Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Peace Professor is Dangerous

David Horowitz knows the political left, because he was one of the founders of the "New Left" in the 1960s. He was an editor of influential Ramparts magazine, wrote and spoke; he was a leader. But he didn't like what he was seeing, had a change of heart and mind and turned to the right. He tells his story in Radical Son. His web site is ground zero in watching for bias on college campuses - FrontPageMag.com His most recent book is "The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America"
David Horowitz reveals a shocking and perverse culture of academics who are poisoning the minds of today's college students. The Professors is a wake-up call to all those who assume that a college education is sans hatred of America and the American military and support for America's terrorist enemies
Today the Seattle Times is amused that a University of Washington professor is on Horowitz's list. David Barash teaches animal behavior and evolutionary psychology... and peace studies. Peace studies by all appearances is training in leftist propaganda. So any purveyor of it is causing damage to our students. And doesn't it require some historical and economic analysis to make expert comments about the causes of war and peace? How is a biologist in the psychology department qualified to teach on this complex topic? Barash jokes that he was too young and insignificant to make President Nixon's enemies list. David Horowitz was on John Carlson's radio program today and responded "The people on Nixon's enemies list are the ones who undercut and ended the US support for South Vietnam. Because of them millions of people died when the Communists overran Viet Nam and Cambodia." (paraphrasing)
Horowitz said he included Barash because of a book Barash co-wrote called "Peace and Conflict Studies." Horowitz said the book defends violent revolution and incorrectly points to Cuba as a place where people's lives have been improved through such violence.
Barash makes a serious charge against Horowitz in the Seattle Times article:
Barash said his profile in the book is full of misrepresentations and inaccuracies. For instance, it claims he blames the Cuban missile crisis on the psychology of President Kennedy — when in fact his book mentions many factors, including the Soviet Union's missile buildup. "It's just a lie. He either didn't read the book or look it up," Barash said. "The whole thing is just a cartoon."
Horowitz says No, Barash blames the psychology of the American public for the missile crisis stand off, not the Soviets for placing missiles 90 miles from south Florida. And he says he quotes Barash's section of several paragraphs about the Cuban situation. I want to resolve this by checking the original source, but it won't be easy. Peace and Conflict Studies costs $80. And the King County Library doesn't have a single copy!

US Ski Team

What a sorry showing. When no one is paying attention Bode Miller rules the slopes in the World Cup. When everyone is watching he has a great Olympics - by his pitiful standard:
"I just want to go out and rock. And man, I rocked here,'' Miller was quoted by Jim Litke as saying. "... It's been an awesome two weeks. I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level."
Partying, not skiing. Why was he there? To party? Is he the same man who in Salt Lake City in 2002, when he missed a gate, climbed up to go through it, so he could finish, even if his time was down with the Jamaican ski team? Gwen Knall in the SF Chronicle reports Miller's defense:
"Look at what happened to (Daron) Rahlves,'' Miller told the AP. "He was holed up in his RV, he's probably the fittest guy out here and he made a point of talking about how important the Olympics were to him. And then look -- a little bad luck and he's got nothing to show for the whole thing.''
And the rest of the team defends him. Ted Ligety, who earned Gold in the combined, and James Cochran:
"The most crazy things he says are usually dead-on,'' Cochran said. Ligety, who was disqualified in the slalom, pointed out that it was Miller's worst event. "It's in the other events, I think he felt the pressure,'' Ligety said
Does US tax funding support such spoiled brats? I think so.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Single-payer health system is breaking down in Canada

Part of freedom is taking responsibility for your own needs. It is easier to let the government take care of everything, but you are not free. And seldom does a government do a very good job. Big-government lovers in the US have long held up Canada's health care system as the ideal. "No one has to worry about paying for their health care. Everything is provided." But we have long been hearing of severe rationing of care - of long waiting periods - of limited infrastructure because the system won't spend for state-of-the-art equipment. And that the United States provides for the gaps - that Canadians cross the border instead of waiting six months - even longer - for critical surgery. The crack in the system came from Canada's Supreme Court last July. It ruled that the ban on private health care is unconstitutional. The New York Times reports:
The country's publicly financed health insurance system — frequently described as the third rail of its political system and a core value of its national identity — is gradually breaking down. Private clinics are opening around the country by an estimated one a week, and private insurance companies are about to find a gold mine. .... Canada remains the only industrialized country that outlaws privately financed purchases of core medical services. Prime Minister Stephen Harper and other politicians remain reluctant to openly propose sweeping changes even though costs for the national and provincial governments are exploding and some cancer patients are waiting months for diagnostic tests and treatment. But a Supreme Court ruling last June — it found that a Quebec provincial ban on private health insurance was unconstitutional when patients were suffering and even dying on waiting lists — appears to have become a turning point for the entire country. "The prohibition on obtaining private health insurance is not constitutional where the public system fails to deliver reasonable services," the court ruled. In response, the Quebec premier, Jean Charest, proposed this month to allow private hospitals to subcontract hip, knee and cataract surgery to private clinics when patients are unable to be treated quickly enough under the public system. The premiers of British Columbia and Alberta have suggested they will go much further to encourage private health services and insurance in legislation they plan to propose in the next few months. Private doctors across the country are not waiting for changes in the law, figuring provincial governments will not try to stop them only to face more test cases in the Supreme Court.
Good news. Hat tip to Cafe Hayek, though I saw it elsewhere first.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Port Red Herring

