Freedom and Liberty
From a story in the NY Times:
The world’s major industrial nations and emerging powers failed to agree Wednesday on significant cuts in heat-trapping gases by 2050, unraveling an effort to build a global consensus to fight climate change, according to people following the talks.
As President Obama arrived for three days of meetings with other international leaders, negotiators dropped a proposal that would have committed the world to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by midcentury and industrialized countries to slashing their emissions by 80 percent.
Essentially that means that even with the House passing cap-and-trade’s economy crippling taxes, the rest of the world, especially the “emerging nations” (such as China, India, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico), are refusing to do the same.
This was the most interesting part of the story:
The breakdown on climate change underscored the difficulty in bridging divisions between the most developed countries like the United States and developing nations like China and India. In the end, people close to the talks said, the emerging powers refused to agree to the limits because they wanted industrial countries to commit to midterm goals in 2020 and to follow through on promises of financial and technological help.
“They’re saying, ‘We just don’t trust you guys,’” said Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists, an advocacy group based in the United States. “It’s the same gridlock we had last year when Bush was president.”
You don’t say? Perhaps it is because the idea is the same stupid idea that was put forward during the Bush era and it isn’t selling any better while Obama is president. The “emerging nations” have seen the opportunity here to play a little economic catch-up. They get the Western economies to hobble themselves and they get a bonus wealth transfer too boot:
Mr. Meyer estimated that the United States, Europe and other industrial nations need to come up with $150 billion a year in assistance by 2020 to help develop clean energy technology for developing countries, reduce deforestation that contributes to rising temperatures, and help vulnerable nations adapt to changes attributed to greenhouse gases.
That’s $150 billion a year plus cap-and-trade. And we all know who will pick up the lion’s share of that tab. We should also remember that you can safely double any government estimate and probably be closer to reality than what you read initially.
So in a recessionary period in which the rest of the world seems to be understanding the folly of economically crippling legislation to curb CO2 emissions (as witnessed by the G8’s failure to agree to such curbs and the promise of further failure in Copenhagen), we choose to embrace them.
Ideology and bad science win the day in the US, while the rest of the world moves away from real emissions curbs or recognize the opportunity to exploit them for cash.
When it comes to economics, the Pope should stick to poping. While it’s not uncommon for the papacy to issue decrees and opinions vaguely in line with common socialist principles (e.g. love thy neighbor, etc.), it is somewhat rare for the Pope to outright call for one-world government:
Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday called for a radical rethinking of the global economy, criticizing a growing divide between rich and poor and urging the establishment of a “world political authority” to oversee the economy and work for the “common good.”
He criticized the current economic system, “where the pernicious effects of sin are evident,” and urged financiers in particular to “rediscover the genuinely ethical foundation of their activity.”
He also called for “greater social responsibility” on the part of business. “Once profit becomes the exclusive goal, if it is produced by improper means and without the common good as its ultimate end, it risks destroying wealth and creating poverty,” Benedict wrote in his new encyclical, which the Vatican released on Tuesday.
I wonder what happened to leave to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s? Or how about that whole concept of “free will”; you know the very basis and foundation of our religious “faith” (which, of course, can only come from choice and not from force)? That seems to be under indictment with Pope Benedict’s latest encyclical.
Leaving aside world governance for the moment, the Pope really goes off the rails when he gets into economic policy. For example, at one point he decries “globalization” and “outsourcing” as little more than the rich preying on the poor:
Indeed, sometimes Benedict sounds like an old-school European socialist, lamenting the decline of the social welfare state and praising the “importance” of labor unions to protect workers. Without stable work, he notes, people lose hope and tend not to get married and have children.
But he also wrote that “The so-called outsourcing of production can weaken the company’s sense of responsibility towards the stakeholders — namely the workers, the suppliers, the consumers, the natural environment and broader society — in favor of the shareholders.”
In short, managers should run their companies for the benefit of those who whine about the common good rather than for those who actually paid for the company (i.e. the shareholders). I’m guessing this is the “squeaky wheel” part of the sermon.
Yet, while outsourcing is deemed “bad”, the Pope also laments that poor countries aren’t better taken care of by richer ones. Towards that end
Benedict also called for a reform of the United Nations so that there could be a unified “global political body” that allowed the less powerful of the earth to have a voice, and he called on rich nations to help less fortunate ones.
“In the search for solutions to the current economic crisis, development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all,” he wrote.
