Archive for May, 2013

Liberals and Conservatives

May 20, 2013

About two weeks ago, I read a column at Townhall.com by Kyle Olson, alleging that a school assignment on civics was a thinly disguised attempt at political indoctrination.

Eighth-graders in Wisconsin’s Union Grove school district were assigned to fill out a “Liberalism vs. Conservatism” crossword puzzle, and they learned some new and very questionable “facts.”

Students learned conservatism is “the political belief of preserving traditional moral values by restricting personal freedoms … ”

Conversely, they learned liberalism is “the political belief of equality and personal freedom for everyone, often changing the current system to increase government protection of civil liberties.”

The crossword puzzle was part of a civics assignment that was forwarded to EAGnews by Tamara Varebrook, a local conservative activist whose eighth-grade daughter received the lesson at Union Grove Elementary School yesterday.

Varebrook said she posted the assignment on her Facebook page to share with other parents who might not be aware of the blatant political bias and effort at indoctrination, disguised as “civics.”

“The definitions of conservatism and liberalism make me sick,” Varebook told EAGnews. “I think it’s horribly distorted and it’s biased.”

Varebrook, who serves on her local Republican Party board and has appeared in commercials promoting conservative values, said she was particularly disturbed by the definition of conservatism as “restricting personal freedom.”

“It’s insinuating conservatives don’t believe in people having civil liberties. That it’s only for old-fashioned fuddy-duddies,” Varebrook said. “That’s completely negative. It’s completely false.”

Last time we checked, it’s the big government progressives who are determined to restrict personal freedoms. You know, the bans on sugary drinks, fatty foods, snacks at school lunch time, salt intake, etc.

I am not sure if political indoctrination is the intent here, although in our public schools that is always a possibility. As far as I can tell, the definitions of liberal and conservative are accurate, at least according to the dictionary. The real problem is that the dictionary definitions of words like liberal and conservative do not do a very good job of describing American politics and are actually very misleading.

Consider the dictionary definitions. According to The Free Dictionary, to be liberal is;

a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
while a conservative is someone who is;
Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change.
If you think about the history of American politics for the last few decades, it always seems to be the “conservatives who favor new ideas, while the “liberals’ always seem to be the ones who oppose any change. The conservative Ronald Reagan wanted to make changes in the tax code, etc. The liberals in Congress tried to stop him. Newt Gingrich was the conservative who wanted to change things. His opponents were the Democrats who wanted to keep things the same. The conservative George W. Bush wanted to partially privatize Social Security to keep it solvent. The liberals were determined to prevent any reform of Social Security. More recently, the conservative Paul Ryan has wanted to change Medicare and make cuts in government spending. The liberal Barack Obama wants to keep Medicare the same and continue to increase government spending. Conservatives believe that racial attitudes in America have changed sufficiently that laws passed in the Civil Rights era may no longer be necessary. Liberals shout, “affirmative action today, affirmative action tomorrow,  affirmative action forever!!!”. Obamacare is a major change in the health care system in this country, yet it seems to be a program closer to the sort of one size fits all government programs of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society or Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, than something appropriate for the post-industrial, information age, economy of the twenty-first century. It is a policy taking us back to the past rather than forward into the future.
If you go beyond dictionary definitions into the actual ideologies of liberalism and conservatism, the discrepancy becomes even clearer. Historically, liberals have believed in the rights and freedom of the individual, limited constitutional government based on natural rights and natural law, and free trade and the free market. This does not sound very much like the beliefs of contemporary liberals. Conservatives have generally emphasized tradition,religion, authority, the concept of society as an organic whole, property rights, and the concept of experience over ideology in setting policies. I am not sure that any party in America entirely subscribes to this set of ideas, not even Rush Limbaugh, who is actually a classical liberal.

That famous liberal Rush Limbaugh

That famous liberal Rush Limbaugh

I think that what has happened is that conservatives in America have become conservative about liberal values. In other words the sort of things that conservatives want to conserve as traditions and sources of authority are the classical liberal ideas of human rights and freedom. The political philosophy that has emerged from this amalgamation cannot be accurately described as either liberal or conservative. Perhaps the conservatives ought to be called conservative-liberals, or liberal-conservatives, or something like that. Libertarian would be a good title but it has already been taken by the people who want practically no government at all.
What about the “liberals”. I suppose people like Mayor Bloomberg, with his obsession over what New Yorkers eat and drink, as well as many liberals who seek to control our lives for our own good, could be seen as acting in the tradition of paternalistic conservatism. When you consider the liberal desire to prevent any serious reform of New Deal or Great Society programs, this might make sense. Still the liberals seem uninterested in conserving any part of society except for the state and they are certainly not interested in preserving traditional values of any sort. I am tempted to refer to them as Socialists, since many, if not all the people who identify as liberals prefer the widespread government control over the economy that is the aim of Socialism. Since the one value that all contemporary liberals support is the exaltation of the state or government over every other institution, perhaps “Statist” is an appropriate name for them. Since they seem to believe that every aspect of life, even the most personal, should be politicized and  under the control of government, totalitarians might be accurate.

A Curious E-Mail

May 19, 2013

I received a curious e-mail last week. The people who sent it are concerned about the future of funding for science in this country and in particular about a bill sponsored by Representative Lamar Smith of Texas.

Dear David Hoffman,

Rep. Lamar Smith has drafted a bill that would replace peer review at the National Science Foundation (NSF) with a set of funding criteria chosen and overseen by Congress… and he wants to use it as a model for every federal science agency we have.

Rep. Smith’s bill would force the NSF to prove the “worth” of their grants men and women who are politicians, not scientists. And take a look at two of the main points those looking for a grant need to meet: securing national defense and answering questions he feels are important to society at large.

If we sit back and let the House pass this bill, we will be handing over our scientific research to men and women whose jobs are about political bias, not objective reasoning.

There’s a reason no one before Rep. Smith has tried to pull this off — because it opens the door to the defunding of research, the suppression of facts, and the injection of party politics into scientific research. Don’t let him open that Pandora’s box: join us in calling on the House to oppose Rep. Smith’s egregious bill immediately.

PETITION TO MY REPRESENTATIVES: Don’t let Lamar Smith undo all the NSF has done for scientific progress. Oppose his bill to turn objective research into political fodder today.

Click here to sign — it just takes a second.

Thanks,
— The folks at Watchdog.net

To be honest, I am not sure what to make of this. I do not know anything about the proposed legislation. I would imagine that a politician is the last person I would go to for decisions about scientific research. It seems to me however, that if the folks at Watchdog.net are concerned about the injection of party politics into scientific research, there is a simple solution, don’t request funding from the government.

