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Climate Science: No Dissent Allowed

Cato Op-Eds - Wed, 05/14/2014 - 16:26

Patrick J. Michaels and Paul C. "Chip" Knappenberger

Global Science Report is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”

Award-winning climate modeler experiences “a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy”

An interesting juxtaposition of items appeared in our Inbox today.

First was an announcement that Dr. Lennart Bengtsson, former director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, had resigned from the Academic Advisory Council of the U.K.’s Global Warming Policy Foundation. What was surprising about this announcement was that it was just announced a week or so ago that Dr. Bengtsson—a prominent and leading climate modeler and research scientist—was joining the GWPF Council. At that time, there was some wondering aloud as to why Dr. Bengtsson would join an organization that was somewhat “skeptical” when it comes to the projections and impacts of climate change and the effectiveness and direction of climate change policy.

During one recent interview Dr. Bengtsson explained:

I think the climate community shall be more critical and spend more time to understand what they are doing instead of presenting endless and often superficial results and to do this with a critical mind. I do not believe that the IPCC machinery is what is best for science in the long term. We are still in a situation where our knowledge is insufficient and climate models are not good enough. What we need is more basic research freely organized and driven by leading scientists without time pressure to deliver and only deliver when they believe the result is good and solid enough. It is not for scientists to determine what society should do. In order for society to make sensible decisions in complex issues it is essential to have input from different areas and from different individuals. The whole concept behind IPCC is basically wrong.

A good summary of the buzz that surrounded Dr. Bengtsson and his association with GWPF is contained over at Judith Curry’s website, Climate Etc.

So why did Dr. Bengtsson suddenly resign? 

Here is the content of his resignation letter, written to GWPF Academic Advisory Council Chairman, Dr. David Henderson:

Dear Professor Henderson,

I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety. I see therefore no other way out therefore than resigning from GWPF. I had not expect[ed] such an enormous world-wide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life. Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc.

I see no limit and end to what will happen. It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy. I would never have expect[ed] anything similar in such an original peaceful community as meteorology. Apparently it has been transformed in recent years.

[glad you noticed!—eds]

Under these [sic] situation I will be unable to contribute positively to the work of GWPF and consequently therefore I believe it is the best for me to reverse my decision to join its Board at the earliest possible time.

With my best regards

Lennart Bengtsson

This letter is stunning in its candor and shows that that all the conspiring and bullying that the was on full display in the Climategate email release continues unabashedly today. 

Aside from a bit of personal embarrassment from particularly bad behavior, by and large the climate science establishment just shrugged its shoulders at the Climategate revelations with a “Yeah, so what?”  That’s a fitting response as they seek to control the scientific discourse when it comes to climate change. Group pressure is an effective means of doing so.

What Climategate taught the bully cohort of scientists was they could continue to bully their colleagues, sabotage their publications, and intimidate journal editors with impunity.  As evidenced from Dr. Bengtsson’s resignation letter, if it has changed at all, the situation in climate science is worse now than it was before the emails were leaked.

Which leads to this email that we got today from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS):

Anyone thinking that there is an open flow of ideas in climate science is 100 percent wrong.

Categories: Policy Institutes

Will Congress Allow Hawaii to Expand Racial Discrimination?

Cato Op-Eds - Wed, 05/14/2014 - 15:06

Ilya Shapiro

I’ve written before about the curious and recurring desire of some Hawaiians to treat other Hawaiians differently based on the quantum of “native Hawaiian” blood they have coursing through their veins. In 2005, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a scathing report saying that Hawaii was “in a league by itself” regarding racial discrimination by government entities. Yet again and again, advocates for race-based government and tax treatment seek to push their divisive policies into the most racially integrated state of the union.

The latest such development comes to us in the form of a seemingly technocratic Senate bill, S.1352, the “Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Reauthorization Act,” which was introduced last July and has slowly been making its way through the relevant committees. One particular provision of this dry legislation, when cross-referenced to the underlying law that it reauthorizes, is relevant to the racial shenanigans in the Aloha State. As Hans von Spakovsky describes:

S.1352 has a seemingly innocuous provision, Section 503, which simply re-authorizes the Native Hawaiian Home-Ownership Act through 2018.  You have to dig into the existing federal law to find out that, under 25 U.S.C. §4223(d), Hawaii is exempt from the nondiscrimination requirements of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Fair Housing Act when it is distributing federal housing funds made available by the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to “Native Hawaiians” or “a Native Hawaiian family.”

This exemption means the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands can discriminate in favor of “Native Hawaiians” and a “Native Hawaiian family” and against others such as whites, blacks, Hispanics and Asians. In other words, the federal government is authorizing Hawaii (and providing it with taxpayer funds) to engage in blatant discrimination by providing government benefits for some of its residents and denying federally funded benefits to others based solely on their ancestry and “blood quantum.”

Advocates of these sorts of eyebrow-raising policies point to the fact that American law contains separate provisions regarding Native Americans – note the title of the bill where the troublesome Hawaiian provision appears – which regularly exempt tribal sovereigns from various federal laws. But such analogies misconstrue both the history and legal status of peoples who predate the United States.

The Constitution’s Indian law exception is controversial enough, but it was created by the document itself, arising as a unique historical compromise with pre-constitutional realities. Once the Constitution was ratified, no government organized under it could exempt some states (or some people) from the Constitution as it sees fit. Official racial discrimination is facially disallowed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. While nobody disputes that Native Hawaiians are an ethnic group – the Supreme Court even recognized this fact in a 2000 case, Rice v. Cayetano, that struck down racial restrictions on voting for trustees of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) – Congress can’t pass a law giving them rights denied other Americans.

