Friday, December 18, 2009

Copenhagen Climate Summit: Hidden Agenda

Actually, the agenda wasn't hidden. It was right out in the open, proclaimed by banners and protesters. But it was hidden from the American people by the news media which refused to report it.

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is a scientist who attended the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen. He witnessed a very different picture from what was conveyed by American press and television coverage. Here are some of his observations:

“We were a small group (about 30 or 40 of us) in the midst of a roiling sea of protesters (almost all on the 'other side'), probably twenty thousand or so, in downtown Copenhagen, waving signs, shouting slogans, etc. The biggest groups seemed to be the Communist Party (yes, their signs said that), the International Socialist Youth Movement, the Radical Climate Activists, and Greenpeace, and one of the most widespread slogans was 'System change! Not climate change!'--the meaning of which was, get rid of capitalism and usher in communism to save the world!

“One thing I’ve learned: being in the middle of a seething mass of angry protesters is not conducive to prolonged, rational, or civil conversation between those who disagree. Tried it. Doesn’t work.

“Another thing I’ve learned: It doesn’t take many questions about the scientific facts related to fears of man-made global warming to reach the end of most marchers’ knowledge. Here they are, having traveled (many of them) halfway ‘round the world (with horrendous carbon footprints!), and if you ask, 'How much warming can be calculated to come from doubling CO2 content in the atmosphere?' they stare at you blankly and say, 'Huh?' I confess I tried a good many such questions on a good many of them. I suppose I’m one of those hope-springs-eternal types. But I never did find anyone--anyone--who could answer any such questions. Ah, well.

“What seems to be staying front and center in the whole process is the goal of a major redistribution of wealth from developed to developing countries, and to facilitate that the creation of a global mega-bureaucracy that takes us one step closer to global government.“

“I’ve heard precious little discussion of temperatures or science here in Copenhagen but plenty of politics and money. Both in the streets (thousands carrying red flags of the Communist Party, complete with hammer and sickle, and flags of the International Socialists) and in the conference itself, these have been common.“

Dr. Beisner is not alone in such observations. David Rothbard wrote: “It was truly shocking to arrive at a climate action rally in Copenhagen and literally see a sea of red flags and banners with hammers and is interesting to see that many communists believe the green agenda is the best path toward socialist policies.” In a previous blog posting (“Global Warming, Global Myth”, I pointed out a similar view by Patrick Moore, a co-founder and director of Greenpeace, who resigned because of its “trend toward abandoning scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas.” After the failure of communism, he says, there was little support for collectivist ideology. In his view, a “reason environmentalism emerged was because world communism failed, the [Berlin] wall came down, and a lot of peaceniks and political activists moved into the environmental movement bringing their neo-Marxism with them and learned to use green language in a very clever way to cloak agendas that actually have more to do with anti-capitalism and anti-globalism than they do with ecology or science.”

Rothbard noted that some marchers wore hats saying, “Save the Planet. Scrap Capitalism.” One marcher said, “We fight for a socialist society and a socialist program for the climate. I believe in international solidarity in socialism. That’s the way forward.”

If there was any doubt about the delegates sharing the same views as the tens of thousands of protesters, it was eliminated by the official delegates response to the tirade by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Dr. Beisner wrote: "Chavez, who exceeded his five-minute time allotment by 20 minutes ...told the crowd that the process here was 'not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really an imperial dictatorship ...down with imperial dictatorships.' The crowd applauded vigorously. Then he said there was 'a silent and terrible ghost in the room'--capitalism. The crowd applauded even more vigorously.

"But when he concluded, 'our revolution seeks to help all people .... socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell ....Let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us,' the crowd of official delegates--no doubt sober, unbiased, evenhanded, objective public servants all--gave him a standing ovation.

"And that—not science—is what's driving the demand for a global climate treaty."

Dr. Beisner is national spokesman for the Cornwall Alliance, which endeavors to counter climate scaremongering with scientific facts and demonstrate that proposed policies to regulate carbon dioxide would not only be ineffective, uneconomic and destructive of human rights and capitalism but impose the greatest hardships on the world's poorest people. (

Monday, November 30, 2009

Corporate Jets: Extravagance or Efficiency?

The Obama administration and its allies in Congress—not to mention their political supporters in the news media—lose no opportunity to demonize business leaders, doctors, others with high incomes, and big companies themselves as “enemies of the people.” The business executives' salaries are said to be too high, their bonuses too generous, the corporate life style too extravagant; doctors charge too much; oil companies are gouging the public, etc. All this is grist for the propaganda mill of the Marxist doctrine of class warfare. The wealthy, the successful are singled out as greedy, wasteful public enemies—but the government will do “justice” by dictating how much doctors can charge, what executives salaries should be, how large bonuses should be, how businesses should be run (or merged or sold off), what products they should sell (e.g., “green” cars) and what kind of fuel should power the factories. And even what kind of transportation business leaders should use. All these things are not to be decided be any economic measure—in fact, the intent is to bypass economics entirely in favor of an anti-capitalist ideology. Economic disparity is in itself taken as evidence of a “problem” and a need to “spread the wealth”. Only the government, we are told, can correct the situation. Only government can know what is the right price for bonuses, doctor's services, etc., and only it has the power to enforce such “fairness.” Whether the government has the constitutional authority to do so or violates people's rights or liberty seldom comes up in discussions of these government interventions.

When the heads of the three American auto companies were summoned to Washington for a Congressional hearing, they were roundly criticized for arriving in their corporate aircraft. As far as I can tell, the question never came up as to whether corporate jets were an efficient, economic use of resources. It was just automatically assumed they weren't. No evidence was deemed necessary. They were simply guilty. Bad people, whom everyone should despise.

But companies invest in corporate jets for the same reason they routinely invest in telecommunications equipment, computer software, machinery and other things that promote efficiency and productivity. With private aircraft, business people can make several stops at different locations and return home the same day, saving time and travel expenses that would occur it the same trip were made over several days via auto, train or commercial aircraft. The latter can land at 500 airports, while corporate aircraft can land at 5,000. Commercial carriers have rigid schedules and destinations while private jets can fly at times of convenience and have great flexibility of destinations. Those are the same reasons so many people drive automobiles instead of taking buses.

Business aircraft also allow several employees on the same plane without the expense of additional tickets that would be required on a commercial aircraft. And those employees can meet, plan and work with each other in complete confidentiality and security aboard business aircraft.

Of course, not every business has its own aircraft or would benefit by doing so. But certainly the politicians in Washington do not know how to make such decisions for businesses. Clearly the management of companies that choose to invest in corporate aircraft have found it helps them become more efficient, productive and competitive. A recent study by Michael Dyment concluded, “In conducting this study, we found that companies using business aviation outperform non-users across every key financial and non-financial measure of business success.” Here are some specific findings of the study, which covers 2003 to 2008, the latest six-year period for which complete data was available:

-Average annual earnings growth was 434 percent higher for users of business aircraft than for non-users:

-Total stock and dividend growth was 252 percent higher for users...

-Total share price growth was 156 percent higher for users...

-Among Business Week magazine's 2009 “50 Most Innovative Companies,” 95 % of the S&P 500 companies were business aircraft users.

-Among Business Week's 2009 “25 Best Customer Service Companies.” 90% of the S&P 500 companies were business aircraft users.

-Among Fortune magazine's 2009 “100 Best Places to Work,” 86 % of the S&P 500 companies were business aircraft users.

-Among Fortune's 2009 “World's Most Admired Companies,” 95% of the S&P 500 companies were business aircraft users.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Taxing to Reduce Obesity and its Costs?

Of the more than ninety columns on this blog, I have written all but one. Now I have found one more by another author that I would like to share with you. It was written by Gregg Cavanagh in response to a proposal by two professors for a national tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. The professors claim a tax on soft drinks would provide about $150 billion in tax revenue over ten years and about $50 billion in direct health benefits. They claim it would help Americans lose weight and that the U.S. spends $147 billion on medical costs associated with overweight and obesity. But Cavanagh, with wit and logic, shows such a tax would be unfair, ineffective, and downright ludicrous if its basic idea is consistently applied. More importantly, he also shows that the real solution is not another government program, more taxes and government intervention but rather individual responsibility and action. Here is his article:

In February, I weighted 280 pounds. I'm 5 feet 10, and my claim that I was “big-boned” was wearing pretty thin. Even a mastodon my height wouldn't weigh that much. So the recent proposal by Kelly Brownell and David Ludwig to tax sugar-sweetened beverages got me thinking.

My first reaction was that Brownell and Ludwig didn't go far enough. If sugar-sweetened soda should be taxed, how about ice cream, cake, doughnuts, cookies and candy? They have plenty of sugar in them. And what about sugar? It has plenty of sugar in it, too. We should tax anything with lots of sugar in it.

Unfortunately, I don't think that tax would work for people like me. Ive been drinking sugar-free soda for 30 years. I cut out sweets long ago. No, under even an expanded Brownell-Ludwig tax, certain categories of overweight people would fly (all right waddle) under the radar. We need a wider net.

Maybe we need a tax on foods high in fat and carbs, too. We all know what a diet of fast food can do to the figure. But it wouldn't be fair to stop at the fast-food restaurants, would it? After all, regular restaurants, vending machines and even grocery stores are loaded with sugar, fat and carbs. Let's tax 'em all!

But wait a minute. I know plenty of people who eat sugar, fat and carbs who aren't overweight. Why should they be discouraged from eating or drinking the things they like? Why should they be taxed for a problem they don't have?

Maybe the real problem is quantity. People who eat in moderation tend to be slimmer, and people who overeat tend to be heavier, right? Maybe we need a portion tax. The person who says, “supersize me” pays a percentage. The person who orders the regular combo gets off with a warning.

Still, there are those freaks of nature who eat like horses and stay skinny as rails. Something about metabolism. Sure, we may hate them, but is it really fair to impose a portion tax on them? If we discourage them from eating those big meals, they may just waste away entirely. Hmmmmm.