This has gone way too far. Foreign companies operate at many, probably most, of our ports. Attacking our allies United Arab Emirates is out of place. How about Saudi Arabia? National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia operates at the following ports:
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Halifax, Canada
  • Newport News, VA
  • Houston, TX
  • New Orleans, LA
  • St. John, Canada
  • Houston, Texas
  • Savannah, GA
  • Wilmington, NC
  • Port Newark, NJ
  • Brooklyn, NY
Since honorable Senator Chuckie Schumer is racial profiling now, is he fighting tooth and nail against NSCSA? No, the unions didn't tell him to. Via Sweetness and Light.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Belgian view - The Closing of Civilization in Europe

Paul Belien is a Belgian lawyer and Ph.D. in international studies. He says that Europe's decline is of their own making. He is the chief at the blog The Brussles Journal.
Europe’s current problems are entirely self-inflicted. This does not mean, however, that the result will be less catastrophic. By subverting the roots of its own Judeo-Christian culture – a process that started with the French Enlightenment – a religious and cultural vacuum was created at the heart of European civilization. The collapse of faith in its own values has, not surprisingly, led to a demographic collapse because a civilization that no longer believes in its own future also rejects procreation. Today, a new religion and culture is supplanting the old one. There is little one can do about it, but hope for a miracle. America’s immigration problems pale in comparison with what confronts Europe. America’s major ethnic minorities – Blacks as well as Hispanics – are Christian, while the meanstream culture is also rooted in Christianity. In Europe a secularized post-Christian culture is facing a Muslim one. The secularized culture is hedonist and values only its present life, because it does not believe in an afterlife. This is why it will surrender when threatened with death because life is the only thing it has to lose. This is why it will accept submission without fighting for its freedom. Nobody fights for the flag of hedonism, not even the hedonists themselves. One could also put it in a slightly different way: Europe lacks what America still has, namely the so-called “conservative reserves,” or as the German sociologist Arnold Gehlen explained over 30 years ago, “the reserves in national energy and self-confidence, primitiveness and generosity, wealth and potential of every kind.”
Very good. I will have to watch what Paul writes. I am back home after weather-caused flight cancellations and delays.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Criminalize using your iPod

Yes. The recording industry intends to. The RIAA is now saying it is illegal to rip a CD you buy to store the music on your iPod, despite the fact that last year their attorneys stated in court that it is legal. Ars Technica reports:
If anyone has any doubts about the content industry's resolve to destroy fair use and usher in new ways of charging you for uses that were previously both free and fair, look no further. As part of the triennial review of the effectiveness of the DMCA, a number of content-related industries have filed a joint reply (PDF) with the government on the effectiveness of the DMCA and the challenges that lay ahead for copyright. As you might expect, the document is a celebration of the DMCA, and the industries are pushing for even more egregious abuses of technology to fatten up their bottom lines.
And quoting the RIAA ...
" Nor does the fact that permission to make a copy in particular circumstances is often or even "routinely" granted, see C6 at 8, necessarily establish that the copying is a fair use when the copyright owner withholds that authorization. In this regard, the statement attributed to counsel for copyright holders in the Grokster case, is simply a statement about authorization, not about fair use." Allow me to translate: just because people have been copying CDs in the past doesn't mean that that they had the authorization to do so, and a general trend does not override such explicit authorization.
I am in Austin, Texas, today.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Yes there is good news but who notices?

Rich Karlgaard passes on from economist David Malpaas at Bear Stearns:
“First quarter GDP growth is setting up to be a blow-out. Consumption, investment, government spending and residential investment are all, at least through mid-February, looking even stronger than our 5% first-quarter growth forecast. . . . [There is a] smooth shift underway from an interest-rate-related emphasis on U.S. housing and consumption to a global-growth-related emphasis on business investment.”
And Larry Kudlow's version. And Karlgaard quoted Tony Blankley's witty summary of this week's news:
“In the absence of any pressing news these days – other than Iran's nuclear weapons development crisis, the election of Hamas terrorists in Palestine, ongoing worldwide Muslim riots and killing in reaction to a cartoon, Al Gore's near sedition while speaking in Saudi Arabia, the turning over of our East Coast ports to be managed by a United Arab Emirates firm, the criminal leaking of vital NSA secrets to the New York Times, Mexican military incursions across our southern border, the Iraqi crisis, Congress's refusal to deal with the developing financial collapse of Social Security and Medicare, inter alia – the White House press corp has exploded in righteous fury over the question of the vice president's little shooting party last weekend.”

