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The Rebirth of Austrian Economics

Somewhat Reasonable - June 23, 2014, 10:45 AM

Forty years ago, during the week of June 15-22, 1974, the Austrian School of Economics was reborn during a conference in the small New England town of South Royalton, Vermont. Why was this important? Because the economists of the Austrian School have developed the most persuasive understanding of why only economic freedom can give mankind both liberty and prosperity.

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, many economists and political policy-makers argued that capitalism was a “failure” and only wisely guided government intervention and regulation of the market place could bring stability and fairness to society.

The Domination of Big Government Ideas

For the next thirty years following the Second World War, Keynesian Economics dominated economic policy decision-making. Government, it was said, had to have the discretionary authority to manipulate spending and taxing as well as the monetary system to assure full employment and stable economic growth.

This was matched by a rarified mathematical formalism in the higher levels of economic theory in which the everyday individual was reduced to a mere passive variable in a series of equations, with the assistance of which it was presumed government could successfully micro-manage the market. Unless regulated and guided by the superior hands of the government policy-makers, society would fall into waste and inefficiencies due to people’s wrong choices and misplaced actions when left on their own.

The Beginning of Austrian Economics

Almost 145 years ago, Carl Menger founded the Austrian School of Economics. One of the pathfinders to break asunder the myth of the labor theory of value, which had dominated economics from the time of Adam Smith to that of Karl Marx, Menger developed the subjective theory of value. The value of a good, Menger explained, was not determined by the amount of labor devoted to making a product, but rather the labor was given value by the intensity felt for the product by the individual who would finally use or consume it. Since individuals valued things differently and by different scales of importance, there was no way to objectively determine the value any market-traded good might have other than relating it back to the personal (“subjective”) judgments of the individual valuator.

Menger was soon followed by two disciples who refined Austrian theory to such a point that it became a major force in the world of ideas. Friedrich von Wieser formulated the concept of opportunity cost, by which is meant that nothing is free. The fact that most of the means that we use to achieve our various ends are scarce (too limited in supply to enable us to attain all the goals for which those means might be used) means we always have to make trade-offs.

The cost of anything is the alternative goal, purpose or end for which some scarce means might have been used if we had not instead valued more highly some other use for which we ended up applying those limited means. The idea that government can give people a “free lunch” is fundamentally wrong; what the government gives to someone with one hand it must take from someone else by the other hand, because the available means are not enough to fully satisfy both uses at the same time.

Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, developed Menger’s theory of subjective value and applied it to the problem of savings, investment, and the creation of capital. Everything we do involves time. Whether we are boiling an egg or constructing a tunnel through a mountain, or planting a crop for food, all of our production activities take time.

This requires that individuals must save enough to free up the resources needed to build the capital goods and cover people’s living expenses until the production processes are completed at some point in the future when more and better goods and services will be forthcoming as the benefit from having waited for them.

Government taxation and regulation can undermine if not destroy the ability and motive of people to do the savings and investing that is essential if we are all to benefit from rising standards of living in the future.

Ludwig von Mises and the Case for the Free Market

In the twentieth century, Ludwig von Mises extended the Austrian approach. Mises applied Menger’s subjective value theory to the area of money and developed the “Austrian” theory of the business cycle. Government manipulation of money and credit in the banking system throws savings and investment out of balance, resulting in misdirected investment projects that are eventually found to be unsustainable, at which point the economy has to rebalance itself through a period of a corrective recession.

The only wise policy for government is to leave money and the banking system to the competitive forces of a free market to eliminate the inflationary booms and recessionary busts of the business cycle, so markets can effectively keep people’s saving and investing decisions in balance for well-coordinated economic stability and growth.

Mises also demonstrated in the early 1920s why the new experiment with socialist central planning in communist Russia would eventually fail. Rational and efficient economic decision-making requires market-generated money prices to determine and calculate the relative values of the finished goods that consumers might wish to buy in comparison with the costs of using the means of production – land, labor, and capital – in one alternative production activity instead of another, on the basis of which entrepreneurs can estimate likely profits or losses from producing one product rather than some other.

Comprehensive socialism abolishes private property, bans market ownership and trading of goods and resources, and places all economic decision-making in the hands of a government central planning agency.

But without private property, there is nothing to buy and sell. With nothing to buy and sell there is no bargaining to determine possible terms-of-trade. With no agreed-upon terms-of-trade, there are no market prices.

Without market prices to tell market decision-makers the value of what consumers might want and the actual value of scarce resources in competing uses for their employment, there is no rational way for the socialist planner to efficiently and effectively know what to produce and at the lowest costs to maximize total desired production. Socialist central planning creates a society of “planned chaos.”

Based on his critique of the unworkability of socialist central planning Ludwig von Mises developed a theory of how the competitive market process works, and the important role of the entrepreneur for guiding production in the pursuit of profits and the avoidance of losses.

This also led Mises to a detailed critical analysis of how and why various forms of government regulation and intervention in the market economy can only distort and bring about imbalance in the market’s own coordination of multitudes of supplies and demands in the service of consumer desires. The only viable economic system for freedom and prosperity, Mises concluded, is laissez-faire capitalism.

F. A. Hayek and the Use of Knowledge in Society

Further developments in Austrian theory were the product of the versatile mind of Friedrich von Hayek, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1974 a few months after this Austrian Economics conference in South Royalton, Vermont.

In the 1930s, Hayek refined Mises’ theory of money and the business cycle, and became the leading free market critic of John Maynard Keynes at the time when “Keynesian Economics” was just being developed. He insisted that government deficit spending and manipulation of spending in the economy would only slowdown the normal market-generated recovery from a recession, and ran the danger of creating a future inflation that would be followed by another economic downturn.

