July 18, 2006

Passage of the Day: Dr. Robert Balling on the Real Nature of CO2

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 3:50 pm

At TCS Daily, Balling takes the position that carbon dioxide should not be considered a pollutant. Well of course (bold is mine):

Plants all over the planet evolved when atmospheric CO2 levels were very much higher than what we have today. Literally thousands of biological experiments show that when atmospheric CO2 levels increase, plants grow faster, bigger, more resistant to any number of stresses, and far more water-use efficient. In many ways, plants must feel like they are going home to a world in which they evolved with CO2 levels up to ten times what we have today. In order to make CO2 more sinister, claims are made that ragweed and poison ivy will grow more vigorously in the future, and indeed they will. But so will every tree in the forest, grasses in our rangelands, and every agricultural crop.

There is no doubt that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and holding everything else constant, elevated CO2 will act to warm the Earth. But as we see in the CO2 story, the levels of this gas have fluctuated enormously over the history of the Earth, and the ecosystems of the planet have evolved to cope with these variations. To suddenly label CO2 as a “pollutant” is a disservice to a gas that has played an enormous role in the development and sustainability of all life on this wonderful Earth. The Supreme Court ruling will be interesting, but Mother Earth has clearly ruled that CO2 is not a pollutant.

Venezuela: This Is Why Early Assessments of Political Leaders are Important

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 1:20 pm

Unfortunately, much of the reason why Venezueal has to endure Hugo Chavez has to do with the ill-advised pass given him by the Catholic Church’s in that country after he was elected in 1998. They should have known better:

Despite his unusual, even demagogic style, the Venezuelan Catholic bishops decided to give Hugo Chavez the benefit of the doubt after he was elected to the country’s presidency on December 1998. In fact, the bishops asked their followers to give Chavez a level of support that was being denied to the new leader by almost every other significant political or economic power bloc in Venezuela.

Despite the fact that Chavez was the same military officer who, in 1992, had engineered an abortive military coup–seeking unsuccessfully to interrupt the workings of South America’s oldest democracy–the bishops were convinced that the ubiquitous corruption plaguing Venezuela posed even greater dangers to democracy than Chavez himself. The graft that pervaded the political system, the bishops had concluded, was being fostered rather than restrained by the bipartisan system; it was time for a change.

….. the bishops put their faith in Chavez’ desire to make bold political changes, and even supported his call for a convention designed to redraw Venezuela’s constitution.

The first tensions between the bishops and the iconoclastic new leader began to appear in November, when that constitutional convention–which Chavez had successfully packed with his own followers, so that he controlled 90 percent of the votes–decided to remove from the country’s constitution the section that specified that the Venezuelan government would protect the life of the human person from the moment of conception.

Fortunately, Chavez essentially lost that battle, but it set the stage for tensions that have only heightened in the eight years Chavez has been in control.

To their credit, Venezuela’s bishops stopped buckling long ago, but they are clearly playing from behind. The latest battle is over education, or actually indoctrination. The fact that the topic is under “discussion” shows how the Church has slowly but surely been losing the power struggle, and how Chavez is consolidating his ever more Castro-like powers:

Venezuelan Archbishop says students should not be made into “political zombies”

Caracas, Jul. 14, 2006 (CNA) – Archbishop Roberto Luckert of Coro expressed is dismay this week over news that the Venezuelan Ministry of Education plans to politicize education and remove religion classes from school curricula, and he called on officials not, “to make our students into political zombies.”

Education Minister Aristobulo Isturiz told reporters recently that the “State should instruct citizens according to its political theory, according to its idea of the Republic” and he announced the implementation of a decree removing religious instruction from schools.

Speaking on Union Radio, Archbishop Luckert said the politicization of schools is “against the constitution which clearly states that education in our country is to be free and respectful of all opinions and ideas and should not impose one point of view and thus turn our kids into a bunch of political zombies.”

“The proposals put forth by different officials, including Aristobulo Isturiz, to politicize education and turn our teachers into agents of indoctrination of a particular political model are constitutionally unacceptable and in violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the archbishop said.

How much easier would it have been on Venezuelans if the bishops had opposed Chavez from the very beginning? It isn’s as if the clues to his eventual desire for tyranny weren’t there. Now that he’s in power, it may take more than prayers and speeches to oust him.

I would also suggest if Pope Benedict wishes to leave a legacy, he could do worse than visit Venezuela to remind that country’s people where their loyalties lie. Perhaps he could do for Venezuela what John Paul II did for his native Poland.

Kelo New London Wrap: $70 Million-Plus Is a Lot of Money for a Few Empty Blocks

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 10:59 am

Previous Posts:

  • June 30 — Kelo New London: It’s Over
  • June 26 — Barriers to a Finalized Deal Remain (also includes links to all previous posts back to August 2005)

____________________________

The city has applied for, and will certainly receive, the money it needs to complete their settlements with the final two Kelo holdouts (link requires registration, and will require subscription on July 23) and New London’s City Council approved the deal (link requires registration, and will require subscription after today).

