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Opaque is the new transparency.  White House expands use of search-blocking code

The White House has silently tripled the number of Web pages that it forbids Google and other search engines from accessing.

Those bloggers drunk on hope who desperately wanted to see proof of Obama’s commitment to his campaign promises of transparency and Google Government now find themselves with a difficult choice: they can either accept and acknowledge that robots.txt files are not a set of digital tea leaves through which you can read the new administration, or, if robots.txt does carry weight, they can try to come up with a way of explaining a 200 percent increase in the number of directories blocked by Obama’s Web team as anything but Cheney-esque secrecy.

As for the president’s commitment to transparency, he has already violated his pledge to post all nonemergency bills on the Whitehouse.gov Web site for five days before signing them. The text of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which was signed into law yesterday, was certainly not posted to Whitehouse.gov for anywhere near five days.

Expiration date exceeded.

JammieWearingFool remarks

Can’t have those nasty searches of the White House web sites now, can we? There has already been so many instances of the Obama cult scrubbing websites when embarrassing items are discovered or things disappearing when his actions don’t meet his words, so this shouldn’t be that big a surprise to those who have been chronicling these acts.

H/T Jawa

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More stimulus stupidity:  Politicians Want to Use Tax Dollars to Crush Newer-Model Trucks and SUVs

SEMA is opposing an effort by some Washington lawmakers to include a national car crushing program in the upcoming economic stimulus package. Vehicles targeted for the scrap pile will likely include Chevy Blazers, Silverados, S-10s and Tahoes; Dodge Dakotas and Rams; Ford Explorers and F-Series; Jeep Cherokees and Wranglers; and any other SUV or truck that obtains less than 18 mpg.

The so-called “Accelerated Retirement of Inefficient Vehicles Act” is “Cash for Clunkers” with a twist. Instead of focusing exclusively on old cars as is typical with scrappage programs, this bill will target any vehicle with lower fuel-economy ratings. Participants will receive a cash voucher to purchase a more fuel-efficient new car or used car (model year 2004 or later) or receive credit for the purchase of public transportation tickets.

Some of those darned unintended consequences:

Given the minimal $1,500–$4,500 voucher value, the program will lure rarely driven second and third vehicles that have minimal impact on overall fuel economy and air pollution. This is not a wise investment of tax dollars.

The idea that the trucks and SUVs must be scrapped in order to save energy is irrational. The program’s “carbon footprint” does not factor in the amount of energy and natural resources expended in manufacturing the existing car, spent scrapping it and manufacturing a replacement car.

How it will affect actual living people:

The program will reduce the number of vehicles available for low-income individuals and drive up the cost of the remaining vehicles and repair parts. This is a basic supply-and-demand reality.

The program will remove the opportunity to market specialty products that are designed exclusively for the targeted pickups and SUVs, including equipment that increases engine performance and fuel mileage. Congress will be enacting a program to eliminate jobs and reduce business revenues in the automotive aftermarket.

The program fails to acknowledge driver needs, such as the ability to transport a family, tow a trailer or rely upon the performance, safety and utility characteristics associated with the larger vehicles. Instead, these vehicles will be destroyed.

The program will hurt thousands of independent repair shops, auto restorers, customizers and their customers across the country that depend on the used-car market. This industry provides thousands of American jobs and generates millions of dollars in local, state and federal tax revenues.

Is this a new idea?  Not exactly:

There is no evidence that the program will achieve the goal of boosting new-car sales or increasing fuel mileage. Many states have considered scrappage programs in the past as a way to help clean the air or increase mpg, but abandoned the effort because they simply don’t work. The programs are not cost-effective and do not achieve verifiable fuel economy or air-quality benefits.

So Congress wants to pay people to get rid of perfectly good vehicles, pay to destroy said vehicles, give people money to buy new ones, reduce transportation options for lower-income people, reduce individual choice for everybody and destroy a whole industry.  All in one stroke.

And for what?  Non-existent environmental benefits, the chance to finally rid America of the scourge of SUVs, and a lot of new business for car-makers.  Got to get our loans paid back, don’t we?

There’s a link at the site if you want to oppose this insanity.

H/T  Gateway Pundit

Another Republican plot foiled.  Voter ID Was a Success in November

Remember the storm that arose on the political left after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Indiana’s voter ID law last April? According to the left, voter ID was a dastardly Republican plot to prevent Democrats from winning elections by suppressing the votes of minorities, particularly African-Americans.

Since the election of Barack Obama, we haven’t heard a word about such claims. On Jan. 14, the federal appeals court in Atlanta upheld Georgia’s voter ID law.

