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Evaluating the Title II Rainbow of Proposals for the FCC to Go Nuclear

Somewhat Reasonable - September 29, 2014, 2:40 PM

While proposing to follow the D.C. Circuit Court’s roadmap in Verizon v. FCC to create a legal FCC regulatory framework for the Internet Age under the FCC’s 706 authorities, the FCC also invited proposals to potentially subject broadband to Title II common carrier utility regulation.

The FCC’s invitation has prompted a “rainbow of policy and legal proposals” that would explore “new ideas for protecting and promoting the open Internet” by imposing Title II telecommunications regulation on America’s Internet infrastructure.

This analysis will review and debunk what the FCC has suggested are the main Title II proposals at this time from: Public Knowledge, AOL, Rep. Eshoo/Silicon Valley, Professor Tim Wu, and Mozilla.

By way of background, the Title II policy debate is about who makes Internet infrastructure decisions, the businesses which have long done so, or government regulators; and the debate is also about who pays for it.

In a nutshell, Title II is legacy 1934 telephone monopoly utility regulation where Federal and State regulators, not business owners, make every substantive decision for the business: i.e. rates, terms, conditions, profit, quality, technology, services, devices, and what can be built when and where.

Hence Title II is oft-considered the regulatory “nuclear option” because its purpose is to destroy the current user-centric, Title I information services regulatory foundation, on top of which most everything about the American Internet today is built upon, in order to replace it with an obsolete Title II FCC-centric/empowering regulatory regime from 1934.

Title II is also considered the “nuclear option” because it would destroy much of the value of the nation’s $1.2 trillion in private investment in America’s wireline, wireless and satellite Internet infrastructure, and because the “fallout” from Title II reclassification could make the sector “radioactive” to future private investment.

Importantly, the common purpose behind all the Title II proposals is giving the FCC the regulatory power to impose a “zero-price” for downstream traffic via common carrier price regulation. Title II advocates all agree that only the user should have to pay for bandwidth, and that large edge companies should not have to pay anything for their outsized bandwidth consumption of video streaming because the user requested the video streams.

Behind the smokescreen of the “fast lane-slow lane” FCC debate is a largely hidden policy debate over who pays to fund America’s Internet infrastructure – everyone who benefits from it or only Internet consumers. Title II advocates want Internet consumers to subsidize Internet content producers without being transparent to consumers.

The “rainbow” of Title II “nuclear option” proposals range from maximal 1934 telephone monopoly utility regulation, to a variety of different tactical, partial or targeted Title II regulation.

The targeted Title II advocates imagine they can detonate a regulatory “tactical nuke” that can maximally-regulate ISPs with no fallout risk or harm to edge content producers, consumers, or the virtuous innovation cycle, just like policy makers imagined that they could use a “tactical nuke” in the Cold War that would only kill people, not destroy buildings, and not trigger the mutual-assured-destruction of nuclear war.

Full “Nuclear Option” Proposal from Public Knowledge: Public Knowledge’s FCC filingproposes full reclassification of broadband access, wireline and wireless, as a Title II common carrier service, without a presumption of forbearance.

Its argument is that the FCC got broadband regulation totally wrong and never should have classified broadband access as an information service, because the Internet needs Government public utility regulation, not private-sector facilities-based broadband competition, to well serve Internet users.

Simply, Public Knowledge is calling for the FCC to preemptively blow up America’s entire Internet regulatory foundation for both the FCC and the FTC in order to save the Internet frompotential harms.

AOL’s Title II “Nuclear Option” Plus Section 706: AOL’s proposes  that the FCC “use the entire legal arsenal available to it” to prevent ISPs from negotiating commercially reasonable payments from large edge content producers, like Netflix has done.

Tactical Title II “Nuclear Option” Proposals:

Rep Eshoo’s Silicon Valley “Light touch” Title II Section 202 “Nuclear Option” Proposal:Sensitive to the risk of “radioactive” fallout to Silicon Valley of a full Title II nuclear option, Rep. Eshoo has advocated for a “creative pathway” of reclassifying broadband as a 100% common carrier telecommunications service, but then forbearing over time from 99% of it, leaving just the Section 202 nondiscrimination requirement that Silicon Valley most wants.   

Apparently Silicon Valley imagines America’s legal code to be a binary series of ones and zeroes where the FCC can reprogram its Title II nuclear device to precisely delete legal code that one doesn’t want.

Obviously Silicon Valley does not understand that it is the regulatory classification of service that is actually “binary,” because it legally must be either a “one” information service, or a “zero” telecommunications service, it can’t be both. And Silicon Valley does not appreciate that FCC forbearance, or “deleting” is not like efficiently pushing a “delete” key, but is among the most inefficient, convoluted, and uncertain of FCC tools and processes.

Wu-Narenchania’s “Magical” Title II “Nuclear Option” Proposal: Professor Tim Wu, who coined the term “net neutrality,” told FCC staff in the FCC Chairman’s Office “We have the magical formula and it’ll solve all your problems” per the Washington Post. His proposalwould be a “surgical” “nuclear strike” by treating Internet backbone downstream/”sender side” transit to a consumer as a Title II common carrier telecommunications service while treating upstream/”receiver-side” transit to an edge provider as a Title I information service.

The hubris of this particular “nuclear option” imagines that the FCC can differentiate and nano-regulate commingled best-efforts Internet packet delivery of quadrillions of bits annually — by direction. In other words, it would be akin to ones and zeros packet traffic going in one direction like east would be regulated like a utility, but ones and zeros packet traffic going in another direction like west would not.

Ironically, this effort to avoid discrimination and achieve Professor Wu’s zero-price for downstream traffic would do so by discriminating against receiver-side-consumers by forcing them to subsidize FCC-favored, sender-side-edge-producers of content, which would enjoy zero-price delivery of packets.

In the past, the FCC’s implicit subsidy programs have had businesses subsidizing consumers’ services especially rural or disadvantaged consumers. Perversely, all Title II nuclear options discussed here are designed to set a zero-price for all downstream traffic so consumers are forced to subsidize big Silicon Valley content producers like Netflix, Google-YouTube, Amazon, Yahoo, etc.

Amazingly, Professor Wu proposes to impose the Title II “nuclear option” to the Internet backbone, which has never been subject to Title II regulation since the Federal government privatized the Internet backbone two decades ago. Price regulating one direction of this complex omni-directional network of networks could risk screwing up the Internet backbone market with collateral casualties for the whole Internet ecosystem.

Professor Wu’s fantastical proposal is the equivalent of a surgeon imagining he could safely operate on a person’s spinal cord to fix only neural signals coming from the brain to the body and not those going to the brain from the body – with no risk at all to the patient or liability for the FCC “hospital” authorizing the procedure!

Mozilla’s Title II “Nuclear Option” Proposal: When the FCC invites edge content producers an opportunity to ask for whatever they want to take from other people, under the political cover of promoting “innovation,” courtesy of the FCC, they naturally get greedy and feel entitled.

No kidding, Mozilla’s proposal actually asks the FCC “to create a new type of service, one that has never before been classified” … for “remote edge providers” … that “works a little like a doorman in a high-end condominium.” … “It would clearly wall off the Internet from the access service” with “protective rules.”

Ironically those interests who have long opposed “walled gardens” for Internet content as antithetical to a free and open Internet, now are proposing being “walled off” from any obligation to pay their fair share of the cost of Internet infrastructure that their special highest-traffic services cause for everyone else in the ecosystem. Even more ironically, Mozilla believes its “high-end” walled garden is entitled to a “doorman.”

Particularly problematic in Mozilla’s petition for “walled garden” special treatment for “remote edge providers” paid for by consumers, is no disclosure that most of Mozilla’s revenues for the last several years have come from Google.

Google has paid Mozilla ~$300m a year for the last three years to make Google the default search engine on Mozilla’s Firefox browser. At a minimum it is in the public interest for Mozilla and the FCC to be fully transparent that Mozilla has a very large financial conflict-of-interest in this debate.

The cumulative hypocrisy of Mozilla’s Title II proposal is legion.

In sum, the Title II policy debate is about who makes Internet infrastructure decisions, the businesses which have long done so, or government regulators, and also who pays for it.

It is all about whether or not the FCC will destroy everything Internet that was built upon the fundamental assumption of a user-centric, light-touch information services regulation, by reclassifying broadband as an FCC-centric common carrier utility telecommunications service to impose maximal regulation.

Title II is called the “nuclear option” for a reason – its broad and lasting destructiveness.

Is Congress paying attention?

All of these destructive Title II “nuclear option” proposals are all de facto legislative proposals that should be proposed to Congress for Congress’ consideration.

It would be wise for the FCC to be very respectful of Congress’ constitutional prerogatives here, given that the FCC is a creature of Congress, not a sovereign power in and of itself as Title II advocates imply.

***

FCC Open Internet Order Series

 

Part 1: The Many Vulnerabilities of an Open Internet [9-24-09]

Part 2: Why FCC proposed net neutrality regs unconstitutional, NPR Online Op-ed [9-24-09]

Part 3: Takeaways from FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regs [10-22-09]

Part 4: How FCC Regulation Would Change the Internet [10-30-09]

Part 5: Is FCC Declaring ‘Open Season’ on Internet Freedom? [11-17-09]

Part 6: Critical Gaps in FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regulations [11-30-09]

Part 7: Takeaways from the FCC’s Open Internet Further Inquiry [9-2-10]

Part 8: An FCC “Data-Driven” Double Standard? [10-27-10]

Part 9: Election Takeaways for the FCC [11-3-10]

Part 10: Irony of Little Openness in FCC Open Internet Reg-making [11-19-10]

Part 11: FCC Regulating Internet to Prevent Companies from Regulating Internet [11-22-10]

Part 12: Where is the FCC’s Legitimacy? [11-22-10]

Part 13: Will FCC Preserve or Change the Internet? [12-17-10]

Part 14: FCC Internet Price Regulation & Micro-management? [12-20-10]

Part 15: FCC Open Internet Decision Take-aways [12-21-10]

Part 16: FCC Defines Broadband Service as “BIAS”-ed [12-22-10]

Part 17: Why FCC’s Net Regs Need Administration/Congressional Regulatory Review [1-3-11]

Part 18: Welcome to the FCC-Centric Internet [1-25-11]

Part 19: FCC’s Net Regs in Conflict with President’s Pledges [1-26-11]

Part 20: Will FCC Respect President’s Call for “Least Burdensome” Regulation? [2-3-11]

Part 21: FCC’s In Search of Relevance in 706 Report [5-23-11]

Part 22: The FCC’s public wireless network blocks lawful Internet traffic [6-13-11]

Part 23: Why FCC Net Neutrality Regs Are So Vulnerable [9-8-11]

Part 24: Why Verizon Wins Appeal of FCC’s Net Regs [9-30-11]

Part 25: Supreme Court likely to leash FCC to the law [10-10-12]

Part 26: What Court Data Roaming Decision Means for FCC Open Internet Order [12-4-12]

Part 27: Oops! Crawford’s Model Broadband Nation, Korea, Opposes Net Neutrality [2-26-13]

Part 28: Little Impact on FCC Open Internet Order from SCOTUS Chevron Decision [5-21-13]

Part 29: More Legal Trouble for FCC’s Open Internet Order & Net Neutrality [6-2-13]

Part 30: U.S. Competition Beats EU Regulation in Broadband Race [6-21-13]

Part 31: Defending Google Fiber’s Reasonable Network Management [7-30-13]

Part 32: Capricious Net Neutrality Charges [8-7-13]

Part 33: Why FCC won’t pass Appeals Court’s oral exam [9-2-13]

Part 34: 5 BIG Implications from Court Signals on Net Neutrality – A Special Report [9-13-13]

Part 35: Dial-up Rules for the Broadband Age? My Daily Caller Op-ed Rebutting Marvin Ammori’s [11-6-13]

Part 36: Nattering Net Neutrality Nonsense Over AT&T’s Sponsored Data Offering [1-6-14]

Part 37: Is Net Neutrality Trying to Mutate into an Economic Entitlement? [1-12-14]

Part 38: Why Professor Crawford Has Title II Reclassification All Wrong [1-16-14]

Part 39: Title II Reclassification Would Violate President’s Executive Order [1-22-14]

Part 40: The Narrowing Net Neutrality Dispute [2-24-14]

Part 41: FCC’s Open Internet Order Do-over – Key Going Forward Takeaways [3-5-14]

Part 42: Net Neutrality is about Consumer Benefit not Corporate Welfare for Netflix [3-21-14]

Part 43: The Multi-speed Internet is Getting More Faster Speeds [4-28-14]

Part 44: Reality Check on the Electoral Politics of Net Neutrality [5-2-14]

Part 45: The “Aristechracy” Demands Consumers Subsidize Their Net Neutrality Free Lunch [5-8-14]

Part 46: Read AT&T’s Filing that Totally Debunks Title II Reclassification [5-9-14]

Part 47: Statement on FCC Open Internet NPRM [5-15-14]

Part 48: Net Neutrality Rhetoric: “Believe it or not!” [5-16-14]

Part 49: Top Ten Reasons Broadband Internet is not a Public Utility [5-20-14]

Part 50: Top Ten Reasons to Oppose Broadband Utility Regulation [5-28-14]

Part 51: Google’s Title II Broadband Utility Regulation Risks [6-3-14]

Part 52:  Exposing Netflix’ Biggest Net Neutrality Deceptions [6-5-14]

Part 53: Silicon Valley Naïve on Broadband Regulation (3 min video) [6-15-14]

Part 54: FCC’s Netflix Internet Peering Inquiry – Top Ten Questions [6-17-14]

Part 55: Interconnection is Different for Internet than Railroads or Electricity [6-26-14]

Part 56: Top Ten Failures of FCC Title II Utility Regulation [7-7-14]

Part 57: NetCompetition Statement & Comments on FCC Open Internet Order Remand [7-11-14]

Part 58: MD Rules Uber is a Common Carrier – Will FCC Agree? [8-6-14]

Part 59: Internet Peering Doesn’t Need Fixing – NetComp CommActUpdate Submission [8-11-14]

Part 60: Why is Silicon Valley Rebranding/Redefining Net Neutrality?  [9-2-14]

Part 61: the FCC’s Redefinition of Broadband Competition [9-4-14]

Part 62: NetCompetition Comments to FCC Opposing Title II Utility Regulation of Broadband [9-9-14]

Part 63: De-competition De-competition De-competition [9-14-14]

Part 64: The Forgotten Consumer in the Fast Lane Net Neutrality Debate [9-18-14]

Part 65: FTC Implicitly Urges FCC to Not Reclassify Broadband as a Utility [9-23-14]

[Originally published at PrecursorBlog]

Categories: On the Blog

People’s Climate March Wants to Change the System, Not the Weather

Somewhat Reasonable - September 29, 2014, 2:28 PM

“Extremist voices and groups have hijacked Islam and misappropriated the right to speak on its behalf,” Iyad Ameen Madani, secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, told the 25th Session of the Arab Summit earlier this year.

