Wednesday, September 27, 2006

How to interview a dictator

Newsweek's Lally Weymouth did it right. While interviewing Iran's Ahminajad she asked him four times about his intent to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. And he weaves and bobs each time. He won't back up his own public statements. But shame on Tim Pagett in Time. Rich Karlgaard, editor of Forbes Magazine, at his blog Digital Rules:
At one point, Chávez tells Padgett, "Capitalism is the way of the devil and exploitation, of the kind of misery and inequality that destroys social values. If you really look at things through the eyes of Jesus Christ--who I think was the first socialist--only socialism can really create a genuine society." A remarkable assertion! Padgett's challenge? Nothing. Zippo. Another Chávez whopper: "If you think Chávez is intimidating free expression, just watch television there--my God, 'devil' is the least of things the opposition is allowed to call me on the air." Padgett's follow-up? Nothing again. What a wimp.

Uncompetitive Quebec

Quebec, Canda (the province) is not attracting foreign investment, due to high costs. Taxes are high, pay is high. Plus labor has a tight hold of union membership, which reduces flexibility. The Globe and Mail reports.
Asked 12 years ago if the province is becoming more globally competitive, 70 per cent of the respondents answered Yes, and 30 per cent said No. Asked the same question in the 2006 survey, 33 per cent replied Yes, while 40 per cent answered No and 27 per cent stated they did not know.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Hope for Electric Cars

An unknown company has announced it has developed a new electricity storage device that will make "A four-passenger sedan will drive like a Ferrari." CNN Money reports:
Forget hybrids and hydrogen-powered vehicles. EEStor, a stealth company in Cedar Park, Texas, is working on an "energy storage" device that could finally give the internal combustion engine a run for its money -- and begin saving us from our oil addiction. "To call it a battery discredits it," says Ian Clifford, the CEO of Toronto-based electric car company Feel Good Cars, which plans to incorporate EEStor's technology in vehicles by 2008. EEStor's device is not technically a battery because no chemicals are involved. In fact, it contains no hazardous materials whatsoever. Yet it acts like a battery in that it stores electricit
Take this with a grain of salt. What is their track record? An electric car call the Zenn that goes the speed of a moped and take hours to charge.
EEStor is tight-lipped about its device and how it manages to pack such a punch. According to a patent issued in April, the device is made of a ceramic powder coated with aluminum oxide and glass. A bank of these ceramic batteries could be used at "electrical energy stations" where people on the road could charge up.
Despite long claims on short experience we have high hopes for alternate energy sources. Though this is not a source of energy, but energy storage, which is necessary also.

Friday, September 22, 2006

DDT can be used to save lives

The worldwide ban on DDT has been lifted. The ban killed tens of millions of people, mostly pregnant women and young children to malaria. Betsy McKay in the Wall Street Journal on 15 Sept 2006:
The World Health Organization, in a sign that widely used methods of fighting malaria have failed to bring the catastrophic disease under control, plans to announce today that it will encourage the use of DDT, even though the pesticide is banned or tightly restricted in much of the world. The new guidelines from the United Nations public-health agency support the spraying of small amounts of DDT, or dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane, on walls and other surfaces inside homes in areas at highest risk of malaria. The mosquito-borne disease infects as many as 500 million people a year and kills about a million. Most victims are in sub-Saharan Africa and under the age of 5.
Steven Milloy at Fox news analyzes the announcement:
Overlooked in all the hoopla over the announcement, however, is the terrible toll in human lives (tens of millions dead — mostly pregnant women and children under the age of 5), illness (billions sickened) and poverty (more than $1 trillion dollars in lost GDP in sub-Saharan Africa alone) caused by the tragic, decades-long ban.
Who did it?
It was, of course, then-Environmental Protection Agency administrator William Ruckelshaus who actually banned DDT after ignoring an EPA administrative law judge’s ruling that there was no evidence indicating that DDT posed any sort of threat to human health or the environment. Ruckleshaus never attended any of the agency’s hearings on DDT. He didn’t read the hearing transcripts and refused to explain his decision. None of this is surprising given that, in a May 22, 1971, speech before the Wisconsin Audubon Society, Ruckleshaus said that EPA procedures had been streamlined so that DDT could be banned. Ruckleshaus was also a member of — and wrote fundraising letters for — the EDF. The DDT ban solidified Ruckelshaus’ environmental credentials, which he has surfed to great success in business, including stints as CEO of Browning Ferris Industries and as a director of a number of other companies including Cummins Engine, Nordstrom, and Weyerhaeuser Company. Ruckelshaus currently is a principal in a Seattle, Wash., -based investment group called Madrona Venture Group.
Is there justice for what Ruckleshaus did?
Corporate wrongdoers — like WorldCom’s Bernie Ebbers and Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski — were sentenced to prison for crimes against mere property. But what should the punishment be for government wrongdoers like Ruckleshaus who, apparently for the sake of his personal environmental interests, abused his power and affirmatively deprived billions of poor, helpless people of the only practical weapon against malaria?
PATH is a Seattle-area nonprofit to bring about solutions to health problems. They are encouraging and funding alternatives to DDT to combat malaria and they recognize the effectiveness of DDT.
While DDT is effective, there are alternatives, including a class of insecticides called synthetic pyrethroids, some of which are used to treat bed nets, says Kent Campbell, program director for MACEPA, a malaria control program at PATH, a Seattle nonprofit organization, and a former malaria branch chief at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The political debate over DDT impedes its effectiveness in preventing the disease, he adds. "It's extremely effective when used – as long as the discussion is not moved to pro or contra DDT," he adds.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Hugo Chavez calls Bush "the Devil" to Applause

