Poll shows most Canadians believe PM Trudeau has done wrong in the SNC-Lavalin controversy

As the federal Liberal’s SNC-Lavalin scandal progressed this week with the resignation of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s right-hand man, Principal Secretary Gerald Butts, a new poll conducted by Leger for The Canadian Press shows that 41 percent of respondents believe the Prime Minister has done something wrong involving the Montreal engineering company.

Among respondents who identified themselves as Liberal supporters, 10 percent believe the Prime Minister has done something wrong, 27 percent believe he hasn’t, and 55 percent aren’t sure. Among Conservatives, 66 percent believe the Prime Minister has done something wrong, 4 percent believe he has not, and 28 percent aren’t sure. In a question about which party leader would make the best Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau received the support of only 26 percent of respondents, down 7 percent from a similar poll Leger conducted in November 2018. The poll was conducted after Ms. Wilson-Raybould resigned from the cabinet but mostly before Mr. Butts quit the Prime Minister’s Office on February 18.

Leger’s executive vice-president Christian Bourque said the Prime Minister has “not found a way to reassure Canadians or … been clear enough about his involvement, what he said or did not say, so that a lot of Canadians right now are holding it up against him because they don’t know all the ins and outs to make up their own mind.” Mr. Bourque said the firm’s polling in February is the first time since the 2015 election that the Conservatives have been ahead of the Liberals in overall support. Leger found 36 percent of respondents saying they would vote Conservative if an election were held that day, to 34 percent for the Liberals, 12 percent for the New Democratic Party, 8 percent for the Greens and 4 percent for the People’s Party. Mr. Bourque said it’s interesting that Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer is failing to pick up the slack, noting, “There’s nobody right now that’s capturing the minds and hearts of Canadians and probably explains why voting intentions are so close while we see that the prime minister is actually showing signs of weakening in terms of support.

As PM Trudeau's Principal Secretary and close personal friend Gerald Butts resigned from his position in the PMO this week, he denied allegations that he or anyone else in PM Trudeau's office pressured then-Attorney General Wilson-Raybould regarding SNC-Lavalin prosecution. Mr. Butts said he was leaving because it was becoming a distraction from the work of the government, which opponents viewed as evidence of wrongdoing. On Tuesday, PM Trudeau's cabinet met for the first time in person since the scandal broke, including Ms. Wilson-Raybould, and PM Trudeau said the meeting was held at her request. Speaking in front of cameras she confirmed she is still a Liberal MP but wouldn't comment further, citing solicitor-client privilege. That afternoon, Liberal MPs on the House Justice Committee changed their position and agreed to invite Ms. Wilson-Raybould to testify in their investigation. On his way into Question Period, the Prime Minister faced the cameras and apologized to Ms. Wilson-Raybould for not condemning sooner the personal attacks against her by unnamed Liberal sources in the days after the SNC-Lavalin controversy began unfolding.

ISIS bride that ran away from Britain to Syria denied citizenship as her family requests help for her baby

Shamima Begum was one of three 15-year-old schoolgirls, along with friends Kadiza Sultana and Amira Abase, who snuck out of the United Kingdom in February 2015 to become jihadi brides in Syria. Ms. Begum then married a young Dutch IS fighter, Yago Riedijk, three weeks after she arrived in the country, and her first two babies died of illness. She resurfaced heavily pregnant at a Syrian refugee camp last week and has since given birth to a baby boy. Ms. Begum asked to return to the UK and was denied by the Home Office. The case has prompted debate over how Britain manages returning or those attempting to return from Syria and ISIS. While many do not want to see Ms. Begum return to the UK, others have argued she should face prosecution for her actions and attempts at deradicalization.

Interviewed by the UK’s Sky News, the now 19-year-old Ms. Begum said, "a lot of people should have sympathy" for her as she spoke of her wish to return to the UK. She said the UK authorities had no evidence of her "doing anything dangerous", in response to concerns she could pose a security threat and claimed she was "just a housewife" during her four years in the terrorist caliphate in Syria, where she married. When asked about beheadings and executions she replied that she was "okay with it" because she had heard "Islamically that is allowed". Ms. Begum revealed she had been radicalised by watching videos on the internet shortly before leaving Britain.

Read the full interview transcript 

Ms. Begum, who was born in the UK, had her British citizenship revoked by the Home Office, whereas the British Nationality Act 1981 provides the Home Secretary with the power to strip people of citizenship if it is "conducive to the public good". Asked about the situation in an interview, Minister Sajid Javid said. "I'm not going to talk about an individual, but I can be clear on the point that I would not take a decision and I believe none of my predecessors ever have taken a decision that at the point the decision is taken would leave that individual stateless." He also suggested to the Commons that action to bar her from returning will not impact her son's rights. "If a parent does lose their British citizenship, it does not affect the rights of their child," he said. It was initially speculated that Ms. Begum, who is of Bangladeshi heritage, may have held dual citizenship there but Bangladesh's Minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam denied this.

Ms. Begum’s family, who wrote to the Home Secretary asking for his help to bring her newborn son to Britain say they will consider "all legal avenues to challenge this decision" and Ms. Begum said she may attempt to travel with her terrorist husband, who is currently imprisoned, to his home country of Holland to claim citizenship there. The family’s letter to Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the baby boy was a "true innocent" who should not "lose the privilege of being raised in the safety of this country". The family said they have had no contact with Ms. Begum and had only learned she had given birth to a boy through media reports, of which they made clear that they were "shocked and appalled" at the "vile comments" Ms. Begum had made. The letter also shows the family was aware of her radicalisation, as they had made "every fathomable effort" to block her from entering IS territory. "That year we lost Shamima to a murderous and misogynistic cult," her sister wrote, “My sister has been in their thrall now for four years, and it is clear to me that her exploitation at their hands has fundamentally damaged her."

President Trump declares a national emergency on the southern border

American President Donald Trump declared a national emergency and exercised executive powers to sign a bill that prevented another government shutdown, which would have been triggered at midnight last Friday, and a funding package that includes USD $1.4 billion for border security. Speaking to an audience that included border patrol agents and ‘Angel Moms’, who are parents of children killed by immigrants in the country illegally, the President said, "We’re going to confront the national security crisis on our southern border, and we’re going to do it one way or another” and predicted the issue would end up before the Supreme Court: "I expect to be sued. We’ll win, I think.” The administration has stated that pretending the border crisis doesn’t exist is an insult to those who face its consequences every day.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials explain the lack of physical infrastructure at the country’s border with Mexico is being continuously exploited for illegal purposes. In January, there was a surge of 22,000 more apprehensions of illegal immigrants at southwest border crossings than January 2018, suggesting that border officers will make over 600,000 apprehensions in 2019. The year-over-year increase was 84 percent, from 25,975 in January 2018 to 47,893 last January. This week, 103 illegal aliens from Central America were detained, in addition to two sex offenders, multiple criminal aliens including some with warrants and convictions for sexual assault, kidnapping, and murder, such as a convicted rapist caught in El Centro, California. A previously deported MS-13 gang member recently apprehended and nearly USD $1 million of drugs were seized in the Rio Grande Valley.

A senior administration official told reporters that the White House plans to move USD $8 billion in currently appropriated or available funds toward construction of the wall. Of that, USD $3 billion could be diverted with help from the emergency declaration. That money includes about USD $600 million from the Treasury Department’s forfeiture fund. That money has been described as “easy money” that the White House can use however it wants. The White House is also expected to use drug interdiction money from the Department of Defense. By declaring an emergency, President Trump would also seek to unlock money from the Defense Department’s military construction budget, to the tune of USD $3.5 billion.

The President’s decision to declare a national emergency follows a review of the compromise spending package, which was negotiated for weeks in a bipartisan conference committee and passed both the House and the Senate. However, the deal would provide only a fraction of the President’s originally proposed figure of USD $5.7 billion for border security and construction of a wall or physical barrier along the southern border. The bill also imposed a number of restrictions on the White House, with legislative language preventing the administration from moving funding around to get a barrier or a wall, which may have contributed to the emergency declaration decision.

Actor Jussie Smollett charged with filing a false police report alleging a racist and homophobic attack

Chicago authorities have charged Empire actor Jussie Smollett with filing a false police report after alleging he had been the victim of a racist and homophobic attack. Police had previously said the 36-year-old actor was being considered as a suspect in the case and have now confirmed charges have been brought by Cook County State's Attorney's Office for disorderly conduct and filing a false police report. Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said detectives are now looking to arrest Mr. Smollett.

Mr. Smollett had alleged he had been attacked by two masked men in downtown Chicago on January 29, telling police his attackers had shouted racist and homophobic abuse and tied a noose around his neck. Mr. Smollett, who is black and came out as gay in 2015, made a tearful appearance on Good Morning America this month and said he had been "forever changed" by the alleged attack, saying, "I will never be the man who this didn't happen to.” Continuing, he added, "I am forever changed and I don't subscribe to the idea that everything happens for a reason, but I do subscribe to the idea that we have the right and responsibility to make something meaningful out of the things that happen to us, good and bad." Asked what message he wanted to send by speaking about the attack, he replied, "I want young people, young members of the LGTBQ community, young black children, to know how strong they are, to know the power they hold in their little pinky."

Mr. Smollett has starred in the television drama Empire since 2015 as the character Jamal, the gay son of a music mogul, played by Terrence Howard. Executive producers at Fox said Mr. Smollett’s character Jamal will not appear in the final two episodes. In a statement, Fox said, "The events of the past few weeks have been incredibly emotional for all of us. Jussie has been an important member of our Empire family for the past five years and we care about him deeply. While these allegations are very disturbing, we are placing our trust in the legal system as the process plays out. We are also aware of the effects of this process on the cast and crew members who work on our show, and to avoid further disruption on set we have decided to remove the role of Jamal from the final two episodes of the season."

The charges against Mr. Smollett emerged on the same day that detectives and two brothers who were earlier deemed suspects testified before a grand jury. The announcement that charges had been made followed weeks of speculation around the investigation and lengthy interviews of the brothers by authorities, a search of their home and their release after police cleared them. Investigators have not said what the brothers told detectives or what evidence detectives collected. On Friday, police announced a "significant shift in the trajectory" of the probe after the brothers were freed. If found guilty of the Class 4 felony, Mr. Smollett faces a prison sentence of between one to three years or receive probation.

Sudan's President declares a state of emergency and dismisses the government

In a televised address to the nation on Friday, Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir declared a one-year national state of emergency. He has dismissed the federal government and all state governors and asked parliament to postpone constitutional amendments that would allow him to run for another term. President al-Bashir’s intelligence chief, Salah Gosh, had previously told reporters that the President planned to step down as leader of the ruling National Congress Party, and won’t seek re-election in an election scheduled for 2020.

President Bashir, 75, is an Islamist and former army officer who seized power in an Islamist-backed coup in 1989. He has remained resistant to stepping down. He is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and genocide committed during the conflict in Darfur.

Earlier on Friday, the head of Sudan's National Security and Intelligence Services (NISS) supposedly said that President Bashir would be stepping down. Anti-government protests have been held for weeks, which the President accused as an attempt to destabilise the country. The demonstrations started over cuts to bread and fuel subsidies in December but later morphed into anger at President Bashir's 30-year rule. To stamp out the protests, NISS have arrested hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders, activists, and journalists. More than 1,000 people are reported to have been detained since the protests began. Rights groups say more than 40 people have been killed in clashes with security forces.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, which is spearheading the protests, responded to Bashir's announcement by calling for the president to step down. "We are calling on our people to continue with demonstrations until the main aim of this uprising, which is the stepping down of the regime chief, is achieved," it said.

Efficient Charity — Do Unto Others

Imagine you are setting out on a dangerous expedition through the Arctic on a limited budget. The grizzled old prospector at the general store shakes his head sadly: you can't afford everything you need; you'll just have to purchase the bare essentials and hope you get lucky. But what is essential? Should you buy the warmest parka, if it means you can't afford a sleeping bag? Should you bring an extra week's food, just in case, even if it means going without a rifle? Or can you buy the rifle, leave the food, and hunt for your dinner?

And how about the field guide to Arctic flowers? You like flowers, and you'd hate to feel like you're failing to appreciate the harsh yet delicate environment around you. And a digital camera, of course - if you make it back alive, you'll have to put the Arctic expedition pics up on Facebook. And a hand-crafted scarf with authentic Inuit tribal patterns woven from organic fibres! Wicked!

…but of course buying any of those items would be insane. The problem is what economists call opportunity costs: buying one thing costs money that could be used to buy others. A hand-crafted designer scarf might have some value in the Arctic, but it would cost so much it would prevent you from buying much more important things. And when your life is on the line, things like impressing your friends and buying organic pale in comparison. You have one goal - staying alive - and your only problem is how to distribute your resources to keep your chances as high as possible. These sorts of economics concepts are natural enough when faced with a journey through the freezing tundra.

But they are decidedly not natural when facing a decision about charitable giving. Most donors say they want to "help people". If that's true, they should try to distribute their resources to help people as much as possible. Most people don't. In the "Buy A Brushstroke" campaign, eleven thousand British donors gave a total of 550,000 pounds to keep the famous painting "Blue Rigi" in a UK museum. If they had given that 550,000 pounds to buy better sanitation systems in African villages instead, the latest statistics suggest it would have saved the lives of about one thousand two hundred people from disease. Each individual $50 donation could have given a year of normal life back to a Third Worlder afflicted with a disabling condition like blindness or limb deformity.

Most of those 11,000 donors genuinely wanted to help people by preserving access to the original canvas of a beautiful painting. And most of those 11,000 donors, if you asked, would say that a thousand people's lives are more important than a beautiful painting, original or no. But these people didn't have the proper mental habits to realize that was the choice before them, and so a beautiful painting remains in a British museum and somewhere in the Third World a thousand people are dead.

If you are to "love your neighbor as yourself", then you should be as careful in maximizing the benefit to others when donating to charity as you would be in maximizing the benefit to yourself when choosing purchases for a polar trek. And if you wouldn't buy a pretty picture to hang on your sled in preference to a parka, you should consider not helping save a famous painting in preference to helping save a thousand lives.