Surely sincere lovers of nature can similarly see that extremists have hijacked the environmental movement, as evidenced by the People’s Climate March last week in New York City and the subsequent UN Climate Summit.

The People’s Climate March had little to do with the climate. The eco-extremists want to “change the system.”

While reported numbers vary, hundreds of thousands of people clogged (and littered) the streets of New York City, with solidarity events held elsewhere around the globe. The parade had grand marshals such as actors Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo, and politicos such as Al Gore and Robert Kennedy, Jr.

It also had an assortment of anti-Americans and anti-capitalists. Human Eventsdescribed the menagerie this way: “If you’re in favor of totalitarian power, sympathetic to America’s enemies, dubious about representative democracy, hostile to free markets, or you just get turned on by fantasizing about violent revolution, there was a place for you at this march.”

Marchers carried a banner stating: “Capitalism is the disease, socialism is the cure.” Other signs read: “Capitalism is killing the planet. Fight for a socialist future.”

Hydraulic fracturing—uniquely responsible for U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropping to the lowest in 20 yearscame under special attack: “Make fracking a crime.” Marchers held signs saying: “Fracking = Climate Change. Ban fracking now.”

Speaking of crimes, Robert Kennedy, Jr., in an interview at the Climate March, toldClimate Depot’s Marc Morano that he wishes there were a law to punish global warming skeptics. Interviews with marchers revealed sentiments ranging from “corporations have to be reined in” to the notion that the marchers are “building a revolution for a whole new society—a new socialist society.”

A man in a cow costume carried a sign reading: “I fart. Therefore, I am the problem.” Bob Linden, host of the nationally-syndicated program “Go Vegan,” stated: “[I]f 50 to 85 percent of us switch to veganism by 2020, scientists tell us we can save the planet from climate change.”

Unfortunately, you won’t see any of this in the mainstream media. The New York Timesslide show of the event features a pictorial display of flower wreaths, children, and happy dancers.

In a piece titled: “Rockets Red Glare Distract Nation from UN Climate Summit and Import of Global Climate Protests,” the Huffington Post laments that “the critically important UN Climate Summit in New York has had to compete on mainstream media with the far more dramatic war coverage.” It continues that “the climate’s fate is far more important to the world even than the desperately needed military campaign by the U.S. and its allies to eradicate barbaric ISIL terrorists from Syria and Iraq.”

The new war in Iraq and Syria, waged by Islamic extremists, centers on hate for all things Western and a desire to change systems of government to an Islamic caliphate. The People’s Climate March also centers on hate and a desire to change the government.

One description of the March said: “These people are defined by what they hate, and a big part of what they hate is capitalism.”

During a panel discussion held in conjunction with the March, a questioner wonderedaloud to Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate: “Even if the climate change issue did not exist, you would be calling for the same structural changes.” Her answer: “Yeah.”

Every Muslim isn’t a terrorist and every person who cares about the planet isn’t an eco-extremist. But just as ISIS changed America’s view, the Climate March made clear that extremist voices have hijacked the environmental movement.

National Geographic summed up the March this way: “Despite all the enthusiasm displayed in New York and elsewhere on a muggy September Sunday, public opinion pollsconsistently show that climate change does not rank as a high priority for most Americans.”

Americans are smarter than the collection of anti-capitalist satellite groups think. They’ve seen through the rhetoric and realize, as the Climate March made clear, that it is not about climate change, it is about system change.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE).

[Originally published at Breitbart]

Categories: On the Blog

America’s Densest Cities

Somewhat Reasonable - September 29, 2014, 1:47 PM

There is a general perception that the densest US cities are in the Northeast, where downtowns tend to be bigger and inner city densities are higher. However, cities have become much larger geographically, and also include the automobile oriented lower density suburbs that have developed since World War II. In fact, most of the densest major urban areas are in the West.

Since 1950, each decennial census of the United States has defined urban areas, or, areas of continuous urbanization. Urban areas include core cities (municipalities, such as the city of New York or the city of Boston) as well as adjacent suburbs.

Urban areas do not correspond to city limits or jurisdiction borders. They are composed of small census districts that average fewer than 50 residents and can cross state lines. Metropolitan areas, which are often wrongly used interchangeably with urban areas, are based on county boundaries and always contain rural areas. So, metropolitan area densities are a useless statistic for urban density analysis.

New York and Los Angeles

This article ranks the densities of the largest urban areas (cities) in the nation’s 52 metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population.

With the largest population, New York is America’s ultimate city. More than 18 million people live in the urban area. The New York urban area covers the most land area in the world. It stretches far beyond City Hall in Manhattan, 50 miles west to Hackettstown, New Jersey, 90 miles east to Sag Harbor Long Island, 55 miles north to Dutchess County, New York, and 80 miles south to Ocean County, New Jersey. The New York urban area is geographically bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined. Nonetheless, New York has fallen behind Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose in urban density.

Despite its international reputation for endless urban sprawl, the densest major city is Los Angeles. Los Angeles covers one-half the land area of New York, with two-thirds the population (12.2 million). With an area of 1,736 square miles, Los Angeles has an urban density of 6,999 per square mile. The urban core of Los Angeles is much less dense than New York, but the suburbs (where most people live) are twice as dense.

Six urban areas are geographically larger than Los Angeles. These include New York, Atlanta (2,645 square miles), Chicago (2,443), Boston (1,873), Philadelphia (1,981) and Dallas-Fort Worth (1,779). Among these, Boston is reputed for its high density urban core. But because of its very low density suburbs, Boston is less than one-third as dense as Los Angeles and less dense than cities perceived to have lower density, such as Phoenix and Houston. (For complete information on urban area, core municipality and suburban, see here.)

Balance of the Top Ten

San Francisco is the second densest city, at 6,266 per square mile. San Francisco has a dense urban core like New York. But more of San Francisco looks like Los Angeles than New York. Its suburbs are 50 percent more dense than those of New York.

San Jose ranks third, with an urban density of 5,820. Yet, even with virtually no pre-automobile urban core, San Jose is more dense than New York. This is because its all-suburban urban form is dense enough to erase the effect of New York’s hyper dense urban core.

Las Vegas ranks fifth (after New York), with a density of 4,525. Las Vegas was too small to be a metropolitan area in 1950, and like San Jose is composed of virtually all post-war suburban development.

Miami ranks sixth, at 4,238 , with a higher core density and higher density suburbs.

The next three positions are occupied by #7 San Diego (4,037), #8 Salt Lake City (3,675) and #9 Sacramento (3,660). In each case, these cities have denser suburbs than average, which is the principal reason for their strong rankings.

New Orleans is the 10th densest city, which represents a substantial decline from 2000. Before Hurricane Katrina (2005), New Orleans ranked fifth in the nation, at 5,096. Its 2010 density (3,579) was a full 30 percent lower than in 2000.

The Bottom Ten

The bottom ten includes seven southern cities, two from the Northeast and one from the Midwest. Their densities range from 1,414 in Birmingham to 2,031 in Grand Rapids. The bottom ten also includes Charlotte, Atlanta, Raleigh, Nashville, Hartford, Pittsburgh, Richmond, and Jacksonville.

Interestingly, the Hartford metropolitan area has the highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the world, according to data in the Brookings Global Metro Monitor, which is counter to the perception that associates stronger economic performance with higher urban densities.

Density Goes West

Thus, only one Northeastern city ranks in the top ten (New York) and none are from the Midwest. Seven of the top ten are in the West, with five in California and two more from the Intermountain West. Two more are from the South. However, two western cities that have among the strongest urban containment policies (densification policies), Seattle and Portland are not among the top ten in density.

Since World War II, nearly all of the nation’s urban growth has been in suburban areas. Most of this growth has occurred in the West and South, rather than in the Northeast and the Midwest (North Central). The growing western suburbs developed at higher densities. The combination of these factors accounts for the higher urban densities in the West (Table 2). The effect of the much higher densities of urban cores in the Northeast are offset by the denser suburbs of the West. Indeed, the suburbs of the West are denser than all but seven of the 52 major urban areas.

[Originally published at Huffington Post]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Repeal The Oil Export Ban

Somewhat Reasonable - September 29, 2014, 8:36 AM

Thanks mainly to the shale revolution, oil production in the U.S. hit a 28-year high last month while imports were at their lowest levels since 1995. Consequently, prices have fallen 15% since June, and Saudi Arabia has cut production by 400,000 barrels a day — providing further evidence that OPEC no longer has the power to set prices.

Against these developments, the current ban on exporting American oil is nonsensical.

Even the liberal Brookings Institution in a recent study concludes that it’s time to remove the ban, arguing that the more we export the greater the expected decline in gasoline prices, perhaps as much as 12 cents per gallon. “As counter-intuitive as it may seem, lifting the ban actually lowers gasoline prices by increasing the total amount of crude supply.”

In addition the study identifies a number of other economic benefits from exporting oil, including higher GDP and lower unemployment.

Some politicians and pundits claim that exporting oil will divert us from the path toward “energy independence.” Others argue that exporting oil will weaken our energy security since we’re still a net importer. Still others claim that keeping domestic oil at home will help lower gasoline and diesel prices.

All of these arguments are baseless. Currently, we lead the world in the output of natural gas, nuclear power and renewables. We’re still No. 3 in oil production, but the International Energy Agency projects that within a few years America will reclaim the No. 1 ranking. In short, we’re already energy independent.

As for energy security, it’s hard to envision a political scenario that would result in our inability to import oil.

Over the past two years we’ve seen political unrest in Iraq, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and other petroleum exporting countries, but oil prices have actually fallen. Most of the oil we import today comes from friendly nations like Canada and Mexico. OPEC now accounts for less than 10 percent of U.S. consumption, with half coming from Saudi Arabia to supply its huge refinery in Port Arthur.

What’s more, we still have the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in the unlikely event of a political conflict that could disrupt global oil movements.

And because the price of oil is determined (more or less) by global supply and demand, keeping U.S. oil in the U.S. will not confer any benefits to consumers. On the other hand, exporting some of our oil can help sustain the energy boom that has created hundreds of thousands of jobs in recent years against the backdrop of a less-than-robust economic recovery from the Great Recession.

Obviously, changing the laws that banned the export of crude oil in the aftermath of the mid-1970s energy crisis will not be easy, for two reasons.

First, politicians, the media and the public must recognize that oil is simply a commodity. Just as we export rice and wheat at the same time we import rice and wheat, there’s no reason we shouldn’t do the same with oil.

Second, most mainstream environmental groups oppose oil exports for the same reason they oppose natural gas exports, offshore drilling and the Keystone XL pipeline. To them, any of these developments will bring about more fossil fuel production and more fossil fuel consumption. That’s bad for the planet, end of story. But they exist outside of reality.

If it makes economic and logistical sense to export some grades of oil, such as light sweet crude where we have a supply glut from the Eagle Ford shale in Texas, we should do so. And if it makes economic and logistical sense to import oil, such as diluted bitumen from the Alberta Oil Sands to feed into Gulf Coast refineries that are designed to process heavy crude, we should do so as well.

America is an energy-rich country, the richest in the world. We need to stop acting as though we’re energy poor.

• Weinstein is associate director of the Maguire Energy Institute and an adjunct professor of business economics in the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University.

[Originally published at Investors.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Notes From TPPF’s Climate and Energy Summit

Somewhat Reasonable - September 29, 2014, 12:26 AM

I spent last Thursday and Friday and the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Energy & Climate Policy Summit.  The location was great and the people intelligent.

I must admit, I’ve become a bit jaded over the years having attended so many energy and/or climate conferences (as a speaker, moderator and attendee), most of which I learn little that I didn’t already know.  The speakers were known quantities and they were preaching to the choir. This conference was an exception, though the choir was in attendance, and I knew (or knew of) many of the speakers, I learned something new from almost each and everyone of them.  If was a very informative conference providing me with a lot of speakers for future podcasts and papers to be covered in The Heartland Institute’s various publications.