Hugo Chavez the president of Venezuela Wednesday at the United Nations in New York City called President Bush "the Devil", Associated Press reports:
"The devil came here," Chavez said. "Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today, this table that I am now standing in front of." He then made the sign of the cross, brought his hands together as if praying and looked up to the ceiling. Chavez's words drew tentative giggles at times from the audience, but also some applause.
The translator just loved repeating his words. She just gushed in emphasis. Chavez was elected president, but he has dismantled Venezuela's constitution to the point that he is now the dictator and cannot be replaced in an election. He is providing the finances for Fidel Castro to spread Communism in the Americas. And he is taking advantage of the poverty of other countries by giving aid to them to increase his influence there, such as Jamaica (via SFGate):
In Jamaica, Chavez has given a $274 million loan for a highway and sports complex and $65 million for a refinery.
An oil industry analyst says such projects make no sense:
"These projects make no economic sense, but they are part of his political megalomania, so normal economic laws don't apply," said Alberto Quiros, an oil industry analyst in Caracas and former president of Royal Dutch Shell's Venezuela operations. "Chavez is willing to pay any price."
No Questions Chavez cut his New York visit short after the speech and skipped a press conference scheduled for Thursday. Why no questions, Mr. Chavez? You can support Chavez's thuggish incursions by buying Citgo Gas; Venezuela owns it. Update Senator Harkin of Iowa agrees with Mr. Chavez via Radio Iowa:
Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, a democrat, today defended Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's United Nations speech in which Chavez called President George Bush the devil. Harkin said the comments were "incendiary", then went on to say, "Let me put it this way, I can understand the frustration, ah, and the anger of certain people around the world because of George Bush's policies."
Thanks for telling us, Tom.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Environmental groups are unwittingly destroying forests

In the Washington Times:
Environmental groups are unwittingly destroying forests and killing wildlife with lawsuits. Ironically, they do so while claiming to save them. Activists again file lawsuits to stop forest management, and the government pays them to do so. They craft settlements that pay them handsomely with taxpayer money so they can live well and file the next lawsuit. No wonder they are inflexible. The latest example uses the California spotted owl and Pacific fisher in arguments supporting a lawsuit to stop restoration thinning in the Giant Sequoia National Monument. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service haven't listed either species as threatened or endangered. These activists claim spotted owls nest in dense forests, so no management should be allowed anywhere the owl might one day live. But, they neglect to mention owls also nest and thrive in managed forests. They ignore the fact owls have to eat, and their prey live mainly in young forests.
And their actions cause conditions that allow wild fires:
Unfortunately, legal action has blocked common-sense thinning to restore forests to their natural diversity and resistance to catastrophic wildfire. Already, many California public forests have grown dangerously overcrowded with 10 to 20 times more trees than is natural. The Giant Sequoia National Monument is near the top of the crowded forest list. It already burned once, and it is certain to burn again. In 2002, the McNally fire blackened 151,000 acres in and around the Sequoia National Monument, coming within a mile of the Packsaddle Grove of giant sequoias. Without active management, it is only a matter of time before another major wildfire hits, possibly destroying all 38 sequoia groves in the monument. Rather than protecting forests and wildlife with lawsuits, activists condemn them to destruction. Massive wildfires move so fast that flames can overtake animals like deer, bears and fishers before they escape. Streams boil and fish die. Ash fills burrows and suffocates ground dwellers. Smoke inhalation kills most animals before the flames reach them. In New Mexico's Los Alamos Fire, 90 percent of the Mexican spotted owl's habitat was lost. Between 1999 and 2002, the U.S. Forest Service identified 11 California spotted owl-nesting sites as lost to wildfire. In 2002, the Biscuit Fire destroyed tens of thousands of acres of spotted owl habitat in Southern Oregon and Northern California, including 49 known nesting sites.
The author Thomas Bonnicksen has studied California forests, including the sequoia forest, for more than 30 years. He has published numerous scientific papers on the sequoias and he is the author of "America's Ancient Forests" (John Wiley, 2000), which includes a section on the sequoia forest. Mr. Bonnicksen is a Texas A&M University professor emeritus of forest science, University of California-Davis visiting professor, and a member of the advisory board of the Forest Foundation.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I just got back from a week offline in Alaska. What a great place. Just driving from Anchorage to the next population center to the North (northeast actually) goes for over 20 miles past 3,000-plus-foot mountains rising from sea level. And it gets much better as you approach Mt. McKinley and Denali National Park by highway or train. Denali National Park and Mt. McKinley K2 Aviation (Rust's) has flights to and - at great expense - over McKinley. McKinley Creekside Cabins - at mile 224 on the Parks HIghway, about 12 miles south of the Park entrance. Nice location with great mountains across the highway, though they don't show them on their website. Prince William Sound - We drove from Anchorage through the 2.5 mile single-lane tunnel (an experience) to Whittier for a 5-hour cruise with Major Marine Cruises. We saw bald eagles, Live web cameras - List - I can't link directly; click on" McKinley Park "in this list. It's in the Southeast section if you get the list of quadrants Portage Glacier is a 50-mile drive SE of Anchorage at the entrance to the tunnel to Whittier. Looks pretty good, eh? Active Alaska volcanos - Mt. Augustine webcam from its island. It's also visible from Homer 75 miles across Cook Inlet.

