Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Deconstructing Emissions

To many, (not me) it is a self-evident truth that Kyoto is a good thing. As well, it is an article of faith that the whole wide world, save for the big bad United States, are strict adherents to the treaty. That is not true either, according to a recent UN report, as covered in the Toronto Globe and Mail. (via Belmont Club)

Looking over the record of industrialized countries in controlling their greenhouse-gas emissions is to see cases of the good, the bad and the downright ugly.

Among the countries judged to be good are Germany and Britain. They're undisputed leaders in showing the way for countries to curb their releases of planet-warming gases. Unfortunately, Canada is listed among the ugly.

...Canada has vowed to cut its emissions by 6 per cent from its 1990 level over the period from 2008 to 2012, but its emissions by the end of 2003 were up 24 per cent.

One surprise in the figures is that Canada's emission record is far worse than even the United States, where the Bush administration has refused to ratify Kyoto.

Mr. Bramley said the United States is "actually ahead of Canada in just about every area" of environmental policies used to curb emissions. And he said the record of individual states "is far ahead of any province in Canada."
It's a not a particular surprise to me, the United States has the most open, flexible, and technologically advanced economy in the world, and as much as it may offend the sensibilities of the Greens, it is capitalism that enabled the creation of the modern environmentalist movement. Environmentalism is a rich man's issue. The starving farmer in the third world could not care less about a spotted owl when he is worried about feeding his children, in fact he would surely kill all of the spotted owls and not give one thought to soil erosion if it meant his family would live on. Many greens, judging by their actions, would do the opposite, even if they never actually see an owl. Quote Thomas Sowell:
Green bigots operate internationally, just like the more famous fanatics. They are trying to stop a hydroelectric dam from being built in Uganda and they have already succeeded in getting "nature preserves" created in various parts of Africa - which is to say, vast amounts of land where Africans are forbidden to hunt for food because the green bigots prefer keeping the land "natural."

African economist James Skikwati in Kenya put the case against affluent Western environmental extremists very plainly when he said, "wealthy countries want the Earth to be green, the underdeveloped want the Earth fed." He asked: "What gives the developed nations the right to make choices for the poor?"

A hydroelectric dam in Uganda would bring electricity to millions of Africans but it would also annoy the delicate sensibilities of environmentalists in Berkeley who like waterfalls.

The world must to be fed before it can be green. Open markets help with both the feeding and the green, corrupt governments, tyrannies, and especially communism have the opposite effect.

Back to the Kyoto article. On the surface, world wide emissions have been sharply reduced by an average of 5.9% which is greater than Kyoto's requirements of 5.2%. However individual countries are all over the map. The UN report, ironically, implicitly credits Ronald Reagan.
The report shows that a huge, one-time greenhouse gas reduction occurred after the economic collapse of the former Communist countries. The former East Bloc's emissions fell from 5.7 billion tonnes in 1990 to 3.4 billion tonnes in 2003, a stunning drop equivalent to eliminating three times Canada's total annual contribution to warming the planet.

Many areas behind the iron curtain are still being cleaned up and are nearly un-inhabitable, but is that a surprise? Do you think that USSR allowed the existence of a Green Party? Does Communist China fund the Sierra Club? Or do wealthy Westerners?

Saddam Hussein drained the wetlands in Iraq to punish the Marsh Arabs, taking away their means of subsistence and of course, his burning of oil wells and dumping of crude into the Gulf has been well documented - his ruthlessness towards the environement only exceeded by his ruthlessness towards his own people.

Despite some leftist romanticism to the contrary, environmentalism is a luxury, it is only societies that have achieved a certain amount of stability and wealth that can afford to take up environmental causes. As more people take advantage of technology and telecommute for example, the less oil is burned by actual commuting. One day per week of working from home could reduce emissions by one fifth. Hybrid cars, despite their higher sticker price, are now a status symbol in the United States. As technology advances, more efficient and cleaner methods of energy production become more attractive. As well, developing countries now have the benefit of technology already developed in advanced countries and can make quantum leaps almost overnight, skipping right over much of the 'dirtier' industrial periods where huge polluting factories dominated cities. Free markets gave birth to the Green Movement, it should not now be viewed as its mortal enemy.

Below is a list of the of the changes in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990-2003. You'll notice that the highest negatives are former Eastern Bloc countries. The linked article also gives much credit to Germany and Britain. Germany most certainly was aided by the fall of the Berlin Wall, all they had to do was close the high polluting, inefficient heavy industrial factories in the East that they were going to close anyway and emissions would see a drastic fall. Britain, on the other hand, deserves some serious credit as they somehow managed to significantly reduce their emissions at a much higher rate than the rest of the continent while at the same time experiencing strong economic growth.