Not all charitable choices are as simple as that one, but many charitable choices do have right answers. GiveWell.org, a site which collects and interprets data on the effectiveness of charities, predicts that antimalarial drugs save one child from malaria per $5,000 worth of medicine, but insecticide-treated bed nets save one child from malaria per $500 worth of netting. If you want to save children, donating bed nets instead of antimalarial drugs is the objectively right answer, the same way buying a $500 TV instead of an identical TV that costs $5,000 is the right answer. And since saving a child from diarrheal disease costs $5,000, donating to an organization fighting malaria instead of an organization fighting diarrhea is the right answer, unless you are donating based on some criteria other than whether you're helping children or not.

Say all of the best Arctic explorers agree that the three most important things for surviving in the Arctic are good boots, a good coat, and good food. Perhaps they have run highly unethical studies in which they release thousands of people into the Arctic with different combinations of gear, and consistently find that only the ones with good boots, coats, and food survive. Then there is only one best answer to the question "What gear do I buy if I want to survive" - good boots, good food, and a good coat. Your preferences are irrelevant; you may choose to go with alternate gear, but only if you don't mind dying.

And likewise, there is only one best charity: the one that helps the most people the greatest amount per dollar. This is vague, and it is up to you to decide whether a charity that raises forty children's marks by one letter grade for $100 helps people more or less than one that prevents one fatal case of tuberculosis per $100 or one that saves twenty acres of rainforest per $100. But you cannot abdicate the decision, or you risk ending up like the 11,000 people who accidentally decided that a pretty picture was worth more than a thousand people's lives.

Deciding which charity is the best is hard. It may be straightforward to say that one form of antimalarial therapy is more effective than another. But how do both compare to financing medical research that might or might not develop a "magic bullet" cure for malaria? Or financing development of a new kind of supercomputer that might speed up all medical research? There is no easy answer, but the question has to be asked.

What about just comparing charities on overhead costs, the one easy-to-find statistic that's universally applicable across all organizations? This solution is simple, elegant, and wrong. High overhead costs are only one possible failure mode for a charity. Consider again the Arctic explorer, trying to decide between a $200 parka and a $200 digital camera. Perhaps a parka only cost $100 to make and the manufacturer takes $100 profit, but the camera cost $200 to make and the manufacturer is selling it at cost. This speaks in favor of the moral qualities of the camera manufacturer, but given the choice the explorer should still buy the parka. The camera does something useless very efficiently, the parka does something vital inefficiently. A parka sold at cost would be best, but in its absence the explorer shouldn't hesitate to choose the parka over the camera. The same applies to charity. An antimalarial net charity that saves one life per $500 with 50% overhead is better than an antidiarrheal drug charity that saves one life per $5000 with 0% overhead: $10,000 donated to the high-overhead charity will save ten lives; $10,000 to the lower-overhead will only save two. Here the right answer is to donate to the antimalarial charity while encouraging it to find ways to lower its overhead. In any case, examining the financial practices of a charity is helpful but not enough to answer the "which is the best charity?" question.

Just as there is only one best charity, there is only one best way to donate to that charity. Whether you volunteer versus donate money versus raise awareness is your own choice, but that choice has consequences. If a high-powered lawyer who makes $1,000 an hour chooses to take an hour off to help clean up litter on the beach, he's wasted the opportunity to work overtime that day, make $1,000, donate to a charity that will hire a hundred poor people for $10/hour to clean up litter, and end up with a hundred times more litter removed. If he went to the beach because he wanted the sunlight and the fresh air and the warm feeling of personally contributing to something, that's fine. If he actually wanted to help people by beautifying the beach, he's chosen an objectively wrong way to go about it. And if he wanted to help people, period, he's chosen a very wrong way to go about it, since that $1,000 could save two people from malaria. Unless the litter he removed is really worth more than two people's lives to him, he's erring even according to his own value system.

…and the same is true if his philanthropy leads him to work full-time at a nonprofit instead of going to law school to become a lawyer who makes $1,000 / hour in the first place. Unless it's one HELL of a nonprofit. (Editor: since this article was written, there has been much more discussion about whether earning to give is the best way to have an impact. It is likely to vary significantly between individuals. For more details, see this article.)

The Roman historian Sallust said of Cato "He preferred to be good, rather than to seem so". The lawyer who quits a high-powered law firm to work at a nonprofit organization certainly seems like a good person. But if we define "good" as helping people, then the lawyer who stays at his law firm but donates the profit to charity is taking Cato's path of maximizing how much good he does, rather than how good he looks.

And this dichotomy between being and seeming good applies not only to looking good to others, but to ourselves. When we donate to charity, one incentive is the warm glow of a job well done. A lawyer who spends his day picking up litter will feel a sense of personal connection to his sacrifice and relive the memory of how nice he is every time he and his friends return to that beach. A lawyer who works overtime and donates the money online to starving orphans in Romania may never get that same warm glow. But the concern with a warm glow is, at root, concern about seeming good rather than being good - albeit seeming good to yourself rather than to others. There's nothing wrong with donating to charity as a form of entertainment if it's what you want - giving money to the Art Fund may well be a quicker way to give yourself a warm feeling than seeing a romantic comedy at the cinema - but charity given by people who genuinely want to be good and not just to feel that way requires more forethought.

It is important to be rational about charity for the same reason it is important to be rational about Arctic exploration: it requires the same awareness of opportunity costs and the same hard-headed commitment to investigating efficient use of resources, and it may well be a matter of life and death. Consider going to www.GiveWell.org and making use of the excellent resources on effective charity they have available.

This article was written in 2010, and estimates for the cost-effectiveness of interventions have changed since then. We recommend visiting GiveWell for more up to date estimates. This article was originally published as ‘Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others’ on lesswrong.com by Scott Alexander.

 


About the Author

 

Effective Altruism is a project of The Centre for Effective Altruism, a registered charity in England and Wales. Effective altruism is changing the way we do good. Effective altruism is about answering one simple question: how can we use our resources to help others the most? Rather than just doing what feels right, we use evidence and careful analysis to find the very best causes to work on. But it's no use answering the question unless you act on it. Effective altruism is about following through. It's about being generous with your time and your money to do the most good you can.

Europe Tried It's Own "Green New Deal" — It Was a Disaster

What happens when politicians see that their monster stimuli have not delivered? They bring the next rabbit out of a hat. They need a new name and a new magic solution to make citizens believe in the magic of demand-side policies despite the constant failure of those same plans.

The Eurozone Example

A huge stimulus in 2008 in a “growth and employment plan”. A stimulus of 1.5% of GDP to create “millions of jobs in infrastructure, civil works, interconnections, and strategic sectors”. 4.5 million jobs were destroyed and the deficit nearly doubled. That was after the crisis because between 2001 and 2008, money supply in the Eurozone doubled. The Eurozone has been a chain of stimuli since day one.

The so-called “Juncker Plan” or  “Investment Plan for Europe” hailed as the “solution” to the European Union lack of growth was the same. It raised 360 billion euros, many for white elephants.  Eurozone growth estimates were slashed, productivity growth stalled and industrial production fell in December 2018 to three-year low levels.

The Eurozone’s massive “green” policy plan has made the European Union countries suffer electricity and natural gas bills for households that are more than double those of the US, and unemployment is still twice that of the United States, while growth stagnates. In 2016 household electricity prices averaged 26.6 c/kWh in the Euro area and 12.7 c/kWh in the US.

Let us start debunking some myths about this last rabbit out of the interventionists’ hat.

No, It Is Not a New Deal, and It Should Not Be

When FDR launched the New Deal the size of government, public spending and debt were nowhere close to today’s elevated levels.

At the height of the New Deal, federal spending never went above the 1934 level of 10.7%.  Even considering the extraordinary cost of the Second World War period, public sending went from a maximum of 43.6% down to 11.6% by 1948.

Not just that. The public sector had very little debt, a maximum of 45% of GDP.  Compare that with an already unsustainable annual deficit that does not fall below half a trillion dollars, and debt to GDP of close to 100%.

In an insightful study titled “New Deal Policies and the Persistence of the Great Depression: A General Equilibrium Analysis”, two economics professors from UCLA, Harold L Cole and vice chair of the Economics Department Lee Ohanian determined that the anti-competition and supposedly pro-employment policies of the New Deal destroyed the possibilities for economic recovery. The two economists concluded that if these policies had not been enacted the depression would have ended in 1936 instead of 1943.
In the 1930s, the unemployment rate never fell below 15%. Five years after starting his “New Deal”, Roosevelt’s economic policies had caused one in five active Americans to be without a job. In 1937 there were 6 million unemployed and by 1938 that figure was 10 million people. In the end, it was the Second World War that “ended “unemployment. How? By forcibly recruiting 20% of the active population to work in the war industry, and by spending the equivalent of 42% of GDP on the entire effort. One significant problem was that during those years inflation which rose to almost 20% and even with 1% unemployment there was rationing of basic consumer goods. The US truly emerged from the depression when, at the end of the war, it abruptly cut taxes by one-third and began paying off the debt.

This may begin to sound familiar to you. The New Deal was yet another example of promising freedom and delivering repression.

It Is Not “Green”

The US is already the second top market for renewable investment according to EY.

Renewable and green investments are already flourishing without the need for politicians to interfere. In fact,  the US is investing more than $40 billion per annum in renewables, and if we add infrastructure and energy efficiency, the US is still the top global destination of productive investment in green energy, technology, and infrastructure.

The US has been able to reduce CO2 emissions while the European Union with the largest subsidy plans and high tax on CO2 increased them.  The US has achieved more in developing renewables, technology and energy efficiency without massive tax and bill increases. There is nothing “green” on a central planner’s decision to inflate GDP via public spending. it is the opposite. It artificially increases energy and capital utilization to create false demand signals that end up being bubbles that hurt the economy and make it less dynamic.

There is no need for a Green New Deal. We are already living a  period of rising government spending, too high deficits, and debt. Innovation and technology disruption are reducing the energy intensity of GDP faster than any government can ever decide.

Why? Because politicians and governments do not have more or better information about the needs of the economy, consumers or about the pace of innovation and technology implementation. In fact, governments havce every incentive to inflate GDP at any cost, pass the bill to consumers and the debt to taxpayers.

Governments of any colour or ideology do not benefit from technology innovation, energy efficiency, and substitution. Why? Because those are disinflationary factors and the short-term effect is always of creative destruction of obsolete industries… Those that they aim to preserve at any cost. If governments truly cared about the climate and environment they would shut down the most polluting industries, which are all state-owned or government concessions.

There is only one way in which governments benefit from massive stimuli: Inflating GDP building massive construction projects. Increasing inflation by artificially pumping more capital spending and energy use. That is and has never been green, innovative or disruptive. Just plain old interventionism.

This will not be the first or last time that we question the merits of enormous government plans. As we have shown on so many occasions, huge spending on white elephants is partially responsible for global stagnation and excessive debt. Huge pharaonic works that promise billions of dollars of growth, jobs, and benefits that, subsequently, are not achieved, leaving a trail of debt and massive operating costs.

Proponents of the mega-stimulus plans ignore the importance of real economic returns in favor of “inflating GDP” in any possible way. A study by Deepak Lal , UCLA professor of international development, discusses the devastating impact on potential growth and debt of stimulus plans in China, and Edward Glaeser’s ” If You Build ” analysis destroys the myth repeated by many of the multiplier effects of public infrastructure. Advocates of infrastructure spending at any cost ignore the most basic cost-benefit analysis, underestimating the cost and magnifying the estimated benefit through science-fiction-multipliers.

Professors Ansar and Flyvbjerg have also devoted a great deal of effort to analyzing the negative effect of large “stimulus” plans from hydraulic megaprojects to the organization of the Olympic Games.

Deepak Lal’s study citing Professors Ansar and Flyvbjerg shows that the actual cost-benefit analysis compared to the “estimated returns” when projects are approved, proves to be disastrous. Fifty-five percent of the analyzed projects generated a profit-to-cost ratio of less than one, that is, they created real losses. But, of the rest, only six projects of those analyzed showed positive returns. The rest, nothing. The economy does not grow more, it makes the economy weaker.

The only Green New Deal that works is governments stepping aside and letting the private sector deliver the technology and innovation required. It is already happening.

Of course, there are infrastructure, technology and green economy investments that make sense. They are being implemented as you read this article. The rest is just plain old white elephants for the glory of politicians… with your money.

And no, this time will not be different.


About the Author

Daniel Lacalle is a PhD Economist and Fund Manager and is author of Escape from the Central Bank Trap, Life In The Financial Markets and The Energy World Is Flat. He holds the CIIA (Certified International Investment Analyst) and masters in Economic Investigation and IESE.

Is Moral Progress Real or Just a Myth?

Slavery was once ubiquitous throughout the world. Today, it is illegal everywhere. Is that a sign of moral progress or a temporary accomplishment that’s bound not to last? Put differently, are human beings capable of evolving toward higher states of ethical behaviour, or must slavery, along with other forgotten cruelties, inevitably reappear? Some backsliding is surely to occur, but history suggests that a full return to the savage days of yore is highly unlikely.

Slavery can be traced back to Sumer, a Middle Eastern civilisation that flourished between 4,500 BC and 1,900 BC. The early laws of the Babylonians, who overran Sumer in 18th century BC, appear to have taken ownership of one person by another for granted. Thus, the Code of Hammurabi states, “If a slave say to his master, ‘You are not my master,’ if they convict him his master shall cut off his ear.” Over the succeeding 4,000 years, chattel slavery would be practised, at one point or another, by every civilisation.

Prior to the Age of Steam, humanity depended on energy produced primarily by people and animals. An extra pair of field hands was always welcome and conquered people, if they escaped execution, were frequently put to work as slaves. There were no internment camps to hold captive populations and prisons were mere short-term holding cells, where the accused awaited trial, punishment and execution. In any case, low agricultural productivity and the concomitant food shortages meant that feeding a captured, but idle population was impractical.

Slavery existed in ancient Egypt, India, Greece, China, Rome and pre-Columbian America. The Arab slave trade took off during the Muslim conquests of the Middle Ages. The word “slave” probably derives from Late Latin word sclavus, which in turn denotes the Slavic peoples of Central and Eastern Europe who were enslaved by the Ottoman Turks.