Saturday, February 18, 2006

War Hero Monument at UofW

A student proposal to honor WW II hero "Pappy" Boyington was immediately tossed out because other students didn't want to honor a Marine. Michelle Malkin Now we can directly honor him - through the University of Washington. Again, I learned from Michelle Malkin.
You might be interested to know that we've set up the Lt. Col. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington Memorial Scholarship Fund through the University of Washington Foundation and have provided a link on the UW Foundation website for folks who want to support this effort. We've gotten a number of e-mails expressing an interest in supporting this fund. This fund will provide scholarships to undergraduate students who are either a U.S Marine Corps veteran or are the child of a U.S Marine Corps veteran.
Contact the UW Fund directly at UW Foundation.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Allowing Small Businesses to Grow

The heart of our economy is the small businesses that start up to fill needs everywhere in almost every market. The Washington Policy Institute has been holding conferences since 2003 on what small businesses need and providing information. Governor Gregoire the Queen keynoted one of the sessions at SeaTac in 2005. Let them talk; they know what they need. Affording health care coverage for their employees is their top priority. They want to, but the State of Washington keeps making it harder. With good intentions the Legislature keeps adding requirements and each one raises the cost and makes it harder to afford. Also at the top - the complicated requirements and procedures of the state workers' compensation and unemployment systems. And there are many more concerns - transportation, taxes, water, tort reform. First, read the press release. Then the full report (PDF). And the Olympian has an article.

Resort blogging: Where's the WiFi? We are going for four days to Whistler, BC, Canada. Great spot.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Still Doesn't Work

President Hugo Chavez is proving again that price controls do not work. Try it again. Same results. Wall Street Journal (paid subscription) reports:
After 21 years in the milk business, Ismael Cárdenas Gil is throwing in the towel. Mr. Cárdenas, who heads Alimentaria Internacional, can no longer make a profit selling imported powdered milk under government-imposed price controls. As a result, he has cut back his imports to "practically zero."
If the government puts on price controls, then suppliers can't stay in business and close. Venzuela is in an unusual position: it can export a lot of oil. So the government can buy food and sell it at a loss. But people don't like taking a loss and can't continue.
Last week, corn growers marched outside the presidential palace, protesting government controls they say have dried up demand for their corn. While the farmers are getting a decent price, processors are refusing to buy the corn because they can't sell it at what they consider an acceptable markup. The country's largest food company, Alimentos Polar, has warned it may have to halt production of corn flour for such reasons. In early December, coffee producers challenged the new price ceilings, paralyzing deliveries and causing an acute coffee shortage for weeks.
Chavez says he is doing this to control inflation. Inflation is now 14%, the highest in South America.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Seattle Web Site Hacked by Muslims - Lack of Care?

Counterterrorism Blog reports a Seattle club had their website hacked by angry Muslims.
On February 8 I posted about the hacking of Danish and Western websites by Muslim cyber-terrorists over the cartoon controversy. Last night I received an e-mail from a knowledgeable CT Blog fan in the Seattle area about the hacking of a recreational website, and I posted the text of that e-mail. This afternoon, that fan sent me a request to change what I posted this morning in order to clarify the situation after a day of investigation, with important new information:
The Muslim Web Hack Attacks have reached Seattle, attacking (of all things) a girls' scooter club. The website has been restored by the web hosting company, Flux Services of Bothell, Washington. Flux Services graciously provided the webpage hacked by "nEt^DeViL" for CT's archives.
One Seattle TV station, KING-TV, and its partner Northwest Cable News, both owned by Belo Corporation, featured a story on the web hack on their Sunday news programs. Due to an error in the domain registry entry (the responsibility of domain owners), KING-TV erroneously reported that the website was hosted by Drizzle, a highly-reputable Seattle Internet service provider (ISP) and web-hosting company with more than a decade of experience. In fact, the hacked website is and was hosted by Flux Services. KING-TV also reported that the FBI was notified about the hack but had not responded to the website owners. There is no independent confirmation of FBI action or inaction.
And his concern regarding who cares:
The list of Islamist web hacks worldwide since the Cartoons hit the fan is now into the tens of thousands. There is no coordinated response from law enforcement. There seems to be a lack of appreciation to the gravity of the matter. These are not just hacks for their own sake, these are probing attacks similar to skirmishing in conventional warfare.

