Saturday, May 16, 2009

Energy deal clubs Obama tax hopes

Most carbon permits to be free

By Tom LoBianco, The Washington Times, Saturday, May 16, 2009

House Democrats touted a weakened global-warming package Friday, releasing a compromise plan that undercuts President Obama's hopes to raise nearly $650 billion from the climate bill to pay for middle-class tax cuts.

Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who have been locked in debate over how to tax carbon-dioxide emissions while protecting American industries, said Friday that their revised plan would give away 85 percent of the plan's carbon permits for free. [full article]


This is bill is worse than no bill
I depart from many of my conservative brethren in that I accept the majority opinion of the scientific community that global warming is a reality. This is not a position I came to easily. I started out a skeptic. (If you are interested you can read this post: My Conversion on Global Warming.)

The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that global warming is real and is caused by human activity. If I accept that global warming is real then I must also conclude that we must try to do something about it. While I opposed Obama’s candidacy and did not support him for president, I was nevertheless hopeful that he would address the issue of global warming. I was disappointed that George W. Bush and a Republican Congress had ignored it.

If President Obama allows this proposed bill to pass, he will be just as irresponsible as was the previous administration. A revenue-neutral carbon tax would be a much more efficient way to reduce green house gases. Unfortunately, a carbon tax has not gaining traction. In theory, a cap and trade system could have the same effect as a carbon tax, although less efficient and covering less sectors of the economy than a carbon tax. The reason cap and trade could have the same affect as a carbon tax is that it is in effect a hidden tax on carbon. Cap and Trade can only be effective if, like a carbon tax, it imposes a penalty on those who emit carbon and by comparison makes non-carbon-emitting energy less costly.

If credits are given away instead of sold, there is no cost to emitting carbon and no incentive to stop emitting carbon until some distant point in the future if ever. Giving away the credits completely destroys the purpose of having a system of cap and trade in the first place. If we don’t do it right we might as well not do it. If Congress passes this bill then the environmentalist will be off their back and everyone can be happy and can congratulate each other for addressing global warming and then ignore the issue. Passage of this bill will take the issue off the table and lull the public into complacency.

Even where cap and trade was structured with fewer give-away credits, it has been a failure. Countries with caps have failed to meet their carbon cap goals and the carbon credit system has been tainted by scandal. (See: The Great Carbon Bazaar) Even when on paper cap and trade has appeared to reduce carbon output, in reality it has often simply shifted emissions from European countries to Asian countries and the total carbon emissions have not really decreased.

This bill is not a bad bill because it does not raise revenue; it is a bad bill because it will not reduce carbon emissions. I hope Obama rejects this bill and tells Congress to present him with a bill that will actually do something.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

White House calls End to War on Drugs

When you have been fighting and losing a war for over 40 years and it still looks like you are no closer to winning, it might be time to sue for peace. That is what the Obama Administration is doing. Below is a report from the Wall Street Journal:

White House Czar Calls for End to 'War on Drugs'
WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration's new drug czar says he wants to banish the idea that the U.S. is fighting "a war on drugs," a move that would underscore a shift favoring treatment over incarceration in trying to reduce illicit drug use.

In his first interview since being confirmed to head the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske said Wednesday the bellicose analogy was a barrier to dealing with the nation's drug issues.

"Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," he said. "We're not at war with people in this country." [
full article]

The article goes on to say that the Obama administration has called for a change in policy that would end the discrepancy between how powder cocaine and crack cocaine are handled and also says that the federal government will no longer raid medical marijuana facilities in those 13 states where medical marijuana had been made legal.

The new Drug Czar Gil Kerlikowske said that he does not support efforts to legalize drugs but favors a change in policy that would emphasize treatment rather than arrest and punishment of users. This is an encouraging development and is a good first step. I hope the administration goes much further.

The governments policy toward marijuana in particular makes absolutely no sense. For far too long many people have had their lives damaged, not by marijuana but by a policy that criminalizes a harmless activity. People lose their right to parental visitation or custody of their children, they lose their job, they lose their college scholarships, and they go to jail for simply smoking a little dope.

Casual use of marijuana is much less damaging to society than alcohol. I think marijuana may actually be good for society. If some of the people who drink alcohol switched to pot, we would probably see fewer violent brawls, less domestic violence and fewer fatal car wrecks. Some uptight people might be less uptight and more pleasant if they occasionally got stoned. I suspect the world might actually be a better place if more people got high every once in a while.