 

The number of countries where slavery is legal has plummeted in the last two centuries

The number of countries where slavery is legal has plummeted in the last two centuries

Slavery in the Caribbean and the south-eastern United States, which was practised between the 16th and 19th centuries AD, saw millions of Africans brought to the New World for that very purpose. Yet slavery amongst African tribes, especially in West Africa, was also common and persisted until very recently. In fact, Mauritania became the last country to outlaw slavery in 1981 and, due to its persistence, criminalise the practice of enslavement in 2007.

As chattel slavery disappeared, our definition of slavery has expanded to include such practices as forced labour, sexual slavery and debt bondage. This is a common psychological behaviour called “prevalence-induced concept change.” As Harvard University psychologists David Levari and Daniel Gilbert found, people who were asked to identify “blue dots” tended to call purple dots “blue” as blue dots become rarer. Similarly, people who were asked to identify threatening faces tended to describe faces as threatening as threatening faces become rarer.

“From low-level perception of colour to higher-level judgments of ethics,” the two psychologists wrote, “there is a robust tendency for perceptual and judgmental standards to ‘creep’ when they ought not to.” Human psychology, then, partly explains the persistent allure of pessimism. As bad things become rarer, the human brain makes the definition of “bad” more encompassing.

This interplay between human nature and ethical behaviour strikes at the core of what we mean by progress. Some people, like the British philosopher John Gray, deny the possibility of moral progress. As he wrote, “I define progress … as any kind of advance that’s cumulative, so that what’s achieved at one period is the basis for later achievement that then, over time, becomes more and more irreversible. In science and technology, progress isn’t a myth. However, the myth is that the progress achieved in science and technology can occur in ethics, politics, or, more simply, civilisation.”

But Gray’s pessimism is difficult to reconcile with the disappearance of once common practices, such as human sacrifice and cannibalism. Human sacrifice has been looked down upon since the Roman times. Today, no rational being believes sacrificing virgins can bring about better harvests. Better fertilisation and pest control are much safer bets for aspiring farmers.

Hannibal Lecter notwithstanding, cannibalism has been extremely rare for centuries. Even during the communist famines in China and the Soviet Union, very few people resorted to eating their fellow human beings, preferring starvation instead. It is unlikely that even a potential collapse of global food supply would reverse the trend away from eating human flesh.

A civilisational collapse could, of course, resurrect some abhorrent practices. But some of the knowledge and internalised ethical precepts that humanity has so painstakingly accumulated over millennia will surely remain, thus moderating peoples’ behaviour even in the direst of times. In the meantime, we have to reconcile ourselves to the fact that progress is “self-cloaking.” The better things get, the more we will be on the lookout for things to worry about.


About the Author

Marian L. Tupy is a senior policy analyst at the Cato Institute and editor of HumanProgress.org

Heroes of Progress: Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch

Two German Nobel Prize-winning scientists, Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, created the “Haber-Bosch process,” which efficiently converts nitrogen from the air into ammonia (i.e., a compound of nitrogen and hydrogen). Ammonia is then used as a fertilizer to dramatically increase crop yields. The impact of Haber and Bosch’s work on global food production transformed the world forever.

Throughout the 19th century, farmers used guano (i.e., the accumulated excrement of seabirds and bats) as highly effective fertilizer due to its exceptionally high content of nitrogen, phosphate and potassium - nutrients that are essential for plant growth. But by the beginning of the 20th century, guano deposits started to run out, and the price of the fertilizer began to increase. If a solution to the depletion of guano hadn’t come soon, famine would have followed.

Enter, Fritz Haber. Born in 1868 in Breslau, Germany (now part of Poland), Haber began studying chemistry at the age of 18 at the University of Heidelberg. By 1894, Haber worked at the University of Karlsruhe, researching methods to synthesize nitrogen. Nitrogen is very common in the atmosphere, but the chemical element is difficult to extract from the air and turn into a liquid or solid form (a process known as “fixing” nitrogen).

After thousands of experiments over almost 15 years, Haber succeeded in producing ammonia on July 3rd, 1909. That proved that commercial production was possible. However, Haber’s breakthrough occurred in a small tube, 75 centimetres tall and 13 centimetres in diameter. At the start of the 20th century, large containers that could handle the pressures and temperatures required for industrial scale production of ammonia did not yet exist. 

That is where Carl Bosch enters the story. Born in Cologne in 1874, Bosch studied metallurgy at the University of Charlottenburg in 1894, before transferring to the University of Leipzig to receive his doctorate in chemistry in 1898. Bosch met Haber in 1908 and after finding out about the latter’s breakthrough the following year, Bosch took on the challenge of developing suitable containers that could manage Haber’s process on the industrial level.

Within four years Bosch was producing ammonia in 8-meter-tall containers. The Haber-Bosch process was born. By 1913, Bosch had opened a factory that kick-started the fertilizer industry that we know today. 

The discovery of the Haber-Bosch process meant that for the first time in human history it became possible to produce synthetic fertilizers that could be used on enough crops to sustain the Earth’s increasing population. It’s nearly impossible to say how many lives this breakthrough saved, but the expansion of the world’s population from 1.6 billion in 1900, to more than 7.3 billion today, “would not have been possible without the synthesis of ammonia,” claims the Czechian scientist Vaclav Smil.

After their revolutionary contribution to human progress, the two scientists worked to help Germany during World War I. Bosch focused on bomb making, while Haber became instrumental in developing chlorine gas. When Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933, Haber fled Germany to teach at Cambridge University, and he died shortly after in 1935. Meanwhile, in 1937, Bosch was appointed President of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute – Germany’s highest scientific position. Being a staunch critic of Nazi policies, Bosch was soon removed from that position and died in 1940. 

Today, more than 159 million tonnes of ammonia are produced annually, and while ammonia is also used for cleaning and as a refrigerant, 88 percent of ammonia is used for fertilizer. It is estimated that if average crop yields remained at their 1900 level, the crop harvest in the year 2000 would have required nearly four times more cultivated land than was actually cultivated. That equates to an area equal to almost half of all land on ice-free continents – rather than just the 15 percent that is needed today.

Without the combined efforts of Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch, the world’s population would be much smaller than it is today. The two have truly changed the world for the better.


About the Author

Alexander C. R. Hammond is a researcher at a Washington DC think tank.

Democrats' Green New Deal is compared to Mao's Great Leap Forward

The United States Congress will soon debate a non-binding resolution introduced by fundamentalist Democrats Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey to adopt their so-called Green New Deal. "More like the world is going to end in 12 years if we don't address climate change and your biggest issue is how are we going to pay for it? And, like, this is the war -- this is our World War II,” is how Rep. Ocasio-Cortez framed the urgency for the U.S. to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas by 2030. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced he is bringing the resolution to a vote.

The Plan outlines the transition of the U.S. economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral and to significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans. The Plan states it will be “executed in no longer than 10 years from the start of execution of such Plan; (d) provide opportunities for high income work, entrepreneurship and cooperative and public ownership; and (e) additionally, be responsive to, and in accordance with, the goals and guidelines relating to social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality.”

Like the Green New Deal, the Great Leap Forward would “guarantee economic security... Like the Green New Deal, the Great Leap Forward would answer the question of “what will we do with our new shared prosperity.” Government would collect and distribute wheat, rice, and industrial products across the country, taking care that everyone’s needs were met, discouraging overconsumption and hoarding. Wealth inequality would fall. China would not be “a system that allows billionaires to exist” side-by-side with rural poverty.

Unfortunately — but predictably — the Great Leap Forward failed. Steel production did increase. But China’s factories focused on government-imposed production quotas: they delivered quantity instead of quality. Chinese steel was too brittle for industrial purposes. Much went unused. China’s farms were collectivized. But with farm labor being diverted to factories and private trade being banned, land went fallow. Yields dropped. Bureaucrats collected the harvest, but failed to move it where it was needed. Grain rotted in silos while several Holocausts worth of people starved to death.

China suffered until the government reversed itself.
— Lew Olowski, who likened the Plan to Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward in poor, agrarian China through government mandate to create an industrialized country.

Fossil fuels currently account for 80 percent of American energy consumption. The Green New Deal would entail a profound and rapid “decarbonization” of the energy economy to alternative fuels, which would require a complete transformation of the country over to a centrally planned government, well beyond the scope of what was done in the Communist China or the Soviet Union. The proposal aims to transform the U.S. economy to combat climate change and promises a job to “all people of the United States”, including money to those “unwilling to work”. The plan calls for phasing out air travel within a decade to be replaced by a network of high-speed rails. Cows, as the released document acknowledges, have flatulence, so they must be totally eliminated from the earth and meat from the U.S. diet.

Not all Democrats support the Plan, drafted upon a profound ignorance of basic economic concepts. Senator Joe Manchin said, “The Green New Deal is a dream, it’s not a deal. It’s a dream. And that’s fine. People should have dreams in the perfect world what they’d like to see. I’ve got to work in realities and I’ve got to work in the practical, what I have in front of me.” In his interview with news anchor Chris Cuomo, he continued, “And you have to understand also that climate -- we talk about global climate, it’s the globe. It’s not North American climate, it’s not the United States’ climate. It’s the globe. How do we bring on China and India and everybody else who are great users of carbon right now and polluters of carbon to be carbon-free also?” Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was dismissive about the Green New Deal. “It will be one of several or maybe many suggestions that we receive,” Pelosi said in an interview with Politico, “The green dream or whatever they call it, nobody knows what it is, but they’re for it right?

Decarbonization would mean reversing the historical transition from less dense to more dense energy sources and has already been demonstrated unrealistic contrasted with renewable energy. Rapid decarbonization assumes all economic sectors and services can be electrified and that electricity can be delivered by intermittent renewable energy sources. These technologies, especially affordable grid-scale electricity storage, do not exist, particularly when it comes to transportation, where the high energy density of oil products makes them the ideal source of motive power. In Germany, the costs of transition from coal and nuclear energy to wind and solar plants has already exceeded USD $1 trillion, with only modest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

If the environmental fundamentalists were genuinely concerned with doomsday projections regarding the climate, they should look to China, which is the world’s biggest physical polluter, creating more than twice the amount of carbon into the atmosphere than the U.S., and dumps almost as much non-degradable plastic into the oceans as the rest of the world’s combined.

Despite history in the twentieth century offers countless examples of the failure of government economic regulation, industrial planning, and central planning of the economy, an August Gallup poll revealed that 57 percent of Democrats said they held a positive view of socialism, compared with just 47 percent who support capitalism. A new Fox News poll that gauged support for capitalism versus socialism revealed that capitalism was preferred among all those polled, however, more Democrats (43 percent) had a favorable view of socialism than an unfavorable view (39 percent). According to the poll, 50 percent of self-identified liberals, 43 percent of Clinton voters, and 36 percent of people under the age of 30 had a favorable view of socialism.

Larry Kudlow, Director of the U.S. National Economic Council, pointed out on ‘America’s Newsroom’, “You’ve got all these...people talking about socialism all of a sudden. I think that right now your poll is showing that working folks want to embrace capitalism not some state-run, state-controlled socialism that will set our economy back a hundred years or more.” He continued, "This crazy [New Green Deal] plan is going to cost a fortune. You’re going to roll back one of the most important things that has contributed to this recovery and that is President Trump ended the war on business and he ended the war on success.’” President Trump is expected to warn of “the dangers of socialism” in a speech he plans to deliver this week in support of Venezuelan opposition leader and interim President Juan Guaido.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she has no qualms about acknowledging the New Green Deal will mean unprecedented governmental intrusion into the private sector. “As you know, congresswoman, one reason that people are politically conservative are skeptical of efforts to combat climate change is that it sounds to them like it requires massive government intervention, which they just don’t like,” NPR’s Steve Inskeep asked her in an interview, “Are you prepared to put on that table that, ‘Yes actually they’re right, what this requires is massive government intervention’?

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez quickly replied, “It does, it does, yeah, I have no problem saying that. Why? Because we have tried their approach for 40 years. For 40 years we have tried to let the private sector take care of this. They said, ‘We got this, we can do this, the forces of the market are going to force us to innovate.’ Except for the fact that there’s a little thing in economics called externalities. And what that means is that a corporation can dump pollution in the river and they don’t have to pay, but taxpayers have to pay.

The Plan naively assumes that all that needs to be done is for government to “finance” these projects through huge increases in taxes, borrowing, and printing money, and that such infusions of money will enable the government to “pay” for all of these new projects. Rep. Ocasio-Cortez said, “Yeah, I think the first move we need to do is kind of break the mistaken idea that taxes pay for 100 percent of government expenditure. It’s just not how government expenditure works. We can recoup costs, but oftentimes you look at, for example, the GOP tax cut which I think was an irresponsible use of government expenditure, but government projects are often financed by a combination of taxes, deficit spending and other kinds of investments, you know, bonds and so on.

French schools introduce a controversial same sex amendment with 'Parent 1 and Parent 2'

In an amendment passed by French MPs on Tuesday night, schools are to replace the words “mother” and “father” with “parent 1” and “parent 2” as part of a wider so-called law to build “a school of trust”, which includes compulsory attendance for all three-year-old children. The amendment can still be rejected by the majority-Right Senate but will then return to the National Assembly for a final reading.

Valérie Petit, MP for the majority REM party of President Emmanuel Macron, said, “This amendment aims to root in law children’s family diversity in administrative forms submitted in school.” Ms. Petit said that the words mother and father, on all school documents such as pertaining to the canteen or authorising children to go on excursions, no longer took into account the recently-passed gay marriage law, nor the existence of same sex parents. Additionally, she added, “We have families who find themselves faced with tick boxes stuck in rather old-fashioned social and family models. For us, this article is a measurement of social equality.

Supporters of the change say it will stop discrimination against same sex parents. Socialist MP Joaquim Pueyot praised the reform as “a question of respect and dignity. You cannot imagine the consequences when children don’t feel treated like the others,” he said. FCPE, France’s biggest parent’s federation, called “a very good thing” and that “It echos the (recent) law on fighting harassment because often situations of child harassment target kids who don’t fit the current criteria.

