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Oversight Exercised

POGO explains its vision. Also: Gauging global warming perspectives. Sticking it, bumper-to-bumper. Plus more.

1.23.07

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VIGOROUSLY NONPARTISAN
Re: The Washington Prowler's Democrats in a Hurry:

The American Spectator's Washington Prowler wrongly identified its prey when it reached for POGO in its January 22 column "Democrats in a Hurry."

Since being founded 25 years ago the Project On Government Oversight has been vigorously non-partisan. Our prior investigations into the federal government have exposed systemic problems that have spanned multiple Administrations including overspending and other abuses that would have cost taxpayers billions of dollars. (An outcome that should warm the cockles of conservative hearts.) Several targets of our investigations -- from both sides of the aisle--have been so stung by our reports that they have attempted to retaliate against us in several ways, including holding us in contempt of Congress and subpoenaing our telephone records.

The list of errors in this article is embarrassingly long and reveals a need for tighter fact-checking. As part of our continued dedication to contracting oversight, POGO is investigating Iraq War reconstruction activities, not the Bush Administration's conduct of the Iraq War as you claimed. The article's remaining factual errors focus on our Congressional Oversight Training Series, launched before the 2006 mid-term elections.

The most egregious error is the claim that members of the media outlets you named were invited to attend the oversight training sessions. Two members of the media have attended the sessions, Mr. Grimaldi as a facilitator and a National Journal reporter who wrote about the series but adhered to our requirement to keep the session's content off-the-record.

We are stringent about our requirement that each session is facilitated by at least one Republican and one Democrat and are proud to say that we have bipartisan co-chairs from both Houses of Congress: Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), and Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.). In addition our advisors include Ginni Thomas of the Heritage Foundation and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has joined our House co-chairs in sending letters to all House members encouraging them to attend the sessions.

POGO's training sessions are routinely attended by staff from both chambers and both sides of the aisle and we regret that your article may convince some Republicans that the sessions are not designed with them in mind.

Finally, your description of Sens. Grassley, McCain, and Snowe as "cooperators" with Democrats smacks of an ignorance of Congress's function. The tone makes it seem as though Democrats and Republicans are not supposed to work together. Let us remind you that when the government buys a fighter jet that will be used to protect this country it should not be a Republican or Democratic jet -- it had better be a working jet. When energy companies shortchange the government on royalties, states with Republican and Democratic districts suffer.

Perhaps The American Spectator should review the definition of Congressional Oversight.
-- Jennifer Porter Gore
Communications Director
Project on Government Oversight (POGO)
Washington, D.C.

ADJUSTING THE HEAT
Re: William Tucker's The Global Warming Two-Step:

Having reviewed the climatological/geophysical evidence on global warming after previously writing about the subject, William Tucker now decides that both sides in the debate have a point. Unfortunately, he goes on to announce a conclusion that cannot be based on the science of global warming, but must be based on economics: "It's worth doing something about." Whether it's worth doing something about depends of the costs and benefits of doing something about global warming. So now Mr. Tucker has repeated himself: he is making a recommendation without reviewing the relevant analysis or evidence. What will be the cost of "doing something" and what will be the resulting reduction of global warming is not something upon which he offers any evidence.

For example, numerous analysts have suggested, and proponents admitted, that the costly Kyoto Treaty would have no measurable impact on global warming; it clearly fails the cost/benefit test. Others have argued that global warming of the modest amount suggested in some climatological research will be a net economic benefit to humanity, and therefore incurring any costs to reduce this global warming would fail the cost/benefit test.

This is not to suggest that increasing our use of nuclear power is a bad idea. Indeed, regardless of the impact of nuclear power on global warming (possibly insignificant) it would in many circumstances be a profitable substitute for other forms of power generation and would be adopted in the absence of scare mongering and destructive regulation by environmental neo-luddites.

Still, Mr. Tucker has not made his case. Now that he has read the literature on the science of global warming, it's time he read the literature on the costs and benefits of "doing something" in general and using more nuclear power in particular.
-- David Sisk

I admire Mr. Tucker's valor in trying to find a compromise on global warming. But if the two scientists he admires are correct, and humans cause about one-third of current global warming, that means we're responsible for roughly a third of a degree of warming over the past 50 years. So if we got rid of all carbon emissions, we could reduce the world's average temperature by a third of a degree? Does that make sense? Also, what about when the next mini-ice age reappears? Wouldn't the extra third of a degree of warmth be nice?
-- Roger D. McKinney
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

William Tucker writes. "So I'm back in business. As far as I'm concerned, both sides have a point."

