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Copenhagen Consensus

Global Warming is one of the biggest threats to the world, right? Wrong!

Bjorn Lomborg and friends tried to prioritize the problems of the world in the Copenhagen Consensus. Global warming ranked at the bottom. What was at the top? Vitamins and free trade.

It's amazing the kind of returns there are from free trade.

The benefits of freer trade were estimated in a paper presented by Professors Kym Anderson and Alan Winters. They found that a successful Doha Round could generate up to $113 trillion in new wealth during the 21st century, at a cost of $420 billion or less from inefficient industries going bust. If you like ratios, that's a return of $269 for every $1 of cost. A less conservative projection puts the gains three times higher. More than 80% of this global windfall would go to the world's poorest countries.

The other war

The US killed one of the top Al Qaeda guys.

Abu Laith al-Libi, a wanted al Qaeda terrorist, was killed in Pakistan by a CIA airstrike, three U.S. officials told CNN Thursday.

Al-Libi was described as a senior al Qaeda leader believed to have plotted and executed attacks against U.S. and coalition forces, including a February 2007 bombing at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan during a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney.

But not all news is good.

The Taliban is now setting off more bombs — including one in Kabul's fanciest hotel on January 14 that killed eight people — and fueling its insurgency with profits from the opium trade. (Last year, the country produced 93% of the world's supply.) The declining security situation saw foreign investment in Afghanistan fall by 50% last year.

The Taliban is also killing more Americans: From 2002 to 2004, an average of one U.S. soldier was killed per week in Afghanistan; by 2007, that figure had more than doubled. Indeed, nearly 500 U.S. troops have perished in America's "forgotten war." Despite the presence of 50,000 foreign troops, including 28,000 Americans, arrayed against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has just ordered another 3,200 Marines into the fight. And the reluctance of other NATO members to send additional troops is threatening the future of the alliance. "Make no mistake, NATO is not winning in Afghanistan," said a study by the Atlantic Council released Wednesday. "Unless this reality is understood, and action is taken promptly, the future of Afghanistan is bleak, with regional and global impact."

It's hard for me to get a read on exactly how well the US's efforts in Afghanistan are going. 

Let freedom ring and wake Bill Clinton up

2007 Tea Party

Looks like Ron Paul raised some money this weekend:

Called a "Money Bomb," the goal was to raise as much money as possible on the Internet in one day. The campaign’s previous fundraiser brought in $4.2 million.

At midnight EST, donations were over $6 million, according to the campaign Web site. Those donations are processed credit card receipts, said Paul campaign spokesman Jesse Benton.

Race to the bottom in tax policy

From Instapundit, Eastern Europe knows where it's at.

Why don't we see more of this?  Is this a trend or just a couple of data points?  What does the future hold?

Eco-terrorism comes to the burbs

Watch out Hummer owners, there are eco-terrorists on the loose!

On a narrow, leafy street in Northwest Washington, where Prius hybrid cars and Volvos are the norm, one man bought a flashy gray Hummer that was too massive to fit in his garage.

So he parked the seven-foot-tall behemoth on the street in front of his house and smiled politely when his eco-friendly neighbors looked on in disapproval at his "dream car."

It lasted five days on the street before two masked men took a bat to every window, a knife to each 38-inch tire and scratched into the body: "FOR THE ENVIRON."

I don't know about you guys, but I know a couple of people who become absolutely enraged at the mere thought of Hummers.

Caption the pic

"Somedays, I just love being heir to the throne"

Fatboy Slim

Mexican Carlos Slim is now the world's richest man.

Everyone knows Mexico is a corrupt country.  But does that mean Slim is a bad guy?  What if you rise to the top of a corrupt system playing by the same rules everyone else does?  Would you have done any different? 

Not stirring the pot at all

24 of 67 golfers in the 2007 US Women's Open Championship to qualify are from South Korea. Additionally, Americans Jennie Lee, In-Bee Park, and Jane Park are of Korean background, as is Michelle Wie, who didn't make the cut. There's also an "Angela Park" from Brazil, but I don't know her background.

The MVPs of the last 3 NBA seasons have been white.

Jessica Alba:

Alba is my last name and I'm proud of that. But that's it. My grandparents were born in California, the same as my parents, and though I may be proud of my last name, I'm American. Throughout my whole life, I've never felt connected to one particular race or heritage, nor did I feel accepted by any. If you break it down, I'm less Latina than Cameron Diaz, whose father is Cuban. But people don't call her Latina because she's blonde.