The problem here is that, in the end, the funding for the National Science Foundation, as well as any other federal science agency comes from the taxpayers. The money belongs to the taxpayers and the taxpayers, or their elected representatives, should have the last word on how it is to be spent. What the people at Watchdog.net seem to want, and what is the current policy I suppose, is that the National Science Foundation be handed funds from the government with no accountability from the people’s representative on just how it should be spent or what research they think is most appropriate. The attitude here, so common in Washington D. C. these days is, “we know how to spend your money better than you do, so fork it over and shut up”. That is not right.

If this bill has the effects the folks at Watchdog.net fear, it would be unfortunate. I don’t doubt that Congress can spend money in amazingly stupid ways. As the representatives of the people, however, it is their duty to spend the taxpayer’s money in the ways the people want it to be spent. It is up to groups like Watchdog.net and others to educate Congress and the people on the best ways that federal funding ought to be used. If they are unwilling to take the effort to lobby Congress and the people, than they can fund scientific research with their own money.

Anyway, the defunding of research, suppression of facts, and the injection of party politics are already a fact of life. Just ask any climate researcher who dares to oppose the consensus on global warming/climate change.

 

Related articles

Trumped Up Scandal

May 15, 2013

Well, I must say I feel like a fool. I actually thought that the IRS targeting Tea Party and conservative organizations was an example of the improper use of a government agency to intimidate and harass people with dissenting viewpoints. Lucky for me, I read Noam Scheiber‘s piece in the New Republic. Mr. Scheiber has explained everything and straightened me out.

Democrats can’t say it; Barack Obama can’t say it; and the IRS certainly can’t say it, so here goes: The only real sin the IRS committed in its ostensible targeting of conservatives is the sin of political incorrectness—that is, of not pretending it needed to vet all the new groups that wanted tax-exempt status, even though it mostly just needed to vet right-wing groups.

How do we know this? Because, for one thing, the people submitting the questionable applications were overwhelmingly right-wingers. As others have pointed out, the early Obama era was a boom time for conservative activists, who were forming groups faster than NBC burns through “Today Show” hosts. This coincided with a series of court rulings that made it possible for these groups to claim tax-exempt status without disclosing their donors under section 501c4 of the tax code.1 As a result, there were suddenly way more non-disclosing political groups trying to claim tax-exempt status than there ever had been, and the vast majority were right-leaning. No surprise, then, that the IRS would focus on whether these groups actually qualified for that status—something that was questionable since the law said their primary activity needed to be “social welfare,” not politicking.

But, in fact, the IRS’s great conservative crackdown is even more innocent than that. It turns out that the applications the conservative groups submitted to the IRS—the ones the agency subsequently combed over, provoking nonstop howling—were unnecessary. The IRS doesn’t require so-called 501c4 organizations to apply for tax-exempt status. If anyone wants to start a social welfare group, they can just do it, then submit the corresponding tax return (form 990) at the end of the year. To be sure, the IRS certainly allows groups to apply for tax-exempt status if they want to make their status official. But the application is completely voluntary, making it a strange basis for an alleged witch hunt.

So why would so many Tea Party groups subject themselves to a lengthy and needless application process? Mostly it had to do with anxiety—the fear that they could run afoul of the law once they started raising and spending money. “Our business experience was that we had to pay taxes once there was money coming through here,” says Tom Zawistowski, the recent president of the Ohio Liberty Coalition, which tangled with the IRS over its tax status. “We felt we were under a microscope. … We were on pins and needles at all times.” In other words, the groups submitted their applications because they perceived themselves to be persecuted, not because they actually were.

So you see. There were just so many shady Tea Party groups forming that of course the IRS had to be very careful vetting all the applications. Oh but wait. According to USA Today, liberal groups had very little trouble getting tax exempt status.

In the 27 months that the Internal Revenue Service put a hold on all Tea Party applications for non-profit status, it approved applications from similar liberal groups, a USA TODAY review of IRS data shows.

As applications from conservative groups sat in limbo, groups with obviously liberal names were approved in as little as nine months. With names including words like “Progress” or “Progressive,” these groups applied for the same tax status and were engaged in the same kinds of activities as the conservative groups.

The controversial, 3-year-old strategy to manage the increasing number of political groups seeking tax-exempt status came under fire Tuesday. The agency’s own inspector general blamed IRS leadership for “ineffective management.”

The Justice Department wants to know if that was more than just mismanagement. Calling the IRS’ actions “outrageous and unacceptable,” Attorney General Eric Holder said Tuesday that he has asked the FBI to investigate. “We’re examining the facts to see if there were any criminal violations,” he said.

A federal official who has been briefed on the matter said the investigation could focus on potential violations of civil rights law, including targeting groups based on political affiliation and infringing free speech. The official, who is not authorized to comment publicly, said authorities could consider possible violations of the Hatch Act, which restricts political activities of government workers.

There goes that narrative.

Mr. Scheiber wonders why the Tea Party organizations might be anxious to make sure all their paperwork was in order. For many organizers of the Tea Party, this was their first actual experience with political activism. Despite the liberal talking point that the Tea Party is Astroturf, most Tea Partiers are not the sort of professional protesters found in Soros funded Left wing political pressure groups. Quite a few of these people owned their own businesses and most were used to the idea of obeying the laws and regulations they were subject to. Also, Tea Party activists knew full well that liberal politicians from the President on down and the mainstream media hated them. The Tea Party has been called racist, bigoted, fascist, Nazis, and worse by tolerant, compassionate liberals.No slander was too outrageous to fabricate about the Tea Party. They had good reason to want to make sure everything was in order.

Fine—there’s no law against neurosis. But, to borrow a thought experiment from my colleague Alec MacGillis, consider all this from the perspective of the IRS’s Cincinnati office, which handles tax-exempt groups. You’re minding your own business in 2009 when you start to receive dozens of applications from right-leaning groups, applications you didn’t solicit and don’t require. You peruse a few of the applications and it looks like many of the groups, while claiming to be “social welfare” organizations, have an overtly political purpose, like backing candidates with specific ideological agendas. Suffice it to say, you don’t need an inquisitorial mind to decide the applications deserve careful vetting. One Tea Party activist from Waco, Texas, has complained that an IRS official told her he was “sitting on a stack of tea party applications and they were awaiting word from higher-ups as to how to process them.” The quote is intended to sound nefarious—an outtake from some vast left-wing conspiracy—but it’s actually perfectly straight-forward: The IRS was unexpectedly flooded by dodgy 501c4 applications and was at a loss over how to manage them.

