Thursday, March 29, 2007

Castro Blasts Bio-Fuel Strategy

In an echo to the warnings that the global warming frenzy will keep electricity and fossil fuels from helping the poor in developing countries, Fidel Castro has blasted plans to ramp up bio-fuel use as "sinister".

"The sinister idea of converting food into combustible was definitively established as the economic line of the foreign policy of the United States," he writes.

The Cuban leader also notes that Cuba has also experimented with extracting ethanol from sugarcane.

“But if rich nations decide to import huge amounts of traditional food crops such as corn from developing countries to help meet their energy needs, it could have disastrous consequences for the world's poor,” Castro writes.

The problem is not only in importing food crops, but not exporting them. Already, the demand for corn for bio-fuel in the US has resulted in skyrocketing tortilla prices in Mexico--where the tortilla is the main source of calories for many of the poor.

Hmm. Maybe the recent Senate hearings on Global Warming and related policies should have included Fidel Castro--not to mention Mexican President Calderon.

Al Gore's current "moral" crusade apparently doesn't weigh the impact on the poor. We need the corn. Let them eat cake.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Sulzberger Doesn’t Get It

In a front page article in yesterday’s Oregonian, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger wonders why voters have elected Multnomah County commissioner Lonnie Roberts eleven times to public office.

Roberts says he doesn't know how to type and doesn't like to read. If he were any other county employee, his frequent absences would almost certainly cost him his job, but as one of their leaders he enjoys the insulation a four-year term provides. Voters in the wide swath of open land and fast-growing cities that make up east Multnomah County either haven't noticed or cared -- electing him nine times to the Oregon Legislature and twice to the county commission, often unopposed.

"He is very, very popular," said state Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, who decided not to run against Roberts in 2004. "The community loves him and will vote for him every time."

Sulzberger fails to understand County government. He doesn’t realize that some kinds of elected officials, especially policy makers, don’t do the kind of work where sitting at a desk 8 to 5 is important.

Unlike City of Portland commissioners who run bureaus, County commissioners are legislators--policy makers. They’re not administrators. Being accessible Monday through Friday, 8 to 5, is important for an administrator. Being at working and voting sessions is what’s important for a legislative policy maker. In a strange omission Sulzberger fails to mention how many County board meetings Roberts attends or how often he misses votes. Did Sulzberger even do research on that?

There hasn't been a big outcry from voters that Lonnie is only accessible half the year. One wonders if this isn't a tempest in Sulzberger's teacup.

Roberts’ results are in how he represents his district and the county. In fact, he’s the only county commissioner among those serving last term who the Oregonian didn’t think deserving of a recall vote for backroom political decisions. But, perhaps Sulzberger, fairly new to Multnomah County, doesn’t know about that.

Sulzberger has a peculiar way of presenting facts. He sniffs at Roberts starting as a "truck driver turned career politician."

In three decades of public life Roberts, a former truck driver turned career politician, earned a reputation as a likable though loafing leader, a backslapping good old boy more interested in the social than political elements of elected office.

That Roberts has done a fine job on the political elements too is shown by eleven electoral victories--and without a single major editorial favoring his recall. Not bad.

Of most interest is Sulzberger’s objection to the fact that Roberts has a trusted aide, Gary Walker, who does tons of high level work for Roberts and Multnomah County--for cheap.

County staff take all matters directly to Walker. He devours every document that crosses the commissioner's desk, picking only the most important to condense and share with his boss. He estimates he works twice the maximum 1,039 hours he can be paid under restrictions from his public retirement plan. For his efforts, Walker received a $35,000 bonus earlier this year -- by far the largest given to a county employee in memory and more than his $34,000 salary, which he set himself.

Here’s a guy getting only $34,000 a year (before bonus) for top level work--and lots of hours put in doing it. I wonder if Sulzberger bothered to check out the going rate for county salaries. The majority of Multnomah County workers, make more money than Walker. Even Multnomah County truck drivers (Lonnie's old position) make only $400/month less at entry level. With seniority, they actually make more than Walker.

Sulzberger is also upset that he (and possibly unnamed reporters who helped him on the story) had a hard time getting a private meeting with Roberts.

Three times, Roberts agreed to meet one on one with a reporter for this story. Three times, Walker canceled the meeting over Roberts' objections.

When Roberts finally did sit down alone, he explained his staff's protectiveness. "They get nervous about me. But I've done this for a long time."

