Friday, August 1, 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

"Warning Signs" Surpasses 3.6 Million Visits

I am pleased to report that “Warning Signs” has surpassed 3.6 million visits. It had more than 73,000 visits in June and, as word spreads about its commentaries, posted from Sunday through Thursday each week, it continues to attract a growing audience of visitors.

This is welcome news of course. The blog is largely a labor of love and depends on donations to cover its IT and other expenses. If you have given in the past, my thanks, but if you are a regular visitor and have not yet made a donation, I invite you to show your support. No amount is really too small (or too high!)

Alan Caruba

The War on Smoking (Except Maybe Pot)

By Alan Caruba

How obscene is it for a Florida jury to award $23.6 billion to the widow of a man who died of lung cancer in 1996? She sued R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company by asserting that her husband had been “fooled” into starting the smoke at age 13. Apparently he had never heard cigarettes referred to as “coffin nails”, a slang term that has been around since the last century. And how come all those patches, chewing gum, and other means to stop smoking had no effect, if used by her late husband?

This isn’t justice at work. There are more than 40 million smokers in the U.S. today. Smokers, let alone cigarette manufacturers, however, haven’t had the benefit of equal or fair-minded justice since 1984 when U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop called for “a smoke-free society” by the year 2000.

There was a time when it was perfectly okay to smoke cigarettes. As a youth in the mid-1950’s I began to smoke them to look sophisticated. Producers advertised that as part of their appeal. Hollywood film actors like Ronald Reagan, as well as characters in films often smoked. And, yes, actors John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart both died from lung cancer. Others did too. It wasn’t a secret, so if you smoked, you knew the risk.

That’s where personal responsibility collides with nanny-government, forcing people to forego something they enjoy in the name of what the government deems inappropriate behavior.

As reported by Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., in “Who’s the Real Cigarette Monopolist?” the so-called Master Settlement Agreement in 1998 on cigarette manufacturers was arrived at “when Florida and other states sued them for Medicaid costs of people supposedly fooled by cigarette advertising.” The operative word here is “supposedly” because few smokers are unaware of the risk factor.

“A cigarette pack today fetches roughly $2.50 at the factory gate,” wrote Jenkins, “on which the government collects $3.80 on average in state and federal taxes” as well as the payments due from the Medicaid rip-off scheme. Twenty years ago, the average pack of cigarette would have cost about $1.75. Today it is in excess of $5.00.

With prices more than twice as high than in the past and smoking bans everywhere, there are less cigarette smokers. As reported in The Wall Street Journal, “The U.S. adult smoking rate has plunged to below 20% from more than 40% half a century ago.”

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control found that 18% of U.S. adults or about 42 million are cigarette smokers. For those who want to stop, only about one in twenty in any given year actually succeed according to various surveys.

E-Cigarettes

And the government is not done yet interfering with the right of people to smoke. Steve Stanek, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of its monthly Budget & Tax News, recently reported that “E-cigarettes have no tobacco smoke but that hasn’t stopped the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from proposing rules to treat e-cigarettes much like tobacco-based cigarettes. The draft regulations also cover cigars, pipe tobacco and other tobacco products that have not been regulated like cigarettes.”

Greg Conley, a Heartland Institute research fellow with a specialty in tobacco policy, points out that “By requiring the manufacturer of every single electronic cigarette product on the market to file a ‘new tobacco product’ application, the FDA has all but guaranteed the closure of tens or hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses with no connection to Big Tobacco.”

Giving the Okay to Pot

Significantly, producers of “medical marijuana” are not subject to the rules affecting cigarettes and, as it dawns on federal regulators that there could be a lot of tax revenue from this market, I wonder how long it will take for the legalization of all marijuana use to fatten government coffers? 

Probably not long at all. On July 26, a New York Times editorial opined that marijuana should be legalized, removing the federal laws prohibiting its sale and use. “After a great deal of discussion, the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization.” But it’s still smoking!