Creators versus Critics

One of the fascinating things about studying history is to see the way in which man's extraordinary creative and inventive faculties are in a continual battle with his critical and destructive faculties. The great historian Paul Johnson writes in Forbes:
If only the first were in operation, humanity would have advanced far more rapidly. We'd now be enjoying living standards we won't reach until 3000 A.D. to 4000 A.D. We'd be making regular trips to our solar system's planets (and exploiting them) and possibly to the stars beyond. But the other aspects of man's nature act as a continual brake on progress. ... our negative propensity to find reasons--especially moral or scientific ones--to oppose the creative forces in the world. A primary example of this was the mid-19th-century reaction to the capitalist Industrial Revolution. Just as a disruptive and painful period of capital accumulation was coming to an end in advanced economies such as Britain's--wages were rising, working hours decreasing and factory conditions improving--along came thinkers like Karl Marx, who argued that capitalism was an unprecedented threat to human happiness. They succeeded in setting up a collectivist counterforce to capitalism that maintained itself intellectually for a century and at one time controlled nearly a quarter of the world's surface area, killed scores of millions and wasted untold trillions of dollars of wealth. This force was not discredited until the late 1980s, when Soviet Communism began to collapse and its Chinese cousin embraced capitalism.
And now the lawyers:
During the 20th century a series of revolutions in technology again made it possible to accelerate the production of wealth and improve the ways in which it is distributed to reach even the poorest enclaves of the world. But once again the negative critical and destructive forces have combined to put the brakes on and, if possible, reverse this process. Clever people calling themselves environmentalists, human rights campaigners, tort lawyers, etc. have played on fears and superstitions and employed ingenious arguments based on science and pseudoscience to mount a counteroffensive against capitalist advances. They have used the courts, media, international conferences and laboratories--all with enormous cunning and effrontery--to win many partial and some absolute victories. One of their biggest successes has been to halt the building of nuclear power plants in the U.S., Britain and other countries. This has seriously increased the destructive impact of the oil shortages brought on by China's and India's industrialization.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Natural and Unnatural Man

Why? Jonathan David Carson asks
Why is it tragic when human activities bring about the extinction of a single species, but natural, that is, benign, when scores of millions of species become extinct in the ordinary course of nature? How can the same result be evil when caused by man and good when caused by Mother Nature? A forest fire started by a discarded cigarette butt does not burn any hotter than a forest fire started by lightning. More than ninety-nine percent of all the species that have ever lived are extinct, extinguished by Mother Nature. If we extinguish a species, we extinguish perhaps one hundred-thousandth of one percent of the remnant, perhaps one millionth of one percent. We are dismayed by the human extinction of one species. Why are we indifferent to destruction ten million or a hundred million times greater? Why should human-induced global warming or cooling be a catastrophe when the earth has been warmed and cooled far more without us? According to the January 2000 issue of Scientific American, as “many as four times between 750 million and 580 million years ago…ice as much as a kilometer thick engulfed the earth. Glaciers scoured the nearly lifeless continents, and sea ice encapsulated the oceans—even in the tropics.” Each of these mega ice ages was followed by a “brutal episode of warming,” with a “runaway greenhouse effect….baking the planet.” A man-made episode of global cooling that engulfed the earth with ice a meter thick would be a disaster. Why is a kilometer thick sheet of ice not one?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Washington good government

Today I am watching our Washington State politicians at Sound Politics: Our Democrat-majority Legislature finally found a performance audit they can get whole heartedly behind. They fought performance audits tooth and nail for year after year. Performance audits go beyond the normal accounting that money for fund A got spent on fund A things, to ask did "this program accomplish what it was supposed to do?" When the will of the people got stronger they sought to innoculate the issue by devising "performance audits" where the elected state auditor could only do audits that were approved by an appointed panel. I don't know the exact makeup, but I recall it was dominated by Olympia. Tim Eyman beat them cold by filing Initiative 900 that enables the auditor to do his job with performance audits and provides funding. It passed easily. This week the state house easily passed performance audits - for tax cuts. Those tax cuts had better be effective or they will be embarrassed in the harsh spotlight. The Olympian reports:
However, the Democrats, joined by nine Republicans including Rep. Tom Campbell, did act on one bill that could make the effectiveness of tax cuts easier to gauge. On a 61 to 34 vote, they approved House Bill 1069, which subjects tax breaks to reviews or “performance audits” to show whether they deliver the benefits promised.
Why didn't the Democrats do this years ago for spending?

