Saturday, June 23, 2012

Executive Privilege

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Obama’s Green Energy Fiasco

An opinion column by Charles Lane in the Washington Post:
The Washington Post In blackjack, doubling down is a high-risk, high-reward move. If you think you can win, based on the first two cards dealt, you bet 100 percent more — but you also pay for the privilege by agreeing to take one, and only one, additional card.

Doubling down is also the semi-official metaphor of President Obama’s energy strategy, as we know from his speech in Cleveland last week: “My plan would end the government subsidies to oil companies that have rarely been more profitable — let’s double down on a clean-energy industry that has never been more promising.”

Blackjack pros like doubling down; it’s a chance to profit from newly acquired relevant information. Whether that logic applies to the U.S. government’s energy bets, however, is a different story. What we’ve learned so far suggests that the president should fold his cards.

U.S. energy subsidies — spending, tax breaks, loan guarantees — increased from $17.9 billion in fiscal 2007 to $37.2 billion in fiscal 2010, according to the Energy Department. Yet fossil fuels’ overwhelming market advantages have produced a litany of clean-energy failures, from electric cars to Solyndra.

The subsidies ostensibly address several issues — dependence on foreign oil, job creation, international economic competitiveness and environmental degradation — but without clear priorities, much less rigorous cost-benefit analysis. Unintended consequences and political influence abound.

The best-laid plans are vulnerable to unforeseen market developments — such as the boom in oil and natural gas “fracking” over the past decade, which Obama has now embraced.

To the extent that it’s coherent at all, the federal energy “portfolio” represents a return to industrial policy — governmental selection of economic winners — which was fashionable in the 1970s and 1980s, before it collapsed under the weight of its intellectual and practical contradictions.

As such, current clean-energy programs are no likelier to pay off than President Jimmy Carter’s Synthetic Fuels Corp., which blew $9 billion, or President George W. Bush’s $1.2 billion program for hydrogen vehicles.

This isn’t just my opinion or the finding of some right-wing think tank. Rather, all of the above comes from a new paper by three certifiably centrist Brookings Institution scholars, Adele Morris, Pietro S. Nivola and Charles L. Schultze; Schultze was a senior economic adviser to Presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter.

The researchers pick apart clean-energy subsidies rationale by rationale.

Like his predecessors of both parties, Obama argues that the subsidies can help reduce dependence on foreign oil. But even with 100 percent self-sufficiency, we would be vulnerable to price shocks in the global market for this fungible commodity. Many technologies favored by current policy — wind, solar, geothermal — replace coal and natural gas, in which the United States is already self-sufficient.

Obama also cites the need to compete with other countries in developing the energy industries “of the future.” The Brookings scholars argue that higher living standards depend on growing productivity, not the global market share of U.S. industries. Their authority for this is Nobel Prize economist Paul Krugman’s 1994 essay in Foreign Affairs, “Competitiveness: A Dangerous Obsession.”

Having China or someone else develop clean-energy technology might be to U.S. advantage; let them pay the inevitable start-up costs; then we can adapt the discoveries to our own needs.

Heck, if we want to reduce the most emissions at the least cost, it might be wise to import the means of doing so.

As for job creation, clean-energy subsidies shift demand for labor; they don’t increase it. “I’m not aware of a single peer-reviewed economic study that shows these programs create jobs in the long run, and on a net basis,” Morris told me. Solyndra and its 1,861 vanished jobs proves her point. Fracking probably created more permanent positions.

Reducing carbon emissions and other environmental goals represent the best rationale for government intervention in the energy market. Market prices for fossil fuels do not capture all costs of consuming them. Also, the private sector underinvests in basic research that might, someday, lead to new commercially viable energy sources.

Higher gas taxes or a tax on carbon could efficiently limit pollution, if those steps weren’t politically toxic. Basic research funding is, indeed, part of Obama’s strategy, but it should be more focused and insulated from politics, the Brookings scholars argue.