We opened with a luncheon at which scientist, author and now Lord, Matt Ridley spoke.  He is a powerful speaker, discussing the critical nature of coal and other fossil fuels to historical economic progress and prosperity.

The first panel discussed the state of climate change science.  Climate scientists Roy Spencer and Judith Curry (who has a new paper out) both hammered on the climate models and their overstatement of climate sensitivity.  A scientist from NASA, Hal Dorian, then presented a new model developed by retired NASA scientists that shows climate change forecasts to be alarmist in the extreme. To his credit, Zong-Liang Yang, played Daniel in the lions den by defending the global warming orthodoxy as maintained by the IPCC.

The second panel addressed the nightmare of current and future climate regulation.  It went through the history of how the Supreme Court landed us in the position of having to defend against EPA climate regulations, despite the fact, as Marlo Lewis pointed out, Congress refused to pass climate related bills 692 times between the 101 and 111 Congress.

Mike Nasi gave a frightening presentation on the costs of climate regulations in terms of what they would shut down in terms of energy use.  His talk ended optimistically however, as he has come to the conclusion that I had long ago.  In the end, reality will stymie these climate schemes because American’s want their energy, or more accurately, their cars and lights and air conditioners and refrigerators, and they want them to run on command or nearly constantly as need be.  Thus, when power gets scarce (climate regulations can do a lot of damage before the lights start to flicker), citizens will demand change — or make change themselves by removing politicians.

Other sessions covered the history, politics and economics of climate change; the failures of alternatives to fossil fuels; and, refreshingly for me as an ethicist, a serious discussion of the moral case for fossil fuels and against energy poverty (a themed that carried over into the closing lunch).  All to often, climate and energy conferences focus on science disputes or costs calculations and ignore the very real pain that climate policies cause, and the immorality of climate prescriptions for energy poverty and centralized control of the economy.

This last session included four great presentations, including a talk by TPPF’s own Kathleen Hartnett White, and, most interestingly speech Caleb Rossiter, a liberal/progressive who has lost friends and a job because he rejects climate alarmism.  He’s a brave and honest man.

The Thursday night dinner featured speaker was Texas Governor Rick Perry.  He detailed Texas’s trials and travails with the EPA and how and why our state (yes, I’m a proud 5th generation Texan) has lead the way on energy production and in the fight against overweening Federal interference with state affairs.

If this conference were a movie, I’d give it two thumbs up and four stars.

Categories: On the Blog

5 Reasons Leonardo DiCaprio Can Stop Worrying About the Climate

Somewhat Reasonable - September 28, 2014, 3:21 PM

Leonardo DiCaprio last weekend participated in the “People’s Climate March” in New York City and followed it up with an address to the United Nations. He’s got that kind of access now that he’s been appointed the United Nations’ latest “Messenger for Peace.”

If you have not seen Leo’s speech, it’s quite a remarkable dramatic performance – and we should expect nothing less from the star of “Critters 3” and other fine films. Catch the video and run-down of Leo’s speech at Newsbusters. The bearded actor (and we can only hope that face sweater is for an upcoming role, and not a style choice) offered a new wrinkle outside the usual list of doom and gloom.

“To be clear, this is not about just telling people to change their light bulbs or to buy a hybrid car,” DiCaprio said. “This disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make. This is now about our industries and governments around the world taking decisive, large-scale action.”

That is an awful convenient stance for a guy who owns at least four homes, took a private jet to New York, arrived at the rally in a limo and likes to party on an eight-story, 500-foot-long yacht that he rents from … wait for it … an oil-soaked Arab billionaire. I kid you not.

Leo may be part of the 0.01 percent, but he’s also in the minority of only 20 percent of Americanswho think “the debate is over” about human-caused global warming. Most Americans rightly find themselves in the global warming “skeptic” camp — despite decades of propaganda by the media, public schools, and Hollywood actors like Leo saying human activity has caused a climate crisis.

To ease Leo’s mind, here are five reasons why he and the rest of us need not be so worried about the climate – let alone take “decisive, large-scale action” that will make life miserable for the other 99.98 percent.

  • Global Warming Stopped in 1997

Global temperatures rose through most of the 20th century, about 0.9 degrees Celsius. But for nearly the last 18 years, global surface temperatures have flatlined. In fact, some satellite measurements have even indicated a slight cooling trend. This has happened despite humans spewing out more than 100 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere since 2000. To put that figure in perspective, humans have emitted roughly 400 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere since 1750. So a quarter of all human emissions since the start of the Industrial Revolution have occurred this century. And yet …no warming since “Titanic” came out. This is good news, Leo! You can take your private jet from LA to New York even if all you want is a slice of pizza.

  • Extreme Weather Events Have Actually Decreased

Al Gore promised in his Oscar-winning 2006 film “An Inconvenient Truth” that the earth was going to experience a sharp increase in severe weather because of man-caused global warming. So … have we experienced more frequent and violent tornadoes in the U.S.? Nope. Indeed, the number of powerful tornadoes has declined since the 1970s peak. Every single day sets a new record for a Category 3 hurricane failing to hit the U.S. And how about wildfires? Those are burning bigger and hotter every year, consuming more and more acreage, right? Again, no.

Remember these facts the next time severe weather does strike somewhere. That’s not happening because man angered the weather gods. It’s happening because it happens … and less frequently now than is normal.

  • Sea-Level Rise is Not Accelerating

The seas began to rise at the beginning of the end of the last Ice Age about 20,000 years ago. At its peak – when the many-miles-thick glaciers that covered a lot of the Northern Hemisphere were melting – sea-level rise was about 10 mm per year. Since we don’t have nearly as much ice to melt today (thank goodness), sea-level rise is not going to exceed that pace – let alone make coastal cities uninhabitable, as Gore and DiCaprio often say. Indeed, the pace of sea-level rise has been about 1 mm per year for most of the last century, and it is not accelerating.

Fun fact: Sea levels were actually higher than today in recorded history.

  • The Ice Caps Are Fine

The amount of ice on the earth’s poles has decreased dramatically since the last ice age ended, but not all that much since. Humans were not able to measure polar ice levels from space until the 1970s, when the first satellites to observe the poles went into orbit. So when you hear that 2012 marked the lowest level of Arctic ice “ever recorded,” that actually means “since ‘Dirty Harry’ was in theaters.”

In fact, 2014 is turning out to be a “recovery summer” for Arctic ice, up 43 percent from the recorded low of 2012. Gore, you might remember, predicted this would be the year we’d see our first ice-free Arctic. But Gore gets a lot of things wrong, so that’s hardly surprising.

Meanwhile, down at the South Pole, there’s even better news for ice fans. Antarctic polar ice extentkeeps setting new records. Will someone think of the penguins! Now they have to walk farther to reach the water to feed.

  • Carbon Dioxide Is Not a Pollutant, but is Good for Plants and Animals

This is a radical, but correct supposition: Carbon dioxide is good for the planet.

First of all, CO2 is not a pollutant. What you see in most of those photos of smokestacks in magazines and newspapers is steam released after most of the harmful particulates have been filtered out. Carbon dioxide, which is in that steam, is harmless to humans — but what plants need to keep greening the planet.

As we all learned in 8th grade, CO2 is also what makes plants grow. Back in the early ’90s, Sting (who was at the NYC climate march with Leo) got some attention for singing about how we need to save the forests. Satellite data shows that the earth has actually been increasing the density of its forest cover for the last 30 years, and counting. Nice work, Sting!

The CO2 level in the atmosphere today is about 400 ppm, give or take. That puts the earth in the “safe zone” for keeping agriculture thriving. At 150 ppm, plants start dying. Human CO2 emissions are actually helping plant life and agriculture thrive — a great boon to humanity, especially in the developing world. Dr. Patrick Moore, one of the founding members of Greenpeace, explains this fact well (especially for laymen) during this presentation at The Heartland Institute’s latest climate conference.

One more fact about CO2 levels: They were higher than 2000 ppm during past ice ages.

I don’t expect to see any of these inconvenient facts in Leo’s latest horror flick “Carbon,” to be ignored by the masses in a theater or website near you. He’s in the make-believe business. The rest of us should stay grounded in reality.

[First published at Hollywood in Toto.]

Categories: On the Blog

Cut the Costly Climate Chatter

Somewhat Reasonable - September 28, 2014, 12:14 PM

Twenty-two years ago a bunch of green activists calling themselves “The Earth Summit” met in Rio and invented a way to tour the world at tax-payers’ expense – never-ending conferences on environmental alarms.

Like any good bureaucratic committee, they soon established sub-committees on sustainability, pollution, development, energy, forestry, water, biodiversity, endangered species, poverty, health, population and Agenda 21 (this item alone had 40 chapters each with its own sub-committee). Environmental conferences became the greatest multi-national growth industry in the world financed mainly by tax-payers via participating public servants, climate academics, employees of nationalised industries and tax-sheltered green “charities” such as Greenpeace and WWF.

They really hit the Mother Lode with their creation called “Global Warming”, and its proxies “Climate Change” and “Extreme Weather”.

These “noble causes” generated a hierarchy of steering committees, reference committees, political committees, science sub-groups, working committees, reviewers and peak bodies and could muster meetings with 20,000 attendees from 178 countries at hardship locations such as Rio, Berlin, Geneva, Kyoto, Buenos Aires, Bonn, The Hague, Marrakesh, New Delhi, Milan, Montreal, Nairobi, Bali, Poznan, Copenhagen, Cancun, Durban, Qatar, Doha, Warsaw, Stockholm, Lima, Abu Dhabi and New York.

The 21st Climate Change birthday party will be held at the Conference of the Parties in Paris in December 2015, while the Small Islands Developing States will tour to Samoa, but any important decisions will be taken behind closed doors by the canny BRICS Nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

The Climate Conference Circuit became a bigger boost to airlines, hotels and fine dining than the Olympic Games and G20. Australia alone sent the PM plus a team of 114 to the failed Copenhagen Conference. Rich and poor all over the world have endured 21 years of wasteful spending that could have built flood-proof infrastructure, drought-proof water supplies, erosion-proof beach fronts and pollution-free waterways. It has gone down the global warming gurgler without a single visible benefit for suffering tax-payers.

With most western governments running desperate financial deficits, it is time to cut the costs of this climate chatter. Australia should burn no more jet fuel sending people to any climate conference anywhere. If they want one, they should use bicycles, tele-conferencing or the postal service.

Categories: On the Blog

Goodbye Eric Holder

Somewhat Reasonable - September 27, 2014, 2:59 PM

In a nation where there is a scarcity of good news, hearing Eric Holder give a farewell speech upon his announcement that he will be leaving as the Attorney General was surely welcome in some circles. I was never a fan of his because he was in my opinion always more of a politician than someone with the responsibility to enforce the laws of the nation.

I first took notice of Holder when, in the pre-dawn hours of April 22, 2000, as the deputy attorney general serving under Janet Reno, he oversaw the seizure of Elian Gonzalez, a seven-year-old whose mother had died in an effort to escape Cuba and find sanctuary in the United States. Holder was doing what he had to do after a court ruled that Gonzalez be returned to his father in Cuba, but I thought then and still do that Gonzalez should have been allowed to remain with his U.S. relatives.

When Barack Obama became President, he selected Holder as his Attorney General. Both had made history being the first blacks to hold either job. Within three weeks or so, Holder was saying that Americans were “cowards” for not addressing issues of race in America. That told me all I needed to know about him. Whatever would follow would frequently be judged on the basis of race, not justice. I wouldn’t want a white attorney general to act in that fashion, but a black one nursing feelings of victimization despite his personal achievements did not bode well.

I have not been alone in my misgivings. On news of Holder’s announcement, The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, called on some of its advisors for their opinions.

Ronald D. Rotunda, the Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence at Chapman University, had his own memories of Holder:

“Mr. Holder is leaving the office, but he cannot so easily leave the controversies that have surrounded his tenure, including: the scandal surrounding the IRS, the missing emails, and his role in investigating the scandal; the ‘Fast and Furious’ scandal, which made him the first cabinet member in U.S. history that Congress held in contempt; his decision to drop a prosecution against the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation, after the Department of Justice successfully secured an injunction; and the unprecedented decision, which Holder personally approved,  to subpoena, monitor, and issue a search warrant involving James Rosen, a Fox News Reporter”

“Holder will leave the office, but is unlikely to leave the national stage because these controversies remain,” said Prof. Rotunda.

Jane M. Orient, M.D., Executive Director of the Association of Physicians and Surgeons, said:

“The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons first got to know Eric Holder when he represented the government in our lawsuit about the illegal operations of the Clinton Task Force on Health Care Reform. The pattern then was stonewalling and obfuscation. Even when task force members finally turned over some documents on court order, many of the floppy disks were blank. Holder declined to prosecute Ira Magaziner, head of the Task Force Working Group, for perjury.”

‘It seems,” said Dr. Orient, “that some government officials never learn that the cover-up can be worse than the underlying conduct,’’ Judge Lamberth added. ‘Most shocking to this court, and deeply disappointing, is that the Department of Justice would participate in such conduct… This type of conduct is reprehensible, and the government must be held accountable for it…The pattern has only worsened with Holder as the highest law enforcement officer in the land. Who will ever hold him and the White House accountable?”