I've got cousins galore. Mexicans just spread all their seeds. And the women just pop them out." My grandfather was the only Mexican at his college, the only Hispanic person at work and the only one at the all-white country club. He tried to forget his Mexican roots, because he never wanted his kids to be made to feel different in America. He and my grandmother didn't speak Spanish to their children. Now, as a third-generation American, I feel as if I have finally cut loose.

My whole life, when I was growing up, not one race has ever accepted me, ... So I never felt connected or attached to any race specifically. I had a very American upbringing, I feel American, and I don't speak Spanish. So, to say that I'm a Latin actress, OK, but it's not fitting; it would be insincere.

My grandfather was the only one in our family to go to college. He made a choice not to speak Spanish in the house. He didn't want his kids to be different.

[Before] I always felt like such an outcast and now I feel like people are more diverse ethnically. I was always self conscience of my puffy lips and darker skin when I was a kid, because I felt like I didn't fit in. And now its mainstream, and color isn't as big of a deal and if anything its better.

Arnold Schwarzenegger thinks the best way to learn English is to immerse in it totally.

"You've got to turn off the Spanish television set" and stay away from Spanish-language television, books and newspapers, the Republican governor said Wednesday night at the annual convention of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. "You're just forced to speak English, and that just makes you learn the language faster."

Schwarzenegger, who immigrated to the U.S. from Austria, was responding to a question about how Hispanic students can improve academic performance. The audience included many journalists who work for Spanish-language media outlets.

"I know this sounds odd and this is the politically incorrect thing to say and I'm going to get myself in trouble," he said. "But I know that when I came to this country, I very rarely spoke German to anyone."

Iraq and the national psyche

We've talked on here before (specifically sourcreamus's posts) about how the lack of complete success in Iraq might effect not just Iraq, but the US long term. There was an editorial piece in yesterday's LA Times on this very topic by Christopher J. Fettweis.

The consequences for the national psyche are likely to be profound, throwing American politics into a downward spiral of bitter recriminations the likes of which it has not seen in a generation. It will be a wedge that politicians will exploit for their benefit, proving yet again that politics is the eternal enemy of strategy. The Vietnam syndrome divided this country for decades; the Iraq syndrome will be no different.

The battle for interpretation has already begun, with fingers of blame pointed in all directions in hastily written memoirs. The war's supporters have staked out their position quite clearly: Attacking Iraq was strategically sound but operationally flawed. Key decisions on troop levels, de-Baathification, the disbanding of the Iraqi army and the like doomed what otherwise would have been a glorious war.

The American people seem to understand, however — and historians will certainly agree — that the war itself was a catastrophic mistake. It was a faulty grand strategy, not poor implementation. The Bush administration was operating under an international political illusion, one that is further discredited with every car bombing of a crowded Baghdad marketplace and every Iraqi doctor who packs up his family and flees his country.

I disagree with the author on a few points. First, the Iraq War was not lost. Iraq nation-building is what we lost. The Vietnam War itself was lost. We didn't even get to the nation building in Vietnam. This is a vital distinction because psyches are much more prone to depression in response to battle losses, whether they be wars, football games, or workplace politics. Americans will easily get over Iraq, though they'll be reluctant to do something similar in the coming decades, because they didn't lose the War. They won the War.

It's a lot easier to accept the loss in nation-building because it's a lot less dependent on what we did, and what we might have done differently, and much more on what Iraqis did once Saddam was gone. We'll learn the lesson about nation-building for the future, but it won't hurt our psyches.

Fettweis then tailspins into a worst-case disaster scenario, except he makes it sound like the likely outcome.

Iraq has the potential to be far worse. One of the oft-expressed worst-case scenarios for Iraq — a repeat of Lebanon in the 1980s — may no longer be within reach. Lebanon's simmering civil war eventually burned itself out and left a coherent, albeit weak, state in its ashes. Iraq could soon more closely resemble Somalia in the 1990s, an utterly collapsed, uncontrollable, lawless, failed state that destabilizes the most vital region in the world.

Geez, get a grip! This paragraph reminds me of a particular Flash animation I saw prior to the start of the War in May 2003. It was a map of the Middle East with various icons and figures denoting armies and artillery, Risk style, showing the pessimistic scenario of what could happen in the region once activites started. It started out innocuously enough, but then veered into improbability after improbability. Everything that could go wrong did and every uninvolved country got involved. It ended in a nuclear holocaust.

Sure, Iraq could end up like Somalia, but conceivably, so could any other country in the region. The region is and has been "destabilized" for decades. The failed nation-building effort isn't going to change that, nor will it lead to collapse into barbarism.

These kids these days

Here's an article nostalgic about the "good old days" when children could be children.