I've got it! Why don't we just enact an obesity tax? After all, that's what we're really trying to prevent, isn't it? We can mandate that everyone go to the Department of Body Mass once a year and weigh in. A person's body mass index will determine his or her obesity tax for the year. Heavier people tend to emit more carbon dioxide, so the tax will encourage them to reduce their carbon footprints, too.

Of course, poor people can't afford an obesity tax, so rich people will have to pay more. Rich people can afford weight-loss programs and personal trainers anyway, so it's only fair. Flexibility can be provided through a cap-and-trade system, under which people can trade fat credits on the open market. Al Gore would benefit in more ways than one.

I hope I'm making my point. “Experts” like Brownell and Ludwig invoke their credentials to push their personal agendas, and the federal government legislates those agendas to herd us like sheep. The government that declared the failed wars on poverty, crime and drugs stands ready to declare a new war on obesity. The government with the $12 trillion debt can't wait to tell us to stop overindulging. And once more, freedom yields.

So what's the solution? Well, in February, I stopped blaming my ancestors, my body, my job, the food industry and the advertising industry, and took responsibility for myself. I changed the way I eat.

It hasn't been a piece of cake. Exercising freedom isn't always easy. But so far, I've lost 82 pounds. And I've done it without a federal stimulus, a cash-for-calories program, or Brownell's and Ludwig's sugar tax. Granted, it's just one little gesture in support of freedom. But I figure I'm bigger—and smaller—for it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Obama's Economic Vandalism: Trade Protectionism

It hard to know whether Obama's policies of trade protectionism result from his ignorance of both economics and history or simply putting politics ahead of both. Take your pick. Either way, he has become the first protectionist president since Herbert Hoover.

The Smoot-Hawley tariff, passed in 1930 by Hoover, was a catastrophe. It ignited retaliation from other countries, resulting in a collapse of world trade, thus deepening and extending the Great Depression. Except for Obama, U.S. presidents of both parties learned from this. Even democrat Bill Clinton supported NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and ratification of the World Trade Organization and most-favored nation trading status for China. Critics of globalization—and NAFTA in particular—complain about a loss of manufacturing jobs to Mexico and other detrimental effects to the U.S., but the facts tell otherwise. Michael Boskin, economics professor at Stanford University and former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, compares the results of NAFTA to the comparable period before its passage: “U.S. manufacturing output grew more rapidly and reached an all-time high [in 2007]; the average unemployment rate declined as employment grew 24%; real hourly compensation in the business sector grew twice as fast as before; agricultural exports destined for Canada and Mexico have grown substantially and trade among the three nations has tripled; Mexican wages have risen each year since the peso crisis of 1994”, the year NAFTA was passed.

When Franklin Roosevelt's secretary of state Cordell Hull recognized the damage of Smoot-Hawley, he engineered bilateral trade agreements to try to restore free trade. Since then, with a few setbacks, the U.S. has been the world leader in free trade. After World War II, the U.S. was the prime mover in the GATT (general agreement on trade and tariff) negotiations to improve international trade. By opening up U.S. markets to foreign countries, the explosion in trade created a boon for U.S. consumers and opened up what had been largely closed economies—especially India and China—to exports from the U.S. Sure, some jobs have been lost, but millions more new jobs were created. The U.S. is the world's largest exporter. Since 1998, U.S. exports have grown by more than 94 percent. The best way to create jobs in the U.S. is to sell to the 95 percent of the world's population that lives outside our borders. Conversely, erecting barriers to trade invites retaliation from other countries, diminishing both our export opportunities and the benefits U.S. consumers enjoy from imports. On balance, we are far better off with freer international trade, as are other countries. It's a win-win situation.

There are 57 million Americans working for companies that benefit from exports. One in five factory jobs depend on exports, and one in three acres on American farms produce for export.

Enter Obama. He has now slapped a 35 percent tariff on Chinese tires. China immediately retaliated with tariffs against U.S. chickens and auto parts. He has also introduced a “Buy America” program. Does he not know that Herbert Hoover also introduced a “Buy America” program?

Has Obama also learned nothing from his own experience with Mexico earlier this year? In violation of NAFTA, the Obama administration in March 2009 closed the U.S. border to Mexican trucks except those with existing permits on the grounds they are “unsafe.” Under NAFTA, Mexican trucks were to be allowed to deliver to border states starting in 1995 and anywhere in U.S. five years later. But in 1995, as a sop to the Teamsters Union, President Bill Clinton nixed the opening to Mexican trucks, claiming safety concerns. A NAFTA panel ruled unanimously in Mexico's favor. Nevertheless, Congress for years refused to authorize the Department of Transportation to grant long-haul operations authority to Mexican trucks because of “safety” considerations. A 2007 study by the DOT found Mexican trucks to be safer than U.S. trucks. A pilot program comparing Mexican and American trucks was then initiated under the Bush administration to settle the safety issue. Inspections of randomly stopped vehicles making 45,000 trips across the border found the Mexican truckers far safer than U.S. counterparts. During the 18 month program, the U.S. carriers' rate of failure to comply with all safety regulations was 21.6%; for Mexican carriers in the pilot program, the rate was 7.3%.

When Obama closed the border to Mexican trucking, Mexico—after years of restraint and good will—quickly retaliated with a list of 90 U.S products that will face new tariffs of 10% to 45%, which will affect $2.4 billion in goods across 40 states. Mexico is the second largest buyer of U.S. exports.

California, which supplies fruits and nuts to Mexico, will be hit hard. Table grapes will face a 45% duty; wine, almonds, juices and other agricultural products will pay 20%.

Over 90% of California's Christmas-tree exports and 65% of Oregon's go to Mexico and will face a 20% tariff. Four out of ten pears the U.S. exports go to Mexico, and half of those are from Washington. They will face a 20% tariff, as will the paper products from the Pacific Northwest and Wisconsin and the $128 million of scrap batteries that Wisconsin exports to Mexico.

President Obama's home state of Illinois annually exports $57 million of plastic tableware and kitchenware to Mexico and $68.7 million in printed leaflets and brochures, which will now pay a 20% tariff.

North Dakota Senator Byron Dorgan sponsored the amendment to close the border by killing the pilot program. His state exports 80% of its oil seeds to Mexico, where they will now face a 15% tariff. (He is quoted in the Wall Street Journal March 17, 2009 as saying, “I have said all along that I have no problem with Mexican long-haul trucks being allowed into the United States if it can be done safely.” He lies! He lies!)

Some 75% of U.S.-Mexican trade moves by truck. Efficiency would be greatly enhanced by eliminating the process of unloading one set of trucks at the border and reloading another. One carrier in the pilot program reported saving over $600,000 in one year from cutting trip times and fuel costs.

Instead of greater efficiency from allowing Mexican trucks in the U.S., the U.S. will be facing a shrinking market for its products—and loss of American jobs—as Mexicans turn to alternative products from Europe, Canada and Latin America. The U.S. will suffer further because more than 800 Mexican carriers are majority owned by U.S. citizens, whose reduced income will also mean the U.S. government will receive less in taxes. It's a lose-lose-lose situation.

The 35% tax Obama has placed on the importing of Chinese tires will not save or create jobs in the U.S. These are the low-end tires that American companies no longer even manufacture in this country. The U.S. companies make the high-end tires—where they can earn higher profits and afford to pay higher wages. None of the ten domestic tire manufactures in the U.S. sought the protectionism Obama has dealt. Seven of these make tires in other countries, and four of them make low-end tires in China. Obama imposed the tariff on Chinese tires at the request of the United Steelworkers union.

Here's an example of the inefficiencies created by protectionism resulting from a trade spat way back in the early 1960s. Europe put a high tariff on imported chickens, to protect local chicken producers. President Lyndon Johnson retaliated with a protectionist measure to favor U.S. automobile companies and the United Auto Workers by imposing a 25% tax on imported trucks and commercial vans. Fast forward now 46 years, when American auto companies have manufacturing plants abroad, and they have to pay the import tax to bring their trucks and vans into the U.S. Customs officials determine whether a vehicle qualifies for the tariff by various features that might indicate whether a vehicle's primary purpose is to transport people or cargo. Cargo does not require rear seats, seatbelts or windows. So Ford now makes its Transit Connect model in Turkey with windows, rear seats and seatbelts. When these vehicle reach the U.S., the unneeded seats and windows are removed. The fabric is shredded, and the glass and steel are recycled. This costs Ford hundreds of dollars per vehicle, but the import tax drops from 25% to 2.5%, saving thousands. That's the kind of “progress” (a.k.a. inefficiency) that protectionism creates.

Having learned nothing from the experience of the 1930s and 80 years of our experience with free trade measures such as bilateral trade agreements, Obama campaigned for the presidency by promising trade protectionism. He promised to block ratification of free trade agreements with South Korea, Columbia and Panama, which had been negotiated during the Bush administration. Never mind that he has spoken in favor of free trade, for example, at a G-20 meeting last April when he joined other leaders in a commitment to avoid protectionist measures. He lies! He lies!

The U.S.-Columbia Free Trade Agreement was signed almost three years ago (November 2006), but the Democrat-controlled Congress and President Obama have been stalling about bringing it into effect. As a result, American businesses have been paying $1.9 million per day from tariffs on their exports to Columbia. Meanwhile, Canada has completed free-trade negotiation with Columbia and submitted it for approval by the House of Commons. The European Union has also negotiated free trade agreements with Columbia and Korea. So U.S. exporters will be at a competitive disadvantage and face a loss of sales in those markets.

I'm sure Obama doesn't think his protectionism will ignite a trade war. But that's what Hoover thought, too. A study buy Tom Donohue concludes that the “buy American” provisions of the stimulus bill and the refusal to permit cross-border trucking with Mexico place a half million U.S. jobs at risk.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

U.S. Dollar in Trouble—Worse Ahead!