Jesse Hathaway, Managing Editor of Heartland’s Budget & Tax News,said:

“Eric Holder’s resignation represents an opportunity for the President to appoint an Attorney General willing to end what some have seen as a witch-hunt against American banks. Under Holder, the Department of Justice shook down Bank of America for billions of dollars, as punishment the bank’s alleged crime of complying with the Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 and lending money to individuals unable to repay. The CRA mandated that banks must make bad loans, the banks complied with the bad policy, but the bank is not at fault for the results of that bad policy.”

“Hopefully, said Hathaway, “whomever replaces Holder as ‘top cop’ will understand how causality works, and end the practice of shaking down the finance industry as punishment for following Washington DC’s orders.”

Holder’s instincts as Attorney General generated a huge public outcry when he decided to try the September 11 plotters in a New York courthouse within walking distance of the destroyed Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Lawmakers, New York City officials, and some of the victim’s families thought that was a very bad idea and Holder reversed the decision and sent the cases to military court. 9/11 was clearly an act of war, but neither the President, nor Holder saw it that way.

Holder made a bit of history when he refused to defend a law that defined marriage as between a man and a woman. He made more history when, refusing to hand over documents regarding Fast and Furious, a scandal involving gun trafficking to Mexican drug cartels, Congress voted to hold him in contempt, the first time an attorney general had been censured in that way. Holder, however, held onto his job because the President had thrown a cloak of “executive privilege” over the scandal, stonewalling Congress.

To be fair, Holder has been lauded for policies that were applauded for reducing crime during his tenure in office and urging a revision to sentences that did not reflect the crimes, reducing the nation’s prison population in the process.

In the end, though, it seems like everything was about race for him and the President. Holder inserted himself into the Ferguson, Missouri, shooting of a black youth by a white police officer and, while the facts are still being investigated, the likelihood is that it was justifiable self-defense. And the President, speaking at the United Nations last week also mentioned Ferguson as an example of America’s racial bias. What happened in Ferguson was about law enforcement and justice, but neither saw it in that fashion.

What America needs now for the remainder of Obama’s term in office is a colorblind Attorney General.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Protect the Poor – From Climate Change Policies

Somewhat Reasonable - September 27, 2014, 1:30 PM

In a more rational, moral, compassionate, scientifically literate world, this Cornwall declaration would not be needed. It assesses the “far-reaching, costly policies” that the world’s governments are adopting, supposedly to prevent global warming and climate change. It calls on governments to focus instead on protecting the poor, who desperately need the affordable energy that those policies circumscribe.

The declaration was crafted by the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. This coalition of theologians, faith leaders, scientists, and economic, environmental and policy experts is committed to safeguarding God’s entire creation: not just the Earth and its wildlife, but the people who also inhabit our wondrous planet, especially the poorest among us. More than 150 have already signed the declaration.

The declaration lists ten reasons to “oppose harmful climate change policies.”  It notes that our Earth is “robust, resilient, self-regulating and self-correcting.” Its climate system will respond to and correct damage that might arise from the relatively small effects of carbon dioxide that we humans are adding to the atmosphere – compared to the numerous, complex, powerful, interacting natural forces that have always ruled our planet’s ever-changing climate and weather.

For one thing, crops and forests and other plants will respond to the extra CO2 by growing even faster and better, greening the planet and helping to feed wildlife and people. For another, as my extensive new climate report makes clear, the real world is simply not cooperating with the alarmists’ dire forecasts.

President Obama says climate change “will define the contours of this century more than any other” issue. Secretary of State John Kerry insists that climate change is “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction,” and poses “greater long-term consequences” than ISIL, terrorism or Ebola – even as ISIL butchers crucify men, behead little children, and promise to murder Westerners in their homes and streets.

Reality tells a different story. Not a single category 3-5 hurricane has struck the United States in nine years – the longest such period since at least 1900 and perhaps the US Civil War. Arctic ice has rebounded. Antarctic ice that is supposed to be melting is instead expanding to new records, “because of” global warming that’s supposed to be happening with increasing speed, but instead stopped 18 years ago. Sea levels are barely rising. Perhaps all this good climate news is due to our carbon dioxide emissions?

All these “inconvenient truths” are at the heart of the Cornwall appeal. Look first, it suggests, at actual, empirical, real-world climate observations. In almost every case they differ significantly from – or are directly opposite to – what the White House, Environmental Protection Agency, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and other alarmists assert and predict.

Second, the declaration implores, consider how anti-fossil fuel climate policies would affect the poorest and most vulnerable people on Earth. Then “abandon fruitless and harmful policies to control global temperature, and instead adopt policies that simultaneously reflect responsible environmental stewardship, make energy and all its benefits more affordable, and so free the poor to rise out of poverty.”

As UCLA emeritus professor Deepak Lal (who wrote the foreword to the India edition of my Eco-Imperialism book) wrote in Poverty and Progress: Realities and Myths about Global Poverty:

“The greatest threat to the alleviation of the structural poverty of the Third World is the continuing campaign by western governments, egged on by some climate scientists and green activists, to curb greenhouse emissions, primarily the CO2 from burning fossil fuels.… [I]t is mankind’s use of the mineral energy stored in nature’s gift of fossil fuels … accompanying the slowly rolling Industrial Revolution, [that] allowed the ascent from structural poverty which had scarred humankind for millennia. To put a limit on the use of fossil fuels without adequate economically viable alternatives is to condemn the Third World to perpetual structural poverty.”

The Cornwall Alliance echoes and expands on these concerns in its Call to Truth, Prudence and Protection of the Poor, a 55-page analysis by professor of climatology David Legates and professor of economics Cornelius van Kooten.

Abundant, affordable, reliable energy is indispensable to lifting and keeping people out of poverty, the Alliance points out. Mandatory reductions in CO2 emissions would greatly increase the price of energy, as well as goods and services. Such policies would slow, stop or even reverse the economic growth that enables people to prosper and adapt to all climates. They would harm the poor more than the wealthy,

President Obama says the United States is committed to helping poor nations deal with the effects of “climate disruption.” However, he has also signed an executive order requiring that federal agencies take climate change into account when preparing international development, loan and investment programs. This has meant that U.S. agencies will support wind, solar and biofuel projects – but will not provide loans or other assistance for state-of-the-art gas-fired power plants in Ghana, coal-fired power plants in South Africa, or similar projects in other severely energy-deprived and impoverished nations.

Worldwide, 2.8 billion people still use wood, charcoal, coal and dung in open fires to heat and cook. At least 1.2 billion people still do not have access to electricity and the countless blessings it brings. In India alone, more than 300 million people lack electricity; in Africa more than 550 million. The result is millions of deaths every year from lung and intestinal diseases. The vast majority of these victims are women and children.

But under current White House, IPCC and EU policies, they are not likely to get electricity anytime soon. Mr. Obama justified his policies by telling students in Johannesburg, South Africa, “if everybody has got a car and everybody has got air conditioning and everybody has got a big house, well, the planet will boil over – unless we find new ways of producing energy.”

In other words, in a world where hydrocarbons still provide 82% of all energy, for this White House and IPCC, exaggerated concerns about climate change 50 or 100 years from now trump concerns about safeguarding billions of people from rampant poverty and lethal diseases. This is intolerable.

Wind and solar power will let people in remote areas have light bulbs, cell phone chargers and tiny refrigerators, until they can be connected to an electrical grid. However, such limited, unreliable, expensive electricity cannot support modern economies, factories, shops, schools, hospitals or families.

No wonder China, India and other developing countries are building hundreds of coal-fired generating plants. Their leaders may be happy to participate in wealth transfer schemes, in which they receive (at least promises of) “climate adaptation and mitigation” money from rich countries. But they will not sign any international accord that restricts their fossil fuel use and economic development. They understand all too well the need to end rampant poverty, misery, disease and premature death – even if Mr. Obama, UN Secretary Ban-Ki Moon and Al Gore do not, or do not care.

Put bluntly, “climate-smart” policies for poor countries and poor families are stupid – and immoral.

As American University adjunct professor Caleb Rossiter asked in a June 2014 Wall Street Journalarticle: “Where is the justice when the U.S. discourages World Bank funding for electricity-generation projects in Africa that involve fossil fuels, and when the European Union places a ‘global warming’ tax on cargo flights importing perishable African goods?”

So study these issues. Ponder what the Cornwall Alliance has to say. Sign the declaration. Speak out against energy deprivation, prolonged poverty and needless death. And help protect your children’s futures – and the hopes, aspirations, lives and basic human rights of the world’s poorest families

Categories: On the Blog

Alex Epstein Loves Fossil Fuels, Mixing it Up with Climate Marchers in NYC

Somewhat Reasonable - September 26, 2014, 4:07 PM

Alex Epstein, founder of the Center for Industrial Progress, attended the “People’s Climate March” in New York City last weekend. Wearing, as you can see in this photo, a shirt that says “I Love Fossil Fuels.” That’s some world-class trolling right there.

Actually, it’s not fair to say Alex was trolling, though that’s what the protesters thought. Alex was there, as he said in an email to friends and supporters Friday, to make the “moral case for fossil fuels” — which happens to be the title of his upcoming book. The four short videos below of his experience are very funny. I guarantee you’ll watch them more than once.

In the first one, Alex notes that this protest took place in New York City — one of the greatest achivements in the history of industrial civilization — which is literally made of fossil fuels, starting with the asphalt they are walking on.

Part 2 of the series shows people try to rip his sign out of his hands. Alex resists: “This is private property. This is mine.” … a foreign concept to the marchers, it seems.

Parts 3 and 4 are the longest and the funniest, with Alex reading the signs as they come toward him and conducting a one-man, fact-based rebuttal. He even notes the irony of the organizers banning wooden signs, which meant most of the signs were made from petroleum products.

“This is a really impressive petroleum product, except for the artwork,” Alex cracks as sign carriers walked past, lifting their large plastic sign over his head, and I can only imagine the puzzled looks on the protesters’ faces when Alex told them their “clothes were fracked.”

My favorite part: Alex’s interaction with a kook holding a “Fossil Fuel Freedom Now” sign. It’s simply brilliant.

Alex downplayed the courage it took to attend the People’s Climate March and stand right in the middle of the street, looking at the massive wave of people coming toward him. But it was courageous, and also hilarious. Do watch all four vids and share with friends. Also: check out Alex Epstein’s organization, and read the first chapter of his new book.

Categories: On the Blog

Misguided Attacks on Suburbia Undermine Essential Values, Affront Critical Voting Bloc

Somewhat Reasonable - September 26, 2014, 1:30 PM

Writing in The Orange County Register, the distinguished urbanologist Joel Kotkin notes that many conservatives are now “waging a war on middle-class America” through their support for trendy progressive “smart growth” policies. Such policies are the stock in trade of an urban planning movement that has been in power for about a quarter-century now, promoted by certain business interests (aka rent-seekers) in a coalition with elitist progressive politicians and upper-class and aspiring-upper-class cultural snobs.

Kotkin notes that elitists on the right have joined the movement in recent years, always on the lookout for ways to make themselves momentarily respectable in the eyes of the progressive left and its powerful news- and culture-making industry:

[O]pposition to suburbs – usually characterized as “sprawl” – has been spreading to the conservative movement. Old-style Tories like author-philosopher Roger Scruton do not conceal their detestation of suburbia and favor, instead, European-style planning laws that force people to live “side by side.” Densely packed Paris and London, he points out, are clearly better places to visit for well-heeled tourists than Atlanta, Houston or Dallas.

There may be more than a bit of class prejudice at work here. British Tories long havedisliked suburbs and their denizens. In a 1905 book, “The Suburbans,” the poet T.W.H. Crossland launched a vitriolic attack on the “low and inferior species,” the “soulless” class of “clerks” who were spreading into the new, comfortable houses in the suburbs, mucking up the aesthetics of the British countryside.

Not surprisingly, many British conservatives, like Scruton, and his American counterparts frequently live in bucolic settings, and understandably want these crass suburbanites and their homes as far away as possible. Yet, there is precious little concern that – in their zeal to protect their property – they have also embraced policies that have engendered huge housing inflation, in places like greater London or the San Francisco Bay Area, that is among the most extreme in the high-income world.

Add Rod Dreher and other writers for The American Conservative to this list, and you have a good start on identifying the movement. Some of these complaints echo thoughts common among the Agrarian movement on the right in the years before World War II and among traditionalist conservatives in the decades since, but the open embrace of political mandates and subsidies as the solution is relatively new.

These conservative critics of suburbia offer a litany of complaints, largely centering on aesthetic considerations but also echoing the decades-old progressive claim that suburbia destroys the soul:

Of course, the conservative critique of suburbia does not rest only on aesthetic disdain for suburbs, but is usually linked to stated social and environmental concerns. “There’s no telling how many marriages were broken up over the stress of suburb-to-city commutes,” opines conservative author Matt Lewis in a recent article in The Week. In his mind, suburbs are not only aesthetically displeasing but also anti-family.

What seems clear is that Lewis, and other new retro-urbanist conservatives, are simply parroting the basic urban legends of the smart-growth crowd and planners. If he actually researched the issue, he would learn that the average commutes of suburbanites tend to be shorter, according to an analysis of census data by demographer Wendell Cox, than those in denser, transit-oriented cities. The worst commuting times in America, it turns out, to be in places such as Queens and Staten Island, both located in New York City.