Country / Per cent change
Spain +41.7
Monaco +37.8
Portugal +36.7
Greece +25.8
Ireland +25.6
Canada +24.2
Australia +23.3
New Zealand +22.5
Finland +21.5
Austria +16.5
USA +13.3
Japan +12.8
Italy +11.5
Norway +9.3
Denmark +6.8
Liechtenstein +5.3
Netherlands +1.5
Belgium +1.3
Switzerland -0.4
Euro Union -1.4
Slovenia -1.9
France -1.9
Sweden -2.3
Croatia -6.0
Iceland -8.2
Britain -13.0
Luxembourg -16.1
Germany -18.2
Czech Repblic -24.2
Slovakia -28.3
Hungary -31.9
Poland -34.4
Russian Fed -38.5
Belarus -44.4
Romania -46.1
Ukraine -46.2
Bulgaria -50.0
Estonia -50.8
Latvia -58.5
Lithuania -66.2

(Note: Previous post on Canadian Environmentalism)

Friday, November 18, 2005

Blood for Oil

A few weeks ago it was George Galloway on the take from Saddam, and it continues to unravel.

One of France's most distinguished diplomats has confessed to an investigating judge that he accepted oil allocations from Saddam Hussein, it emerged yesterday.

Jean-Bernard Mérimée is thought to be the first senior figure to admit his role in the oil-for-food scandal, a United Nations humanitarian aid scheme hijacked by Saddam to buy influence.

The Frenchman, who holds the title "ambassador for life", told authorities that he regretted taking payments amounting to $156,000 (then worth about £108,000) in 2002.

The money was used to renovate a holiday home he owned in southern Morocco. At the time, Mr Mérimée was a special adviser to Kofi Annan, the UN secretary general.

According to yesterday's Le Figaro, he told judge Philippe Courroye during an interview on Oct 12: "I should not have done what I did. I regret it."

....The ambassador said the French authorities had known of his every move.

France has been gravely embarrassed by oil-for-food allegations against senior figures, including Charles Pasqua, the former interior minister. He has denied receiving any benefit from the oil allocations issued in his name.

Inquiries have also found that French firms benefited disproportionately from oil-for-food contracts as part of an Iraqi policy to influence French votes on the UN Security Council.

Supporters of President George W Bush accuse France of putting its foreign policy up for sale and opposing the invasion of Iraq for commercial reasons. That has been fiercely denied in Paris.

Mr Mérimée did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Telegraph.

This is just one more piece of evidence that the French's opposition to toppling Saddam Hussein was economic, rather than some righteous stand for peace. They shouted "no blood for oil" as they did their best to ensure the survival of one of the bloodiest regimes in history. For the French, Iraqi blood was a small price to pay for a continued flow of cheap oil.

For Shame.

(via Ed Morrissey)

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Rise of New Media

Well, a veritable 'Who's Who' in the blogger world are, as we speak, meeting in New York to discuss the launch of Open Source Media. (Formerly Pajamas Media where you can see many of the participants pictures and profiles.) The idea is to blend some of the free form commentary of blogging with traditional investigative journalism from around the world.

It's a whole new paradigm, and it's impossible to say what this may eventually evolve into. Frederich Hayek used to say that information is a valuable commodity, it's bought and sold, and he was right. But now there are no more gatekeepers of information, no more arguments from authority. Information flows so freely and the hurdles to enter the market are now so incredibly low - only requiring internet access - that information is nearly free.

I don't pretend to understand their business model, but there must be something to it as they have raised $3.5 million in venture capital.

An AP article says the following on Open Source Media:
OSM will link to individual blog postings and highlight the best contributions, chosen by OSM editors, in a special section. Bloggers will be paid undisclosed sums based on traffic they generate.
The ad-supported OSM site will also carry news feeds from Newstex, which in turn receives stories from The Associated Press, Knight-Ridder/Tribune News Service and other traditional media organizations.

"We're deliberately trying to do something new by affiliating blog and mainstream people," said Roger L. Simon, a blogger and the venture's co-founder.

...Many details of OSM remain unsettled. For example, OSM wants to create a mechanism for citizen journalists, including bloggers, to submit original news during natural disasters, civil unrest and other newsworthy events. Simon said organizers still have to come up with ways to check submissions for accuracy.

Initially, OSM will create blog-like discussion panels surrounding major news events, with three or four bloggers and non-blogging experts chosen to contribute.

This is our first look at an organized money making effort of citizen journalists. Oh how I wish I was there!