Is Mr. Tucker a marriage counselor? Or a climatologist? Solanki and Fligge write one paper that suggests that the sun may not be the only cause of global warming and the inevitable consequence is that those who want to cripple Western Civilization "have a point"?

The one and only scientific way for those who want to cripple Western Civilization to "have a point" is to have a model that reasonably correlates man-made greenhouse gases with global temperatures. Period. The "problem" with that unavoidable requirement is that any model that predicts statistically significant increases in global temperatures as a function of greenhouse gases necessarily predicts relatively large increases in temperature for relatively infinitesimal percentages of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. It simply doesn't work. Our friend the atmosphere is going to be 80% nitrogen and 19% oxygen and 1% other no matter how many coal fired power plants are belching from sea to shining sea.

Mr. Tucker can try to find common ground with "environmentalists," but I suggest he not waste his time. Those of us old enough to recall the last Huey leaving Saigon also recall that the very next day all the unemployed Vietnam War protesters became nuclear power protesters. Their position has nothing to do with science or fact and all to do with beliefs whose basis are indistinguishable from religious zealots. Their Bible says that any effect man has on the environment, no matter how small, is unacceptable. That is not only unaffordable, but unlivable.

Please find another business, Bill.
-- Frank Natoli
Newton, New Jersey

As an engineer with some experience building nuclear power plants, I have no problem with the technology or concern regarding the safety of these plants. I do have an abiding mistrust of the advocates of global warming who are trying to construct a compelling argument for their cause as being the result of anthropogenic carbon dioxide gas contributions to the greenhouse effect. The attached link shows current accepted proportions of gases contributing to the greenhouse effect and the calculated proportion resulting from anthropogenic activities. If this information is incorrect, then a convincing refutation should be provided.
-- Ed Costello
Bellevue, Washington

Mr. Tucker wrote in his recent article on Global Warming the following "Each side is at the point of trying to outlaw the other's opinion."

Please have him point out the folks on the Skeptic side who are proposing to "outlaw" man-made global warming opinion. It is the religious believers in man-made GW who are calling the skeptics "deniers" and trying to link us to Holocaust deniers. It is the GW religious believing Senators who threatened Exxon for writing about man-made GW skepticism.
-- Will Johnson

William Tucker's article "Global Warming Two-Step" unfortunately does more to illustrate what is wrong with much of science (and especially climate science) today than it does to advance his argument. While Tucker's interest is in promoting his book rather than gaining a scientific journal editorship or a climate change research grant, he seems to be following the same anti-scientific methodology of many global warming "scientists." First decide what it is convenient or advantageous to conclude, then look for evidence to support that conclusion. When Tucker writes that "I finally found a handful of scientists who support this view," he is making explicit his conclusion driven research methodology. If you look hard enough, you will always find what you are looking for, even if it is wrong. Until scientists, and journalists, are more concerned with the search for truth than the search for evidence that supports their pet theories, the truth will elude us and our public debates will be impoverished.
-- Grant Johnson
Americus, Georgia

William Tucker's article on global warming misses the point most important. That there is not a shred of scientific proof of causation between the rise in carbon dioxide and global warming. Correlation is not causation and empirical evidence produced by Arctic core samples actually suggests that CO2 levels rise after a warm period, not before. This would imply that rising CO2 is a result of natural warming not a cause.

Science is not based on "beliefs" and the lefts assertions that there is "consensus" on global warming is disingenuous, since facts and the scientific method don't depend on polls. But politics does. And that is where this argument turns into something else.
-- Jon Daly
Hart, Michigan

It is great to see that your research into the entire AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) debate revealed that there is more than meets the eye. The past 7 or so years of the debate have been anchored to a fraudulent 1000 year temperature reconstruction. How the Mann-Bradley-Hughes proxy reconstruction (MBH98) ever passed the peer review process indicates how deep the scientific waters have been polluted. I understand your concern with amount of CO2 that has been pumped into the atmosphere (an increase of over 100ppm since 1850 based on artic borehole samples). It is easy for most observers to see a linear correlation between the rise in surface temperatures and the rise in CO2 levels. That is why the MBH98 study --which is still being used by everyone from ALGORE to Wiki -- is so central. Those who've been labeled deniers say that it is difficult to separate out the background noise (natural variation) in the statistical data in order to show what the man made temperature increases should look like. It doesn't help either that the atmosphere hasn't quite behaved as predicted. For the last 18 months the Southern Hemisphere has cooled (it shouldn't have), the warm pool that usually warms and signals the beginning of El Nino has failed to do so, and North Pacific appears to be switching from its positive 30 year trend back to its pre 1974 negative trend. None of these things were expected. It may be that this is a short blip in a trend started in the mid 1970s of sharp increases in the Earth's surface temperatures. However, I'm not so sure that this is the case.