Playing it safe, the Times' Editorial Page Editor, Andrew Rosenthal, told ABC’s “This Week” that “We’re not urging people to smoke pot any more than we are for them to drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. It’s just that making it illegal was creating a social cost for the country that was absolutely unacceptable.” Yeah, sure.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is blasting the FDA for its “job-killing” regulations on the premium cigar industry, citing the J.C. Newman Cigar Company, a 119-year-old family-owned cigar business based in Tampa, as the primary loser if the FDA institutes new regulations regarding the nicotine content of the wrappers used.

“We have gone through two World Wars, the Great Depression, the Cuban trade embargo, smoking bans, excessive taxation and competition from low-wage countries,” co-owner Eric Newman told The New York Times, but the FDA may put it out of business. That, like the $23.6 billion award cited above is an obscenity too.

The excessive taxation is clearly discriminatory, along with all the other regulations and bans affecting smokers. A study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that “It will take sizable tax increases, on the order of 100%, to decrease adult smoking by as much as 5%,”

One is reminded of the failure of Prohibition, an earlier “public health” measure embraced by the U.S. government. People wanted to drink alcoholic beverages then just as now. And some people drink too much and die from alcoholism. Just as some people smoke too much. It is private, personal behavior that should not be regulated beyond the need for public safety, i.e., drinking and driving, nor discriminated against.

More and more, “progressive” government is taking the joy out of life. By its very nature, it must control everyone and everything they eat, drink, or enjoy.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

The Carbon TAX Scam


By Alan Caruba

In a recent appearance before a congressional committee, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told them that the agency’s proposed sweeping carbon-regulation plan was “really an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control.”

If the plan isn’t about pollution, the primary reason for the EPA’s existence, why bother with yet more regulation of something that is not a pollutant—carbon dioxide—despite the Supreme Court’s idiotic decision that it is. Yes, even the Court gets things wrong.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is vital to all life on Earth, but most particularly to every piece of vegetation that grows on it. Top climatologists tell me that it plays a very small role, if any, in the Earth’s climate or weather. Why would anyone expect a gas that represents 400 parts per million of all atmospheric gases, barely 0.04% of all atmospheric gases to have the capacity to affect something as huge and dynamic as the weather or climate?

When something as absurd as the notion the U.S. must drastically reduce its CO2 emissions is told often enough by a wide range of people that include teachers, the media, scientists, politicians, and the President, people can be forgiven for believing this makes sense.

What Gina McCarthy was demonstrating is her belief that not only the members of Congress are idiots, but all the rest of us are as well.

Faking Climate Data

“The science is clear. The risks are clear. We must act…” Sorry, Gina, a recent issue of Natural News, citing the Real Science website, reported “(in) what might be the largest scientific fraud ever uncovered, NASA and the NOAA have been caught red-handed altering historical temperature data to produce a ‘climate change narrative’ that defies reality.”  As reported in The Telegraph, a London daily, “NOAA’s U.S. Historical Climatology Network has been ‘adjusting’ its record by replacing real temperatures with data ‘fabricated’ by computer models.”

The EPA has been on the front lines of destroying coal-fired plants that produce the bulk of the nation’s electricity, claiming, like the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth that coal is “dirty” and must be eliminated from any use.

On July 29, CNSnews reported that “For the first time ever, the average price for a kilowatthour of electricity in the United States has broken through the 14-cent mark, climbing to a record 14.3 cents in June, according to data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”

A Carbon Tax

What the Greens want most of all is a carbon tax; that is to say, a tax on CO2 emissions. It is one of the most baseless, destructive taxes that could be imposed on Americans and we should take a lesson from the recent experience that Australians had when, after being told by a former prime minister, Julia Gillard, that she would not impose the tax, she did. They get rid of her andthen got rid of the tax!

As Daniel Simmons, the vice president of policy at the American Energy Alliance, wrote in Roll Call “Australia is now the first country to eliminate its carbon tax. In doing so, it struck a blow in favor of sound public policy.”  Initiated in 2012, the tax had imposed a $21.50 charge (in U.S. dollars), increasing annually, on each ton of carbon dioxide emitted by the country’s power plants.” At the time President Obama called it “good for the world”, but Australians quickly found it was not good for them or their economy.

