Regulating CO2 gas

As the nearby chart shows, CO2 emissions growth in the U.S. far outpaced that of the 15 "old" members of the European Union from 1990-95 and especially from 1995-2000, when Mr. Climate Change himself, Al Gore, was the second-most powerful man in America. But, lo, the U.S. has outperformed the EU-15 since 2000, according to the latest U.N. data. America's rate of growth in CO2 emissions from 2000-04 was eight percentage points lower than from 1995-2000.

By comparison, the EU-15 saw an increase of 2.3 points. Only two EU states, Britain and Sweden, are on track to meet their Kyoto emissions commitments by 2010. Six more might meet their targets if they approve and implement new, as yet unspecified, policies to restrict carbon output, while seven of the 15 will miss their goals.

Cynics play down America's improvement, noting that its economy cooled from the earlier years to 2000-04. True, but the EU-15 also had lower economic growth in the latest period and still saw its emissions growth rate double. What's more, the U.S. economy expanded 38% faster than the EU-15 in 2000-04, and its population twice as fast. So the trend lines, for now, are reversing. That may frustrate the green lobby because so much of its fund raising depends on vilifying the U.S. But facts are facts, no matter how underreported they are.

Europe's dismal record is explained by its approach to reducing emissions. The centerpiece of the Continent's plan is a carbon-trading scheme in which companies in CO2-heavy industries receive tradable permits for a certain amount of emissions. If they emit more CO2, they must buy credits from firms that are under quota. The idea is to force companies to emit less CO2 by making it prohibitively expensive to keep the status quo.

All this scheme has done so far is provide further proof that government cannot replicate the wisdom of markets. A red-faced European Commission recently admitted that it allowed more permits than there were emissions in 2005-07, keeping permit prices low and undermining the entire system. When Brussels tried to make amends by ordering several member states to cut carbon permits by 7% more than expected for 2008-2012, industry and national capitals squealed. The market hadn't priced in such a dramatic reduction. With carbon permits trading relatively cheaply, firms have been able to get by with minimal changes to the way they do business. That has minimized Kyoto's economic impact.

From the WSJ. There is the hype that by not being a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol the US is un-enlightened compared to our EU counterpart. I guess this is just another example of being practical is superior to "being enlightened" or reality over ideal.


Court Gone Wild

From today's WSJ
In Robert Louis Stevenson's day, body snatchers dug up corpses in the dead of night. Modern body snatchers take tissue from the living, and they do it in daylight. This week in St. Louis, the Eighth Circuit heard an appeal in the case of William Catalona, a famous prostate-cancer surgeon and the man who developed the PSA test to screen for prostate cancer. Over the years Dr. Catalona collected thousands of tissue samples from his patients to help him research this dreaded disease. The tissues were all from individuals who had family histories of prostate cancer, indicating a genetic cause. When Dr. Catalona left Washington University for Northwestern, he wanted to take these tissues with him. Six thousand patients notified the university that they wished their tissues to go with him.

Ignoring the requests of patients, Washington University claimed the tissue collection as its own, and sued Dr. Catalona. In March of this year the district court ruled the collection belonged to the university. Judge Stephen Limbaugh found that the patients had given their tissues to WU as a gift, and therefore the university owned the tissues outright.

The decision surprised many. As a recipient of federal funds, Washington University was required to follow the federal regulations on informed consent for tissues received from patients. This included acknowledging in writing that the tissues would be used only for prostate research, that patients had the right to withdraw from the study at any time, and to have their tissue samples destroyed upon request.

However, Judge Limbaugh ruled that patients had no such rights. In his view, the right to withdraw merely meant the right not to contribute more tissues. The right to have the tissues destroyed meant only that the samples would be used anonymously. The guarantee that tissues would only be used for prostate research could be ignored, and WU was free to use the tissues for any purpose whatever.

This contradicted prior tissue cases in which courts have ruled that written documents do indeed afford patients ongoing rights to tissues after they had left their bodies. The fact that Judge Limbaugh's decision also abrogated federal guidelines left many observers uneasy. In addition there was the awkward legal matter that any donation with these restrictions could not be termed a gift. And the ethical issue was plain. Patients had donated their tissues with a written promise of control. Now that written promise was deemed worthless by a judge.

Research universities around the country greeted the ruling with unseemly enthusiasm, and hastily joined forces to prevent a successful legal appeal. Although the National Institutes of Health and other federal centers conduct research under the federal guidelines, universities now claim that these rules are impossibly onerous and impede research. Unless researchers are allowed to do whatever they want, they warn patients, the flow of life-saving miracles will dry up. This kind of high-handed attitude toward patients went out of style in the 1970s, after the first waves of malpractice litigation brought a bruising new reality to medicine.

Similarly harsh legal actions are likely to follow in the aftermath of the Catalona case. Patients have serious and legitimate interests -- practical, legal and religious -- in their tissues and how they are used in research. If the documents signed for WU are not sufficient to stand up in court, universities will soon face more restrictive language, this time drawn up by patients' rights groups. Major donors may be pressured to bypass universities that refuse to follow federal guidelines; alumni groups may be mobilized to protest university policies. Such tactics are known to be waiting in the wings, pending the Catalona appeal.

For universities, perhaps the most damaging outcome may be the loss of confidence that patients feel in major centers of research and healing. There was a time when physicians were ranked just below Supreme Court justices. Those days are long gone. Our university hospitals and major medical centers still command respect. But the perception that they are businesses like any other is growing stronger every day. Except, they're not -- they're non-profits, exempt from most of the rules and disclosures that are required of American businesses. In short, caveat patiens, keep copies of everything you sign, bring a lawyer to every medical appointment, and always, always watch your back.