Critics argue it “dehumanises” parenthood, is “ugly”, and could lead to rows over who gets to be “parent 1” and the decision angered those on the conservative political spectrum, including the mainstream Republicans. Conservative MP Xavier Breton said: “When I hear people say this is an old-fashioned model, I would remind people that today among unions celebrated, civil or marital, some 95 per cent are man-woman couples.” Conservative MP Fabien Di Filippo denounced a “frightening ideology, which in the name of limitless egalitarianism promotes removing points of reference, including those regarding the family”. MP Eric Ciotti said, “The negation of gender deconstructs the balance of our society.

AFDH, the French association for same sex parents, said that while it welcomed providing a way for such parents to be “included in forms”, it warned it could create a “parental hierarchy”. AFDH President Alexandre Urwicz asked, “Who is ‘parent number 1’ and who is ‘parent number 2’?” He called for more “inclusive” forms including the boxes “father, mother and legal representative”.

The idea of replacing mother and father by parent 1 and 2 was already mooted during the debate leading to the 2013 law legalising same sex marriage but was not inscribed into legislation at the time. Current Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer opposed the amendment on the grounds that this need not be a legislative matter.

Jordan Bardella, who is heading the National Rally’s candidates ahead of the spring European Parliament election, said the move was part of an attempt to “ideologically condition children” and that “totalitarianism is not far off”.

Amazon walks away from plans to build New York City headquarters due to the political climate

On Thursday, Seattle-based technology company Amazon announced it has ditched plans to build its second headquarters in New York City, saying it is "disappointed to have reached this conclusion." Senior economic analyst for Bankrate, Mark Hamrick, warned, ‘For those who didn’t want Amazon to bring the promised 25,000 new jobs and added economic vitality to the area: Be careful what you wish for.”

In a statement released by the company, Amazon said, "After much thought and deliberation, we’ve decided not to move forward with our plans to build a headquarters for Amazon in Long Island City, Queens. For Amazon, the commitment to build a new headquarters requires positive, collaborative relationships with state and local elected officials who will be supportive over the long-term. While polls show that 70% of New Yorkers support our plans and investment, a number of state and local politicians have made it clear that they oppose our presence and will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project we and many others envisioned in Long Island City."

According to a December Quinnipiac University poll, 57 percent of New York City residents support Amazon’s arrival, compared to just 26 percent who oppose the deal. Announcing its intended investment last November, Amazon’s HQ2 would've brought 25,000 jobs and USD $2.5 billion in corporate investment, with an eventual 8 million square feet of office space to Long Island City. Amazon said it would have generated "incremental tax revenue of more than $10 billion over the next 20 years as a result of Amazon’s investment and job creation."

However, the decision came after relentless opposition from politicians, most notably newly elected Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who is currently the most high-profile progressive and anti-corporate politician in Congress. Political opposition against HQ2 has been mounting since a New York City Council meeting in December where Amazon’s executives were hounded and jeered and refused to support unionization of its workers, a progressive pillar of the region at all levels of government. Earlier this month, reports surfaced that Amazon was reconsidering its plans for its New York office, which led to cheers from Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who tweeted, "Can everyday people come together and effectively organize against creeping overreach of one of the world’s biggest corporations? Yes, they can."

When the deal was first announced, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had touted the benefits of HQ2, which included a pledge from Amazon to create 25,000 jobs, paying an average of USD $150,000 per year in exchange for a USD $3 billion incentive package that included city and state tax breaks and subsidies. The top issue for progressives is disallowing big corporations to benefit from what they consider to be at the expense of regular people. Yet, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who presents himself as the leader of the progressive movement, signed onto the deal, though he later backed off when faced with massive progressive opposition. Concerns were also raised over how HQ2 could impact already rising real estate prices in the area. On this issue, Amazon had primarily negotiated with Governor Cuomo, who only has authority over the executive branch of state government and none over the state legislature, the City Council, or the congressional delegation.

"We are deeply grateful to Governor Cuomo, Mayor de Blasio, and their staffs, who so enthusiastically and graciously invited us to build in New York City and supported us during the process," the company continued in the statement. In response, Mayor de Blasio said, “You have to be tough to make it in New York City. We gave Amazon the opportunity to be a good neighbor and do business in the greatest city in the world. Instead of working with the community, Amazon threw away that opportunity. We have the best talent in the world and every day we are growing a stronger and fairer economy for everyone. If Amazon can’t recognize what that’s worth, its competitors will.”

Amazon said it would proceed as planned with the second part of its HQ2, which will be built in Northern Virginia, as well as its distribution center that it said it would open in Nashville. It will also continue to "hire and grow across our 17 corporate offices and tech hubs in the U.S. and Canada."

Israeli scientists believe they have found a cure for cancer

According to reports by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an estimated 18.1 million new cancer cases are diagnosed worldwide each year and every sixth death in the world is due to cancer, making it the second leading cause of death, second only to cardiovascular disease. A small Israeli team of scientists behind Accelerated Evolution Biotechnologies Ltd. (AEBi), which was founded in 2000 in the ITEK incubator, has developed a new cancer treatment.

We believe we will offer in a year’s time a complete cure for cancer. Our cancer cure will be effective from day one, will last a duration of a few weeks and will have no or minimal side-effects at a much lower cost than most other treatments on the market. Our solution will be both generic and personal,” said Dan Aridor, Chairman of the board of AEBi in an interview with The Times of Israel. Mr. Aridor and CEO Dr. Ilan Morad say their treatment, which they call MuTaTo (multi-target toxin) is essentially on the scale of a cancer antibiotic, a disruption technology of the highest order. AEBi is on the cusp of beginning a round of clinical trials that could be completed within a few years and would make the treatment available in specific cases. “Our results are consistent and repeatable,” Mr. Aridor added.

The potentially game-changing anti-cancer drug is based on SoAP technology, which provides functional leads to very difficult targets. It involves the introduction of DNA coding for a protein, such as an antibody, into a bacteriophage – a virus that infects bacteria. That protein is then displayed on the surface of the phage. Researchers can use these protein-displaying phages to screen for interactions with other proteins, DNA sequences and small molecules. In 2018, a team of scientists won the Nobel Prize for their work on phage display in the directed evolution of new proteins, particularly for the production of antibody therapeutics.

 

How the Technology is Different

AEBi is doing something similar but with peptides, compounds of two or more amino acids linked in a chain. According to Dr. Morad, peptides have several advantages over antibodies, including that they are smaller, cheaper, and easier to produce and regulate. To get started, Dr. Morad said the team had to identify why other cancer-killing drugs and treatments don’t work or eventually fail. Then, they found a way to counter that effect. He explains that most anti-cancer drugs attack a specific target on or in the cancer cell and inhibiting the target usually affects a physiological pathway that promotes cancer. Mutations in the targets or downstream in their physiological pathways could make the targets not relevant to the cancer nature of the cell, and hence the drug attacking it is rendered ineffective.

In contrast, MuTaTo combines several cancer-targeting peptides for each cancer cell at the same time, along with a strong peptide toxin that would kill cancer cells specifically. Dr. Morad said by using at least three targeting peptides on the same structure with a strong toxin “we made sure that the treatment will not be affected by mutations; cancer cells can mutate in such a way that targeted receptors are dropped by the cancer. The probability of having multiple mutations that would modify all targeted receptors simultaneously decreases dramatically with the number of targets used. Instead of attacking receptors one at a time, we attack receptors three at a time – not even cancer can mutate three receptors at the same time.”

Furthermore, many cancer cells activate detoxification mechanisms when in stress from drugs. The cells pump out the drugs or modify them to be non-functional. However, detoxification takes time: when the toxin is strong, it has a high probability of killing the cancer cell before detoxification occurs, which is what he is banking on. Many cytotoxic anticancer treatments aim at fast-growing cells, but cancer stem cells are not fast growing, and they can escape these treatments. Then, when the treatment is over, they can generate cancer again.

Dr. Morda explained that because cancer cells are born out of mutations that occur in cancer stem cells, most of the overexpressed proteins which are targeted on the cancer cell exist in the cancer stem cells. “If it does not completely annihilate the cancer, the remaining cells can start to get mutations again, and then the cancer comes back, but this time it is drug resistant,” he said, but MuTaTo’s multiple-target attack ensures that they will be destroyed as well.

Finally, some cancer tumors erect shields which create access problems to large molecules, such as antibodies. MuTaTo acts like an octopus or a piece of spaghetti and can sneak into places where other large molecules cannot reach. Morad said the peptide parts of MuTaTo are very small (12 amino acids long) and lack a rigid structure. “This should make the whole molecule non-immunogenic in most cases and would enable repeated administration of the drug,” he said.

 

Improvements in Treatment

Dr. Morad said their discovery could also reduce the sickening side-effects of most cancer treatments, which stem from drug treatments interacting with the wrong or additional targets, or the correct targets but on non-cancerous cells. He said MuTaTo’s having a combination of several highly specific cancer-targeting peptides on one scaffold for each type of cancer cell would increase the specificity to the cancer cell due to the avidity effect. In addition, in most cases, the non-cancer cells that have a protein in common with the cancer cells do not overexpress it. “This makes a great difference between the two kinds of cells and should decrease the side effects dramatically,” Morad said.

He equated the concept of MuTaTo to the triple drug cocktail that has helped change AIDS from being an automatic death sentence to a chronic – but often manageable – disease. Today, AIDS patients take protease inhibitors in combination with two other drugs called reverse transcriptase inhibitors. The drug combination disrupts HIV at different stages in its replication, restrains an enzyme crucial to an early stage of HIV duplication and holds back another enzyme that functions near the end of the HIV replication process.

We used to give AIDS patients several drugs, but we would administer them one at a time,” Morad explained. “During the course of treatment, the virus mutated, and the AIDS started attacking again. Only when patients started using a cocktail, were they able to stop the disease.” Now, he said, people with AIDS are HIV carriers, but they are not sick anymore.

The MuTaTo cancer treatment will eventually be personalized. Each patient will provide a piece of his biopsy to the lab, which would then analyze it to know which receptors are overexpressed. The individual would then be administered exactly the molecule cocktail needed to cure his disease. However, unlike in the case of AIDS, where patients must take the cocktail throughout their lives, in the case of MuTaTo, the cells would be killed, and the patient could likely stop treatment after only a few weeks.

The company is now writing patents on specific peptides, which will be a large bank of targeting toxin peptides wholly owned and hard to break, said Mr. Aridor. Dr. Morad said that so far, the company has concluded its first exploratory mice experiment, which inhibited human cancer cell growth and had no effect at all on healthy mice cells, in addition to several in-vitro trials.

Potential Controversy

Karin Mayer Rubinstein, CEO of the Israel Advanced Technology Industries (IATI) has criticized their comments as irresponsible and damaging, warning, “We welcome all companies that develop breakthrough technologies [but] The things the researchers have said have damaged the image of Israel’s life sciences industry.” IATI is the umbrella organization that represents Israeli high-tech and life science companies, VCs, multinational companies operating in Israel, incubators and tech transfer arms of Israeli academia. “It is a very irresponsible statement, and we have had many people from around the world asking to clarify the subject. As we understand, there are critical stages of their research that must still be met. These kind of statements are liable to damage Israel’s life science industry, which is positioned globally as one of the most serious and professional in the world,” she said.

Dr. Morad told The Times of Israel that the reaction of the critics who have not seen the company’s results is “like criticizing a book without reading it.” He reiterated that the firm can start treating patients within clinical trials that it hopes to start “pretty quickly,” and “We are not saying that the drug will be approved in a year. Our technology is innovative and we have submitted an application for a patent on it. This application is at an advanced stage, and until now the patent lawyers have deemed our technology innovative.

Dr. Morad said his company firm has not published its research in medical journals, as is the norm, because it “can’t afford” to do so, but that the results of its pre-clinical trials have been “very good.” He said, “We are a small company. Publishing an article takes a lot of effort and a lot of funds, and this we can’t afford. If we were a big company with a lot of funds, that would be the first thing we would do. If I have $100,000 what do I spend it on? Advancing the research and finding more and more targeting peptides, or doing many experiments to write an article? What would you do, if you had to choose?

#LavScam: True to their history, Canada’s Liberals are caught in a new scandal

Reminiscent of what was called the Sponsorship Scandal, or AdScam – a program of the previous Liberal government to promote Quebec industry that revealed corruption and illegal activities within the administration – the current Liberal government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces a rapidly developing scandal that threatens to blow up ahead of this year’s federal election. When the Liberals were elected to form a majority government in 2015, their signature promise was that they would be different from other politicians and governments. Unfortunately. in classic Liberal style, news of the SNC-Lavalin scandal proves they are exactly the same. Ironically, and in another broken promise, the Liberals themselves are to blame for creating the conditions that brought this scandal to the fore.

The Scandal Behind the Scandal

On Thursday, February 7, 2019, the Globe and Mail published an article that alleges senior officials with the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had "attempted to press" then- Attorney General Wilson-Raybould to intervene in the corruption and fraud prosecution of SNC-Lavalin and urge prosecutors to cut a deal to save SNC-Lavalin from going to trial and facing possible criminal conviction. Known as a “deferred prosecution agreement” or “remediation agreement”, such a deal would have seen the company admit wrongdoing, pay a fine and pay back any financial gains made as a result of the business activities it is currently alleged to have committed in Libya. Quoting unnamed sources, the Globe and Mail reported that Ms. Wilson-Raybould apparently refused and was subsequently demoted from the position of Attorney General to Minister of Veterans Affairs in last month’s Cabinet shuffle.

The Quebec engineering company SNC-Lavalin is alleged to have paid bribes to get contracts in former dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya and faces charges of fraud and corruption in connection with nearly CAD $48 million in payments made to Libyan government officials between 2001 and 2011. If convicted, the company could be blocked from competing for federal government contracts for a decade. It's not known how, or if, the PMO pressured Ms. Wilson-Raybould. The Globe and Mail story uses different terms to describe the alleged actions of the PMO toward Ms. Wilson-Raybould, such as "attempted to press" and "urged" her and that she "came under heavy pressure", however the exact meaning behind these terms remains unclear.

From Winnipeg, PM Trudeau said, “In regards to the matter of SNC-Lavalin, let me be clear. The government of Canada did its job and to the clear public standards expected of it. If anyone felt differently, they had an obligation to raise that with me. No one, including Jody, did that.” Later that same day, Attorney General David Lametti, who took over Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s position with the Justice portfolio in last month’s Cabinet shuffle, said neither he nor Ms. Wilson-Raybould had been subject to any attempts to direct or pressure them.