In any event, most Americans -myself included- would like to see more nuclear power. The Far Left -- even those people who scream that the earth is melting- would never consider it. It would be interesting to poll the famous AGW scientists and get their opinions (I'm thinking Dr(s). Hansen, Mann, Curry, Hughes, Biffra, etc.). I wonder how many of them would toe the party line. As a matter of fact, if for some strange reason Congress would adopt the most onerous recommendations of the Kyoto Protocol (global carbon taxes) on the stipulation that 80% of our power grid must be nuclear by 2020, I predict that many if not most of these scientists would back off, and the IPCC would do a complete about-face.
-- JP
Indiana

OK, I've read the IPCC report, and read Fred Singer's books (we chat from time to time), and listened to Heidi Cullen (Global Warming is real!), but we have had 5 1/2 feet of snow over the past 5 weeks, and the temperature is low so the snow doesn't evaporate -- its usual fate....
-- Don

Yes, I have known about the "hockey stick" fraud ever since I read Michael Chrichton's State of Fear. I would buy a ticket to see him debate Al Gore on the subject of global warming. I admit it, I am a big fan of mismatches, and Chrichton would be fighting a battle of wits with an unarmed opponent.
-- Warren Mowry

PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD
Re: Robert VerBruggen's The Iran Excuse:

"The Iran Excuse" illustrated a fallacy common among modern conservatives: thinking that words mean what they say. Presenting the actual text of the authorization to use military force, Robert VerBruggen concludes that it restricts the president to venture only against Iraq, since that's what it says. Expanding the mission to Iran is outside the scope. But believing that the text of a resolution bears any relationship to consequent actions by politicians is a rookie mistake. After a second reading, I found that Mr. VerBruggen missed the penumbras and emanations that surround the authorization.

As our liberal betters have taught us, there are creative ways to erase limits on government authority. For example, I discovered in the text a right to privacy guaranteeing our entitlement to abort Iran. You can't see it, but it's there. Further reading revealed the authorization says Iran should be banned since it contains trans fats. We could view Acts of Congress as living documents, open to fresh interpretations based on evolving concepts of morality (translation: The law is what we say it is, not what it says it is). Taking our cue from those who believe that foreign laws supersede our own, we might echo a famous Middle Eastern legal scholar and proclaim Iran to be the 19th province of Iraq; this would make Tehran a legitimate target within the existing authorization. In fact, Bush's authority to attack Iran may already exist under unrelated statutes. We might impound all of Iran under Eminent Domain, evict the residents, and resell it to developers. And there is always the Commerce Clause, which seemingly trumps the 10th Amendment, to say that since interstate trade in Iranian pistachio nuts is affected, any escalation the Commander in Chief undertakes is entirely justified.

I am not advocating for or against paving Iran. That's a topic for another letter. However, let us not delude ourselves that words constraining the government mean the government is constrained. We live in a nuanced era when "no new taxes" and "middle class tax cut" actually mean "great honking tax increase"; when "I did not have sex with that woman" means "I shagged her rotten, baby!"; when "protect and defend the Constitution" means "screw the law and swamp the nation with illegal aliens." I have learned not to be surprised when what the government says is completely unrelated to what it does.
-- Jim Bono
Midlothian, Virginia

STICK-TO-IT-IVENESS
Re: R. Andrew Newman's Bumper-Sticker Profiling:

If Mr. Newman gets his "Nebraskans for War" stickers made, I'd be glad to display one on my car as I drive around Lincoln. My old car, that is. I wouldn't want any of the "Nebraskans for Peace" doing damage to my new car.
-- Russ Bader
Lincoln, Nebraska