This decision is very wrong and in the wrong run hurt biomedical research. If the patients do not have a right to withdraw consent and participation, then less will likely participate.


Flight Club

Very amusing and sadly disturbingly true.


the Iraq Civil War

This is a brilliantly insightful post at the Belmont Club regarding the "civil war" in Iraq. A must read in total but i will just quote the key analysis here:
The first and fatal miscalculation by the Sunnis was to think they could drive the US Armed Forces from Iraq, a gamble which they lost. Encouraged by the absence of a crushing campaign in northern Iraq, itself possibly caused by the absence of the 4ID from the OIF order of battle, and alienated by the American decision to "de-Baathize" Iraq, many former military Sunnis chose to continue resistance using guerilla tactics. By March, 2004 they were ready. The insurgent uprising of early 2004 that culminated in the abortive First Battle of Fallujah, which still saw the Shi'ites in as militarily inferiors. Moqtada al-Sadr's men were as yet limited to their bailiwicks and relatively weak. But doomed attempts to stand and fight against US forces eventually imposed crippling human and material losses on the Sunnis. The border with Syria was more closely patrolled. The US embarked on the what the Belmont Club called the River War to break up the logistical trail up and down the Euphrates. Sunni attempts to keep Mosul within the Sunni orbit also failed. But these were more than tactical defeats: they fatally undermined the strategic basis of Sunni power even as their ethnic rivals gained in strength.

The Sunni insurgency compounded its military failures by ruthlessly suppressing any attempts by their ethnic leaders to participate in political process sponsored by the Coalition and by murdering any Sunni who came forward to join the new Army and Police. The result was that Sunnis were underrepresented in both the Constitutional convention and in the elections of 2005. It was a double-whammy. Not only were Sunni military resources depleted, but they self-selected themselves out of the American sponsored Iraqi government. In my personal view, the Sunnis were encouraged along this path to disaster, not only by the mixed signals sent by the US, which alternately seemed to conciliate and confront them, but also by the coverage of the MSM which trumpeted the view that the Insurgency was growing more potent. Not only did the MSM penchant for listening to Sunni insurgent spokesmen undermine the US effort, it did even greater damage to the insurgents, who believed their own lies and reached for a brass ring fundamentally beyond their grasp.

What news stories missed until very recently was that the insurgent determination to fight increasingly sprang from despair rather than confidence in a Sunni restoration. The recent press release announcing the establishment of a rump Sunni "Caliphate" consisting largely of desert and absurd claims to oilfields beyond their grasp should have signalld how low their ambitions had fallen. But one person who understood how badly things stood for the Sunnis was Abu Musab Zarqawi. In the last months of his life, Zarqawi viewed with mounting alarm the American program to rebuild the Iraqi Army, largely from Kurds and Shi'ites -- since the Sunni insurgents did their level best to blow up any lines of Sunnis who applied for Iraqi Army or Police jobs -- and understood that unless he could drive America out of Iraq by other means all was lost. His solution was to unleash chaos upon everything. Whether or not Zarqawi was truly behind the attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra it suited his book. Zarqawi's only thought was to unleash Civil War to politically drive America from Iraq. It was the ultimate Scorched Earth tactic and one welcomed by neighboring countries eager to carve up what carcass would remain. What Zarqawi did not face, or could not face, is what would happen afterward.

Westhawk observes that American officers believe that "Iraq’s Sunni Arabs will continue to fight because they believe they face either extermination or banishment if they do not." With the Sunni military struggle essentially hopeless, efforts to redress the balance within the Iraqi political process arrived too late. The door had been barred by Shi'ite extremism fueled by Moqtada al-Sadr and separately, the agents of Iran. In a remarkable display of nonstatesmanship, the Shi'ite parties headed by Iraqi PM Maliki and goaded by al-Sadr proved less interested in building an Iraq than upon obtaining revenge upon their former masters. They failed to rein in their now powerful militias, increasingly able to harry the Sunnis at will. Then, having slammed two doors in their own faces: that of military victory and that of parliamentary viability, the Sunnis proceeded to bang yet another on their battered visage: the chance of protection under the Americans. After a sequence of failures, the gamble unleashed by Zarqawi ironically began to work all too well. The US electorate, disgusted by the internal slaughter, signalled in the mid-term elections of 2006 that it would consider withdrawal. And that, to the Sunnis spelled D-E-A-T-H. Without America to hold them back, the Shi'ite forces -- which the Sunni resistance and defeat ironically brought into ascendance -- would have no compunctions about slaughtering them. In the beginning the Shi'ite militias were only capable of attacking poor, isolated Sunnis. They are increasingly able to penetrate Sunni neighborhoods and to kidnap and kill former high-ranking Baathists.

Civil war or no civil war, whatever label is placed on the violence in Iraq is largely irrelevant. What is true is that the US presence is not making things worse but better. A US pull out will only escalate the violence to the point that neighboring power will be drawn in. Seeing that the regional powers constitute Saudi Arabia (global oil provider), Iran (wannabe nuclear power), and Syria (regional meddler also in Lebanon), a regional conflict in the heart of the Middle East will make the Iraq problem a global problem.

see also Crossroad Arabia on Saudi Arabia plans for Iraq.