SNC-Lavalin has a long record of bribing officials, foreign and domestic, to win public contracts. Notably, previous informal payments of CAD $22.5 million were made by SNC-Lavalin to the director overseeing bids for a CAD $2 billion new super-hospital in Montreal, Canada. In 2013, the World Bank debarred SNC-Lavalin and its more than 100 affiliates for a period of 10 years following the company’s misconduct in relation to the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project in Bangladesh, as well as misconduct under another Bank-financed project.

The company claimed it would be forced out of business if it were convicted on charges of bribing public officials in Libya, as this would also forbid it from bidding on federal contracts for up to 10 years. SNC-Lavalin had hoped that its fraud and corruption charges could be resolved with a DPA and had lobbied federal officials for such an outcome, according to the Globe and Mail article. In October 2018, the Public Prosecution Service of Canada determined SNC had not met the criteria for a DPA.

According to the Globe and Mail, Attorney General Wilson-Raybould then "came under heavy pressure" to persuade the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to change its mind, but she was unwilling to instruct the director of the public prosecution service to negotiate the agreement. The director works "under and on behalf" of the Attorney General, who can issue directives regarding specific prosecutions, as long as those directives are in writing and made public.

The Liberals had promised (and failed) to end what they called the "undemocratic" practice of using omnibus bills to bury controversial proposals. As Official Opposition, the Liberals resented Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s use of these assembled bills until, of course, they formed government and came to appreciate their expediency when they implemented a change to the Criminal Code using the Budget Implementation Act. SNC-Lavalin had lobbied the government to introduce the amendment, which established remediation agreements, also known as deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs). These would allow companies accused of certain economic offences such as bribery, fraud, and corruption to be spared criminal charges. Instead, these companies could admit wrongdoing and pay a financial penalty. The Liberals bundled this change into an omnibus bill, preventing oversight and debate, and quickly passed it into law last year after several dozen meetings with SNC-Lavalin lobbyists.

It was a big win for SNC-Lavalin, which is facing the prospect of a 10-year ban on bidding on federal contracts stemming from their 2015 corruption and fraud charges. According to the Criminal Code, part of the reasoning behind the amendment was to "reduce the negative consequences of the wrongdoing for persons — employees, customers, pensioners and others — who did not engage in the wrongdoing." In the case of SNC-Lavalin, which employs nearly 9,000 Canadians across the country, the concern has been that a successful criminal prosecution against the company could cost many jobs and damage the economy, particularly in Quebec.

The Role of the Attorney General

Unique in Cabinet, the Attorney General is meant to be an independent and non-partisan role, particularly in the oversight of federal prosecutions. As University of Ottawa law professor Craig Forcese wrote, "The role of the AG and prosecutors is to act in the public interest, not in the interest of whoever is in the PMO, They must, therefore, not be under the thumb of the political executive, and indeed must be insulated from political pressures that would, for instance, leave some people favoured in the criminal justice system, and others targeted." Meaning, while Cabinet Ministers and the Prime Minister can consult with the Attorney General, they cannot instruct or pressure the Attorney General to make any specific decision regarding criminal cases.

A genuine attempt by the Prime Minister or anyone else in the PMO to speak with the Attorney General about ending an investigation or a criminal prosecution of any type would amount to obstruction of justice and/or interference with a public official, specifically, in obstructing the execution of her duty.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould had said she would not comment on the claims in the Globe and Mail story because she is bound by solicitor-client privilege. As Attorney General, the Government of Canada was her client, so she's not at liberty to discuss conversations pertaining to legal proceedings. The solicitor-client privilege remains in place even when she is no longer Attorney General. However, Ms. Wilson-Raybould said in her resignation letter that she is aware Canadians wish for her to speak on these matters and that she is in the process of obtaining advice on the topics she's "legally permitted to discuss."

The government has the ability to waive its privilege, which has been exercised twice in the past. Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper did so during the investigation into Senator Mike Duffy's expense scandal and Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin waived Cabinet confidence during the Gomery Inquiry into the Sponsorship Scandal.

In an interview with iPolitics, Peter MacKay, who is a former Conservative Justice Minister under Prime Minister Harper, said PM Trudeau's disclosure of his conversation with Ms. Wilson-Raybould was an "implied waiver" and that the former Cabinet Minister should be able to answer the question of whether she was pressured to intervene on behalf of SNC-Lavalin. However, University of British Columbia (UBC) law professor Andrew Martin said while Mr. MacKay may have a point, given the importance of solicitor-client privilege, lawyers are wise to err on the side of maintaining and not breaching privilege.

Timeline of Events

Investigations

The SNC-Lavalin scandal has now sparked two government-related investigations. On Friday, February 8, the opposition parties announced they’d be pushing for a House committee to call Ms. Wilson-Raybould, current Attorney General David Lametti, and several PMO staff to testify. While PM Trudeau’s government initially refused to permit a parliamentary committee to proceed with its own investigation, they continue to disallow the waive of solicitor-client privilege, which would give Ms. Wilson-Raybould the ability to speak about the allegation.

The investigations focus on the key question: Did the Prime Minister, or someone in his office, try to pressure Ms. Wilson-Raybould when she was Attorney General to step in and resolve the corruption and fraud case against SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. in an effort to spare the Montreal-based engineering giant from criminal prosecution?

Trudeau’s Denial

On Monday, February 11, Trudeau admitted to a conversation in the fall with Ms. Wilson-Raybould, which would have been around the same time that the public prosecution service declined to enter into a remediation agreement with SNC-Lavalin and when the pressure is alleged to have been applied to Ms. Wilson-Raybould to intervene.

At an event in Vancouver, which Ms. Wilson-Raybould did not attend, PM Trudeau said, “She confirmed for me a conversation we had this fall, where I told her directly that any decisions on matters involving the director of public prosecutions were hers alone.” He also said he has asked Attorney General Lametti to study the question of whether to waive solicitor-client privilege to let Ms. Wilson-Raybould speak publicly about the extent of any discussions on the allegations, and that the Minister will get back to him with recommendations.

Ethics Commissioner

On Monday, Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion announced he is investigating whether there was as breach of Section 9 of the Conflict of Interest Act. It prohibits any official responsible for high-level decision-making in government from seeking to influence the decision of another person so as to "improperly further another person's private interests."

Resignation

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Ms. Wilson-Raybould announced she submitted her resignation as Minister of Veterans Affairs and said she has retained legal counsel to determine what she can and cannot talk about within the confines of solicitor-client privilege over the SNC-Lavalin affair. She will remain the MP for Vancouver-Granville, though as this issue progresses it is possible she may find it impossible to remain within Liberal caucus. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters Tuesday afternoon that he was “surprised and disappointed” by Wilson-Raybould’s resignation, which he said was “not consistent” with their recent conversations. However, he had previously stated that though he had “full confidence” in her, he appeared to suggest that if she had serious concerns, she could quit Cabinet.

Justice Committee

On Wednesday, an emergency motion was put forth by Conservative and NDP members on the House of Commons Justice Committee to force senior government officials, including Ms. Wilson-Raybould and PM Trudeau’s most senior advisers Principal Secretary Gerald Butts and Chief of Staff Katie Telford, to testify. It was defeated by the Liberal majority of the committee.

The Liberal-controlled Justice Committee agreed to hold limited, in-camera hearings (not open to the public or on record) into whether the PMO pressured former Attorney General Jody Wilson-Raybould over the SNC-Lavalin criminal investigation, however, only the current Justice Minister, his deputy, and the clerk of the privy council will be interviewed.

Rather than look into the alleged attempt to interfere in a criminal prosecution, the committee is confining itself to the broader merits of “remediation agreements,” SNC-Lavalin’s chosen alternative to prosecution that the government slipped into the omnibus budget bill last year.

NDP committee member Nathan Cullen said, “That is not an investigation, that is simply going through the motions … Liberals seem to think that this should be just a sort of study group, a book club to look at all sorts of interesting ideas about the law rather than the scandal that’s right in front of Canadians.

The Smear Campaign Begins

With such a damaging scandal accelerating so quickly within a week’s time, less than ten months ahead of the federal election, the Prime Minister and his staff have already begun to set the stage for their smear campaign against Ms. Wilson-Raybould. Their hope will be that either this issue dies away from public interest and memory, which is unlikely ahead of Ms. Wilson-Raybould’s anticipated revelations, or the Conservative opposition doesn’t venture too deeply into their criticisms for fear of losing Quebecois voters – a concern new People’s Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier, who hails from Quebec, does not seem to hold regardless of the topic.

Ms. Wilson-Raybould is the first Minister ever to resign from Cabinet without giving a reason. It appears she anticipates a fight with the Trudeau government. She has hired Thomas Albert Cromwell, who was a Supreme Court Justice from 2008 to 2016. Currently living and practicing law in Vancovuer, Mr. Cromwell was nominated to the Supreme Court of Canada by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and is a Trudeau Foundation mentor.

Giving the impression that Ms. Wilson-Raybould was somehow derelict in her duties, PM Trudeau said that “if she felt that she had received pressure” it was “her responsibility to come to talk to me. She did not do that.” Moreover, “she continued to serve in this government” as Veterans Affairs Minister after she was dropped from the Justice portfolio in last month’s Cabinet shuffle.

Anonymous Liberal insiders are saying Ms. Wilson-Raybould was shuffled out of Justice into Veterans Affairs because she had become a thorn in the side of many in Cabinet, someone who was difficult to get along with, known to berate fellow Cabinet Ministers openly at the table, and who others felt they had trouble trusting.

Yet, those who have always been on her team say otherwise, including her father, Bill Wilson, who helped get Indigenous title to land and treaty rights enshrined in the Constitution. Former Grand Chief of the Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, the northern Manitoba chiefs’ organization, Sheila North, says of Ms. Wilson-Raybould, “She’s very serious, she’s very credible.” Ms. North said any criticism of Ms. Wilson-Raybould, a woman who publicly accepted her Cabinet demotion outdoors in the dead of winter with bare legs, for sticking up for her convictions is rooted in sexism. The former B.C. Crown prosecutor is “Someone who is very strong and assertive, when it’s a male, it’s not even considered anything that’s negative,” she said.

As political journalist Stephen Maher wrote in Maclean’s magazine:

Trudeau and his aides misjudged [Wilson-Raybould] badly by handing her the cudgel and then giving her the opportunity to wield it by demoting her as they did.

As Trudeau is a prince, born to power, she is a princess, daughter of hereditary Kwakiutl chief Bill Wilson, a lawyer and national leader who negotiated with Trudeau’s father to ensure Aboriginal rights were enshrined in the 1982 constitution. By demoting her, Trudeau and his people humiliated her, seemingly to send a message about who holds the reins in Ottawa: Trudeau, chief of staff Katie Telford and principal secretary Gerald Butts, two advisors who have more clout than any ministers.

It was an enormous miscalculation, and now Trudeau is locked in a zero-sum game with a formidable opponent who has undercut his argument that he is a feminist leader committed to reconciliation with indigenous Canadians.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Green Great Leap Forward

In what its supporters have claimed is “visionary,” the congressional media darling, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has released her short-awaited Green New Deal , and she has called for nothing short of destruction of life as we have known it: “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said she has no qualms about acknowledging a so-called “Green New Deal” will mean unprecedented governmental intrusion into the private sector. Appearing on NPR, she was asked if she’s prepared to tell Americans outright that her plans involve “massive government intervention.”

On one level, AOC is being honest; such a plan would be unprecedented, at least in the United States, but it hardly would be the first government-led massive intrusion into a nation’s economy. The 20th Century was full of such intervention, beginning with World War I, and continuing through the years of communist governments. The century was full of intervention, and the earth was full of the dead bodies to prove it. What AOC and her political allies, including most Democrats that have declared they will run for the U.S. Presidency, are demanding is the U.S. version of Mao’s utterly-disastrous Great Leap Forward.

For all of the so-called specifics, the Green New Deal (GND) reads like a socialist website which is full of rhetoric, promises, and statements that assume a bunch of planners sitting around tables can replicate a complex economy that feeds, transports, and houses hundreds of millions of people. The New York Times declares the plan to give “ substance to an idea that had been a mostly vague rallying cry for a stimulus package around climate change, but its prospects are uncertain.”

Actually, there is nothing we can call “substance” in this proposal if we mean “substance” to be a realistic understanding that it would be impossible to re-direct via central planning nearly every factor of production in the U.S. economy from one set of uses to another, since that is what the proposed legislation actually requires. For example, the following is what AOC and others call the “scope” of the proposed law:

(A) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall be developed with the objective of reaching the following outcomes within the target window of 10 years from the start of execution of the Plan:

  1.  Dramatically expand existing renewable power sources and deploy new production capacity with the goal of meeting 100% of national power demand through renewable sources;

  2.  Building a national, energy-efficient, “smart” grid;

  3. Upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety;

  4. Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries, including by investing in local-scale agriculture in communities across the country;

  5. Eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure, and upgrading water infrastructure to ensure universal access to clean water;

  6. Funding massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases;

  7. Making “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely greenhouse gas neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.

It is hard to know where to begin in analyzing such an ambitious plan, especially when one understands the ramifications of what is in this bill. No doubt, many will believe it to be bold and long overdue. The CNN website breathlessly declares:

Public investments should prioritize what the resolution calls "frontline and vulnerable communities," which include people in rural and de-industrialized areas as well as those that depend on carbon-intensive industries like oil and gas extraction.

And in a move that may draw support from a broad range of advocacy groups, the resolution sweeps in the full range of progressive policy priorities: Providing universal healthcare and affordable housing, ensuring that all jobs have union protections and family-sustaining wages, and keeping the business environment free of monopolistic competition.

However, CNN adds that the specifics – paying for the whole thing – are not included, at least not yet. In addition, the news organization adds the following for those worried that the entire operation might prove to be prohibitively costly:

… the New Dealers argue that a federally funded energy transition would stimulate growth by providing jobs, improving public health, and reducing waste. In addition, they argue that the government could capture more return on investment by retaining equity stakes in the projects they build.

