masthead-highres

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What's Wrong With the Term "Trekkie," Anyway?

National Review Online is running a delightful Star Trek feature this weeked. No conservative Star Trek fan should miss it.

But I do wonder how James Lileks can not know the correct title of the ST:TOS episode guest-starring Joan Collins is "The City on the Edge of Forever."
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:02 AM

Friday, September 28, 2007

Congress' SCHIP Deception

When it comes to SCHIP, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) is shocked by the behavior of certain Republicans:
The Beltway political class is shocked that President Bush and his dwindling Republican allies are opposing the Democratic expansion of the State Children's Health Insurance Program. That consensus, as usual, has it backwards. What ought to be shocking is how many Republicans have surrendered or been accomplices in this latest expansion of government health care.
But more interesting is the deception.

The Democratic Congressional leadership, and a handful of allied Republicans, claim the SCHIP expansion they seek will cost "only" $35 billion dollars. It won't.

As the Wall Street Journal explains:
...there's a budget sleight-of-hand. Known as a "funding cliff," the yearly SCHIP layout increases to $13.9 billion in 2011, then abruptly cuts spending by 65% below current funding levels. This helps "score" the bill as costing only $35 billion over the five-year budget window, but it also means that come 2012 Congress will either have to pass new spending or kick kids off the rolls. The chances of the latter happening are approximately zero, and GOP Senators Chuck Grassley and Orrin Hatch should be embarrassed for going along with this confidence trick.
Why are certain Republicans going for this? The Journal thinks it knows:
Many Republicans are focused on short-term PR, while even groups that ought to know better, like America's Health Insurance Plans (the insurance industry lobby) and PhRMA (the drug makers' lobby), have endorsed the SCHIP expansion. These big business lobbies are once again selling out taxpayers to appease Democrats, who will go after them next in any case.

But most of the blame falls on Senate Republicans, particularly Messrs. Grassley and Hatch. These leaders on the Finance Committee created the facade of "bipartisanship" by signing off on the Democratic plan, whatever its policy results. To adapt Lenin, Republicans are making the rope that will be used to hang them...
Hat tip: Jonah Goldberg, The Corner
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:45 PM

Gore Tells Bush to be More Reaganesque

Peyton Knight approves of some of Al Gore’s advice to President Bush:
At former President Clinton's annual "Global Clinton Initiative" summit Thursday, Al Gore called on President Bush to be more like the Gipper. Gore said:
I... call on President Bush to follow President Reagan's example and listen to those among his advisers who know that we need to have binding reductions in CO2.
Gore was trying to employ Reagan's support for protecting the ozone layer in an effort to nudge Bush toward supporting energy restrictions.

Well, the former veep and newest member of the Reagan fan club has some catch-up reading to do. Reagan knew a thing or two about energy policy, seeing as his predecessor had a disastrous one. As such, when Reagan officially announced his candidacy for President in 1979, he assessed energy policy pretty specifically - and pretty specifically repudiated the Gore approach. According to Reagan:
It is no program simply to say, "Use less energy." Of course waste must be eliminated and efficiently promoted, but for the government simply to tell people to conserve is not an energy policy. At best it means we will run out of energy a little more slowly. But a day will come when the lights will dim and the wheels of industry will turn more slowly and finally stop. As President I will not endorse any course which has this as its principal objective.

We need more energy and that means diversifying our sources of supply away from the OPEC countries...

The answer, obvious to anyone except those in the administration it seems, is more domestic production of oil and gas. We must also have wider use of nuclear power within strict safety rules, of course. There must be more spending by the energy industries on research and development of substitutes for fossil fuels.

In years to come solar energy may provide much of the answer but for the next two or three decades we must do such things as master the chemistry of coal. Putting the market system to work for these objectives is an essential first step for their achievement. Additional multi-billion-dollar federal bureaus and programs are not the answer...

It is not government's function to allocate fuel or impose unnecessary restrictions on the marketplace.
Let's see. Invest in new technology, promote domestic production of oil and gas, increase nuclear power and refuse to restrict Americans' energy supply. Sounds about right to me.

How about you, Al?
To contact author Peyton Knight directly,
write him at [email protected]

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:23 PM

Inviting Government into the Living Room

David Leonhardt, a male New York Times economics columnist, sees men on the sofa while women are working, and concludes the answer is universal preschool and federally-mandated paid leave for new parents.

Leave it to the New York Times to try to federalize the problem of lazy spouses.

Is there anything the Times won't try to federalize?
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:30 AM

Celebrating America's Heritage Act Wins in House Committee in Mostly Party Line Vote

An update on this week's action by the House Resources Committee on the Celebrating America's Heritage Act, a step toward federal zoning (with pork attached). Peyton Knight contributes this update:
On Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee passed the Celebrating America's Heritage Act, 23 - 12, on a mostly party line vote. The bill would create six new National Heritage Areas and significantly increase federal funding for nine existing heritage areas. Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC) was the only Republican to join 22 Democrats on the committee in support of the bill.

Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV) offered a commonsense amendment to the bill that would have excluded Rep. Roscoe Bartlett's (R-MD) and Rep. Virgil Goode's (R-VA) districts from the controversial Journey Through Hallowed Ground heritage area - one of the new heritage areas created by the bill. Congressmen Bartlett and Goode are rightly concerned that the Hallowed Ground heritage area, which is being pushed by Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), does not sufficiently protect the property rights of folks who own land and homes within the proposed boundaries of the area. In order to protect their constituents' rights, they want no part of it. In a rather unprecedented move, Heller's amendment was voted down, thus forcing a heritage area designation on two congressmen who don't want it in their districts.