The reasons for the silence about alleged voter suppression is plain. In the first place, numerous academic studies show that voter ID had no effect on the turnout of voters in prior elections. The plaintiffs in every unsuccessful lawsuit filed against such state requirements could not produce a single individual who didn’t either already have an ID or couldn’t easily get one.

What about this election?

The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies (JCPES) found that black turnout in the 2008 election was at a historic high, having increased substantially from 2004. The total share of black voters in the national vote increased from 11% to 13% according to exit polls, with 95% of blacks voting for Mr. Obama.

On to the next persecution fantasy.

President Obama’s civil rights agenda includes his intention to Expand Hate Crimes Statutes: President Obama and Vice President Biden will strengthen federal hate crimes legislation, expand hate crimes protection by passing the Matthew Shepard Act, and reinvigorate enforcement at the Department of Justice’s Criminal Section.

Hate crimes, according to Wikipedia, “occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, or political affiliation.

Hate crime can take many forms. Incidents may involve physical assault, damage to property, bullying, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or offensive graffiti or letters.”

That seems decent. Civilized.  Enlightened.  Who could object to such a thing?

I could, and do.  It seems to me that any crime committed against anyone would fit this definition.  Every victim is (or can claim to be) of a particular race, sexual orientation, nationality, gender, age, or ethnicity, which takes in most of the above categories.   I imagine that most victims find a crime committed against them pretty hateful, so why have a special category at all?

And how does the justice system determine what someone’s motivation is when they charge a person with a hate crime?  Are they mind readers, using the case as a political campaign talking point, or promoting their own social agendas in a politically-correct way, displaying the oxymoronic appearance of being intolerant of intolerance?  In that last case, wouldn’t they have to prosecute themselves?  Just asking.

I’m no politician, so obviously I’m not smart enough to understand those lofty beings’ thought processes.  However, I can’t shake the feeling that there’s something else at play here.

Europe is farther down the hate-crime legislation road than America is.  Let’s see if my suspicions of a hidden agenda are right or just a figment of my paranoid imagination.

Hate Crimes: The Importance of Lady Justice’s Blindfold

“If I talked about Muslims the way their holy book talks about me, I’d be arrested for hate speech,” Pat Condell, a British stand-up comedian, says in a youtube video released earlier this week. Mr. Condell, though a comedian by profession, is not joking. He knows how two years ago a British television crew which went undercover in British mosques and taped sermons inciting to violence against non-Muslims, was itself charged by the police and Crown Prosecution Service for “stirring up racial hatred” against Muslims, while the preachers were left undisturbed. According to the police and the public prosecutor the words of the preachers had been “taken out of context,” while the “context” of the makers of the television program was filled in by their accusers: their aim was said to be to stir up anti-Muslim feelings among the public.

That’s odd.

One of the famous victims of hate crime legislation in Europe is Brigitte Bardot. Last June the former sex symbol, once considered to be the very icon of France, was given a two-month suspended prison sentence and fined €15,000 by a court in Paris. Mrs. Bardot was convicted for “instigation of hatred” towards the Muslim community because in December 2006 she had sent a letter to Nicolas Sarkozy, then the Interior Minister of France, to demand that Muslims anaesthesize animals before slaughtering them. In the letter she said, referring to Muslims, that she was “fed up with being under the thumb of this population which is destroying us, destroying our country and imposing its habits.” Harboring and expressing such sentiments is a crime in France.

Dieudonné M’Bala is one of France’s new icons. He is a French comedian who is known for his anti-Semitism. Mr. M’Bala claims Jews are “a mafia that controls everything in France” and harbors feelings about  Jews which are similar Mrs. Bardot’s feelings about Muslims: France is under the thumb of the Jews, who are destroying it and imposing their values. In 2004 Mr. M’Bala was taken to court in Paris for violating French laws against incitation to racial or religious hatred, but the court ruled that he was not violating the law. Why did Mrs. Bardot get a suspended prison sentence and a fine of €15,000, while Mr. B’Bala went free? Because Mrs. Bardot and Mr. M’Bala are no longer equal under the law.

Hmm.

In October 2006 Codie Stott, a 14-year-old schoolgirl from Salford, England, was arrested for racism and spent three-and-a-half hours in police custody because she had refused to study with a group of five Asian pupils who did not speak English. When the Asians began talking in Urdu, Codie went to speak to the teacher. “I said ‘I’m not being funny, but can I change groups because I can’t understand them?’ But the teacher started shouting and screaming, saying ‘It’s racist, you’re going to get done by the police’.” A complaint was made to the police and Codie was placed under arrest. She was not prosecuted as she was too young, but the experience was traumatic for the young girl. The same applies to Jamie Bauld from Cumbernauld, Scotland, an 18-year-boy with Down’s syndrome and the mental age of a five-year-old. In September 2007 he was charged with “racial assault” after he had pushed an Asian girl on the playground.