Even amid widespread talk that the recession is ending, ominous developments have been taking place on the monetary front, which are rarely reported. I explained the background for this in my 3-part series “Mortgage Crisis, the Dollar and its Future”, which I recommend you read if you have not already done so. It covers: 1) how inflation, recessions and depressions are caused by the government monetary policies; 2) the mechanism by which the Federal Reserve creates inflation; 3) specific government policies that created the bubble in the housing/mortgage industry; 4) why gold is essential as the basis of the monetary system; and 5) the extent to which the dollar's status as the world's reserve currency is imperiled, and how steps are inexorably being taken throughout the world toward returning to gold as a store of value.

What I predicted in that series of articles is now taking place. In July, French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined Russia, China and other emerging-market countries in calling for an end to the dollar's reign as the primary international currency of reference. Less than two weeks ago, he said the world “cannot count upon only one currency.” A new United Nations report last week endorsed moving away from the central role of the dollar in the world monetary system.

Last week the dollar fell to its lowest level against the euro since September 2008. It declined far more against some less prominent currencies. It has fallen 21% against Brazil's currency, 17.5% against the Australian dollar, and 14.9% against the Norwegian krone. It has also been declining, though less severely, against the six major currencies that comprise the InterContinental Exchange's U.S. dollar index.

China—which had not bought gold since 2003—has now turned to buying gold. Its gold reserves increased 76 percent so far this year as it bought 600 metric tonnes, according to the International Monetary Fund. Spokesman Cheng Siwei said Beijing is dismayed by the Fed's recourse to easy credit. He said China fears U.S. printing of money will lead to inflation and a hard fall of the dollar. A drastic decline in the dollar would seriously reduce the value of China's holdings. “Most of our foreign reserves are in U.S. bonds and this is very difficult to change, so we will diversify incremental reserves into euros, yen, and other currencies,” said Siwei. “Gold is definitely an alternative, but when we buy, the price goes up. We have to do it carefully so as not to stimulate the markets.”

In addition to buying gold, euros and yen, the People's Bank of China called two months ago for a new international reserve currency based on Special Drawing Rights. SDRs were created in the 1960s based on a basket of major currencies. They were intended to serve as a shared currency for international reserves, but that didn't occur. Now they are used mainly in the IMF's accounting for its transactions with member nations. The difficulty is that they can't be used for transactions in the real world. When the IMF allocates SDRs, recipient countries exchange them at local central banks for local currencies, to be used to buy real assets and facilitate trade. That inflates the money supply of the country receiving the SDRs. Thus SDRs are just another way of creating a paper “asset” without an increase in real wealth. In other words, inflation. So that is not a satisfactory solution and merely leads back to gold again as the only real solution.

China is not the only buyer of U.S. bonds, though it is a very big. The Japanese are big buyers of U.S. debt, and many small Asian countries, taken together, buy a large amount. American institutional investors, e.g., insurance companies and pension funds, are big buyers; but 44% of U.S. Treasury debt is held by foreigners.

We are spending—and plan to continue spending—as much as we like for as long as we like, with the rest of the world funding our profligacy by buying our government's bonds. The creditor nations already own trillions of dollars, and the fear is that if they don't continually roll over our debt to keep the circus going, the dollar and the monetary system will collapse. Thus the creditor nations are stuck in a situation where, essentially, they can't use their bond money for anything but rolling over our debt. They will not put up with that situation indefinitely—especially as it continues to worsen—with our government undertaking spending plans that will result in trillion dollar deficits ten or twenty years from now. Nor will the U.S. citizens of the next generation be willing to undergo the ever-increasing costs of inflation and taxation for the benefit of the dead who lived beyond their means, courtesy of the politicians who promoted this intergenerational theft. The end will come as the dollar is dethroned, ending the inflationary binge, and the world turns increasingly to gold.

A decade ago members of the International Monetary Fund agreed to reduce their gold holdings in an orderly manner in the belief that these weren't needed because monetary paper was an adequate substitute. The IMF engaged in periodic gold sales, and a sale of another 403 tons of gold is already planned and may occur in the next year or two. China has already said it is willing to buy the entire 403 tons and—get this—has said it is willing to buy the entire 3,217 tons held by the IMF! The IMF has the third largest gold holding in the world, with the U.S. being first and Germany second.

Even central banks that agreed a decade ago to a series of gold sales are viewing the metal in a new light. France, the largest seller, says it will sell no more gold. The Austrian central bank said in a recent report that the rise in gold prices and “the concomitant depreciation of the U.S. dollar over the past few years have shown clearly how important gold is as an instrument for a central bank.” Germany's Bundesbank, the world's second largest official holder of gold with 3,417 tons (66.3% of its reserves) has indicated it is now more willing to hold and buy gold. The second quarter of 2009 was the first quarter since 1987 that central banks bought more gold than they sold.

In the first quarter, Russia's gold holdings rose by 29.8 percent, to 523.7 tons, raising to 4% the percentage of its reserves in gold. Then it bought 18.7 tons of gold in June and July and has now bought gold every month for over a year. Alexei Ulyukayev, first deputy chairman of the Bank of Russia said the bank intends to continue buying and increasing the percentage of its reserves in gold. Ecuador's gold holdings more than doubled in the first quarter, to 54.7 tons, and gold as a percentage of foreign reserves rose to 32%, from 9.8%. Venezuela's gold holding rose to 363.9 tons, to 36% from 23%. So small countries are buying gold too, and the percentage of their assets in the metal is in many cases higher than that of the larger countries. They want to stay ahead of the game and can buy in small amounts without driving the price up sharply in world markets.

Private investors, including small ones, are doing the same thing. The recent spike of gold above $1000 per ounce does not evidence a “footprint” of active buying by the Chinese, according to industry sources. Instead, it seems to be a reaction to weakness of the dollar and fears of future inflation, resulting in widespread interest in such things as gold ETFs (exchange traded funds), as well as traditional gold oriented investments. A new gold-oriented ETF is scheduled to open this week, marking the third such fund in the U.S. SPDR Gold Shares (formerly StreetTRACKSGoldShares), the largest ETF gold fund in the world, owns approximately $35 billion of gold, which is more than many nations have in their reserves. According to the World Gold Council, there are 163,000 metric tons of gold in human hands, with 51% in jewelry and 12% in industrial applications such as electronics and dentistry. Private investments account for 16%, while most of the rest is held by central banks.

Allan Greenspan, before he became chairman of the Federal Reserve, once wrote: “The abandonment of the gold standard made it possible for the welfare statists to use the banking system as a means to an unlimited expansion of credit....In the absence of the gold standard, there is no way to protect savings from confiscation through inflation. There is no safe store of value. If there were, government would have to make its holding illegal, as was done in the case of gold. The financial policy of the welfare state requires that there be no way for the owners of wealth to protect themselves.”

It is to protect themselves that people around the world are now turning to gold rather than dollars and other paper currencies. The reign of the dollar will come to an end as the dollar is discredited by the colossal infusion of credit into the world monetary system resulting from the colossal spending the Obama Administration has heaped upon the excessive spending of previous administrations.

In my book MAKERS AND TAKERS, I wrote, “Inflation is a means of transferring wealth form the creditors to the debtors. And who is the biggest debtor of all? The federal government, of course. By acquiring anything it wants through its own debts, the government transfers purchasing power to itself from the people, whose money depreciates proportionally.

“The reason men of force loathe gold is that it is the perfect defense against inflation. It is the bastion which must be overcome if the invasion of monetary value is to succeed. But there is more at stake in the battle than material wealth. Gold represents value uncontrolled by government; it permits men to achieve economic self-determination, to live freely and independently, to work and save and use their wealth for themselves. Gold is the fortress defending every man's right to live his life for its own sake. It is this fortress which must be annihilated if men are to be forced to serve the government and made dependent upon it.”

The great economist Ludwig von Mises once said that sound money, such as gold, is as important to human freedom as constitutions and bills of rights. It is no coincidence that government monetary management, wealth redistribution, and welfarism which are destroying the value of the dollar are at the same time destroying the safeguards which the Founding Fathers built into the Constitution—as protections against government! The intent of the Founders is no longer honored as the Constitution has been “interpreted” to mean whatever the politicians and the courts want it to mean—not what the Founders intended it to mean. The result has been an expansion of the role of the federal government and a concomitant growth in federal debt and the loss of individual freedom. President Obama has said he will not nominate to the Supreme Court people such as Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who are noted for interpreting the Constitution according to original intent. Thus the outlook for individual rights and liberty in America is pointing downward along with the future of the U.S. dollar.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pat Buchanan's Apologia for Hitler

This month marked the 70 anniversary of the beginning of World War II. On September 1, 1939, the Nazi army crossed into Poland, and the first shots of the war were fired at point blank range at a Polish shore installation by the battleship Schleswig-Holstein, which was moored in the Polish harbor of Danzig on a friendship visit.

Scarcely two weeks later, on September 17, the Soviet army attacked Poland from the east. The previous month the Soviets had signed a non-aggression pact with Germany, which contained a secret protocol whereby Stalin would get the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia) and part of Poland if he did not interfere with Hitler's invasion and conquest of the rest of Poland.

Foreign leaders from 20 countries gathered to mark the September 1 anniversary with wreath-laying and speeches. Russian Prime Minister Putin said, “Russians and Poles had fought side by side against a common enemy” and the Russians “had looked upon Poles as their brothers in arms.” Polish President Lech Kaczynski contradicted him by stating flatly that Poland was “stabbed in the back” by the Russians.

The Poles have not forgotten, too, that during the Warsaw Uprising near the end of the war, the Soviet army could be seen just across the river but made no move to help the Poles. The Soviet policy was to let the Nazis and the Poles kill each other as much as possible, and then the Russians would walk in and take over. So much for helping their “brothers in arms.”

Nor have the Poles forgotten the murders of over 20,000 Polish officers and other leaders at the Katyn Forest by the Soviets, atrocities for which the Russians refused to admit responsibility for a half century, until 1990.