Not the way to develop Bolivia

The new president of Bolivia Evo Morales promised to promote legal uses of the coca plant. Did you know that he is a former coca farmer? Reuters reports:
LA PAZ, Bolivia, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Bolivia's foreign minister says coca leaves, the raw material for cocaine, are so nutritious they should be included on school breakfast menus. "Coca has more calcium than milk. It should be part of the school breakfast," Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca was quoted as saying in Friday's edition of La Razon. The new leftist government of Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, has vowed to promote the legal uses of coca, the plant used to make cocaine, which is revered in Andean culture and is commonly chewed or made into tea. Morales, himself a former coca farmer, has pledged to fight the drugs trade but at the same time protect the cultivation of coca in Bolivia -- the world's third-biggest cocaine producer after Colombia and Peru.
Could anything go wrong here? Might encouraging the growth of coca result in more available for manufacture of illegal cocaine?

We call that a perfectly predicable surprise. (I am still trying to learn who coined that phrase.) It is the expected side, not an unexpected one.

I hope you don't know anyone addicted to crack cocaine. I wish I didn't. It is extremely cruel.

A coca leaf weighing 100 grams contains 18.9 calories of protein, 45.8 mg of iron, 1540 mg of calcium and vitamins A, B1, B2, E and C, which is more than most nuts, according to a 1975 study by a group of Harvard University professors.
It's as nutritious as some nuts. Are you going to feed it to your kids? I think President Morales should look for other routes to economic development for his country. (Keeping a straight face.)

Friday, February 10, 2006

RI Demos discover lower taxes

In Rhode Island the Democrats have discovered that their state has to compete in the area of taxes. So they are proposing to flatten their income tax. The highest rate is 9.9%; lowest 3.75%. They are proposing 5.5% for everyone. The Wall Street Journal (paid subscription required) reports:
And listen to how House Speaker William Murphy pitched the idea at a news conference: "The ultimate goal is to put more money directly into people's pockets both by giving relief to those who need it and by making Rhode Island a more attractive place for business that will provide high-paying jobs for more Rhode Islanders." What's going on here? Have the state's liberals all taken Art Laffer happy pill
Their neighbors have lowered taxes and they see their state dropping behind.
In a recent survey by the Boston-based Beacon Hill Institute -- which measured the economic competitiveness of states based on their ability to generate income and growth -- Rhode Island ranked 37th, or well behind Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and Connecticut, which were all in the top 20. Only two years ago, Rhode Island ranked 22nd in the same survey.
But watch the comical partisanship. Who is against making their state more competitive?
Rhode Island Republicans, including Governor Don Carcieri, were also caught off guard by the Democrats' proposal and now sound like Beltway Democrats in raising objections. House Minority Leader Robert Watson has said he'd like to know how the Democrats "plan on paying for these tax cuts." A spokesman for the Governor had a similar cart-before-the-horse mentality, telling the Providence Journal that "the governor hopes to work with the General Assembly to make the spending cuts necessary to enact real tax relief." But opposing good policies out of partisanship isn't going to make Rhode Island a more attractive place to work and invest. Tax cuts will. Republicans might try congratulating Democrats for their supply-side revelation, and then join them in doing right by taxpayers.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Alaska needs a makeover - not

Alaska's leaders are concerned that people have negative view of their state. So Governor Murkowski who appointed US Senator Murkowski intends to hire a PR firm. Associated Press reports. He thinks the problem is with us - you and me - that we just don't understand, not anything that anyone in Alaska did. He appointed his daughter to the US Senate - squeaky clean, he is. Governor, you might want to look around you. Senator Ted Stevens has one purpose in life - to get all the pork he can for his state and his friends. He is a very senior Republican, so he heads the appropriations committee and has the power. Also the state's only Congressman - Don Young - is in a similar position. Now Alaska does need more federal funds than most states because of its isolated and strategic location. There is a lot of coastline to watch over, though the threat of Russia is much less than that of the Soviets was. But they have so much oil royalty money that they don't pay state taxes. Instead the state paid each man, woman and child $845.76 last year and every year. The pork busters caught Stevens and Young appropriating hundreds of millions of dollars for projecst to benefit very few people. The "bridge to nowhere" would link Ketchican to Gravina Island that has 50 people and their airport. John Fund reports in the Wall Street Journal:
Before her father stepped in to ensure the bridge would be built, Sen. Murkowski lamented it was "very difficult to stand here as an Alaskan and not take this [criticism] personally." Indeed, the issue was personal in a sense. It turns out the senator's mother, Nancy, who is also the governor's wife, is co-owner with her three siblings of a 35-acre parcel of land on Gravina Island. Critics charge that the bridge will spur development, increasing the value of the Murkowski property, which is one of the few privately held plots on the island.
Then there is Congressman Don Young's highway:
Another beneficiary of Governor Murkowski's decision to plow the state's share of federal transportation dollars into bridges is a controversial $223 million span near Anchorage that would connect that city with a nearly deserted port. The bridge will be called Don Young's Way after Alaska's lone House member, who also serves as chairman of the House Transportation Committee. It could be Don Young's way in more senses than that. The Anchorage Daily News reports that Art Nelson, Mr. Young's son-in-law, is part owner of 60 acres of what he described as "beautiful property" on land that will be opened up to development by the bridge. "A bridge would change everything," reported the Daily News. "Don Young's Way would . . . make the land much more valuable." Mr. Nelson, told the paper he did discuss his partial acquisition of the 60 acres with Mr. Young. One of the other owners of the land is fisheries lobbyist Trevor McCabe, a former legislative director for none other than Sen. Stevens. Until last October, Mr. McCabe was partners with state senator Ben Stevens, the son of Ted Stevens, in a consulting firm called Advance North that represents salmon fishermen who are regulated by the state Board of Fisheries, which is chaired by none other than Mr. Nelson, Rep. Young's son-in-law.
I support oil drilling and production in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which they all want. Now draining the federal budget for their parochial state is bad enough. But they are doing it for personal gain and favors for their friends.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Nuclear is looking better