Favored by several Democratic Senators that include New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen, Alaska’s Mark Begich, and North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, the Heritage Foundation, based on data provided by the Energy Information Administration, took a look at the impact that a proposed U.S. carbon tax would have and calculated that it “would cut a family of four’s income by nearly $2,000 a year while increasing its electricity bills by more than $500 per year. It would increase gas prices by 50 cents per gallon. It could eliminate more than a million jobs in the first few years.”

Simmons noted that “It only took (Australians) two years of higher prices, fewer jobs, and no environmental benefits before they abandoned their carbon tax.”

We don’t need, as Gina McCarthy told the congressional committee, “investments in renewables and clean energy” because billions were wasted by Obama’s “stimulus” and by the grants and other credits extended to wind and solar energy in America. They are the most expensive, least productive, and most unpredictable forms of energy imaginable, given that neither the wind nor the sun is available full-time in the way fossil fuel generated energy is. Both require backup from coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy plants.

In addition to all the other White House efforts to saddle Americans with higher costs, it has now launched a major effort to push its “climate change” agenda with a carbon tax high on its list. A July 29 article in The Hill reported that “Obama is poised to sidestep Congress with a new set of executive actions on climate change.”

If we don’t jump-start our economy by tapping into the jobs and revenue our vast energy reserves represent, secure our southern border, and elect a Congress that will rein in the President, the U.S. risks becoming a lawless banana republic. Carbon taxes are one more nail in the national coffin.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Climate Alarmists Never Quit!


By Alan Caruba

In the same way Americans are discovering that the Cold War that was waged from the end of World War Two until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 is not over, Americans continue to be subjected to the endless, massive, global campaign to foist the hoax of global warming--now called climate change—on everyone.

The campaign’s purpose to convince everyone that it is humans, not the sun, oceans, and other natural phenomenon, and that requires abandoning fossil fuels in favor of “renewable” wind and solar energy.

“It is not surprising that climate alarmists, who desire above all else blind allegiance to their cause, would demand all school teachers toe the ‘official party line’ and quash any dissent on the subject of man-made global warming in their classroom,” says Craig Rucker, the Executive Director of co-founder of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). “What is absurd is that any teacher or free-thinking person for that matter would listen to them.”

These days when I am challenged regarding my views about global warming, climate change or energy I send the individual to www.climatedepot.com  and www.energydepot.us, two constantly updated websites filled with links to information on these topics. Both are maintained by CFACT.

It’s not just our classrooms where Green indoctrination goes on. It is also our news media that continue to distort every weather event to advance the hoax. Guiding and feeding them is a massive complex of organizations led by the United Nations—the International Panel on Climate Change—that maintains the hoax to frighten people worldwide in order to achieve “one world order.”

On September 23, heads of state, including President Obama, will gather in New York City for what the Sierra Club calls “a historic summit on climate change. With our future on the line, we will take a weekend and use it to bend the course of history” to save the world from “the ravages of climate change.” This is absurd. Suggesting that humans can alter the climate in any way defies centuries of proof they do not.

One of the leading Leftist organizations, the Center for American Progress, focused on the July 14 Major Economics Forum in Paris, offered four items for its agenda. Claiming that “the Arctic is warming two times faster than any other region on earth”, they wanted policy changes based on this falsehood. They blamed climate change for “global poverty” and wanted further reductions in so-called greenhouse gas emissions from energy use. The enemy, as far as they were concerned was energy use.

Mary Hutzler, a senior research fellow of the Institute for Energy Research, testified before a July 22nd meeting of the Senate Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, that due to Europe’s green energy (wind and solar) policies, industrial electricity prices are two-to-five times higher than in the U.S. and that, by 2020, 1.4 million European households will be added to those experiencing energy poverty.