Hayek, like Mises, was a leading critic of socialism. His core argument centered on the impossibility of even the wisest and most intelligent central planners ever having the ability to master, integrate and effectively use all the needed knowledge to successful guide an entire economy from the offices of a government planning bureau.

The division of labor in society is matched by a division of knowledge in which each of us possesses only a limited and small amount of all the knowledge of the world in our individual minds. We all must admit and accept how ignorant any one of us is about all the forms of knowledge that exist in the world, and which must somehow be successful brought to bear if all of us are to benefit from what one or a few people may know that we do not.

Hayek’s answer to this problem was to explain that market-generated prices serve as the communications devise through which we can inform each other about our desires as consumers and our abilities as producers, while leaving us free to use the knowledge that each of us individually possesses as we find it most advantageous. Thus, freedom and prosperity are combined through the market system of prices and competition to find out who can do better in satisfying the wants of others in the pursuit of self-interested profit.

Austrian Voices at the South Royalton Conference

The Institute for Humane Studies (IHS) organized the South Royalton Austrian Economics conference, and brought to Vermont three of the leading Austrian economists of that time to deliver a series of unique and important lectures: Israel M. Kirzner, Ludwig M. Lachmann, and Murray N. Rothbard.

Israel Kirzner had studied under Mises at New York University, and in 1973 had written, “Competition and Entrepreneurship,” the first of many books explaining the importance of the alert and creative market-based entrepreneur who brings about the balance and coordination of supplies with our consumer demands through his pursuit of profit opportunities.

Murray Rothbard had already made an outstanding name for himself as an Austrian economist with his two-volume work, “Man, Economy and State” (1962), in which he developed the entire edifice of economic understanding following in the footsteps of Ludwig von Mises. His 1963 book, “America’s Great Depression,” demonstrated that the economic depression of the 1930s had its origin in bad Federal Reserve monetary policy in the 1920s, and made far worse than it needed to be due to the wrong-headed interventionist policies of the Hoover Administration in the early 1930s.

Ludwig Lachmann had studied with F. A. Hayek at the London School of Economics in the 1930s, and went on to challenge the Keynesian misconception that the economy should be viewed and treated as one single aggregate lump of economic output. He subtly showed that the market is an intricate web of multitudes of individual supplies and demands interconnected in ways that could have no harmonious order to them other than through the free competitive actions of people, themselves, in a dynamic world of unexpected change.

Austrian Economics as Good Economics

The first day of the conference was highlighted by an opening evening banquet. At the dinner, free market economist, Henry Hazlitt, (the author of “Economics in One Lesson”) reminisced about how he first met Ludwig von Mises in the 1940s. The noted anti-Keynesian economist, W.H. Hutt, talked about the contributions that Mises made to economics And Murray Rothbard related some of the amusing anecdotes Mises would tell during the graduate seminars that Mises taught at New York University from 1945 until his retirement in 1969 at the age of 89.

Milton Friedman, who had a summer home in Vermont and who had been invited to the dinner, was asked to make a few comments. He admitted that Mises had made a number of notable contributions to economics, but that he was much too “extreme” in his views on economics and public policy. Besides which, Friedman added, there was no such thing as “Austrian economics,” only good economics and bad economics.

Clearly Freidman considered that the attendees at that conference were on a “fool’s errand” in focusing on something called “Austrian” economics. But for those of us attending that conference that week, we considered that Austrian Economics was a good economics for understanding the nature and workings of the real world of the free market place.

Human Action and Man as Unique Chooser

Starting the next day, a week of rigorous and incisive lectures began dealing with every aspect of “Austrian” theory. Rothbard and Kirzner laid the foundation by explaining the implications of the Austrian theory of human action and choice. The study of economics, Rothbard pointed out, begins with the fundamental axiom that man acts, that conscious action is taken to achieve chosen goals. This also implies that all action is purposeful and rational from the point of view of the actor.

All action, besides which, occurs through time. Action is taken now with the expected attainment of some result in the future. It also means that man acts without omniscience, for if an individual knew what the future would be in all its rich detail, then his action to replace one state of affairs with another would be pointless. With a guaranteed and certain future, action becomes worthless, because nothing can be changed in that future and the idea of people making their free choices becomes meaningless.

The fact that action is purposeful, chosen, and personally subjective also means that any statistical or historical studies that attempt to measure or predict human activity must be seen as having limited usefulness. Kirzner used the example of a man from Mars looking down at the earth through a telescope. The Martian observes that out of a box every day comes an object that enters another rectangular box that then moves away through a maze of canals and intersections. The Martian notices that on certain days the object that comes from the first box moves rapidly to catch up to the second, rectangular box. He then draws up a statistical study showing that one out of ten times the object will move rapidly to reach the rectangular box and uses this for predictions of “earthly” activities.

What has been totally overlooked by this method is that the first box happens to be an apartment building out of which comes an individual who goes to the street corner to catch the morning bus to work. The fact that on occasion the individual in question oversleeps and has to rapidly chase after the bus, so as not to miss it, does in no way guarantee that he may not get a better alarm clock, go to sleep earlier, or in the future, oversleep even more often. Nor does one individual’s actions determine how another individual will act in the same circumstances. Thus, to base one’s understanding of man on statistics and historical studies alone is to ignore that human action is volitional, purposeful, and changeable, dependent on the goals and means of the acting individual.

The inability of the economics profession to grasp the mainsprings of human action has resulted from their adoption of economic models totally outside of reality. In the models put forth as explanations of market phenomena, equilibrium — that point at which all market activities come to rest and all market participants possess perfect knowledge with unchanging tastes and preferences — has become the cornerstone of most economic theory.