And Hawaiians simply aren’t American Indians in the constitutional sense. The term “Indian tribes” has a fixed meaning, limited to preexisting North American tribes that were “dependent nations” at the time of the Founding. Such tribes, to benefit from Indian law, must have an independent existence and “community” apart from the rest of American society, and their separate government structure must have a continuous history for at least the past century. By these standards, Native Hawaiians don’t qualify.

As one federal court (three judges appointed by Democratic presidents, including the notoriously liberal Stephen Reinhardt) put it nearly a decade ago, “the history of indigenous Hawaiians … is fundamentally different from that of indigenous groups and federally recognized Indian Tribes in the continental United States.” The United States seized tribal lands and persecuted their inhabitants, while Hawaiians overwhelmingly voted to become a state. 

Even if Congress could create from whole cloth the equivalent of an Indian tribe, there’s no good reason to label racial or ethnic groups as distinct legal entities solely because they have unique cultural traits or were once victims of oppression or discrimination. Otherwise, what’s to stop African or Jewish or Catholic or Chinese Americans from demanding their own racial carve-outs?

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act (enacted July 2, 1964), we should ensure that its protections against government racism extend to the farthest corners of the country, including its tropical-paradise state. This isn’t a parochial island issue but one that affects how the law treats all Americans.

Categories: Policy Institutes

Thailand’s Reverse Revolution: Angry Elites Target Democracy

Cato Op-Eds - Wed, 05/14/2014 - 10:07

Doug Bandow

Thailand continues its slow motion political implosion.  The prime minister has been ousted and a new election has been scheduled for July 20, but the latter will settle nothing unless traditional ruling elites are willing to accept a government run by their opponents.  If not, the country risks a violent explosion. 

Bangkok’s politics long leaned authoritarian.  However, in 2001 telecommunications executive Thaksin Shinawatra campaigned as a populist, winning the votes of Thailand’s neglected rural poor to become prime minister. 

Instead of figuring out how to better appeal to the popular majority, his opponents organized the so-called People’s Alliance for Democracy which launched protests to topple his government.  The military ousted the traveling Thaksin in 2006 and tried him in absentia for alleged corruption.  The generals then rewrote the constitution and called new elections.

However, Thaksin’s successor party won a plurality and dominated the resulting coalition.  Thaksin’s opponents then launched a wave of demonstrations and the courts ousted the prime minister on dubious grounds. 

When so-called Red Shirt Thaksin supporters flooded into Bangkok to protest the de facto coup, Democrat Party Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s government, backed by the military, killed scores and injured thousands of demonstrators, and imprisoned numerous opposition leaders. 

Then Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister, and her Pheu Thai party won an absolute majority in the 2011 election.  So PAD morphed into the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), led by former DP deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, one of those responsible for the 2010 killings.  Channeling Benito Mussolini and his infamous Black Shirts, Suthep organized mobs to drive her from office and called on the military to stage a coup.

In response, Prime Minister Yingluck called new elections, further angering the opposition which knew it would lose.  Suthep’s forces blocked many Thais from voting in February.  His attacks left enough constituencies unfilled to prevent the new parliament from taking office. 

Then, in March, the opposition-controlled Constitutional Court invalidated the entire election because the government’s opponents had prevented Thais from voting.  Yingluck remained caretaker prime minister with only limited power to govern.  Now the Constitutional Court has ousted her over the attempted reassignment of a government official.  Suthep and his allies hope to install a compliant unelected prime minister.

But leaders of the United Front for Democracy, or Red Shirts, promised to respond violently to any judicial coup.  In the past, the widely respected king was able to transcend party factions, but he is aged and largely disengaged while other members of the court back Suthep.

As I point out in my new article on National Interest online:  “Thaksin has been justifiably criticized, but his opponents generate more heat than light.  For instance, his corruption conviction, in absentia by a compliant court under a military regime, proves little.  One can criticize Thaksin’s populist approach, but political parties around the world commonly adopt a “tax and tax, spend and spend” election strategy.” 

Suthep denounced Yingluck as a tool of her brother, but many Thais supported her because they believe she represents his views.  Ultimately, Suthep and his supporters are most interested in gaining power for themselves. 

So far Thailand’s generals have demonstrated no interest in taking control again. The only real solution can come from the political process. 

For instance, a Thaksin family withdrawal from politics would help ease political tensions.  However, that would be more likely if he did not fear, with good cause, being targeted by his enemies.  It is even more essential to exclude those who have been employing violence for their own political ends, most notably Suthep and Abhisit.

Constitutional reform also might ease social conflict.  Reducing the central government’s reach and devolving authority to provinces would reduce the winner-take-all character of Thai politics. 

Putative authoritarians like Suthep most risk plunging Thai society into violence.  Establishment elites must pull their country back from the brink.

Categories: Policy Institutes

The Limitations of State-Level Marijuana Legalizations

Cato Op-Eds - Wed, 05/14/2014 - 08:56

Jeffrey Miron

Vox has a nice piece on the difficulties faced by Colorado marijuana businesses due to the continued Federal prohibition of marijuana:

Even after legalization, it’s still very difficult — and potentially dangerous — to operate a marijuana business in Colorado.

The big problem: pot shops and producers still can’t work with banks, which see marijuana as too risky of a business due to federal prohibition. This is true in Colorado, where state law says marijuana is legal but federal law says it’s not.

This means marijuana businesses can’t take conventional loans, and they have to operate with only cash. And although several levels of government have tried to address the issue, they’ve had no success so far.

None of this is surprising, but it emphasizes that true legalization requires repeal of the federal ban. State-level legalizations are valuable, partly because they put pressure on the feds, but they are not enough.  Remember that during Prohibition, many states (including New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania) never banned alcohol, yet the federal prohibition did substantial harm, including in those states.

Categories: Policy Institutes

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