Cox (a colleague of mine at The Heartland Institute), is an economic analyst of a highly independent cast of mind who goes wherever the data takes him. And the data clearly show, as Kotkin notes, that the progressive complaints about the suburbs and claims of the superiority of dense urban living are simply a pack of lies. Kotkin notes that conservatives’ newfound commitment to government as the solution does not fit the facts about urban and suburban life:

Other conservatives also point to the alleged antisocial aspect of [suburbanization], a favored theme of new urbanists everywhere. A report co-written by the late conservative activist Paul Weyrich supported forcing “traditional designs for the places we live, work and shop,” which “will encourage traditional culture and morals,” such as community and family.

Once again, however, a serious examination of research – as opposed to recitation of planners’ cant – shows that suburbanites, as University of California researchers found, tend to be more engaged with their neighbors than are people closer to the urban core. Similarly, a 2009 Pew study recently found that, among the various geographies in America, residents in suburbia were more “satisfied” than were either rural or urban residents.

As noted above, Kotkin correctly characterizes the hostility toward suburbia as an attack on the middle class, and he noes that this is a move of spectacular political stupidity:

In working against suburbia, these conservatives are waging a war on middle-class America, not necessarily a smart political gambit. Overall, conventional suburban locations are home to three-quarters of the metropolitan population. And even this number is low, given that large parts of most large American cities – such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, Kansas City and Houston – are themselves suburban in character, with low transit use and a housing stock primarily made up of single-family residences built during the auto-dominated postwar period. Only approximately 15 percent of residents in major metropolitan areas actually live in dense, transit-oriented communities. . . .

It’s hard for me, even as a nonconservative, to see how this trajectory works for the Right.

Renters, childless households, highly educated professionals, as well as poor service workers, clustering in dense cities are not exactly prime Republican voters. Without property, and with no reasons to be overly concerned with dysfunctional schools, the new urban population tilts increasingly, if anything, further to the left.

Meanwhile, the middle-class homeowner, and those who aspire to this status, increasingly find themselves without a party or ideology that champions their interests. In exchange for the approval of the cognitive elites in the media, in academia and among planners, conservatives will have, once again, missed a chance to build a broad popular coalition that can overcome the “upstairs, downstairs” configuration that increasingly dominates the Democratic Party.

That is a spot-on analysis, and it is another manifestation of the war within the Republican Party and the political right in general, pitting elitist/planner types against the entire rest of the nation’s population, including those who strongly support economic, religious, and political liberty.

The latter, characterized by the Tea Party but encompassing far more than them and including millions of political independents and even some Democrats, are now without a political home. They are intent on winning the Republican Party to their cause but seem doomed to be outbid by the campaign-contribution blandishments of Wall Street, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its state and local satraps, and the defense contracting industry. It is foolish of the GOP to reject this huge number of people, and also a violation of conservative principles, Kotkin notes:

Yet, there remains a great opportunity for either party that will appeal to, and appreciate, the suburban base. Conservative figures such as Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher understood the connection between democracy and property ownership and upward mobility. Much the same could be said for traditional Democrats, from Roosevelt and Harry Truman, all the way to Bill Clinton.

Like everything devised by humans, suburbia is not perfect, but its deficiencies are already being remedied by market forces, Kotkin notes:

For all their faults, suburbs represent the epitome of the American Dream and the promise of upward mobility. That they can be improved, both socially and environmentally, is clear. This is already happening in new, mostly privately built, developments where the “ills” of suburbia – long commute distances, overuse of water and energy – are addressed by building new town centers, bringing employment closer to home, the use of more drought-resistant landscaping, promoting home-based business and developing expansive park systems. This seems more promising than following a negative agenda that seeks simply to force ever-denser housing and create heat-generating concrete jungles.

As Kotkin notes, the suburbs—and the nation’s middle class—are healthy and self-reliant and have no need of rescue by intellectual experts in the NYC-DC corridor. Left to their own devices and given market freedom, the American people will take care of themselves quite adequately. To hare after the approbation of progressive elitists is a disastrously foolish move, and if these conservative proponents of urban density and Agenda 21-oriented policies really do believe in their efficacy, they are simply wrong, as the facts clearly show. Kotkin aptly sums up what is at stake here:

The abandonment of the suburban ideal represents a lethal affront to the interests and preferences of the majority, as well as their basic aspirations. The forced march towards densification and ever more constricted planning augurs not a return to old republican values, as some conservatives hope, but the transformation of America from a broadly based property-owning democracy into something that more clearly resembles feudalism.

Feudalism may be a program some conservatives find attractive, but it is unlikely to win a political majority or, were it to be imposed anyway, solve the nation’s real problems. Rebuilding a nation requires hard work, and only liberty combined with personal responsibility can do that.

 

[Originally published at The American Culture]

Categories: On the Blog

New Climate Report Misses Point on US Cities

Somewhat Reasonable - September 26, 2014, 9:57 AM

The doubtful claim that low density US cities impose a cost to the economy of $400 billion is countered by their being the most affluent in the world. Nine of the top 10 cities in GDP per capita are in the US and more than 70% of the top 50. The highest GDP per capita city in the world is one of the least compact, Hartford, with an urban population density among the bottom 10 out of more the than 900 urban areas larger than 500,000 (See here and here).

Mobility is an important driver of economic performance. US cities have less traffic congestion, and shorter work trip travel times than their international peers (Los Angeles has the shortest work trip travel times of any megacity for which there is data). The key to this productivity is more dispersed residential and employment locations (less than 10% of jobs are downtown) and the less intense traffic congestion that is associated with such development. In the US, just as in Western Europe, commuting by car is much faster than by transit. The coming fuel efficiency improvements will narrow or eliminate the gap between personal vehicle and transit GHG emissions per passenger kilometer. US fuel efficiency standards are projected to reduce gross car GHG emissions by more than a quarter by 2040, according to the US Department of Energy. That’s before any de-carbonization.

The US has some of the best housing affordability in the world (excluding cities like San Francisco and Portland, where politically correct policies raise prices, lowering the standard of living and increasing poverty). The miniscule reductions from favored urban policies are exceedingly expensive per tonne and incapable of making a serious contribution to GHG emission reduction.

Maintaining the standard of living and reducing poverty requires cities that are mobile and affordable. It is important that GHG emissions reductions be chosen for their cost effectiveness, rather than consistency with expensive academic theories that long predate GHG emissions reduction concerns.

 

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Some Useful FACTS About Global Warming and Climate Change

Somewhat Reasonable - September 26, 2014, 9:49 AM

Thanks to Sunday’s Climate March in New York and Tuesday’s Climate Summit at the United Nations, Americans and others will  have been deluged with the lies that have been told to sustain this greatest of all hoaxes.

Here are the known facts. Use them to protect yourself against the Green assault the truth:

# Both the Earth and the Sun pass through natural cycles. The Sun is currently in a cycle of lower radiation as signaled by fewer sunspots representing magnetic storms.

# There is currently no global warming. The Earth has been in a cooling cycle for 19 years. No child who has passed through K-12 classes in school has experienced a single day of “global warming.”

# Not one computer model that predicted increased warming has been accurate.

# Carbon dioxide, (CO2) blamed for global warming, is not a “pollutant” despite a Supreme Court decision stating this. Our exhaled breath contains about 4% of CO2.

# How can carbon dioxide be called a “pollutant” when it is directly responsible for the growth of all vegetation on the planet? Without CO2 there would not be a single blade of grass or a redwood tree. Or the animal life that depends on vegetation; wheat and rice, for example, as food.

# There is zero evidence that carbon dioxide generated by human activities is causing catastrophic climate change. Climate is measured in centuries or shorter periods of many decades in order to determine its cycles. The weather is what is occurring where you reside and it changes every day.

# At 78% nitrogen is the most abundant gas in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is an essential building block of amino acids present in all proteins. It is a very stable, unreactive gas. Oxygen is the second most abundant gas-of-life in the atmosphere at 21%. Water vapor is the third most abundant gas-of-life in the atmosphere; it varies up to 5%, It reduces incoming solar radiation by day and reduces surface cooling at night. Carbon dioxide is the least abundant gas in the atmosphere at 0.04%.

# The assertion that 97% of scientists believe that climate change is man-made and an urgent problem is a fiction. In May Joseph Bast,president of The Heartland Institute, cited the Zimmerman/Doran survey in which, out of 3,146 respondents, only 79 listed climate science as an area of expertise. Hardly 97%. “Surveys of meteorologists repeatedly find a majority oppose the alleged consensus,” noted Bast.

# In February, Patrick Moore, a Canadian ecologist, a co-founder of Greenpeace, a militant environmental group which he left in 1986, told members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee “There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years.”

# Not only is the Earth not warming, but Heartland Institute analyst, Peter Ferrara, notes that “If you look at the record of global temperature data, you will find that the late 20th Century period of global warming actually lasted about 20 years, from the late 1970s to the late 1990s. Before that, the globe was dominated by about 30 years of global cooling, giving rise in the 1970s to media discussions of the return of the Little Ice Age (circa 1450 to 1850), or worse.”

# The cooling of the Earth has led to a dramatic increase in both Arctic and Antarctic ice, up 50% since 2012.

# One result of the false claims about carbon dioxide has been the Obama administration’s policies such as the refusal to permit the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline to import oil from Canada to U.S. refineries. The Environmental Protection Agency’s absurd restrictions on CO2 emissions have forced the closure of many coal-fired plants that are needed to provide low cost electrical energy. The administration has long wanted to impose a “carbon tax” on all energy use in America, a punishing and needless expense.

# The Obama administration’s climate policies are entirely political in nature. It has announced that the EPA’s process of setting new rules affecting power plants will be delayed until after the November 4 midterm elections. It is extending the public comment period until December 1. The growing discontent over similar climate and environmental policies was evident when leaders of the European Union announced it was moving away from green policies that had driven up the cost of electricity across the continent.

In a world threatened by the rise of radical Islamism, by the outbreak of diseases like Ebola, and other actual problems to be addressed, the notion that thousands would march in the belief that they and the entire rest of the Earth’s population have any effect on the climate is appalling.

What is perhaps most sad and most reprehensible are the host of world leaders who continue to maintain the lie of global warming or the misrepresentation of climate change to impose a tax on an essential element of the Earth’s atmosphere.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

FTC Implicitly Urges FCC to Not Reclassify Broadband as a Utility

Somewhat Reasonable - September 26, 2014, 9:39 AM

The FTC implicitly laid down an important jurisdictional, political, and public marker against FCC reclassification of broadband as a utility, in its recent FCC filing in the FCC’s Section 706 inquiry proceeding.

Respectfully outside of the Open Internet proceeding considering whether to reclassify broadband information services as a Title II common carrier (utility) telecommunication service, the FTC officially and deftly introduced key legal facts into the overall FCC record – that deftly have the practical and legal effect of opposing FCC reclassification of broadband Internet access service as a Title II common carrier – on the record.

The key FTC language is here: “Although [the FTC’s] Section 5 contains an exemption for ‘common carrier’ activities, this exemption does not apply to the provision of other services, even if offered by common carriers. Broadband Internet access services are not currently offered on a common carrier basis, and the FTC therefore has jurisdiction over such services.”

Why is this relevant to the FCC’s Open Internet order consideration of reclassifying broadband as a common carrier utility?

First, the FTC made a strong implicit case in its filing that the public interest and consumers are currently well protected with clear direct FTC statutory authority to protect consumers under:

  • Section 5 — that proscribes “deceptive” or “unfair” business practices;
  • FCRA — The Fair Credit Reporting Act — with its privacy and security-related obligations; and
  • COPPA — The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

By implication, reclassification as a Title II common carrier would remove existing important FTC consumer protections that consumers and the market now count on – and that the FCC does not have the authority to fully replicate under Title II authority that predates the Internet by several decades.

Second, the FCC reclassifying broadband as a common carrier in order to gain more regulatory power for the FCC at the direct expense of the FTC, when that is unnecessary given the Section 706 authority recognized by the DC Court of Appeals, would open the FCC to the hard-to-rebut charge that it was more concerned about the FCC and its regulatory power, than what is best for consumers, their claimed “customer” or “boss.”

Moreover, the FCC knows that the DC Court of Appeals would have access to this FTC filing and legal position in any potential legal challenge of the FCC reclassifying broadband as a Title II common carrier.

Simply, this filing effectively raises the bar for the FCC to justify to the court why they should uphold an FCC whipsaw decision to reclassify broadband. In general, jurisdictional turf fights with another Federal independent agency can undermine one’s otherwise high-ground in defending the public interest and the consumer.

Third, if the FCC were to unilaterally reclassify broadband as a 1934 telecom common carrier service, which in turn would eliminate existing and necessary FTC consumer protections for parochial FCC purposes, it could seriously undermine the FCC’s credibility and influence with their Congressional overseers in the House and Senate, which plan a major update of the obsolete 1934 Communications Act that created the FCC.

It’s easy for activist pressure groups to say the FCC should risk all and reclassify broadband when they don’t have to live with, or depend on, Congress.

Behind all the FCC’s “independent” agency bluster, it knows deep down that the FCC is a creature of Congress, just like the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was a creature of Congress, when it regulated the railroads, airlines, trucking and bus lines as common carriers.

Tellingly, Congress abolished the ICC in 1995, the year before Congress passed the 1996 Telecom Act to move away from monopoly common carrier regulation and towards a competitive communications marketplace.

Anybody paying attention to Congress over the last few decades knows that Congress hasn’t been a supporter of common carrier regulation of industries for many decades.

In sum, the FCC has signaled its preference for using court-approved Section 706 authority over the Title II “nuclear” option for the reason that 706 authorities could give the FCC 90% of the regulatory power upside of Title II that the FCC may want with <10% of the Congressional/legal blowback of a Title II reclassification.