The Market Process and the Entrepreneur

Lachmann, in an illuminating lecture, explained that the market is not a series of equilibrium points on a curve, but rather, it’s a constant process kept moving because the underlying currents of human action never rest. Men, lacking omniscience, integrate within their plans the information provided by a constant stream of knowledge about changes in resource availabilities, the relevant actions of other men, and unexpected occurrences. But because each man’s perspective and interpretation of this stream of knowledge may be different from that of others, what seems relevant to one individual may be discarded as insignificant by another.

The unknowability of the future means that individuals draw conclusions based upon expectations of what will happen over time. Divergent expectations and unexpected change, therefore, results in potential inconsistency of interpersonal plans. When errors become visible to individuals, each market participant will learn different lessons from the revised, available information. And, thus, we are again faced with the possibility of inconsistency of different market plans.

But if the plans of market participants can never be expected to smoothly and automatically mesh, what forces in the market tend toward an equilibrating, or coordinating, of the actions of multitudes of human actors? At this point, Professor Kirzner’s follow-up lecture offered the clue. Acting man is not merely a blind “taker” of prices and resource offerings; rather, because of the fact that unexpected change occurs in an uncertain future, man is also “watchful.”

Alertness to previously unseen opportunities serves as the key to the equilibrating market forces. This human capacity for alertness, said Kirzner, is the entrepreneurial role. It is not merely the difficult task of knowing when to hire and where to place the worker. It’s a much more subtle and rarified knowledge; it’s the ability of knowing where to get knowledge, of picking up bits of information that others around you have passed up and seeing the value of it for bringing into consistency a human plan or plans that otherwise would have remained in disequilibrium. The chance to profit from information about market opportunities that others have failed to see acts as the incentive for people to keep their eyes open for inconsistencies and opportunities in human plans.

Production, Time and Money in the Market Process

Lachmann and Kirzner continued this train of thought the following day with lectures on the Austrian theory of capital. Capital is the intermediate product – often the tool or machine – used to produce a finished good for consumption. Yet the many attempts to measure and quantify “society’s” capital stock fall apart when we once again emphasize the nature of purposeful action. A particular good is seen as a “production good” useful for a particular purpose only within the context of a human plan. That object that may be seen as a capital good in one instance may become totally worthless or shift to a consumer good tomorrow, depending upon the changing subjective valuations and judgments of the individuals interacting in the market.

The elusiveness of market equilibrium often means, as well, that, as Lachmann pointed out, a tendency for structural integration of interpersonal plans may exist, but some combinations that are found not to fit within existing plans may result in a scrapping of some of these goods and, therefore, are not really “capital” any longer in the eyes of the valuator. Kirzner continued the discussion pointing out that capital is the complex of “half-baked cakes,” the interim form the resource takes in the process of a human plan leading to the final stage of producing a product to satisfy the wants of some consumers.

Rothbard delivered an interesting and comprehensive lecture on the Austrian theory of money. It was Ludwig von Mises, Rothbard pointed out, who first applied the principles of marginal utility to money, showing how money originated and how exchange values were established on the market. Professor Rothbard suggested three areas for possible future research: (1) how to separate the state from money; (2) the question of free banking vs. 100-percent-gold dollars; and (3) the defining of the supply of money.

He followed up with a lecture on “New Light on the Pre-History of the Austrian School,” and showed the development of marginal-utility theories through the Middle Ages in Spain and Italy.

The Central Error in Keynesian Economics

Lachmann finished his series of lectures with critiques of macroeconomics and its recent controversies.  He argued that the market is a complex and ever-changing network of multitudes of individual actions and reactions to what everyone else is attempting to do in the pursuit of their desired goals and ends.

The Keynesian attempt to reduce all the rich complexity of human activity to a few simple statistical aggregates for government manipulation and control not only misunderstand the real and true nature of a dynamic and competitive market system, but was likely to lead to government policy mishaps that would create far more instability and disorder than if the political authorities simply left the market alone.

Showing How Government Policy Goes Wrong

On the last day of the conference, Kirzner and Rothbard summed up the Austrian approach within a consideration of the “Philosophical and Ethical Implications of Austrian Economic Theory.” Kirzner restated the principle of “value-freedom,” in economic analysis. As an economist, the Austrian theorist does not make judgments on ends chosen by people in the market. The economist’s task is to objectively analyze whether or not the means proposed to achieve a particular goal or end are the most appropriate or efficient to that purpose. The economist on his own cannot say or judge whether the goal or end being pursued by an individual, with whatever means chosen, is in itself “good” or “bad.”

While admitting this, Rothbard wondered if the economist could be totally value-free in all instances. What if a politician has as his goal the economic impoverishment of the nation so as to use demagoguery for gaining political power? Are we to tell him that this is a “good” means to achieve his end? Thus, Rothbard concluded, it may often be necessary to have certain value-laden principles to judge ends as well as means.

Conference Life in South Royalton

The evenings during the week were partly spent with the participants discussing the topics lectured about that day. But in addition, Murray Rothbard would “hold court” every night until the wee hours of the morning. He would tell funny stories, and relate an unending stream of hilarious anecdotes about famous people alive and dead. He amused his audience with a repertoire of “left-wing” and “right-wing” political songs that he knew in several languages. And he optimistically argued for the importance of Austrian Economics and a political philosophy of liberty if the human race was to free itself from the dangers of oppressive and harmful government.

The rustic appearance and the somewhat antiquated facilities and features of the town of South Royalton led Ludwig Lachmann to observe at the end of the week that he could now say that he knew what life had been like in the nineteenth century!