There are lessons to be learned, for example, from Spain’s investment in wind energy that caused the loss of four jobs for the electricity it produced and 13 jobs for every megawatt of solar energy. In Germany, the cost of electricity is three times higher than average U.S. residential prices. Little wonder that European nations are now slashing wind and solar programs.

Billions Wasted to Combat Global Warming

In the U.S., the Obama administration used its “stimulus” to fund Solyndra—$500 million dollars—and fifty other Green energy projects that have failed or are on their way to failure. Undeterred with this appalling record, on July 3 the Energy Department announced $4 billion for “projects that fight global warming.”

But there is no global warming. The Earth has been in a cooling cycle for seventeen years and it shows no indication of ending anytime soon. This is the same administration that has waged a war on coal, forcing the closure of many plants that produced electricity efficiently and affordably, and had throughout the last century.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2014 weather highlights showed that, from January to June, the temperature in the U.S. has risen by a miniscule 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit compared with the average temperature for the 20th century. NOAA also noted that recorded temperatures for the first half of 2014 are the coldest since 1993 when the cooling cycle began. The exception to this has been California.

Brainwashed for decades about global warming, 20% of likely voters, according to a July Rasmussen poll, still believe that global warming is not over, colder weather or not, 17% were not sure, but fully 63% disagreed!

The results of a Pew Research Center poll in June revealed that 35% of Americans say there is not enough solid evidence to suggest mankind is warming the Earth while another 18% says the world has warmed due to “natural patterns”, not human activity. Pew found that liberals remain convinced that humans are to blame, but the bottom line is that 53% disputed the President’s claims.

That means that a growing number of Americans are now skeptics.

In the months to come we will see marches and meetings intended to further the global warming lies. The good news is that fewer Americans are being influenced by such efforts.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

Israel's "Disproportionate" Self-Defense

A target in Gaza is hit

By Alan Caruba

On Sunday, July 27, Eleanor Clift, a member of The McLaughlin Group panel, referred to Israel’s “disproportionate” response to the thousands of rockets and missiles that Hamas has been firing at its citizens for months, if not years.
 
This is a common criticism of Israel, but it is far easier to make if you are living safely somewhere other than Israel and not being awakened by alarm sirens at 5 A.M. with just a little time to make it to a bomb shelter.

Ms. Cliff was hardly alone. In Great Britain, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, in contrast to Prime Minister David Cameron, also declared Israel’s response to Hamas as a “disproportionate form of collective punishment” on the citizens of Gaza.
 
On July 26 The Times of Israel reported that “Thousands of pro-Palestinian protesters marched in London and Paris on Saturday, calling out against Israel’s military operation in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave.

In London, the second Saturday in a row, the protest was estimated to have drawn more than 10,000 participants. “Demonstrators held placards reading ‘Stop Israeli State Terror’. ‘Freedom for Palestine’ and ‘Gaza—End the Siege.’ They also chanted ‘Shame on you David Cameron’ as they filed past the British prime minister’s Downing Street office.” By contrast, Paris cracked down on pro-Palestinian demonstrations and, along with Germany and Italy, denounced expressions of anti-Semitism.

No doubt the expressions of support were welcome in Israel, but when it strikes back against its enemies it tends to run out of friends rather swiftly. In Scandinavia, Denmark, Finland and Norway backed the Palestinians but the European Union did condemn the rocket attacks by Hamas, as well as its use of human shields.

Departing from President Obama’s pro-forma statement on Israel’s right to defend itself, South American nations condemned Israel in tune with their general acceptance of the view that Israel is an aggressor and occupier despite the fact that in relinquished control of Gaza to the Palestinians in 2005. Joining in the chorus of condemnations were Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The hypocrisy of those who raise the issue of “proportionate response” is breathtaking.
 
Consider Israel’s history. In 1948 prior to and following its declaration of independence, Israel fought several Arab armies. In 1949 armistice agreements established lines between Israel and its neighbors. In the 1950s and 60s the Israelis had to respond to constant Fedayeen—Arab guerillas--incursions from Syria, Egypt, and Jordan. In June 1967 Israel fought the Six-Day War with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, with troops contributed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Algeria. When it was over, Israel had increased its landmass and are now called “occupiers” for having defended itself and won!

