Free Markets, Free People

Monthly Archives: March 2010


Diplomacy for Dummies (Update)

Surely there’s one of the famous self-help series by that name.  If so, could someone do us all a favor and send copies to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton?

Argentina was celebrating a diplomatic coup yesterday in its attempt to force Britain to accept talks on the future of the Falkland Islands, after a two-hour meeting in Buenos Aires between Hillary Clinton and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Responding to a request from Mrs Kirchner for “friendly mediation” between Britain and Argentina, Mrs Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said she agreed that talks were a sensible way forward and offered “to encourage both countries to sit down”.

Uh, sit down for what? Britain claimed the Falklands in 1833 after British settlers settled there during the decade. The islands lay 300 miles off the Argentine coast. In 1982, it had to fend off an attack by Argentina in a bid to take them over. Now 3 British oil companies plan to put an offshore oil rig 100 miles north of the islands.

Somehow Argentina, who should have gotten the message in 1982, is still under the mistaken impression it has some say over what goes on there:

“What they are doing is illegitimate,” said Jorge Taiana, the foreign minister. “It’s a violation of our sovereignty. We will do everything possible to defend and preserve our rights.”

Riiiight. Like they did in ’82. Look, internationally, this is pretty much settled business. Other than Argentina, no one questions which country has sovereign control in the Falklands. And certainly not those who lives there. The 3,000 island dwellers all consider themselves, and have always considered themselves, a part of the British Commonwealth.

Territorial waters, as defined by 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea extend 12 miles. Then there is a 12 mile “contiguous zone” in which a state has limited powers. A state also enjoys a 200 mile “exclusive economic zone” which includes “control of all economic resources within its exclusive economic zone, including fishing, mining, oil exploration, and any pollution of those resources.” That zone includes the territorial and contiguous zone as well.

As the cite points out:

Before 1982, coastal nations arbitrarily extended their territorial waters in an effort to control activities which are now regulated by the exclusive economic zone, such as offshore oil exploration or fishing rights (see Cod Wars). Indeed, the exclusive economic zone is still popularly, though erroneously, called a coastal nation’s territorial waters.

With the Falklands being 300 miles off the coast and the rig a 100 miles north of the islands, there is obviously nothing to the dubious claim of Argentine sovereignty (again remember, other than claim the islands, Argentina never settled them or has occupied them).

Enter Hillary Clinton – someone whose job it is to know all of this.

Her intervention defied Britain’s longstanding position that there should be no negotiations unless the islands’ 3,000 inhabitants asked for them. It was hailed in Buenos Aires as a major diplomatic victory, but condemned in the Falklands.

Britain insisted there was no need for mediation as long as the islanders wanted to remain British. “We don’t think that’s necessary,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

[...]

She gave no sign of backing the British position on negotiations, saying instead: “We would like to see Argentina and the UK sit down and resolve the issues between them in a peaceful and productive way. We want very much to encourage both countries to sit down. We cannot make either one do so. We think it is the right way to proceed, so we will be saying this publicly.”

Simply amazing. Our longest standing ally thrown under the bus to solicit warm fuzzies in South America that, as have been proven with others like Hugo Chavez, have the half-life of a Mayfly.

There will be a price to pay in the future for this as anyone who has watched international relations for any time knows.  Britain will extract a pound of flesh.  In the meantime, other than empty words meant to please those who will remain deeply skeptical of the US, all that’s been accomplished is the abandonment of an ally.  Essentially all Clinton has done is give false hope to Argentina and royally pissed off a solid ally.

Too bad the book in question isn’t available for Ms. Clinton.  And apparently she’s also forgotten the old saying about “remaining silent and being thought a fool rather than speaking out and removing all doubt.”

UPDATE:  Ralph Peters provides the back story.

~McQ


SCOTUS prepared to “incorporate” 2nd Amendment via 14th?