The slanted floor in the room I was staying in required me to spend the night holding on to the sides of the bed so I would not slide out the window behind the low headboard. And some strange mishap seemed to have occurred to one of the female attendees while alone taking a shower that it was all too “shocking” for her to relate all the details.

Another participant, who originally came from Yugoslavia, said that some things in the town seemed so “scary” at night that he admitted the following: “I lived under Nazi occupation and I endured life under communist rule in my native Yugoslavia. But last night was the first time in my life that I slept with the light on!”

The Catalyst for Austrian Economics Reborn

The organizers at the Institute for Humane Studies had sensed the rightness of the time for arranging such a conference as a catalyst for expanding interest in the Austrian School of Economics. And with that goal in mind it can only be said, forty years later, that it was a resounding success.

Between the South Royalton conference in June of 1974 and the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Economics to F.A. Hayek in October of that same year, the Austrian School began a brilliant renaissance that has once more made it one of the most important forces for sound ideas on economics and public policy making in the world today. This was assisted at first, also, by the publication of those lectures delivered at South Royalton in book form in 1976 under the title, “The Foundations of Modern Austrian Economics.”

After near oblivion in the decades immediately after the Second World War due to the dominance of Keynesian Economics, the Austrian School has been reborn. There are universities at which undergraduate and graduate students can take courses on Austrian economics with professors knowledgeable about and dedicated to the tradition that began with Carl Menger and then grew under the ideas of Ludwig von Mises and F. A. Hayek.

There are, now, at least three scholarly journals devoted to the further development of Austrian Economic ideas, plus online websites, blogs, and printed publications explaining and applying “Austrian” ideas to the contemporary policy problems of the day. In addition, well-known and respected publishing houses print both scholarly and popular books on Austrian Economics every year.

Even some prominent political figures have publicly advocated the implementation of free market-oriented policies on the basis of Austrian economic insights – including abolishing the Federal Reserve and moving money and banking into the arena of the competitive free market.

All of this has had a good part of its beginning with that conference on Austrian Economics forty years ago in a small, out-of-the-way New England town.

[Originally published at Epic Times]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Movement of the Permanent Internet Tax Moratorium

Somewhat Reasonable - June 22, 2014, 3:42 PM

This morning the House Judiciary Committee will undertake the markup of the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act.  The Act would protect consumers from the increased costs in accessing and using the Internet by permanently extending the moratorium on Internet access taxes, and would prevent multiple and discriminatory taxation of Internet sales.

The legislation already boasts deep bipartisan support with 138 Republican and 76 Democrat co-sponsors. That’s 214 members of the House supporting it, and rumors of more to join soon would bring the total to more than 50 percent. The Senate version of the bill has 50 co-sponsors. So, there is already enough support for a permanent moratorium that doesn’t add extraneous elements that could cause the moratorium to fail.

The legislation also enjoys broad support of thought leaders and citizens, as was made clear in an April letter to Congress. But time to pass the measure is of the essence since the moratorium will expire on November 1 of this year. If allowed to expire, states would begin to collect taxes on Internet access, or apply other discriminatory taxes that may already be in place but which have been held at bay during the moratorium.

Scott Mackey, former chief economist for the National Conference of State Legislatures and currently a consultant to the wireless industry, has estimated that an average household’s taxes would increase by $50 to $75 a year if states decide to apply their sales or telecommunications taxes to Internet access. While that doesn’t seem like much, keep in mind that that’s about what a low-income family spends in a year on subsidized school lunches. Those who qualify for such programs are exactly those who will be most negatively affected by a lapsed moratorium.

Businesses also lose money when Congress doesn’t send a clear message. If Congress dallies—and history has proven that Congress rarely acts in time—telecommunications providers would need to prepare to collect the new taxes. That effort would be a waste of time and resources if Congress were to ride to the rescue at the last minute—a result of the cavalier attitude by government. Less economic growth and fewer jobs are the result. 

Hopefully, the next step on the right path will be taken today with the House Judiciary Committee deciding that the moratorium must continue and refraining from introducing other issues  which will end its progress  in the House.

[Originally published at The Institute for Policy Innovation]

Categories: On the Blog

Just What Is the Perfect Level of CO2?

Somewhat Reasonable - June 22, 2014, 10:06 AM

Ever in an argument with a AGW proponent?

I have stopped trying to argue with someone who refuses to look at anything but that which supports his own position. It’s pointless. So in an effort to end a debate quickly, I now politely ask individuals to explain how CO2, given how small it is relative to all around it, actually changes the entire system. That usually stops it with most of the crowd. Like many things I see with new age forecasters today, they will jump on one weather factor and not understand its behavior is because of everything around it.

The second thing I do is put the ball in their court. This requires knowing what went on historically with weather/climate. So I ask what the perfect number is for CO2 in the atmosphere. An example: Dr. Bill McKibben – one of the people I am frequently amazed with because his comments indicate he either does not know and understand what the weather has done before, or does and refuses to let that get in the way – runs a group called 350.org. He and his team want CO2 at 350 ppm (parts per million). So let’s just go to 350 ppm and see what it was like.

First, here is CO2 on the “correct” scale, which is the percentage of the atmosphere. This is not what you commonly see, which is the amount of CO2 in parts per million, where CO2 is grossly over-represented. The scale should be from one to a million, not a tiny fraction of a million.

Now, by using the very tiny increment they do, and by not informing you that if you actually used the scale from one to a million, this would hardly show up, they’re guilty of creative distortion of reality. After all, aren’t we measuring this against the entire atmosphere? Just think how absurd it would be if we measured against the *entire system: ocean plus atmosphere. The oceans play a huge role in the climate. It’s the reason for Dr. William Gray’s spot on assessment of this whole charade.