From 1967 to 1970, Israel fought a war of attrition as the Egyptians, aided by Jordan, Syria, and the Palestinian Liberation Organization, sought to recapture the Sinai. In October 1973, the Israelis fought the Yom Kippur War against Egypt and Syria. It began with a surprise attack on one of the holiest days of the Jewish calendar.

Are you getting tired of reading about the many wars waged against Israel?
 
Well, let’s just include the Palestinian insurgency in South Lebanon (1971-1982); the 1982 Lebanon War in 1982; the South Lebanon conflict (1982-2000); the first Intifada (1987-1993); the second Intifada (2000-2005); the 2006 Lebanon War; the Gaza War (December 2008 to January 2009); and Operation Pillar of Defense against the Gaza Strip in November 2012.  Which brings us to Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

One might assume that after being continually defeated, the Arabs would conclude that peace is a good option, but that is not the mentality that Israelis have been dealing with for the past 66 years and earlier when the first Zionists moved there to escape the anti-Semitism they encountered in Europe.

One might also assume that, if Canada and Mexico had been making war and firing rockets and missiles into the U.S. for that amount of time, we might conclude that a “proportional” response did not work very well.

Israel’s leaders initially embraced a policy of strategic deterrence in which disproportionate force was utilized to reduce the potential for further attacks. This was the policy between 1948 and 1993. After it signed the Oslo Accords in 1993, its leaders shifted to a policy of restraint, but it didn’t work. In the Middle East restraint is interpreted as weakness. Between September 1993 and September 1998, terrorists based in the West Bank or Gaza struck Israel more than ninety times, killing 279 Israelis.

In 2005 then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon struck upon a bold plan to provide the Palestinians with territory of its own adjacent to Israel. He ordered some eight thousand or more Israelis out of the Gaza Strip and turned it over to the Palestinian Authority, Fatah.
 
Not long after, Hamas was elected the ruling party in Gaza and drove out Fatah. A proxy of Iran, Hamas began to receive missiles and build miles of tunnels on both its Israeli and Egyptian borders, the former to attack Israel and the latter to smuggle weapons and other items. Now both Israel and Egypt are destroying those tunnels.

Commentator Andrew McCarthy said it best: "Hamas did not suddenly become a terrorist organization after it was elected. Hamas was elected because it was a jihadist organization. It was elected because, by its own declaration, Hamas connects Palestinians to something they find attractive: the global Islamic-supremacist movement. Palestinians widely reject Israel’s right to exist.

They regard not just Gaza, Judea and Samaria but all of Israel as 'occupied Palestine.' Even those Palestinians who purport to accept the 'two-state solution' see it as a way-station on the march to a one-state solution in which the Jewish state eventually ceases to be. Palestinians chose Hamas precisely because Hamas was seen as more dedicated than Fatah to the achievement of that goal-not to mention, more brutally competent."

Those who talk of Israel’s “disproportionate” response to Hamas, in the context of its long history of having been under attack by neighboring nations and the so-called Palestinians, sound like the babbling idiots that they are.

The Israelis want peace. The only way they will obtain it is to make waging war against them too painful to sustain.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Next Great War

Al Qaeda on the march

By Alan Caruba

In the July 24 edition of The Wall Street Journal there was a commentary, “Wanted: Converts to Judaism” by the chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, Arnold M. Eisen. I thought to myself that this was an extraordinary time to be suggesting conversion to a faith that is literally under attack in Israel and being attacked by the reemergence of anti-Semitism in Europe. Here in America we are witnessing the most pro-Islamic and anti-Semitic administration in the history of nation.

In the wake of the Holocaust following World War Two what anti-Semitism existed in the U.S. gave way to an era of good will toward Jews. In Europe open expressions of anti-Semitism were out of favor. Eisen’s concern is the extensive inter-marriage between Christians and Jews in which Judaism is often abandoned in our historically Christian society. The news about Jews in the post-war years was largely about the nation of Israel and the wars it fought to re-establish and maintain the Jewish state.