Except for the fact that “development aid” is not wealth. Wealth is created through productivity, not handouts. Indeed, the surest and simplest way to aid development in poor countries to give them jobs … a.k.a “outsourcing.” Doesn’t that whole give a man a fish/teach a man to fish thing ring any bells, your Holiness? Moreover, the more things like outsourcing happen, then the greater wealth there is in the world, and the more work/wealth/happiness there is for everyone to enjoy. Again, I’m pretty sure that was something about loaves and fishes in the Bible that would help illustrate this point.
So much for Papal infallibility.
Just to be clear, I say all of this as a practicing Catholic who is raising his own children in the same tradition. I have great respect for the Pontif when it comes to matters of the spirit. I just wish he’d leave the day-to-day management to the rest of us.
Of course it is. If it wasn’t, why would a provision such as this be in the bill?
According to Friday’s Washington Times, the legislation includes language that provides, should it become law, that people who lose their jobs because of it “could get a weekly paycheck for up to three years, subsidies to find new work and other generous benefits—courtesy of Uncle Sam.”
How generous are these benefits? Well, according to the Times, “Adversely affected employees in oil, coal and other fossil-fuel sector jobs would qualify for a weekly check worth 70 percent of their current salary for up to three years. In addition, they would get $1,500 for job-search assistance and $1,500 for moving expenses from the bill’s ‘climate change worker adjustment assistance’ program, which is expected to cost $4.2 billion from 2011 to 2019.”
Unlike thinking countries who do indeed see a future for alternative energy (but understand “future” is the key word), it appears our government is set on destroying our current “fossil-fuel sector” and hope something will be available on the scale necessary among the alternatives to pick up the slack.
The term “amazingly short-sighted” seems appropriate here, doesn’t it? After Nancy Pelosi’s “jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs” comment concerning the ostensible purpose of the bill the Democrats then build in a provision which apparently is designed to soften the blow of legislatively killing a vital industry that, at the moment, has no real replacement.
Well if the UK is any example, “green jackets”, a sort of environmental police force with the power to enter and search (with a blanket “warrant”) any company it so chooses to inspect. Is “Gestapo-like” tactics a stretch?
The boys in green are coming as the Environment Agency sets up a squad to police companies generating excessive CO2 emissions.
The agency is creating a unit of about 50 auditors and inspectors, complete with warrant cards and the power to search company premises to enforce the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), which comes into effect next year.
Decked out in green jackets, the enforcers will be able to demand access to company property, view power meters, call up electricity and gas bills and examine carbon-trading records for an estimated 6,000 British businesses. Ed Mitchell, head of business performance and regulation at the Environment Agency, said the squad would help to bring emissions under control. “Climate change and CO2 are the world’s biggest issues right now. The Carbon Reduction Commitment is one of the ways in which Britain is responding.”
The formation of the green police overcomes a psychological hurdle in the battle against climate change. Ministers have long recognised the need to have new categories of taxes and criminal offences for CO2 emissions, but fear a repetition of the fuel tax protests in 2000 when lorry drivers blockaded refineries.
Criminal offenses for “CO2 emissions” – Orwell saw this coming but clearly he didn’t understand that it would be based in criminalizing a natural byproduct of respiration and trace atmospheric gas, did he?
Again, it’s the precedent this sets which is both upsetting and dangerous. Probable cause? Green Jackets don’t need no probable cause!
Let freedom ring.
I assume, since China is a totalitarian state, that the US won’t have anything to say about the violence there for at least 10 days:
The official death toll in riots in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region rose sharply Monday, with the government saying that 140 had been killed in what appears to be one of the deadliest episodes of unrest in China in decades.
Police said at least 828 other people were injured in violence that began Sunday in Urumqi, Xinjiang’s capital. Witnesses said the conflicts pitted security forces against demonstrators, and members of the region’s Turkic-speaking Uighur ethnic group against members of the country’s Han Chinese majority. Many among the predominantly Muslim Uighurs have chafed at Chinese government rule.
As evening fell in Urumqi Monday, witnesses said that paramilitary troops of the People’s Armed Police, backed by armored personnel carriers, were patrolling largely calm city streets. Many businesses remained shuttered and gates of the city’s central bazaar, which was the scene of unrest Sunday night, were closed.
Police said they were still searching for dozens of people suspected of fanning the violence. Several hundred people have already been arrested in connection with the riot, police said, and the government said it was bringing “ethnic officials” from nearby areas to help with interrogations.
Of course the reason given by the Chinese government is much the same as that given by the Iranian government concerning the problems there –
The government blamed the unrest on a prominent exiled Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer, president of the World Uyghur Congress, an activist group. Sunday’s demonstration was “instigated and directed from abroad,” according to a government statement cited by Xinhua.