Why did they have to wait for word from higher up? Did they not have a standardized procedure for processing 501c (4) applications? Why are conservative applicants somehow more dodgy than liberal ones. According to USA Today, the vetting only applied to groups with names like “Tea Party”.

Let’s try a thought experiment of our own. Suppose a Republican administration were caught giving extra attention to liberal groups that were active in protesting against the President’s policies. Would Noam Scheiber have such a blase attitude about the matter? I think it is more likely that every liberal columnist and pundit in the country would be screaming bloody murder.

So the crime here had nothing to do with “targeting” conservatives. The targeting was effectively done by the conservative groups themselves, when they filed their gratuitous applications. The crime, such as it is, was twofold. First, in the course of legitimately vetting questionable applications, the IRS appears to have been more intrusive than justified, asking for information about donors whose privacy it should have respected. This is unfortunate and intolerable, but not quite a threat to democracy.

Second, the IRS was tone deaf to how its scrutiny would look to the people being scrutinized, given that they all subscribed to the same worldview, and that they were already nursing a healthy persecution complex. Which is to say, the IRS didn’t go about its otherwise legitimate vetting in a very politically-correct way. “It’s part of their job to look for organizations that may be more likely to have too much campaign intervention,” a law professor named Ellen Aprill told The Washington Post. “But it is important to try to make these criteria as politically neutral as possible.”

Again, according to USA Today, the crime had everything to do with targeting conservatives. The people who work for the IRS must have a good idea of the anxiety even a routine inquiry produces in most Americans. Getting official letters demanding to know details about donors, books read, personal lives of board members and their families must be a terrifying experience, even for people who do not have an anti-government world view. The people behind all this were counting on that.

The article goes on about profiling and implies that conservatives are hypocrites for supporting profiling Muslims as potential terrorists while opposing the idea of conservative groups being profiled as engaging in fraud for requesting tax exempt status. There are some interesting reader comments, though. I will omit the names of the people who made the comments.

Considering how right-wing conservatives beginning with Newt Gingrich have targeted the IRS for crippling budget cuts and rigamarole that prevent it from effectively auditing tax returns (“… the average person [has] a one-in-200 chance of an audit, which is down from one-in-112 in 1999, and one-in-60 in 1996, according to new data from the IRS”) I would say this sounds like a case of turnabout-is-fair-play.

I am down on democracy these days because the right wing has abandoned its responsibility to govern. Very well then: if they will not govern, they will damn well be ruled.

Don’t you think an organization named after a famous tax refusal protest MIGHT deserve a little extra scrutiny, especially if they are claiming to be a “social welfare” organization? As far as I know, the members of the Boston Tea Party didn’t claim they were the Boston United Way.

So, these people believe that a proper function of government is to punish people who are against high taxes. Interesting. Also, why do we right wingers have to choose between being rulers or being ruled. Personally, I don’t want to rule anyone. I want to be left alone.

 

 

Some More Thoughts about the IRS

May 14, 2013

I hope that it will not be the case, but I would suspect that there are some liberals out there who would support the idea of the IRS auditing the Tea Party. If you are reading this and agree with that sentiment then consider if the situation were reversed. What if a Republican administration were targeting liberal advocacy groups for extra attention? You really don’t have to use your imagination; Presidents Johnson and Nixon used the IRS to harass anti-Vietnam War protestors. Using the power of the state to intimidate dissenting organizations is simply unacceptable regardless of party or ideology.

It might be a good idea to consider alternatives to the income tax. Neal Boortz and other libertarians have proposed a “fair” tax, an national sales tax to replace the income tax. I have tended to oppose this since I believe that such a tax would be regressive in nature, placing a greater tax burden on the poor than the rich, not to mention that the political difficulties enacting such a tax would be insuperable. A fair tax wouldn’t be subject to the kind of abuse that the income tax has proved to be and it would not require individuals to provide personal information about their finances that the income tax does. There may be other alternatives to consider.

The IRS is expected to play a major role in implementing Obamacare. According to Americans for Tax Reform

When Obamacare’s individual mandate takes effect in 2014, all Americans who file income tax returns must complete an additional IRS tax form.

The new form will require disclosure of a taxpayer’s personal identifying health information in order to determine compliance with the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate.

As confirmed by IRS testimony to the tax-writing House Committee on Ways and Means, “taxpayers will file their tax returns reporting their health insurance coverage, and/or making a payment”.

So why will the Obama IRS require your personal identifying health information?

Simply put, there is no way for the IRS to enforce Obamacare’s individual mandate without such an invasive reporting scheme.  Every January, health insurance companies across America will send out tax documents to each insured individual.  This tax document—a copy of which will be furnished to the IRS—must contain sufficient information for taxpayers to prove that they purchased qualifying health insurance under Obamacare.

This new tax information document must, at a minimum, contain: the name and health insurance identification number of the taxpayer; the name and tax identification number of the health insurance company; the number of months the taxpayer was covered by this insurance plan; and whether or not the plan was purchased in one of Obamacare’s “exchanges.”

This will involve millions of new tax documents landing in mailboxes across America every January, along with the usual raft of W-2s, 1099s, and 1098s.  At tax time, the 140 million families who file a tax return will have to get acquainted with a brand new tax filing form.  Six million of these families will end up paying Obamacare’s individual mandate non-compliance tax penalty.

As a service to the public, Americans for Tax Reform has released a projected version of this tax form to help families and tax specialists prepare for this additional filing requirement. Taxpayers may view the projected IRS form at www.ObamacareTaxForm.com.  On the form, lines 3-4 show where taxpayers will disclose their personal health ID information.

With the recent revelations concerning the IRS, do you think you can trust them to keep your personal health information secret? What if whatever bureaucracy that is set up to administer our health care system becomes politicized? It is not too difficult for me to imagine a situation in which members of a death panel, or whatever they are going to call it, make decisions on who gets on the organ transplant waiting list, or who gets chemotherapy, based on political affiliation. But, maybe I am just being paranoid.

 

Auditing the Tea Party

May 14, 2013

It’s not paranoia if they really are out to get you. During the last election cycle some Tea Party and conservative groups noticed that the IRS was unusually curious about their tax exempt status. This might be dismissed as anti-government paranoia, except that last Friday an official from the IRS admitted to doing just that.

An IRS official apologized on Friday to tea party organizations and other conservative groups for inappropriately targeting them during the 2012 election, the Associated Press reports.

