Questions and Observations

Free Markets, Free People

G-8 Climate Change Agreement A Bust

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.

Brilliant.

~McQ

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Obama/Honduras – Still Not Getting It

From an Obama statement in Russia:

“America supports now the restoration of the democratically-elected President of Honduras, even though he has strongly opposed American policies,” the president told graduate students at the commencement ceremony of Moscow’s New Economic School. “We do so not because we agree with him. We do so because we respect the universal principle that people should choose their own leaders, whether they are leaders we agree with or not. “

Again and again Obama stresses the fact that Mel Zelaya was “democratically-elected”. But the same could be said about many of today’s dictators. Elections are only one part of the democratic process. The other, and the one that sustains the electoral process, is the rule of law. Focusing only on the fact that Zelaya was “democratically-elected” but ignoring the fact that he has attempted to subvert Honduran constitutional principles that ensure such democratic elections is bad enough.

However, continuing that line of criticism after being apprised of the constitutional arguments and the process which led to Zeyala’s ouster is completely unacceptable. Yes, we back the right of people to democratically elect their leaders. But we must also back their decision, driven by the rule of law, to remove a leader when he refuses to follow the law he is sworn to uphold. Why is it that Obama, the “Constitutional law professor, doesn’t appear to “get” that?

~McQ

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Fisking Al Gore

I really hate to use the medium he invented against him, but someone has to do this:

Al Gore invoked the spirit of Winston Churchill today by encouraging political leaders to follow the example of Britain’s wartime leader and unite their nations to fight climate change.

So, skeptics are Nazis now (and no I’m not stretching it here – the original headline, now changed, had Gore comparing skeptics to Nazis)? I’m not sure if that’s better than a “traitor to the planet”, but it sure seems the Warmers are left with nothing but name calling as an argument.

The former US vice-president accused politicians around the world of exploiting ignorance about the dangers of global warming. He said lack of awareness among voters allowed governments to avoid taking difficult decisions.

You have got to love this one – this is said by Gore in a country in which a court ruled that his film, “An Inconvenient Truth” couldn’t be shown in schools without an addendum explaining at least 9 factually incorrect points.

“The level of awareness and concern among populations has not crossed the threshhold where political leaders feel that they must change.”

Perhaps that’s because the level of “science” presented by Gore has been found to be wanting in several areas and the skeptics are being successful in making the point that much of Gore’s data is dated or wrong.

“The only way politicians will act is if awareness raises to a level to make them feel that it’s a necessity.” Mr Gore, who brought the issues around climate change to a mass audience with the 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, said the great hope for the future lay in the high level of environmental awareness among young people.

Or said another way, get ’em while they’re young and don’t know any better and you have a fairly decent shot at getting them to do whatever you want (after all, that’s what schools are for).

He said sceptics who refused to believe dramatic cuts in carbon emissions could be delivered should consider the example of the young scientists in the Nasa team which put a man on the moon on 1969.

“The average age of scientists in the space centre control room was 26, which means they were 18 when they heard President Kennedy say he wanted to put a man on the moon in 10 years. Neil Armstrong did it eight years and two months later.”

Yup, and Buzz Aldrin said that AGW was a batch of cow cookies. I mean if we’re going to invoke the name of astronauts let’s at least keep it germane to the subject.

He said future generations would put one of two questions to today’s adults.

“It will either be ’what were you thinking, didn’t you see the North Pole melting before your eyes, didn’t you hear what the scientists were saying?’ “Or they will ask ’how is it you were able to find the moral courage to solve the crisis which so many said couldn’t be solved?’.

Actually there’s a third question – “How did you muster the courage to stand up against bad science and horrible politics in order to save the world as we know it from economic catastrophe when it is clear now that the AGW group was completely wrong?”

Gotta appreciate the fallacy of the false choice though, don’t you? Al Gore uses all the tricks to run his nonsense by you.

I’m sure Gore gave that a lot of thought as he winged his way home on his private jet.

~McQ

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Pontiff Pontificates On Economics … Badly

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.

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Krauthammer – 2 for 2

Via The Corner, Charles Krauthammer on Fox’s News Hour with Brett Bair. First he talks about the pre-negotiated reduction of nuclear arms between Russia and the US:

That was the deal that Obama really was lusting after as a way to come home and to wave a diplomatic success.