Most simply, exercising 706 authorities is big FCC gain with little FCC pain, while Title II is maximal FCC pain for the slightest of net FCC gain over 706.  

Lastly, while the language of the FTC’s FCC filing was understated, there is nothing understated about the legal and political implications of it.

It provides an additional set of very good reasons for the FCC to protect consumers, while also protecting the FCC’s long term viability as a regulator in a world where Congress long ago abandoned common carrier regulation.

***

FCC Open Internet Order Series

Part 1: The Many Vulnerabilities of an Open Internet [9-24-09]

Part 2: Why FCC proposed net neutrality regs unconstitutional, NPR Online Op-ed [9-24-09]

Part 3: Takeaways from FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regs [10-22-09]

Part 4: How FCC Regulation Would Change the Internet [10-30-09]

Part 5: Is FCC Declaring ‘Open Season’ on Internet Freedom? [11-17-09]

Part 6: Critical Gaps in FCC’s Proposed Open Internet Regulations [11-30-09]

Part 7: Takeaways from the FCC’s Open Internet Further Inquiry [9-2-10]

Part 8: An FCC “Data-Driven” Double Standard? [10-27-10]

Part 9: Election Takeaways for the FCC [11-3-10]

Part 10: Irony of Little Openness in FCC Open Internet Reg-making [11-19-10]

Part 11: FCC Regulating Internet to Prevent Companies from Regulating Internet [11-22-10]

Part 12: Where is the FCC’s Legitimacy? [11-22-10]

Part 13: Will FCC Preserve or Change the Internet? [12-17-10]

Part 14: FCC Internet Price Regulation & Micro-management? [12-20-10]

Part 15: FCC Open Internet Decision Take-aways [12-21-10]

Part 16: FCC Defines Broadband Service as “BIAS”-ed [12-22-10]

Part 17: Why FCC’s Net Regs Need Administration/Congressional Regulatory Review [1-3-11]

Part 18: Welcome to the FCC-Centric Internet [1-25-11]

Part 19: FCC’s Net Regs in Conflict with President’s Pledges [1-26-11]

Part 20: Will FCC Respect President’s Call for “Least Burdensome” Regulation? [2-3-11]

Part 21: FCC’s In Search of Relevance in 706 Report [5-23-11]

Part 22: The FCC’s public wireless network blocks lawful Internet traffic [6-13-11]

Part 23: Why FCC Net Neutrality Regs Are So Vulnerable [9-8-11]

Part 24: Why Verizon Wins Appeal of FCC’s Net Regs [9-30-11]

Part 25: Supreme Court likely to leash FCC to the law [10-10-12]

Part 26: What Court Data Roaming Decision Means for FCC Open Internet Order [12-4-12]

Part 27: Oops! Crawford’s Model Broadband Nation, Korea, Opposes Net Neutrality [2-26-13]

Part 28: Little Impact on FCC Open Internet Order from SCOTUS Chevron Decision [5-21-13]

Part 29: More Legal Trouble for FCC’s Open Internet Order & Net Neutrality [6-2-13]

Part 30: U.S. Competition Beats EU Regulation in Broadband Race [6-21-13]

Part 31: Defending Google Fiber’s Reasonable Network Management [7-30-13]

Part 32: Capricious Net Neutrality Charges [8-7-13]

Part 33: Why FCC won’t pass Appeals Court’s oral exam [9-2-13]

Part 34: 5 BIG Implications from Court Signals on Net Neutrality – A Special Report [9-13-13]

Part 35: Dial-up Rules for the Broadband Age? My Daily Caller Op-ed Rebutting Marvin Ammori’s [11-6-13]

Part 36: Nattering Net Neutrality Nonsense Over AT&T’s Sponsored Data Offering [1-6-14]

Part 37: Is Net Neutrality Trying to Mutate into an Economic Entitlement? [1-12-14]

Part 38: Why Professor Crawford Has Title II Reclassification All Wrong [1-16-14]

Part 39: Title II Reclassification Would Violate President’s Executive Order [1-22-14]

Part 40: The Narrowing Net Neutrality Dispute [2-24-14]

Part 41: FCC’s Open Internet Order Do-over – Key Going Forward Takeaways [3-5-14]

Part 42: Net Neutrality is about Consumer Benefit not Corporate Welfare for Netflix [3-21-14]

Part 43: The Multi-speed Internet is Getting More Faster Speeds [4-28-14]

Part 44: Reality Check on the Electoral Politics of Net Neutrality [5-2-14]

Part 45: The “Aristechracy” Demands Consumers Subsidize Their Net Neutrality Free Lunch [5-8-14]

Part 46: Read AT&T’s Filing that Totally Debunks Title II Reclassification [5-9-14]

Part 47: Statement on FCC Open Internet NPRM [5-15-14]

Part 48: Net Neutrality Rhetoric: “Believe it or not!” [5-16-14]

Part 49: Top Ten Reasons Broadband Internet is not a Public Utility [5-20-14]

Part 50: Top Ten Reasons to Oppose Broadband Utility Regulation [5-28-14]

Part 51: Google’s Title II Broadband Utility Regulation Risks [6-3-14]

Part 52:  Exposing Netflix’ Biggest Net Neutrality Deceptions [6-5-14]

Part 53: Silicon Valley Naïve on Broadband Regulation (3 min video) [6-15-14]

Part 54: FCC’s Netflix Internet Peering Inquiry – Top Ten Questions [6-17-14]

Part 55: Interconnection is Different for Internet than Railroads or Electricity [6-26-14]

Part 56: Top Ten Failures of FCC Title II Utility Regulation [7-7-14]

Part 57: NetCompetition Statement & Comments on FCC Open Internet Order Remand [7-11-14]

Part 58: MD Rules Uber is a Common Carrier – Will FCC Agree? [8-6-14]

Part 59: Internet Peering Doesn’t Need Fixing – NetComp CommActUpdate Submission [8-11-14]

Part 60: Why is Silicon Valley Rebranding/Redefining Net Neutrality?  [9-2-14]

Part 61: the FCC’s Redefinition of Broadband Competition [9-4-14]

Part 62: NetCompetition Comments to FCC Opposing Title II Utility Regulation of Broadband [9-9-14]

Part 63: De-competition De-competition De-competition [9-14-14]

Part 64: The Forgotten Consumer in the Fast Lane Net Neutrality Debate [9-18-14]

 

[Originally published at PrecursorBlog]

Categories: On the Blog

Top Ten Things Parents Hate About Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - September 25, 2014, 11:26 PM

This is the year new national Common Core tests kick in, replacing state tests in most locales, courtesy of an eager Obama administration and the future generation’s tax dollars. It’s also the first year a majority of people interviewed tell pollsters they’ve actually heard of Common Core, four years after bureaucrats signed our kids onto this complete overhaul of U.S. education.

Common Core has impressed everyone from Bill Gates to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan. So why do 62 percent of parents think it’s a bad idea? For one, they can count. But their kids can’t.

1. The Senseless, Infuriating Math

Common Core math, how do we hate thee? We would count the ways, if Common Core hadn’t deformed even the most elementary of our math abilities so that simple addition now takes dots, dashes, boxes, hashmarks, and foam cubes, plus an inordinate amount of time, to not get the right answer.

There are so many examples of this, it’s hard to pick, but a recent one boomeranging the Internet has a teacher showing how to solve 9 + 6 the Common Core way. Yes, it takes nearly a minute.

Despite claims to the contrary, Common Core does require bad math like this. The Brookings Institution’s Tom Loveless says the curriculum mandates contain “dog whistles” for fuzzy math proponents, the people who keep pushing ineffective, devastating, and research-decimated math instruction on U.S. kids for ideological reasons. The mandates also explicitly require kids to learn the least efficient ways of solving basic problems one, two, and even three grade levels before they are to learn the traditional, efficient ways. There are ways for teachers to fill in the gaps and fix this, but this means a kid’s ability to get good math instruction depends on the luck of having an extra-savvy teacher. That’s especially a downer for poor and minority kids, who already get the greenest and lowest-quality teachers.

2. The Lies

The American Enterprise Institute’s Rick Hess recently wrote about Common Core’s “half-truths,” which Greg Forster pointedly demonstrated he should have called “lies.” These include talking points essential to selling governors and other state leaders on the project, such as that Common Core is: “internationally benchmarked” (“well, we sorta looked at what other nations do but that didn’t necessarily change anything we did”); “evidence based” (“we know there is not enough research to undergird any standards, so we just polled some people and that’s our evidence“); “college- and career-ready” (“only if you mean community-college ready“); “rigorous” (as long as rigorous indicates “rigid”); and “high-performing nations nationalize education” (so do low-performing nations).

3. Obliterating Parent Rights

Common Core has revealed the contempt public “servants” have for the people they are supposedly ruled by—that’d be you and me. Indiana firebrand Heather Crossin, a mom whose encounter with Common Core math turned her into a nationally known activist, went with other parents to their private-school principal in an attempt to get their school’s new Common Core textbooks replaced. “Our principal in frustration threw up his hands and said, ‘Look, I know parents don’t like this type of math because none of us were taught this way, but we have to teach it this way because this is how it’s going to be on the new [standardized] assessment,” she says. “And that was the moment when I realized control of what was being taught in my child’s classroom — in a parochial Catholic school  —  had not only left the building, it had left the state of Indiana.”

A Maryland dad who stood up to complain that Common Core dumbed down his kids’ instruction was arrested and thrown out of a public meeting. See the video.

Parents regularly fill my inbox, frustrated that even when they do go to their local school boards, often all they get are disgusted looks and a bored thumb-twiddling during their two-minute public comment allowance. A New Hampshire dad was also arrested for going over his two-minute comment limit in a local school board meeting parents packed to complain about graphic-sex-filled literature assignments. The way the board treats him and his fellow parents is repulsive.

The bottom line is, parents have no choice about whether their kids will learn Common Core, no matter what school they put them in, if they want them to go to college, because the SAT and ACT are being redesigned to fit the new national program for education. Elected school boards pay parents no heed, and neither do state departments of education, because the feds deliberately use our tax dollars to put themselves in the education driver’s seat, at our expense. So much for “by the people, for the people, of the people.”

4. Dirty Reading Assignments

A red-haired mother of four kids read to our Indiana legislature selections from a Common Core-recommended book called “The Bluest Eyes,” by Toni Morrison. I’m a grown, married woman who enjoys sex just fine, thank you, but I sincerely wish I hadn’t heard her read those passages. I guess some people don’t find sympathetically portrayed rape scenes offensive, but I do. So I won’t quote them at you. If you have a perv-wish, Google will fill you in. Other objectionable books on the Common Core-recommended list include “Make Lemonade” by Virginia Euwer Wolff, “Black Swan Green” by David Mitchell, and “Dreaming in Cuban” by Cristina Garcia.

There are so many excellent, classic works of literature available for children and young adults that schools can’t possibly fit all the good ones into their curriculum. So why did Common Core’s creators feel the need to recommend trash? Either they want kids to read trash or they don’t think these are trash, and both are disturbing.

5. Turning Kids Into Corporate Cogs

The workforce-prep mentality of Common Core is written into its DNA. Start with its slogan, which is now written into federal mandates on state education systems: “College and career readiness.” That is the entire Common Core conception of education’s purpose: Careers. Job training. Workforce skills. There’s not a word about the reasons our state constitutions give for establishing public education, in which economic advancement is largely considered a person’s personal affair. (Milton Friedman takes the same tack, by the way.) State constitutions typically mimic the Northwest Ordinance’s vision for public education (the ordinance was the first U.S. law to discuss education): “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Common Core makes no promises about fulfilling public education’s purpose of producing citizens capable of self-government. Instead, it focuses entirely on the materialistic benefits of education, although human civilization has instead long considered education a part of acculturating children and passing down a people’s knowledge, heritage, and morals. The workforce talk certainly tickles the ears of Common Core’s corporate supporters. Maybe that was the intent all along. But in what world do corporations get to dictate what kids learn, instead of the parents and kids themselves? Ours, apparently.

6. The Data Collection and Populace Management

Speaking of corporate cronyism, let’s talk about how Common Core enables the continued theft of kids’ and teachers’ information at the behest of governments and businesses, furthering their bottom lines and populace-control fantasies at the expense of private property and self-determination.Well, I coauthored a 400-footnote paper on this very topic. I’ll just summarize the list of direct connections between intrusive data-mining and Common Core from my favorite passage (in the section starting on page 52):

  1. The documents that ‘created the (dubious) authorization for Common Core define the initative as curriculum mandates plus tests. The tests are the key instrument of data collection.
  2. Common Core architect David Coleman has confirmed that special-interests deliberately packaged data mining into Common Core.
  3. Common Core creates an enormous system of data classification for education. It’s probably easiest to think of it as an enormous filing system, like the equivalent of the Dewey Decimal System for lessons, textbooks, apps, and everything else kids learn. That’s by design.
  4. States using the national, federally funded Common Core tests have essentially turned over control of what data they collect on children to private organizations that are overseen by no elected officials. Those organizations have promised complete access to kids’ data to the federal government.
  5. Common Core and data vacuuming are philosophically aligned—they both justify themselves as technocratic, progressive solutions to human problems. The ultimate goal is using data to “seamlessly integrate” education and the economy. In other words, we learned nothing from the USSR.