We've received reports that Rep. Wolf, a powerful senior member on the House Appropriations Committee, actually attended the hearing, despite not being a member of the Resources Committee, and sat prominently at the witness table, staring down his colleagues in an apparent effort to make certain his heritage area emerged unscathed.

In addition, we received word that an attorney from the D.C. law and lobby firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer and Feld also attended the mark-up to help lobby support for Wolf's heritage area.

During the vote, Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) made a compelling argument against national heritage areas, and read portions of the coalition letter (pdf) that the National Center for Public Policy Research delivered to members of the committee earlier this month, signed by over 100 influential think tanks, state policy groups, elected officials, sportsmen and grassroots leaders. The letter opposed the creation of any additional heritage areas. Rep. Bishop also entered the National Center's letter into the Congressional Record.

As soon as the mark-up ended, Congressmen Bartlett, Goode and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) rushed to a meeting of the Republican Study Committee, where they informed their colleagues of the dangers (pdf) of national heritage areas in general and the Journey Through Hallowed Ground heritage area in particular.
To contact author Peyton Knight directly, write him at [email protected]

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:44 AM

Thursday, September 27, 2007

John Berthoud: He Will Be Missed

I don't want to post anything else on the blog this evening until I note with sadness the death of John Berthoud.

John's death was announced earlier today by the National Taxpayers Union, which John led for the last 11 years.

I did not know John well, but I knew him for many years. He was always willing to lend a hand; often, he was one of the very first to volunteer to assist coalition efforts. His name came up in office conversations often. I do not recall hearing a negative word about him; not even once.

John's work made America a better place. He will be missed.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:49 PM

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

National Review Institute Hosts Energy Policy Debate

Peyton Knight contributes coverage of an energy policy and global warming debate sponsored earlier today in Washington by the National Review Institute:
This afternoon, the National Review Institute hosted a panel discussion at the National Press Club on energy production and how it relates to national security. The panel was moderated by CNBC's Larry Kudlow. The panelists were:
- Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Member of the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee

- David Hamilton, Director of Global Warming and Energy Programs for the Sierra Club

- Steven F. Hayward, Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute

- Andrew N. Liveris, President, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Dow Chemical Company

- James Woolsey, Vice President of the Global Strategic Security Division at Booz Allen Hamilton
Larry Kudlow began the panel discussion with a series of questions. Is global warming real? Is it manmade? If it is manmade, how do we solve it? How do we solve it without wrecking our economy?

What resulted was a mostly congenial discussion energy policy. Congressman Diaz-Balart and the Sierra Club's David Hamilton expressed the two most divergent views, recapped below:

*Congressman Diaz-Balart

Congressman Diaz-Balart stressed that no matter what global warming actions we take, above all, we need to make certain that we don't destroy our economy. When Kudlow asked him about Hillary Clinton's proposal for government to take energy company profits and hand them over to companies that invest in renewable energy projects, the Congressman responded pointedly: "That's a bad idea."

He explained that penalizing companies that produce energy would only create a disincentive for energy production. He noted that increasing the tax burden on domestic energy suppliers, as called for in the House energy bill, would result in fewer domestic energy resources and force the U.S. to rely more heavily on energy imports. The congressman pointed out that while government can play a role in steering the energy market, oftentimes, government intervention in the marketplace creates more problems than it solves.

As for increasing domestic energy production, Diaz-Balart prescribed a "federalist" approach. He said that if states like Alaska want to tap their fossil fuel resources, they should be permitted to do so - likewise with coastal states that wish to harvest natural gas from the Outer Continental Shelf.

There is a role for renewable energy and energy conservation to play in increasing U.S. energy security, according to Diaz-Balart. However, he lamented that too often these two issues are promoted as "silver bullets," when, in fact, they are nothing of the sort. He stressed that there are many pieces to the energy puzzle, and that increased rhetoric, particularly from global warming alarmists, won't help solve the problem.

According to him, the new congress isn't doing much to help solve America's energy problem. "So far, all we've done in this new congress is tax energy," he said. "We have [an energy] bill that doesn't create energy."

He did pay global warming alarmists one compliment, however, pointing out that they were "pure capitalists" in the way they raised money and positioned themselves for lucrative research grants.

* David Hamilton

According to the Sierra Club's David Hamilton, man-made global warming is real and we need to pursue solutions to it immediately. Citing the need for government intervention, he claimed, "Global warming is the greatest market failure in the history of economics."

Hamilton says that global warming is occurring so quickly, that in addition to reducing our greenhouse gas emissions a draconian 80 percent by the year 2050, we will also "need to hope that nature will cut us a break."

When asked if he supported increased nuclear power as part of the global warming solution, he laughed, and said "it's funny when free-marketeers talk about reviving nuclear power" because Americans have long since rejected it.

When asked how effective a tax on carbon dioxide emissions might be in reducing CO2 emissions, he replied that he preferred a cap-and-trade approach, whereby companies would be given a government mandated allotment of "carbon credits." Companies could then use those credits emitting carbon, or, if they don't use all of their credits, they could sell them to other companies who have exceeded their allotment. However, he noted a similar scheme instituted under the Kyoto Protocol and the Clean Air Act in the U.S. was flawed because companies were given too many credits and ended up either emitting vast quantities of CO2, or netting easy money from their surplus credits.

Both Hamilton and James Woolsey tried to convince panelists that reducing CO2 emissions could be a help to the economy, as opposed to a hindrance. Larry Kudlow was quick to rebut that CO2 restrictions would "undoubtedly" harm the economy, cause massive job losses and shave as much as four percent off U.S. GDP.
To contact author Peyton Knight directly,
write him at [email protected]


P.S. Power Line has additional commentary about the event here.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:08 PM

Reverse Robin Hood: Congress' Regressive SCHIP Expansion Would Tax Poor to Fund Health Insurance for Middle and Upper-Middle Class

Congress wants to tax the poor to buy health insurance for those who make more money, while Bush promises a veto...