Putin said the two countries should “rise above the problems of the past...and solve the problems of the future.” This cause was not furthered by the Russian defense ministry using its internet website in June to blame Poland for provoking World War II by refusing to concede to the “moderate” demands of Nazi Germany. Even a day before the ceremony marking the anniversary, President Medvedev used public TV to blame Poland for WWII. That atrocious claim is surprising even coming from a Russian official—but it is even more surprising and despicable to hear it put forth by Patrick Buchanan in his column “Did World War II Have to Happen?” ( More about that in a moment.

The Poles also resent the Russians not only for saddling them with a satellite communist government in their own country for decades after WWII but for the part of Poland that was seized, occupied and annexed to Russia—not as a result of a Nazi-Soviet Pact but because of agreements by the victorious Allies! A huge chunk of Poland—80,000 square miles—was lopped off of eastern Poland and made a part of Russia. Nobody talks about that any more, just as, I suppose, nobody will talk about the part of Georgia that Russia recently seized; in a few decades it will just be taken for granted as part of Russia like the part of old Poland is now taken for granted by the rest of the world as part of Russia. But the Poles remember.

The part of Poland that Russia received was given away by the conferences at Yalta and Potsdam in 1945. Just as at Munich, some world leaders decided to give away another country's territory without the people there having anything to say about it: at Munich it was Czechoslovakia's territory; at Yalta and Potsdam, it was Poland's. Churchill was opposed to this giveaway, just as he was opposed to the Munich pact. In fact, he was furious. So much so that he even ordered the British military to make a study of the feasibility of invading Russia. After all, his country had gone to war to protect the territorial integrity of Poland, and he did not want to be a party to doing just the opposite. But Britain was weak, Churchill could do nothing by himself, and Roosevelt sided with Stalin. Roosevelt did not oppose the idea of giving a big slice of Poland to Russia because he looked at it as a way of rewarding Stalin for being on the Allied side in the war. And it is well known that Roosevelt wanted Stalin to like him.

As partial compensation for the Polish territory given to Russia, Poland was given 60,000 square miles of eastern Germany. Since Germany started the war, there was no sympathy for her loss of territory. In effect, the country of Poland was shifted from east to west—and lost 20,000 square miles in the process, to say nothing of the hardships of all the people involved. West Germany was slow to accept the new border with Poland, keeping hopes alive that someday it would regain the territory from Poland. Finally, in 1971, when Willy Brandt was chancellor of West Germany, he announced that his government was accepting the border (the Oder-Neisse line) and renouncing all claims to the land east of it.

Danzig, where WWII began, and the rest of the part of Germany that became Polish after the war, had been Polish to begin with. Poland has had the unfortunate geography of being located between larger—and more warlike—states, Germanic on one side and Russian on the other, which over the centuries were detrimental to Poland. At one time, the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania was larger than the Holy Roman Empire ever was. But it was a weak state, could not defend its borders, and so her territory was taken from her. In the 18th century, there was a series of partitions: the surrounding countries simply annexed parts of Poland to their own countries. Prussia, Russia, and Austria divided Poland among them, with each country taking a cut on three separate occasions. Poland was helpless to resist. The final partition was under the last king of Poland, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, in 1795, after which there was nothing left of Poland. The nation did not exist for more than 120 years. It wasn't until the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 that she was restored as a national state. That happened because Paderewski, the world's most famous pianist, maintained contacts with many world leaders and persuaded Woodrow Wilson to include restoration of Poland as a national state as one of his Fourteen Points for the Treaty ending World War I. Paderewski signed the treaty for his country and became his nation's first prime minister.

When Poland was re-established by the Treaty of Versailles, it included Danzig because it was felt the country needed a seaport. It's true that at that time it was populated largely by Germans; but that city, as well as the rest of eastern Germany that became part of Poland after WWII, had previously been Polish. A thousand years ago the Polish state was founded not by foreign conquest but simply by the unification of all the tribes of Poles. Boleslaw Chrobry was Poland's first king, but even before him the tribes, according to the oldest Polish chronicle, extended as far north as the Baltic. Boleslaw's dynasty lasted five centuries.

Furthermore, the names of cities and towns themselves tell us the Poles were there first. For example, the present city of Gdansk was known as Danzig before Poland's sovereignty was restored. Since the names are similar, one name must have been derived from the other. Which came first? Gdansk refers to amber, the colored stones used for jewelry, which were collected along the seacoast here from the time of the Romans. The Romans valued these semi-precious jewels, but Italy had no natural amber; the amber they had came all the way from the Gdansk area. What does Danzig mean? Dancing. It's seems unlikely that long ago people named this city for dancing. More likely, they derived the name from Gdansk. Also, consider Szczeczyn. Parenthetically, here is a short lesson in some Polish pronunciations. Polish is actually very easy once you know a few simple rules. It's much easier than English, which has so many variations and irregularities; Polish is completely regular. Don't let that jumble of consonants discourage you! There are no phonetic sounds here you don't already know from English! For example, the combination "sz" is pronounced like "sh" in English (e.g. "shirt"), and "cz" is pronounced like "ch" in English (e.g. "church".) Now, you may think that the combination "szcz" does not exist in English--but it does! Just not in the same word. But it is there when we put words together: "lush cherries," "fresh cheese", "fish chowder", "plush chair". And, unlike English, every Polish vowel has only one sound. For “e” the sound is like the “e” in the English word “met.” Now try Szczeczyn as: "Shche chin". That wasn't so bad after all, was it? (By the way, in Polish the accent is always on the next-to-last syllable. Nice and regular. No exceptions. Ever.) Back to our example. The German name of this municipality was "Stettin". That word has no meaning whatsoever. Did people simply make up a name with no meaning and decide to call a city that? Not likely. But in Polish, szczeczyn refers to the stiff hairs on the end of a pigs tail, which are used in brushes. Maybe there were lots of pigs raised in this area, or maybe it was a community known for making good brushes. At any rate, szczeczyn means something; stettin has no meaning at all. So which do you think came first? A Polish scholar once recited to me a whole list of towns in this (former) part of Germany and explained what each of those names meant in Polish but said they all had no meaning in German. This territory was in the part of Poland that was seized by Prussia in the 18th century.

When Pat Buchanan proposes that Danzig should have been given to Germany, he evades the moral issue of how the land was acquired and who is rightfully entitled to it. He substitutes a “might-makes-right” policy that rewards some people for forcefully depriving others of their land. According to his policy, Poland would not even exist today: its land would instead still be parts of the nations, and their descendants, that seized and divided it among themselves in the 18th century. And tens of millions of Poles born on that land since 1919 would have been deprived of living in a country of their own, just as their ancestors were for over 120 years.

Danzig was a free city, guaranteed by the Treaty of Versailles. So the Germans could use it freely. They were not restricted by the Polish government. But it was not unreasonable for the Poles to fear they would not enjoy freedom of the city, as Germans did, if the city was in German hands.

Buchanan asks, “Why did Warsaw not negotiate with Berlin, which was hinting at an offer of compensatory territory in Slovakia?” Sounds like he is trying to tell us the war was the fault of the Poles for not giving Hitler what he wanted. Did he learn nothing from Munich? Sounds, too, like he is favoring the same type of immoral solution regarding Slovakia that was done at Munich, Yalta and Potsdam, i.e, some people giving away land from other people's country. Why does he think such a policy here would avoid WWII—bring “peace in our time”—when it didn't at Munich? And why does he think the Poles could trust Hitler to keep any agreement he might have signed with them? Hitler violated his agreement at Munich, violated the terms of the Versailles Treaty, and double-crossed Stalin by violating his non-aggression pact with Russia. There is also very clear evidence that Hitler intended to double-cross Britain at an appropriate time if the alliance he sought with that government (which Buchanan mentions) came about. He wanted that alliance only for Britain's help in defeating France, after which he planned eventually to turn on his partner Britain.

Buchanan says the war simply “had come out of a quarrel over a town [Danzig] the size of Ocean City, Md.,” as though that fact really had no further significance. He also says, “Hitler had never wanted war with Poland.”[!] And he scoffs at the idea that Hitler wanted to invade Russia: “Hitler did not even have a border with Russia. How then could he invade Russia?” (Here's a hint, Pat: Poland lay between Germany and Russia.) On May 23, 1939, Hitler told his military leaders, including Goring, Halder and Raeder, “It is not Danzig that is at stake. For us it is a matter of expanding our living space to the east and making food supplies secure....It is necessary, therefore, to attack Poland at the first suitable opportunity.” He also stated that “further success cannot be won without bloodshed.” (See volume 2 of Richard J. Evans authoritative three volume work The Third Reich in Power.)

Jeremy Noakes, in Hitler and 'Lebensraum' in the East, writes, “Between 1921 and 1925 Adolf Hitler developed the belief that Germany [with its growing population] required 'Lebensraum' (living space) in order to survive. The conviction that this living space could be gained only in the east, and specifically from Russia [are you listening, Patrick?], formed the core of his ideas, and shaped his policy after his take-over of power in Germany in 1933.” (emphasis added.)

“At his first meeting with all of the leading generals and admirals of the Reich on February 3, 1933,” says historian Gerhard Weinberg, “Hitler spoke of 'conquest of Lebensraum in the East and its ruthless Germanization' as his ultimate foreign policy objectives.”

According to, “Hitler's version of Lebensraum differed from the traditional imperial model in that the Nazis proposed to pursue a continental empire rather than a colonial one....A continental empire required only a large army, and the resources could be secured through land invasion and conquest.” (emphasis added.) [This helps to answer Buchanan's question “Why did he start the war with no surface fleet, no troop transports, and only 29 oceangoing submarines? How do you conquer the world with a navy that can’t get out of the Baltic Sea?”]

“The Nazi plan was to unify the Germanic peoples, and then to expand eastward into Russia and the Ukraine, securing large areas of land and access to the oil and other natural resources that lay in those areas.” (emphasis added.)