The problem is that any deal on offensive nuclear weaponry is either useless or a detriment to the United States.

Useless because it makes no difference above a certain level how many warheads you have. We could suspend our negotiations today and say to the Russians: You can construct as many warheads as you want and spend yourselves into penury, as the Soviets did, to make weapons that are redundant, that will do nothing more than make the rubble bounce, as Churchill once said memorably.

It could be a detriment because the Russians have insisted on linkage between offensive and defensive weaponry. The reason it’s a detriment is because we have a huge technological advantage on defensive weaponry. We can shoot down a missile. The Russians can’t.

For 25 years, the Russians have attempted to get a curb on American defensive weaponry, starting at Reykjavik, where Gorbachev attempted to swindle Reagan out of our strategic defenses. Reagan said no. Bush 1 said no. Clinton said no. And Bush 2 said no.

Obama is wavering on this, and I think it could be a real catastrophe if he concedes. He already is wavering on the missile shield in Eastern Europe. Medvedev said we [he and Obama] agreed on linkage, and Obama himself had said it would be the subject of extensive negotiations.

Why negotiations with the Russians over a shield in the Czech Republic and Poland?

If he gives away the missile shield then he’s essentially given the Russian the advantage of not having to worry about losing any warheads to anti-missile defenses, thereby making any cuts, even by a third, painless. And, of course, he’s already ceded ground by agreeing to linkage and subjecting such a defense to “extensive negotiations”.

Reducing nuclear weapons is a laudable accomplishment. But weakening our defenses against such weapons as the price isn’t.

Sarah Palin:

If she thinks that this decision is a way to advance her political career, she is delusional. She could survive this. It’s possible. It may not be a fatal decision, but it’s not an advancement.

It is a quitting, and I think it’s largely a personal decision, a reasonable one. There was a lot of heat, a lot of attacks, and she wanted out, and that’s OK.

If there was a political calculation, it would have to be—if it were rational—that after the age of Obama, you know, way down the road, there are second acts in American politics. Reagan returned. Nixon returned. Clinton returned. It’s possible.

But she has to make herself serious. If she imagined she is going to be a Reagan-in-the-wilderness in the ’70’s and lead a movement, she has to be like Reagan, who was a serious man with serious ideas, who studied, who wrote, who thought, and made himself a major figure. If she doesn’t do that, she’s toast.

As much as I like Sarah Palin as a personality, I think Krauthammer has put his finger on her problem – she isn’t a Reagan or a Thatcher, or even a Nixon or Clinton. And as I’ve implied in some commentary to another blog post, with this highly partisan and poisonous political atmophere which gets 24/7 coverage, second acts are very, very hard to come by. And, as Krauthammer notes, when it’s “quitting” that defines your departure, a second act may be impossible.

~McQ

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Speaking of Cap-and-Trade, More Inconvenient Truths

From Anthony Watts:

Given the U.S. Senate is about to vote upon the most complex and costly plan to regulate greenhouse gases, while the EPA suppresses earlier versions of the chart shown below from a senior analyst, this should give some pause to those who are rational thinkers. For those that see only dogma, I expect this will be greeted with jeers.

The chart in question is here:

uah_jun09

What it shows is we’ve undergone another drop in temperature this past month (coolest June since 1958). In fact:

This latest drop in global temperatures means despite his dire warnings, the Earth has cooled .74°F since former Vice President Al Gore released “An Inconvenient Truth” in 2006.

It is also the information that the EPA tried to suppress recently despite the Obama administration’s pledge that science would now take precedence over ideology.

The new information adds to an 8 year trend of dropping global temperatures. Here’s another view of the same chart with a few important annotations:AIT-Index-7_09

The earth no more has a fever than Al Gore has a clue. But the science that continues to contest and debunk the nonsense Gore and the warmers have pushed out there is having a tough time overcoming the institutional impetus of a Congress, which is ideologically vested in the old message. And, of course, there’s the massive amounts of money and power (both for the government and certain private sources which have helped foment this panic) to be derived from legislation such as cap-and-trade.