I think we should have an immediately end to federal pot prohibition and let each state decide the issue. I would hope that the several states would then end state prohibitions. Using pot should not be a crime and neither should pot users be considered to have a “drug problem.” While I would much rather see people forced into drug treatment rather than sent to jail, requiring treatment is also hypocrisy. Casual users of marijuana do not have a “drug problem.” They just have a preference for a recreational drug that is less dangerous than the society-approved recreational drug alcohol.

I think procession of small quantities or growing small quantities of marijuana for your own use should be legal much like brewing your own beer is legal. I think dealers should be licensed and taxed. The government at all levels loses a lot of money because this large segment of the economy is not taxed. If marijuana was distributed much the way alcohol and tobacco are distributed the criminal element would be driven out of business, much the same way that ending alcohol prohibition drives out bootleggers. Also, with commercial distribution of marijuana the consumer would benefit by having quality control. The consumer could expect honest weights and measures and proper labeling. I can see the day when shopping for pot could be like shopping for wine. I can imagine a weekly pot review article in the Tennessean. It should happen.

While I would not want to see an immediate legalization of all dangerous drugs, I think we should deemphasize prosecution of users of these hard drugs. For the more dangerous drugs, I think we primarily need to educate people to the dangers and then realize that sometimes free people make poor choices. Just the way that some people now abuse alcohol or people make poor financial decisions, we must accept that some people will get strung out on drugs. Help should be available for those with a drug problem who want help, but putting people in prison is not the help they need. Drug treatment would be less costly and more humane than imprisonment.

I suspect that if we end the crack down on the supply of drugs, the price would fall. Those with a real addiction would not commit armed robbery to feed their habit if drugs were less costly and less profitable and we would not enrich Mexican and Colombian drug lords. We might even deny the Taliban a major source of funding

While I have been a critic of the Obama Administration on many issues, I applaud them for this change in policy. It is past time to end the “War on Drugs.”

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Socialism, a definition

Since socialism, by definition, is the control of production by the government, and since government, by definition, is that institution in a society which enjoys a legal monopoly on the initiation of force and violence, it follows that socialism, by definition, is the control of production by that institution in a society which enjoys a legal monopoly on the initiation of force and violence.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bill Clinton’s rendition to torture

Rendition is the practice of turning terrorist suspects over to countries, such as Egypt or Saudi Arabia, where they can be tortured. We are not talking about enhanced interrogation techniques with well-defined limits that might cross a fine line and be considered torture; we are talking about real, no-limits, brutal torture. By using rendition, the U.S. can have suspects tortured without having to worry about violating Constitutional due process.

Many people find this practice abhorrent. So do I. The U.S. should not be in the business of shipping people off to where torture is practiced. President George W. Bush has been criticized for allowing rendition. But, where were the Bush critics of rendition when it started? President Clinton began the practice, during peacetime. A February 2005, New Yorker article, Out Sourcing Torture, confirms this:

Not long ago, [former CIA counter-terrorism expert Michael] Scheuer, who lives in northern Virginia, spoke openly for the first time about how he and several other top C.I.A. officials set up the program [rendition], in the mid-nineties. “It was begun in desperation, ” he told me. At the time, he was the head of the C.I.A.’s Islamic-militant unit, whose job was to “detect, disrupt, and dismantle” terrorist operations. His unit spent much of 1996 studying how Al Qaeda operated; by the next year, Scheuer said, its mission was to try to capture bin Laden and his associates. He recalled, “We went to the White House” – which was then occupied by the Clinton Administration – “and they said, ‘Do it.’ ” He added that Richard Clarke, who was in charge of counter-terrorism for the National Security Council, offered no advice. “He told me, ‘Figure it out by yourselves,’ ” Scheuer said. [full article]

Liberals activist organizations are pressuring the Obama administration and Congress to investigate the Bush administrations use of torture and other aspects of the War on Terror. They would like nothing better than to indict Bush for war crimes. If Bush is guilty of war crimes; Clinton is guilty and Clinton’s war crimes occurred in a time of peace. If we are going to start investigating America’s past sins, don’t stop at Bush.

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