It appears that may be the case as the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in the Chicago gun ban case (McDonald v. Chicago).  Great write up at the SCOTUSblog if you haven’t read it.  Per Lyle Denniston, the court appears to be leaning toward incorporating the individual right to keep and bear arms interpretation of the amendment nationally:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday seemed poised to require state and local governments to obey the Second Amendment guarantee of a personal right to a gun, but with perhaps considerable authority to regulate that right.  The dominant sentiment on the Court was to extend the Amendment beyond the federal level, based on the 14th Amendment’s guarantee of “due process,” since doing so through another part of the 14th Amendment would raise too many questions about what other rights might emerge.

Make sure you read the whole thing as there’s lots of interesting discussion about why most feel that will be the final decision of the court. Also note that while it is believed the court will incorporate the 2nd Amendment as an individual right, it will leave state and local governments with, as Denniston says “considerable authority to regulate that right”. That part of it, I’m sure, will continue to be fought in the courts over the years. But if this turns out as it appears it might, it will be an almost fatal blow to the “2nd Amendment is a collective right” crowd.

~McQ


$7 gas in our near future?

While Senators Graham, Kerry and Lieberman scramble around telling you how bright the energy future will be if they are able to pass their carbon tax bill, here’s a sober reminder of what it will actually bring to working Americans:

To meet the Obama administration’s targets for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, some researchers say, Americans may have to experience a sobering reality: gas at $7 a gallon.

To reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the transportation sector 14 percent from 2005 levels by 2020, the cost of driving must simply increase, according to a forthcoming report by researchers at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Not might increase. Must. Those targets are 10 years in the future. So “must” has to begin to take effect pretty soon if they’re to be met, wouldn’t you say?

As for that promise that 95% of Americans won’t see their taxes increased by a dime? Well, Obama’s agnostic about that now.

Take a good look at the figure and try to visualize the impact on your family’s budget. Also remember the transportation sector uses 70% of carbon based fuels. So not only is gas going to cost you about $4.50 more a gallon in taxes, every single necessity and consumer good you purchase will cost you more as well. Factor that in as well. Now try to imagine the impact on a struggling economy.

There are different ways to skin the taxation cat – and income taxes are only one of them. Of course it really doesn’t matter to you how they do it, the result remains the same: less money for you to use on your priorities and needs.

~McQ


When Girl Scouts Attack

Some of you would no doubt love to be accosted by a bunch of girl scouts plying their wares (you know who you are), but you won’t be subject to such a harrowing experience in Seattle:

Tim Burgess’s move to outlaw “aggressive panhandling” may be an unconstitutional, attention-seeking bully tactic, but at least the Councilmember appears willing to apply the law equally to anyone asking for money on the streets. Even if they just want to sell you a box of thin mints.

The issue, such as it is, arose from a (possibly facetious) email exchange between a Seattle Councilmember and an alleged citizen complaining about what can only described as a channeling of a Mike Myers mock-horror scene:

Councilmember Burgess:

I was strongly opposed to your panhandling proposal until my experience on the streets of downtown West Seattle yesterday. Now I totally understand where you’re coming from.

Here’s what happened: on the way to the West Seattle Farmer’s Market, I encountered a band of Girl Scouts aggressively promoting cookie sales within spitting distance of a KeyBank ATM where I was withdrawing money. The situation was so extreme that I could actually hear their aggressive, repeated, high-pitched solicitations at the very moment I was entering my PIN. Then as my cash was dispensed and I nervously removed my receipt — trying to stay calm despite this invasion of my constitutional right to not be confronted by my relative class status — I saw two adult women. They were the ringleaders, I assume. They didn’t seem to be doing anything but watching over the whole scene and talking discreetly to each other about god knows what. All in all, a nerve-racking experience.

So there they were, asking for money, repeatedly, despite my lack of interest in what was on offer, all happening well within 15 feet of an ATM. Would this be banned by the your ordinance? I certainly hope so, because there’s a long history of applying laws like this inequitably, almost as an excuse to push poor people out of desirable areas instead of addressing the actual problem.

Thanks for any information you can offer.

My best guess is that this email comes from a rather disgruntled, yet somewhat clever, panhandler. The Councilmember’s response is both appropriate and obviously skeptical, but it does raise an interesting question: if the state is going to exercise it’s police powers judiciously, doesn’t that ensure that we miss out on opportunities that are neither a threat nor an offer of something we don’t really want? After all, what sort of hair-shirted aesthete do you have to be to not want girl scout cookies?