If government does double down on clean energy, it’s the federal budget that will end up busted.

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Stupidity at the United Nations: Supporting the Occupy Movement

Yes, the organization that is powerless to prevent real attacks on human rights has taken up a bogus cause:
United Nations officials are using American taxpayers’ money, which subsidizes UN operations, to put their noses into the treatment of Occupy Wall Street protesters in various cities across the United States.

In a letter written to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by Frank La Rue, UN special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, and Maina Kiai, UN special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the UN officials demanded an explanation of “the behavior of police departments that violently disbanded some Occupy protests last fall.”

The letter, sent in December 2011, was publicly released last week in connection with the 20th annual United Nations Human Rights Council meeting. It complained of “forced removal” by law enforcement officials in various cities, including New York, Portland, Seattle, Denver and Oakland, of “unwilling protesters from the public areas in which they were located.” The letter theorized that the primary reason for the “forced removal” was “related to their dissenting views, criticisms of economic policies, and their legitimate work in the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Innocent civilians are being massacred every day in places like Syria and Sudan, which the UN is helpless to prevent. Yet these special rapporteurs focus their attention instead on an internal domestic matter that is none of their business — how local law enforcement officials in the United States decide to deal with lawless behavior. Moreover, the allegations they cite are way off the mark. The police across our country dealt with the utmost patience and restraint against increasingly criminal and violent elements that were taking over the Occupy Wall Street movement. Not to mention having to deal with the public nuisance and public health problems caused by unsanitary conditions in the “public areas” where the occupiers encamped, which were encroaching on the rights of residents and businesses in the affected areas.

Let’s take New York City, for example. Protesters began to “occupy” the quasi-public Zuccotti Park on September 17, 2011. The park is technically privately owned but is dedicated to public use. The police did not immediately intervene, declaring that it was up to the owner, Brookfield Office Properties, to make and implement rules for the park’s use. A spokesperson for Brookfield expressed concern, but in fact the park owner took no steps at first to evict the occupiers from the park:
Zuccotti Park is intended for the use and enjoyment of the general public for passive recreation. We are extremely concerned with the conditions that have been created by those currently occupying the park and are actively working with the City of New York to address these conditions and restore the park to its intended purpose.
On October 6, 2011, Brookfield issued a statement which said, “Sanitation is a growing concern… the park has not been cleaned since Friday, September 16th and as a result, sanitary conditions have reached unacceptable levels.” Nevertheless, despite plenty of provocations by the occupiers against the police who were trying to keep the peace in the area, the occupiers were still permitted to stay put.

During the month that followed, Zuccotti Park, which the occupiers had taken over completely with large tents and the like, became a breeding ground of crime, including alleged rapes and other assaults. The New York occupiers shared such lawless behavior in common with their comrades in other cities across the country. Finally, in the early morning of November 15, 2011 – nearly two months after the occupation had started — the police moved in to clear out the occupiers from Zuccotti Park. The action was meant to halt the increasingly dangerous around-the-clock occupation of the park that prevented other members of the public from using it for recreational purposes. However, the occupiers were not barred from returning without their tents and sleeping bags to make their views known through peaceful demonstrations.

During the month that followed, Zuccotti Park, which the occupiers had taken over completely with large tents and the like, became a breeding ground of crime, including alleged rapes and other assaults. The New York occupiers shared such lawless behavior in common with their comrades in other cities across the country. Finally, in the early morning of November 15, 2011 – nearly two months after the occupation had started — the police moved in to clear out the occupiers from Zuccotti Park. The action was meant to halt the increasingly dangerous around-the-clock occupation of the park that prevented other members of the public from using it for recreational purposes. However, the occupiers were not barred from returning without their tents and sleeping bags to make their views known through peaceful demonstrations.