The groups, which enjoyed tax-exempt status under the internal revenue code, were singled out for additional scrutiny of their tax exemption if their names included the words “tea party” or “patriot.” In several cases, the groups were asked to provide a list of donors for review, usually a violation of IRS policy.

“That was wrong. That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive, and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases,” said Lois Lerner, the head of the IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups. “The IRS would like to apologize for that.”

Lerner said the additional scrutiny was initiated by lower-level employees working out of Cincinnati, and that the practice was not a product of political bias. She told the Associated Press that high-level officials were not informed of the practice. On a conference call on Friday, IRS officials said they did not know whether any administration officials at the White House or Treasury Department were aware of the practice.

During the election, several conservative groups cried foul over what they saw as undue pressure justify their tax-exempt status, accusing the IRS of sending arduous questionnaires seeking information about their members’ political activities.

The story that it was just a few low level employees didn’t last long.

Higher-level Internal Revenue Service officials took part in discussions as far back as August 2011 about targeting by lower-level tax agents of “Tea Party” and other conservative groups, according to documents reviewed by Reuters on Monday.

The documents show the offices of the IRS’s chief counsel and deputy commissioner for services and enforcement communicated about the targeting with lower-level officials on August 4, 2011, and March 8, 2012, respectively.

The two communications occurred weeks and months before Doug Shulman, then the commissioner of the IRS, told congressional panels in late March 2012 that no groups were being targeted for extra scrutiny by the tax agency.

The IRS has maintained that its senior leadership did not know for some time that lower-level agents were applying extra scrutiny to applications for tax-exempt status from groups with key words in their names, such as “Tea Party” and “Patriot.

The agency said in a statement on Monday that Steven Miller, who is now acting IRS commissioner, was first informed in early May 2012 that some groups seeking tax-exempt status had been “improperly identified by name” and subjected to extra scrutiny.

Late on Monday, Senate Finance Committee Republicans said Shulman was briefed on the targeting in May 2012, a date not previously disclosed. An aide said committee staff learned this on Monday from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), an independent IRS watchdog.

It keeps getting worse and worse. The Tea Party weren’t the only ones selected for special attention by the IRS.

The Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of conservative groups went beyond those with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names—as the agency admitted Friday—to also include ones worried about government spending, debt or taxes, and even ones that lobbied to “make America a better place to live,” according to new details of a government probe.

The investigation also revealed that a high-ranking IRS official knew as early as mid-2011 that conservative groups were being inappropriately targeted—nearly a year before then-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman told a congressional committee the agency wasn’t targeting conservative groups.

The new disclosures are likely to inflame a widening controversy over IRS handling of dozens of applications by tea-party, patriot and other conservative groups for tax-exempt status.

The details emerged from disclosures to congressional investigators by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The findings, which were reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, don’t make clear who came up with the idea to give extra scrutiny to the conservative groups.

The inspector general’s office has been conducting an audit of the IRS’s handling of the applications process and is expected to release a report this week. The audit follows complaints last year by numerous tea-party and other conservative groups that they had been singled out and subjected to excessive and inappropriate questioning. Many groups say they were asked for lists of their donors and other sensitive information.

On Sunday, a government official said the report will note that IRS officials told investigators that no one outside the IRS was involved in developing the criteria the agency now acknowledges were flawed.

In my opinion this is worse than the scandal regarding the Benghazi attacks last September 11. It is regrettable and unfortunate that four Americans lost their lives and an investigation is in order to determine what went wrong, but the worst that the Obama administration can be charged with there, is gross incompetence and negligence, and a coverup to ensure that the narrative that al-Qaeda was in retreat not be challenged. The issue with the IRS is the deliberate use of the federal government’s power to harass people and organizations opposed to the administration.

Is President Obama responsible for the questionable activities of the IRS? Probably not directly. Richard Nixon almost certainly neither knew of or authorized the break in at Watergate. He was still responsible for the scandal because the President sets the tone for his administration. The Nixon administration became one in which the suggestion that someone break into the Democratic National Committee headquarters and install listening devices was not instantly dismissed as illegal and insane, but was approved and acted upon. President Obama probably never suggested that the IRS should investigate Tea Party organizations, but the employees at the IRS must have suspected that such activity would be condoned by President, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun” and “punish our enemies in the voting booth“. Barack Obama has never seemed to be especially interested in getting along with his opponents. Perhaps it is a legacy of his days as a community organizer, but Obama seems to be more interested in destroying those who oppose his policies, which makes this whole affair all the more chilling.

 

 

The Second American Century?

May 12, 2013

One meme that has taken hold in the last decade or so is that the People’s Republic of China is poised to take over America’s role as the world’s leading nation. China’s economy has been growing at a fantastic rate and its GDP is expected to surpass America’s within ten years, probably sooner. Pundits have warned us that we are in danger of being left behind in the new Chinese Century, unless perhaps we adopt some of China’s authoritarian politics. Personally,  I have been rather skeptical of these claims. China has some serious structural problems that will need to be resolved soon or their economic growth will not be sustainable. Not least of these problems is a closed, authoritarian government that neither represents nor is accountable to the people of China. Until the Chinese government opens up and grants its people more freedom, China will not prosper.

With this in mind, I was very interested to read an article in the Telegraph that suggests that the Chinese miracle may be ending.

The world’s tallest tower should have been built by now. Officials said last year that the great edifice with 220 floors would be erected in three months flat in China’s inland city of Changsha by March, snatching the crown from Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

The deadline has come and gone, yet the wasteland sits untouched. It now looks as if the fin d’époque project – using prefab blocs – may never be approved. Even China knows its limits.

Prime minister Li Keqiang has asked the State Council to clamp down on the excesses of the regions. Not before time. A top regulator says local government finances are “out of control”.

Mr Li aims to cut China’s economic growth to a safe speed limit of 7pc next year and rein in rampant investment – still a world record 49pc of GDP – before it traps the country in a boom-bust dynamic of frightening scale.

Vested interests are conspiring to stop him, launching a counter-attack from their power-base in the $6 trillion state industries. Even so, uber-growth is surely over.

One of the problems of planned economies is that resources are distributed according to the whims of political leaders rather than being subject to the kind of transparency and accountability that a free market provides. Somehow the pundits who worship authoritarian regimes are blissfully unaware of the corruption and misallocation of resources that are endemic to such regimes. They also tend to be not very honest or efficient when collecting economic statistics.

Mr Li complained in a US diplomatic cable released on WikiLeaks that Chinese GDP statistics are “man-made”, confiding to a US diplomat that he tracked electricity use, rail cargo, and bank loans to gauge growth. For a while, analysts use electricity data as a proxy for GDP but the commissars kept a step ahead by ordering power utilities to fiddle the figures.

