December 7, 2005

Passage of the Day: Mark Steyn Identifies the Real Environmentalists

Oh my. The real envrionmentalists turn out to be in the the capitalist “coalition of the emitting” (Steyn can turn a clever phrase with the best of them):

“Stop worrying about your money, take care of our planet,” advised one of the protesters’ placards. Au contraire, take care of your money and the planet will follow. For anywhere other than Antarctica and a few sparsely inhabited islands, the first condition for a healthy environment is a strong economy. In the past third of a century, the American economy has swollen by 150 per cent, automobile traffic has increased by 143 per cent, and energy consumption has grown

45 per cent. During this same period, air pollutants have declined by 29 per cent, toxic emissions by 48.5 per cent, sulphur dioxide levels by 65.3 per cent, and airborne lead by 97.3 per cent. Despite signing on to Kyoto, European greenhouse gas emissions have increased since 2001, whereas America’s emissions have fallen by nearly one per cent, despite the Toxic Texan’s best efforts to destroy the planet.

Had America and Australia ratified Kyoto, and had the Europeans complied with it instead of just pretending to, by 2050 the treaty would have reduced global warming by 0.07C – a figure that would be statistically undectectable within annual climate variation. In return for this meaningless gesture, American GDP in 2010 would be lower by $97 billion to $397 billion – and those are the US Energy Information Administration’s somewhat optimistic models.

….. Meanwhile, the Bush Administration’s Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate brings together the key economic colossi of this new century – America, China and India – plus Australia, Japan and South Korea, in a relationship that acknowledges, unlike Kyoto, the speed of Chinese and Indian economic growth, provides for the sharing of cleaner energy technology and recognises that the best friend of the planet’s natural resources is the natural resourcefulness of a dynamic economy.

It’s a practical and results-oriented approach, which is why the eco-cultists will never be marching through globally warmed, snow-choked streets on its behalf. It lacks the requisite component of civilisational self-loathing.

Wake up and smell the CO2, guys. Sayonara, Kyoto. Hello, coalition of the emitting.

Jim Glassman had a column with more details on the Asia-Pacific partnership Steyn mentioned back in August (“Way, Way Beyond Kyoto”), noted its significance, and marvelled at how it was ignored by the world press. Well, it didn’t fit the Bush-and-capitalism-are-destroying-the-world template.

When You Can Say What at This Time of Year (UPDATE)

Filed under: Economy,MSM Biz/Other Bias — Tom @ 2:15 pm

Am I the only person that has noticed these two tendencies, confirmed by Google News searches (all as of 10:15 AM ET)?

- “Holiday Shopping Season” (using quote marks)–8,730 hits.
- “Christmas shopping season” (using quote marks)–1,170 hits.

- holidays layoffs (without quotes)–141 hits.
- holiday layoffs (without quotes)–687 hits.
- Christmas layoffs (without quotes)–417 hits.

It seems a bit more acceptable to mention Christmas when layoffs are involved (half as often as the total of the two holiday layoff searches, vs. about 13% as often on the shopping searches).

These results are more striking than those I obtained on November 23.

Federal Government Withholding Employee Pay Information

Tapscott’s 1:21 PM post yesterday scooped the rest of the media by about 4 hours (go to last page at search to see that the first related story was about about 6 PM yesterday).

Here’s whats up:

Washington, D.C. — The federal government is unlawfully withholding information it normally provides the public about some 900,000 of its civilian employees, including those working for such agencies as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), according to a suit filed today in the federal district of Northern New York.

The lawsuit, brought by the co-directors of the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) against the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), charges that the agency violated settled law by failing to provide requested information. Further, the agency didn’t even explain the grounds under which it is withholding information about employees working in more than 250 federal agencies.

The government first began providing the American people detailed information about all its employees in a register published almost 200 years ago. The first name in the first register, authorized by Congress in 1816, was President James Madison.

It’s clear from the rest of the press release that the government intends to not comply with the information request until it is embarrassed into doing so.

If the Bush Administration has their hands in this, it is really screwing up. An AP report or two are fine, but I suspect nothing will happen until somebody with a high-powered blog tries to get a blogswarm going. This should be a situation where blogs on both sides of the aisle agree — the government owes taxpayers this information.