7. Distancing Parents and Children

A recent study found that the Common Core model of education results in parents who are less engaged in their kids’ education and express more negative attitudes about schools and government. Does it need to be noted that kids desperately need their pre-existing, natural bond with their parents to get a good start in life, and anything that attacks this is bad for both the kids and society?

In addition, math even highly educated engineers and math professors can’t understand obviously has the effect of placing a teacher and school between a child and his parent. Parents are rife with stories about how they tried to teach their kids “normal” math, but it put pressure on the tots because teacher demanded one thing and mom demanded another, which ended up in frustration, confusion, and resentment. That won’t make a kid hate school, right?

8. Making Little Kids Cry

It’s one thing to teach a child to endure life’s inevitable suffering for a higher purpose. It’s another thing to inflict children with needless suffering because you’ve got a society to remake, and “it takes a few broken eggs to make an omelet.” One is perhaps the essence of character. The other is perhaps the essence of cruelty.

There have been reports nationwide from both teachers and a litany of child psychologists that Common Core inflicts poorly designed instruction on children, thus stressing them out and turning them off academics. This video, courtesy of  Truth in American Education and a Louisiana mother, shows a second grader crying over her math homework. A SECOND GRADER. You know, when the little people are still learning addition?

Below, find a picture from a New York mother and photographer Kelly Poynter. This is her second-grade daughter, utterly frustrated at her math homework. The little girl is a cancer survivor, Poynter explains, so she doesn’t lack persistence or a fighting spirit. Incomprehensible math problems downed a child that cancer couldn’t.

9. The Arrogance

So imagine you’re a mom or dad whose small child is sobbing at the table trying to add two-digit numbers. Then you hear your elected representatives talking about Common Core. And it’s not to offer relief. It’s to ridicule your pain—no, worse. It’s to ridicule your child’s pain.

Florida Senate President Don Gaetz said of Common Core: “You can’t dip [Common Core mandates] in milk and hold them over a candle and see the United Nations flag or Barack Obama’s face. They’re not some federal conspiracy.” Ohio House Education Chairman Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster) called Common Core opposition a “conspiracy theory.” Wisconsin state Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) told a packed audience state hearings on the topic were “crazy” and “a show.” Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) has called opponents a “distract[ing]” “fringe movement.” Missouri Rep. Mike Lair put $8 into the state budget for tinfoil hats for Common Core supporters.

Since when is it okay for lawmakers to ridicule their employers? Aren’t they supposed to be “public servants”? What part of “this math is from hell” sounds like “I think Barack Obama wrote this math curriculum”? Those lawmakers must have encountered an early form of Common Core in school, because they can’t comprehend their way out of a paper bag.

It gets even worse. I thought racial slurs were wrong, but Education Secretary Arne Duncan has no problems slinging those around in his disdain for people who disagree with him on Common Core. You may recall that he dismissed them as “white suburban moms who—all of a sudden—their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were.” So only white moms hate crappy curriculum?

And then parents have to endure a litany of pompous, sickeningly well-paid experts all over the airwaves telling us it’s a) good for them that our babies are crying at the kitchen table or b) not really Common Core’s fault or 3) they don’t really get what’s going on because this newfangled way of adding 8 + 6 is so far above the average parent’s ability to understand.

10. The Collectivism

It’s easy to see Common Core appeals to those anal-retentive types who cannot function unless U.S. education has some sort of all-encompassing organizing principle.

But there’s more. Common Core supporters will admit that several states had better curriculum requirements than Common Core. Then they typically say it’s still better for those states to have lowered their expectations to Common Core’s level, because that way we have more curricular unity. That’s what the Fordham Institute’s Mike Petrilli told Indiana legislators when he came to our state to explain why, even though Fordham graded Indiana’s former curriculum requirements higher than Common Core, Indiana should remain a step below its previous level. One main reason was that we’d be able to use all the curriculum and lesson plans other teachers in other states were tailoring (to lower academic expectations, natch). Yay, we get to be worse than we were, but it’s okay, because now we’re the same as everyone else!

Tech companies are uber excited about Common Core because it facilitates a nationwide market for their products. Basically every other education vendor feels the same way, except those who already had nationwide markets because they accessed pockets of the population not subject to mind-numbing state regulations such as home and private schools. But the diversity of the unregulated private market far, far outstrips that of the Common Core market. There are, you know, actual niches, and education styles, and varying philosophies, rather than a flood of companies all trying to package the same product differently. The variety is one of substance, not just branding. In other words, it’s true diversity, not fake diversity.

What would you rather have: Fake freedom, where others choose your end goal and end product, but lets you decide some things about how to achieve someone else’s vision for education, which by the way has to be the same for everyone everywhere; or genuine freedom, where you both pick your goals and how to achieve them, and you’re the one responsible for the results? Whoops, that’s a trick question, moms and dads. In education, no one can pick the latter, because our overlords have already picked for us. Common Core or the door, baby.

[First published at The Federalist; Photo By: Runar Pedersen Holkestad]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute Experts React to Eric Holder Resignation

Somewhat Reasonable - September 25, 2014, 8:12 PM

Eric Holder, who has served as U.S. Attorney General for the entire Obama presidency, publicly announced today he is stepping down.

The following statements from experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book a Heartland guest on your program, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org and 312/377-4000.

 

“This is the single best piece of news for those favoring a nation based on laws, and not men (or women), I have heard in several years.”

Richard Vedder
Professor of Economics
Ohio University
Policy Advisor, Economics
The Heartland Institute

 

“Mr. Holder is leaving the office, but he cannot so easily leave the controversies that have surrounded his tenure, including:

  • the scandal surrounding the IRS, the missing emails, and his role in investigating the scandal;
  • the ‘Fast and Furious’ scandal, which made him the first cabinet member in U.S. history that Congress held in contempt;
  • his decision to avoid prosecution of the New Black Panther Party for voter intimidation, after the Department of Justice successfully secured an injunction;
  • and the unprecedented decision, which Holder personally approved, to subpoena, monitor, and issue a search warrant involving James Rosen, a Fox News reporter.

Holder will leave the office but is unlikely to leave the national stage because these controversies remain.

Ronald D. Rotunda
The Doy & Dee Henley Chair and Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence
Chapman University

 

“The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons first got to know Eric Holder when he represented the government in our lawsuit about the illegal operations of the Clinton Task Force on Health Care Reform. The pattern then was stonewalling and obfuscation. Even when task force members finally turned over some documents on court order, many of the floppy disks were blank. Holder declined to prosecute Ira Magaziner, head of the Task Force Working Group, for perjury.

“In 1997, Judge Royce Lambert of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote: ‘For more than three years, the administration and Department of Justice claimed that task force working groups consisted entirely of full-time government employees. Subsequent release of task force documents proved that claim to be false. Judge Lamberth found that the Executive Branch and its attorneys knew that claim to be false but did nothing to correct the record, thereby prolonging litigation.

“‘It seems that some government officials never learn that the cover-up can be worse than the underlying conduct,’ Judge Lamberth added. ‘Most shocking to this court, and deeply disappointing, is that the Department of Justice would participate in such conduct. … [T]his type of conduct is reprehensible, and the government must be held accountable for it.’

“Judge Lamberth squarely placed the blame on the White House and its lawyers: ‘It is clear that the decisions here were made at the highest levels of government. The court agrees with plaintiffs that these were not reckless and inept errors taken by bewildered counsel. The executive branch of the government, working in tandem, was dishonest with this court.’

“The pattern has only worsened with Holder as the highest law enforcement officer in the land. Who will ever hold him, and the White House, accountable?”

Jane M. Orient, M.D.
Executive Director
Association of American Physicians and Surgeons

“Eric Holder’s resignation represents an opportunity for the president to appoint an attorney general willing to end what some have seen as a witch-hunt against American banks. Under Holder, the Department of Justice shook down Bank of America for billions of dollars, as punishment for the bank’s alleged crime of complying with the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) of 1977 and lending money to individuals unable to repay. The CRA mandated that banks must make bad loans, the banks complied with the bad policy, but the bank is not at fault for the results of that bad policy.

“Hopefully, whoever replaces Holder as ‘top cop’ will understand how causality works and end the practice of shaking down the finance industry as punishment for following Washington, D.C.’s orders.”

Jesse Hathaway
Managing Editor
Budget & Tax News
Research Fellow
The Heartland Institute
jhathaway@heartland.org

 

Categories: On the Blog

It’s Time to Stop the Climate Scare Stories

Somewhat Reasonable - September 24, 2014, 4:05 PM

Actor Leo DiCaprio at the People’s Climate March in NYC Sept. 21, 2014.

NOTE: The piece below was written by Willie Soon and Christopher Monckton.

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi sensibly refuses to attend yet another climate summit – this one called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in New York for September 23, under the auspices of the United Nations, which profits handsomely from the much-exaggerated climate scare.

Environmentalists have complained at Mr. Modi’s decision not to attend. They say rising atmospheric CO2 will cause droughts, melt Himalayan ice and poison lakes and waterways in the Indian subcontinent.

However, the UN’s climate panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has already had to backtrack on an earlier assertion that all the ice in the Himalayas would be gone within 25 years, and the most comprehensive review of drought trends worldwide shows the global land area under drought has fallen throughout the past 30 years.

Mr. Modi, a spiritual man and thus down-to-earth, knows that a quarter of India’s people still have no electricity. His priority is to turn on the lights all over India. In Bihar, four homes in five are lit by kerosene.

Electric power is the quickest, surest, cheapest way to lift people out of poverty and so to stabilize India’s population, which may soon overtake China’s.

The Indian-born Nobel laureate in economics, Professor Amartya Sen, recently lamented: “There would appear to be an insufficient recognition in global discussion of the need for increased power in the poorer countries. In India, for example, about a third of the people do not have any power connection at all. Making it easier to produce energy with better environmental correlates (and greater efficiency of energy use) may be a contribution not just to environmental planning, but also to making it possible for a great many people to lead a fuller and free life.”

The world’s governing elite, however, no longer cares about poverty. Climate change is its new and questionable focus.

In late August the Asian Development Bank, for instance, based on UN IPCC rising carbon dioxide (CO2) scenarios, predicted that warmer weather would cut rice production, rising seas would engulf Mumbai and other coastal megacities, and rainfall would decline by 10-40% in many Indian provinces.

Droughts and floods have occurred throughout India’s history. In the widespread famine caused by the drought of 1595-1598, “Men ate their own kind. The streets and roads were blocked with corpses, but no assistance can be given for their removal,” a chronicler in Akbar’s court reported.

Every Indian knows that too much (or too little) monsoon rainfall can bring death. That is why the latest computer-generated doom-and-gloom scenario by the Asian Development Bank is not merely unwelcome – it is repugnant. Garbage in, gospel out.

In truth, rice production has risen steadily, sea level is barely rising and even the UN’s climate panel has twice been compelled to admit that there is no evidence of a worldwide change in rainfall.

Subtropical India will not warm by much: advection would take most additional heat poleward. Besides, globally there has been little or no warming for almost two decades. The models did not predict that. The UN’s climate panel, on our advice, has recently all but halved its central estimate of near-term warming.

Sea level is rising no faster than for 150 years. From 2004-2012 the Envisat satellite reported a rise of a tenth of an inch. From 2003-2009 gravity satellites actually showed sea level falling. Results like these have not hitherto been reported in the mainstream news media.

More than 2 centuries of scientific research have failed to make the duration or magnitude of monsoons predictable. Monsoons depend on sea and surface temperature and wind conditions in the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, timing of El Niños in the equatorial Pacific, variations in Eurasian and Himalayan winter snow cover, even wind direction in the equatorial stratosphere.

Earlier this year, the Indian Meteorological Department predicted a 1 in 4 chance that the 2014 monsoon rainfall would be below the long-term average, leading to a year of drought

The prediction was wrong. Widespread floods in northwestern India and Pakistan have killed several hundred people. Many environmentalists and governmental officials are now insisting that rising atmospheric CO2 is the culprit. Yet the one cause of the recent floods that can be altogether ruled out is global warming, for the good and sufficient reason that for 18 years there has not been any warming.

Worse still for CO2 alarmists: 20th and 21st century warming did not occur in the western Himalayas, and paleo-temperature records from for the last millennium confirm no exceptional recent warming in this region, although the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than today almost everywhere else.

Regardless of the numerous political manipulations of fact and reality, the scientific problems of forecasting monsoon self-evidently remain unsolved.

In 1906 the forecasts depended on 28 unknowns. By 2007 scientists from the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology were using 73. So insisting that just one variable – CO2 concentration – will drive future monsoons is unscientific.

Professor Nandakumar Sarma, vice-chancellor of Manipur University, recently confirmed that “even supercomputers cannot predict what will happen due to climate change within 10-20 years, since there are millions of variable parameters.”

Models said monsoons would become more intense. Instead, they have weakened for 50 years.

As for the floods in the north-west, a study of three major rivers floods in Gujarat by Dr. Alpa Sridhar confirmed that past floods were at least 8 to 10 times worse than recent floods such as that of 1973. CO2-based climate models have been unable to “hindcast” or recreate those floods.

Models also fail to replicate the 60-yr and 200-yr cycles in monsoon rainfall linked to solar cycles detected by studies of ocean sediments from the Arabian Sea.

A new study led by Professor K.M. Hiremath of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics shows the strong, possibly causative correlation between variations in solar activity (red curve) and in monsoon rainfall (blue curve) in Figure 1.