Atlas Shrugged has some pictures of herself, Roger Simon, Glenn Reynolds, and the amazing Wretchard at dinner. One of her commenters remarked that she looked like a goddess amongst nerds, and it's funny because it is true. The non-elites, the average citizens are now the players and the audience. With the acceleration of technology and the relative young age of the internet it will be fascinating to see how this social/information network evolves.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

More Pictures

Not mine, but rather of those who gave up their today so we may all have a better tomorrow.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Misfit Pumpkins

Since I sure haven't been writing much, I figured I could at least post some pictures. Unlike last year's award winning Forest Creature costumes we didn't do anything elaborate this year.... except for some fun pumpkin carvings out at our little camp ground get-a-way.

(You can click on the pictures for larger versions.)

Here are my three other cohorts in carving crafting their pumpkins:

The completed misfit pumpkins by day:

By night:

Myself prepping the puke and the finished Puking Pumpkin up close:

Close-ups of the other three motley pumpkins:

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


This letter to Michelle Malkin is one of those items that makes me feel very small:

Yesterday's New York Times on-line edition carried the story of the 2000 Iraq US military death[s]. It grabbed my attention as the picture they used with the headline was that of my nephew, Cpl Jeffrey B. Starr, USMC.

Unfortunately they did not tell Jeffrey's story. Jeffrey believed in what he was doing. He [was] willing put his life on the line for this cause. Just before he left for his third tour of duty in Iraq I asked him what he thought about going back the third time. He said: "If we (Americans) don't do this (free the Iraqi people from tyranny) who will? No one else can."

Several months after Jeffrey was killed his laptop computer was returned to his parents who found a letter in it that was addressed to his girlfriend and was intended to be found only if he did not return alive. It is a most poignant letter and filled with personal feelings he had for his girlfriend. But of importance to the rest of us was his expression of how he felt about putting his life at risk for this cause. He said it with grace and maturity.

He wrote: "Obviously if you are reading this then I have died in Iraq. I kind of predicted this, that is why I'm writing this in November. A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances. I don't regret going, everybody dies but few get to do it for something as important as freedom. It may seem confusing why we are in Iraq, it's not to me. I'm here helping these people, so that they can live the way we live. Not have to worry about tyrants or vicious dictators. To do what they want with their lives. To me that is why I died. Others have died for my freedom, now this is my mark."

Of course Corporal Starr is not Cindy Sheehan, so the New York Times found only a sliver of his thoughts worthy: 'I kind of predicted this... a third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances' is all that made the article. Apparently that is a good and accurate enough 'tribute' to the 2000 dead.

It's telling that a 22 year old marine has a much more thorough grasp of the world than the paper of record.

(via Tall Dave)

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Justice Alito

Since a commenter below asked (and I do take requests!) here are my thoughts on the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito. He beats the hell out of Meiers. He's got a solid resume, understands federalism and has an appreciation for the value and efficiency of free markets. Beyond that I don't know much about him, then again I don't really know much about any particular judge before they get nominated to the High Court. And if even if I did know a lot, I'm not sure how much predictive power it would have. Consider, of the 9 current justices (I'm including the late Rehnquist) 6 were appointed by Republican presidents. Yet only 3 of them are thought to be 'reliably conservative.' O'Connor, Kennedy and Souter have been behind some disappointing decisions. Does that mean I want a 'conservative' justice? That depends on what is meant by conservative. If it means a strict consitutional constructionist who respects property rights and doesn't believe the commerce clause is so wide that it gives Congress the power to legislate on anything it can theoretically dream about, then yes I want one of those, and Alito seems like it. The question really is, how did Bush initially choose John Roberts and Harriet Meiers over Alito? Was Meiers simply a sacrificial lamb caught in a Rove's political machinations?

As an aside, trying to extract how a judge would rule on Roe v Wade seems to be the listhmus test these days for many on the fringes of the left and right. That's nonsense. Whatever you think about abortion (and I don't know what I think) Roe v Wade was not a sound judicial decision. It was pure judicial activism. If the right to privacy is only "in the shadows" of the 4th and 5th amendment then that puts the right to an abortion in the tenuous "shadows of the shadows." This is something that the states should have decided, and the judiciary usurping that role and legislating from the bench is the reason why this is still a highly polarizing issue today. If Roe v Wade were overturned it would have hardly any practical effect. It wouldn't mean abortion is outlawed, it would only mean that states are allowed to determine for themselves whether or not abortion would be legal there. With the possible exception of Utah would any state really be able to pass an abortion ban? And even if one did, there are plenty of other states that would not. That is the beauty of federalism, there are so many different kinds of individual in this country with differing values systems, it's healthy to have 50 states that can fine tune their own laws according to the values of the subjects who reside there. But lets stop allowing a false importance to be placed on Roe v Wade, especially when there are decisions like Kelo that have much more far-reaching implications on our individual rights.



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