The National Bureau of Statistics has since revealed that data collected by the regions overstates GDP by 10pc, though they have not acted on the insight. It is well-known why this goes on. The reward system of the Communist hierarchy has been geared to talking up growth, and officials gain kudos by lowering the stated “energy intensity” of their zone.

China’s Development Research Council (DRC) expects growth to drop to 6pc by 2020. It could be much lower. The US Conference Board says it will average 3.7pc from 2019-2025 as the ageing crisis hits. Michael Pettis from Beijing University thinks it is likely to slow to 3pc to 4pc over the next decade, deeming this entirely desirable if it comes from taming the runaway state enterprises.

If so, China’s growth may not be much higher than the new consensus estimate of 3pc for a reborn America, powered by its energy boom and the revival of the chemical, steel, glass, and paper industries.

All those charts showing China’s economy surging past the US by 2030, or 2025, or even 2017, will look very credulous. China may not surpass the US this century.

This is not good news for either China or the United States. We do not lose if China becomes wealthy. We do not win if China collapses. Worldwide economic liberalization and the prosperity it brings is in our long term interests.

As of last year US GDP was roughly $15.7 trillion, compared to $8 trillion for China on a nominal exchange rate basis, the measure that matters for gauging economic power.

China’s output is 75pc of US levels on a purchasing power parity (PPP) basis but even on this measure the Chinese `sorpasso’ is looking less certain. Clyde Prestowitz, an arch US `declinist’ who has just thrown in the towel, says China may “never” catch the US on any relevant measure. That is a stretch, but not impossible on a forecastable horizon.

“Keep in mind the next time you are in China and find yourself choking on the foul air that the things making the air foul are counted as positives for GDP. If you adjust Chinese GDP for environmental degradation and for over-investment in things that will never be used, it falls in size by 30-50 per cent. Much of this would show up as non-performing loans in most economies but since such loans are never recognised in China, it will show up as slower growth in future years,” he said.

Environmental degradation is a serious problem in China. If they have anti-pollution laws, they are not being enforced.  China’s government seems to not care about the enormous costs in healthcare that the polluted environment will create. Meanwhile, while America has many problems, we seem to be doing quite well for a nation that is supposed to be in decline, despite the efforts of the current administration.

A new view is taking hold in elite circles that the banking crash in 2008 was a nasty shock for the US, but not a crippling blow to America’s creative enterprise. US governing institutions rose to the challenge. It was however a crippling blow to Europe, and a more subtle blow to China in all kinds of ways.

Richard Haass, president of the US Council of Foreign Relations, says the world may already be in the “second decade of another American century” without realising it.

On almost every key measure, including the fertility rate and high science, there is no credible challenger. Core US defence spending is still greater than that of the next 10 countries combined. “The American qualitative military edge will be around for a long, long time,” he said.

Mr Haass says America has managed its dominance in such a way that it has not brought about a containment alliance against it by threatened powers, and that is no small achievement. Like Wagner’s music, US diplomacy is better than it seems.

Yes, the US faces a debt hangover, but so does China after the state banks let rip with private loans keep the boom going through the downturn. Fitch Ratings has just downgraded China’s debt, warning that credit has jumped from 125pc to 200pc of GDP over the last four years, with mounting reliance on shadow banking that lets banks circumvent loan-to-deposit curbs. This is why George Soros has been warning that there could be a “run” on China’s state banking system akin to the Lehman bust.

Total credit has jumped from $9 trillion to $23 trillion in four years, an increase equal to the entire US banking system.

America has moved in the opposite direction. Its banks now have loan-to-deposit ratio of around 0.7, and the biggest safety buffers in three decades. The Congressional Budget Office says US Treasury debt held by the public has jumped from 40pc to 73pc. This is the sort of damage normally seen in wars, but the US has recovered from bigger wars before, and from much higher debt levels. The CBO thinks the budget deficit will fall to 2.4pc by 2015. Growth will then whittle away the debt ratio for a few years.

There seems to be some sort of ceiling for developing countries that stops rapid economic growth once they have reached a certain size. It is as if the transition from a rapidly growing economy to a mature economy that continues to grow but at a reduced rate is a difficult one to achieve.

China’s premier Li is fighting a battle against those in the Politburo who delude themselves that the Lehman crisis validates China’s top down control. He gave his “unwavering report” last year to a joint DRC and World Bank report on the dangers of the “middle income trap”.

Dozens of states in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East have hit an invisible ceiling over the last fifty years, languishing in the trap with per capita incomes far behind the rare “breakout” stars, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan. The trap is the norm.

The report warned that China’s 30-year miracle is nearing exhaustion. The low-hanging fruit of state-driven industrialisation and reliance on cheap exports has already been picked. Stagnation looms unless Beijing embraces the free market and relaxes its suffocating grip over the economy. “Innovation at the technology frontier is quite different in nature from catching up technologically. It is not something that can be achieved through government planning,” it said.

Demographics are going to be a serious problem for China. Because of the one child policy, China is undergoing the sort of demographic transition usually seen in more developed countries, such as in Europe. The problem is that Europe may be able to afford to care for its aging population (but then again, they may not), but China’s aging population is going to be a significant burden for China over the remainder of this century.

Even if Mr Li succeeds in pulling off this second economic revolution – and we should salute him for trying – China’s growth rate is going to slow drastically. Demography will see to that.

The work force began to contract in absolute numbers last year, falling by 3.5 million. The International Monetary Fund says it will now go into “precipitous” decline, and much earlier than thought.

If you are wondering why police are still seizing pregnant women in Chinese cities and delivering them to clinics for forced abortions when they cannot pay the fine for breaching the one-child policy, you are not alone.

The IMF says the reserve army of peasants looking for work peaked at around 150m in 2010. The surplus will evaporate soon after 2020, the so-called Lewis Point. A decade later China will face a shortage of almost 140m workers. “This will have far-reaching implications for both China and the rest of the world.”

China’s ageing crisis is tracking Japan’s tale with a 20-year delay. China can expect to see the same decline in “marginal productivity” that has afflicted every other facing a rise in the old-age dependency ratio.

The authorities can of course keep the game going if they wish with another burst of credit, but risks are rising and the potency of debt is wearing off. The extra output created by each yuan of lending has halved in four years. Mr Li knows the game is turning dangerous.

A 2010 book by People’s Army Colonel Liu Mingfu – “China Dream: Great Power Thinking and Strategic Posture in the Post-American Era” – is still selling like hot cakes in China. Yet it already has a dated feel, a throwback to peak hubris.