The red curve is actually the result of a simulation of the Indian monsoon rainfall for the past 120 years using solar activity as a forcing variable. The sun is visibly a far more likely influence on monsoon patterns than changes in CO2 concentration.

Governments also overlook a key conclusion from the world’s modelers, led by Dr. Fred Kucharski of the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics: “The increase of greenhouse gases in the twentieth century has not significantly contributed to the observed decadal Indian monsoonal rainfall variability.”

Not one climate model predicted the severe Indian drought of 2009, followed by the prolonged rains the next year – up by 40% in most regions. These natural variations are not new. They have happened for tens of thousands of years.

A paper for Climate Dynamics co-authored by Professor Goswami, recently-retired director of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, shows why the models relied upon by the UN’s climate panel’s recent assessments predict monsoons inaccurately.

 

Figure 1. There is a strong and possibly causative correlation between variations in solar activity (red curve) and in monsoon rainfall (blue curve).

 

All 16 models examined had the same fatal flaw: they made rain too easily by artificially elevating air and water masses in the atmosphere.

Models are not ready to predict the climate. Misusing computers to spew out multiple “what-if” scenarios is unscientific.

Most fundamental problems in our immature understanding of climate have remained unresolved for decades. Some cannot be resolved at all. The UN’s climate panel admitted in 2001 what has been known for 50 years: because the climate is a “coupled, non-linear, chaotic object,” reliable long-term climate prediction is impossible.

Misuse of climate models as false prophets is costly in lives as well as treasure.

To condemn the poorest of India’s poor to continuing poverty is to condemn many to an untimely death. Mr. Modi is right to have no more to do with such murderous nonsense. It is time to put an end to climate summits. On the evidence, they are not needed.

Willie Soon is a solar physicist and climate scientist at Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. Lord Monckton was an expert reviewer for the Fifth Assessment Report (2013) of the UN’s climate panel, the IPCC.

Categories: On the Blog

Renewable Energy Death Toll Impugns Green Claims

Somewhat Reasonable - September 24, 2014, 3:42 PM

Renewable energy sources are killers, not so much green as red. Until recently, renewable energy sources—wind, solar, hydro, etc.—have gotten a pass on the environmental harms they cause. However, as the death toll mounts, the public has begun objecting to the deadly impacts of “green” energy sources.

Hydroelectric dams, once the darlings of the green jet set, have been killing migrating salmon for decades. Despite designers’ best efforts, they have yet to solve the problem, and now dams are being dismantled to save salmon and river ecosystems.

Two decades ago, some environmentalists began referring to wind farms as “cuisinarts of the air” because birds were being mangled by the huge, fast-spinning turbines.

The problem has only gotten worse as the number of wind farms has grown rapidly under the Obama administration’s push for subsidized green energy.

Wind turbines kill bats as well as birds. Most recently, a 7,600-acre wind farm in Nevada was found to have killed 566 bats, more than triple the number it is allowed to take each year. Conservationists believe many more bats die each year but their carcasses are not found.

Biologists have found even if a bird or bat avoids the spinning blades, the changes in barometric pressure caused by the spinning blades can cause their insides to explode.

Engineers have tried various ways to avoid or reduce bird and bat deaths, by reducing turbine speeds, shutting down turbines during certain periods, and spacing turbines differently, all to no avail. Birds, including eagles, falcons, and condors, continue to be killed, along with huge numbers of bats.

Wind farms must be located where the wind blows fairly constantly. Unfortunately, such locations are prime travel routes for migratory birds and bats, including protected species such as bald eagles, golden eagles and endangered Indiana bats. Wind farms act as both bait and executioner—rodents or insects near the base of turbines multiply with the protection from raptors and bats, and their greater numbers draw more birds and bats to the blades.

Industrial solar power plants also kill wildlife. Traditional photovoltaic facilities fundamentally alter the dozens of square miles the solar panels take up. In the Western United States, such farms are swallowing up large blocks of threatened desert tortoise habitat. Tortoises have died in and around these facilities. In some instances, tortoises have been relocated from their native habitat where solar panels are being placed to other, similar areas, but whether the tortoises can thrive or even survive in their new locations has yet to be established. New research indicates areas where solar farms and tortoises currently coexist may soon become too hot for tortoise survival as the solar farms become heat islands—areas much hotter than the temperature in adjoining rural locations.

Solar power towers, where hundreds of thousands of mirrors redirect concentrated sunlight toward boiler towers, heating the water inside to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and producing steam that turns turbines to generate electricity, are turning out to be the microwave ovens of the skies. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah solar tower project kills 28,000 birds annually. The bright light reflecting off the mirrors attracts huge amounts of insects, which in turn attract birds. Both are torched in mid-flight by Ivanpah’s intense heat.

Federal and state wildlife officials have confirmed birds flying over Ivanpah are catching fire in midair, with numerous reports of puffs of smoke suddenly appearing, followed by dead birds, called “streamers,” plummeting to the ground.

For decades, people have recognized and accepted the environmental drawbacks fossil fuels impose because coal, oil, and natural gas have been the engine driving the economic progress of the past two centuries. Renewable energy sources, by contrast, destroy wild, open lands and kill wildlife, while delivering little or no economic benefit. Instead of putting money into the economy, the subsidies they require to exist and operate drain federal, state, and ultimately, individuals’ pocketbooks.

Every energy source has negative environmental impacts, but traditional power sources at least deliver tangible benefits such as jobs, reliability, and tax revenues. Let’s stop subsidizing environmentally and economically costly green energy pipedreams. The birds, bats, and tortoises will thank us.

[First published in the Orange County Register.]

Categories: On the Blog

Smelly Lockers: A True Story of Pirates

Somewhat Reasonable - September 24, 2014, 2:43 PM

The Digital Citizens Alliance recently released a report that is troubling if somewhat unsurprising.  The report documents that intellectual property piracy continues, that it is big business and that cyberlockers play a substantial role in enabling the criminal activity.

Not to be confused with cloud computing, cyberlockers are “online services that are intentionally architected to support the massive distribution of files among strangers on a worldwide and unrestricted scale, while carefully limiting their own knowledge of which files are being distributed.”   But the inducement to criminal behavior goes well beyond simply building a tool that facilitates such activity. As the report explains, the typical cyberlocker business model includes receiving funds from multiple sources. One stream of income is derived from people who want to view stolen movies and pay a fee to access a cyberlocker site to do so. But to attract those subscription fees the cyberlocker needs content and so “people who post popular files are often paid by the cyberlocker through affiliate programs that reward users when their uploaded content is accessed.”

One could easily imagine a similar business model where the content was owned by the person posting it, perhaps seeking to gain a greater audience for that artist’s music, movies or photography. But in the case of the typical cyberlocker there is no such good intent. In fact, it’s just the opposite. With business models built to skirt the laws, the site owners try to ignore that rampant illegal behavior is taking place on their platform.

Another factor sets cyberlockers apart from cloud computing as the report states, “Personal storage and access are not the purpose: indeed, files not accessed for a period of time are deleted by most cyberlockers, and individual file synchronization among a user’s devices is not offered.” Cloud computing companies seek customers who will store their files online, and in fact the consumer understands they are paying precisely to have storage for their files. The transient nature of cyberlocker “storage” adds to the concern that in fact such business models are not at all for file storage, but rather are intended for file churning, quick use and removal of stolen material.

Most cyberlockers also demonstrate their apparent true nature in their resistance to following their own rules regarding repeat rights holder infringement on their sites. Such willful ignorance makes it hard to discern how the site is acting in good faith and as a responsible part of the Internet ecosystem. The point is further driven home as the report reveals that “the overwhelming bulk of files found on cyberlockers are infringing. Searches by NetNames for infringing materials stored on legitimate cloud services found negligible amounts of content.”

Cyberlockers, like many Internet sites, also make money by selling advertising. However, most does not appear on the Web site itself but rather is served up on a file download or during the streaming of videos. So cyberlockers generate revenue when their users download or use stolen property. In fact, they receive more than half of their revenue from advertising served up from a small number of advertising networks. The profit generated by these ads is quite substantial, in part driven by the household name brands that end up being advertised on these sites. Given the minimal start up and operating costs, and that the content the sites are “selling” is stolen from artists and creators, any income results in abundant profit.

Cyberlockers, as they attract, are designed, and then by willful ignorance, condone theft are little more than a planned attack on the Internet ecosystem. The entire ecosystem needs to respond. Success in the digital world is achievable when all parties understand that they cannot stand on their own, that in fact an economically thriving digital ecosystem requires good faith cooperation, within the bounds of the law, and with an eye towards what is best for the broader ecosystem. In other words, the distributed nature of the Internet is a fundamental part of its design, and no one entity, whether private sector or government, can control it so stakeholder cooperation is imperative for the success of all.

Pirates, mere thieves of artists and creators inventions, have at the moment found a new place from which to operate – their own smelly lockers.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute Experts Comment on Obama’s Climate Speech at United Nations

Somewhat Reasonable - September 23, 2014, 11:31 PM

President Obama on Tuesday addressed the Climate Summit at the United Nations, promising to take more executive actions at home, and work more closely with other countries abroad, to fight climate change.

The following statements from environment policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution.

“President Obama may be taking the lead on new global warming initiatives, but few world leaders critical to the success of any prominent climate agreement appear willing to follow. The leaders of China, India, Russia, and Germany are all skipping the U.N. climate gathering. Since they are among the largest CO2 emitters, without their agreement, CO2 will continue to rise whatever America and the rest of the world does.

“The thing is, they’ve finally recognized the climate farce for what it is: a giant wealth transfer scheme from the poor in rich countries to the rich in poor countries.

“While Obama commits to squandering U.S. taxpayers’ hard-earned money subsidizing green energy schemes in poor countries, the leaders of China, India, Russia, and Germany are concentrating on improving economic conditions in their own countries.

“Unable to get an ineffective, costly climate treaty through the Senate, Obama has evidently decided to burnish his environmental credentials and cement his green legacy with measures which sound good but will ultimately do nothing to prevent climate change and will inevitably harm our economy. I guess that will be the next president’s problem to deal with.”

H. Sterling Burnett
Research Fellow, Environment & Energy Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, Environment & Climate News
hburnett@heartland.org

 

“This is nothing but the latest round of executive orders that will bypass Congress and probably violate the U.S. Constitution. Don’t forget that in July 1997, the United States Senate voted unanimously against the very initiatives now proposed by President Obama. Those senators included current Obama cabinet members John Kerry and Chuck Hagel.

S. Fred Singer
Senior Fellow, Environment
The Heartland Institute
Director/Founder
Science and Environmental Policy Project
sepp@his.com

 

“President Obama’s climate agenda will succeed in sending our nation into poverty. Many of his programs promote needless spending of tax dollars on renewable energy sources of wind, solar, ethanol from corn, other biofuels, etc. that are not competitive with abundant, inexpensive, and geographically distributed coal, oil, and natural gas. For a nation going into debt about $1.5 billion per day, these intrusions into the marketplace cause debt to spiral out of control.

“There is a vast amount of experimental data showing increased atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels has a negligible effect on global warming or using President Obama’s term ‘climate change.’ The most obvious at this time is the pause in global warming the past 17 years in which increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide is the highest in a millennia. Using unworkable computer models for global climate change policy shows a total lack of common sense.”

James H. Rust
Professor of nuclear engineering (Ret.), Georgia Tech
Policy Advisor
The Heartland Institute
jrust@bellsouth.net

 

“The critical scientific measure of whether or not increased atmospheric carbon dioxide will cause significant global warming is the sensitivity of the earth’s temperatures to a doubling of carbon dioxide. Since 1979, the estimate has been 1.5 ºC to 4.5 ºC — about 3º to 8ºF. U.S. government reports estimate U.S. expenditures on climate change top $165 billion, with over $35 billion given to climate science between 1993 and 2013. Yet, the latest report (2013) by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change places the sensitivity at 1.5 ºC to 4.5 ºC, the same as it was 35 years ago.

“The simple fact is that there has been no warming of the atmosphere for over a decade and no warming of the surface for over 15 years, which government-funded climate science cannot explain. The failure of the government to advance scientific knowledge provides a clear illustration of the problems in critical assumptions in the research, as well as how the research is being conducted. All the pomp of the UN and its activities cannot hide these deficiencies.

“Further spending on climate change is unjustified until these deficiencies are directly addressed with a comprehensive understanding of the natural causes of global warming/climate change — a topic which is largely ignored or minimized by government-financed science.”

Kenneth Haapala
Executive Vice President
Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
Ken@Haapala.com

 

“President Obama’s speech to the United Nations regarding climate change ignores the fact that humanity has nothing to do with the changes that occur in the Earth’s climate and has never played a role in affecting or influencing those changes. They are part of massive and natural cycles from warmth to coolness and back again that have occurred over the course of billions of years. They are all related to the cycles of the Sun and are influenced by our atmosphere, our oceans, volcanic activity, and other factors far beyond anything humanity can alter. Moreover, they occur over periods that reflect centuries, such as the last mini-ice age that lasted from 1300 to 1850.

“To suggest that the United Nations or any other global form of governance has anything to do with the climate is false. This is about depriving people of their freedom.”

Alan Caruba
Founder, The National Anxiety Center
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
acaruba@aol.com

 

“Obama only offers hypothetical solutions to imaginary climate change in a vague distant future as a distraction from the real and growing social, economic, political and military problems that have been left to fester under his administration.”

Walter Starck
Policy Advisor, Environment and Energy
The Heartland Institute
media@heartland.org

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