When it comes to local rules and regulations, I’m not one to quibble too much unless such restrictions impinge on fundamental rights. Setting up shop in a public way certainly deserves some treatment of police power since the sidewalks belong to the public. At the same time, if you are just standing around hawking your legal goods, I really don’t understand what it is we need to be protected from. Can it be annoying to walk through a gauntlet of capitalism? Sure. Maybe worse for some than others. But we don’t have any right to be free from annoyance, do we?

I mean, if that were the case, then why should I be bothered by ACORN morons marching up and down the street where I work? Nothing has ever been done about that. Once, I nearly came to blows with some idiot preaching about how we needed a new New Deal while I was trying to enjoy a leisurely stroll in downtown Alexandria, VA. Do I have the right to be free from that annoyance? Not bloody likely.

And the fact of the matter is that I shouldn’t be “free” from those annoyances, anymore than I should expect to be “free” from girl scouts selling cookies on a street corner, or a hippie selling dew rags in a city square. If one of them genuinely threatens my peace, then the appropriate authorities should be able to step in, but how often is that truly the case? That some panhandler was able to point out this hypocrisy in the enforcement of Seattle’s anti-public-space-economy laws (to coin a terrible phrase) only underscores how ridiculous the application of police power (local or otherwise) has become.

The bottom line is that, whether one is selling girl scout cookies or dew rags, why do I need the state’s protection? Keep the public ways clear for the public sure, but let’s not forget that commerce is what truly makes the world go ’round. Without it, that police protection doesn’t get paid for.

[HT: Tom Scott]


AGW Climate-gate review: Why the “science” is suspect

My friend Ed Morrisey over at Hot Air, goes on a righteous rant about the failure of the American media, unlike the British and Australian media, to investigate the allegations of fraud and malfeasance leveled against those who have advanced the AGW theories. Why they’ve not done so remains a mystery (well, sort of). But while doing so, Ed offers a very good list of what has happened to date:

I suspect this will end up being a partial list as more and more comes out. And, to add to his last point, this week another very respected scientific institution voiced it’s concerns:

Scientists at the heart of the Climategate row were yesterday accused by a leading academic body of undermining science’s credibility.

The Institute of Physics said ‘worrying implications’ had been raised after it was revealed the University of East Anglia had manipulated data on global warming.

Of course Dr. Phil Jones of East Anglia’s CRU, testifying before the Science and Technology Committee in the UK, admits to writing some “pretty awful emails” but denies the manipulation of data charge. The Institute of Physics is having none of that however:

Giving evidence to a Science and Technology Committee inquiry, the Institute of Physics said: ‘Unless the disclosed emails are proved to be forgeries or adaptations, worrying implications arise for the integrity of scientific research and for the credibility of the scientific method.

‘The principle that scientists should be willing to expose their results to independent testing and replication by others, which requires the open exchange of data, procedures and materials, is vital.’

In fact, it is known as the Scientific Method. Jones, apparently, doesn’t agree:

[Jones] claimed it was not ‘standard practice’ to release data and computer models so other scientists could check and challenge research.

In the world of science – real science – that should automatically mean that it should be “standard practice” for other scientists to disregard anything theorized by someone who refuses to release data and models for peer review. And that appears to be exactly what is beginning to happen among the more reputable scientists.

Meanwhile, with total disregard for the story or the facts our media and politicians continue to push for implementation of the policy recommendations that have been derived from this rapidly disintegrating attempt to scam us through “science.” Given the scam they’re running about health care reform, that should come as absolutely no surprise.

~McQ


Zombie Cap-and-Trade coming to a utility bill near you soon

Senator’s Lindsey Graham, John Kerry and Joe Lieberman have bought the premise that “carbon = bad”.  But being politicians, looking at the economy and understanding the discontent of the voters with both health care reform and cap-and-trade, they’ve decided on a more incremental approach to implementing the latter.