I am following the situation on the generous pensions for state workers in Washington. The Legislature sure is generous with other people's money. And - a light just went on - most of them get state retirement. So they have a conflict of interest. Back on topic: To break this "addiction to oil" we have to.... No. We need action, but not due to that PC talk. When prices go up you look for alternatives. And sometimes when you find an alternative, the price of the original commodity - oil in this case - goes back down. Julian Simon documented many cases of this cycle - shortage and high price leads to innovation, which leads to the price going back down. Glenn Reynolds, the incomparable Instapunit reviews the current situation with nuclear power:
All of this is combining to make nuclear power look more attractive again. In fact, it's starting to build some bridges across traditional divides, as this oped by former antinuke protester G. Pascal Zachary illustrates:
"I don't regret my youthful opposition to Diablo. Back then, nuclear plants were badly run and uneconomical, and the near-disaster at Three Mile Island exposed nuclear regulations as a sham. But much has changed in the past 25 years, and for a variety of reasons I think nuclear power deserves another chance. "So does President Bush, who on Tuesday night in his State of the Union address highlighted the nation's need to boost nuclear power generation. "I know I've lost a lot of readers already, so let me immediately introduce an important qualification: We can only push an expansion of nuclear power, which today supplies 20 percent of America's electricity, as part of a comprehensive program to limit the production of greenhouse gases, promote renewable energy sources, and dramatically raise the cost of burning fossil fuels in automobiles. Expanding nuclear power is only one piece of the energy puzzle. But it is a piece we cannot afford to dismiss."
We burn oil and coal because we don't have anything better. Nuclear power could have been better -- and I don't cut the antinuke protesters quite as much slack as Zachary cuts himself -- but the technology has come a long way, and I'm willing to let bygones be bygones rather than wonder how much mischief Saudi Arabia and Iran could cause in a world where 70% of American generating capacity was nuclear and electric cars were already common. If we'd kept building nukes in the 1970s we'd know the answer, but now it's time to look ahead, and nuclear is looking better as oil is looking worse.
Glenn links to one promising new design named CEASAR for "clean and environmentally safe advanced reactor." Nuclear can cut greenhouse gases. That's what everyone says we must do. Let's explore it.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Islam Opted Out

I found another source analyzing why some nations made progress in science and technology, but others did not. Tim Rutten writes a column for the LA Times.
"Back in the High Middle Ages the three great monotheistic religions — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — reached one of those fundamental forks in the historical road.” [paraphrasing] Judaism (largely thanks to Moses Maimonides) and Christianity (largely thanks to Thomas Aquinas) chose to believe that reason and faith led to the same truth. Ironically, Islam, whose early scholars had preserved the works of reason’s first apostle, Aristotle, “held that there were two truths — that of revelation and that of the natural world. There was no need to reconcile them because they were separate and distinct. "It was a form of intellectual suicide and cut off much of the Islamic world from the centuries of scientific and political progress that followed."
Via Rich Karlgaard at Forbes.com, an excellent source.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Addicted to Oil? Nonsense