Reverse Robin Hood: Congress' Regressive SCHIP Expansion Would Tax Poor to Fund Health Insurance for Middle and Upper-Middle Class

Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11
or [email protected]

Washington, D.C. -
A successful effort by Congress to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) by $35 billion over five years over White House protests would require low-income Americans to subsidize health insurance for children and young adults in the middle and upper-middle classes, says a September 2007 paper by David Hogberg, Ph.D. published by the National Center for Public Policy Research.

If SCHIP is expanded as Congress now proposes, says the paper, people making under 200 percent of the poverty line will subsidize health insurance for children and young adults in families over 200 percent, perhapos as high as 400 percent, of the poverty line:
Both SCHIP bills passed by Congress take the tax revenues from those under 200 percent of the poverty level and give it to those children who live in families above 200 percent of poverty, likely all the way up to 400 percent of the poverty level... It is not inconceivable that a parent with one child with an income of $13,690 will be funding benefits for two children in a family of four with an income of $82,600. In short, SCHIP expansion would result in families whose income puts them in the bottom 15 percent of households funding benefits for children who are in families close to the top 25 percent of households.
The paper also notes that Congress supports reimbursing states for SCHIP expenses for middle and upper income children and young adults at a higher rate than it reimburses Medicaid expenses spent on the poor:
SCHIP is supposed to insure children for families that make too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Presumably, then, children on Medicaid are in families that are poorer than are children on SCHIP. Yet the federal government matches the dollars states spend on SCHIP at a proportionally higher rate than it does Medicaid. In 2006, states spent a total of about $132 billion on Medicaid, while the federal government matched that with $165 billion. That means, on average, the federal government spends 1.2 dollars on Medicaid for every one dollar the states spend. For that same year, states spent almost $2.4 billion on SCHIP and the federal government sent the states $4.8 billion in matching funds.20 Thus, the federal government spends two dollars on SCHIP for every one dollar the states spend. In short, the federal government spends proportionally more on the children in SCHIP than it does on the poorer children in Medicaid.
The paper, "SCHIP Expansion: Socialized Medicine on the Installment Plan," by David Hogberg, Ph.D., is available online at www.nationalcenter.org/NPA560.html.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 3:31 AM

Pushing Pork

Rep. Raul Grijalva's "Celebrating America's Heritage Act," which would better have been titled "In Praise of Pork," will be voted on Wednesday in the House Resources Committee.

Our press release:
Congressional Self-Dealing Alive and Well

Legislation that Would Enrich Select Special Interest Groups to be Voted on This Week


Contact: David Almasi at (202) 543-4110 x11
or [email protected]

Washington, D.C. -
This Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee will vote on a bill that would funnel over $135 million of federal pork to special interest groups in select members' districts. The "Celebrating America's Heritage Act," put forth by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), would create six new national heritage areas, including the controversial Journey Through Hallowed Ground. It would also increase congressional funding for nine existing heritage areas by 50 percent. This self-dealing is indicative of a Congress that has little interest in reforming ethics or earmark abuse, says the National Center for Public Policy Research.

"The only heritage celebrated in this bill is the unfortunately strong tradition of congressional self-dealing to pet special interests," said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for the National Center. "The rhetoric from Congress about reigning in spending and eliminating earmarks is apparently just that. This bill would establish permanent pork pipelines to numerous members' districts."

National heritage areas are creations of Congress in which special interest groups, whose work at times has been funded through secret Congressional earmarks, team up with the National Park Service to influence decisions over local land use previously made exclusively by elected local governments and private landowners.

For instance, the special interest group lobbying for the Journey Through Hallowed Ground heritage area (which has been quietly slipped into the Grijalva bill) received an anonymous one million-dollar earmark in the 2005 transportation bill. Incredibly, the group wasn't even incorporated at the time. This is an instance where one pork-barrel earmark was distributed to bolster support for another pork-barrel earmark.

Congressman Jeff Flake (R-AZ) has observed: "[O]nce a federal line is drawn around property for a heritage area, the door for annual federal earmarks and grants is opened."

According to figures from the National Taxpayers Union, the Celebrating America's Heritage Act's $135+ million price tag is equal to the annual federal income taxes paid by 33,276 middle class Americans. Ironically, it is the middle class that stands to lose the most, as heritage area interest groups are typically hostile to property rights and frequently use their muscle to restrict land use and make housing more expensive for middle-income buyers.

Earlier this month, The National Center delivered a coalition letter to congressional leaders signed by a diverse group of 114 think tanks, local government officials, civil rights organizations, grassroots leaders, farmers, ranchers and sportsmen calling on Congress to oppose the creation of any new national heritage areas.

"Despite cries for more accountability, less self-dealing and stronger property rights protections, Congress is putting forth legislation designed to enrich pet interest groups and erode Americans' property rights," said Knight. "It's little wonder why congressional approval ratings are at floor level. Congress isn't tone deaf, it's earless."

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, non-profit educational foundation based in Washington, D.C.

- 30 -
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 2:36 AM

Saturday, September 22, 2007

"Above Normal" Hurricane Forecast is in a Race Against the Clock

...and the clock is winning.

With more than 62% of the Atlantic hurricane season behind us and less than 38% of it left, it's now a race against the clock for the 2007 hurricane season to be "above normal," as forecast. The clock is winning and the score is 4 to 3.

So far this season, there have been just three Atlantic basin hurricanes. By September 22, there are normally four hurricanes.