Here is how New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg explained why his patience with the occupiers had run out:
Unfortunately, the park was becoming a place where people came not to protest, but rather to break laws, and in some cases, to harm others. The majority of protesters have been peaceful and responsible. But an unfortunate minority has not been – and as the number of protesters has grown, this has created an intolerable situation. Protesters have had two months to occupy the park with tents and sleeping bags. Now they will have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.
As usual, the United Nations has butt in where it does not belong. Moreover, while saying in their letter to Secretary of State Clinton that they were not prejudging the accuracy of the information they received indicating a violation of the occupiers’ rights, the UN special rapporteurs repeated over and over again the occupiers’ false accusations. They focused their letter on allegations that the police used disproportionate, unnecessary action and even violence to disperse or remove “peaceful” protesters, without even once acknowledging the possibility that some of the so-called “peaceful” protesters were infringing on other peoples’ rights and committing criminal acts.

The UN special rapporteurs do not understand what they were supposedly appointed to protect. Of course, that should be no surprise considering that they are reporting to the misnamed travesty known as the United Nations Human Rights Council. Freedom of speech and freedom of assembly do not mean that one group of demonstrators can completely take over, with permanent encampments, a space dedicated to public use and turn it into their own private law-free zone to do what they like, excluding other members of the public from using the space for other legitimate purposes.

The UN special rapporteurs’ nonsensical letter does not deserve a reply from the U.S. government other than to tell them to get their facts straight and mind their own business.
The leftie Huffington Post confirms this report, while (of course) taking a much more favorable view of the U.N. action.

This, of course, highlights the folly of Barack Obama’s obsession with working through multi-national bodies. Sometimes, doing that can be prudent. But often, such bodies are corrupt (the U.N. Human Rights Council), and sometimes they are motivated by things that are adverse to the interests of the U.S. (the EU). Either way, they lack moral authority, and the U.S. president has no obligation to sacrifice U.S. interests to a bunch of foreigners.

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Friday, June 08, 2012

Where the Nanny State is Headed

Hitler Reacts to Wisconsin Recall

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Trayvon Martin Prosecutor Tries to Silence Critic

We have blogged about how Harvard Law School professor Alan M. Dershowitz criticized the prosecution of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin.

Now it seems that the prosecutor Dershowitz criticized, one Angela Corey, has tried to get Dershowitz silenced. From Front Page Magazine:
State Attorney Angela Corey, the prosecutor in the George Zimmerman case, recently called the Dean of Harvard Law School to complain about my criticism of some of her actions. She was transferred to the Office of Communications and proceeded to engage in a 40 minute rant, during which she threatened to sue Harvard Law School, to try to get me disciplined by the Bar Association and to file charges against me for libel and slander.

She said that because I work for Harvard and am identified as a professor she had the right to sue Harvard. When the communications official explained to her that I have a right to express my opinion as “a matter of academic freedom,” and that Harvard has no control over what I say, she did not seem to understand. She persisted in her nonstop whining, claiming that she is prohibited from responding to my attacks by the rules of professional responsibility—without mentioning that she has repeatedly held her own press conferences and made public statements throughout her career.

Her beef was that I criticized her for filing a misleading affidavit that willfully omitted all information about the injuries Zimmerman had sustained during the “struggle” it described. She denied that she had any obligation to include in the affidavit truthful material that was favorable to the defense. She insisted that she is entitled to submit what, in effect, were half truths in an affidavit of probable cause, so long as she subsequently provides the defense with exculpatory evidence. She should go back to law school, where she will learn that it is never appropriate to submit an affidavit that contains a half truth, because a half truth is regarded by the law as a lie, and anyone who submits an affidavit swears to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Before she submitted the probable cause affidavit, Corey was fully aware that Zimmerman had sustained serious injuries to the front and back of his head. The affidavit said that her investigators “reviewed” reports, statements and “photographs” that purportedly “detail[ed] the following.” It then went on to describe “the struggle,” but it deliberately omitted all references to Zimmerman’s injuries which were clearly visible in the photographs she and her investigators reviewed. That is Hamlet without the Prince! The judge deciding whether there is probable cause to charge the defendant with second degree murder should not have been kept in the dark about physical evidence that is so critical to determining whether a homicide occurred, and if so, a homicide of what degree. By omitting this crucial evidence, Corey deliberately misled the court.