Is anyone else seeing a pattern here?  It looks like the criteria for being charged with a hate crime is a person’s point of view,  or his/her perceived point of view.  And it also looks like the victim’s ethnicity or religious views are the determining factor in whether a hate crime occurred.  In fact,

In Europe, where citizens lack the protection of a First Amendment, hate crime legislation is used to punish citizens for the expression of negative opinions concerning minority groups. In Europe the concept of hate crimes make sense because hate crimes are crimes of opinion and sentiment. Unlike America, Europe criminalizes opinions and sentiments.

For example, Holocaust denial is a crime in Europe.

The consequences of this subjectivity-creep:

Prosecutors and judges are no longer interested in what actually and objectively happened. Instead they focus on the intentions which they claim motivated those who acted. No longer is Lady Justice blind to anything except the facts; she is blind to the facts, but claims to be a clairvoyant about everything else.

And

Taking “hate” into account, however, brings a subjective element into the equation, allowing different punishments to be applied for exactly the same criminal acts. It is possible to objectively prove that someone has kidnapped, tortured and subsequently assassinated a victim, but is it also possible to prove that these acts constitute a worse crime if the perpetrator “hates” the victim (or the group he belongs to) than if the latter is totally indifferent towards the victim and only acts for the pleasure of torturing and killing a human being? If Matthew Shepard’s killers had randomly picked him, because they wanted to kidnap, torture and murder someone – anyone – for the sheer fun of it, would they somehow have been less criminal? This is a question which Lady Justice does not normally need to consider, until hate crime legislation is introduced.

The author concludes,

Whatever the reason, however, it is clear that with the introduction of hate crime legislation Europe’s citizens are no longer equal under the law. Some are harassed, prosecuted and sentenced, while others are not.

So, if you are a European, being charged with a hate crime depends on what group you are deemed to belong to, and  being considered a victim of a hate crime also depends on what group you belong to.    You could almost call it, what’s the phrase,  institutionalized racism, no?  A little bit, what’s the word, perverse?

And pretty damned un-American.  To my mind, the whole thing comes down to this:  European justice doesn’t see people as individuals, at least in the hate-crime arena.  Your group (whatever that may be) determines your treatment under the law.  You have no rights as an individual.  And our esteemed politicians are trying to shove that same collectivist garbage on us.  There will be no more “equal justice for all” but preferential treatment for some, built into our legal system, if they get their way.  And that’s not paranoid.  It has happened before. Just ask Jim Crow.

This big.

H/T Ace

Yesterday in my post Trade Wars I spoke of the “Buy American” rider in the proposed stimulus bill.  It provides that only American equipment and goods be used for stimulus projects.  I also took a walk down memory lane to visit the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, which set up trade barriers to Europe and resulted in their retaliation, and pushed us into the Great Depression.

How does Europe view the current proposed incarnation of Hawley-Smoot?  Not warmly.

From EU Observer Speaking at a daily press briefing on Thursday, spokesperson Peter Powell said trade commissioner Catherine Ashton was monitoring the situation. “We are looking into the situation. …Before we have the final text …it would be premature to take a stance on it,” he said.

“However, the one thing we can be absolutely certain about, is if a bill is passed which prohibits the sale or purchase of European goods on American territory, that is something we will not stand idly by and ignore,” he continued.

The EconomistSuch naked protectionism may violate international trade rules. But another perverse idea floating around Capitol Hill is to limit stimulus-related purchases to countries that have signed the World Trade Organisation’s agreement on government procurement. A treaty set up
to encourage non-discrimination in government purchases would thus be twisted to bar the American government from buying goods from countries such as China and India.

We live in interesting times.

H/T Open Europe

Update to the update:

More from PowerLine:  “US-EU Trade War Looms” http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2009/01/022685.php

Your UN tax dollars at work:  Iranian-led Durban II “anti-racism” negotiations end in total disgrace:  Zionism is racism, apartheid Israel and questioning the Holocaust are now on the Durban II negotiating table

Intensive negotiations last week in Geneva have resulted in a new version of the “Draft Outcome Document” for Durban II – released yesterday. Iran – a Vice-Chair of the executive committee for Durban II – played a leading role in the drafting process, speaking more often than any other single state. The result? Now on the negotiating table: Jewish self-determination or Zionism is racism. Israel is guilty of apartheid and the number of Jews murdered in the Holocaust is questionable.