Anyway, on the graph below, the numbers on the left are in part per million. We are near 400 ppm now, and the last time it was near 350 ppm was back around 1988.

Here are just a few samples of the weather that year.

Summer:

Average since then:

That was the summer all the hysteria began on the upcoming climate disaster. But what about precipitation?

Since then:

What about hurricanes? What did the ACE Index look like? Gee, about the same as now.

In fact after the peak when the Pacific and Atlantic were warm in tandem, it looks like this recent downturn is lower than the late ‘80s. This may be because whenever there is a “climatic shift” (in the late 1970s the shift was to warming because the PDO turned warm; it’s now opposite), the atmosphere needs to adjust so that the processes which leads to above normal activity can readjust.

What about ice caps? Look at the Arctic when the Atlantic was in its cold mode. 1988 had much higher anomalies than now.

But the Southern Hemisphere ice anomaly is much higher than it was then! In fact, it’s trying for a record!

1988 was as low against the averages in the Southern Hemisphere (more so, it dropped to -1.5) than it is now in the Northern Hemisphere, and the forecast continues to call for Arctic sea ice extent to rise above average against the late summer minimum. This would be the first time this has happened since the Atlantic went into its warm mode.

Globally we’re well above average. Are we not supposed to consider the whole globe on this crucial matter? It was the ice caps – plural – that were supposed to melt. Could it be like almost everything in nature – a cyclical back and forth swing?

So far, the Arctic “warm season” has been colder than 1988 (last year was the coldest ever recorded).

Here it was in 1988:

The fact is, most of the “global” warming has occurred in the Arctic during the winter seasons, where temps 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit above normal are frigid anyway. Given the amount of water vapor in such low temperatures – water vapor being the number 1 greenhouse gas (100x CO2) – it’s a stretch to think this is affecting the entire global climate against anything that can be measured against normal stochastic and cyclical events.

Now you may say, “You are cherry picking.” I can cherry pick any time and find it worse. The fact I can instantly bring up any time where weather has been more extreme says that in the past, the weather has been more extreme! We can go on forever, believe me. Here’s is another sample: How is it most of the states’ high temperatures and the greatest decade for low temperatures were in the 1930s, when CO2 was under 300 ppm?

We are not even close now. Anyone ever consider this? We have added considerably more weather stations, yet the state records set during a time with less stations than now have not been exceeded. And even though it was hotter in summer, it was colder extreme wise in winter.

Here’s a fact: CO2, like anything, has some effect on the weather and climate, probably relative to its relationship with water vapor, which is most likely influenced by the greatest store of heat (energy) to the system (and its also the greatest store of CO2) – the oceans. But can you measure it against the natural cyclical reactions driven by much greater forces and even stochastic events? Can you assign a value when every single point brought up by the AGW side can be easily countered by anyone who knows and understands what has happened in weather and climate in the past? How do you know? And given what is facing us today, is CO2’s value to the climate effectively rounded so close to zero that the whole issue is a red herring?

Look at this. The title says it all.

The answer is, you can’t.

Finally, from IPCC reviewer Dr. Vincent Gray:

Faith in things unseen defines something that is preached in religion. But with all the counter evidence here, it seems like this worship of CO2 as the climate control knob is more religion than science. I don’t force my religion on another man; why is it these folks seem to be pushing theirs on us? And like so many other religions that believe they must convert all men to their belief, this too is a recipe for widespread misery and as in most cases, disaster.

So just what is the perfect level of CO2, and who among men thinks they are fit to decide that, given the overwhelming evidence that nature is in control?

Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.

© Copyright 2014 The Patriot Post

 

[Originally published at The Patriot Post]

Categories: On the Blog

The Threat of Government Internet Monopoly

Somewhat Reasonable - June 21, 2014, 9:09 PM

In the past two decades the Internet has come to be a dominant part of people’s lives. For work, pleasure, communication, and countless other uses, the Internet is an indispensable tool to many individuals. Without it, much of the information-based civilization that has been built up would stop working the way we are accustomed to.

As the Internet has become more important, so too have access to the most cutting-edge systems to provide high speed, security, and data storage facilities. Broadband Internet provides the fastest access to the Internet, and is now essential to the functioning of the American economy both globally and locally.

The Information Age

The increased importance of the Internet has spurred a significant debate over the nature of the rights to access it. Is Internet access now a fundamental right because it is a critical tool in the expression of other freedoms such as the freedom of expression? As yet there is no consensus on an answer. The United Nations special rapporteur on the freedom of expression has stated,

“Given that the Internet has become an indispensable tool for realizing a range of human rights, combating inequality, and accelerating development and human progress, ensuring universal access to the Internet should be a priority for all States.”

Many countries, including France, Costa Rica, Spain, and Greece have all legally enshrined the right to Internet access. Most countries have not yet followed suit, though vigorous debate flourishes in many polities, including the United States.

If Internet access is a human right, or even recognized simply as being important for everyone to have, then how should it be ensured that everyone has access? Some suggest that governments have a duty to provide service through monopolies run by state companies.

This pro-government view is wrong-headed in the extreme. The truth is that the private sector should be allowed to provide these services; it is always the private sector, absent state bureaucracy, that provides the superior service.

The Disaster of State Monopoly

The imposition of a powerful state firm dominating the broadband market would serve to reduce the ability of private providers to compete. The greater resources of the state would be able to give it the power to dictate the market, making it less attractive to private investment. Creating a monopolistic provider would be very dangerous considering that this is a sector upon which much of future national development relies.

