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The Lighthouse®

The Lighthouse® is the weekly email newsletter of the Independent Institute.
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Volume 11, Issue 51: December 21, 2009

  1. Will Climate Science Wars Heat Up or Cool Down?
  2. Another Illusory Job “Stimulus” Package
  3. Obama’s Nobel Prize Speech
  4. Death in Juarez
  5. This Week in The Beacon

1) Will Climate Science Wars Heat Up or Cool Down?

Climate alarmists are standing on increasingly shaky ground, at least in terms of science, according to atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer. The UN World Meteorological Organization set the tone of the climate conference in Copenhagen by releasing a statement claiming that temperatures in the past decade were the highest in the 160 years for which we have instrumental data. The implication is that human activity is to blame.

This inference, Singer argues, is false: it confuses temperatures (measured in degrees Celsius) with temperature trends (measured in degrees Celsius per year). Although temperatures are at their highest since the end of the Little Ice Age in the 1700s, temperature trends are heading downward, despite increases of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. “This negative correlation contradicts the results of the models that IPCC relies on and indicates that anthropogenic global warming is quite small,” writes Singer, an Independent Institute research fellow.

The Copenhagen conference resulted in a non-binding agreement, allowing participants to claim partial victory without committing their countries to a reduction of CO2 emissions. One wonders whether they were hedging their bets in anticipation of events similar to the email revelations of Climategate, which, according to Singer, show how the IPCC peer-review process had been manipulated. If the IPCC cannot live up to its mandate to assess science in a comprehensive, objective, open, and transparent manner, what will happen at future climate conferences? How will climate-change activists adapt? One possibility may be a growing tendency to downplay climate science in favor of green theology—a set of assumptions and values examined in detail in Robert H. Nelson’s new book, The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion versus Environmental Religion in Contemporary America.

“Climate Skeptic: We Are Winning the Science Battle,” by S. Fred Singer (Reuters, 12/14/09)

Just published! Buy your copy of The New Holy Wars: Economic Religion vs. Environmental Religion in Contemporary America by Robert H. Nelson at the Independent Institute online store today.


2) Another Illusory Job “Stimulus” Package

President Obama proposes spending $50 billion of the $200 billion of TARP surplus money to create additional jobs. He could have returned the money to taxpayers or used it to reduce the federal debt. Instead, he seeks another job “stimulus” package that, by its nature, can be only temporary and illusory, according to Independent Institute Senior Fellow William F. Shughart II. Take, for example, Obama’s proposal to use some of the surplus to finance tax credits for companies that hire new employees. What will happen to the companies’ employees when the tax credits expire?

“A business guided by the profit motive rationally will fire people they would not have otherwise hired when the [tax credit] expires, as it must eventually do,” Shughart writes. “And tax credits affect employers’ incentives counterproductively. Why not fire a current employee now and rehire the same person later to take advantage of the proposed tax credit?” Companies can also attempt to game such a program by cutting their employees’ hours in order to create full-time job vacancies eligible for tax credits.

Moreover, Obama’s proposal is illusory because the government has no resources of its own by which to create a net increase of productive jobs. To finance its spending, government can only collect taxes (thereby draining resources from private hands), borrow money (thereby creating a burden for future taxpayers), or print money (thereby diluting the dollar’s value). “Job creation is something that can happen only in the private sector,” writes Shughart.

“President Plans Another (Misguided) Stimulus Rush,” by William F. Shugart II (San Francisco Examiner, 12/21/09)

Taxing Choice: The Predatory Politics of Fiscal Discrimination, edited by William F. Shughart II

Out of Work: Unemployment and Government in Twentieth-Century America, by Richard K. Vedder and Lowell E. Gallaway


3) Obama’s Nobel Prize Speech

Barack Obama’s acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize came on the heels of his announcement that he will send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan. Obama cannot be faulted for winning the prize, but he can be blamed for embarking on a troop surge that is unlikely to serve U.S. security interests, according to Ivan Eland, director of the Independent Institute’s Center on Peace & Liberty.