China has everything to play for. With skill and a blast of freedom, it can take its rightful place at the forefront of world affairs. But nothing is foreordained.

I can only add to this that a more democratic and responsive government would have ended the one child policy years ago. Freedom is what China needs most. Unfortunately, freedom is what the Communist Party is least likely to give it.

Francis’s New Saints

May 12, 2013

The new pope, Francis I, just canonized hundreds of new saints for the Roman Catholic Church, some of whom are martyrs. I found the story I read in the Associated Press interesting.

Pope Francis on Sunday gave the Catholic Church new saints, including hundreds of 15th-century martyrs who were beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam, as he led his first canonization ceremony Sunday in a packed St. Peter’s Square.

The “Martyrs of Otranto” were 813 Italians who were slain in the southern Italian city in 1480 for defying demands by Turkish invaders who overran the citadel to renounce Christianity.

Their approval for sainthood was decided upon by Francis’ predecessor, Benedict XVI, in a decree read at the ceremony in February where the former pontiff announced his retirement.

Christian martyrs are people who died rather than renounce the faith, unlike Islamic martyrs which are people who have murdered as many innocent infidels as possible. This is where the article gets a little interesting.

Shortly after his election in March, Francis called for more dialogue with Muslims, and it was unclear how the granting of sainthood to the martyrs would be received. Islam is a sensitive subject for the church, and Benedict stumbled significantly in his relations with the Muslim community.

I am not sure whether it is the Catholic Church that is at fault for any problems it may be having with the Muslim community. It seems to me that everything is a sensitive subject with the Muslim community. Why shouldn’t the Pope honor Catholics who refused to convert to Islam even when threatened with death? Christians are often called upon to apologize for acts done centuries ago. When is a Muslim authority going to apologize for atrocities such as the attack on Otranto, not to mention the centuries of aggressive warfare various Muslim states have waged against Christendom? Persecution of Christians isn’t something that only in the distant past, as Pope Francis noted.

Francis told the crowd that the martyrs are a source of inspiration, especially for “so many Christians, who, right in these times and in so many parts of the world, still suffer violence.” He prayed that they receive “the courage of loyalty and to respond to evil with good.”

The pope didn’t single out any country. But Christian churches have been attacked in Nigeria and Iraq, and Catholics in China loyal to the Vatican have been subject to harassment and sometimes jail over the last decades.

Christians in Saudi Arabia must worship out of the public eye because the ultraconservative kingdom does not officially permit churches and non-Muslim religious sites.

In fact, all over the Middle East, Christians are afraid for their lives and fleeing the lands dominated by the Religion of Peace.

The other new saints include a Mexican and a Columbian.

The first pontiff from South America also gave Colombia its first saint: a nun who toiled as a teacher and spiritual guide to indigenous people in the 20th century.

With Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos among the VIPS, the Argentine pope held out Laura of St. Catherine of Siena Montoya y Upegui as a potential source of inspiration to the country’s peace process, attempted after decades-long conflict between rebels and government forces.

Francis prayed that “Colombia’s beloved children continue to work for peace and just development of the country.”

He also canonized another Latin American woman. Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, a Mexican who dedicated herself to nursing the sick, helped Catholics avoid persecution during a government crackdown on the faith in the 1920s.

Also known as Mother Lupita, she hid the Guadalajara archbishop in an eye clinic for more than a year after fearful local Catholic families refused to shelter him.

Francis prayed that the new Mexican saint’s intercession could help the nation “eradicate all the violence and insecurity,” an apparent reference to years of bloodshed and other crime largely linked to powerful drug trafficking clans.

The pope also hailed the Mexican saint for renouncing a comfortable life to work with the sick and poor, even kneeling on the bare floor of the hospital before the patients to serve them with “tenderness and compassion.”

Mother Lupita’s example, said Francis, should encourage people not to “get wrapped up in themselves, their own problems, their own ideas, their own interests, but to go out and meet those who need attention, comprehension, help” and other assistance.

Francis noted that the crowd included participants in an anti-abortion march of several thousand people, who walked a few kilometers (miles) from the Colosseum, crossing a bridge over the Tiber river to end near the Vatican while Mass was being celebrated in St. Peter’s Square.

He drew attention to a signature-gathering drive in many Italian churches to push for a European initiative to “guarantee legal protection for embryos, protecting every human being from the first instant of existence.”

Vatican teaching forbids abortion.

I doubt if that petition will get anywhere in the European Union.

What Hawking is Supporting

May 9, 2013

By participating in an academic boycott of Israel in support of the Palestinians, Stephen Hawking is sending an implied message of support to the Palestinian leadership, which in the Gaza Strip is composed of the terrorist group Hamas. It might be worthwhile for Professor Hawking to learn more about what sort of people he is siding with. First up is a report from Israel National News.

Hamas is lobbying for a stricter enforcement of Islamic law in Gaza – including provisions to cut off the hands of thieves, and execution of individuals who cheat on their spouses. A report in the Al-Hayat daily newspaper said that Hamas expects the new regulations to take effect in the coming months, after introduction of the legislation in the PA parliament.

Existing laws mete out the death penalty to individuals convicted of murder, spying, homosexuality, or selling land to Jews. The new legislation will expand the crimes for which individuals can be executed to include disloyalty to a spouse – having sexual relations outside the context of marriage. Other provisions of the law include chopping off the right hand of a thief (along with at least a seven year jail sentence), and lashes for a large number of “crimes,” including drinking alcoholic beverages and gambling. All the punishments are derived from sharia, Islamic law.

In addition, girls age 15 will be able to decide to marry on their own, without requiring permission from their parents. Individuals age ten and over are considered adults under the new legislation, and are subject to the full force of the law for offenses.

Hamas has a large majority in the PA parliament, with 74 of the 134 parliamentarians belonging to the Islamist party. Many of them belong to the fundamentalist Salafist movement, and they are behind the push for the new laws. While there is opposition in Hamas to the passage of the legislation at this point, it is expected to easily pass. Once it does, the laws will be extant in both Gaza and Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, but it is not clear if they will be enforced there.

Selling land to Jews merits the death penalty. Who is the violator of human rights here? Next up is a report from ABC News.

A prominent Islamic scholar making a landmark visit to the Gaza Strip declared Thursday that Israel has no right to exist and voiced his support for rocket fire on Israel, giving a boost of legitimacy to the militant Islamist Hamas rulers of the Palestinian territory.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi is the latest of a few high profile figures visit Gaza, boosting the Hamas effort to break its international isolation. The U.S., EU and Israel brand Hamas a terror group, while the rival Fatah, which rules in the West Bank, enjoys Western backing.

