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  • "Until some of these scientists are dead."

    September 25, 2006 2:16 PM

    Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies in New York City, became a darling of the left by claiming that the Bush Administration tried to censor or suppress his personal opinions on global warming public policy questions. (If they did, they did a poor job.) But Dr. Hansen has quite a record of trying to suppress the expression of opposing views. This summer he refused to testify before a House committee hearing on the grounds that the committee had invited a scientist (Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville) who made the mistake of not conforming his views to Dr. Hansen's. On a television debate broadcast on October 24th, Dr. Hansen complained that one of the five panelists held views that he considers objectionable. He also told the Associated Press in a story published Sept. 24th that "Some of this noise won't stop until some of these scientists are dead," referring to scientists skeptical of the claims of global warming alarmism. It is hard not to conclude that underneath his mild Midwestern appearance, Dr. Hansen is an old-fashioned Stalinist at heart. Anyone who disagrees with him must be intimidated into conformity or silence.


    It is also worth noting how far out of the mainstream are Dr. Hansen's own opinions. He recently speculated that sea levels could rise twenty feet per century for the next four centuries. The Third Assessment Report of the U. N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, representing the consensus of scientists with expertise in the field, estimates that continued global warming could cause sea levels to rise up to twenty inches in the next century. This is not meant as a criticism. Scientists far outside whatever the consensus of the moment happens to be often turn out to be right. Dr. Hansen should keep that in mind the next time he tries to shut up someone who disagrees with him.


  • The New York Times Gets Chemical Plant Security Wrong

    September 25, 2006 11:50 AM

    Why do liberals always assume that the solution to every

    problem is regulation and yet more regulation? That's the thrust of an

    editorial in today's New York Times that whines: “Congress still has done

    nothing to protect Americans from a terrorist attack on chemical plants.” It assumes that Congress has some magical

    answer to the issue members refuse to employ because of chemical industry lobbying. It also wrongly claims that nothing has been

    done to protect these plants.


    Consider the evidence first. All the answers that Congress has considered largely involve growing the

    federal bureaucracy with needless paperwork and meddling in production

    processes of which they have no knowledge. Indeed, the chemical plant security issue has mostly been used as an

    excuse for environmental activists and their allies in Congress to push an environmental

    agenda to reduce or eliminate the use of chemicals. It's not surprising that Greenpeace—which has

    advocated banning the chlorine that is necessary to kill dangerous pathogens in

    our water supply—leads the effort to push for such “security” legislation. For more information on this angle see CEI's paper on the topic.


    The New York Times has either been fooled by this pretense

    or it shares Greenpeace's dangerous convictions. Their editorial simply parrots the need to

    force companies to “replace” dangerous chemicals—based on the naïve assumption

    the replacement products will necessarily be safer. But would using “alternative” disinfectants

    that are not as effective at killing cholera, dysentery, and other diseases

    really be that much safer?

  • Perverse Incentives

    September 25, 2006 11:08 AM

    Government is often said to be bedeviled by “unintended

    consequences.” That doesn't mean that

    the consequences cannot be foreseen. Two

    great examples present themselves this week. First, in Boiling Springs Lake, North Carolina, the endangered red

    cockaded woodpecker has been spotted. As

    a result, local land-owners have been rushing

    for the chainsaws
    to protect their property investments:


    The [Federal Fish and Wildlife Service] issued a map marking

    15 active woodpecker “clusters,” and announced it was working on a new one that

    could potentially designate whole neighborhoods of this town in southeastern

    North Carolina as protected habitat, subject to more-stringent building

    restrictions.


    Hoping to beat the mapmakers, landowners swarmed City Hall

    to apply for lot-clearing permits. Treeless land, after all, would not need to

    be set aside for woodpeckers. Since February, the city has issued 368 logging

    permits, a vast majority without accompanying building permits.


    The results can be seen all over town. Along the roadsides,

    scattered brown bark is all that is left of pine stands. Mayor Joan Kinney has

    watched with dismay as waterfront lots across from her home on Big Lake have

    been stripped down to sandy wasteland.


    Meanwhile, in Fairfax County, Virginia, county officials

    wanted to save money by cutting government-owned cars from their fleet that are

    driven fewer than 4500 miles annually. The result?

  • ‘Net Neutrality’ for Credit Cards?