When I was a kid in upstate New York in the 1960s we were forever turning up missing after school. We could sometimes be hard to find at dinnertime, and my mother had a loud bell that she rang on the front porch to summon me. Depending on the season, my friends and I played baseball and football, or ice-skated on a nearby lake. A snowstorm meant that school was closed and an entire day was devoted to building snow caves and snowmen (snowpersons nowadays?), and to sledding ("sleighriding" in upstate-speak), which included more snow shovel excavation projects, such as the engineering of "jumps." And in the warm months there were games of "Kick-the-can," "Army," and "Cowboys and Indians."

We used to play Cowboys and Indians on bicycles and with BB guns. The game itself draws PC frowns today, but the fact that we were actually shooting at each other with Daisy BB guns would surely elicit horror from the contemporary gun control crowd.

Is childhood really different today, or are parents simply more afraid to let kids be kids?

Obama's "injecting" again

He's wants to tax the rich to pay for the poor.

Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama on Tuesday offered a plan to provide health care to millions of Americans and more affordable medical insurance, financed in part by tax increases on the wealthy.

Bemoaning a health care "cost crisis," Obama said it was unacceptable that 47 million in the country are uninsured while others are struggling to pay their medical bills. He said the time is ripe for reforming the health care system despite an inability to do so in the past, most notably when rival Hillary Rodham Clinton pursued major changes during her husband's presidency.

"We can do this," Obama said in a speech in Iowa City at the University of Iowa's medical school. "The climate is far different than it was the last time we tried this in the early nineties."

Obama's plan retains the private insurance system but injects additional money to pay for expanding coverage. Those who can't afford coverage would get a subsidy on a sliding scale depending on their income, and virtually all businesses would have to share in the cost of coverage for their workers.

Obama didn't mention that his plan would cost the federal treasury an estimated $50 billion to $65 billion a year once fully implemented. That information was provided in a memo written by three outside experts and distributed by the campaign after his speech.

Ah, so that's what's been missing: injection! Why, I bet we could inject more money into everything - the War, NASA, my pocket... In fact, why use this indirect method at all? We should just inject more money directly into the veins of the poor!

No Vegans in Foxholes

From the New York Times:

WHEN Crown Shakur died of starvation, he was 6 weeks old and weighed 3.5 pounds. His vegan parents, who fed him mainly soy milk and apple juice, were convicted in Atlanta recently of murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty.

This particular calamity — at least the third such conviction of vegan parents in four years — may be largely due to ignorance. But it should prompt frank discussion about nutrition.

I was once a vegan. But well before I became pregnant, I concluded that a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.

Indigenous cuisines offer clues about what humans, naturally omnivorous, need to survive, reproduce and grow: traditional vegetarian diets, as in India, invariably include dairy and eggs for complete protein, essential fats and vitamins. There are no vegan societies for a simple reason: a vegan diet is not adequate in the long run.

Is God Angry?

AP reports:

LYNCHBURG, Va. (AP) - The Rev. Jerry Falwell, who founded the Moral Majority and built the religious right into a political force, died Tuesday shortly after being found unconscious in his office at Liberty University, a school executive said. He was 73.

Newt '08

Hints of running:

Newt Gingrich for president? It could happen.

In an interview with Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America," the former Republican speaker of the House said there was a "great possibility" that he would run for president.

He will make that decision sometime in the fall. Sawyer noted that previously Gingrich had only said he was "thinking about" a run for president.

"You said you'll make a decision at the end of the September,{is it} more likely, less likely this morning? Sawyer asked Gingrich.

"I think right now, it is a great possibility," Gingrich said.

"A great possibility you'll run? Sawyer asked. But Gingrich declined to elaborate.

"I don't want to get into all this stuff," Gingrich said. "I want to focus on what we have to do to make America successsful."

Newt Gingrich, despite the spotlight on Clinton, was the most charismatic politician of the 1990s. He was the heart of a small-government political movement that today no longer exists. I doubt he has any political capital left, but with his personality and charisma, he could make the next election very interesting.

"We're in this virtually irrational process," he said. "It's exactly wrong as a way of choosing a national leader."

Newt? Or Bryan Caplan?

Typical of his independent spirit, he thinks Bush was wrong about Iraq:

Polls show that the Iraq War is a big undertow for Republicans. Gingrich said as far back as 2003 that Bush had "gone off a cliff" with the Iraq War. Gingrich believes the United States should get out of Iraq as soon as possible.

"I think we have to turn over policing responsibility for the Iraqis as rapidly as possible," he said. "Pull our troops out as rapidly as possible."