This is a massive attempt by government to take more control of the economy, based in shaky science at best, and as Anthony Watts claims, pure dogma. When warmers such as Paul Krugman are reduced to calling scientific skeptics “traitors to the planet”, you know they’ve essentially lost the argument and now have only emotional and populist rhetoric left to defend the indefensible.

~McQ

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Is Cap-and-Trade a Job Killer?

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.

Brilliant.

~McQ

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Robert McNamara Dies

Joe Galloway, Vietnam’s “Ernie Pyle”, sums up my feelings about McNamara’s death about as well as anyone:

“I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure.” —Clarence Darrow (1857–1938)

Well, the aptly named Robert Strange McNamara has finally shuffled off to join LBJ and Dick Nixon in the 7th level of Hell.

McNamara was the original bean-counter — a man who knew the cost of everything but the worth of nothing.

~McQ

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The White House Reacts To The Violence In China

Well, not exactly “reacts”. Instead it issues a statement when asked for a reaction:

We are deeply concerned over reports of many deaths and injuries from violence in Urumqi in western China. Reports, so far, are unclear about the circumstances surrounding the deaths and injuries, so it would be premature to comment or speculate further. We call on all in Xinjiang to exercise restraint.

Wasn’t this the same basic message candidate Obama issued concerning Georgia – You boys quite fighting now, you hear?

Here, let me finish the statement for them:

Because, you know, freedom isn’t worth fighting for, and besides Hillary made it clear we weren’t going to be bothering the Chicoms about human rights anymore – so you’re on your own.

Meanwhile an Amber alert has been issued for Hillary who has apparently gone missing in the State Department (although it is being reported that she’s going to meet with former Honduran president Mel Zelaya later this week).

Previous post on the situation that the White House seems not to know much about here.

~McQ

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Honduras: Will the Rule of Law Prevail?

Watching the events unfold in Central America over the past week has been an infuriating and dismaying exercise. Too many people, either sadly uninformed or maliciously misinforming, have referred to the ouster of Mel Zelaya by the unified government of Honduras as a “military coup” and an illegal transfer of power. Not only are such castigations dead wrong, they are made without any justification and completely against the actual Honduran Constitution.

Hello, Triple A?  I seem to have locked my presidency inside my country.  Can you help?

Hello, Locks-R-Us? I seem to have locked my presidency inside my country. Can you help?


To understand just how far off base these accusations of illegality are, ask yourself what law is alleged to have been broken. Has anyone cited an actual provision of the Constitution or a statute that’s been violated? Of course not, because there is none. In fact, if any of those who have been so quick to condemn the Honduran government had actually done just a smidgeon of research, they would have found the ouster of Zelaya to be self-perpetuated and entirely within the rule of law.

To wit, here is Title II, Chapter 4, Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution, first in Spanish:

ARTICULO 239.- El ciudadano que haya desempeñado la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo no podrá ser Presidente o Vicepresidente de la República.

El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma, así como aquellos que lo apoyen directa o indirectamente, cesarán de inmediato en el desempeño de sus respectivos cargos y quedarán inhabilitados por diez (10) años para el ejercicio de toda función pública.

And in English#:

Article 239 — No citizen that has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President.

Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform, 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.

The plain text of Article 239 quite clearly states that Zelaya, through his own actions, ended his presidency. By seeking to hold a referendum on whether Hondurans should consider changing the term-limits portion of the Constitution, Zelaya’s official duties were ended “immediately” and he was further barred from participating in public office for a period of ten years. Period, the end.

Some may try to argue that Zelaya did not receive any due process in his ouster, but that argument must fail. Even under U.S. jurisprudence, due process is simply all the process that is due. In this case, once Zelaya was determined to have violated the term-limits provision of Article 239 by proposing its reform, which Zelaya has basically admitted and which the Honduran Supreme Court derivatively found, then he received his due process. Despite the decisions against him, Zelaya decided to go ahead with his illegal referendum, gathered a mob together, and invaded the military compound where the (Venezuelan-created) ballot boxes were being kept. He fully intended to hold the referendum on Sunday June 28th had he not been stopped.

These, among other actions, were what led the Congress to pursue impeachment, the Attorney General to issue an arrest warrant on Saturday June 25, 2009, and the Supreme Court to issue its own arrest warrant on Sunday resulting in Zelaya’s removal from the country:

Honduras’s military acted under judicial orders in deposing President Manuel Zelaya, Supreme Court Justice Rosalinda Cruz said, rejecting the view of President Barack Obama and other leaders that he was toppled in a coup.