The season has been below normal more or less the entire season, with the first hurricane of the year (Dean) arriving two days later than typical.

On May 22, NOAA had predicted seven to nine Atlantic hurricanes, one to three above normal. On August 9, NOAA not only reiterated this forecast, but said "the outlook calls for an even higher probability of an above-normal season than was predicted in May."

While there's still time for this year's Atlantic hurricane season to be above normal, more than the clock is ticking. We've already begun a rather steep descent from the peak of hurricane season - which normally falls around September 10. The number of hurricanes per hundred years on that day is better than 50. The number of hurricanes per hundred years has already dropped to the low-to-mid 30s.

So just to recap: To meet even the lowest number in NOAA's forecast range (seven hurricanes), there must be an additional four hurricanes this season. This will require 33% more hurricanes in the last 38% of the season than there were in the first 62% of the season. And they'll have to occur after the peak of the season.

The more moderate hurricane season so far this year is welcome news to everyone.

Everyone, that is, but global warming alarmists who exploit the hurricanes - and hurricane victims - to advance their big government agenda.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:55 PM

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Other Club: The statism of your health

The Other Club and Michael Cannon say socialized medicine Is already here.

We think they have a point, but that doesn't mean things can't get worse, as it is in Britain and Canada.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 10:39 PM

Friday, September 14, 2007

On the Ethanol Subsidy

"The truth is that if ethanol has commercial merit, it doesn't need the subsidy. And if it doesn't, no amount of subsidy will bestow it."

Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren, Wishful Thinking Is No Magical Energy Elixir, The Cato Institute
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 11:10 PM

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Four of the Continental U.S.'s 15 Longest Hurricane-Free Periods Occurred Since 1983, Despite Global Warming Alarms

David Ridenour takes another look at hurricane records:
Global warming alarmists have repeatedly warned us that if we don't act now to stop global warming, we place our lives at increased risk.

Amanda Staudt, a climate scientist with the National Wildlife Federation, for example, wrote: "Many American coastal communities may face more intense storms as the oceans continue to warm in the decades..."

Others, such as Greg Holland of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, claim that global warming is a "major factor in the increasing number of Atlantic hurricanes."

Since the planet has warmed since the end of the Little Ice Age in the mid-19th Century, one might expect, based on Staudt's and Holland's warnings, to have seen a rise in -- I don't know -- maybe the frequency and intensity of storms hitting American communities.

But we haven't.

In fact, right now, the continental United States is in the midst of its fifteenth longest sustained period without a hurricane strike. (For purposes of this post, a "hurricane strike" refers to a hurricane affecting the continental U.S. The eye of the hurricane may not necessarily have made landfall, but there will have been hurricane force winds on land.)

It is not the first such extended hurricane strike-free period in recent years.

In fact, four out of the 15 longest periods without hurricane strikes (that's about 27%) have occurred since 1983 -- when the planet was presumably in full overheat mode. Lengthy strike-free periods extended through 1983 (1105 days, ending with Hurricane Alicia), 1995 (700 days, ending with Hurricane Erin), 2002 (1084 days, ending with Hurricane Lili) and 2007 (688 days and counting).

Four out of the longest 15 strike-free periods occurred in the second half of the 19th Century. Prolonged periods of inactivity extended through 1865 (1412 days, ending with the Sabine River-Lake Calcasieu Hurricane), 1873 (716 days, ending with a Florida strike from an unnamed hurricane), 1885 (718 days, ending with strikes in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida from an unnamed hurricane) and 1893 (731 days, ending with the Midnight Storm Hurricane).

The remaining seven periods were spread out between 1903 and 1974.

Particularly striking -- in a strike-free sense, that is -- is that two of the five longest periods of U.S. mainland strike inactivity have occurred over the past 24 years. The five longest periods without strikes include: 1865, 1415 days; 1983,1105 days; 2002, 1084 days; 1932, 1050 days and 1974, 812 days.

I wonder...

If hurricanes are more intense or frequent in the ocean, but don't hit our communities, do they make a sound?

They won't need to... global warming alarmists will make more than enough sound on their own.
To contact author David Ridenour directly,
write him at [email protected]

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 6:52 PM

The Health Care News is Mixed

Writing in the American Spectator, David Hogberg and Jeremy Taglieri relate hopeful developments in the battle to "move our health care system away from one that is mismanaged by the government and toward one that is more market driven."

Jeremy was part of the National Center for Public Policy Research team as an intern this summer. David Hogberg was a senior fellow covering health care issues for the National Center until the other day. Unfortunately for us, but to the benefit of the nation, he accepted a position on Capitol Hill.

We'll miss the opportunity to publish David's work in the future, but we're not quite through yet. We have two papers of David's that he completed before going to work on the Hill that will appear shortly on this website.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:48 AM

Monday, September 10, 2007

2007 Hurricane Update: Have Records Been Broken?

Putting the 2007 hurricane season in proper context, in light of environmentalist and newsmedia hype, is the focus of this post by David Ridenour:
Hurricane Felix was the second category 5 hurricane this season. The newsmedia and global warming alarmists were quick to label Felix as an “unprecedented” and “record-breaking” event.

Record-breaking, perhaps. Unprecedented, not likely.

While two category 5s in a single season may literally break “records,” that doesn’t mean there have never been two such hurricanes in a year.

Weather monitoring capabilities have improved dramatically in recent decades and may explain most, if any, increases in hurricane frequency.

As Dr. Christopher Landsea, science and operations officer at the National Hurricane Center, has noted: “What chance is there that [Chantal, the tropical storm in July that existed fewer than 18 hours] would have been monitored before satellites in 1966? Our ways of observing storms have improved dramatically in the last few decades.”