What those wars should have told us was that Islamic hatred of Judaism extends to Christianity as well.

For Americans that lesson was driven home on September 11, 2001, but even the memory of that event has begun to fade to such an extent that Americans have twice elected a President who has never hidden his admiration for Islam, whose father was a Muslim, and who spent part of his youth in the Islamic nation of Indonesia. In office, his antipathy to Israel has been in stark contrast to the decades of support for Israel that presidents since Harry Truman have demonstrated.

A curious trend has emerged in America that runs counter to its entire history. The celebratory elements of Christian holy days, particularly Christmas, came under attack with demands that holiday scenes of crèches and even crosses be removed from public areas. Being religious was not encouraged and the tradition of starting the school day with a prayer was banned.

It is not too far a reach to say that the West, America and Europe, has been abandoning the depth of faith that distinguished it as church attendance fell off and resistance to attacks on the practice of religion declined. Home to some of the most beautiful churches on Earth, those in Europe are too often virtually empty. 

This has not been the case in the Middle East and parts of Africa where Islam has awakened from its passive existence due in part to the colonization that preceded and followed World War One. The riches that oil provided have played a role and today a nation like Qatar is funding the emergence of ISIS, the self-declared caliphate calling itself the Islamic State.

Other oil-rich Middle East nations have supported al Qaeda only to discover that they were among its targets. ISIS has turned on Muslims in the area between Syria and into northern Iraq whom they declare hypocrites and apostates. In Mosul, Christians have been told to convert, pay a tax, or die.

While the rockets that have rained down on Israel are dramatic, the attacks on Christians throughout the Middle East have received less attention, but Christian Arabs have been driven from their homelands in the same way the establishment of Israel saw Jews forced to abandon homes in which they had lived for generations.

While Americans, joined by European negotiators, attempt to get Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program, they remain blind to the role Iran has played for decades, using Hezbollah and Hamas, two Palestinian terrorist organizations, to wage war on Israel and, by extension, the U.S. Not a day goes by without the calls, “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.” There is only one way to end Iran’s nuclear program and that is to destroy the facilities that enrich uranium and plutonium. At some point, it will come to that because it must.

Israel is making it clear to the world that there is only one way to rid itself of Hamas and that is a military operation. Its troops are finding an astounding matrix of tunnels whose only purpose is to attack it.

Utterly devoid of any moral standards, Hamas uses homes, schools and hospitals to hide its arsenal of rockets and Palestinian civilians are forced to act as human shields. The world’s media focuses on the deaths of their men, women, and children, but little notice of the rockets and missiles that continue to be fired at Israel. Meanwhile Hamas has been abandoned by Egypt and most other Middle Eastern nations other than Iran and Turkey.

The so-called Palestinians have been led by men like the late Yassir Arafat and currently by Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority, Fatah. Abbas has recently moved his family to a home in Jordan in the face of criticism that he has been too “cooperative” with Israel. On Quds Day last week, an event organized throughout the Middle East by Iran, an estimated 10,000 protesters gathered in the West Bank to protest Israel’s control of Jerusalem, a holy city to Jews and Christians, claimed as well by Islam. It was founded by King David.

Even so, the European business sector was quick to engage with Iran following the news of the negotiations which have been extended and which have granted Iran billions in return for sitting at the table to discuss an end to the nuclear program that it will never abandon.

In 1913, no one in Europe or America would have ever predicted the beginning of World War One in 1914. It began on July 28, 1914. As the historian Charles Emmerson said of the unanticipated war, “Humanity looked into the abyss and peering into the depths, found its own dark, disfigured reflection staring back.”

In 2014, a century later, humanity needs to take a look at the fascistic, utterly immoral objectives and practices of Islam, and understand that it is at war with us, with moderate Muslims, and with all other faiths. It’s not “if” we shall have to deal with it militarily as Israel is doing, but “when.” That day is not far off.

© Alan Caruba, 2014