. What is does suggest is that the universal health care of Britain doesn't seem to be doing much to reduce health inequalities.

Here's another comparison. Go to Saga's Good Hospital Guide for British hospitals. Compare the ones in Inner London, which tend to be in wealthier areas, to the ones in Outer London, which tend to be in poorer areas. You'll notice that in general, the ones in Inner London have more doctors and nurses per bed, shorter wait times for MRIs and hip replacements, and lower mortality ratios.

Thus, the health care inequities that occur in the U.S. also occur in other countries. I suspect that Cohn is correct that the reason Medicaid is poor is that it has a poor constituency-i.e., the poor do not participate in politics any where near the rate of the affluent. Yet the experience of Canada and Britain suggest that the problem also replicates itself in universal health care systems. Thus, any government system in a democracy is going to result in more resources going to affluent areas and less to poor ones-including health care systems.

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:39 AM

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