In other words, this whole operation allegedly will generate so much new wealth that it will pay for itself, lift millions from poverty, and transform the entire U.S. economy. The plan is so generous that it promises an income even to people, according to the Democrat’s press release, who refuse to work still will be provided a “living wage” income.

The plan also is famous not only for what it purports to create (out right utopia) but what it also calls to be banned: cows and airlines. The plan calls for phasing out air travel within a decade to be replaced by a network of high-speed rail, as though this were even feasible. Cows, as the released document acknowledges, have flatulence, so they must be totally eliminated from the earth and meat from the U.S. diet, but there is nothing to address the massive disruption to life as we know it in order to implement such a plan.

Not surprisingly, The Atlantic is nearly breathless with praise for this monstrosity, but even that publication admits that the scale of AOC’s “vision” is beyond anything we ever have seen before:

Yet even in broad language, the resolution clearly describes a transformation that would leave virtually no sector of the economy untouched. A Green New Deal would direct new solar farms to bloom in the desert, new high-speed rail lines to crisscross the Plains, and squadrons of construction workers to insulate and weatherize buildings from Florida to Alaska. It would guarantee every American a job that pays a “family-sustaining wage,” codify paid family leave, and strengthen union law nationwide.

To be honest, “untouched” is not the appropriate term here, as “smashed” or “destroyed” is much more accurate and descriptive. We are not speaking of ordinary government intervention that marks most of the U.S. economy, but does allow for something of a price system to continue to exist. Instead, something of this magnitude would require a complete government takeover with central planning on a scale so huge that it would have to surpass the grandest dreams of the old Soviet Gosplan.

One of the most-asked questions, of course, is: “How do we pay for this?” Perhaps it is natural to ask such things, but we are not speaking of a particular project for which we have to purchase materials and pay those who create it. Instead, this plan would simply redirect nearly every resource, almost all labor, and every other factor of production away from current uses to something as determined by government planners and overlords. There is no other accurate way to describe what we are seeing.

The resolution naively assumes that all that needs to be done is for government to “finance” these projects through huge increases in taxes, borrowing, and (of course) printing money, and that such infusions of money will enable the government to “pay” for all of these new projects as though one were building a new skyscraper in Manhattan:

  • Many will say, “Massive government investment! How in the world can we pay for this?” The answer is: in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.

  • In addition to traditional debt tools, there is also a space for the government to take an equity role in projects, as several government and government-affiliated institutions already do.

Such statements demonstrate a profound ignorance of even basic economic concepts. The authors and supporters of this document believe that all it will take is for the government to direct massive amounts of money toward these new projects, and everything else will fall into line. But that is not even close to reality, as the only way to redirect such massive amounts of money would be to use force, and deadly force at that.

First, and most important, much of the present capital in the USA is geared toward the kind of economy that AOC and the Democrats demand be made illegal, so huge swaths of the capital stock would have to be abandoned, as little of it could be redirected elsewhere. One cannot overestimate the kind of financial damage that would cause, and it would impoverish much of the country almost overnight.

Second, the entire economy would be required to pivot toward capital development that would not be possible, given current technologies and opportunity costs, to create, especially in the 10-year time frame that the Democrats are demanding. Diverting new streams of finance toward such projects would be useless and even counterproductive, as the system simply would be overwhelmed. It would not be long before scarcity itself would mean that entire projects either would be stalled (like what we see with the infamous “Bullet Train” in California) or even abandoned. The human cost alone would be staggering.

As pointed out at the beginning of this article, for all of the “grand vision” rhetoric that accompanies the rollout of the AOC plan, this is nothing less than an attempt to re-implement Mao’s Great Leap Forward, albeit with high-speed rail instead of backyard steel mills. One cannot overestimate the disaster that would follow if this were forced upon the American economy.

So-called political visionaries rarely are willing to be truthful about the destruction that follows their schemes. When Baby Boomers were in college a half-century ago, many saw Mao as their political hero, a man with great vision who had the political will to do what was necessary to advance the fortunes of his own people. That he was a murderous tyrant who presided over mass death that exceeded even the killings of World War II was irrelevant or even ignored.

Today, we are told by her adoring press that Alexandria Occasio-Cortez is the New Visionary, a person who is far-seeing and knows what we have to do in order to survive the coming consequences of climate change. That her grand vision is little more than a mass-depopulation scheme is ignored, and we ignore it at our peril.

Read the Democrat’s Briefing


About the Author

William L. Anderson is a Fellow of the Mises Institute and professor of economics at Frostburg State University. He earned his MA in economics from Clemson University and his PhD in economics from Auburn University, where he was a Mises Research Fellow.

FAQ and the Democrat's Select Committee For A Green New Deal

FINAL Select Committee for a Green New Deal

DRAFT TEXT FOR PROPOSED ADDENDUM TO HOUSE RULES FOR 116TH CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES

SEC. [_____]. COMMITTEES, COMMISSIONS, AND HOUSE OFFICES.

(a) Establishment of the Select Committee For A Green New Deal.—

(1) ESTABLISHMENT; COMPOSITION.—

(A) ESTABLISHMENT.—There is hereby established a Select Committee For A Green New Deal (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “select committee”).

(B) COMPOSITION.—The select committee shall be composed of 15 members appointed by the Speaker, of whom 6 may be appointed on the recommendation of the Minority Leader. The Speaker shall designate one member of the select committee as its chair. A vacancy in the membership of the select committee shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointment.

(2) JURISDICTION; FUNCTIONS.—

(A) LEGISLATIVE JURISDICTION.—

(i) The select committee shall have authority to develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “Plan for a Green New Deal” or the “Plan”) for the transition of the United States economy to become greenhouse gas emissions neutral and to significantly draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality. In furtherance of the foregoing, the Plan shall: (a) be prepared in consultation with experts and leaders from business, labor, state and local governments, tribal nations, academia and broadly representative civil society groups and communities; (b) be driven by the federal government, in collaboration, co-creation and partnership with business, labor, state and local governments, tribal nations, research institutions and civil society groups and communities; (c) be executed in no longer than 10 years from the start of execution of such Plan; (d) provide opportunities for high income work, entrepreneurship and cooperative and public ownership; and (e) additionally, be responsive to, and in accordance with, the goals and guidelines relating to social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality set forth in paragraph (6).

(ii) In addition to preparing the Plan as set forth in paragraph (2)(A)(i), the select committee shall prepare draft legislation for the enactment of the Plan (hereinafter in this section referred to as the “draft legislation”), in accordance with this section. Such draft legislation may be prepared concurrently with the development of the Plan, or as the select committee may otherwise deem appropriate, provided that such finalized draft legislation shall be completed in accordance with the timing set forth in paragraph (5)(B)(ii).

 (iii) The select committee shall not have legislative jurisdiction and shall have no authority to take legislative action on any bill or resolution, provided that the foregoing shall not affect the select committee’s ability to prepare draft legislation in accordance with paragraph (2)(A)(i) and (2)(A)(ii).

(B) INVESTIGATIVE JURISDICTION.—In  furtherance of the mandate set forth in paragraph (2)(A), the select committee shall have the authority to investigate, study, make findings, convene experts and leaders from industry, academia, local communities, labor, finance, technology and any other industry or group that the select committee deems to be a relevant resource. The select committee may, at its discretion and as its members may deem appropriate, hold public hearings in connection with any aspect of its investigative functions.

(3) PROCEDURE.—

(A) Except as specified in paragraph (2), the select committee shall have the authorities and responsibilities of, and shall be subject to the same limitations and restrictions as, a standing committee of the House, and shall be deemed a committee of the House for all purposes of law or rule.

(B)(i) Rules [to be confirmed by reference to overall House Rules package] (Organization of Committees) and [to be confirmed by reference to overall House Rules package] (Procedures of Committees and Unfinished Business) shall apply to the select committee where not inconsistent with this resolution.

(ii) Service on the select committee shall not count against the limitations on committee or subcommittee service in Rule [to be confirmed by reference to overall House Rules package] (Organization of Committees).

(4) FUNDING.—To enable the select committee to carry out the purposes of this section—

(A) The select committee may use the services of staff of the House and may, at its discretion and as its members may deem appropriate, use the services of external consultants or experts in furtherance of its mandate;

(B) The select committee shall be eligible for interim funding pursuant to clause [to be confirmed by reference to overall House Rules package] of Rule [to be confirmed by reference to overall House Rules package] (Interim Funding - Organization of Committees); and

(C) Without limiting the foregoing, the select committee may, at any time and from time to time during the course of its mandate, apply to the House for an additional, dedicated budget to carry out its mandate.

(5) INTERIM REPORTING; SUBMISSION OF THE PLAN FOR A GREEN NEW DEAL; SUBMISSION OF DRAFT LEGISLATION—

(A) The select committee may report to the House  or any House Committee it deems appropriate from time to time the results of its investigations and studies, together with such detailed findings and interim recommendations or proposed Plan or draft legislation (or portion thereof) as it may deem advisable.

(B) (i) The select committee shall complete the Plan for a Green New Deal by a date no later than January 1, 2020.

(ii) The select committee shall complete the finalized draft legislation by a date no later than the date that is 90 calendar days after the select committee has completed the Plan in accordance with paragraph (5)(B)(i) and, in any event, no later than March 1, 2020.

(iii) The select committee shall ensure and procure that the Plan and the draft legislation prepared in accordance with this section shall, upon completion in accordance with paragraphs (5)(B)(i) and (ii), be made available to the general public in widely accessible formats (including, without limitation, via at least one dedicated website and a print publication) by a date no later than 30 calendar days following the respective dates for completion set forth in paragraphs (5)(B)(i) and (ii).

(6) SCOPE OF THE PLAN FOR A GREEN NEW DEAL AND THE DRAFT LEGISLATION.—

(A) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall be developed with the objective of reaching the following outcomes within the target window of 10 years from the start of execution of the Plan:

  1. Dramatically expand existing renewable power sources and deploy new production capacity with the goal of meeting 100% of national power demand through renewable sources;

  2. building a national, energy-efficient, “smart” grid;

  3. upgrading every residential and industrial building for state-of-the-art energy efficiency, comfort and safety;

  4. eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from  the manufacturing, agricultural and other industries, including by investing in local-scale agriculture in communities across the country;

  5. eliminating greenhouse gas emissions from, repairing and improving transportation and other infrastructure, and upgrading water infrastructure to ensure universal access to clean water;

  6. funding massive investment in the drawdown of greenhouse gases;

  7. making “green” technology, industry, expertise, products and services a major export of the United States, with the aim of becoming the undisputed international leader in helping other countries transition to completely greenhouse gas neutral economies and bringing about a global Green New Deal.

(B) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall recognize that a national, industrial, economic mobilization of this scope and scale is a historic opportunity to virtually eliminate poverty in the United States and to make prosperity, wealth and economic security available to everyone participating in the transformation. In furtherance of the foregoing, the Plan (and the draft legislation) shall:

  1. provide all members of our society, across all regions and all communities, the opportunity, training and education to be a full and equal participant in the transition, including through a job guarantee program to assure a living wage job to every person who wants one;

  2. diversify local and regional economies, with a particular focus on communities where the fossil fuel industry holds significant control over the labor market, to ensure workers have the necessary tools, opportunities, and economic assistance to succeed during the energy transition;

  3. require strong enforcement of labor, workplace safety, and wage standards that recognize the rights of workers to organize and unionize free of coercion, intimidation, and harassment, and creation of meaningful, quality, career employment;

  4. ensure a ‘just transition’ for all workers, low-income communities, communities of color, indigenous communities, rural and urban communities and the front-line communities most affected by climate change, pollution and other environmental harm including by ensuring that local implementation of the transition is led from the community level and by prioritizing solutions that end the harms faced by front-line communities from climate change and environmental pollution;

  5. protect and enforce sovereign rights and land rights of tribal nations;

  6. mitigate deeply entrenched racial, regional and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth (including, without limitation, ensuring that federal and other investment will be equitably distributed to historically impoverished, low income, deindustrialized or other marginalized communities in such a way that builds wealth and ownership at the community level);

  7. include additional measures such as basic income programs, universal health care programs and any others as the select committee may deem appropriate to promote economic security, labor market flexibility and entrepreneurism; and

  8. deeply involve national and local labor unions to take a leadership role in the process of job training and worker deployment.  

(C) The Plan for a Green New Deal (and the draft legislation) shall recognize that innovative public and other financing structures are a crucial component in achieving and furthering the goals and guidelines relating to social, economic, racial, regional and gender-based justice and equality and cooperative and public ownership set forth in paragraphs (2)(A)(i) and (6)(B). The Plan (and the draft legislation) shall, accordingly, ensure that the majority of financing of the Plan shall be accomplished by the federal government, using a combination of the Federal Reserve, a new public bank or system of regional and specialized public banks, public venture funds and such other vehicles or structures that the select committee deems appropriate, in order to ensure that interest and other investment returns generated from public investments  made in connection with the Plan will be returned to the treasury, reduce taxpayer burden and allow for more investment.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Why do we need a sweeping Green New Deal investment program? Why can’t we just rely on regulations and taxes alone, such as a carbon tax or an eventual ban on fossil fuels?  

  • Regulations and taxes can, indeed, change some behavior. It’s certainly possible to  argue that, if we had put in place targeted regulations and progressively increasing carbon and similar taxes several decades ago, the economy could have transformed itself by now. But whether or not that is true, we did not do that, and now time has run out.  

  • Given the magnitude of the current challenge, the tools of regulation and taxation, used in isolation, will not be enough to quickly and smoothly accomplish the transformation that we need to see.

  • Simply put, we don’t need to just stop doing some things we are doing (like using fossil fuels for energy needs); we also need to start doing new things (like overhauling whole industries or retrofitting all buildings to be energy efficient). Starting to do new things requires some upfront investment. In the same way that a company that is trying to change how it does business may need to make big upfront capital investments today in order to reap future benefits (for e.g., building a new factory to increase production or buying new hardware and software to totally modernize its IT system), a country that is trying to change how its economy works will need to make big investments today to jump-start and develop new projects and sectors to power the new economy.