Crowding out private firms will make them less inclined to invest in new technologies, while the state provider is unlikely to fill the gap, as traditionally state utilities rely upon their power of incumbency and size rather than seeking novel services. An example of this is Eircom which, when it was the Irish state utility, provided broadband of a lower quality and at higher price than most private providers.

The end result of state dominance and reduction of private competitors is a loss of innovation, a loss of price competition, and an erosion of customer service.

Troublesome Servant, Fearful Master

Monopoly, or near-monopoly, power over broadband is far too great a tool to give to governments. States have a long history of abusing rules to curtail access to information and to limit freedom of speech. Domination of broadband effectively gives the state complete control of what information citizens can or cannot consume online.

If governments are the sole gatekeepers of knowledge, people may well be kept from information deemed against the “public interest.” It is harder for opponents of government regulations to voice their opinions online when they have no viable alternative to the state-controlled network.

The Internet is a place of almost limitless expression and it has empowered more people to take action to change their societies. That great tool of the people must be protected from any and all threats, and most particularly the state that could so profit from the curtailment of Internet freedom.

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA is America’s Other Enemy

Somewhat Reasonable - June 21, 2014, 9:54 AM

While our attention is focused on events in the Middle East, a domestic enemy of the nation is doing everything in its power to kill the provision of electricity to the nation and, at the same time, to control every drop of water in the United States, an attack on its agricultural sector. That enemy is the Environmental Protection Agency.

Like the rest of the Obama administration, it has no regard for real science and continues to reinterpret the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. It has an agenda that threatens every aspect of life in the nation.

As Craig Rucker, the Executive Director of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) recently warned, “True to her word,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, “is busily grabbing powers for EPA that Congress specifically chose not to grant, and that the Supreme Court has denied on multiple occasions.”

“The federal bureaucracy under the Obama presidency has a voracious appetite for more power. It despises individual liberty and drags down the economy every change it gets,” Rucker warns.

In addition to implementing President Obama’s “war on coal” that is depriving the nation of coal-fired plants that provide electricity, the EPA has announced a proposed rule titled “Definition of ‘Waters of the United States’ Under the Clean Water Act”, redefining, as Ron Arnold of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise reported in the Washington Examiner “nearly everything wet as ‘waters of the United States or WOTUS—and potentially subject us all to permits and fines.”

The President has made it clear that the rule of law has no importance to him and his administration and this is manifestly demonstrated by the actions of the EPA. “This abomination,” says Arnold, “is equivalent to invasion by hostile troops out to seize the jurisdictions of all 50 states. WOTUS gives untrustworthy federal bureaucrats custody of every  watershed, creates crushing new power to coerce all who keep America going and offers no benefit to the victimized and demoralized tax-paying public.”

In response to the EPA’s new power grab, more than 200 House members called on the Obama administration in May to drop its plans to expand the EPA’s jurisdiction over smaller bodies of water around the nation. A letter was sent to EPA Administrator McCarthy and Department of Army Secretary John M. McHugh (re: Army Corps of Engineers) asking that the proposal be withdrawn.

“Under this plan, there’d be no body of water in America—including mud puddles and canals—that wouldn’t be at risk from job-destroying federal regulation,” said Rep, Doc Hastings (R-Wash), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. “This dramatic expansion of federal government control will directly impact the livelihoods and viability of farmers and small businesses in rural America.”

Nearly thirty major trade associations have joined together to create the Waters Advocacy Coalition. They represent the nation’s construction, manufacturing, housing, real estate, mining, agricultural and energy sectors. The coalition supports S. 2245, “Preserve the Waters of the U.S. Act” which would prevent the EPA and Corps of Engineers from issuing their “Final Guidance on Identifying Waters Protected by the Clean Water Act.”

What has this nation come to if the Senate has to try to pass an act intended to prevent the EPA from extending control over the nation’s waters beyond the Clean Waters Act that identifies such control as limited to “navigable waters”? You can’t navigate a water ditch or a puddle!

There are acts that limit agencies such as the EPA from going beyond their designated powers. They are the Regulatory Flexibility Act and the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act.  The coalition says that the EPA and Corps “should not be allowed to use guidance to implement the largest expansion of Clean Water Act authority since it was enacted. Only Congress has the authority to make such a sweeping change.”

In two Supreme Court decisions, one in 2001 and another in 2006, rejected regulation of “isolated waters” by the EPA.

It does not matter to the EPA or the Obama administration what the Supreme Court has ruled Congress has enacted in the Clean Water Act, nor the Clean Air Act.

We are witnessing an EPA that is acting as a criminal enterprise and it must be stopped before it imposes so much damage on the nation that it destroys it.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Which States are Friendliest to Small Business?

Somewhat Reasonable - June 20, 2014, 10:10 AM

Regulations have a way of growing like weeds: unless they are rooted out, they spread. Regulatory compliance has always been a headache for small business owners who do not enjoy the cozy relationships with big government that large corporations often develop. In fact, they are frequently ignored by legislators both in Washington and in the states.

John Lieber, chief economist of Thumbtack, recently joined our Steve Stanek on the Heartland Daily Podcast for a talk on the business climate in America today. Thumbtack is an online marketplace that brings together service providers and consumers who can negotiate and organize jobs.

Every year, Thumbtack conducts a survey of its customers to develop a “small business friendliness” index detailing the friendliness of each state government toward entrepreneurs and small businesspeople. This year, the survey included nearly 13,000 small business operators who were asked questions on 11 different metrics. The findings are very interesting.