First, they announce that “cap-and-trade as we know it is dead“. Of course cap-and-trade is, at base, a tax on carbon which is now considered a “pollutant” by the anointed. Apparently they believe you’ll believe that since it isn’t a comprehensive, across the board imposition of carbon taxation via the method of cap-and-trade, you’ll buy into the basic lie that this is wholly different.

Then they proffer their plan, which, of course, they claim is nothing like cap-and-trade. Really. It’s not:

Rather than include all major industrial sources of greenhouse gases in one broad economywide cap-and-trade system, the Senate trio will propose different types of limits for different sectors of the economy, beginning with electric utilities and then turning later to manufacturers such as chemical plants and pulp and paper mills.

Said another way, they prefer to tax carbon incrementally and not all at once. And that is the only real difference between Graham/Kerry/Lieberman and cap-and-trade.

The result? Read this finely wrought paragraph carefully to glean the effect:

“The bottom line with utilities is they’ll assume a compliance obligation from day one of the program,” the Senate staffer said, adding that no decisions have been made on how to allocate valuable emission allowances to the power companies except to incorporate an industry recommendation to shuttle revenue toward consumers to help pay for higher energy bills.

You have to love the “nuance” – the intent is to agree with the industry (allow them to raise their rates commensurate with the increase in cost to them) and “shuttle revenue toward consumers to help pay for higher energy bills”. In other words, subsidize consumers to pay for industry’s upgrades to cut carbon dioxide output.

The bottom line is your utility bills are going up from day one of the passage of this bill and the taxpayer – you – will be on the hook to subsidize yourself to pay for the increased cost.

Another in a long line of schemes we simply can’t afford and a convoluted and costly method of implementation.

And eventually, of course, the cost of other products (chemical companies? paper mills?) to include transportation and certainly at some point, gasoline and home heating oil will all be taxed as well.

Transportation fuels can expect a carbon tax that rises based on the compliance costs faced by the other major emitters. Several major oil companies, including Shell Oil Co., ConocoPhillips and BP America, floated the original idea on Capitol Hill, and the Senate trio has evolved their plan by funneling revenue toward transportation projects, reducing fuel consumption and lowering domestic reliance on foreign oil. The Highway Trust Fund is also a potential recipient of the carbon tax revenue, Senate aides said.

A carbon tax, by any other name, is still a carbon tax, isn’t it? And the timing of such legislation is just perfect. If passed anytime soon, the increased costs to industry should hit just about the time they’re beginning to climb out of recession.

As they make their case for the legislation, the three senators plan to tout their effort to incorporate energy and climate proposals into one overall package. And they will highlight the shift on carbon pricing away from cap and trade.

“It will be different from anything that’s been put on the table in the House or Senate to date,” Kerry said last week. “It’ll be comprehensive. And I hope it’ll change the debate.”

But it’s not “different” in the most important aspect – it taxes carbon. The premise is that carbon dioxide is a pollutant. For those who don’t accept the premise as accurate or scientifically valid, this is no different than cap-and-trade. It aims at the same result (taxing carbon) only approaching it in a slightly different and incremental manner.

~McQ


Nate Silver, FDR and Obama

Nate Silver, a guy I respect and enjoy reading, dances around the point of a Weekly Standard comparison of FDR and Obama.

The WS points out:

If Franklin Delano Roosevelt were president today [...] liberal health care reform would have been enacted already. [...]

Silver, a man of numbers (he was tweeting Olympic goalie shot blocking stats during the US/Canada gold medal hockey game for heaven sake), goes to them and wonders why FDR’s (and LBJ as a comparison) congressional majorities weren’t mentioned by the Standard.

Silver goes on to talk about the huge size of the majorities FDR enjoyed, the implication being that they made a significant difference.

But that wasn’t the Standard’s point as seen in these paragraphs that Silver also quotes:

The reason is tied to what is probably the greatest difference between FDR and Obama. Roosevelt took command of Washington. Obama hasn’t. “FDR became the father of the modern presidency by moving the Chief Executive to the center of the American political universe,” John Yoo writes in his new book on presidential power, Crisis and Command. “Roosevelt’s revolution radically shifted the balance of power among the three branches of government.” [...]