A moment later, a visibly panicked Walker stormed in.

"You don't want anyone in here?" Walker asked Roberts.

"I don't need anyone in here," Roberts said.

"Let's get someone in here," Walker said.

Roberts laughed. "I got a baby sitter."

Reading this story, it’s clear that Walker was right. Sulzberger wanted to do a hit piece on Roberts, without any context of the backroom, dysfunctional county government that Lonnie Roberts has stood in contrast to for more years than is comfortable to recall.

Roberts has also stood up for east county issues against the more populous west county steamroller--something City Commissioner Randy Leonard also frequently notes. But that flies over Sulzberger’s head.

The question is not “Why have voters elected Roberts again and again?” The question is why an Oregonian reporter thinks a lone commissioner practicing above board, open government and standing up for his constituents is not contributing positively to political and civic issues.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Scott Ott for President!


Gone and Forgotten?

Thomas Anthony Casoria

In the Washington Post Anne Applebaum ends her Tuesday, March 20, 2007, column Tortured Credibility with an interesting point.

. . . Who could have imagined, in September 2001, that one of the deadliest terrorists in history would admit to the destruction of the World Trade Center--and that the world would shrug its shoulders?

She thinks it is due to the possibility that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was tortured.

Even if he was not tortured, he was held in secret, extralegal conditions, possible in Eastern Europe or the Middle East, certainly under nothing resembling what we in the United States normally consider the rule of law. The mystery surrounding his interrogation--when it was carried out, how and by whom--renders any confession he makes completely null, either in a court of law or in the court of international public opinion.

I don’t think it’s due to that at all.

Here’s a reality check. If the US captured Osama bin Laden tomorrow, do you think there would be joy in the international community? Hardly.

How about in the US? Despite the trumpeting of Democrats that the Bush administration lost focus on the war on terror by going into Iraq instead of going after bin Laden, if he were captured tomorrow, would Demos be partying? I think not. There would be one fairly gigantic yawn.

The problem is not torture. The problem is that no one cares about the victims anymore. It has been more than five years. The world’s attention span has long passed. The victims are gone and forgotten. Why should world opinion care about capture of someone responsible for killing almost 3,000 people on 9/11--be it Khalid Shaikh Mohammed or bin Laden?

Last year for the 5th anniversary of 9/11, a conservative blogger started a movement to honor each of the 9/11 victims. This blog honored the hero Thomas Anthony Casoria, a 29 year old fire fighter who died trying to save lives at the World Trade Center.

But thoughts of Casoria and the other 2,995 heros and victims don’t raise hackles or ring bells anymore. Even the New York Times, which did the wonderful individual tribute to each 9/11 victim in 2001, did not bother to reach in its archives and individually honor the victims on the 5th anniversary of their death--not even by listing their names. They’re old news, not interesting.

More than that, the world has come to believe that it is the right of terrorists to terrorize. Whatever grief there is for the victims is personal--from their family and friends.

The world’s opinion makers have lost their moral bearings. It’s not “possible” torture or less than pristine prison conditions that caused the world to “shrug its shoulders”. It’s self-centeredness and a willingness to excuse terrorism. One can see it even the holocaust. For decades Hitler’s killing of millions of people in concentration camps evoked anger and disgust. Not anymore.

Shame on world opinion makers for not caring about the victims--and on Anne Applebaum for excusing them.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Great Global Warming Swindle

This is a 76 minute British-made video mostly of scientists presenting scientific, historical and humanitarian evidence avoided by global warming true believers and most of the press.

Want to hear scientific evidence that matches the earth's historical climate data? This is the video for you.

Hat Tip: Mike's America

Rich Lowery and Political Incompetence

Rich Lowery’s column today points up one of the reasons that conservatives have produced little in spite of their six years in power. Some of their “opinion leaders” throw people on their side under the bus for even small mistakes.

Lowery does this in his column A Conflagration of Bush Loyalists.

Lowery claims that both Alberto Gonzales and Harriet Miers are incompetents chosen only because they were Bush friends.

If Gonzales goes, it will begin to bring to a calamitous close a style of governing that hasn’t served the Bush administration well. Bush has overrelied on a team of loyalists--often from Texas--who weren’t always the best or the brightest. This hardly accounts for all his problems --Iraq was mishandled by heavyweights like former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld--but it has lent added credibility to charges of incompetence.