Anne Bayefsky, Editor of EYEontheUN, commented: “this “anti-racism” manifesto is much worse even than its predecessor. Islamic and other rights-abusing states had a field day preparing for Durban II. European states were totally unable to introduce the modifications necessary to protect human rights standards or change the clear intent of the conference.”

Here are a few of the agenda items being considered by this “Human Rights” council:

*  the “law of return” – the core of the self-determination of the Jewish people or Zionism – is racist
* Israel is guilty of crimes against humanity and “a contemporary form of apartheid”
* Israel’s security fence is a “segregation wall”
* a provision condemning Israel’s actions in Gaza
* while Israel is repeatedly condemned, not one of the other 191 UN states is mentioned
* a proposal to delete reference to the numbers of Jews murdered in the Holocaust – on the grounds that it is questionable
* a claim that “religions” – as opposed to individuals – can be “defamed”
* provisions curtailing free speech – “abuse of freedom of expression”
* efforts to limit and govern the media by “a code of ethical conduct”
* creation of a hierarchy of victims, with Muslim minorities on top – “most disturbing phenomenon is the intellectual and ideological validation of Islamophobia”
* efforts to trump universal rights and freedoms by references to cultural diversity, “cultural particularities,” religious and cultural “identities”
* undermining counterterrorism activities by alleging they increase racism
* challenges to any responsibility for the trans-Saharan slave trade and the slave trade in the Indian Ocean
* introducing “anti-Arabism” as intolerance against a religious minority
* attempting to introduce laws against “projecting negative, insulting and derogatory images of religions and religious personalities”
* calls for new laws endangering rights and freedoms, such as, laws on “respect for human rights and reputation, public morals, and incitement to racial and religious hatred and freedom of expression”.

What a travesty.  What does President Obama have to say?  Not much, so far.

If an environmental icon falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound?  Yes.  New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Rain Forests

CHILIBRE, Panama — The land where Marta Ortega de Wing raised hundreds of pigs until 10 years ago is being overtaken by galloping jungle — palms, lizards and ants. Jungle is developing again on old holdings around Chilibre.

Instead of farming, she now shops at the supermarket and her grown children and grandchildren live in places like Panama City and New York.

Here, and in other tropical countries around the world, small holdings like Ms. Ortega de Wing’s — and much larger swaths of farmland — are reverting to nature, as people abandon their land and move to the cities in search of better livings.

Wait a minute. Are they saying human interaction with the environment isn’t a zero sum game?

These new “secondary” forests are emerging in Latin America, Asia and other tropical regions at such a fast pace that the trend has set off a serious debate about whether saving primeval rain forest — an iconic environmental cause — may be less urgent than once thought. By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged or ravaged by natural disaster.

The new forests, the scientists argue, could blunt the effects of rain forest destruction by absorbing carbon dioxide, the leading heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, one crucial role that rain forests play. They could also, to a lesser extent, provide habitat for endangered species.

Predictably,

The idea has stirred outrage among environmentalists who believe that vigorous efforts to protect native rain forest should remain a top priority. But the notion has gained currency in mainstream organizations like the Smithsonian Institution and the United Nations, which in 2005 concluded that new forests were “increasing dramatically” and “undervalued” for their environmental benefits. The United Nations is undertaking the first global catalog of the new forests, which vary greatly in their stage of growth.

The ivory tower doesn’t get a panoramic view:

Dr. Wright — an internationally respected scientist — said he knew he was stirring up controversy when he suggested to a conference of tropical biologists that rain forests might not be so bad off. Having lived in Panama for 25 years, he is convinced that scientific assessments of the rain forests’ future were not taking into account the effects of population and migration trends that are obvious on the ground.

In Latin America and Asia, birthrates have dropped drastically; most people have two or three children. New jobs tied to global industry, as well as improved transportation, are luring a rural population to fast-growing cities. Better farming techniques and access to seed and fertilizer mean that marginal lands are no longer farmed because it takes fewer farmers to feed a growing population.

Reality bites.

H/T Daily Beast

The Obama administration is getting down and dirty with the financial sector: U.S. Eyes Two-Part Bailout for Banks

The nation’s top economic officials are discussing a new way to stabilize the financial system by buying a portion of banks’ bad assets and offering guarantees against future losses on some of the remainder, in an effort to help banks while trying to mitigate the cost to taxpayers.

