Saturday, December 17, 2005


The arrest of six animal rights activists and environmental radicals last week is the clearest sign in years that law-enforcement authorities now are able to infiltrate the shadowy world of "ecoterrorism." But the apprehension of four men and two women in five states around the country - all charged with firebombings and other criminal acts committed years ago in the Pacific Northwest - also indicates how hard it is to do that.

While the arrests are significant, many more crimes carried out in the name of protecting animals and the environment remain unsolved. The FBI reports 1,200 such incidents in recent years, ranging from vandalism and the freeing of lab rats to the torching of housing developments and auto dealerships that sell sport utility vehicles. Property damage has totaled more than $200 million, according to members of Congress sponsoring legislation intended to hamper the trend.

Groups such as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) usually claim credit for such acts. But as far as law-enforcement officials can tell, there is little organization or structure to the groups. Attackers act alone or in small numbers, adhere to strict security measures in communications and operations, and make use of accessible, unsophisticated equipment like cheap timers.

"Preventing such criminal activity has become increasingly difficult, in large part because extremists in these movements are very knowledgeable about the letter of the law and the limits of law enforcement," said John Lewis, a counterterrorism FBI official, at a congressional hearing. "Moreover, they are highly autonomous."

Among other things, the activists arrested last week are charged with attacks on a lumber company, a meat plant, an electrical transmission tower, and a US Department of Agriculture animal research facility, all taking place between 1998 and 2001. Over the years, none of the attacks has caused fatalities or major injuries. Environmental and animal rights activists typically say their "direct actions" are meant to avoid harming people and animals. But threats and other forms of aggressive intimidation directed at researchers, company officials, their families, and others have been escalating. Jerry Vlasak, a California physician opposed to the use of animals in medical research, is a spokesman for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office. At a recent congressional hearing, Dr. Vlasak insisted that "using any means necessary" to stop people from hurting animals "would be a morally justifiable solution to the problem." When asked if that included killing people, he didn't deny it.

US lawmakers recently proposed legislation targeted at what Sen. James Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma calls "ecoterror groups." It increases penalties for anyone convicted of causing economic disruption or damage, or for placing a person "in reasonable fear of death or bodily harm ... because of their relationship with an animal enterprise." Meanwhile, courts have not hesitated to impose stiff sentences in such cases. One environmental activist was sentenced to 22 years in prison for burning three SUVs at a car dealership in Eugene, Ore. Two of those arrested last week could face life in prison if convicted of arson and using an incendiary device.

Though attacks by some radical activists continue, officials believe they are better able to prevent or prosecute them. "We are making progress," the FBI's Lewis told a Senate committee in October.


Environmentalism as a Cover for Collectivism

In 1986, Gale Norton was 32 and working for the secretary of the interior on matters pertaining to the proposal to open a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- area 1002 -- to drilling for oil and natural gas, a proposal that then had already been a bone of contention for several years. Today Norton is the secretary of the interior and is working on opening ANWR. But this interminable argument actually could end soon with Congress authorizing drilling. That would be good for energy policy and excellent for the nation's governance.

Area 1002 is 1.5 million of ANWR's 19 million acres. In 1980, a Democratic-controlled Congress at the behest of President Carter set area 1002 aside for possible energy exploration. Since then, although there are active oil and gas wells in at least 36 U.S. wildlife refuges, stopping drilling in ANWR has become sacramental for environmentalists who speak about it the way Wordsworth wrote about the Lake Country.

Few opponents of energy development in what they call ``pristine'' ANWR have visited it. Those who have and think it is ``pristine'' must have visited during the 56 days a year when it is without sunlight. They missed the roads, stores, houses, military installations, airstrip and school. They did not miss seeing the trees in area 1002. There are no trees. Opponents worry that the caribou will be disconsolate about, and their reproduction disrupted by, this intrusion by man. The same was said 30 years ago by opponents of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline that brings heated oil south from Prudhoe Bay. Since the oil began flowing, the caribou have increased from 5,000 to 31,000. Perhaps the pipeline's heat makes them amorous.