Note: This post, which was drafted last night, appeared for a few minutes assuming that the press had not picked up the story because Tapscott had no link (because none existed at the time of his post). Obviously that’s no longer true, and this post’s current content reflects the current situation.

UPDATE, Dec. 8: Tapscott updates his post to indicate that the likely reason for the withholding is that “The Pentagon was asking OPM to limit release of CPDF data on DOD civilian employees more than a year ago.” Tapscott asks: “….. how does making public the name, salary and title of DOD civilians aid al Qaeda?” I have a very weak answer, but a possible convenient fig leaf: It may make them targets.

Remembering the Second Most Deadly Foreign Attack in US History

Filed under: General — Tom @ 9:40 am

Pearl Harbor (link is to full text of early BBC story; the link also has audio files of initial reports broadcast in London, and an excerpt from President Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” speech):

Japan has launched a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii and has declared war on Britain and the United States.

The US president, Franklin D Roosevelt, has mobilised all his forces and is poised to declare war on Japan.

Details of the attack in Hawaii are scarce but initial reports say Japanese bombers and torpedo-carrying planes targeted warships, aircraft and military installations in Pearl Harbor, on Oahu, the principal island of Hawaii.

News of the daring raid has shocked members of Congress at a time when Japanese officials in Washington were still negotiating with US Secretary of State Cordell Hull on lifting US sanctions imposed after continuing Japanese aggression against China.

At 0755 local time the first wave of between 50 and 150 planes struck the naval base for 35 minutes causing several fires and “untold damage” to the Pacific Fleet.

The Japanese squadrons dropped high-explosive and incendiary bombs.

A second strike followed at about 0900 when a force of at least 100 planes pounded the base for an hour.

At least two Japanese airplanes have been shot down but it is reported that at least 350 men were killed by one single bomb at the Hickman Army Air Field, an Air Corps post on Oahu.

Officials announced a further 104 Army personnel were killed and 300 were wounded in the raid.

It is believed the attack was launched from two aircraft carriers.

One radio report says US forces downed six Japanese planes and sunk four submarines.

There are reports the Hawaiian capital Honolulu was also bombed as well as the Pacific island of Guam and the capital of the Philippines, Manila.

A British gunboat, the Peterel, has also been sunk at Shanghai in China.

Reports from Singapore suggest a build-up of Japanese warships in the South China Sea and seem to be headed for the Gulf of Siam, towards Bangkok.

President Roosevelt is working on a message to Congress tomorrow in which he is expected to ask for a declaration of war with Japan.

The Times newspaper’s Washington correspondent says the US Government expects Germany and Italy to declare war on the US within hours.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ Links (120705)

Filed under: Corporate Outrage,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:59 am

National Center for Public Policy Research Issues Important Paper on Climate Change

Toilet paper (pictured here):

The National Center for Public Policy Research is handing out “emissions credits” printed on toilet paper at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Montreal today, to symbolize the failure of the Kyoto Protocol and the futility of emissions trading schemes.

Under the European Union’s “CO2 Emissions Trading Scheme,” companies are allotted credits that allow them to emit a fixed amount of carbon dioxide. Companies that reduce their carbon dioxide output, and thus don’t use all of their credits, can sell them to companies who are exceeding their C02 allotments.

As the flawed Kyoto treaty is all but dead (link added–Ed.), emissions credits aren’t likely to be of any value in the future.

“Emissions credits aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on,” said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center, “Unless, of course, that paper happens to be toilet paper.”

These people are having way too much fun.

But they should be smiling, because Kyoto is really, really, really dead. Even if you’re in “cloud-cuckoo-land.”

Good Economic News on a Key Measure

The more each person working produces, the better off everyone is over the long haul. And workers are producing more:

The Labor Department said nonfarm business productivity advanced at a 4.7 percent annual rate in the third quarter, the swiftest increase in two years.

The strong productivity gain pushed unit labor costs — a key gauge of profit and price pressure — down at a 1 percent pace despite a solid 3.7 percent rise in hourly compensation.

“Companies may be paying more for raw materials and energy, but that is at least partially being offset by lower unit labor costs. That, I think, is likely to keep inflation contained,” said Gary Thayer, chief economist at A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis.

Pretty remarkable, considering how many hours people spend reading blogs.