In regard to Andy Newman's "Bumper Sticker Profiling" I have to say that not only am I not a fan of the damn things (bumper stickers) but as a born and bred (and still here) New York City resident I'm barely a fan of cars in general. Bumper stickers are the tool of people who believe themselves to be small or insufficiently heard -- no one cares if you're the parent of an honor student or who you voted for. I think they distract the driver behind you from the road, and if you're close enough to read it (as the bumper sticker says), you're too close. In addition to my snobbery, however, I hasten to add that I am also a hypocrite, as the monster mobile my wife and I are currently leasing -- already bearing a factory-issued curse, given the number of scrapes it's been involved in -- bears three stickers that together ought to confuse anyone: one for a particular NY State campground, one for the New York Renaissance Faire (sic) and one for the Henry Repeating Arms Company ("Load on Sunday, Shoot all Week!"). The Henry sticker is nice to display when you're driving through liberal country, in any case. But I'm not looking forward to peeling them off the car's metallic hide in two years.
-- Daniel Frater
Kew Gardens, New York

Mr. Newman has touched upon a bit of Americana that has been driving me crazy for years. Those facile bumper sticker philosophers, mostly denizens of the Left, have on more occasions than I wish to admit, almost provoked an act of road rage from yours truly. In fact, this past summer, while driving to Maine, (having to pass through my beloved CT and Mass.) I vowed to write a book reciting all the inane and infantile maxims I came across, with my nasty and choice response to each. I'm still collecting these gems of wisdom as I come across them, but I suspect my book will never be written. No matter. If anybody else wants to do it, (Mr. Newman?) have at it, just please mention my name in the foreword.

What I suspect many of us conservatives find most distasteful about this whole business, as exquisitely demonstrated recently by that intellectual pigmy of a junior senator from California, Barbara Boxer, to Secretary of State Rice, is the brazen nastiness these folks wallow in. It is a classic demonstration of their smug, infallible, moral superiority on display, usually on the back of an expensive SUV, or for some reason unknown to me, a Subaru. Even more incredible, I suspect, is the blatant hypocrisy and mind-numbing contradictions these folks proudly display. The intellectual disconnect is stunning; but then again, so is the fact that the "Think Peace" guy can cut directly in front of you, almost kissing your front bumper @ 70 mph, sans the use of his directional signal. Call me intellectually challenged, but I can't seem to reconcile how a "Mean People Suck" bumper sticker can co- exist with a " Somewhere a village is missing its village idiot" one.

So thanks Mr. Newman for a great article, I feel better already. And by the way, I'll take those tacky pick-up trucks any day. At least they express a rationale thought.
-- A. DiPentima

I have to confess that reading bumper stickers is a great source of enjoyment when stuck at long traffic lights. They range from the banal (Somewhere in Texas a village has lost its idiot) to the sublime (Beer -- not just for breakfast anymore). And somewhere among them I'm certain will be the solution to all of our woes. I mean, just Imagine Whirled Peas! Kinda gets you right here...
-- John McGuinness

The best sticker I have seen in a long time was on the back of a fully loaded Hummer. Want to check out your airbag, keep tailgating.

I am a squirrel rehabber and the two stickers I have cover that.

"My furs are not in storage
or laying on the bed.
They're hanging from the cage doors
waiting to be fed."

"CAT, the other white meat"
-- Elaine Kyle

I have several personal favorites to add to the list beginning with one that is somewhat popular here in Taos County NM, "Who Would Jesus bomb?" Designed as an in-your- face you hypocritical war-mongering Christians, it actually reflects a theological question regarding the trinitarian nature of God and omniscience. Clearly, Jesus would bomb those who need to be bombed and His decision would always be the correct one.

The "Hate Is Not a Family Value" bumper sticker is, no doubt, meant to reflect that while the driver is actually broad-minded and tolerant, anyone who disagrees with him/her on any issue is a narrow-minded bigot. How about if I hate poverty, oppression of the expression of contrary views, the taking innocent life, or simply growing old too quickly? Do these not count as values that I should pass along to my children?

I have often wondered, traveling behind someone whose bumper sticker suggests that I should "Practice Random Acts of Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty," how they would react were I to beautify their ugly colored car with a can of my favorite color of spray paint. Would a Random Act of Kindness where I steal their car and give it to someone who has no car upset them, or rather make them feel vindicated for seeing their views put into action?