Ice roads and helicopter pads, which will melt each spring, will minimize man's footprint, which will be on a 2,000-acre plot about one-fifth the size of Washington's Dulles Airport. Nevertheless, opponents say the environmental cost is too high for what the ineffable John Kerry calls ``a few drops of oil.'' Some drops. The estimated 10.4 billion barrels of recoverable oil -- such estimates frequently underestimate actual yields -- could supply all the oil needs of Kerry's Massachusetts for 75 years.

Flowing at 1 million barrels a day -- equal to 20 percent of today's domestic oil production -- ANWR oil would almost equal America's daily imports from Saudi Arabia. And it would equal the supply loss that Katrina temporarily caused, and that caused so much histrionic distress among consumers. Lee Raymond, chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, says that if the major oil companies decided that 10 billion barrels were an amount too small to justify exploration and development projects, many current and future projects around the world would be abandoned.

But for many opponents of drilling in ANWR, the debate is only secondarily about energy and the environment. Rather, it is a disguised debate about elemental political matters. For some people, environmentalism is collectivism in drag. Such people use environmental causes and rhetoric not to change the political climate for the purpose of environmental improvement. Rather, for them, changing the society's politics is the end, and environmental policies are mere means to that end. The unending argument in political philosophy concerns constantly adjusting society's balance between freedom and equality. The primary goal of collectivism -- of socialism in Europe and contemporary liberalism in America -- is to enlarge governmental supervision of individuals' lives. This is done in the name of equality. People are to be conscripted into one large cohort, everyone equal (although not equal in status or power to the governing class) in their status as wards of a self-aggrandizing government. Government says the constant enlargement of its supervising power is necessary for the equitable or efficient allocation of scarce resources.

Therefore, one of the collectivists' tactics is to produce scarcities, particularly of what makes modern society modern -- the energy requisite for social dynamism and individual autonomy. Hence collectivists use environmentalism to advance a collectivizing energy policy. Focusing on one energy source at a time, they stress the environmental hazards of finding, developing, transporting, manufacturing or using oil, natural gas, coal or nuclear power.

A quarter of a century of this tactic applied to ANWR is about 24 years too many. If geologists were to decide that there were only three thimbles of oil beneath area 1002, there would still be something to be said for going down to get them, just to prove that this nation cannot be forever paralyzed by people wielding environmentalism as a cover for collectivism

(From George Will)


Yesterday Senator Mike Crapo (R-ID) introduced an Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform bill that he claims will offer "incentives" to property owners to help recover endangered species. However, according to The National Center for Public Policy Research, the "Collaboration and Recovery of Endangered Species Act" (CRESA) offers perks to large landowners and developers at the expense of small property owners and rare species. "Senator Crapo's contribution to property rights is like Britain's contribution to fine cuisine - a contribution best not made," said David Ridenour, vice president of The National Center for Public Policy Research.

According to the Liberty Matters News Service, just three years ago, in defense of his position on another property rights issue, Senator Crapo wrote: "My record in Congress includes attempts to get direct financial payments to private property owners who suffer a loss in property valuation due to threats from federal agencies over endangered species or other wildlife issues." Yet Senator Crapo's ESA bill does not offer any direct payments to American landowners whose land values are harmed due to endangered species regulations. Instead, CRESA establishes a system whereby landowners are forced to sign away property rights in return for tax credits.

"The House of Representatives recently passed an ESA reform bill that promises to give property owners 100 percent direct compensation for their lost rights. Incredibly, Senator Crapo's bill seeks to undo this," said Peyton Knight, director of environmental and regulatory affairs for The National Center. "For property rights advocates, CRESA snatches defeat from the jaws of victory."

Since its enactment in 1973, the ESA has penalized landowners for good stewardship. Farmers, ranchers, tree farmers, homeowners and others who harbor endangered species or habitat on their property are subjected to severe land-use restrictions that can lead to economic ruin. In much of rural America, the ESA has unnecessarily turned landowners and endangered species into enemies. In order to prevent their property from falling under the ESA's land-use controls, landowners have preemptively "sterilized" their land to rid it of species and habitat. "Unfortunately, Senator Crapo's ESA bill fails to fix this disastrous law," said National Center Senior Fellow R.J. Smith. "It would remain bad for people and bad for species. Rather than creating a win-win situation by ending the taking of property of good stewards, he tries to make a broken Act work by adorning it with gimmicks - much like the futile efforts of Ptolemaic astronomy to save an Earth-centered universe. It will fail, until Congress creates an ESA built on the use of property rights as the basis for species recovery. Ten years ago Rep. Crapo cosponsored the Shadegg bill, which would have worked voluntarily with private landowners. What happened? It's time to save America's small landowners and homeowners as well as species and their habitat."