FDR seized legislative authority. The bills that Congress passed in his first 100 days and beyond were produced by the Roosevelt administration and ratified reflexively by Congress.

Those three highlighted quotes are the reason for Obama’s problem – quite simply a lack of leadership. Where FDR was proactive, wrote the legislation and then twisted arms to get it passed in a majority Democratic congress, Obama has done none of that.  He outsourced it. He instead left it up to Congress to write the legislation (with predictable results) and squandered a majority by passing nothing of his big ticket agenda. He’s now reduced to parliamentary tricks to try to pass health care reform legislation.

Whether or not Obama’s majorities are as big as those of FDR or LBJ enjoyed isn’t the point – the point is he had majorities and he squandered them by sitting back, leaving it all to Congress and letting party infighting slow and then stall his agenda. Had he, as the Standard notes about FDR, taken “command of Washington” and the legislative process the outcome might have been very different.  Had he introduced legislation written by the administration, he had a very good chance of having health care done by last year.

He didn’t. So the point isn’t about the size of majorities. It isn’t clear Obama would have been in any better shape had he had FDR’s majorities. The point is Obama is no FDR because he lacks the leadership qualities, skills and abilities of FDR, not because he had a smaller majority in Congress.

~McQ


“Unexpectedly” Bad Employment Statistics

The Employment Situation statistics are due out later this week.  They will be bad.  I know this, because Larry Summers is already spinning them.

White House economic adviser Larry Summers said on Monday winter blizzards were likely to distort U.S. February jobless figures, which are due to be released on Friday.

“The blizzards that affected much of the country during the last month are likely to distort the statistics. So it’s going to be very important … to look past whatever the next figures are to gauge the underlying trends,” Summers said in an interview with CNBC, according to a transcript.

So, please, when you see the numbers of Friday, be sure you don’t assume that they have any policy implications.  It’s all about the weather, you see.


Rebellious Province?

So, I’m watching “60 Minutes” last night, as they reported about Chinese espionage against the US.  Then out of the blue, I hear Taiwan described by Scott Pelley as, “the rebellious Chinese island that mainland China wants to reclaim.”

Wow.  Except for the bit about Taiwan being an island, there is almost nothing in that sentence that is factually correct.  It is almost the complete reversal of the truth.

Taiwan is, in fact, the last vestige of the Republic of China–the government that was pushed off the mainland by the communist rebels in 1949.  The communist government in Peking–that’s right, I wrote “Peking”–never occupied it or owned it, so they can’t “reclaim” it.  It isn’t a “rebellious” province.  It is the last outpost of the legitimate–and I use that word very advisedly, considering the Kuomintang’s shaky claim to legitimacy–ROC government that the Chicoms drove out of the mainland.

That really irked me.


Why Lindsey Graham needs a new job

In an interview with Thomas Friedman, Sen. Lindsey Graham (Alarmist – SC) says that the GOP needs to embrace the suck that is AGW.  He says 3 things brought him around to the alarmist point of view – politics, jobs and legacy.  We’ve covered “green jobs” before.  Ask Spain how well that’s working out.  That leaves politics (there’s a surprise) and legacy (he wants to be remembered for saving the earth – no hubris there).

Lets deal with politics first.

The Republican Party today has a major outreach problem with two important constituencies, “Hispanics and young people,” Graham explains:

“I have been to enough college campuses to know if you are 30 or younger this climate issue is not a debate. It’s a value. These young people grew up with recycling and a sensitivity to the environment — and the world will be better off for it. They are not brainwashed. … From a Republican point of view, we should buy into it and embrace it and not belittle them. You can have a genuine debate about the science of climate change, but when you say that those who believe it are buying a hoax and are wacky people you are putting at risk your party’s future with younger people

Just “wow”. Let me ask the Republicans out there – are you against recycling and are you insensitive to the environment? Do you find unacceptable the notion that we should be good stewards? Are you for dirty water and dirty air?

Of course not. That’s what the Lindsey Graham’s of the world ought to be out there making clear. Not allowing the implication that if people, and especially the GOP, don’t buy into this nonsense of global warming they’re against everything to do with the environment. It’s a false premise!