Others - The current active volcanos are at the southwest entrance to Cook Inlet and are very remote.

Offline - I could have been online. McKinley Creekside, which is remote from remote Denali Park, has internet access in the front office. Even deep in Denali Park at Toklat, which is mile 53 on the bus line (no private vehicles allowed), employees have internet access, a friend tells us.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Who hates ABC's "The Path to 9/11"?

The Clinton machine can't stand the light. Previewers tell us that the series to be shown on September 10 and 11 on ABC portrays Sandy "In-His-Pants" Berger as indecisive, Secretary of State Madeline Albright as misguided and CIA chief George Tenet as ineffective. That sounds about right. So there is little argument that the Hollywood types who made this got it, if not perfect, in the ball park. But it doesn't advance Bill Clinton's legacy as the likeable president. His pretty people will stand for nothing short of full-throated praise. After all, 9/11 is about Bill, not the victims, not the threat to our security. It's about Bill. Hugh Hewitt has an excellent article at

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Incomes Unequal, but much higher

The hand wringing about income inequality in the United States is a red herring in the truest sense. It is a false issue intended to divert attention. The poorer people in the United States are at the same level as those in the egalitarian paradise of Finland, which has the lowest income inequality. Tim Worstall at TCSDaily shows us:
In the USA the poor get 39% of the US median income and in Finland (and Sweden) the poor get 38% of the US median income. It's not worth quibbling over 1% so let's take it as read that the poor in America have exactly the same standard of living as the poor in Finland (and Sweden). Which is really a rather revealing number don't you think? All those punitive tax rates, all that redistribution, that blessed egalitarianism, the flatter distribution of income, leads to a change in the living standards of the poor of precisely ... nothing. Such may lead us to a conclusion that the EPI probably wouldn't like: If we accept (as I do) that we do, indeed, need to have a social safety net, and that we have a duty to provide for those incapable or unlucky enough to be unable to do so for themselves, we need to set some level at which such help is offered. The standard of living of the poor in a redistributionist paradise like Finland (or Sweden) seems a fair enough number to use and the USA provides exactly that. Good, the problem's solved. We've provided -- both through the structure of the economy and the various forms of taxation and benefits precisely what we should be -- an acceptable baseline income for the poor. No further redistribution is necessary and we can carry on with the current tax rates and policies which seem, as this report shows, to be increasing US incomes faster than those in other countries and boosting productivity faster as well.
So the poorer people in the US are at the same level as Finland, but everyone else is higher - much higher! So take your choice: move to Finland and be lower income but equal or to the US and have the chance to get ahead - way ahead. Worstall also shows that the data from the liberal Progressive Policy Institute show that the US, as well as being ahead, is moving faster:
Things are actually looking pretty good for the US economy, then -- wealthier to start with, getting richer faster and productivity growth is also highest in the USA, meaning that this trend is only likely to continue.
Via Michael Barone. Follow that link and have your screen filled with pop-ups. Don't.