“The only thing the armed forces did was carry out an arrest order,” Cruz, 55, said in a telephone interview from the capital, Tegucigalpa. “There’s no doubt he was preparing his own coup by conspiring to shut down the congress and courts.”

Cruz said the court issued a sealed arrest order for Zelaya on June 26, charging him with treason and abuse of power, among other offenses. Zelaya had repeatedly breached the constitution by pushing ahead with a vote about rewriting the nation’s charter that the court ruled illegal, and which opponents contend would have paved the way for a prohibited second term.

[…]

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.

[…]

Cruz said the military decided to shuttle Zelaya out of the country for his safety and that of other Hondurans because riots would’ve erupted had he been held for trial.

“If he had been allowed to stay in the country, there would’ve been blood on the streets,” she said.

To recap, Zelaya violated Art. 239 by proposing and then attempting to hold a referendum to change his term limits, which referendum was declared illegal by the Supreme Court and the Congress, and then he tried to go ahead with it anyway. In the meantime, aside from the secret, court-approved investigation going on for some time behind the scenes, the Attorney General and the Congress sought Zelaya’s impeachment, and the Supreme Court and the Attorney General each issued arrest warrants when Zelaya pressed ahead with his illegal referendum. The military responded to the court-ordered arrest and took Zelaya into custody on June 28th.

But what about the deportation to Costa Rica? Surely that was an illegal action? Heck, even a top Honduran military official is saying so:

The military officers who rushed deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya out of the country Sunday committed a crime but will be exonerated for saving the country from mob violence, the army’s top lawyer said.

In an interview with The Miami Herald and El Salvador’s elfaro.net, army attorney Col. Herberth Bayardo Inestroza acknowledged that top military brass made the call to forcibly remove Zelaya — and they circumvented laws when they did it.

It was the first time any participant in Sunday’s overthrow admitted committing an offense and the first time a Honduran authority revealed who made the decision that has been denounced worldwide.

”We know there was a crime there,” said Inestroza, the top legal advisor for the Honduran armed forces. “In the moment that we took him out of the country, in the way that he was taken out, there is a crime. Because of the circumstances of the moment this crime occurred, there is going to be a justification and cause for acquittal that will protect us.”

Of course, it wasn’t the first time anyone took credit for the decision (the Supreme Court has been saying for days that it order Zelaya’s capture), and Inestroza also declares that whatever “crime” may have been committed against Zelaya would be absolved anyway:

“What was more beneficial, remove this gentleman from Honduras or present him to prosecutors and have a mob assault and burn and destroy and for us to have to shoot?” he said. “If we had left him here, right now we would be burying a pile of people.”

This week, Deputy Attorney General Roy David Urtecho told reporters that he launched an investigation into why Zelaya was removed by force instead of taken to court. Article 24 of Honduras’ penal code will exonerate the joint chiefs of staff who made the decision, because it allows for making tough decisions based on the good of the state, Inestroza said.

Another provision to keep in mind is Title II, Chapter 3, Article 42:

Article 42: The legal rights of any citizen is lost:

5) If the citizen incites, promotes, or supports the continuance or the re-election of the President of the Republic;

Accordingly, not only has Zelaya lost his ability to continue in office through his own actions, he has also lost his rights as a citizen, among those which would presumably be the right to remain in the country. In the end, that all spells a one-way ticket to anywhere but Honduras for the would-be Chavista dictator. Moreover, Zelaya should be very thankful that he wasn’t ousted in the old-fashioned way which was much more permanent and painful.

The only question remaining is, why would our President, as leader of a country founded on the rule of law over the rule of men, opt to side with flouter of constitutional democracy instead of the leaders who took great pains to ensure that the country’s constitution was adhered to? Unfortunately, I’m afraid that there are no good answers to that question, and that our President is helping to precipitate a major crisis in Central America. Was this the change we were hoping for?

[General HT to Fausta for many of the above links]
________________________________________
# I’ve checked the translation against some Spanish to English translators and it appears to be essentially correct to me. Any suggested changes are welcome.

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