The top three friendliest states were found to be Utah, Idaho, and Texas. The three least friendly states were California, Rhode Island, and Illinois. While not an overly surprising result in itself, the breakdown of the metrics revealed some interesting results about what factors make business climates unfriendly. It turned out that the main culprit was the complexity and difficulty of a state’s licensing regulation. In fact, those surveyed said this factor was twice as important as the level of taxation. Describing the previous surveys, Lieber said that this focus on regulatory compliance was persistently the most serious factor for small business owners in their assessment of their state’s business friendliness.

The big issues in the public consciousness tend to concern taxation. Yet it is not taxation that is really killing small businesses; it’s all the red tape. This is a very interesting finding, one that could have some real implications for policy-makers. For many people, regulation is not really something they think about. Politicians and voters have to be confronted with the true cost of compliance with overcomplicated and expansive regulatory regimes.

The interesting fact is that states looking to make themselves more attractive to businesses can do so without necessarily reducing taxes. What really attracts small businesses is “a tax code that is easy to understand and easy to comply with.” That is not too tall an order, and it should be something politicians across the political spectrum can get behind.

Listen to the podcast in the player above.

Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.

Categories: On the Blog

FCC’s Netflix Internet Peering Inquiry – Top Ten Questions – Part 17 Netflix Series

Somewhat Reasonable - June 20, 2014, 9:53 AM
  1. Does Netflix have any responsibility to help provide its users the streaming service that they paid Netflix for by connecting with ISPs in the high quality manner that most all other content delivery networks do? In other words, why is Netflix such an outlier here?
  2. More specifically, when Netflix customers pay Netflix for its video streaming service, does Netflix have any responsibility to its paying streaming customers to plan, arrange, and pay for widely-available, competitive, Internet paid-peering or content-delivery-network arrangements that are most likely to ensure the highest-quality Netflix customer-streaming-experience, or is it everyone else’s legal responsibility on the Internet, but Netflix’, to ensure quality streaming to Netflix’ customers?
  3. Why is it the financial responsibility of ISPs to automatically and immediately compensate for the streaming-quality implications of Netflix’ business decisions to serve its customers over the least-costly Internet access path for Netflix at any given time, when Netflix knows full well that its cost-cutting delivery strategy necessarily has negative streaming-quality implications for its paying customers?
  4. What law or court decision requires or obligates ISPs to overbuild their network infrastructure to handle whatever amount of industry-leading downstream traffic Netflix chooses to route wherever it wants to, without warning, and without any financial arrangement to pay for their extraordinary capacity surges?
  5. Is Netflix operating and negotiating in good faith, and in a commercially-reasonable way, with the ISPs about which it is complaining?
  6. Is it “commercially reasonable” to expect in a business negotiation that business A must pay all of business B’s business costs so that business B can profit at the direct expense of business A?
  7. Since Netflix appears to be involved one way or another in most all of the peering disputes covered by the media, could Netflix, (with the market power that comes with being the nation’s largest generator of downstream traffic — 34% per Sandvine), have any obligation under the FCC’s 706 authority to be as transparent in its network management decisions and delivery-quality-assurance choices as ISPs are?
  8. If only one side of a potential peering dispute, the ISP, were to have an FCC obligation to be publicly transparent, but not the Nation’s largest Internet delivery network, doesn’t that transparency imbalance perversely incent Netflix to arbitrage and game the PR situation because the public can’t know the whole story?
  9. Why does Netflix demand the ISP delivery mechanism pay for the whole cost of delivering Netflix’ one-third of downstream Internet traffic, when Netflix has paid the U.S. Postal Service hundreds of millions of dollars to deliver its DVDs to many of the same customers?
  10. If Netflix and others can use unlimited amounts of bandwidth and not pay their fair share of the Internet’s infrastructure costs, what economic incentive would there be to upgrade the Internet’s infrastructure to keep pace with their exploding demand, if Internet infrastructure costs were to be completely divorced from Internet infrastructure prices?

***

Netflix Research Series

Part 1:  Level 3 & Net Neutrality – Ignorance Unleashed! [11-30-10]

Part 2:  Level 3-Netflix Expose their Hidden Agenda [12-3-10]

Part 3:  Sinking Level 3 Seeking FCC Internet Regulation Bailout [12-8-10]

Part 4:  Netflix’ Open Internet Entitlement Hubris [2-1-11]

Part 5:  Fact-Checking Netflix’ Net Neutrality WSJ Op-ed [7-8-11]

Part 6:  Netflix’ Glass House Temper Tantrum Over Broadband Usage Fees [7-26-11]

Part 7:  Netflix Crushes its Own Momentum [9-20-11]

Part 8:  Netflix the Unpredictable [10-10-11]

Part 9:  Is Netflix the AOL of Web Streaming? [3-9-12]

Part 10: Netflix’ Net Neutrality Corporate Welfare Plan [5-9-12]

Part 11: 5 BIG Implications from Court Signals on Net Neutrality – A Special Report [9-13-13]

Part 12: Video: Why FCC Title II Reclassification of Broadband is a Legal Non-Starter [9-22-13]

Part 13:  Is Net Neutrality Trying to Mutate into an Economic Entitlement? [1-12-14]

Part 14:  Exposing Netflix’ Extraordinary Net Neutrality Arbitrage [1-24-14]

Part 15: Net Neutrality is about Consumer Benefit Not Corporate Welfare for Netflix [3-21-14]

Part 16: Exposing Netflix’ Biggest Net Neutrality Deceptions [6-5-14]

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

Climate is for Kids

Somewhat Reasonable - June 20, 2014, 9:08 AM

This is a YouTube video showing exploitation of kids for climate change taking place in Canada.  Also displayed are a number of YouTube videos around the world showing the same exploitation taking place in other countries.