In his latest op-ed, Eland writes: “Instead of prosecuting a war of occupation to fight the Afghan Taliban and putting pressure on the Pakistani government to suppress militants—both of which drive the Taliban into the arms of al-Qaeda—the U.S. should astutely withdraw from Afghanistan and instead try to drive a wedge between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”

Research Fellow Laurie L. Calhoun examines Obama’s speech and takes issue with his “just war” rhetoric. It’s a non sequitur to argue that the U.S. troop surge in Afghanistan is justified because the United States has in the past fought “just wars” (not that Calhoun necessarily supports just-war theory). Calhoun also criticizes the acceptance of “collateral damage” as morally innocuous. The greatest irony in this issue, she writes, “is that the monsters that both and Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein became were created by the United States through the provision of, yes, military aid, rationalized, again, by ‘just war’-speak conjoined with the tired refrain, ‘We defeated the Nazis, didn’t we?’”

“Obama’s Peace Prize Continues Tradition of Dubious Choices,” by Ivan Eland (12/16/09)

“Barack Obama’s Doublespeak ‘Peace’ Speech,” by Laurie L. Calhoun (12/18/09)

“Michael Walzer on Just War Theory’s ‘Critical Edge’: More Like a Spoon Than a Knife,” by Laurie L. Calhoun (The Independent Review, Winter 2006)

The Empire Has No Clothes: U.S. Foreign Policy Exposed, by Ivan Eland


4) Death in Juarez

Once a boomtown driven by foreign assembly plants, Juarez, Mexico, has become part ghost town—one quarter of its population has fled—and part war zone—2,300 people were killed this year. Some call it the world’s most dangerous city, and it’s easy to see why. “Even the façade of the morgue is riddled with bullets,” writes Independent Institute Senior Alvaro Vargas Llosa, who just returned from a fact-finding trip to Mexico.

Why has Juraez become so deadly? One theory blames the Mexican government’s war against a few drug cartels for reshuffling alliances and sparking violence between rival criminal gangs—the Sinaloa cartel versus the Juarez cartel, for example, and the La Familia versus the Beltran-Leyva cartel. Murders related to the drug trade are now common in many parts of Mexico, especially in the north.

“The general opinion in Juarez,” Vargas Llosa continues, “is that the government was unprepared for the consequences of its policy and that the failure to anticipate the ripple effects on the balance of power among the various regional mafias unintentionally turned what could have been an emblem of a vibrant cross-cultural border city into Baghdad without the U.S. Army.”

“The City that Went to Hell,” by Alvaro Vargas Llosa (12/16/09)

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

Lessons from the Poor: The Triumph of the Entrepreneurial Spirit, edited by Alvaro Vargas Llosa

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


5) This Week in The Beacon

Visit the Independent Institute’s Spanish-language blog, El Independent. Below are the past week’s offerings from our English-language blog, The Beacon.

“Waste, Fraud, and Abuse in U.S. Contracts in Afghanistan,” by Robert Higgs (12/20/09)

“‘Yes, Mr. President’: Clunkers, not Kids,” by Jonathan Bean (12/20/09)

“See No Evil: Obama and Iran,” by Jonathan Bean (12/19/09)

“Is Scandal Inevitable When Scientists Become Activists?” by Jonathan Bean (12/19/09)

“Medicare’s Refusal of Medical Claims Continues to Outpace Private Rate,” by Mary Theroux (12/17/09)

“Would a Health Insurance Mandate Help?” by Randall Holcombe (12/17/09)

“Higgs Is Just a Pessimist,” by Robert Higgs (12/16/09)

“Another $50 Billion Stimulus Rush?” by William Shughart (12/16/09)

“U.S. Government Should Take a Lesson from Dubai: Leave Venture Capital to Capitalists,” by Mary Theroux (12/15/09)

“Three Views on Profit,” by Randall Holcombe (12/15/09)

“New Dealers for the Second Amendment,” by David Beito (12/15/09)


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