Council was especially “accommodating” at their meeting on July 10:

The council vote also waived use and occupancy fees, dating to the 2000 property takings, for Kelo and Cristofaro, which the council had previously authorized City Law Director Thomas Londregan to collect.

Considering what jerks they were last summer, that was awfully nice of them (/sarcasm).

As to the settlement money, it looks like the City applied just in time:

The money is part of the $1.4 million in unspent funds from the state Department of Economic and Community Development that remained set aside for the NLDC’s redevelopment of Fort Trumbull as of March — all that remained of a $73 million state investment in the project.

Taken in isolation from the Supreme Court decision, which was a nationwide “win” for the eminent-domain tyrants, it’s hard to see how New London and the taxpayers of Connecticut are better off today than they were before this conflict began.

The Voting-Machine Suit Against Diebold Deserves to Be Heard

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Corporate Outrage,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 9:14 am

Before I excerpt, two points:

  • Nobody can credibly claim that Diebold or e-voting had anything to do with the 2000 presidential election dispute in Florida. E-voting wasn’t used anywhere at that point.
  • Nobody can credibly claim that Diebold or e-voting had anything to do with the flawed belief that Ohio somehow was really won by John Kerry. I don’t think e-voting was in place anywhere in Ohio at the time. The central argument of the Kerry-won-Ohio holdouts, which I believe is bogus, is that people were prevented from voting, not that the votes weren’t tabulated properly.

So the lawsuit covered here is about future elections, not previous ones, despite plaintiff Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s and In These Times reporter John Ireland’s carping to the contrary.

And despite his strained arguments on previous elections, and the strained reporting contained in most of the linked article, Kennedy’s argument against Diebold needs to be heard:

….. (Kennedy claims that) Diebold and other electronic voting machine (EVM) companies fraudulently represented to state election boards and the federal government that their products were “unhackable.”

Kennedy claims to have witnesses “centrally located, deep within the corporations,” who will confirm that company officials withheld their knowledge of problems with accuracy, reliability and security of EVMs in order to procure government contracts.

Unfortunately, there is more than a little evidence (here, here [third item at link], and here [final item at link]) that e-voting machines are anything but hackproof.

And if they’re not, they shouldn’t be used. Period. This shouldn’t even resemble being a partisan issue.

Bizzy’s AM Coffee Biz-Econ-Life Links (071806)

Free Links:

  • California universities, supported of course by California taxpayers, have paid out millions of dollars in severance pay and other perks with little fanfare and or disclosure.
  • An Arizona idea that is truly awful — You get entered into a lottery for a $1 million prize if you vote. A measure allowing a voters’ lottery is on the ballot this fall. And there’s more:

    But the measure is worded in a way to actually encourage people to vote both in the primary this September as well as two months later when the actual initiative will be on the ballot. If it is approved in November, it will be retroactive: One lucky person who voted in this year’s primary and another who cast a ballot in the general election each will get $1 million.

    Anyone should see that the result of the passage of such a measure would be to bring more of the ignorant, who are unlikely to study an election’s issues before voting, to the polls. This would not be an improvement. If any voter intiative should get thrown out by the courts even if it wins, this would be it.

  • They so don’t get it — CBS anchor-to-be Katie Couric would like see her evening news broadcast “be more solution-oriented.” Just tell us what’s happening in the world, oh Perky One, without spinning it. (Fat chance.)
  • Buckeye State Blog has an interesting post on the vulnerability in different parts of the country to economic disruption due to the expiration of low-payment interest-only mortgages — It’s good as far as it goes, but keep in mind that the percentages presented are of 2003 originations, not of all mortgage loans outstanding. A counterpoint would be that, compared to 2003, interest-onlys were probably a higher percentage of new mortgage originations in 2004 and 2005.
  • “Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire” DepartmentEvidence of organ harvesting in China.

    The report, prepared by former Alberta MP David Kilgour and international human rights lawyer David Matas, included transcripts of recorded conversations in Mandarin with hospital and detention-centre officials who admitted they had organs available for transplants from Falun Gong prisoners.

    Canada’s government is investigating.

  • The next time somebody waxes conspiratorially about the conservative Council for National Policy (CNP), ask them what they think of Democracy Alliance (DA):

    An alliance of nearly a hundred of the nation’s wealthiest donors is roiling Democratic political circles, directing more than $50 million in the past nine months to liberal think tanks and advocacy groups in what organizers say is the first installment of a long-term campaign to compete more aggressively against conservatives.

    A year after its founding, Democracy Alliance has followed up on its pledge to become a major power in the liberal movement. It has lavished millions on groups that have been willing to submit to its extensive screening process and its demands for secrecy.