Hitler himself wrote: "For it is not in colonial acquisitions that we must see the solution of this problem, but exclusively in the acquisition of a territory for settlement.” (emphasis added) --Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (1925)

Paul Schmidt, who was Hitler's interpreter and therefore very knowledgeable, testified at the German war crimes trials: “The general objectives of National Socialism were known from the start - namely, the domination of the European continent, to be achieved first by the incorporation of all German-speaking groups into the Reich, and secondly, by territorial expansion under the slogan of 'Lebensraum'." (emphasis added.)

“That slogan 'Lebensraum'...was from the earliest days an openly avowed part of the Nazi doctrine - yet any thinking person must have known that it would lead inevitably to war."

[In a totalitarian state] “any means justifies the end, and the immediate end was ruthlessly to gain complete control of the German State and to brutalise and train its people for war.... [T]he plans for aggression required a nation trained in brutality, and taught that it was both necessary and heroic to invade other countries."

The Nazis policy was to kill, deport, or enslave the Polish, Russian and other Slavic Untermenschen (sub-human) populations, and to replace them with Germanic peoples. The entire urban population was to be exterminated by starvation, leaving agricultural surpluses for the German upper class.

Some historians debate whether Hitler's Lebensraum was “globalist”—world domination—or “continentalist”—-limited to Europe. Even within the Nazi regime there were differences of opinion. But those positions were not contradictory but, rather, compatible in a broader “stufenplan”, or “plan in stages.” Evidence can be cited for both sides of the argument.

On the one hand, Hitler knew nothing about naval warfare—and knew it. He was no expert in land warfare either, but he thought he was and constantly interfered with the plans of his generals, ignored their advice, and frequently reversed his own decisions, to their enormous frustration and the loss of situational military advantages. Not so with naval decisions. He left those to Admiral Doenitz, whose military judgment he respected. It is interesting, too, that Doenitz never joined the Nazi Party, yet he was Hitler's hand-picked successor to be the second and last fuhrer of the Third Reich, an office he held for just 23 days after Hitler's suicide.

We know, too, from fairly recent but very convincing research, that, contrary to the popular assumption, Hitler never intended to invade Britain. His bombing campaign there was undertaken with the expectation that it would compel the British to beg for peace, which he would then grant on his own terms and thus achieve his objective without an actual invasion. (Of course, he hadn't counted on the stubborn defiance of Winston Churchill.) When a senior Nazi military official once asked about the invasion, Hitler cited the 20 miles of water in the English Channel as a reason for avoiding it. If his army couldn't drive to the battle, he didn't want to go there. He had no idea how to conduct an invasion across the channel and had no means of transporting his army there. All this helps to explain why he concentrated his money and efforts on building submarines to attack Atlantic shipping, to try to subdue Britain by denying her much needed supplies (along with the bombing raids), instead of building surface warships and troop transports for an invasion. As early as 1935, in clear violation of the arms limitations required by the Versailles treaty, Hitler had begun a clandestine program of building submarines.

On the other hand, Germany began building “pocket battleships” as early as 1931—before Hitler came to power and more or less in agreement with Versailles limitations. These were very heavily armed but relative small ships that acquired their name from the British reference to them as “a battleship that fits in a pocket.” The Treaty of Versailles set a displacement limit of 10,000 tons for these armored ships, with the intent of limiting Germany to coastal defense ships. But all ships of this class were over the weight limit, constructed initially as 10,600 ton and later enlarged to 12,100 tons, although Germany always misrepresented them as being within the treaty limit. Other, even larger ships were subsequently constructed in the 1930s in blatant violation of the treaty limits. In 1936 the keel was laid for the Bismark, the most famous warship of WWII, which displaced 50,000 tons. She was the world's largest warship when she was launched on February 14,1939.

The millions of lives lost in WWII are most regrettable, but Buchanan is shortsighted and naive to think the world would have been better off if the war with Germany had been avoided. The death total—particularly of civilians—would have been far greater, given Hitler's intent to exterminate the entire populations of countries, the urban areas by starvation and the rural ones by other means, to be replaced by agrarian German settlers. The world was saved from that horrible fate by millions of courageous people, like the Poles, who, like our Founding Fathers, thought liberty was worth fighting for—even dying for if necessary. Besides, how could the U.S. have avoided war with Germany when Germany declared war on us first? After it did, the U.S. Senate voted 88-0 to declare war, and the House vote was 393-0.

Hitler said, “I have seen my enemies in Munich, and they are worms.” If Patrick Buchanan had been at Munich, he would have been one of the worms.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Global Warming: Tropical Storm Effects

The claim that global warming will cause more violent weather, including more violent ocean storms, has been used repeatedly to scare the public into supporting political action to stop global warming. The lack of substance to this claim has not deterred to prophets of global doom from trying to prove the opposite. And Michael Mann is one of them.

You may remember him as the scientist who was the lead author of a study resulting in the infamous “hockey stick” graph. This graph (included in the report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) purported to show a dramatic rise in global temperature since 1900, compared to an essentially flat trend for many prior centuries. Supposedly, the earth was heating up in the past century because of industrial growth. But this work has been thoroughly discredited. It was the product of multiple inaccuracies from errors, omissions, obsolete data, and manipulations in “reconstructing” data, all of which was then processed through an invalid statistical procedure. (See our three-part series “Global Warming, Global Myth.”)

Chris Landsea, Science and Operations Officer at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Hurricane Center, was one of the peer reviewers to whom the journal Nature sent a copy of Mann's recent paper. In a subsequent letter to Mann, Landsea wrote “some very large concerns about the paper were not addressed....The first point is that the paper disregarded (and not even discussed) crucial new work by Vecchi and Knutson (Journal of Climate, 2008) and Landsea, Vecchi, Bengtsson and Knutson (Journal of Climate, 2009). The first paper showed that about 3-4 tropical storms per year were likely "missed" in the late 19th Century down to less than 1 per year by the 1960s. The second paper... shows that two-thirds of the massive doubling trend is simply due to very short-lived (< 2 days duration) tropical storms. Taking out these "shorties" (very likely due just to our vastly improved observational capabilities) from the record and adding in the estimated number of "missed" medium to long-lived tropical storms causes the long-term trend to completely disappear.

“Your paper starts with a premise that 'Atlantic TC [tropical cyclone] activity, as measured by annual storm counts, reached anomalous levels over the past decade', which is simply not correct based upon the new research...This isn't a small quibble: it's the difference between a massive trend with doubling in the last 100 years, versus no trend with only multidecadal variability remaining.”

Landsea's second major point is a more involved discussion of “merging of the paleo record with the historical all basin tropical storm counts.” We shall not go into that here, but you can view Landsea's complete letter at .

It contains a press release that quotes Mann's views, which are opposite to Landsea's: "It seems that the paleodata support the contention that greenhouse warming may increase the frequency of Atlantic tropical storms," said Mann. "It may not be just that the storms are stronger, but that there may be more of them as well."

Landsea concludes: “The bottom line is that the [Mann] paper comes to very erroneous conclusions because of using improper data and illogical techniques. In my opinion, this work is, unfortunately, a step backwards in helping climate researchers understand how hurricanes have changed over the last several centuries.”

Recall that Mann's “hockey stick” study included omitting data and utilizing invalid techniques, types of errors which are also evident in his latest paper. Evidently he hasn't learned from that previous experience, but maybe the rest of the world--including the news media--will learn not to pay any attention to him.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Thermometers Create “Global Warming”

Actually, it's not the thermometers but their placement, which produces a false warming trend.

The official temperature record of continental United States comes from 1,221 stations of the National Weather Service, a department of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During the past few years, Anthony Watts, a 25-year veteran meteorologist, assisted by 650 volunteers inspected and photographically documented most of these surface temperature stations. As of June 21, 2009, they had covered 982 of the 1,221. And they were shocked by what they found.

In Watts' words, “We found stations located next to the exhaust fans of air conditioning units, surrounded by asphalt parking lots and roads, on blistering rooftops, and near sidewalks and buildings that absorb and radiate heat. We found 68 stations located at wastewater treatment plants, where the process of waste digestion causes temperatures to be higher than in surrounding areas.” Ninety percent of the stations fail to meet the National Weather Service's own requirement of being at least 30 meters (about 100 feet) from any artificial heating or reflecting/radiating heat source. Thus 9 out of every 10 stations were likely reporting higher temperatures because of their poor location.

Even worse, says Watts, “We observed that changes in the technology of temperature stations over time caused them to report a false warming trend. We found major gaps in the data record that were filled with data from nearby sites, a practice that propagates and compounds errors. We found adjustments to the data by both NOAA and another government agency (NASA) cause recent temperatures to look even higher.” [We have covered this latter point in a previous blog posting at ]. And the U.S. record is thought to be the “best in the world.” So how much confidence can be placed in the worldwide network of surface temperature stations? Not to mention that they don't even cover the three-fourths of the earth covered by oceans.

Watts' report, published earlier this year, can be seen and downloaded at his website This includes photographs of all the stations surveyed thus far. Minnesota, where I live, furnishes some illustrative examples. The weather station at Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, is right in front of the exhaust from the compressor of an air conditioner. At Eveleth, Minnesota, the station is next to a wastewater treatment plant. The station at the Minneapolis airport is right between two runways. Temperature stations all over the world tend to be located at airports. In Spain, for example, 20 of 33 measuring stations are at airports. In Australia, three-fourths of the stations are at airports.

It is almost certainly true, too, that many other stations were originally located in acceptable sites that over the years were then altered by construction of parking lots, roads, buildings, and removal of trees or other vegetation. Certainly most of these have occurred in urban areas, resulting in the urban “heat island” effect, which has accompanied the increasing urbanization trend over many decades. Attempts to correct for this do not adequately account for the poor locations of measuring stations.

All this goes a long way toward explaining why surface temperature measurements are warmer than those from satellites. Satellites measurements are indisputably more accurate, but the global warming advocates always point to the surface measurements to justify their claims that the planet is heating up, because of their longer history; satellite measurements only go back to the late 1970s. The advocates also argue that the alleged global warming over the past century is due at least in part to human (anthropogenic) influence, rather than being simply natural. But that argument disappears when the errors from surface measuring stations are greater than the total warming, whether caused by man or nature. Anthony Watts concludes: “The errors in the record exceed by a wide margin the purported rise in temperature of 0.7 degrees C (about 1.2 F) during the twentieth century.”