OK. I am a few days slow on this. I didn't like the sound of President Bush's "we are addicted to oil." He chose to pander to the environmental extremists. In so doing he turned away from his past emphasis on supply to the strange world of alternate energy sources. Now I favor research and development for alternate energy sources. I just don't have mystical faith in them. Don't make me use one until it makes economic sense. That is, until it is cheaper. And I notice that the current forceful use of ethanol-added gasoline is pure power politics; the farmers and agribusinesses demand a federal mandate. James Glassman at my favorite TechCentralStation, now called TCSDaily.com, says it better than I can:
America is no more addicted to oil than it is addicted to bread, to milk, to paper, to water, to computers or, in the immortal words of the late Robert Palmer, to love. We use oil -- and other unmentioned but implied addictions like coal and natural gas -- to generate energy that powers our cars, heats our homes, lights our cities, runs our factories. By the standard of what they do for us, fossil fuels are pretty cheap. They provide enormous industrial leverage. But, at least in the short term, they are getting more expensive -- in part because demand is rising (mainly in other nations, like China and India, that want to have standards of living like ours) and in part because supply isn't keeping up.
And the damage this causes:
But maybe I should cut Bush a break. It's just rhetoric, right? In this case, no. The use of the word "addicted" is dangerous. It could end up hiking prices by reducing supply. How? Bush has signaled a new attitude from the White House. If this president can't defend the working of our almost-free market, then who will? If I were in the oil business myself, I would be extremely worried by this speech. One of my responses would be to hold back on planned research and development and capital spending. The three largest U.S. energy companies alone are projected to make capital expenditures of $43 billion this year, up from $33 billion in 2005. But does that make sense if Washington is considering windfall profits taxes, subsidies to alternative fuels and regulatory policies whose guiding principle is that fossil fuels are evil? Instead of concentrating on increasing fossil-fuel supplies at home, the President used all of the energy section of his speech -- four paragraphs -- talking about such exotica as "revolutionary solar and wind technologies," "producing ethanol, not just from corn, but from wood chips and stalks, or switch grass," and "pollution-free cars that run on hydrogen." Of course, since these alternatives have no commercial viability, the government will have to subsidize them. The latest Carteresque concoction, announced in the speech: the "Advanced Energy Initiative."
That will hurt. Glassman continues with more good facts and analysis. Read it.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Did Christianity Make Possible the Superior Technology of the West?

Historian Rodney Stark of Baylor University has found in his research that Europe sprinted past the rest of the world in science and technology due to the influence of Christianity. He expounds his findings in detail in a recent book, The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism and Western Success (Random House). For centuries only Europe had chimneys, eye glasses, heavy cavalry, accurate clocks and the precise navigation they made possible. Why? Why did Europeans excel at metallurgy, shipbuilding, or farming?
The most convincing answer to those questions attributes Western dominance to the rise of capitalism, which took place only in Europe. Even the most militant enemies of capitalism credit it with creating previously undreamed of productivity and progress.... Supposing that capitalism did produce Europe's own "great leap forward," it remains to be explained why capitalism developed only in Europe. ... if one digs deeper, it becomes clear that the truly fundamental basis not only for capitalism, but for the rise of the West, was an extraordinary faith in reason.... A series of developments, in which reason won the day, gave unique shape to Western culture and institutions. And the most important of those victories occurred within Christianity. While the other world religions emphasized mystery and intuition, Christianity alone embraced reason and logic as the primary guides to religious truth. Christian faith in reason was influenced by Greek philosophy. But the more important fact is that Greek philosophy had little impact on Greek religions. Those remained typical mystery cults, in which ambiguity and logical contradictions were taken as hallmarks of sacred origins.... Even so, capitalism developed in only some locales. Why not in all? Because in some European societies, as in most of the rest of the world, it was prevented from happening by greedy despots. Freedom also was essential for the development of capitalism.
Some reinterpretation of history is necessary:
For the past several centuries, far too many of us have been misled by the incredible fiction that, from the fall of Rome until about the 15th century, Europe was submerged in the Dark Ages — centuries of ignorance, superstition, and misery — from which it was suddenly, almost miraculously, rescued; first by the Renaissance and then by the Enlightenment. But, as even dictionaries and encyclopedias recently have begun to acknowledge, it was all a lie! It was during the so-called Dark Ages that European technology and science overtook and surpassed the rest of the world. Some of that involved original inventions and discoveries; some of it came from Asia. But what was so remarkable was the way that the full capacities of new technologies were recognized and widely adopted. By the 10th century Europe already was far ahead in terms of farm-ing equipment and techniques, had unmatched capacities in the use of water and wind power, and possessed superior military equipment and tactics. Not to be overlooked in all that medieval progress was the invention of a whole new way to organize and operate commerce and industry: capitalism.
That is Stark's main thesis: Christianity, reason, freedom and capitalism. He also goes into whether the developments took place in southern Europe, which is Roman Catholic, or in northern which is Protestant. Pardon me for compressing his words. There is a magazine article version in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Washington Pension Funds have a Multi-Billion $ Problem