Government records are therefore of limited value in determining long-term storm trends.

Even if hurricane records didn’t understate the activity in past decades – which is unlikely – the 2007 hurricane season is fairly unremarkable so far.

In the Atlantic basin, hurricane overall activity is currently below the 60-year average. By September 10, the average number of hurricanes is three and there have been just two as of today. We are, however, about two weeks ahead of schedule for major hurricanes (category 3 and above) with two so far instead of one.

Nonetheless, those who get their hurricane-related news from the mainstream media or from environmental alarmist groups and websites may be forgiven for believing that hurricane activity is especially frequent this year, as the ratings-hungry newsmedia seems intent on tantalizing the public with the possibility that every storm satellites spot is one news alert away from becoming a second Hurricane Katrina.

On September 5, for example, cable news channels reported as "breaking news" that satellites had detected a storm system near Bermuda that could develop into a hurricane that could hit New York City and New England. They then reported that hurricane hunter aircraft had been dispatched to the area. Twelve hours later, there were no reports whasoever about the system.

One hundred years ago, the system wouldn't have been detected, wouldn't have been covered by television and there would have been no hurricane hunter aircraft to dispatch.

If a city doubled the number of police officers on the street to provide additional security and criminal prosecutions subsequently rose by 25 percent, no rational person would say there had been an alarming rise in crime (as evidenced by the prosecutions). Yet, that's akin to what we see with hurricane reporting.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) acknowledges that the number of hurricanes in past decades were likely undercounted because detection capabilities were not the same as today. So it is puzzling that the agency issues hurricane outlooks that base "average" and "above average" forecasts in part on inaccurate data from the past without noting its shortcomings.

It should stick with science, not political science.

Pay no attention to the sensationalism: It contains more spin than hurricanes.
To contact author David Ridenour directly, write him at [email protected]

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 5:50 PM

Friday, September 07, 2007

Congressmen Supporting Clean Water Bill Should Remember Katrina

Peyton Knight looks at Rep. James Oberstar's Clean Water Restoration Act, and wonders why Congress doesn't seem to have learned much from Hurricane Katrina:
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Congressman James Oberstar (D-MN) and many of his colleagues traveled to New Orleans and witnessed the destruction firsthand. They were understandably moved by the carnage wrought by a storm that killed over 1,700 people, left 80 percent of New Orleans underwater and transformed the gulf coast environment into a toxic gumbo of raw sewage, bacteria and industrial waste.

What is difficult to understand is why Rep. Oberstar and many in Congress would now champion a bill that could make it more difficult for hurricane-prone areas to protect themselves from Mother Nature's future onslaughts.

Recall that, days after Hurricane Katrina hit the gulf coast, news emerged that a massive hurricane barrier project designed to protect New Orleans was deep-sixed by an environmental lawsuit that claimed the project posed a threat to wetlands.

Over 40 years ago, Congress approved the Lake Pontchartrain Hurricane Barrier Project after Hurricane Betsy pummeled New Orleans. The project consisted of miles of levees and two gigantic storm gates that were designed to prevent Lake Pontchartrain from becoming overwhelmed by a massive hurricane storm surge. In the event of a hurricane, the gates would have closed off two straits that feed into the lake from the Gulf of Mexico, preventing the huge lake from swelling and burying New Orleans.

In 1976, the environmental group Save Our Wetlands sued the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers demanding the project be stopped because it could harm wetlands. In 1977, U.S. District Judge Charles Schwartz Jr. ruled in favor of the environmental group and stopped the barrier project.

It would never be built.

"If we had built the barriers, New Orleans would not be flooded," said Joseph Towers, former chief counsel for the Army Corps of Engineers New Orleans district, days after Hurricane Katrina's landfall. "My feeling was that saving human lives was more important than saving a percentage of shrimp and crab in Lake Pontchartrain. I told my staff at the time that this judge had condemned the city."

In addition to saving lives, the project could have saved taxpayers as well. Towers said the project had an estimated cost of $85 million in 1965, or just over $560 million in 2007 dollars. By comparison, Hurricane Katrina has cost federal taxpayers over $114 billion to date.

Now, Save Our Wetlands is at it again. Just a few months ago, it announced plans to sue under the Clean Water Act, and other environmental laws, to thwart the construction of another project designed to protect Louisianans from future hurricanes and also help preserve marshlands.

Even more incredibly, some in Congress are looking to give environmental litigators like Save Our Wetlands a leg up.

In the midst of another hurricane season, Rep. Oberstar and 169 of his colleagues are pushing the "Clean Water Restoration Act," a bill that legal scholars say would encourage more wetlands lawsuits - lawsuits with the potential to thwart even more vital public works projects like those designed to protect people from hurricanes. As M. Reed Hopper, principal attorney for the Pacific Legal Foundation, told Congress in July, "the bill itself calls for court intervention... In effect, the Act is an abdication of the legislative role."

The Clean Water Act has already been a catalyst for numerous, frivolous wetlands lawsuits since its inception. A LexisNexis search for "clean water act" and "lawsuit," covering just the past two years, garners over 2,400 news stories.

As we remember the victims of Hurricane Katrina, we should also remember the preventative measures that were prescribed over 40 years ago and the reasons those measures never came to fruition. If only Congressman Oberstar and his colleagues would remember this as well.
To contact author Peyton Knight directly,
write him at [email protected]

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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:58 PM

Congressman Jefferson's Racial Sensitivities...

...are decidedly one-sided.