Given that statement, you can expect silence from the Obama administration as they’ll want to ensure they’re not seen as “meddling” in China’s internal affairs. And I can promise you that the Uighur dissidents being rounded up by China’s police forces will not be offered a vacation in Bermuda.
Apparently the only country in which the “no meddling” policy is waved is Honduras.
He took off a few hours ago from the US in – wait for it – a Venezuelan plane. Naturally the UN has actually gotten off of its rear-end and taken what, for it, is “action”. The UN General Assembly President Miguel D’Escoto Brockmann and a number of journalists are accompanying former Honduran president Mel Zelaya.
Honduras, naturally, has said Zelaya isn’t welcome and has stated they will arrest him should he try to reenter the country. The OAS, in the meantime, has suspended Honduras from the organization.
The interim government (which some news organizations are characterizing as a “military government”) pleads for the rest of the world to back off and let Honduras work this out.
But, with apparently everything under control and in tip top shape in their respective countries, the presidents of Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay, along with the head of the OAS have time to fly to El Salvador to “monitor events.”
Meanwhile it is reported that Nicaragua is moving troops toward the Honduran border. All of this tacitly green-lighted by the Obama administration’s stance.
The Venezuelan plane carrying deposed president Mel Zelaya landed in El Salvador, according to Honduran daily El Heraldo. Venezuelan chancellor Nicolás Maduro verified that the airplane was Venezuelan and identified it as YV-1496.
But that’s not meddling – no siree.
Honduras has reported it will not allow the landing of the Venezuelan aircraft carrying Zelaya in Honduras. My guess is they’ll now try to drive into Honduras from El Salvador.
For new readers, the title is what the shortened “QandO” means.
- Whether you love her, hate her or really don’t care, it is hard too argue against the assertion that Sarah Palin effectively ended any national aspirations she might have had by announcing her pending resignation (assuming there isn’t some extremely compelling private family reason for doing so). The first thing any political opponent is going to say is “she quit on the citizens of Alaska, will she quit on you?”
- The story about the Washington Post selling access to the Obama administration isn’t just about the WaPo. Seems to me there had to be some a) knowledge of the plan and b) cooperation from the White House for it to have been as far along as it was. After all, the first “salon” was scheduled to be held at the publisher’s home in 2 weeks. Is anyone exploring that angle?
- How concerned is Saudi Arabia with the probability of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons? Apparently enough to make it known they’ll turn a blind eye to any Israeli incursion which crosses the kingdom in order to strike Iran.
- Apparently the scales have finally fallen from Colin Powell’s eyes concerning Obama and the direction he’s taking this country. Formerly Powell’s message was that American’s wanted more government and were willing to pay for it. He now says he’s concerned with the number of programs, the legislation associated with them and the cost of the additional government they’ll entail. “We can’t pay for it,” he’s now saying? Better late than never, I suppose, but this just underscores my disaffection with Powell politically.
- Speaking of Sarah Palin, apparently the federal investigation rumors (FBI looking into irregularities concerning the sports complex in Wasilla, etc.) and pending indictment are false. An FBI spokesman in Alaska has said there is no pending indictment or ongoing investigations of her. Concerning the ongoing rumor he says, “it’s just not true”.
- The after effects of the recent “election” in Iran continue to eat away at the foundation of the “Islamic Republic”. The Association of Researchers and Teachers of Qum split with Ayotallah Khamenei declaring both the election and the new govenrment “illegitimate”. That is a very public and unprecedented challenge to Khamenei’s power. Additionally Moussavi’s campaign has released a report that outlines the election violations in detail. These are very serious challenges to the regime’s legitimacy.
- Speaking of Iran, it appears that while the world is ready to ratchet up the pressure on the regime in light of its brutal put down of pro-democracy protesters, the Obama administration is apparently prepared to block any sanctions agreed upon at the G8 summit. I swear I can’t figure that bunch out – support the dictator in Iran and mischaracterize a legal use of constitutional power in Honduras in support of another would-be dictator there.
- Did you know that Hitler had a 600 mph stealth bomber almost ready for production when the allies overran Germany? Check out the pics and description of the HO 2-29.
- The law of unintended consequences continues to operate unabated. Governments, desperate for revenue, have raised property taxes all across the country. Homeowners, knowing their home values have plummeted, are filing an unprecedented number of appeals. Those appeals are costing the governments huge amounts of money in refunds and attorney’s fees. However, homeowners should note that if they don’t appeal, the government will gladly screw them to the wall with an unjustified tax increase. Makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, doesn’t it?
I‘m sorry, but the more I get into the monstrosities coming out of Washington DC, the less I see “independence” as a reality. Just a quick read through Waxman-Markey (and a quick read in anything but easy given the size of the bill) will tend to make you a bit pessimistic about “independence”. Consider the mundane topic of shade trees:
SEC. 205. TREE PLANTING PROGRAMS.
