January 12, 2006

Supply Side Econ Keeps on Rocking

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 4:57 pm

The last para of this Reuters report (wonder why it’s last?) tells the big story of December’s Treasury Department report on the deficit:

Outlays jumped to $230.90 billion from $218.60 billion in December a year ago, while receipts were $241.88 billion, up from $215.75 billion in December 2004.

That’s a 12.1% increase in revenues, thanks to lower tax rates offset by much more economic tax-generating activity.

Supply-side tax cuts rock.

Killer Trees, Revisited

Filed under: Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:48 am

Remember Ronald Reagan and the “killer trees”?

I’m going to resurrect that story shortly, but to get something up immediately, I have links to and excerpts from two stories.

First, UK Guardian

Global warming: blame the forests

· Research identifies plants as source of methane
· Climate scientists shocked by new findings
Thursday January 12, 2006

They have long been thought of as the antidote to harmful greenhouse gases, sufferers of, rather than contributors to, the effects of global warming. But in a startling discovery, scientists have realised that plants are part of the problem.

According to a study published today, living plants may emit almost a third of the methane entering the Earth’s atmosphere.

The result has come as a shock to climate scientists. “This is a genuinely remarkable result,” said Richard Betts of the climate change monitoring organisation the Hadley Centre. “It adds an important new piece of understanding of how plants interact with the climate.”

Since the first source was the shaky UK Guardian, there needs to be a second (AFP via ABC):

Scientists question trees’ role in global warming

Under the United Nations’ Kyoto Protocol on global warming, the forest is a saint, as trees suck in carbon dioxide (CO2) as part of the natural process of respiration.

By such thinking, if Kyoto signatories plant lots of forests, they create wonderful sponges that absorb the dangerous climate-altering gas.

But what if trees, in addition to taking in CO2, also emit a greenhouse gas of their own?

That scenario is sketched in a new study by European scientists, which if confirmed, would be one of the biggest upheavals in climate science for years.

It would also inflict a serious blow to Kyoto, one of whose key pillars is the faith in “sinks”, as forests are called in the treaty’s jargon.

Until now, the mainstream belief is that atmospheric methane chiefly comes from bugs: from bacteria working in wet, oxygen-less conditions, such as swamps and rice paddies.

But in a study published in the journal Nature, a team led by Frank Keppler of the Max Planck Institute in Germany has found living plants, dried leaves and grass emit methane in the presence of air.

Nor is this gas just a piffling amount.

Bring on the bulldozers (just kidding, people).

UPDATE: Shoot. All I can find are extreme leftist sites that distort the story, which is this — During a 1980 campaign speech or interview, Reagan made the (now more clear than ever) valid point that trees and plants emit gases that can be seen as harmful to the environment. On a flight after that, during the landing approach, aides started joking that the pilot should watch out for the “killer trees.”

UPDATE 2: S.O.B. Alliance member Weapons of Mass Discussion comments: “So, now we know the truth: salad causes global warming. I knew it along…”

UPDATE 3: Tim Worstall: “Quick! Quick! Cut down the rainforests to save the planet! Get rid of the Amazon and plant soya!”

Can’t Resist Putting a Chinese Needle in The Wall Street Journal Today

Filed under: Corporate Outrage,Economy,Environment,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:01 am

The Journal recommends what to do about the “environmental malaise” in China (subscription require; bold is mine):

Another week, another chemical spill in China. The recent spate of environmental mishaps on the mainland isn’t new, though at least we’re hearing about them now. If Beijing really wanted to tackle its environmental malaise, it would move faster to dump state enterprises and speed the development of a private economy in which managers are held accountable both for making a profit and for fouling the air and water.

One thing’s for sure: The recent news has been bad PR for the PRC. Last November, a petrochemical plant explosion in Jillin, in northeastern China, released 100 tons of benzene and other nasty things into the Songhua River, creating a slick that flowed all the way to Russia. That mess forced three million people in the city of Harbin to go without running water for nearly five days. The news was too big to hide, though officials tried. Foreign journalists sniffed the story and moved in to report it.