As If Needed: Two More Reasons to Oppose Any Kind of GM-Ford Adjustment Assistance Bailout

Reason 1: GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner’s whiny column yesterday (may require registration):

Some argue that we have no one but ourselves to blame for our disproportionately high health-care “legacy costs.” That kind of observation reminds me of the saying that no good deed going unpunished. That argument, while appealing to some, ignores the fact that American auto makers and other traditional manufacturing companies created a social contract with government and labor that raised America’s standard of living and provided much of the economic growth of the 20th century. American manufacturers were once held up as good corporate citizens for providing these benefits. Today, we are maligned for our poor judgment in “giving away” such benefits 40 years ago.

Nice try, Rick. No sale. A lot of us began maligning you and the UAW beginning about 20-25 years ago for not seeing the long-term handwriting on the wall and doing something to address the healthcare and retirement welfare-state mentality that came to permeate your two companies. All three of you had plenty of time to adjust, but you chose instead to milk the present at the expense of the future.

Reason 2: An attempted bailout will prolong the agony, and cause the two companies to defer dealing with the next wave of cars from India (WSJ link requires subscription).

Positivity: Gates Foundation’s $84 Million Gift

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:11 am

An extraordinary amount, for an important cause:


Kelo Update: “the backlash so far has accomplished little”

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:01 am

….. and the eminent-domain tyrants have been very, very busy.

Timothy Sandefur at Positive Liberty (HT Todd Zywicki at Volokh) has an excellent post about the progress of legislation at both the state and federal level meant to neutralize the effects of the Supreme Court’s Kelo ruling this past summer.

Sandefur’s post is excellent; the results aren’t. His finding: “….. the backlash so far has accomplished little.”

In a nutshell, four states (AL, TX, DE, and OH) have passed laws that appear to have loopholes significant enough to make them largely ineffective. Of the four, Texas’s appears to have at least a few teeth. Three proposals in California have been defeated in the legislature. Pennsylvania has a law going through the legislative meat grinder that in its current form is very strong (“a well-crafted, carefully thought-out measure which provides serious protection for property owners, while allowing government to eliminate actual cases of dangerous or misused property”).

At the federal level, HR 4128 (mentioned by Jean Schmidt at her town hall meeting this past Saturday, as reported by S.O.B. Alliance member Porkopolis) essentially prohibits the use of federal funds on projects that use eminent domain to take private land for purposes other than those originally envisioned by our Founding Fathers. HR 4128 was passed by a huge majority in the House. In the Senate there are four bills (S1895, S 1883, S1704, and S1313), sitting in committee that appear be about eminent domain; none of them list HR 4128 as a “Related House Bill” (no links are provided because they move so frequently). Given what I see, there is little chance of any kind of bill reaching the President’s desk by the end of the year.

Sandefur observes:

Considering the enormous influence that federal funding has on local governments, there is reason to believe that if HR 4128 is passed by the Senate and signed by the President, it will greatly limit the number of Kelo-style redevelopment takings.

That’s fine as far as it goes, but the federal legislation would be an improvement based on money, not on re-establishing an important principle, and would otherwise let Kelo, and government’s ability to take private property for what should be prohibited purposes, stand.

Little more than three months ago, I made this observation (near end of post):

….. human nature being what it is, the citizen involvement and oversight, while it has shown good staying power, won’t last, and the definition of “reasonable and necessary” will eventually start pushing the limits now allowed by the Supremes.

I’m not happy with the idea that the “staying power” is already wearing down. If the relatively modest state legislation thus far is any indication, the initial outrage appears to have been largely neutralized.

Additionally, Kelo-style taking efforts appear to be ramping up. One of mammoth proportions is in the works in Florida. The Castle Coalition has a list of “Current Controversies” that has over 130 projects in 25 states and the District of Columbia where previously unconstitutional eminent-domain takings are being strongly considered or pursued. Maybe we need a new term: “eminent domainia.”

The way events are proceeding should not be that surprising, because by relying on the states to be the primary negators of Kelo, they are being asked to act against what they in most cases see as their own economic self-interest. States and cities probably feel that they will be at an economic disadvantage against other states if they give up the ability to abuse eminent domain and other states and cities don’t. This is why the current federal legislation, even if it does make it into law, and though it’s a very good start, won’t be enough, because projects not involving federal funds are not affected. That’s also why Supreme Court judicial selections and confirmations matter, because it may be that nothing short of a Kelo reversal will turn away the eminent-domain tyrants.

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