He has had his attorneys file a motion (subscription may be required) asking a federal judge to move his trial on corruption charges from Virginia to either the District of Columbia or to New Orleans. Jefferson's motive is to try to influence the likely racial make-up of the jury:
Lawyers for Rep. William Jefferson entered a motion in federal court today claiming prosecutors filed the corruption case against the Louisiana Democrat in a U.S. court in Virginia only to avoid the predominantly black jury pools that would be available to them in Washington, D.C., and New Orleans.

Jefferson's attorneys asked the court to order the case moved from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, and asked for an investigation of the decision-making process that led the Justice Department to file its charges there...

...Jefferson’s motion for change of venue argues that there is no reason for the case to be tried in Virginia, and that it appears “the prosecution used forum selection to affect the racial make-up of the jury in this case.”

The bulk of the alleged crimes took place in D.C., where Jefferson’s Congressional office is, or in New Orleans, where Jefferson resides. The primary connection to Virginia is that an FBI informant, at the direction of the FBI, invited Jefferson to Virginia for a meeting to hand over cash, the motion argues.

“The defendant is African American, and the government’s chosen venue has a markedly lower percentage of African Americans in the potential jury pool than the District of Columbia, where the case fairly belongs,” his lawyers wrote.
If Jefferson objects to the (alleged) practice of attempting to influence the racial make-up of a jury, why is he attempting to influence the racial make-up of a jury himself?

What constitutes a true "jury of his peers" when it comes to the trial of a Harvard-educated Member of Congress is an interesting question. Any given person may be black or white or Asian or some combination thereof, but that's not all he is.

More coverage of the story here.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 4:19 PM

Hurricane Forecasts Mostly Failed, Experts Say

Computer models "did very poorly" at forecasting the development of Hurricane Felix.

If computer models are not well enough developed to tell us about a hurricane that already exists, can we really rely on them to tell us what the climate will be like, and why, decades from now?
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:42 AM

Being PC More Important Than Welfare of Children

This pathetic story shows what happens when people -- in this case, local government employees in Britain -- place a higher priority on being politically correct than being morally right.

I hope the people who put their fear of being thought politically-incorrect over the welfare of children are, at the very least, fired, though in a big-government strong-public union country like modern Britain, I suppose it is unlikely. Governments everywhere take care of themselves first, and never more so than when public employees are permitted to unionize.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:27 AM

Thursday, September 06, 2007

A Growing Glacier

...just north of the homes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA).
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:56 AM

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Would Ronald Reagan Support the Law of the Sea Treaty If He Were President Today?

Supporters of U.S. ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty often claim Ronald Reagan would support ratification of LOST (also referred to as UNCLOS, short for "United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea"), were he with us today. Many of them have publicly argued that President Reagan's only objection to the Law of the Sea Treaty was the treaty's deep seabed mining section, which was modified in 1994.

A few of many examples of Law of the Sea ratification supporters making this claim:
Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN): "President Ronald Reagan declared U.S. commitment to the principles of UNCLOS with the exception of the mining provisions."

Lawrence Eagleburger and John Norton Moore: "Opponents assert that Ronald Reagan deep-sixed the convention, when instead he set requirements for renegotiation of Part XI, which were successfully achieved..."

Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA): "The provisions on deep seabed mining, the only provisions that President Reagan objected to, were comprehensively revised to remove all of our objections in 1994."

Rear Admiral William L. Schachte, U.S. Navy, Retired: "...the U.S. was also able to obtain necessary changes to the deep seabed mining provisions to address all of the concerns raised by President Reagan."

William H. Taft IV / U.S. Department of State: "President Reagan expressed concerns only about Part XI's deep seabed mining regime."

Former Secretary of State George Shultz: "It surprises me to learn that opponents of the treaty are invoking President Reagan's name, arguing that he would have opposed ratification despite having succeeded on the deep sea-bed issue. During his administration, with full clearance and support from President Reagan, we made it very clear that we would support ratification if our position on the sea-bed issue were accepted."

David B. Sandalow / Brookings Institution: "President Reagan praised the Convention's 'many positive and very significant accomplishments,” but declined to sign because of the deep seabed mining provisions."

Maggie Goodlander / Council on Foreign Relations: "President Reagan refused to endorse the treaty because of its provisions related to seabed mining, most of which were amended in 1994."

Amanda Griscom / Grist: "Ronald Reagan was in office and he declined to sign on because of pressure from ultra-conservatives and specific objections to deep seabed mining provisions."

Senator Richard Lugar: "President Reagan refused to sign it because of technology transfer provisions and other problems in the section on deep-seabed mining."
The Saturday before last, husband David was reading aloud to me from The Reagan Diaries (yes, liberals, that's the kind of thing conservative married couples do on Saturdays -- your suspicions are confirmed), and came upon the entry for Tuesday, June 29, 1982:
Decided in NSC meeting-will not sign "Law of the Sea" treaty even without seabed mining provisions.
Many people may claim to speak for Ronald Reagan, but Ronald Reagan himself is the one person who really knew what Ronald Reagan thought.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 1:04 AM

Earmarks & the Kelo Decision Rolled Into One

The Hill newspaper's Congress Blog covered the letter we organized, signed by 114 organizations and local leaders, calling on Congress not to support the creation of additional national heritage areas or federal funding for heritage area management entities, support groups, or groups that lobby for the creation of new heritage areas.

It begins:
Congress Expands Opportunity for Self-Dealing While Claiming Progress on Ethics

While Senators were congratulating themselves for passing ethics reform, they approved a series of “national heritage area” bills significantly increasing the potential for self-dealing and corruption. National heritage areas are creations of Congress in which special interest groups, whose work at times has been funded through earmarks, team up with the National Park Service to influence decisions over local land use.

The federal government should not be forcing taxpayers in one state to pay for special interest lobbying in another.