Now, problems are popping up all over. In December, a metal factory in Shaoguan, a southern Chinese city near Hong Kong, leaked cadmium — a potentially cancer-causing agent — into the Bei River. And in recent days, a fertilizer-plant accident dumped 600 tons of sulfuric acid into the Qijiang River, near Chongqing; cadmium was spilled into the Xiangjiang River in Hunan Province; and in Shandong Province several tons of diesel oil were dumped accidentally into the Yellow River.

It’s hard to tell exactly how widespread the problems are, but we’d go out on a limb and guess, oh, “pretty vast.” China’s State Environmental Protection Administration reported 1,441 environmental accidents in 2004, with most incidents related to water. We’d wager that figure is underestimated by a wide margin. The manager responsible for the Harbin slick was later found dead, by the way.

The bolded sentence in the excerpt is a real howler. If The Journal thinks “speeding the development of a private economy” is so important, why did it support Chinese government-controlled company CNOOC (controlled at the highest levels) in its bid to become an even bigger government-controlled company last summer, and cry like a baby when it didn’t happen?

Quote of the Day: James Glassman on New Orleans

Filed under: Business Moves,Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:02 am

I love Mr. Glassman’s optimism:

When I was 24, I came to New Orleans to start a business and a family. I stayed for eight happy years. If I were 24 again, I would be packing my bags for New Orleans to be on the ground floor of a modern renaissance. Katrina was a tragedy, but its aftermath presents the most exciting urban opportunity since San Francisco in 1906. Pioneers, please apply.

Memo to the federal, state, local government: Let the pioneers be pioneers.

I hope Mr. Glassman’s optimism is warranted.

Positivity: “We may never know just how many lives he saved”

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 6:05 am

I didn’t know there was an American hero at the My Lai Massacre. It’s too bad that it took his death for his story to become more widely known:

Hugh Thompson, a former US Army helicopter pilot honoured for rescuing Vietnamese civilians from his fellow soldiers during the My Lai massacre, died early yesterday (Friday, Jan. 6). He was 62.

Thompson, whose role in the 1968 massacre did not become widely known until decades later, died at the Veterans Affairs Medical Centre in Alexandria, hospital spokesman Jay DeWorth said.

Trent Angers, Thompson’s biographer and family friend, said Thompson died of cancer.

“These people were looking at me for help and there was no way I could turn my back on them,” Thompson recalled in a 1998 interview.

Early in the morning of March 16, 1968, Thompson, door-gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta came upon US ground troops killing Vietnamese civilians in and around the village of My Lai.

They landed the helicopter in the line of fire between American troops and fleeing Vietnamese civilians and pointed their own guns at the US soldiers to prevent more killings.

Colburn and Andreotta had provided cover for Thompson as he went forward to confront the leader of the US forces. Thompson later coaxed civilians out of a bunker so they could be evacuated, and then landed his helicopter again to pick up a wounded child they transported to a hospital. Their efforts led to the cease-fire order at My Lai.

In 1998, the Army honoured the three men with the prestigious Soldier’s Medal, the highest award for bravery not involving conflict with an enemy. It was a posthumous award for Andreotta, who was killed in battle three weeks after My Lai.

“It was the ability to do the right thing even at the risk of their personal safety that guided these soldiers to do what they did,” Army Maj. Gen. Michael Ackerman said at the 1998 ceremony. The three “set the standard for all soldiers to follow.”

….. For years Thompson suffered snubs and worse from those who considered him unpatriotic. He recalled a congressman angrily saying that Thompson himself was the only serviceman who should be punished because of My Lai.

As the years passed, Thompson became an example for future generations of soldiers, said Col. Tom Kolditz, head of the Army academy’s behavioural sciences and leadership department.

“There are so many people today walking around alive because of him, not only in Vietnam, but people who kept their units under control under other circumstances because they had heard his story. We may never know just how many lives he saved.”