Monday, August 10, 2009

Obama and Racism

The arrest of Henry Louis Gates by a white police office would not have been a national issue but for President Obama's assertion that the police “acted stupidly.” The officer, responding to a call that a burglary was in progress, arrested Gates when he was uncooperative, refused to show ID and harangued the officer. Gates claimed he was a victim of police racism.

Obama received fully 96 percent of the black vote, but he needed a lot of white votes to be elected president. Obviously millions of white voters did not think he would bring a racial bias to the office. In fact, his election was widely viewed as evidence that this nation had overcome racism. Obama was to be the new post-racial model, despite his twenty-year relationship with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, known for his racist rants.

Much debate ensued over the president's “acted stupidly” remark, but his accompanying claim that it is a “fact” that police have a history of stopping African-Americans and Latinos “disproportionately” went largely unchallenged. Here was the president—who admitted not knowing the facts in this case, and who we know was prepped beforehand about the question—reflexively blaming the incident on racial profiling. This, mind you, despite the fact that the city where this happened has a black mayor, the state has a black governor, and the country a black president. This does not seem a likely place for black racial profiling, and certainly one should not jump to that conclusion while admitting ignorance of facts about the case.

Katherine Kersten, a Star Tribune columnist, has a better explanation than Obama's racial stereotyping: “To keep our communities safe, police must engage 'disproportionately' with those who commit crime. And the tragic fact is that black Americans commit far more crime than other groups.

“Take Boston, which borders on Cambridge, the tony suburb where Gates lives. In 2007, 58 percent of those arrested for violent crimes were black, though blacks make up only about 23 percent of the city's population.

“The situation is similar in New York City....In the first three months of 2009, 52 percent of people stopped for questioning by the police there were black, though blacks make up only about 26 percent of the population. But blacks commit about 68 percent of violent crime in the city, including 82 percent of shootings and 72 percent of robberies...

“Here in Minneapolis, 64 percent of those arrested in 2008 for serious crimes such as murder and robbery were black, though blacks are only about 18 percent of the population.

“This disproportionate pattern is nationwide, and has existed for years. From 1976 to 2005, for example, 52 percent of homicide offenders were black, according to the U.S. Justice Department. Yet blacks make up only about 13 percent of the population.

“The group most likely to commit homicide—black males 18 to 24—is only 1 percent of the population. These young men are almost five times more likely to engage in homicide than black males 25 or older....

“Obama's perpetuation of this stereotype is irresponsible. It especially harms minority communities, whose members are mostly law-abiding citizens who want safe streets. In 2005, blacks were six times more likely than whites to be homicide victims. From 1976 to 2005, 94 percent of black victims were murdered by blacks, according to the Justice Department.”

Victor David Hanson, writing in National Review, says the public thought they were getting an updated version of Martin Luther King but are learning it may be a more eloquent version of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. He says the public is becoming aware of two things: “One, Obama's first impulse when speaking out on race is his most genuine and most disturbing; and two, his statesmanlike disavowals always come not out of genuine embarrassment over his initial remark (such as praising the racist Wright), but out of real concern that he is going to be hurt politically without such 'correction'.”

Hanson concludes: “At some point, even the media is going to start tallying up these teachable moments, like “typical white person”...and see that the post-racial president is one or two such “gaffes” away from being the most racially polarizing figure in recent memory, as a majority of African-Americans seem to respond with approval to his racial-identity politicking that so terribly disturbs most others.”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Global Warming: More Phony Numbers from IPCC

First of all, it should be noted that scientific truth is determined by a rational relationship to physical reality, not by the number of people believing an idea is true. The ideas of Copernicus, Issac Newton and Einstein were true even when no one else thought so. That is the way science has always been, always will be. “Consensus,” which we hear so much about, has nothing to do with it.

Scientific support for human-caused global warming has always been unconvincing. It has varied from weak and inconclusive to nonexistent and even downright fraudulent (see my 3-part series “Global Warming, Global Myth” Parts 1 and 2, and Part 3. ) In the absence of convincing scientific evidence, proponents of global warming argue that the assertions of the IPCC (International Panel on Climate Change) are supported by a scientific consensus, as though that were validation.

Initially, the IPCC claimed a consensus of 2,500 scientists. Now one often hears that the IPCC's Fourth Assessment Report has been supported by 4,000 scientists. John McLean, an Australian climate analyst, says, “Perhaps the claim of 4,000 scientific experts supporting the IPCC is a popular but false interpretation of the IPCC's statements, but if that is the case then the IPCC's failure to correct that error only serves to tarnish its reputation even further.” He presents a scathing indictment in “The IPCC Can't Count its 'expert scientists': —author and reviewer numbers are wrong.”

For its latest report, the IPCC claims 2,500+ Scientific Expert Reviewers, 800+ Contributing Editors, and 450+ Lead authors. Those total 3,750. The IPCC report is a compilation of three Working Groups. An author who contributed to a chapter of one working group is counted again if he contributed to a chapter of another working group. And an author can also be a reviewer. That's another way the same person can be counted more than once. There were 383 individuals who acted as both authors and reviewers. After deducting the duplicate names, the total number of individuals involved drops to 2,890. McLean asks: “But did the 2890 individuals all support the IPCC's principal findings? There's really no proof that any more than about 2% explicitly did so.”

The IPCC sent a draft of its report for "formal review” to 2,400 individual experts as well as to the 193 member governments of the IPCC. Yet it received comments from only 243 reviewers. How can those who didn't respond be counted as supporting the report? McLean notes: “The lists of reviewers contain the names of many people who are known to be skeptical of the claim of a significant human influence on temperature, so any implication that they supported the IPCC's findings is totally without merit.”

Chapter 9, which attributed human significance to climate change, is the key chapter in the IPCC report. It had 53 authors but more than 40 were from a network of people who previously worked together. McLean writes: “In direct contradiction to the IPCC's statements that the team of authors should have a wide range of views and many cases multiple authors were affiliated with the same establishment. In the latter case it was not uncommon for a contributing author to be a subordinate (academic or work) to an author higher in the authoring hierarchy.” (Could any subordinate be expected to disagree with his superior? And if he was likely to hold differing views, would he have been put on the team in the first place?) The second draft of chapter 9, the last opportunity for individuals to respond, resulted in comments from just 55 people and 7 governments. Of these 62, only 5 reviewers explicitly endorsed the overall chapter.

Many of the reviewers and authors also had a vested interest in the IPCC report. Many were from universities who might receive funding for global warming research, and government officials were obviously not going to go against their governments' policies. Many reviewers and authors were from commercial organizations that could benefit from the IPCC report, such as renewable energy companies, or those dealing with the sequestration of carbon dioxide. Seven organizations had links to the European Emissions Trading Scheme. Eco-political extremist groups also stand to benefit from financial grants by governments and foundations. The IPCC apparently thought it unnecessary to mention the conflict of interest by authors and reviewers who could benefit from its report. By including these self-interested or biased individuals, “the IPCC may have boosted the number of probably favorable reviewers but it seriously undermined the credibility of the review process and of all of the 'expert scientific reviewers,'" says McLean.

He concludes: “The evidence shows that the claim of '4000 scientific experts supported the IPCC's claims' is dishonest in almost every word. There were not 4000 people, but just under 2900; they were not all scientists; and it seems that they were not all experts [italics McLean]. There is only evidence that about 60 people explicitly supported the claim, although that might not mean much given the vested interests and lack of impartiality of many authors and reviewers.”

For the complete 3,000-word report by McLean, go to

In previous posts we have mentioned the Petition Project against global warming, led by Dr. Arthur Robinson, President of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine, and Dr. Frederick Seitz, past president of both the National Academy of Sciences and the American Physical Society. Their petition was necessary not to prove the scientific validity of their position, which of course it does not do, but to debunk the claim of the global warming advocates on their own terms. The anti-global warming petition was signed by over 31,000 scientists, over 9,000 of whom have Ph.D.s.

Monday, June 29, 2009

U.S. House Takes Big Step in Foolish Direction

On Friday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to limit carbon dioxide emissions in the name of curbing global warming. This bill is totally senseless from any perspective other than as an excuse to give the government power over every aspect of people's lives.

First of all, there is no global warming. There hasn't been any for more than ten years—despite the fact that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have been steadily increasing. During the 20th century, the earth warmed 0.6 degree Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit), but that warming was wiped out in the span of a single year when January 2008 showed an annual drop of 0.63 degree C. (1.13 F.). Of course, the previous century's warming was so small that it should never have been a cause for concern in the first place, but that didn't stop the alarmists from claiming it portended catastrophic global warming. They are still making the same claim even when there is now no evidence of global warming.

Second, nearly all carbon dioxide emissions result from nature itself, not human activity. Joseph D'Aleo, the founding director of meteorology at the Weather Channel and former chairman of the American Meteorological Society's Committee on Weather Analysis and Forecasting, has stated: “If the the atmosphere was a 100-story building, our annual anthropogenic (man-made) carbon dioxide contribution today would be equivalent to the linoleum on the first floor.”

Third, there is increasing scientific evidence that the earth's climate changes are not driven by changes in greenhouse gases but by variations in solar activity and ocean currents. This is abundantly clear in the 880-page report of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), released just weeks ago, which systematically refutes the global warming claims of the United Nations IPCC, with thousands of peer-reviewed research papers and books that were not included in the IPCC assessment. Dr. S. Fred Singer, one of the world's foremost atmospheric physicists and a co-author of the NIPCC report, states: human activity has “no influence” at all on the planet's temperature change, and attempts to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions are “ineffectual” and “won't have the slightest impact on carbon dioxide concentrations.” He said the political attempt to regulate regulate carbon dioxide emissions is “not about science” but about “money and power.”