Al-Qaradawi issued the strongest anti-Israel declarations of any of the visitors to date.

“This land has never once been a Jewish land. Palestine is for the Arab Islamic nation,” said al-Qaradawi, a Qatar-based cleric made famous by his popular TV show and widely respected in the Muslim world.

“The rockets made in Gaza are more powerful than the (Israeli) occupation’s rockets,” he added.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007 following several days of fighting against the rival Palestinian faction Fatah. Since then, Hamas militants have launched thousands of rockets into Israeli towns. Israel carried out two punishing military offensives, one in the winter of 2008-2009 and another late last year which killed the chief of the Hamas military wing.

Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, but imposes a maritime blockade and controls the flow of goods coming from Israel into the territory. Gaza’s Hamas rulers and their backers still refer to Israel as “the occupation,” referring to Israel’s control of the West Bank and reflecting a belief that the presence of a Jewish state in the Middle East is an illegitimate occupation.

The Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority, which governs in the West Bank, condemned al-Qaradawi’s visit, saying his presence is cementing the rift between the two Palestinian factions.

Fatah and Hamas have tried to reconcile their differences in recent years but failed. Western leaders have demanded that a unified Fatah-Hamas government must recognize Israel and agree to enter peace negotiations. Hamas has refused.

How do you make peace with people who will not concede you have a right to exist? Please note that while the Fatah faction is not so openly calling for the destruction of Israel, that is their goal too. The difference between the two factions is that the leadership of Fatah has enough sense to downplay their genocidal ambitions, at least before Western audiences.

And finally here is a report from Palestinian Media Watch.

wo senior Palestinian Authority officials praised the use of violence against Israel last week.

Senior PA official Sultan Abu Al-Einein expressed his open support for the murderer who killed Evyatar Borovsky, an Israeli who was stabbed to death by Palestinian terrorist Salam Al-Zaghal while he was waiting for a ride.

Abu Al-Einein, who was until recently an advisor holding the rank of minister to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and who was subsequently appointed Head of the Palestinian Council for NGO Affairs by Abbas, honored the murderer:

“We salute the heroic fighter, the self-sacrificing Salam Al-Zaghal.”

Abu Al-Einein also praised the murderer and his killing with the words:

“He insisted on defending his honor, so he went against the settler and killed him. Blessings to the breast that nursed Salam Al-Zaghal.”

The audience applauded and whistled at this statement.

Last week, Palestinian Media Watch reported that only hours after the murder, the administrator of Fatah’s official Facebook page glorified Al-Zaghal as a “hero.”

Another senior PA official, Jibril Rajoub, also praised the use of violence against Israel. During an interview on a Lebanese TV channel, the host referred to “the negotiations game” with Israel, and Rajoub expressed the view that negotiations are held because the Palestinians lack military strength:

“I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.”

Jibril Rajoub is the Deputy Secretary of the Fatah Central Committee and Chairman of the PA Olympic Committee. The interview was broadcast on the Lebanese Al-Mayadeen TV channel and also published on Rajoub’s Facebook page on May 2, 2013.

Senior PA officials often state that avoiding violent confrontation or war with Israel is only temporarily, due to the PA’s inability to take on such a conflict. They claim that negotiations with Israel are the right course of action for now, because conditions are not right for violence.

Mahmoud Abbas himself has also said on several occasions that if the Arab nations would begin a war against Israel, “Palestine” would join them.

The following is an excerpt of senior PA official Sultan Abu Al-Einein’s interview, in which he praises a murderer as a “heroic fighter”:

“Praise Allah who honored us and designated us to be in Ribat (religious war defending or liberating “Islamic” land) until Judgment Day, until the dawn of freedom and national independence will shine [on us]… On behalf of all those who fell as Martyrs or were wounded, we salute the heroic fighter, the self-sacrificing Salam Al-Zaghal from the Tulkarem District, whose honor and pride would not let him remain silent, consenting to the settlers’ aggression against him in his vehicle. He insisted on defending his honor, so he went against the settler and killed him. Blessings to the breast that nursed Salam Al-Zaghal.”
[Palestine Live TV, May 2, 2013]

The following is the translation of senior PA official Jibril Rajoub’s interview, in which he swears that the PA would use nuclear weapons against Israel, if it possessed them:

Lebanese TV host: “The American [John Kerry] came to the PA. They are talking about reviving negotiations, about getting back to the table with the Israelis… Will you go back to the negotiations game?”
Jibril Rajoub: “There is no going back to negotiations unless the source of authority is the international resolutions, with a time frame and with the freezing of all unilateral Israeli steps: Jerusalem, the fence, settlements and prisoners.”
Host: “You’ve heard Israel’s refusal.”
Jibril Rajoub: “That doesn’t matter. Listen. We as yet don’t have a nuke, but I swear that if we had a nuke, we’d have used it this very morning.”
It surely must be obvious to any disinterested observer that the Palestinians do not want peace with Israel. The only way that they will agree to peace with Israel is if they are convinced that they cannot win by violent means. When well meaning but idiotic Westerners support them and condemn Israel, the Palestinians are encouraged to believe that they will prevail. The Palestinians will never bargain in good faith if they think they can destroy Israel. By supporting an academic boycott of Israel, Stephen Hawking is encouraging terrorists to keep up their campaign of terror and is costing the lives of people on both sides of the struggle.
All of the above links came courtesy of Jihad Watch, a website Stephen Hawking ought to read. There is a lot more there.

 

Stephen Hawking is an Idiot

May 8, 2013

I do not care what his accomplishments in physics might be. By supporting a boycott of Israeli academics he is either woefully misinformed about the true situation in Palestine and thus an idiot, or he is a prize jackass. Here is the story in Yahoo News.

English: Professor Stephen Hawking in Cambridg...

Jackass (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

British physicist Stephen Hawking has dropped plans to attend a major international conference in Israel in June, citing his belief that he should respect a Palestinian call to boycott contacts with Israeli academics.

The University of Cambridge released a statement Wednesday indicating that Hawking had told the Israelis last week that he would not be attending “based on advice from Palestinian academics that he should respect the boycott.”

University officials said earlier in the day they had “previously understood” that Hawking’s decision was based solely on health concerns — he is 71 and has severe disabilities — but had now been told otherwise by Hawking’s office.

The decision means that one of the world’s most famous scientists has joined a boycott organized to protest Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. He is one of the most prominent figures to endorse the strategy, designed to bring pressure on the Israeli government.