In response, The National Center for Public Policy Research brought together 114 policy groups and local leaders to call on Congress not to support the creation of additional national heritage areas or federal funding for heritage area management entities, support groups, or groups that lobby for the creation of new heritage areas.

The letter is being delivered to the House and Senate leadership and members of the natural resource committees September 4.

If the investigations into earmarking abuse tell us anything, it is that we need greater accountability, not less. National heritage areas push us toward less government accountability. Committees composed of unelected and unaccountable individuals - some of whom have a financial stake in local land use decisions - are given substantial influence over these very decisions through national heritage area designations. If you think power corrupts elected officials, just wait and see what it does to unelected ones.

Dr. Ronald Utt of the Heritage Foundation has described how a federally-funded partnership seeking Congressional authority to manage a proposed new heritage area is apparently planning to use its management authority, if granted by Congress, to give itself a “near monopoly on real estate development opportunities” within the proposed heritage area. Such a monopoly presumably would be immensely profitable.

“National heritage areas are nothing more than government sanctioned looting of private property rights, and in many instances, minorities and lower income folks bear the biggest brunt of this theft,” said Deneen Borelli, Fellow with the Project 21 black leadership network.

The letter also thanks Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) for his “leadership on this important issue.”
The Hill is read by nearly everyone on Capitol Hill, so it is getting increasingly difficult for Congressmen and Senators to claim that they don't know why there are serious ethical and Constitutional problems with national heritage areas.

If the Founding Fathers had wanted local zoning decisions made by the federal government, they would have written the Constitution that way.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:40 AM

114 Groups & Leaders Write Congress About National Heritage Areas

The National Center for Public Policy Research on Tuesday delivered to the Congressional leadership, as well as the members and leadership of the natural resource committees, a letter signed by 114 organizations and leaders calling on Congress to stop creating and funding national heritage areas.

The letter says:
Dear [Elected Official]:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Kelo v. City of New London ignited a national outcry against government abuse of property rights. The "bridge to nowhere" and other wasteful programs triggered angry protests against the practice of earmarking.

National heritage areas are the Kelo decision and earmarks rolled into one.

National heritage areas are preservation zones where land use and property rights can be restricted. They give the National Park Service and preservation interest groups (many with histories of hostility toward property rights) substantial influence by giving them the authority to create land use "management plans" and then the authority to disburse federal money to local governments to promote their plans.

As a March 2004 General Accountability Office report on heritage areas states: "[National heritage areas] encourage local governments to implement land use policies that are consistent with the heritage areas' plans, which may allow the heritage areas to indirectly influence zoning and land use planning in ways that could restrict owners' use of their property."

The proposed "Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area Act" provides a good case study on how heritage areas can be self-perpetuating federal pork and influence projects.

The chief lobbying organization for this heritage area, the Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, received a one million-dollar earmark in the 2005 federal transportation bill at the behest of Members of Congress sponsoring legislation to establish this heritage area - an earmark that was granted before the organization was even incorporated. A million-dollar earmark thus was issued to help create a steady stream of future pork, at the expense of the rights of local landowners.

We believe zoning and land use policies are best left to local officials, who are directly accountable to the citizens they represent. National heritage areas corrupt the principle of representative government and this inherently local function by giving unelected, unaccountable special interests the authority to develop land management plans and federal money with which to finance their efforts.

Once established, National heritage areas become permanent units of the National Park Service, and as such, permanent drains on an agency that currently suffers a multibillion-dollar maintenance crisis. According to the GAO, "sunset provisions have not been effective in limiting federal funding [for National Heritage Areas]: since 1984, five areas that reached their sunset dates received funding reauthorization from the Congress."

Supporters of new heritage areas have the public will precisely backward: Americans want stronger property rights protections and less pork-barrel spending - not more earmarks to programs that harm property rights.

Please do not support the creation of additional national heritage areas or federal funding for heritage area management entities, support groups, or groups that lobby for or advocate the creation of new heritage areas.

Sincerely,

David Ridenour
Vice President
National Center for Public Policy Research

J. William Lauderback
Executive Vice President
The American Conservative Union

John Berthoud
President
National Taxpayers Union

Paul Poister
Executive Director
Partnership for the West

Larry Pratt
Executive Director
Gun Owners of America

William Niemeyer
Mayor
City of West Alton, MO

Ryan Ellis
Executive Director
American Shareholders Association

Peter Flaherty
President
National Legal and Policy Center

Steve Snow
Supervisor
Loudoun County, VA

Carol W. LaGrasse
President
Property Rights Foundation of America

Tom DeWeese
President
American Policy Center

Rachel Thomas
Property Rights Advocate
Huachuca City, AZ

Rose Ellen Ray
Treasurer, Citizens for Property Rights
Loudoun County, VA

Paul Driessen
Senior Policy Advisor
Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise

Maxine Korman
Korman Ranch
Hinsdale, Montana

Gerald Hobbs
President
Public Lands for the People

John Grigsby
Vice President
Taxpayers for Accountable Government

Don Parmeter
Executive Director
American Property Coalition

Leo Schwartz
Chairman
Virginia Land Rights Coalition

Pat King
Anvil Ranch
Tucson, AZ

Tom Borelli, Ph.D.
Portfolio Manager
Free Enterprise Action Fund

John and Connie Morris
Members, Tongue River Watershed Alliance, and MT and WY Farm Bureaus

Brad VanDyke
Representative
Rural Utahns for Local Solutions

Jerry Hamilton
Environmental Coordinator
Formation Capital Corporation

F. Patricia Callahan
President and General Counsel
American Assoc. of Small Property Owners

Erich Veyhl
Publisher
Maine Property Rights News

Dane vonBreichenruchardt
President
U.S. Bill of Rights Foundation

Mark Williamson
Founder and President
Federal Intercessors

New Mexico Federal Lands Council

New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc.