  • The draft resolution sets out a (non-exhaustive) list of several major projects that need to be completed fast. These include upgrading virtually every home and building for energy efficiency, building a 100% greenhouse gas neutral power generation system, decarbonizing industry and agriculture and more. These projects will all require investment.

  • We’re not saying that there is no place for regulation and taxes (and these will continue to be important tools); we’re saying we need to add some new tools to the toolkit.

Why should the government have a big role in driving and making any required investments? Why not just incentivize the private sector to invest through, for e.g., tax subsidies and such?

  • Two main reasons: (1) scale and (2) time.

  • First - scale. The level of investment required will be massive. Even if all the billionaires and companies came together and were willing to pour all the resources at their disposal into this investment, the aggregate value of the investments they could make would not be sufficient.  For example, the “$1 trillion over 10 years” plan for investment in the green economy that has been floated by some policy makers has been criticized by climate experts as a wholly inadequate level of investment - $1 trillion is the entire market cap of Amazon, one of the biggest companies of all time (and it is far ahead of its closest competitors in terms of market size).

  • Second - time. The speed of investment required will be massive. Even if all the billionaires and companies could make the investments required, they would not be able to pull together a coordinated response in the narrow window of time required to jump-start major new projects and major new sectors.

  • Time-horizons matter in another way - by their nature, private companies are wary of making massive investments in unproven research and technologies; the government, however, has the time horizon to be able to patiently make investments in new tech and R&D, without necessarily having a commercial outcome or application in mind at the time the investment is made. Major examples of government investments in “new” tech that subsequently spurred a boom in the private section include DARPA-projects, the creation of the internet - and, perhaps most recently, the government’s investment in Tesla.

  • We’ve also seen that merely incentivizing the private sector doesn’t work - e.g. the tax incentives and subsidies given to wind and solar projects have been a valuable spur to growth in the US renewables industry but, even with such investment-promotion subsidies, the present level of such projects is simply inadequate to transition to a fully greenhouse gas neutral economy as quickly as needed.

  • Once again, we’re not saying that there isn’t a role for private sector investments; we’re just saying that the level of investment required will need every actor to pitch in and that the government is best placed to be the prime driver.

How will the government pay for these investments?

  • Many will say, “Massive government investment! How in the world can we pay for this?” The answer is: in the same ways that we paid for the 2008 bank bailout and extended quantitative easing programs, the same ways we paid for World War II and many other wars. The Federal Reserve can extend credit to power these projects and investments, new public banks can be created (as in WWII) to extend credit and a combination of various taxation tools (including taxes on carbon and other emissions and progressive wealth taxes) can be employed.  

  • In addition to traditional debt tools, there is also a space for the government to take an equity role in projects, as several government and government-affiliated institutions already do.

Why do we need a select committee? We already have committees with jurisdiction over the subject matter e.g. Energy and Commerce, Natural Resources and Science, Space and Technology.  Just creating another committee seems unnecessary.

  • This is a big problem with lots of parts to it. The very fact that multiple committees have jurisdiction over parts of the problem means that it’s hard for any one of those existing committees to generate a comprehensive and coherent plan that will actually work to transform America’s economy to become greenhouse gas neutral in the time we have left.

  • Not having a full 360° view of, and approach to, the issue (and only having authority over a part of the issue) means that standing committee solutions would be piecemeal, given the size and scope of the problem. A Democratic administration and Congress in 2020 will not have the time to sort through and combine all those solutions in the brief window of opportunity they will have to act.

  • Select committees, in the Congressional Research Services’ own words, serve the specific function of “examin[ing] emerging issues that do not fit clearly within existing standing committee jurisdictions or cut across jurisdictional boundaries. ”(see: https://www.senate.gov/CRSpubs/312b4df4-9797-41bf-b623-a8087cc91d74.pdf)

  • The challenges that the Select Committee For A Green New Deal is mandated to meet fit squarely within this space.

  • This does not need to be a zero sum proposition between committees. Just as Markey-Waxman was collaborative between the head of the Select Committee and standing Energy & Commerce committee, this can also be collaborative. More is more. A select committee ensures constant focus on climate change as the standing committee deals with that and many other issues of the day -- such as wild fires in California, Infrastructure, clean water issues, etc.

Why should we not be satisfied with the same approach the  previous select committee used (i.e. the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming)? Why do we need a new approach?

  • The previous select committee did not have a mandate to develop a plan for the transformation of our economy to become carbon neutral. It mainly held hearings to draw attention to the problem of climate change. That was already too little too late in 2007-11 when the committee was active.

  • The previous select committee’s work can be summarized as follows (see: https://www.congress.gov/bill/111th-congress/house-resolution/5/text, the old select committee is established in Section 4 ):

  • The “sole authority” it did have was to “investigate, study, make findings, and develop recommendations on policies, strategies, technologies and other innovations, intended to reduce the dependence of the United States on foreign sources of energy and achieve substantial and permanent reductions in emissions and other activities that contribute to climate change and global warming.”

  • From March 2007 to December 2010 - a full 3.5 years - they did the job that they were tasked to do and held hearings and prepared reports (see: https://www.congress.gov/committee/house-energy-independence-and-global/hlgw00 and https://www.markey.senate.gov/GlobalWarming/index.html (in fact, they held 80 hearings and briefings)

  • Per their website, they “engage[d] in oversight and educational activities through hearings, reports, briefings and other means intended to highlight the importance of adopting policies which reduce our dependence on foreign oil and our emissions of global warming pollution.”  

  • So there has already been a select committee that did the investigating to highlight that it was important to have some action on this issue - it’s now time to move on from investigating and reporting to action.

  • The old select committee also had (even within its limited investigative mandate) the limitation that it focused on strategies for reducing foreign energy dependence and reducing emissions - rather than treating climate issues as the integrated social, economic, scientific challenge that it is.

Why does this new select committee need to prepare draft legislation?  Isn’t investigation, hearings, briefings and reporting enough?

  • The old select committee was mandated merely to investigate and  prepare reports for other people and House Committees to read and act on.

  • The idea was that (as per the old select committees website) “each Member of the Select Committee sits on legislative committees which process legislation and amendments affecting energy independence and global warming issues in other committees” and presumably, that those members would take the work of the select committee and come up with legislation in their own committees.

  • However, this approach did not make a big impact relative to the scale of the problem we face. The one piece of legislation that eventually came out of the old select committees work - the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (ACES) https://www.markey.senate.gov/GlobalWarming/legislation/index.html) was a cap-and-trade bill that was wholly insufficient for the scale of the problem.

  • The House had a chance (from 2007 to 2010) to try a version of a select committee that investigated an issue and then passed along preparation of legislation to other committees - the result of that process doesn’t inspire any confidence that the same process should be followed again if we wish to draft a plan to tackle the scale of the problem we face.

  • The new select committee will also continue to have investigative jurisdiction, so the new proposal isn’t taking anything away from the old one - it is adding things on to make the select committee more effective.

What’s an example of a select committee with abilities to prepare legislation? Does the new Select Committee For A Green New Deal seem to fit on that list?

  • Recent examples for select committees in the House include: Ad Hoc Select Committee on the Outer Continental Shelf (94th-95th Congresses), Ad Hoc Select Committee on Energy (95th Congress), Select Committee on Homeland Security (107th Congress), and Select Committee on Homeland Security (108th Congress).

  • The Congressional Research Service notes (in discussing these four recent select committees with legislative jurisdiction) that “The principal explanation offered in creating each of the four select committees with legislative authority was that their creation solved jurisdictional problems. The proponents in each case indicated that multiple committees claimed jurisdiction over a subject and that the House would be unable to legislate, or at least to legislate efficiently, in the absence of a select committee.” (see: https://www.everycrsreport.com/reports/R40233.html#_Toc228679963)

  • The proposed subject matter and mandate for the Select Committee For A Green New Deal sits squarely within this general description for a select committee with the ability and mandate to prepare legislation.

Doesn’t this select committee take away jurisdictional power from the other (standing i.e. permanent) committees that have jurisdiction over at least part of the issue?

  • All of the relevant standing committees will be able to provide input to and make their wishes known to the select committee during the creation of both the plan as well as the draft legislation, and then in a future Congress, when it comes to crafting and passing the final legislation, that Congress can take a decision on the best mechanism for bringing that final legislation to a floor vote and passage.

  • Allowing the select committee to draft legislation doesn’t take any jurisdiction away from current standing committees, it is entirely additive.

  • The legislation developed by the select committee would still need to be referred to and pass through the permanent House Committees that have jurisdiction over parts of the subject matter.

  • For example, the legislation drafted by the Select Committee on Homeland Security needed to pass through the permanent committees on Agriculture; Appropriations; Armed Services; Energy and Commerce; Financial Services; Government Reform; Intelligence (Permanent Select); International Relations; Judiciary; Science; Transportation and Infrastructure; Ways and Means (see: https://www.congress.gov/bill/107th-congress/house-bill/5005/committees)

  • The benefit of a select committee in this case would also be that there would be a single forum that could act as a quarterback in working through and resolving any comments or issues brought up by the other House Committees, which would streamline the process of drafting this legislation.

But a select committee only exists for the congressional session that created it! So even if this select committee prepares legislation, it likely won’t get passed in this session by a Republican-held Senate and White House, so why does having a select committee now even matter?

  • The proposed new select committee would work in two stages (which wouldn’t necessarily have to be sequential):

  • First, they would put together the overall plan for a Green New Deal - they would have a year to get the plan together, with the plan to be completed by January 1, 2020. The plan itself could be in the form of a report or several reports.

  • Second, they would also put together the draft legislation that actually implements the plan - they could work on the draft legislation concurrently with the plan (after they get an initial outline of the plan going) and would need to complete the draft legislation within 90 days of completing the plan (i.e. by March 1, 2020 at the latest)

  • The select committee is also required to make the plan and the draft legislation publicly accessible within 30 days of completing each part

  • The plan and the draft legislation won’t be developed in secret - they are specifically required to be developed with wide and broad consultation and input and the select committee can share drafts or any portions of their work with the other House Committees at any time and from time to time, so their work will be conducted in the open, with lots of opportunities to give input along the way.

  • The idea is that between (a) developing the plan and the draft legislation (and holding public hearings and briefings along the way as needed), (b) the plan coming out in Jan 2020 and (c) the draft legislation coming out in March 2020, the relevant permanent House Committees, House members, experts and public will have time to engage with, discuss, revise the draft legislation between March 2020 and the end of the 116th Congress so that, by the end of this congressional term, there is a comprehensive plan and enacting legislation all lined up as soon as the new (Democratic) Congress convenes in January 2021.

What’s wrong with the other proposed legislation on climate change? Can’t we just pass one of the other climate bills that have been introduced in the past? Why prepare a whole new one?

  • The shortest and most accurate response is that (1) none of them recognize the extent to which climate and other social and economic issues are deeply interrelated and (2) even if looking at climate as a stand-alone issue, none of them are scaled to the magnitude of the problem.

  • Of the other proposed legislation, the OFF Act could be a good starting point

The Destruction of Ivory Poaching and the Illegal Wildlife Trade: Part 1

Humanity’s true moral test, its fundamental test … consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.
— Milan Kundera

Illegal wildlife poaching is once again on the rise as reported trafficking and seizures of animal parts have increased dramatically over the past few years. The illegal trafficking of wildlife is now one of the world’s largest criminal industries, with repeated links to terrorism networks, posing an increased threat to national security and economic stability. Contributing to the extinction of hundreds of species, including tigers, bears, elephants, and rhinoceroses, criminal organizations and rebel militias profit from the illicit wildlife and plant trade that is estimated to be worth between USD $70 and 213 billion a year. It’s destructive of the natural resources of countries and to legally operating businesses and tourism around the world.

Approximately 30,000 African elephants are killed annually for their ivory tusks and sales are increasing in countries like Cambodia. In some African countries including Senegal, Somalia, and Sudan, elephants have already been driven to extinction. Elephants are a keystone species, meaning other animals, plants, and entire ecosystems rely on them for survival, and just like humans, elephants share the same emotions and cognitive behavior as they grieve for their lost loved ones, feel fear, joy, and empathy, and are highly praised for their memory and intelligence. Poachers use sub-machine guns, night vision goggles, and helicopters to slaughter up to 100 elephants each day and in the last 10 years approximately 1,000 rangers were killed protecting wildlife in the “war” against poachers.

Between 1979 and 1989, the worldwide demand for ivory caused elephant populations to decline dangerously, cutting Africa’s elephant population in half. Savannah elephants with their larger tusks were targeted first and as their numbers dwindled poachers began to move into the forests for smaller elephant breeds. In the early 1970s, demand for ivory rocketed and 80 percent of raw ivory traded originated from poached elephants. In 1969, there were an estimated 1.3 million Savannah elephants in Africa but by 1997, only 600,000 remained. Today, there are only an estimated 415,000.

Endangered animal species are the most difficult to protect, as poachers go to the most extreme lengths to kill them. If we can safeguard these animals, then entire ecosystems are protected. However, the overall weight of seized ivory in illegal trade is now nearly three times greater than what was observed a decade ago. The trade threatens communities across Africa that are dependent on elephants and other species for income through tourism, therefore saving these endangered animals means preventing poverty, sustaining livelihoods, and promoting sustainable tourism.

Though it’s illegal to kill an elephant in Africa, people continue to slaughter them for ivory or revenge. Roaming elephant herds migrate into human populations in both the forests and savannah. Whereas Masai herdsmen coexist with elephants by leaving their livestock unfenced and letting the animals walk through their land, farmers attempt to barricade their crops from hungry elephant ‘pests’ who may destroy the season’s harvest and their livelihood. Conservationists and scientists are working on education and technology to help elephants and farmers co-exist. 

A survey carried out by International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) showed that 70 percent of the Chinese population believed that elephant’s ivory simply fell out and did not inflict any harm on the elephant in the process. This statistic is a firm reminder that education is fundamental to the future survival of elephants.

History of the Trade

Elephant ivory has been exported from Africa and Asia for centuries with records going back to the 14th century BCE. At the peak of the ivory trade during the colonization of Africa, around 800 to 1,000 tonnes of ivory was sent to Europe alone. Ivory hunters were responsible for wiping out elephants in North Africa approximately 1,000 years ago, in South Africa in the 19th century, and most of West Africa by the end of the 20th century.