CRESA would offer tax incentives for approved conservation efforts, but for property owners to receive tax credits equal to their full costs (lost fair market value plus out-of-pocket conservation program expenses), they must enter binding agreements of not less than 99 years. And, as this is only a tax credit, even a 99-year commitment wouldn't be enough for property owners to get back all of their costs. "This scheme would make even Charles Ponzi blush," said David Ridenour. "It promises only a partial return on investment, yet saddles a future generation with regulatory requirements."

CRESA also includes a provision that would establish an ill-defined conservation credit trading mechanism to permit landowners to earn credits for conservation efforts that could either be applied toward other development projects or sold on the open market.

The National Center believes such a mechanism poses risks to both species and property owners. "Landowners who earn credits would have a vested interest in increasing the value of their credits," said Knight. "The value can be increased by either more stringent regulation or reduced species populations that require a reduction in the number of credits available."

Ridenour adds: "In the classic film 'It's a Wonderful Life,' George Bailey asks Mr. Potter if it is too much to have people 'work, pay and live and die in a couple of decent rooms and a bath' of their own. Judging from Senator Crapo's ESA bill, he apparently thinks it is too much to ask." "Furthermore," said Ridenour, "In 'It's a Wonderful Life' George Bailey is given the opportunity to see what life would have been like had he never been born. After seeing his old boss a penniless drunk, his mother destitute, his uncle in an insane asylum, his wife a hopeless spinster, his brother's tombstone and his quaint hometown a place of decadence, he begs God to allow him to 'live again.' We've had a chance to see what the ESA would be without property rights. Let species and property rights live again."


Criticisms of "hockeystick" claim supported

(Post lifted from Climate Audit)

Obviously one of the major themes of the M&M ["hockeystick"] articles is the remarkable lack of robustness of MBH98. Buerger and Cubasch, hot off the press at GRL, asks the following question:

whether or not the MBH98 and relative approaches are robust, including the predictor selection issues as argued by McIntyre and McKitrick [2005a], is the subject of the current study.

They conclude:

Without a model error estimate and without techniques to keep it small, it is not clear how these methods can be salvaged to become robust.

They cite both our 2005 articles approvingly.

They introduce the issue as follows:

a number of methodological issues [were] left unsettled in the original version [of MBH98], and which after several critical remarks [cf. McIntyre and McKitrick, 2003] led to the publication of a corrigendum. The discussion, nevertheless, continued [von Storch et al., 2004, McIntyre and McKitrick, 2005a, 2005b; Rutherford et al., 2005; Buerger et al., 2005], indicating that several issues are still unsettled, all related to the problem of reproducibility and robustness. For instance, assertions made by MBH98 and later about certain steps (such as rescaling) being ``insensitive'' to the method were hard to quantify and thus of little help. Buerger et al. [2005] showed that the method is, on the contrary, highly sensitive to the variation of 5 independent standard criteria (as we call the steps here), resulting in an entire spectrum of possible climate histories.

They conclude as follows:

Any robust, regression-based method of deriving past climatic variations from proxies is therefore inherently trapped by variations seen at the training stage, that is, in the instrumental period. The more one leaves that scale and the farther the estimated regression laws are extrapolated the less robust the method is. The described error growth is particularly critical for parameter-intensive, multi-proxy climate field reconstructions of the MBH98 type. Here, for example, colinearity and overfitting induce considerable error already in the estimation phase. To salvage such methods, two things are required: First, a sound mathematical derivation of the model error and, second, perhaps more sophisticated regularization schemes that can keep this error small. This might help to select the best among the 64, and certainly many more possible variants. In view of the relatively short verifiable period not much room is left.

I wonder how long it will take realclimate to break the bad news?

Reference: Buerger, G., and U. Cubasch (2005), Are multiproxy climate reconstructions robust?, Geophys. Res. Lett., 32, L23711.


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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