Yet the Obama administration—and even Obama personally—have declared the IPCC's claims as justification for regulating carbon dioxide emissions, and the president stated he was pleased that the House passed the bill, which now goes to the Senate.

The IPCC report was written by only a few dozen people and claims a “consensus” of 2,500 scientists. But most of those were social scientists—such as sociologists or political scientists—not physical scientists, such as chemists or physicists. All scientists to whom the report was sent were listed as having approved it—even those who disapproved it. And many scientists listed as approving it had merely signed approval for use of their own work—not approval of the IPCC report itself. By contrast, more than 31,000 scientists—all physical scientists, no social scientists—have signed a petition against global warming, including some who were alleged to have supported the IPCC report. And more than 9,000 of these have Ph.Ds.

Rep. Henry Waxman, a co-sponsor of the House bill, called it a “decisive and historic action” that would force reductions in the use of fossil fuels and increase production from alternative energy sources that would create “millions of jobs.” This is in line with President Obama's intent to power our society with solar and wind power at 3 to 4 times the cost of coal and natural gas and create “green jobs.” All this reminds me of the time the famous economist Milton Friedman was visiting the site of a canal being built in Asia. He was astonished to see the men working with shovels. He asked a supervisor why they weren't using tractors and other heavy machinery. The government bureaucrat answered: “You don't understand. This is a jobs program.” To which Friedman replied: “Oh, I thought you were trying to build a canal. If it's jobs you want, then you should give these workers spoons, not shovels.” I'm sure if Friedman were still alive, he'd have a similar view of the administration's millions of “green jobs”

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

New Study: Big Blow to Smoking-Ban Claims, More

A major argument in promoting smoking bans is that they can reduce the occurrence of the heart attacks or heart disease that are allegedly caused by secondhand smoke. The new study is the most extensive ever done on this issue and utterly demolishes this claim.

The study analyzes heart attack hospital admissions and mortality before and after implementation of all state and local workplace smoking bans in the nation. The study was conducted by researchers from the RAND Corporation, the Congressional Budget Office, University of Wisconsin, and Stanford University. It covered 217,023 hospital admissions for heart attacks and 2.0 million heart attack deaths in 468 counties in all 50 states over an eight-year period.

Michael Seigel, MD, who is both a medical doctor and public health official, has over 20 years experience in tobacco research and currently teaches at the Boston University School of Public Health. He is adamantly opposed to smoking, but of the new study he says, “The most important finding of this study is that there are just as many smoking ban communities in which heart attack admissions and mortality have there are smoking ban communities in which heart attacks have decreased ....The mean difference was found to be zero.”

Furthermore, he adds: “The study also simulates the results from the comparison of all possible combinations of regions in the U.S. by examining subsets of the data....The authors are therefore able to simulate what the results would be for each of the 19,406 possible comparisons of intervention and control regions in the country....Most interestingly, the simulation of all possible comparison studies of local regions in the U.S. finds that just as many studies would find an increase in heart attacks associated with smoking bans as would find a decrease in heart attacks. The mean difference in heart attack admissions among all studies was 0. The exact same result was found for heart attack mortality.” In his words, the “main result” of the study is “that the smoking bans had no effect on either heart attack admissions or heart attack mortality.” To read his full explanation, go to

This study is opposite to what the public has been led to believe, because anti-smoking advocates have been so effective in convincing the public—and state and local governments—of the “dangers” of secondhand smoke. Dr. Seigel has cited over a hundred anti-smoking groups, including the American Cancer Society, the American Lung Association and the American Heart Association, for “campaigns of deception.” His website,, details an astonishing array of scientific misrepresentations, outright lies and hypocrisy by anti-smoking groups. These tactics have proven effective in obtaining passage of smoking bans, even as they have become ever more shrill and absurd. That monumental lies have been instrumental in the passage of smoking bans is a measure of the gullibility and scientific illiteracy of the general public and elected officials. Of course, it is also a demonstration of the dishonesty of the smoking ban activists and the absence of genuine evidence for their cause.

Last year Dr. Siegel ran a Most Ridiculous Secondhand Smoke Claim Tournament. The American Cancer Society managed to make the Final Four in this liars contest with this whopper: “Immediate effects of secondhand smoke include cardiovascular problems such as damage to cell walls in the circulatory system, thickening of the blood and arteries, and arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) or heart disease, increasing the chance of heart attack or stroke.” The U.S. Surgeon General's Office also figured in the contest with this entry: "Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke has immediate adverse effects on the cardiovascular system and increases risk for heart disease and lung cancer."

That claim by the SG was made after issuance of his 700-page report on secondhand smoke. But as Dr. Seigel said at the time, “There is absolutely no evidence to support this claim. Certainly, no evidence is presented in the Surgeon General's report to support this claim. And certainly, the Surgeon General's report draws no such conclusion.”

Now the new massive study emphatically demonstrates the falsity of the claim. It is revealing, too, that this comprehensive study was ignored by the same news media that were so quick to report on the dangers of secondhand smoke based on the small and seriously flawed Helena, Montana study. That study covered a laughably small sample in a single small community. It touted a 40 percent reduction in heart attacks—from an average of about 7 per month to 4—during a six-month period a smoking ban was in effect. But an almost identical drop occurred four year earlier when there was no smoking ban. Only one-third of the heart attack victims in the study had never smoked. And three-fourths of the restaurants in the community were already nonsmoking before the ban. The study contained several other serious shortcomings. Yet the evening news on CBS, ABC, and NBC all reported this study as a noteworthy indication of the effectiveness of smoking bans in protecting nonsmokers from the dangers of secondhand smoke.

Epidemiologists use “relative risk” (RR or Risk Ratio and informally including the similar Odds Ratio computation) as a means for measuring the severity of risk. The U.S. Surgeon General stated the relative risk for secondhand smoke is between 1.20 to 1.30. This is far below the minimum level at which any meaningful risk might be indicated. Both the World Health Organization and the National Cancer Institute have clearly stated that RRs below 2.0 are too low to be relied upon. The same is true of the federal Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence and textbooks such as Breslow and Day’s Statistical Methods in Cancer Research. A report by the independent health consulting firm Littlewood & Fennell characterizes RRs below 2.0 as “dancing on the tiny pinhead of statistical insignificance.” An article by Drs. Huber (pulmonary specialist), Brockie (cardiologist), and Mahajan (a hospital director of internal medicine and professor of medicine) states: “A strong relative risk would be reflected by a risk ratio of 5 to 20 or greater. Weak relative risks, by conventional definition, have risk ratios in the range of 1 to 3 or so....No matter how the data from all of the epidemiological studies are manipulated, recalculated, 'cooked,' or 'massaged,' the risk from exposure to spousal smoking and lung cancer remains weak. It may be 1.08 or it may be 1.34 or it may be 1.42, but all of those still represent a weak relative risk.”

RR of 2.0 is the bare minimum for a credible risk. Geoffrey Kabat, Senior Epidemiologist, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, says, “An association is generally considered weak if the odds ratio [relative risk] is under 3.0 and particularly when it is under 2.0.” David Hitt, author of Statistics 101, states: “As a rule of thumb, a RR of at least 2.0 is necessary to indicate a cause and effect relationship, and a RR of 3.0 is preferred.” John K. Sutherland, a health physicist with 40 years experience, has written: “Any scientist worth his qualifications knows that a RR of less than two or even three is unreliable and too shaky to place much credible reliance upon.” Dr. Marcia Angell, editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, one of the world’s leading medical journals, said, “As a general rule, we are looking for a relative risk of 3.0 or more before accepting a paper for publication.” Dr. Robt. Temple, director of drug evaluation for the FDA, said, “My basic rule is if the relative risk isn’t at least 3 or 4, forget it.” And EPA declined to regulate high-voltage power lines because it said the RRs “seldom exceeded 3.0” and anything less than 3.0 was just “statistical static.” Keep in mind, too, that the municipal tap water that tens of millions of Americans drink every day in thousands of cities across the U.S. has RRs 2.0 to 4.0. Yet we hear no reports of deaths from drinking these waters.

The 1992 report Revised Comments on the 1986 Surgeon General's Report...EPA...and NIOSH states: “Risk estimates below 2.0 or 3.0 are described as 'weak' and thus any conclusions drawn from them are unreliable.” The summary of this 47-page document concludes: “...these reports [Surgeon General's, EPA, and NIOSH] do not provide a defensible basis for regulation of smoking in the workplace.” Comments in the report are supported by 113 references in the scientific literature.

People unfamiliar with the term “relative risk” may easily fail to appreciate the magnitude of difference between RRs of 1.2 and 2.0. Just looking at those numbers, they may conclude that the latter is less than twice the risk of the former. In fact, however, a relative risk of 2.0 is five times greater than one of 1.2. This is because for relative risk, zero risk is set at 1.0, not 0.0. (RR below 1.0 indicates a negative risk, that is, a beneficial preventive effect rather than an increased risk.) A claim that a RR of 1.2 causes heart disease or lung cancer is based on mere one-fifth of the minimum required, while even at 2.0 and beyond, other factors in the research must be carefully considered. Instead, when the issue is ETS, alarmism over utterly meaningless results has been the chosen policy of anti-tobacco activists, including those in public health agencies.

The 2006 SG's report claims 46,000 deaths annually due to heart disease from secondhand smoke. But the American Heart Association website lists the following RRs for ETS: 1.25 for Cardiovascular disease, 1.18 for ischemic heart disease, and 1.13 for arrhythmic heart failure or coronary arrest mortality. None of these suggests credible risk. Death estimates are derived from relative risk. If a RR is meaningless, so are the estimates of deaths based upon it. So the big scary estimate of 46,000 deaths has no validity. It is simply a phony number put out to scare people and panic them into political action. If such death estimates were valid, the new study would not have found that smoking bans have zero effect on heart attack mortality.