The President scolds Wall Street:

Amid that flurry of activity, President Barack Obama stepped up his rhetorical attacks Thursday on the same banks his officials are planning to aid. Summoning reporters after a closed meeting with Mr. Geithner, Mr. Obama blasted earlier news that Wall Street had paid out $18.4 billion in bonuses, calling it “the height of irresponsibility” and “shameful.”

“There will be time for them to make profits, and there will be time for them to get bonuses,” he said. “Now is not that time.”

One idea is the bad bank:

The Treasury, under the auspices of former Secretary Henry Paulson, has already committed $335 billion to help financial institutions. Mr. Obama’s aid to homeowners could cost between $50 billion and $100 billion, and the so-called bad bank that would buy up assets could ultimately reach a size of $2 trillion, according to people familiar with the matter.

The central question facing policy makers: How does the government help banks exorcise their bad bets? For many of these assets, there is no current market price. If the government buys the assets for more than they are ultimately worth, taxpayers will take the hit. If the government pays too little, banks will have to record losses on other similar assets, exacerbating the problem.

Under the concept being discussed, the government “bad bank,” possibly run by the FDIC, would buy only assets banks have already marked down heavily. This could avoid crushing the value of other assets held by banks. It could also potentially sidestep the pricing dilemma because banks have already recognized the low value of the assets being purchased.

The waves in this uncharted water could be nasty:

Both possible solutions to banks’ woes are largely untested during a severe economic downturn. The bad-bank idea is similar to the Resolution Trust Corp., which was created to help clean up the savings-and-loan crisis. But the RTC only dealt with assets accumulated from failed institutions, not struggling ones. And the insurance aid for Citigroup and Bank of America is relatively new, and the ultimate cost to taxpayers is not known.

William Seidman, who led the FDIC and RTC during the savings-and-loan crisis, says the government could end up cobbling together too many initiatives that don’t fit together. “This is a horse designed by a committee and it looks like a camel,” he says.

Some think Obama’s not doing enough:

Kevin Hassett, director of economic policy studies at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, sees the opposite problem. He says the administration should be doing more.

As they confront the immediate economic crisis, for example, Obama aides have taken off the table a concurrent effort to solve long-term problems with the tax code and with Social Security and Medicare — both of which the White House has pledged to tackle eventually. “They’re not being ambitious enough,” says Mr. Hassett.

H/T Daily Beast

With Venus.  All the spicy details from the Junkman in Al Gore and Venus Envy

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday with yet another one of his infamous slide shows, Gore observed that the carbon dioxide (CO2) in Venus’ atmosphere supercharges the second-planet-from-the-sun’s greenhouse effect, resulting in surface temperatures of about 870 degrees Fahrenheit. Gore added that it’s not Venus’ proximity to the Sun that makes the planet much warmer than the Earth, because Mercury, which is even closer to the Sun, is cooler than Venus. Based on this rationale, then, Gore warned that we need to stop emitting CO2 into our own atmosphere.

Incredibly, not a Senator on the Committee questioned — much less burst into outright laughter at — Gore’s absurd point. In fact, each Senator who spoke at the hearing, including Republicans, offered little but fawning praise for Gore. It’s hard to know whether the hearing’s lovefest was simply an example of the Senate’s exaggerated sense of collegiality, appalling ignorance and gullibility about environmental science, or fear of appearing to be less green than Gore.

It is true that atmospheric CO2 warms both Venus and the Earth, but that’s about where the CO2 commonality between the two planets ends. While the Venusian atmosphere is 97 percent CO2 (970,000 parts per million), the Earth’s atmosphere is only 0.038 percent CO2 (380 parts per million). So the Venusian atmosphere’s CO2 level is more than 2,557 times greater than the Earth’s. And since the CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere is increasing by only about 2 parts per million annually, our planet is hardly being Venus-ized.

Gore’s incorporation of Mercury in his argument is equally specious because Mercury doesn’t really have any greenhouse gases in its atmosphere that would capture the radiation it gets from the Sun. As a result, the daily temperature on Mercury varies from about 840 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to about -275 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Mercury’s daily temperature swing actually belies Gore’s unqualified demonization of greenhouse gases, whose heat trapping characteristics tend to stabilize climate and prevent wild temperature fluctuations.

The significance of Gore’s testimony is that the Venus scenario seems to be his new basis for claiming that CO2 drives the Earth’s climate and, hence, his call that we must stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. At no time did he refer to his two An Inconvenient Truth-era arguments concerning the relationship between CO2 and global temperature — that is, the Antarctic ice core record that goes back 650,000 years and the 20th century temperature/CO2 record. There’s good reason for his apparent abandonment of these arguments — presented fairly, both actually debunk global warming alarmism.

I predict Venus will come to her senses and elope with Mars.