Corey seems to believe that our criminal justice system is like a poker game in which the prosecution is entitled to show its cards only after the judge has decided to charge the defendant with second degree murder. That’s not the way the system is supposed to work and that’s not the way prosecutors are supposed to act. That a prosecutor would hide behind the claim that she did not have an obligation to tell the whole truth until after the judge ruled on probable cause displays a kind of gamesmanship in which prosecutors should not engage.

The prisons, both in Florida and throughout the United States, are filled with felons who submitted sworn statements that contained misleading half truths. Corey herself has probably prosecuted such cases.

Ironically, Corey has now succeeded in putting Zimmerman back in prison for a comparably misleading omission in his testimony. His failure to disclose money received from a PayPal account requesting donations for his legal defense made his testimony misleadingly incomplete. In her motion to revoke his bail, Corey argued that Zimmerman “intentionally deceived the court” by making “false representations.” The same can be said about Prosecutor Corey. She too misled and deceived the court by submitting an affidavit that relied on a review of photographs and other reports that showed injuries to Zimmerman, without disclosing the existence of these highly relevant injuries.

Even if Angela Corey’s actions were debatable, which I believe they were not, I certainly have the right, as a professor who has taught and practiced criminal law nearly 50 years, to express a contrary view. The idea that a prosecutor would threaten to sue someone who disagrees with her for libel and slander, to sue the university for which he works, and to try to get him disbarred, is the epitome of unprofessionalism. Fortunately, truth is a defense to such charges.

I will continue to criticize prosecutors when their actions warrant criticism, to praise them when their actions deserve praise, and to comment on ongoing cases in the court of public opinion. If Angela Corey doesn’t like the way freedom of expression operates in the United States, there are plenty of countries where truthful criticism of prosecutors and other government officials result in disbarment, defamation suits and even criminal charges. We do not want to become such a country.
Of course, Dershowitz’ right to speak freely is not in danger. Not only will Harvard refuse to sanction him in any way, a Supreme Court decision called Sullivan makes it extremely hard for a “public figure” to sue for libel. Angela Corey is most certainly a “public figure.” Further, even without Sullivan, telling the truth is an absolute defense against a libel suit. And what Dershowitz wrote is true.

But this incident tells us a lot about Angela Corey. If she is so lacking in respect for the free speech rights of Alan Dershowitz, how concerned will she be about the rights of George Zimmerman.

If she is so cavalier about the law surrounding free expression, how respectful is she about the civil liberties of suspects?

And if she is so petty that she tries to silence a critic like Dershowitz, how likely is it that the prosecution of Zimmerman will be driven by personal pettiness and ego, rather than legal professionalism?

Eventually, the evidence in the Trayvon Martin case will be tested in court. But the criminal justice system can impose a lot of pain on people who are ultimately acquitted, and this is especially likely when there is a renegade prosecutor.

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Jon Stewart on Wisconsin Recall

Monday, June 04, 2012

Anti-Walker Rant from Congresswoman Gwen Moore

OK, it’s painful to watch.

This does have a Marquette connection. Not only is Gwen Moore a Marquette alum, she was honored by Marquette’s Les Aspin Center. She is one of several pro-abortion politicians to be so honored.

Watch it here.

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Marquette Student in Focus Group on Hannity Tonight

Marquette student Alexa Porter will be in a focus group, led by Frank Luntz, on the Sean Hannity show tonight during the 8:00 p.m. hour.

Hannity, of course, is on Fox News.

The focus group, in Madison, will involve about 25 people discussing the Wisconsin recall election.

We’ll most certainly be watching.

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Saturday, June 02, 2012

Public Sector Unions