(a) Findings- The Congress finds that–
(1) the utility sector is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States today, producing approximately one-third of the country’s emissions;
(2) heating and cooling homes accounts for nearly 60 percent of residential electricity usage in the United States;
(3) shade trees planted in strategic locations can reduce residential cooling costs by as much as 30 percent;
(4) shade trees have significant clean-air benefits associated with them;
(5) every 100 healthy large trees removes about 300 pounds of air pollution (including particulate matter and ozone) and about 15 tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year;
(6) tree cover on private property and on newly-developed land has declined since the 1970s, even while emissions from transportation and industry have been rising; and
(7) in over a dozen test cities across the United States, increasing urban tree cover has generated between two and five dollars in savings for every dollar invested in such tree planting.
So now the federal government will issue guidelines and hire experts to ensure you plant shade trees properly:
(4) The term ‘tree-siting guidelines’ means a comprehensive list of science-based measurements outlining the species and minimum distance required between trees planted pursuant to this section, in addition to the minimum required distance to be maintained between such trees and–
(A) building foundations;
(B) air conditioning units;
(C) driveways and walkways;
(D) property fences;
(E) preexisting utility infrastructure;
(F) septic systems;
(G) swimming pools; and
(H) other infrastructure as deemed appropriate
And Waxman-Markey is indeed a “green-job creator” of a bill – it creates an entirely new job category – Federal House Inspector. Yes, that’s right, in order to sell your house in the future you must passed a federal housing inspection which will certify your home has the minimal energy rating necessary. And if not, you’ll be required to bring it up to par by replacing appliances (water heaters, air conditioning, etc) or repairing (leaky windows, etc) whatever the inspector finds before you can put it on the market.
Have a candelabra in your dining room? Don’t you dare put any more than a 60 watt bulb in there. You need to also bone up on what you’ll be allowed to do with outdoor lighting, water dispensers, hot tubs and other appliances, not to mention wood burning stoves and water usage.
Yup, if this piece of legislation makes it through the Senate, we need to seriously rethink the name we give the 4th of July. “Independence” will no longer apply. And, given the level of intrusion this bill brings to our lives, you can just imagine what’s in store for us in any health care legislation passed by this administration.
Happy Dependence Day, folks.
I don’t use the “L” word very often but in this case it seems completely appropriate.
Would a government-run health plan upend the employer-based health insurance system used by 160 million Americans?
The Democrats claim the answer is ‘no’.
Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn., say their plan would preserve employer-sponsored insurance coverage and create an affordable public option for those who need it.
“The … bill virtually eliminates the dropping of currently covered employees from employer-sponsored health plans,” Kennedy and Dodd said in a letter to members of the Health Committee, one of two Senate groups working on health reform.
The bill includes a “pay or play” provision that would require employers to provide adequate coverage for their workers or subsidize a system that will.
“Pay or play” would require companies to pay the government $750 per full-time worker per year ($375 for part-timers) if they don’t offer health coverage, or if they offer “qualified” coverage but pay less than 60% of workers’ premiums. Small businesses that employ fewer than 25 workers would be exempt.
The Congressional Budget Office, which analyzed the legislation, estimated that by 2019 the same number of workers would be covered by employer-based plans as would otherwise be the case under the current system.
“It tracks what we’re seeing in Massachusetts,” a senior Democratic aide on the Senate Health Committee said on a conference call with reporters.
I’ve put the lie in bold. Why is it a lie? Anyone out there have a $750 a year health care plan? Anyone? I don’t know of a plan for an individual that costs only $750. If there is, then there’d be no reason for any of this nonsense would there?
And Kennedy and Dodd (and the Democrats), the supposed “experts” on health care know that very well. This is pure disingenuousness on their part. This is a blatant attempt to launch a lie to get them past a very important sticking point in the public perception of the bill.
But the average – average – individual health care insurance cost in the US is almost $4,000. And then there’s the cost of administering it.
Hypothetical – you employ 100 people. Let’s say your company pays full health care coverage at the national average (for simplicity sake, assume they all have individual policies). You have two people who administer the coverage at $35,000 each. Your total cost each year to cover your employees is $470,000.
If you pay the federal government $750 per employee a year, your total cost is $75,000. But you can let the two people you’ve had administering your health care program go, saving $71,500 (includes -$1,500 for 2 less employees). Total cost of “pay or play” for you? $3,500 the first year ($73,500 vs. $470,000 every year afterward). In reality, however, it is a net savings of $466,500. You don’t have to be a very good businessman to figure out that one do you?