Our Legislators gave a plum called "gain sharing" to the state pension Funds in 1998 that wasn't supposed to cost anything to the taxpayers. Now the latest estimate is that it will cost an additional $9 billion over 25 years. And the proposals to "fix" the problem are very, very generous to the workers, but hard on taxpayers. Seattle Times on the plan:
The Legislature approved a plan that increased retirement benefits for government workers when investment returns exceeded expectations. Basically, the law says that when the average rate of returns exceeds 10 percent over four years, half of that excess profit goes to workers through enhanced retirement benefits. For example, some workers get cash payments into individual retirement savings accounts. The other half of the excess profit gets plowed back into the pension fund to help protect against future downturns in the market. Gain-sharing created several problems for the state pension system, but the biggest one is that it effectively reduces the rate of return from state investments over time. When the stock market is hot, gain-sharing skims off cash that could otherwise offset future losses.
The current estimate is that it will cost an additional $9 billion over 25 years.
The estimates, which deal with the cost of a pension perk that shares stock-market profits with retirees, predict a tab of more than $9 billion over 25 years if the benefit is kept. That's about four times what state officials were contemplating in December. "It's a much bigger price tag than people realized," said Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, referring to recent research done by the state Actuary's Office. Late last year, state officials estimated the cost of the benefit, called gain-sharing, at about $2.3 billion. However, at the time, lawmakers were focused on one plan in the pension system, a plan that covers mostly workers who have already retired. The projected cost of gain-sharing ballooned after a new state study took a thorough look at how the benefit affects the entire pension system.
They know they have a problem and are addressing it. I saw pre-session statements by several senator and representatives that tackling pension problems was a priority. I assumed they were talking about this. So what is proposed? First, to do nothing.
House Majority Leader Lynn Kessler, D-Hoquiam, said House Democrats are mixed about whether to tackle the problem this session or wait until next year. "There's a concern with some folks that we haven't had enough time to cook it and figure out what to do," she said.
The two proposals on the table would also costs billions. First,
Senate Bill 6795 would authorize a pension cost-of-living increase for some workers and a guaranteed rate of return on certain investments for others.... The estimated total cost to state and local governments combined could be close to $2 billion over the same time period. (25 years)
My retirement program has no cost-of-living increase ever. Should we give state employees something we don't get? Now, keep a straight face. The second proposal to get the state out of this fix is early retirement at full benefits. A teacher who starts work at age 22 could retire at age 56 with the pension intended for someone who worked until 65.
Another measure, Senate Bill 6445, commonly referred to as the "rule of 90" bill, would let workers combine their age with the number of years they've worked in government service. If the total reached 90, they could retire with full benefits. That would let some longtime government workers retire in their mid- to late 50s.
That's replacing a big problem with a smaller one. How about returning to what we taxpayers thought we had - a system that gave a comfortable retirement to civil servants who worked until 65? Cross posted at Sound Politics.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Federal Deficit - Our Senators Favor It

The pork busters in DC are amused by our senators' efforts to increase the federal deficit. Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell are holding classes in three Washington cities to instruct government agencies and nonprofits how to get more funding. And these are all in Eastern Washington; they must have many more sessions planned. You might think this doesn't make the deficit worse, that people will be vying for funds from a pot whose size is already determined. But what will happen when some of the worthy applicants don't get funded? They will cry in every public venue how President Bush doesn't care about the projects and people they intend to spend the money on. And that will put pressure on ... more spending ... and more ... and more. Donald Luskin is the Chief investment officer at Trend Macrolytics LLC, an independent economics and investment consulting firm. His blog has an unusual title. He covers the details at The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid. Cross posted at Sound Politics

Byrd Amendment Ended

Good news. One of the least-defensible corporate hand outs will end by vote of Congress. The Continued Dumping and Subsidy Offset Act is known for its sponsor former Ku Klux Klansman (that's a fact) honorable Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. It rewards uncompetitive companies with handouts. If a foreign competitor is selling cheaper than you are you have a problem, right? Not if you are favored by Robert Byrd and this law. You are rewarded for not controlling your costs by a generous handout - the Senator smiles and give you money, but the taxpayers pay for it. "Monsters and Critics" reports
Since 2001, the Byrd Amendment has resulted in payments of more than $1.26 billion to U.S. companies affected by low-cost imports. Fully $476 million of that amount has gone to one corporation, the Timken Co. and its subsidiaries. And last year, more than half of all pay-outs went to five companies.
Corporate handouts at their worst favor just a few companies, which always seem to have donated to the big defender. Unfortunately the corporate-welfare defenders managed to delay the repeal:
In a compromise reached between House and Senate conferees, the repeal will be delayed for two years and Byrd Amendment distributions will continue for applications made prior to Oct. 1, 2007.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Support Denmark

Several Muslim countries are demanding that Denmark appologize and stop the newspaper Jyllands-Posten. They are trying to enforce their Islamic law on the rest of the world. The Danes are being subjected to boycotts and threats of violence throughout the Middle East. We oppose the imposition of Islamic law; we support free speech. Let's support Denmark. Buydanish-738318 Buy Danish And the people of Denmark in 1943 bravely stopped the Germans from deporting 7,500 Danish Jews to concentration camps in Germany. Via MichelleMalkin.com. See Cartoons about Mohammed.