So the fact that those who are 30 or younger consider the climate issue a “value”, he should be asking “what does that mean”? A “value” in which bad and/or unproven science is acceptable as “proof” that man has more of a role than nature? That’s not a value, sir – that’s a religion. The fact that this nonsense has been pumped into their brains for years and years doesn’t make it a fact or a “value”. And Graham can claim those who believe all of that aren’t brainwashed but I’d beg to differ. If they’ve bought into AlGorism, the only reason a thinking person would still believe it, given the recent revelations, would be due to something akin to “brainwashing”.

The solution? Oh, you’ll love this:

So Graham’s approach to bringing around his conservative state has been simple: avoid talking about “climate change,” which many on the right don’t believe.

Yeah, that’s brilliant – cede the field to unproven nonsense. And by the way Mr. Graham – it isn’t that the right doesn’t believe in “climate change”, of course they believe in that. It is a constant of life on earth.  What they’re having trouble believing is the cause is man. Ceding the field to the alarmists is a sure way to see bad legislation based on bad science become a reality.

And sure enough, Graham is right in the middle of trying to accomplish just that:

Instead, frame our energy challenge as a need to “clean up carbon pollution,” to “become energy independent” and to “create more good jobs and new industries for South Carolinians.” He proposes “putting a price on carbon,” starting with a very focused carbon tax, as opposed to an economywide cap-and-trade system, so as to spur both consumers and industries to invest in and buy new clean energy products. He includes nuclear energy, and insists on permitting more offshore drilling for oil and gas to give us more domestic sources, as we bridge to a new clean energy economy.

Of course despite his opposition to cap-and-trade, he buys into the key concept “carbon is pollution” which, once established in law, is but a short run to establishing a future need for full blown cap-and-trade. Those are the politics Mr. I Buy Into The Alarmist Nonsense is backing.

Once the “carbon should be taxed” genie is out of the bottle, it won’t be put back in.  All it can do is get bigger and more powerful.  And that’s precisely what Mr. Graham’s “putting a price on carbon” promises.

“Cap-and-trade as we know it is dead, but the issue of cleaning up the air and energy independence should not die — and you will never have energy independence without pricing carbon,” Graham argues. “The technology doesn’t make sense until you price carbon. Nuclear power is a bet on cleaner air. Wind and solar is a bet on cleaner air. You make those bets assuming that cleaning the air will become more profitable than leaving the air dirty, and the only way it will be so is if the government puts some sticks on the table — not just carrots.

So, despite his claim, putting a price on carbon means zombie cap-and-trade is not only not dead, but lurking in the wings. How Graham doesn’t understand that is mind boggling. Oh, wait, I know why – legacy:

This isn’t just for the next generation, says Graham: “As you talk about the future, if you forget the people who live in the present, you will have no future politically. You have to get the people in the present to buy into the future. I tell my voters: ‘If we try to clean up the air and become energy independent, we will create more jobs than anything I can do as a senator.’

It is visions such as this that usually end up driving thriving economies right off the cliff. We’ll tax what fuels the economy and we’ll hope that the vision comes to be just as we’ve imagined it. Unicorns and rainbows quickly meet real people without jobs because idiots like Graham want to use government’s power to build their legacy.  And how pathetic is this?

“What is our view of carbon as a party? Are we the party of carbon pollution forever in unlimited amounts? Pricing carbon is the key to energy independence, and the byproduct is that young people look at you differently.” Look at how he is received in colleges today. “Instead of being just one more short, white Republican over 50,” says Graham, “I am now semicool. There is an awareness by young people that I am doing something different.”

Thomas Friedman says:

Sure, Graham’s strategy will give many greens heartburn. I don’t agree with every point. But if there is going to be a clean energy bill, greens and Democrats will have to recruit some Republicans. Graham says he’s ready to meet them in the middle. “We’ve got to get started,” he says, “because once we do, every C.E.O. will adopt a carbon strategy, no matter what the law actually requires.”

Bad premise, bad science, hubris and an inclination to use the coercive power of government to change the world.

What in the world could go wrong with that?

~McQ