Monday, 31 August 2009

PREVENTING PROTESTS: WHAT IT DOES, OR CAN, MEAN

Ken Berwitz

In Iran, they squashed the protests and jailed the protest leaders.  Some of them have died in jail and we can only guess how.  The reason?   According to the illegitmately "elected" government the protesters were fomenting a "velvet revolution" (i.e. a revolution without guns).

In Venezuela?  We have this report today from Agence France Presse:

Venezuela accuses protesters of attempting 'rebellion'

Aug 29 03:12 PM US/Eastern

 

Venezuela's top prosecutor said Saturday that recent street protests were legally tantamount to "rebellion" against President Hugo Chavez's government and that demonstrators will now be charged.

 

The dramatic move by Attorney General Luisa Ortega capped a week of huge street protests, mostly directed against a new education law that critics say is politically charged.

 

"People who disturb order and the peace to create instability of institutions, to destabilize the government, or attack the democratic system, we are going to charge and try them," Ortega said in a statement, referring to the government of leftist-populist Chavez.

 

William Ojeda, of the opposition A New Time party, argued that "the very right to protest is being turned into a crime."

 

"The justice system is now being used as a tool of political and ideological persecution," Ojeda added.

Ortega claimed opposition groups were looking for "any reason to march, to create chaos, whatever they can, what they want is to destabilize, even by encouraging people to disobey the law."

 

Last Saturday, thousands of marchers protested against the education law and police used tear gas to break up the crowds and keep them from marching on the National Assembly.

 

"These precise actions are in effect criminal civil rebellion," Ortega stressed, warning in her statement that the crime carries sentences of between 12 and 24 years.

 

"I want those people who have risen up against the government with a hostile attitude against a legally formed government to know what the consequences are," Ortega warned.

 

Earlier in the week, 11 workers with the Caracas mayor's office, led by opposition Mayor Antonio Ledezma, were jailed for resisting authority.

 

On Thursday, former Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused the United States of seeking to "eliminate" Venezuela's leftist government and amass power in South America through a controversial deal allowing it access to military bases in Colombia.

 

Castro said the real US objective in Colombia was to "eliminate the revolutionary process" begun by Chavez, a key Cuban ally, and to "gain control of the oil and other natural resources in Venezuela.

And in the United States? 

The protestors at town hall meetings are being called "Extremists", "Thugs", "Brown shirts", "The mob", and more.  These are everyday people, many of them seniors, who fear a government takeover of health care.

-Just as Iranians fear a fraudulent government taking away what rights they have left.

-Just as Venezuelans fear the end of their democracy at the hands of a ruthless dictator.

So, do we have anything to worry about? 

You tell me.


THE CASH FOR CLUNKERS CLUNKER

Ken Berwitz

You have to hand it to the New York Times.  Those folks are certainly johnny-on-the-spot in exposing what a clunker the "cash for clunkers" idea was.......after the entire program has been completed, of course.

Here is today's editorial, slipped quietly into the last position on the page:

Clunkers Dont Come Cheap

Published: August 30, 2009

 

The $3 billion cash-for-clunkers program that ended last week worked well as a jolt of economic stimulus. Nearly 700,000 people used the rebate to buy new cars in July and August adding about 0.3 to 0.4 percentage points to economic growth in the third quarter, at an annual rate.

 

But theres also another lesson in the cash-for-clunkers experience: such rebates are a spectacularly inefficient way to implement environmental policy. Sure, the new cars deliver about nine miles per gallon more than those traded in, on average. But the benefits measured in terms of reduced greenhouse gas emissions come at inordinate expense.

 

On average, cars are driven 12,000 miles per year, according to government statistics. Considering that the traded-in clunkers had an average fuel economy of 15.8 m.p.g. while the new ones deliver 24.9 m.p.g., a swap saved some 278 gallons of gas per year which would have released almost 2.8 tons of carbon dioxide when burned.

 

Assuming the clunkers would have been driven four more years, the $4,200 average rebate removed 11.2 tons of carbon from the atmosphere, at a cost of some $375 per ton. If they would have been driven five years, the carbon savings cost $300 per ton. And if drivers drive their sleek new wheels more than they drove their old clunkers, the cost of removing carbon from the atmosphere will be even higher.

 

To put this in perspective, an allowance to emit a ton of CO2 costs about $20 on the European Climate Exchange. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that a ton of carbon would be valued at $28 under the cap-and-trade program in the clean energy bill passed by the House in June.

 

The program might have been more efficient with modifications, like a smaller rebate. But even if the new cars bought under the program had zero emissions, the price of removing the clunkers carbon dioxide from the atmosphere would have been nearly $140 per ton.

 

The best tool to induce Americans to drive more fuel-efficient cars would be a gas tax that provided rebates for low-income drivers. Another, though inferior, alternative if Congress couldnt face the political risks of a gas tax would be a program that provided a rebate for drivers of clean cars while imposing a fee on drivers of gas hogs.

 

In any case, as environmental policy, its just too expensive to buy clunkers to take them off the road.

Wow.  the program was a wasteful, ineffecient environmental mess. 

And that is without even getting to the fact that used car prices have jumped higher due to the removal of these cars from the road.  Or that one of the reasons the program was stopped was that government was administering it so poorly that dealer weren't getting their money, and were dropping out in droves.

All this......after the program was devised, implemented, run and completed. 

But, hey, you can't blame the Times for not seeing this right away.  After all, how could anyone possibly know that suddenly, dramatically lessening of the supply of used cars would raise the prices of the ones still on the road?  I mean, who ever heard of a relationship between supply and demand?

You also can't blame the Times for not understanding that there would be costs, both monetary and environmental, to removing and disposing of now-unusable cars.  How could anyone expect something like that?  Don't they just magically disappear?

And why in the world would anyone doubt that government would run this program with precision and efficiency.  Doesn't government always run things this way?

Ok, sarcasm ended.

If the New York Times wonders why its circulation dropping almost as fast as its reputation, maybe its reporting (non-reporting is more like it) of the "cash for clunkers" circus is worth thinking about.

steve schneider lets not forget the lost income for mechanics and the increased debt for those who financed. additionally nine out of ten cars were foreign made. the cash for clunkers which according to the democrats was a "huge success", will be a negative on the economy. now lets give them health care..... (08/31/09)


OBAMACARE: THE GENERATION GAP

Ken Berwitz

Want the latest indication of how people are reacting to "Obamacare"?

From a Washington Post poll shown at www.pollingreport.com.

_
Quality of health care

 

This should tell you how seniors - who see their medicare going away to make room for Obamacare - feel about the proposed legislation.

Even the youngest, the 18-29's (who were Obama's biggest supporters) barely see any benefit (less than three in ten think it will make things better).

Do you blame them?

Zeke Teddy Kennedy had heroic (i.e. EXTREME) measures taken to treat his brain cancer. Surgery, Radiation AND Chemo. None of it helped, and his quality of life was abysmal. He remained a Senator, but was unable to function as one. Under ObamaKare, 'insured' people would get none of this. ... Unless they happened to have the Capitol Hill Special Health Kare policy ... or piles of cash. (08/31/09)


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