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The Lighthouse is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 9, Issue 45: November 5, 2007

  1. Creating Democracy Abroad—How Exactly?
  2. Undeterred by Their High Costs, Housing Commission Pushes for Below-Market Mandates
  3. Che Guevara Corpse Hoax Bolsters Castro’s Propaganda Machine
  4. Greenhouse Models Don’t Match the Climate Record

1) Creating Democracy Abroad—How Exactly?

Spreading democracy has been a central goal of U.S. foreign policy in recent years, and the results have been mixed. This is unsurprising for several reasons, not least of which is that the growing scholarly literature on democratic nation building has offered little in the way of concrete and reliable methods, according to James Payne, who will discuss the challenges of nation building at “New Directions in Peace and Security,” a panel discussion at the Independent Institute, in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, November 6.

“In any case, what the scholars know or don’t know would make very little difference, because they aren’t the ones who carry out nation building in the field,” writes Payne in a new op-ed based on a chapter he contributed to Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism. “The actual job has been in the hands of government officials, usually military officers. And as they themselves often admit, when it comes to nation building, they are flying by the seat of their pants.”

After the U.S. invasion of Panama, for example, the commander in charge of ensuring democracy, Lt. Col. John T. Fishel, was given no guidelines to work from. So he simply gave support to elected President Guillermo Endara—until Endara’s increasingly heavy-handed rule cost him the 1994 election. Similarly, two months after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Lt. Gen. William Wallace admitted, “We’re making this up here as we go along.” Such a cavalier approach would not be tolerated in most trades and professions, notes Payne.

“Do We Know How to Create Democracy Abroad?”, by James Payne (11/5/07)

“New Directions in Peace and Security,” featuring James Payne, Jeffrey Hummel, Edward Stringham, and Carl Close, the Independent Institute, Oakland, Calif., Nov. 6, 7:00 p.m.

Opposing the Crusader State: Alternatives to Global Interventionism, edited by Robert Higgs and Carl P. Close

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2) Undeterred by Their High Costs, Housing Commission Pushes for Below-Market Mandates

After months of public hearings and deliberation, an Oakland, Calif., “blue ribbon” housing commission has issued recommendations urging the city to adopt below-market-housing mandates. That’s not surprising until you read the fine print: the independent consultant hired by the commission said the mandates would raise the price of new housing units that are exempt from the mandates by $6,900 to $17,000 per unit during the measure’s first two years, and by $12,400 to $51,700 per unit thereafter.

“Because builders pay the cost of providing the subsidized units, they must spread those costs over the remaining market-rate units,” writes Independent Institute Research Fellow Benjamin Powell—a former member of the commission who was its only economist. Powell said the commission’s recommendations, which he urges city officials to reject, also include a 1.5 percent tax on new home sales, amounting to about $7,500.

Apparently, the mandates’ zealous advocates hoped that the consultant’s cost estimates would be overlooked by the city’s policymakers: the costs estimates were buried in a technical appendix to the report, and the commission’s final report was never shown to the full commission. Continues Powell: “The consultant found that the ordinance would disproportionately discourage low-rise town homes, condominiums and row houses in East and West Oakland—in other words, the most affordable housing.”

“Affordability Disaster Wrapped in Blue Ribbon,” by Benjamin Powell (Oakland Tribune, 11/1/07)

Also see:

“Inclusionary Zoning Makes Housing Less Affordable,” by Benjamin Powell and Edward Stringham (San Francisco Business Times, 11/22/2004)

Those who want to learn more about the high cost of housing regulations should consider attending “Recovering from Smart Growth,” a conference organized by the American Dream Coalition, to be held Nov. 10-12, 2007 in San Jose, Calif. Among the participants will be Independent Institute Research Fellow Edward Stringham, co-author of the forthcoming policy report, “Below-market Housing Mandates as Takings: Measuring their Impact.” Other topics include transportation, land use, property rights, and “smart growth” urban planning.

“Recovering from Smart Growth” Conference Website.

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3) Che Guevara Corpse Hoax Bolsters Castro’s Propaganda Machine

Forty years after his assassination in the jungles of Bolivia, Che Guevara returned to the spotlight a few months ago. This time, however, the fuss wasn’t about his execution of hundreds of political prisoners in Cuba or his advocacy of violent revolution. Instead it was over his corpse. To commemorate his death, thousands have flocked to the Che Guevara mausoleum in central Cuba, where government officials have claimed his remains have been held since 1997. But according to a much talked-about investigation by French journalist Bertrand de la Grange, Cuba’s leaders know full well that Guevara’s remains are still in Bolivia. Guevara’s fake corpse, it seems, does a great job in stirring up pro-Castro sentiment.

“Guevara’s false body reminds us that totalitarian power is built on the abolition of historical truth and the psychological manipulation of its citizens,” writes Independent Institute Senior Fellow Alvaro Vargas Llosa, in a column about the investigative reporter’s discovery. “There is something at once terrifying and fascinating about the fact that this act of propaganda was concocted by scores of scientists, diplomats and jurists perfectly willing to make a mockery of their professions in order to deliver a story that one man, Fidel Castro, ordered them to deliver—and that they knew to be a colossal lie.”

Several lines of evidence support the case that Cuba’s Che corpse is a phony, according to De la Grange, who published his findings in Spain’s El Pais newspaper. According to witnesses, Che was buried naked in a separate grave, but the body recovered a decade ago was found clothed and in a mass grave. Also, the forensic report on the exhumed body is grossly inconsistent with the autopsy done on Che Guevara’s body shortly after his death. Not only are bone fractures and teeth different, the 1997 report had no mention of Che’s missing hand, which had been amputated to provide fingerprints.

“The Myth of Che Guevara’s Corpse,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (10/31/07) Spanish Translation

The Che Guevara Myth and the Future of Liberty, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

Liberty for Latin America: How to Undo Five Hundred Years of State Oppression, by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

El Independent—the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language website and blog

Don’t miss Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s chapter on Latin America progress in the forthcoming (late November) book, Making Poor Nations Rich: Entrepreneurship and the Process of Development, edited by Benjamin Powell (co-published by Stanford University Press and the Independent Institute).

Pre-order Making Poor Nations Rich before the Christmas rush!

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4) Greenhouse Models Don’t Match the Climate Record

Al Gore’s and the IPCC’s shared Nobel Peace Prize will help keep global warming in the public eye. It may even calm some rattled nerves if it spurs climate alarmists to compare the results of greenhouse computer models with the actual climate record. That’s because the temperature record has not been nearly as dramatic as the greenhouse models would suggest, according to atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer, the former Director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service.

Why the discrepancy between the computer models and the climate record?

“The answer lies in the Earth’s atmosphere,” writes Singer, a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, in a recent op-ed for the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “Along with carbon dioxide, the atmosphere contains water vapor, the most powerful greenhouse gas of all. All the climate models calculate a significant ‘positive feedback’ from water vapor—meaning that water vapor amplifies the effect of carbon dioxide increases. The evidence appears to show the opposite: that the water-vapor feedback is negative, reducing the effect of increased carbon dioxide.”

Singer notes that several factors besides greenhouse gasses influence the climate and that the geological record shows a 1,500-year cycle of warming and cooling going back more than a million years. Temperatures have risen over the past 30 years but have held steady for the past eight years—which shows that climate variation is more complicated than most people realize.

“Inconveniently, Climate Alarmists Are Wrong,” by S. Fred Singer (St. Paul Pioneer Press, 10/29/07)

Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate, by S. Fred Singer (The Independent Institute)

More by S. Fred Singer

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