The 2006 SG's report also claimed 3,000 deaths annually from lung cancer due to secondhand smoke. That figure came from the 1992 EPA study, which claimed secondhand smoke had a RR of 1.19 and that, the agency said, meant 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually. But the Congressional Research Service, at the request of the U.S. Congress, looked at the same data as EPA and concluded: “It is possible that very few or even no deaths can be attributed to ETS [environmental tobacco smoke].” Further, it stated that nonsmokers exposed to pack-a-day ETS every day for 40 years have “little or no risk of developing lung cancer”—much less dying from it (emphasis added). The CRS is part of the Library of Congress and has all the resources of that esteemed institution at its disposal. It is highly respected, nonpartisan, accepted by both Republicans and Democrats as fair and impartial, has no ties to tobacco companies, no regulatory or other agenda, and accepts no outside funding.

There's more. The U.S. House of Representatives then held a Congressional Investigation of EPA's findings. It concluded: “EPA could reach that conclusion [3,000 lung cancer deaths] only by ignoring or discounting major studies, and deviating from generally accepted scientific standards.” Further, it found EPA guilty of “conscious misuse of science and the scientific process to achieve a political agenda that could not otherwise be justified.” It also stated: “The agency [EPA] has deliberately abused and manipulated scientific data in order to reach a predetermined, politically motivated result.” (emphasis added.) Over the next seven years, five similar studies (meta-analyses) of secondhand tobacco smoke were performed by other researchers who, unlike EPA, followed correct scientific standards. The RRs of these studies showed a range of 0.98 to 1.03 and an average RR of 1.01, compared to EPA's RR of 1.19. Levois and Layard performed a meta-analysis of all the original studies utilized by EPA and came up with a RR of 1.00. Furthermore, these studies all had the standard 95% confidence level. The EPA study did not qualify for that. Instead, EPA used a degraded confidence level of only 90 percent, thus doubling the likelihood that its results were mere chance.

It should be pointed out, too, that EPA left out 19 earlier studies, including all studies with RRs less than 1.0, because they were counter to what EPA was trying to prove. This list included the Wu-Williams/Blot study which reported an important negative effect, rather than a positive one that EPA desired, for nonsmoking women married to smokers. The Littlewood & Fennell report to the National Toxicology Program Board of Scientific Counselors on Carcinogens states: “Inclusion of the Wu-Williams/Blot study in EPA's analysis would have forced EPA to reverse its conclusions about ETS and lung cancer.” Not surprisingly, EPA staff decided to exclude that study even though Dr. Blot was on the agency's Science Advisory Board.

When a study showed a RR of 1.5 for abortion and breast cancer, Dr. Eugenia Calle, director of analytic epidemiology for the American Cancer Society, was quick to state that a RR of 1.5 was too low to regard abortion as a risk factor for breast cancer. So why should we regard ETS, with a RR below 1.5 as a risk factor for cancer? Or anything else? Dr. Calle went on to say that RRs below 1.3 are too low even to be realistically identified.

In its own study, EPA violated not only many scientific standards but even basic honesty. It claimed various research studies by others were positive for ETS and lung cancer when the researchers themselves said they were not! Here are some examples:

“no evidence of an adverse effect of environmental tobacco smoke in the workplace.”—Janerich, et al, 1990

“the association with exposure to passive smoking at work was small and not statistically significant.” —Kalandidi, et al, 1990

“No association was observed [in women] between the risk of lung cancer and smoking of husband or passive exposure at work.” —Shimizu, et al, 1988

“no statistically significant increase in risk associated with exposure to environmental tobacco smoke at work or during social activities.”—Stockwell, et al, 1992.

The Littlewood & Fennell report noted: “These researchers carefully adhered to the sound principles of interpreting relative risks. The fact that their reports were deliberately misrepresented as 'positive' findings is an appalling corruption of accepted scientific and statistical standards.”

The brief quotes from research studies above give lie to the SG's claim “there is no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke.” Of course, the SG's claim is refuted, too, by a significant number of studies reporting secondhand smoke having a preventive effect (RRs less than 1.0). These include a World Health Organization study that found children were 22 percent less likely to get lung cancer if both parents smoked than if neither did.

Two internal documents from EPA's Environmental Criteria Assessment Office, available under the Freedom of Information Act, state that the agency exaggerated the effects of secondhand smoke and that its conclusions were unwarranted. EPA was found guilty of violating six federal statutes for using harassment and intimidation to force employee support for its position on ETS—the same position that smoking-ban activists ever since have enthusiastically and uncritically supported. And the SG report continues to utilize that figure of 3,000 lung cancer deaths and treat it as though it were valid. What does that tell you about the value of the SG's report—and the integrity of the SG? What does it tell you about the integrity of the activist groups that use such phony numbers to promote smoking bans? —and about the politicians who vote for such bans even after they have seen the facade of lies demolished and the truth laid bare before them?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

EPA's CO2 policy: Zero Integrity, Anti-Science

At her confirmation hearing to be the new director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lisa Jackson said her first task would be to restore scientific and legal integrity to the office. Then she did the opposite. She quickly directed EPA staff to prepare the paperwork for a finding that carbon dioxide emissions endanger public health and safety and therefore must be regulated under the Clean Air Act. The paperwork she sent to President Obama on March 23, 2009 will enable him to fulfill a campaign promise, but it is an incredibly dishonest and anti-scientific excuse on which to base the process. It is not possible that scientists in EPA could be so ignorant of basic facts about carbon dioxide, human emissions, and the lack of correlation between the earth's climate and carbon dioxide levels. (See my earlier 3-part series, Global Warming, Global Myth.) No, the EPA here cannot be acting from innocent ignorance. It must be deliberate dishonesty.

In the past I have written about EPA's lies and misconduct and called for elimination of the agency, which has a long history of scientific malpractice. The General Accounting Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Office of the Inspector General have all been severely critical of EPA's policies and procedures on a variety of issues. EPA violated its own risk assessment guidelines and debased scientific standards regarding secondhand smoke. It was found guilty of violating six federal statutes for using harassment and intimidation to try to compel employee support for its policy on secondhand smoke. It has fraudulently misrepresented the findings of other scientists in order to make it appear they supported conclusions EPA favored. A dozen career employees of EPA wrote a letter to the Washington Times “risking our careers rather than choosing to remain silent” about “egregious misconduct” at EPA. Internal documents available under the Freedom of Information Act show that EPA exaggerated claims and promulgated unwarranted policies. EPA has gone against the advice of its own Science Advisory Board (see, for example, its history of action on particulates.) EPA fraudulently manufactured fake “scientific” studies in order to support its views on sulfur dioxide (see my book MAKERS AND TAKERS for fuller explanation of this.) It instituted a “scientific McCarthyism” to blackball Dr. Edward Krug for exposing the falseness of EPA's position on acid rain. It massively deceived the public about DDT, asbestos, dioxin, MTBE and ethanol with policies detrimental to human health and safety and wasting vast sums of money. Its stand on asbestos led to substituting a less effective material in “O” rings in the Challenger space shuttle—leading to the fiery deaths of all the astronauts on board. And its policy resulted in the substitution of spray-on insulation with less durability and a far lower fire-rating than asbestos in building the World Trade Center; this resulted in the early collapse of the structure and killed far more people than would have been the case with asbestos in place. EPA has put snail darters, desert sand flies, and kangaroo rats ahead of the rights of people with its endangered species policies. It has funneled taxpayer money to lobby groups that support political action on measures—even unscientific ones—that EPA wants to promote. So perhaps it's not surprising that it now supports a finding that carbon dioxide is dangerous to human health—without which there would be no basis for regulation.

The lies here are not just about carbon dioxide and climate. There is also the huge lie that a warmer climate is a health hazard. Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels cannot harm human health directly; the alleged danger is from global warming. But global warming would be a net benefit to human health—which means EPA has no legitimate authority to regulate it.

An array of studies over more than twenty years demonstrates that warm climate is beneficial while cold climate is detrimental to human health. In 1998, Thomas Gale Moore's “Health and Amenity Effects of Global Warming” estimated a temperature increase of 2.5 degrees Celsius would cause a decrease of 40,000 deaths per year from respiratory and circulatory disease, based on U.S. Mortality Statistics.

In 1997, “Cold Exposure and Winter Mortality from Ischemic Heart Disease, Cerebrovascular Diseases, Respiratory Diseases and all Causes in Warm & Cold Regions of Europe” (Keatinge, Donaldson, et al) explained the mechanisms of serious illness from cold: hemoconcentration increases blood viscosity and accounts for half of all excess cold-related mortality. In 2000 “Heart Related Mortality in Warm and Cold Regions of Europe: Observational Study” examined mortality as a function of mean daily temperature in Athens, Greece; London, England; and Helsinki, Finland. These two studies provide the most comprehensive evidence that mortality decreases as temperature increases, over most of the current climate range of Europe. The data shows U.S. mortality from cardiac, vascular, and respiratory disease in winter is seven times greater than in summer; in Europe, nine to ten times greater. Data from the 1997 study indicate an estimated 25,000 to 50,000 fewer deaths in the U.S. per year from a 1 degree C temperature rise.

In 2007 Deschenes and Moretti presented a comprehensive study of all-cause mortality as a function of the day of the year. Maximum mortality occurs in January, and the minimum is in the warmest months of July and August.

In 2008 the U.K. Department of Health released “Health Effects of Climate Change in the UK 2008”, an update of reports from 2001/2002. It showed that there was no increase in heat-related deaths 1971-2002 despite warmer summers. And cold-related mortality fell by more than a third in all regions.

So, in light of the foregoing, how could EPA scientists conclude that global warming, from increases in carbon dioxide, is a danger to human health? Easy...if you are a lackey willing to contrive a phony excuse to keep your job and “justify” an unscientific policy that will bring more power and money to the agency and please the boss. And, of course, you have to have zero integrity. Which is not a problem in EPA.

Historically, there have been governments notorious for falsifying science to advance their political agendas. It is disappointing, and frightening, to see it happening in the United States.