    These include the Center for American Progress, a think tank with an unabashed partisan edge, as well as Media Matters for America, which tracks what it sees as conservative bias in the news media. Several alliance donors are negotiating a major investment in Air America, a liberal talk-radio network.

    But the large checks and demanding style wielded by Democracy Alliance organizers in recent months have caused unease among Washington’s community of Democratic-linked organizations. The alliance has required organizations that receive its endorsement to sign agreements shielding the identity of donors. Public interest groups said the alliance represents a large source of undisclosed and unaccountable political influence.

    If there’s a difference it’s this: From what I can tell (and I have seen their 2003 tax return, which was a real snoozer), CNP essentially has quarterly meetings where leading conservatives and wannabe leading conservatives talk strategy, issues and philosophy, and then go on their merry way. It is not a big repository of money or ongoing advocacy. Democracy Alliance is attempting to be much more pervasive, all-encompassing, and intent on being influential (yet unaccountable) to the point of being dominant. While both have the potential for mischief, if I had to pick the bigger threat to representative, open, and honest government, DA wins hands-down.

Positivity: RIP War Hero Father Elmer Heindl, 96

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:55 am

A World War II chaplain has returned home to God (HT North Shore Journal):

July 17, 2006
WWII decorated chaplain Elmer Heindl dead at 96
Victoria E. Freile

The Rev. Elmer Heindl, one of the most highly decorated chaplains in World War II, died this morning at Strong Memorial Hospital.

Father Heindl turned 96 on June 14. Since 2004, he resided at Legacy at Park Crescent, a senior living facility in Greece. But he had been in Strong’s burn unit since March, after he fell in a shower at the facility and sustained burns while lying in warm water for an unknown period of time, said Legacy Director Rob Goodyear.

Goodyear described Father Heindl as “a unique man in many ways, with a remarkably incredible history.

“His main concern was his ministry and serving people around him,” Goodyear said.

Father Heindl, who was born and reared in Rochester, graduated from St. Andrew’s Preparatory Seminary and St. Bernard’s Seminary. A Catholic priest since 1936, Heindl enlisted as a chaplain in March 1942.

“High school members of my St. Andrew parish were being drafted,” he said during a 2000 celebration of his life and his Flag Day birthday, at St. Charles Borromeo Church in Greece. “They needed someone to care for them.”

Father Heindl was awarded the Bronze Star in 1944 for assisting in the burial of American dead and ministering to the wounded while under fire in Bougainville in the Solomon Islands. In 1945, he received the Silver Star for helping wounded American soldiers in Luzon in the Philippines, in 1943 while under heavy Japanese tank and mortar fire on two occasions.

He received the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest combat medal, for his “extraordinary heroism in action” under heavy machine-gun fire during street fighting in Manila, Philippines, in 1945.

According to newspaper articles that year, Father Heindl entered a Bilibid Prison watchtower under fire to offer prayers for a dying soldier, then carried the body out. He returned to the tower and carried a wounded man through Japanese fire to safety. Two days later, he crawled through enemy rocket and mortar fire to drag a wounded officer to an aid station. He carried other casualties to safety and administered last rites to the dying, the newspaper reported.

But Father Heindl discounted talk of heroism.

“I went down there to do my duty as a (n Army) chaplain, and that’s what saved me,” he told a reporter in 1987. The Distinguished Service Cross “doesn’t add one bit to my stature. Whatever happened was none of my doing whatsoever.

“I never carried a gun. I never felt the need for any kind of violence.”

His “community letters” about front-line Army life, copied by his family for his friends, became famous in Rochester while he was gone, according to a 1945 newspaper article.

Until he retired in 1980, Father Heindl served in several local parishes including St. Charles Borromeo Church in Greece, St. Andrew and St. Mary in Rochester, Holy Trinity in Webster and St. Theodore in Gates.

In 1970, the Army gave Father Heindl the Legion of Merit, one of its highest awards, for service as chaplain of the 98th Reserve Training Division. He was chaplain of the division for 12 years.

In 1991, the Monroe County Veterans’ Advisory Committee gave him the second annual Veterans Advocate of the Year award. Besides his service to the division, he served as chaplain of the Monroe County Veterans of Foreign Wars and of the United Veterans Association of Monroe County.

That same year, Father Heindl also received the Veterans Advocate of the Year award for his contributions toward veterans’ causes. In 1995, the flagpole outside St. Charles Borromeo School was dedicated in his name. Last year, the flagpole and an oak tree at his senior living residence were dedicated in his honor.

Even during retirement, he continued to serve others and celebrated Mass daily in the chapel at the Legacy at Park Crescent, Goodyear said. While he was hospitalized, facility officials expanded the chapel to accommodate his growing congregation, which included nonresidents, Goodyear said.