And remember – these figures only involve “individual” coverage. Family coverage is much more costly, but I see nothing from our two Senate experts which even addresses that. So obviously, the cost of the health care of 100 employees could be vastly more than my simplified example.
No wonder we see corporations coming out now to back this sort of a program. For the vast majority of them, $750 per employee is a huge savings not to mention getting them out of the health care provision and administration business. They’ll pay it gladly. If you like your doctor or your plan, tough beans. You’re going on the government plan. And, of course, the administration will be more than happy to blame your problem on “greedy corporations.”
When they do, just consider the lie and the incentive it provides and then lay the blame precisely where it belongs. Not that it will do you any good where it concerns your present doctor and plan.
Just another step along the road to single-payer brought to you by two lying Senators and backed by the CBO.
Octavio Sanchez, writing in the Christian Science Monitor, takes exception to the charges that what happened with the removal of President Manuel Zelaya. was a military coup.
Instead, he says, it was a “triumph of the rule of law.” And he gives the world a little lesson in the Honduran Constitution.
In 1982, my country adopted a new Constitution that enabled our orderly return to democracy after years of military rule. After more than a dozen previous constitutions, the current Constitution, at 27 years old, has endured the longest.
It has endured because it responds and adapts to changing political conditions: Of its original 379 articles, seven have been completely or partially repealed, 18 have been interpreted, and 121 have been reformed.
It also includes seven articles that cannot be repealed or amended because they address issues that are critical for us. Those unchangeable articles include the form of government; the extent of our borders; the number of years of the presidential term; two prohibitions – one with respect to reelection of presidents, the other concerning eligibility for the presidency; and one article that penalizes the abrogation of the Constitution.
Sanchez makes the point that Honduras has gone through same sort of “trial and error” process with its constitution as has the US, France and other nations. But he then focuses on the 7 articles that cannot be repealed or amended. They form the crux of the case against Zelaya.
These are the facts: On June 26, President Zelaya issued a decree ordering all government employees to take part in the “Public Opinion Poll to convene a National Constitutional Assembly.” In doing so, Zelaya triggered a constitutional provision that automatically removed him from office.
Constitutional assemblies are convened to write new constitutions. When Zelaya published that decree to initiate an “opinion poll” about the possibility of convening a national assembly, he contravened the unchangeable articles of the Constitution that deal with the prohibition of reelecting a president and of extending his term. His actions showed intent.
Our Constitution takes such intent seriously. According to Article 239: “No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform [emphasis added], as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years.”
Notice that the article speaks about intent and that it also says “immediately” – as in “instant,” as in “no trial required,” as in “no impeachment needed.”
Supreme Court Justice Rosalinda Cruz defended the ouster of Zeyala as well:
The arrest order she cited, approved unanimously by the court’s 15 justices, was released this afternoon along with documents pertaining to a secret investigation that went on for weeks under the high court’s supervision.
Others have also defended Zeyala’s removal:
David Matamoros, a member of Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal, also defended the military’s action.
He said Zelaya originally called the vote a plebiscite, then, when that was barred, shifted to describing it as a poll, creating uncertainty as to its legal standing and his intent. No government agency was willing to conduct the vote, he said. All the ballots and equipment for the illegal poll were flown in on a Venezuelan plane, he said. The court ordered the materials confiscated.
Nothing has been said about the apparent meddling by Venezuela. Nor has there been any investigation by those so interested in immediately condemning the action taken by the authorities in Honduras as a “military coup” into the constitutional claims of the interim government. Given Sanchez’s description of the evidence and the constitutional provisions, it appears he may be right – this was indeed a triumph of the law.
So why was Zelaya flown out of the country instead of being arrested?
The Supreme Court and the attorney general ordered Zelaya’s arrest for disobeying several court orders compelling him to obey the Constitution. He was detained and taken to Costa Rica. Why? Congress needed time to convene and remove him from office. With him inside the country that would have been impossible. This decision was taken by the 123 (of the 128) members of Congress present that day.
15 justices of the Supreme Court, 123 of 128 Congress members, the Attorney General, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the military all acted in concert and apparently within the law and the constitution, to remove someone who had violated the constitution and essentially impeached himself.
Don’t believe the coup myth. The Honduran military acted entirely within the bounds of the Constitution. The military gained nothing but the respect of the nation by its actions.
I am extremely proud of my compatriots. Finally, we have decided to stand up and become a country of laws, not men. From now on, here in Honduras, no one will be above the law.
Given that explanation and assuming it is the case, it seems we should be celebrating what Honduras has done instead of condemning it.