Global wars and economic depressions resulted in a decline in demand for ivory, before interest was renewed in the 1970s as prosperity improved. Japan began to buy raw ivory, which put pressure on the forest elephants of Africa and Asia, both of which were used to supply the hard ivory preferred by the Japanese for the production of hankos, or name seals. Softer ivory from East Africa and southern Africa was traded for souvenirs, jewelry, and trinkets. Throughout the 1970s, Japan consumed about 40 percent of the global trade and another 40 percent was consumed by Europe and North America, traded through Hong Kong’s trade hub. The rest remained in Africa and at that time China only consumed small amounts of ivory to keep its skilled carvers in business.

In 1986, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) introduced a new control system involving paper permits, registration of huge ivory stockpiles, and monitoring of legal ivory movements. These controls were supported by most CITES participating countries, the ivory trade, and the established conservation movement represented by World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Traffic and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In 1989, CITES placed an international ban on all international trade to combat the massive illegal market. As a result, major ivory markets were eliminated and some countries in Africa experienced a steep decline in illegal killing allowing some elephant populations to recover.

In June 1997, CITES voted partially to lift trade sanctions and to allow Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia to sell stockpiled ivory to Japan. Many conservation groups feared this loosening of the ivory ban would rekindle poaching throughout the elephants’ range, and following a ‘one-off sale’ in 2008, the illegal trade grew rapidly. In 2011, there were the largest seizures of ivory since records began. Elephant populations again declined quickly as poaching escalated across much of Africa, fuelling the black market. 

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement to which governments voluntarily adhere and which seeks to ensure that the trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The annual international trade in wildlife ranges from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including foods, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines. Some animal and plant species are heavily exploited and the trade in them, together with other factors such as habitat loss, is capable of seriously depleting their populations and even pushing some close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard them for the future.

CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of The World Conservation Union. It entered into force on July 1, 1975 and today accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 species of animals and plants. States which have agreed to be bound by the Convention are known as Parties. Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties, it does not take the place of national laws but instead provides a framework around which each Party is expected to adopt its own domestic legislation. At present, 175 Parties have opted to be bound by the provisions of CITES.

What is the Conference of the Parties (CoP)?

The Conference of the Parties (CoP) is the supreme body of the Convention, comprising all Parties. Every three years, the Conference of the Parties meets to review the implementation of the Convention. These meetings last for about two weeks and are usually hosted by one of the Parties. The meetings are widely referred to as ‘CoP’ followed by a sequential number indicating the unique identity of the individual meetings (the first meeting was CoP1, the second CoP2, and so on).

Read the full list of participating countries

What are the CITES appendices?

The CITES appendices are lists of animals and plants afforded different levels or types of protection from over-exploitation.

Appendix I lists those species deemed most endangered. They are threatened with extinction and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens of these species except when the purpose of the import is not commercial, such as for scientific research, when trade may be allowed if authorised by both an import permit and an export permit (or re-export certificate).

Appendix II lists species not necessarily threatened with extinction at present but which may become so unless trade is closely controlled. International trade in specimens of species listed in Appendix II may be authorised by the granting of an export permit or re-export certificate. No import permit is necessary under CITES. Permits or certificates should only be granted if the relevant authorities are satisfied that certain conditions are met, above all that trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.

Appendix III lists species included at the request of a Party that already regulates trade in the species and needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation. International trade in specimens of Appendix III species is allowed only on presentation of the appropriate permits or certificates.

Species may be added to or removed from Appendix I and Appendix II, or moved between them, only by the Conference of the Parties, either at its regular meetings or by postal procedures.

Heroes of Progress: Norman Borlaug

Norman Borlaug is the man commonly dubbed the “Father of the Green Revolution.”   

Norman Ernest Borlaug was an American agronomist and humanitarian born in Iowa in 1914. After receiving a PhD from the University of Minnesota in 1944, Borlaug moved to Mexico to work on agricultural development for the Rockefeller Foundation. Although Borlaug’s taskforce was initiated to teach Mexican farmers methods to increase food productivity, he quickly became obsessed with developing better (i.e., higher-yielding and pest-and-climate resistant) crops.

As Johan Norberg notes in his 2016 book Progress:

“After thousands of crossing of wheat, Borlaug managed to come up with a high-yield hybrid that was parasite resistant and wasn’t sensitive to daylight hours, so it could be grown in varying climates. Importantly it was a dwarf variety, since tall wheat expended a lot of energy growing inedible stalks and collapsed when it grew too quickly. The new wheat was quickly introduced all over Mexico.”

In fact, by 1963, 95 percent of Mexico’s wheat was Borlaug’s variety and Mexico’s wheat harvest grew six times larger than it had been when he first set foot in the country nineteen years earlier.

Norberg continues, “in 1963, Borlaug moved on to India and Pakistan, just as it found itself facing the threat of massive starvation. Immediately, he ordered thirty-five trucks of high-yield seeds to be driven from Mexico to Los Angeles, in order to ship them from there.” Unfortunately, Borlaug’s convoy faced problems from the start; it was held up by Mexican police, blocked at the US border due to a ban on seed imports, and was then stalled by race-riots that obstructed the LA harbor.

Eventually Borlaug’s shipment began its voyage to India, but it was far from plain sailing.

Before the seeds had reached the sub-continent, Indian state monopolies began lobbying against Borlaug’s shipment and then, once it was ashore, it was discovered that half the seeds had been killed due to over-fumigation at customs. If that wasn’t enough, Borlaug learnt that the Indian government was planning to refuse fertilizer imports as they “wanted to build up their domestic fertilizer industry.” Luckily that policy was abandoned once Borlaug famously shouted at India’s deputy Prime Minister.

Borlaug later noted, “I went to bed thinking the problem was at last solved and woke up to the news that war had broken out between India and Pakistan.” Amid the war, Borlaug and his team continued to work tirelessly planting seeds. Often the fields were within sight of artillery flashes.

Despite the late planting, yields in India rose by seventy percent in 1965. The proven success of his harvests coupled with the fear of wartime starvation, meant that Borlaug got the go-ahead from the Pakistani and Indian governments to roll out his program on a larger scale. The following harvest was even more bountiful and wartime famine was averted.

Both nations praised Borlaug immensely. The Pakistani Agriculture Minister took to the radio applauding the new crop varieties, while the Indian Agriculture Minister went as far as to plough his cricket pitch with Borlaug’s wheat.  After a huge shipment of seed in 1968, the harvest in both countries boomed. It is recorded that there were not enough people, carts, trucks, or storage facilities to cope with the bountiful crop.

This extraordinary transformation of Asian agriculture in the 1960s and 1970s almost banished famine from the entire continent. By 1974, wheat harvests had tripled in India and, for the first time, the sub-continent became a net exporter of the crop. Norberg notes, “today they (India and Pakistan) produce seven times more wheat than they did in 1965. Despite a rapidly growing population, both countries are much better fed than they used to be.”

Borlaug’s wheat, and the dwarf rice varieties that followed, are credited for ushering in the Green Revolution. After the Indo-Pakistani war, Borlaug spent years working in China and later in life, Africa.

In 1970, Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his accomplishments. He is only one of seven to have received the Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in addition to the Nobel Peace Prize. It is said that he was particularly satisfied when the people of Sonora, Mexico, where he did some of his first experiments, named a street after him.


About the Author

Alexander C. R. Hammond is a researcher at a Washington DC think tank.

Globalization's Great Triumph: The Death of Extreme Poverty

It is the greatest story of our time, and it’s one few have heard of. Mankind is defeating extreme poverty.

 The World Bank has just released its latest numbers, and according to them, the proportion of the world population in extreme poverty, i.e. who consume less than $1.90 a day, adjusted for local prices, declined from 36 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2015.

Even though world population increased by more than two billion people, the number of extremely poor was reduced by almost 1.2 billion. It means that in the now much-despised era of globalization, almost 130,000 people rose out of poverty every day.

Every one of those 130,000 represents another individual who get closer to a decent life with basic education, access to health care and opportunities in life. This is the greatest achievement in human history.

At the Millennium Summit of the United Nations in 2000, the world’s countries set the goal of halving the 1990 incidence of extreme poverty by 2015. This was met more than five years ahead of deadline.

Progress has been fastest in Asia. In East Asia, extreme poverty was reduced from 62 to 2 percent and in South Asia from 47 to 12 percent. But other regions have also seen progress.

In Latin America, poverty was reduced from 14 to 4 percent. The laggard is Sub-Saharan Africa, but even there, extreme poverty has been reduced, from 54 to 41 percent.

That is higher than anywhere else in the world, but it means that extreme poverty is now more rare in Africa than it was in the world’s richest countries at the dawn of the industrial revolution.

It is fascinating that this progress takes place just as many in the West are starting to doubt free trade and global capitalism.

Because this poverty reduction happened in the countries that started liberating their markets and began to integrate into the global economy, like China in the early 1980s and in India and Vietnam in the early 1990s.

As the Indian economist Gurcharan Das says about his country’s progress in the documentary, "India Awakes": “The principles that brought so much prosperity and freedom to the West are being affirmed in a country that is in the East."

Multinational institutions are good at producing seminars and elaborate plans about how to create some kind of mythological “pro-poor growth." But the best way of making growth pro-poor is to make growth high and keep it high.

A study of 121 countries over four decades by economists David Dollar, Tatjana Kleineberg and Aart Kraay showed that most of the cross-country variation in growth in incomes of the poor is due to growth in average incomes, not changes in distribution.

Just at the moment that both the left and the right give up on global capitalism, it is celebrating its largest accomplishment. One of the reasons so many despair is that they don’t know about this development.

When Americans were asked what had happened to global poverty the last 20 years, only 5 percent answered that it had halved; 66 percent thought it had doubled.

Another reason is that many believe in the myth of the zero-sum game: For someone to win, someone else has to lose, and so they think they are the ones who will have to pay if China or Mexico prospers.

But that does not apply to a free market where no deal ever takes place unless both parties think it will make them better off and where trade and specialization helps to increase the size of the global pie.

But this is a particularly dismal time for the U.S. to give up on globalization and start trade wars. According to an estimate from the Brookings Institution, the global middle class grew by 2.3 billion during these 25 years.

That’s another 2.3 billion who are soon consuming what Western middle classes consume and Western companies produce — fashionable brands, modern transportation, home electronics, medical drugs, entertainment and financial services.

That giant sucking sound we could soon be hearing is from billions of people in the South and the East, importing whatever goods and services our companies produce. Fortune favors the brave. Protectionism ruins it for everybody.


About the Author

Johan Norberg is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute. He is the author of "Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future."

The Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies

The Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) is a non-profit, non-governmental, international network, oriented to educational work related to strategic nonviolent conflict.

CANVAS produces a weekly report on several countries where nonviolent resistance can play an important role in confronting challenges to democracy.

The core of CANVAS’s work is rather to spread the word of “people power” to the world than to achieve victories against one dictator or another. Their next big mission should obviously be to explain to the world what a powerful tool nonviolent struggle is when it comes to achieving freedom, democracy and human rights.

The Organization

Headquartered in Belgrade, CANVAS is run by Slobodan Djinovic and Srdja Popovic. It operates a network of international trainers and consultants with experience of successful democratic movements. CANVAS is a non-profit institution which relies solely on private funding; there is no charge for workshops and revolutionary know-how can be downloaded for free on the Internet.

CANVAS was founded in 2003 by Srdja Popovic and Slobodan Dinovic as an organization that advocates for the use of nonviolent resistance to promote human rights and democracy. Since then, CANVAS has worked with pro-democracy activists from more than 50 countries, including Iran, Zimbabwe, Burma, Venezuela, Ukraine, Georgia, Palestine, Western Sahara, West Papua, Eritrea, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Tonga, Tunisia and Egypt. CANVAS works only in response to requests for assistance and offers free trainings to activists.

CANVAS disseminates its knowledge through a variety of media, including workshops, books, DVDs and specialized courses. Members regularly teach and present an academic version of their Core Curriculum, and hold workshops on strategy and organization of nonviolent struggle at variety of educational institutions worldwide, including at Harvard (Kennedy School Of Law), the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy (TUFTS, Boston, MA), Johns Hopkins (SAIS), Columbia University, Rutgers (NJ), Colorado College (CO), and Georgetown University (DC).

In 2006, Popovic and two other CANVAS members – Slobodan Dinovic and Andrej Milivojevic – authored a book called Nonviolent Struggle: 50 Crucial Points, a how-to guide for nonviolent struggle. Srdja Popovic and CANVAS won several awards, including the Paul Lauitzen Award for Human Rights (November 2010) and the Jean Mayers Award by Tufts University (February 2016).

Srdja Popovic

Srdja Popovic was one of the founders of the Serbian nonviolent resistance group Otpor! Otpor!’s campaign against Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was successful in October 2000 when thousands of protesters took over the Serbian Parliament. After the revolution, Popovic served a term as a member of the Serbian National Assembly. In 2003, Popovic and others started the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). CANVAS has worked with activists from 46 different countries, including Zimbabwe, Burma, Iran, and Venezuela, spreading knowledge of the nonviolent strategies and tactics used by Otpor! In November 2011, Foreign Policy Magazine listed Srdja Popovic as one of the “Top 100 Global Thinkers” of 2011 for inspiring the Arab Spring protesters.  In 2012 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In 2014 he was listed as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Srdja is also the author of the recent book Blueprint for Revolution, a fun and humorous look at nonviolent activism worldwide.”

Slobodan Djinovic

Slobodan Djinovic became one of the co-founders of the Serbian resistance movement OTPOR! while he was a student at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering in Belgrade in 1998. OTPOR! went on to topple Serbian dictator Slobodan Milosevic through a mass nonviolent campaign. Subsequently, Slobodan went on to found one of the first internet companies in Serbia, and currently serves as CEO of Orion Telecom. He also serves as co-founder and Chairman of CANVAS, the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies, an educational organization that trains activists from around the world in the strategies and tactics on nonviolent struggle. He has co-authored two CANVAS publications: Nonviolent Struggle: 50 Crucial Points and The CANVAS Core Curriculum. Slobodan also has a certificate from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

Visit the CANVAS website