The U.S. attorneys flap represents the perfect conflagration of Bush loyalists. It began with the asinine suggestion of then-White House counsel Harriet Miers that Bush begin his second term by sacking all 93 U.S. attorneys. Yes, President Clinton fired all the U.S. attorneys when he took office, but they were all appointees of another president.

Miers is a Bush friend from Texas who was removed as White House counsel as soon as Democrats took control of Congress, because the White House realized it needed better lawyering. Never mind that Bush had tried to elevate her all the way to the Supreme Court. When administration officials finger Miers for her role in the U.S. attorneys controversy, you can almost hear the unstated addendum, “And we all know she really didn’t know what she was doing.”

Then it was over to Gonzales, another Bush friend from Texas. As NRO's Andy McCarthy notes, there was one person in the country who thought Gonzales should become attorney general, and he was George Bush.

Notice the difference in Lowery’s assessment of Donald Rumsfeld vs. his assessment of Gonzales and Miers. Rumsfeld is a “heavyweight” who happened to mishandle things. Gonzales and Miers are incompetents.

For Lowery, what points to Gonzales’ incompetence?

Gonzales’s defense of his misleading statements that the Justice Department didn’t coordinate on the firings with the White House is that he didn’t know his chief of staff had done exactly that for more than a year. Ordinarily, it would be laughable for an attorney general to claim he was out of the loop on such a sensitive question, but with Gonzales, it has a certain disturbing plausibility.

And why doesn't Lowery think Donald Rumsfeld is incompetent? The problems at Walter Reed hospital didn’t spring full blown like Athena from Zeus’ head moments after Don Rumsfeld’s resignation. Does the fact that Rumsfeld didn’t identify and correct that sensitive situation on his watch show his incompetence? Not to mention Abu Ghraib. [for my assessment of Rumsfeld see here and here]

Imagine applying Lowery's logic to Pres. Reagan’s administration? Does Lowery think Reagan was incompetent because he didn’t know all that his staff was involved in--especially on “sensitive” questions? (Interesting that what is and is not a sensitive question is usually defined best in 20/20 hindsight.)

Actually, Lowery's measuring stick was applied to Ronald Reagan--by the Democrats. At the time National Review stuck up for Reagan's intelligence and competence. And the American people rightly overlooked lesser mistakes and put Reagan on the pedestal of great presidential leaders--which is where he belongs.

Lowery’s answer to mistakes by those in office is “swift firings”.

If Gonzales is forced out, it will be the departure of a characteristic Bush loyalist just as Bush’s approach to management has begun to change. At the beginning of the year, he jettisoned his “my team, right or wrong” approach to Iraq, removing his defense secretary and generals and forging a new strategy. The Walter Reed debacle was met with a round of swift firings rather than wagon-circling. Maybe it’s a new day.

If it is a new day, it’s one that anyone with any political sense will rue. Look at the Democrats. They have a “my team right or wrong” approach. Rep. William Jefferson, caught with bribery cash in his freezer, is quietly being mainstreamed again. And Howard Dean, of scream fame, is head of their national committee. Hasn’t hurt the Demos.

In politics, the best way to deal with incompetence is subtly and quietly. If he’s your guy, even if you get rid of him, you are deemed at fault for making the choice in the first place. That’s exactly the line Lowery takes in this column.

Bush placed such trust in Miers and Gonzales because they passed his “good man” or “good woman” test. He got to know them and concluded they had good hearts. This might be true, but it says nothing about their ability to carry out high governmental functions.

If Pres. Bush gets rid of Gonzales, it will underline how incompetent Bush is for having picked Gonzalez in the first place. It will also underline how incompetent Lowery and National Review were for backing Bush--two elections in a row!

What has happened to the common sense and political competence of the good folks at National Review? They're the ones who are beginning to seem politically incompetent. "One strike and you're out" is not wise policy--politically or personally.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Is This Really the Oregonian's Editorial Position?

I guess since it was the Ides of March yesterday one shouldn't be surprised at an off-the-wall editorial.

The subheading of the Oregonian's America Speaks on Iraq editorial says it all: In Congress and on the streets, Americans say it's time to leave, but will the president heed the message?

I guess the Oregonian sees the old Byzantine blues vs. greens sort of government as pretty powerful stuff. A very small part of the population out in the streets should direct policy.

The funny thing, of course, is the protest hasn't even taken place. But, apparently the mere prospect is enough for the Oregonian.