Beth Machens
Board of Aldermen
City of West Alton, MO

Janet M. Neustadt
Board of Aldermen
City of West Alton, MO

William J. Richter
Board of Aldermen
City of West Alton, MO

Deborah Anderson
Treasurer
City of West Alton, MO

Susan Silk
City Clerk
City of West Alton, MO

Charlotte Meyers
Assistant Administrator
City of West Alton, MO

Ora B. Anderson, Jr.
Planning and Zoning Commission
City of West Alton, MO

Ray Ponciroli
Board of Aldermen
City of Portage, MO

Paul M. Weyrich
National Chairman
Coalitions for America

Tom McClusky
Vice President of Government Affairs
Family Research Council

Jay Lehr
Science Director
The Heartland Institute

Jim Martin
President
60 Plus Association

Bill Moshofsky
Vice President
Oregonians In Action

Niger Innis
National Spokesman
Congress of Racial Equality

Gregory Cohen
President and CEO
American Highway Users Alliance

Richard Falknor
Executive Vice President
Maryland Taxpayers Association, Inc.

Linda C. Runbeck
President
American Property Coalition

Thomas K. Remington
Managing Editor
U.S. Hunting Today

Lew Uhler
President
National Tax Limitation Committee

Jon Caldara
President
Independence Institute

Dan Byfield
President
American Land Foundation

John Taylor
President
Tertium Quids

Susan Carlson
Chairman and CEO
American Civil Rights Union

Gary Palmer
President
Alabama Policy Institute

Lenore Hardy Barrett
State Representative
Idaho

Jonathan DuHamel
President
People for the West-Tucson

Jack and Patricia Shockey
President and Director
Citizens for Property Rights

Fred Grau
Executive Director
Take Back Pennsylvania

Mike Dail
Chairman
American Land Foundation

Chuck Cushman
President
American Land Rights Association

James Stergios
Executive Director
Pioneer Institute

Deneen Borelli
Fellow
Project 21

Marilyn Hayman
Chairman, Citizens for Responsible Zoning and Landowner Rights

Bruce Colbert
Executive Director, Property Owners Association of Riverside County, CA

Randall and Ruth Lillard
Farmers and Landowners
Madison County, VA

Joyce Morrison
Farmer and Agricultural Environmentalist
Fieldon, IL

Donald Castellucci, Jr.
Councilman, Town of Owego
Tioga County, NY

Milari Madison
Property Owner
Loudoun County, VA

Robert L. Sansom
Farmer and Landowner
Madison County, VA

Mary E. Darling
Sonoita, AZ

James Vadnais
Port Angeles, WA

Floyd Rathbun
Fallon, Nevada

Steven and Peggy Breen
Boise, Idaho

Peggy Bogart
Access Advocate

Dan Goulet
Portland, OR

Susan Freis Falknor
Bluemont, VA

Fred L. Smith
President
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Matt Kibbe
President
FreedomWorks

Mychal Massie
Advisory Council Chairman
Project 21

Steve Baldwin
Executive Director
Council for National Policy Action, Inc.

Caren Cowen
Executive Director
New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association

Randy T. Simmons
Mayor, Providence City, UT
Professor, Utah State University

Donald E. Wildmon
Founder and Chairman
American Family Association

Leroy Watson
Legislative Director
National Grange

Kelsey Zahourek
Executive Director
Property Rights Alliance

Roy Cordato, Ph.D.
VP for Research and Resident Scholar
John Locke Foundation

C.J. Hadley
Publisher/Editor
Range Magazine

Elizabeth Arnold
Grassroots Consultant, Environmental Community Outreach Services, Juneau, AK

Greg Blankenship
President
Illinois Policy Institute

Bill Wilson
President
Americans for Limited Government

Jane Hogan
Secretary
Ontario Hardwood Company, Inc.

Katherine Lehman
President
People for the USA Grange #835

Howard Hutchinson
Executive Director
Coalition of Arizona/New Mexico Counties

C. Preston Noell III
President
Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.

Dr. William Greene
President
RightMarch.com

Leo T. Bergeron
President
Upper Mid-Klamath Watershed Council

Eugene Delgaudio
President
Public Advocate of the U.S., Inc.

Leri M. Thomas, Ph.D.
Charter Member
Virginians for Property Rights

John McClaughry
President
Ethan Allen Institute

Richard O. Rowland
President
Grassroot Institute of Hawaii

James W. Jarrell, Sr.
Board Member
Virginia Bear Hunters Association

Harold L. Stephens
Member
Citizens to Protect the Confluence

Jerry Fennell
Chairman
Jicarilla Mining District

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D.
Senior Fellow
National Center for Public Policy Research

Judy Keeler
Secretary
Bootheel Heritage Assoc. (Animas, NM)

Alexandra H. Mulkern
Mechanicsville, MD

Lee Riddle
Brookings, OR

Stephen L. Ralston
Columbia, PA

Mark Pollot
Boise, ID

Billy Jean Redemeyer-Roney

D.J. McCarthy
Civil Engineer

Clifton McDonald
Needles, CA

Kirk and Jeri Hansen
Clayton, ID

Suzanne Volpe
Sterling, VA

Amy Ridenour
Director
Americans for the Preservation of Liberty
A press release, "Hypocrisy Watch: Congress Expands Opportunity for Self-Dealing While Claiming Historic Progress on Government Ethics," describing the project in more detail is available here.
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Posted by Amy Ridenour at 12:39 AM

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