Finally, "Gravity, It's Not Just A Good Idea, It's The Law." Since one of my New Years resolutions was to try and be less mean-spirited I close with this one that I actually like.
-- Joe Phillips
Red River, New Mexico

I'm reluctant to put just about any bumper sticker on my car. Why do drivers announce to traffic behind them that they're crazy? If the "guy behind" is close enough to read them, he might be distracted enough to accidentally do something about it...
-- Robert Nowall
Cape Coral, Florida

Sometimes bumper stickers border on the really obtuse. My favorite one (seen in the parking lot of the biggest government employer here in the DPRM) was: "Pro-Accordion -- and I VOTE!"
-- Cookie Sewell
Democratic People's Republic of Maryland

PAPA HEMINGWAY
Re: G. Tracy Mehan, III's The Experience of Abortion:

Regarding G. Tracy Mehan's essay on Hemingway's story, "Hills Like White Elephants," I wanted to comment that I have taught that and many other stories by Hemingway and always felt that I had a pretty good handle on what the Master was driving at. It always seemed to me that the emphasis of the story was on the subtle coercion exerted by the (somewhat older) male on the (somewhat younger) female. Looking at the story in the light shined on it by Mr. Mehan, I see a whole new level of interpretation. What a wonderful thing for a Hemingway-phile to discover at my advanced age. Indeed, I believe that this interpretation is probably more accurate and more trenchant than mine. His life and death were both grandiose messes, but my god man, he could write.
-- Joseph Baum
Garrettsville, Ohio

TECH TALKBACK
Re: C. D. Lueders' letter (under "Phone Tag") in Reader Mail's Last Rights:

There is another form of babble out here that requires the same treatment as M. Lueders gives to the accented ones on the "help" lines: that of "tech support" in the digital and cable television business. I have been forced by the monopoly cable company in my neighborhood to accept a digital box in order to continue to receive the SPEED Channel (and do they hate it that I don't care about any of the darned thing's other "features"). It has been hooked up incorrectly twice by their representatives, who were sent only after the child on the other end of the line had repeatedly pleaded with me to "Find someone else I can talk to" -- i.e., someone who can speak tech-babble, or "can't someone else there hook it up for you?" Now when I call, at the first impasse I inquire, "How old are you?" and if the person on the other end of the phone is under 30, I request, "May I please speak to someone over 40?" It may take some time and persistence, but once an adult can be found, the problem can be sorted out in jig time. Saturday's difficulty with the VCR caused the 26-year-old on the phone to become upset because she had never heard of a VCR without a display screen. I told her that my VCR was one year younger than she is. She offered to send someone out to "educate" me in how to use the equipment. She eventually found someone old enough to diagnose the problem without getting sidetracked by an argument that did not advance the battle -- the equipment had been connected incorrectly -- and send someone to remedy it.
-- Kate Shaw
Who has not yet begun to fight
in Toronto

I am in the market for a new computer and I am going to buy Gateway. They have AMERICAN tech help and that is the best advertisement for any company. When I changed to SBC Internet service I asked if the tech help was in America and was told yes -- they LIED and the service is the worse I have ever had. Someone told me Dell was coming back to American tech help so I called customer service and got someone I could not understand and she did not understand me. I asked if tech help was in America and she told me if I had in home service the tech help was in America. Well, DUH, I thought they would fly someone in from India. LOL.

BTW if you just keep punching Zero on the phone usually you will get to a real person, or go here to learn how for any company.
-- Elaine Kyle

WHAT DID WEBB KNOW?
Re: H.W. Crocker III's How to Win in Iraq:

I offer a take on Senator Webb's analysis of what to do about the war in Iraq, based on what he actually implies:

He said in his response to the State of the Union address that President Eisenhower had asked "Whence comes the end?" regarding Korea. Webb said he made the right decisions and resolved the problem. It's not enough to praise Ike for making the right decisions without describing and analyzing the actual decisions. It is commonly reported that what Eisenhower decided to do was to threaten North Korea with nuclear weapons, and that brought the war to an end.

Webb did not tell us, either, whether he thought the Vietnam War, in which he and his brother fought, involved presidential decisions that were also mistaken, if not reckless, actions by Presidents Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, and Ford. If they were, why did he and his brother fight in those wars? If they weren't, why did the U.S. lose? It is thought by some that Nixon's legendary secret plan to win the war was to copy Eisenhower and threaten North Vietnam with nuclear weapons. Others might argue that his secret plan was to cut off the flow of troops from the North by bombing the trails, including in neighboring countries. Does Webb think the war was a good cause, but lost because Congress cut off funding any such actions? In that case, isn't it possible, in this hypothesis, that Congressional mistakes similar to the one that helped lose the Vietnam War should be avoided regarding the war in Iraq?
-- Richard L.A. Schaefer
Dubuque, Iowa

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