Unfortunately, this president shows little willingness to reverse direction in this way. That's why the Senate and, before it, the House of Representatives have engaged in such spirited debate about whether and how to force a change of course upon him. And that's why thousands of people will march against the war in the streets of Portland and other cities this weekend, close to the fourth anniversary of the initial military attack on Iraq.

These are important expressions of the American will, and the president would be well-advised to heed them. Yet ultimately he and his Cabinet -- not the Senate, not the House and not the protesters -- are responsible for the military's course of action.

Government by protest. Let's see. How many people voted in the last presidential election? About 120 million nationally, about 1.8 million in Oregon, and about 360,000 in Multnomah County.

It is possible for protest in the streets to express public will. But, that usually happens in dictatorships where the ballot box is basically meaningless. The next real expression of "American will" comes in the 2008 presidential election--at the ballot box. That's where not a small fraction, but a plurality or a majority of American voters will truly express the "American will" on this and other pressing issues.

Let's get over looking at red vs. green factions in the streets as something more than they really are--an expression of that group's opinion.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

NY Times--A Different View on Consensus Science

In the past few months, the Oregonian has published articles and one editorial sniffing at the scientific competence of Oregon state climatologist George Taylor.

An underlying assumption has been that poor Taylor hasn't kept up with his science and has been left behind. Scouring the scientific community, Oregonian reporters were able to come up with only one possible ally for Taylor in the scientific community.

A January 29, 2007 article by Michael Milstein [blog post] has the following:

While Mote is in step with the great majority of scientists, Taylor is far from it. His distance from the scientific mainstream and the public has widened as evidence of global warming has mounted in the form of rising temperatures, shrinking glaciers and accelerating snowmelt.

"The public is just moving past him," said Mark Abbott, dean of the College of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at Oregon State University. "The science certainly has."

A February 10, 2007 article by Michelle Cole and Michael Milstein [blog post] calls Taylor a "contrarian" and notes exactly one (1 count 'em 1) other scientist who shares Taylor's general position--Delaware state climatologist David Legates.

A February 15, 2007, editorial [blog post] again labels Taylor as a "contrarian" and disses his scientific competence more than once in the editorial:

The scientific mainstream and no doubt a solid majority of Oregonians have already moved beyond Taylor on this subject. His widely publicized doubts about global climate change may play well on right-wing talk radio, but there's no evidence he's influencing serious discussion of the issue in this state.

. . .

Taylor has a master's degree in meteorology but no doctorate. No governor appointed him. No governor-appointed board oversees his work. He's a loose cannon, disconnected from the state executive branch.

But help has finally come. In an article published today by the New York Times, William J. Broad found another side to the issue: scientists who share Taylor's scientific skepticism and want more solid science before coming to a conclusion.

For example, there's Don J. Easterbrook, an emeritus professor of geology at Western Washington University. He spoke of his skepticism at the annual meeting of Geological Society of America.

Criticisms of Mr. Gore have come not only from conservative groups and prominent skeptics of catastrophic warming, but also from rank-and-file scientists like Dr. Easterbook, who told his peers that he had no political ax to grind. A few see natural variation as more central to global warming than heat-trapping gases. Many appear to occupy a middle ground in the climate debate, seeing human activity as a serious threat but challenging what they call the extremism of both skeptics and zealots.

Then there's:

Richard S. Lindzen, a climatologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the National Academy of Sciences, who has long expressed skepticism about dire climate predictions, accused Mr. Gore in The Wall Street Journal of “shrill alarmism.”


Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, said on a blog that Mr. Gore’s film did “indeed do a pretty good job of presenting the most dire scenarios.” But the June report, he added, shows “that all we really know is that we are warmer now than we were during the last 400 years.”

Not to mention Robert M. Carter:

“Nowhere does Mr. Gore tell his audience that all of the phenomena that he describes fall within the natural range of environmental change on our planet,” Robert M. Carter, a marine geologist at James Cook University in Australia, said in a September blog. “Nor does he present any evidence that climate during the 20th century departed discernibly from its historical pattern of constant change.”

Hmm. Maybe science isn't about scientific consensus or being left behind by public opinion, but about research and being proven right in what you predict.

Interestingly enough, Easterbrook in an interview this evening predicted that the earth is entering a slight cooling period based on the historical data. Maybe that's why this has shaped up as a colder winter than expected in many parts of the US.

If Prof. Easterbrook is right, it will be interesting to see how all the "consensus" scientists react. Will they then join a new "consensus" on global cooling?