The scientist had earlier agreed to attend the Israeli Presidential Conference, hosted by President Shimon Peres, in late June, but has now changed his mind. The theme of the meeting is “Facing Tomorrow 2013.”

Tim Holt, acting communications director at the University of Cambridge, said early in the day that Hawking’s decision was based strictly on health concerns. Hawking suffers from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“For health reasons, his doctors said he should not be flying at the moment so he’s decided not to attend,” said Holt. “He is 71 years old. He’s fine, but he has to be sensible about what he can do.”

The university later changed its position after consulting Hawking’s office. The change was made after Israeli officials insisted Hawking had cited the boycott when informing organizers that he would not attend.

The Israeli Presidential Conference, now in its fifth year, brings together statesmen and leading experts in various disciplines to discuss ways to address the world’s problems. The goal, organizers say, is to identify challenges and propose solutions.

Hawking’s endorsement of the boycott prompted an angry response from organizers. Conference Chairman Israel Maimon said Hawking’s decision was “unjustifiable and wrong.”

“The academic boycott against Israel is in our view outrageous and improper, certainly for someone for whom the spirit of liberty lies at the basis of his human and academic mission,” Maimon said, calling the imposition of a boycott incompatible with open, democratic dialogue.

He noted that former world leaders including Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and Tony Blair plan to attend the three-day meeting that begins on June 18.

The boycott campaign is led by Palestinians, Israeli leftists and other supporters who oppose Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians and are attuned to the power of celebrity in this age.

It has had some success, deterring a string of famous entertainers from performing. Elvis Costello and the Pixies canceled concerts, as well as the British dance band Klaxon and the Gorillaz Sound System. Israel has also faced occasional boycotts of its academics, unions and in some cases commercial products.

Hawking’s decision was hailed by the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine as support for its goal of severing academics’ connections with Israel.

“This is his independent decision to respect the boycott, based upon his knowledge of Palestine, and on the unanimous advice of his own academic contacts there,” the committee said on its website.

In 1967, Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem, territories the Palestinians seek for a state. Two decades of intermittent negotiations on the terms of such a state, in between bouts of violence, have failed to produce results. In the meantime, Israel has settled more than half a million of its citizens in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, while restricting Palestinian trade and movement.

Notice that the article says that Israel “captured” the West Bank, Gaza and east Jerusalem without bothering to mention that was after Israel’s neighbors Jordan, Syria and Egypt decided to attack and destroy Israel. They also fail to mention that Israel has offered many concessions to the Palestinians including 95% of what they wanted at the 2000 Camp David Summit, only to have the Palestinians reject the offer. It is very difficult to make peace with people who are determined to destroy you.

But, as for Hawking, he has decided to side with barbarians and terrorists against the only civilized and democratic state in the Middle East. Israel has more scientists and academics than all the rest of the Arab countries put together. I mean real scientists and not ignorant fools who are trying to harvest the power of Jinn. Israel has contributed more to human happiness than many larger countries have. I would be hard put to name any real discovery or accomplishment that the Muslim world has contributed in the last thousand years.

If it is a question about human rights, Hawking would do well to compare the situation of religious minorities in Israel, and even the situation in Palestine, with the worsening plight of ethnic and religious minorities everywhere else in the Middle East, not to mention the horrid treatment of women that prevails throughout the region.

This decision by Stephen Hawking is contemptible and ill thought out. I have lost most of any respect I might have had towards Hawking.

Related articles

Unicorns

May 8, 2013

I got another e-mail from Organizing for Action.

David —

If I said to you: “Unicorns exist, I totally just saw one galloping down the street,” most likely you’d give me a sad look and get on with your day.

But what if House Speaker Boehner and the chairman of the House Science Committee said they didn’t know if the science behind climate change was real. (Yeah. That actually happened.)

Now obviously, it doesn’t matter if I just make stuff up about unicorns. But it matters, and it matters a whole lot, that so many of our elected officials in Washington who represent us are denying science and using that denial to refuse to take action on climate change.

It’s actually dangerous — and it matters how we react.

Each and every day that congressional leaders hold on to their bizarre fantasy world, OFA is going to be there, not letting them get away with it.

Add your name and say you’re ready to hold climate deniers accountable.

We’re going to make them say it out loud — either double-down on their claims, or come to their senses. The National Academy of Sciences and more than 13,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers all confirm that the carbon pollution in our atmosphere today is causing dangerous climate change.

The sticky thing about the truth is that it’s the truth whether Congress likes it or not.

Unicorns don’t exist, climate change is real, and we said we weren’t going to let this go.

Sign here and help Congress get real:

http://my.barackobama.com/Hold-Climate-Deniers-Accountable

Thanks,

Ivan

Ivan Frishberg
Climate Campaign Manager
Organizing for Action

I wouldn’t necessarily dismiss out of hand an account of a unicorn viewing out. Although I have never seen a unicorn, that does not mean they don’t exist, although I have to admit the evidence that unicorns are real is slim. If a person who I know to be honest and not subject to hallucinations were to tell me that he saw a unicorn, I would believe that he either saw a real unicorn or something that resembled a unicorn until I found evidence to the contrary. On the other hand, if a person who has had a history of not being very honest or who has often made doomsday predictions that have never come to pass, than I would be more skeptical.

I do not believe that climate change is settled science. I am not a climate scientist, so it is not likely that I possess the information and training to determine that on my own. Nevertheless, I have observed that the people who have been pushing the climate change hypothesis have not acted in an honest or honorable fashion. There is the use of the word “denier” with the implied resemblance to Holocaust denial. This is not a scientific or logical argument. This is name calling. There is the rebranding of the name of the crisis. You never hear “global warming” any more. The expression now is “climate change”. Why is that? Could it be that the Earth has not warmed significantly in the past few decades? There are scientists who are apparently communicating with each other on the best means of manipulating data to obtain the desired results. Shouldn’t science be in the business of following where the data leads, even if it disproves a cherished hypothesis? What is carbon pollution? Carbon dioxide is a naturally occurring component of the Earth’s atmosphere. Every animal exhales carbon dioxide as a waste product of respiration.

Then there is the fact that for most of my life I have been told that an environmental catastrophe is just around the corner unless drastic action, which somehow always seems to involve an expansion of government into everyone’s personal lives, is begun right now! There is no time to debate! We have to act! And yet, the catastrophe never comes. How many times do we have to listen to the boy who cried “Wolf!” before we stop listening to him?

It would be better if Ivan Frishberg stuck to believing in unicorns. Believing in unicorns would do a lot less damage.

 


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