    September 25, 2006 9:33 AM

    An op-ed

    I wrote for last Sunday's Washington Times

    talked about the battle over the interchange fees that banks and credit card

    companies charge to retailers. The retailers, including some big chains, are

    whining about the fees they have to pay and want the government to step in to

    control how much the card companies charge them. This is another example of the

    phenomenon described in CEI Warren Brookes Journalism Fellow Tim Carney's book The

    Big Ripoff
    , in which businesses lobby for big government when it favors

    their bottom line. And given the experience in Australia when the government

    imposed price controls on retailer fees, American consumers certainly will be

    ripped off if the government gives in to retailer demands.


    What the retailers are asking for is sort of a “net

    neutrality” regime for credit cards. The credit card companies, on the retailer

    side, would be considered a “common carrier.” However, as with “net neutrality”

    for the Internet, this would leave consumers paying the full costs for

    improvement and innovations in the system.


  • Rachel Carson Lied, Millions Died

    September 22, 2006 9:51 AM

    We were all happy to see the World Health Organization

    finally take steps to embrace wider anti-malarial

    deployment of DDT
    , but our friend Steve Milloy reminds us it's hardly a moment to

    break out the champagne
    :


    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.


    Much of this human catastrophe was preventable, so why

    did it happen? Who is responsible? Should the individuals and activist groups

    who caused the DDT ban be held accountable in some way?


    Yes, Steve, they

    should
    .


  • The Bureau is Exactly 37.1973% Incompetent

    September 22, 2006 8:16 AM

    You really have to give it to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even when they prove they're pathologically unable to keep track of important computer equipment containing potentially sensitive data on millions of Americans, they're still able to produce exact data on how many they've lost: 672.


  • Lockyer: SUVs Don't Kill People, Car Companies Kill People

    September 21, 2006 10:37 AM

    California's attorney

    general has sued carmakers DaimlerChrysler, General Motors, Ford and

    subsidiaries of Honda, Nissan and Toyota for global

    warming impacts
    on the state. Interesting that the state isn't trying to

    hold individual car owners — the ones who actually drive and produce the

    emissions at issue — liable for the alleged damage.


    This suit seems rather reminiscent of the lawsuits first filed

    by U.S. cities against gun

    manufacturers
    in the late 1990s. Critics at the time pointed out, of

    course, that it's the people who actually shoot the guns who should be held

    liable for any damage caused by them. Congress was sufficiently alarmed by the

    prospects, however, to pass the Protection

    of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
    , shielding firearms manufacturers from such

    extended liability claims. Perhaps the House and Senate should put their heads together

    on a Freedom to Traffic in Automobiles Act.


  • Sound Suggestion on Social Security Security

    September 20, 2006 1:43 PM

    In what, for now at least, seems like good news, the

    president's Identity

    Theft Task Force
    has recommended that the federal government stop forcing

    citizens to reveal their Social Security numbers to officials and for reasons

    that have nothing to do with their Social Security benefits:


    Under the plan, the task force urges the government to

    review the uses of Social Security numbers as employee identification and

    determine ways in which it can conceal or eliminate their use in agency systems

    and paper and electronic forms.



    […]



    The initial recommendations come as the government has

    struggled with high-profile data breaches. At least 10 agencies in recent

    months have reported incidents, which included the loss of a laptop and

    external drive containing information for 26.5 million veterans and active-duty

    troops. That equipment was later recovered.



    As always, the best in cybersecurity

    analysis is available from Wayne and Brooke, here and here.


  • There Was a Farmer Who Played a Game...

    September 19, 2006 5:31 PM

    The National Indian Gaming Commission has recently been

    getting hot under the collar over a vital matter of native gambling policy -

    the display elements and parameters of video

    bingo consoles
    . Apparently they want (among other things) for the video

    screen to look more like traditional bingo cards and for the games to be played

    more slowly. They're just old fashioned like that.


    Lest you think, however, that these proposed changes are of little importance,

    listen to this voice of the Casino-American community, Marjorie Mejia, of California's Pomo Indians: “This is serious. This is people's lives at stake here. …

    It's really termination for my people.”


    Vulnerable people threatened with termination?

    In California? Clearly, the Golden State already has the right man for the job.


  • Best Headline of the Day

    September 19, 2006 5:06 PM

    Following up on Fred's

    post
    , here's an even better headline: “Thai PM cancels U.N. speech after coup”

    ran the headline in Reuters. It seems that the prime minister of Thailand was in New York at the United Nations, when word came about a coup by the military who took over the government in Bangkok. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra canceled

    his speech scheduled for 7 p.m. before the General Assembly.


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