These movements may cause psychological damage to the young by giving them negative feelings about the future of the planet.  For all of history, human’s have benefited by the gifts from the planet, in particular energy sources, that have uplifted each generation after the other.  Bumps have occurred like WWI and WWII, but progress continued.  The environmental movement may reverse this process.

Categories: On the Blog

Flag Desecration: Protecting Free Expression Even When We Hate It

Somewhat Reasonable - June 19, 2014, 1:21 PM

Reverence and veneration of our national flag has long been profound in the United States, far more so than in other countries. Veneration of the Stars and Stripes has evolved beyond mere respect for it as a symbol of national identity, but as an almost religious emblem of American values and the American way of life.

That general reverence has led, over the years, to many state legislatures and the federal Congress passing legislation banning the desecration or burning of the flag. Such legislation generally follows similar language, effectively banning the desecration of the national flag in protests, or other acts of discontent. So far these bans have been struck down by the Supreme Court, which in 1989 described them as contrary to the principle of free speech. The last attempt at the national level was made in 2006, and popular support for such a ban remains high.

Proponents of a ban argue that the special symbolic value of the flag to the American people is such that it must be protected by law, and that the right to free speech does not extend to the desecration of the emblem of the nation. Yet that argument seems to curtail a form of free speech that could undermine the ability of people to protest the policies of the government.

A Visceral Action

There can be no doubt that the act of flag desecration is powerful. It causes anger, sadness, even shame in many patriotic citizens who recognize what it stands for and the sacrifices many brave men and women have made to keep it flying high.

Yet it is that very visceral quality that makes flag desecration such a potent, and important, expression of free speech or protest: it is an expression to which many people will respond.

Jarring statements grab attention, and can force attention onto an issue. A conventional protest can be overlooked, but images of a flag being burned immediately drag in media attention and start a commentary. While some of that commentary does inevitably center on the issue of flag desecration itself, it also brings focus to the cause.

When protesters are called to explain themselves, they get a chance to explain their views and promote their cause to a much wider audience than they might have been able to reach otherwise. For that reason, flag desecration can be very valuable for gaining attention, and if done thoughtfully, to generate meaningful discourse.

Patriotic Flag-Burning

Burning a flag may not be an act of “un-Americanism”, in the sense of opposing widely held principles emblematic of the United States, at all. The flag can be burned as an act of patriotism. When individuals feel the state is doing something contrary to the ideals of the nation, the ideals that the flag represent, burning the flag can be symbolic of the state’s non-adherence to the values it is meant to defend. The act of desecration thus serves to connect the cause of the protestor to the very ideals of the nation, and shows that it is central to the discourse of what the nation’s values are and how they should be maintained, rather than simply being the ancillary opinions of a few people that can simply be discarded.

It is also important that a free society be able to question its values and how they are realized. Banning something on the basis of majority opinion and their easily offended sensibilities is little more than a heckler’s charter. If views are banned simply because the majority disagrees with them, it is little more than the tyranny of the strong over the weak. The very reason there are checks and balances in our government is to prevent such tyranny. This is exactly why the Supreme Court has stood against the laws passed by the federal and state legislatures banning desecration of the flag; they protect the rights of citizens with a minority opinion from the majority seeking to take them away.

The Right to Say What Others Despise

For society to be free and democratic it must have provision for the expression of views contrary to the mainstream, even views directly oppositional to it. This must extend to the means by which we convey such messages. Public disgust is certainly not justification enough to deny the right to expression.

The exercise of a right can only justly be denied to someone when there is a direct harm to others by exercising that right. Some people may have a great sentimental attachment to the symbolic significance of the flag, but they should not expect the law to enforce their sentiments on everyone. The flag, like all symbols of beliefs and groups, is not inviolable, nor is anyone’s piece of mind or health so attached to its wellbeing that the desecration or defacing of it could cause any true harm.

Furthermore, the patriotism of individuals watching a flag burning is not affected by it. This view is upheld by the Supreme Court opinion in Texas v. Johnson, when the opinion argued that there could be no better response to a flag burning by someone opposed to such an action than waving their own flag or saluting and paying respect to the burning flag. People can thus show their opposition peacefully without infringing the right of a protestor to burn a flag.

Banning flag desecration on account of a sense of moral disgust, or of the threat to public order caused by angry counter-protestors, is the prohibition of an otherwise lawful act for the reason that others will commit crimes in response. Clearly, these are not justification for banning flag desecration.

The strength of a free society lies in its ability to tolerate opposing views, even those that are antithetical to the constitutional or civil laws as they stand. The protections we enjoy and jealously guard for ourselves only have meaning if we extend them to all citizens.

Categories: On the Blog

Fixing Our Dictatorial EPA

Somewhat Reasonable - June 19, 2014, 11:46 AM

Last year, Congress enacted 72 new laws and federal agencies promulgated 3,659 new rules, imposing $1.86 trillion in annual regulatory compliance costs on American businesses and families. It’s hardly surprising that America’s economy shrank by 1% the first quarter of 2014, our labor participation rate is a miserable 63% and real unemployment stands at 12-23% (and even worse for blacks and Hispanics).

It’s no wonder a recent Gallup poll found that 56% of respondents said the economy, unemployment and dissatisfaction with government are the most serious problems facing our nation – whereas only 3% said it is environmental issues, with climate change only a small segment of that.

So naturally, the Environmental Protection Agency issued another round of draconian restrictions on coal-fired power plants, once again targeting carbon dioxide emissions. EPA rules now effectively prevent the construction of new plants and require the closure of hundreds of older facilities. By 2030 the regulations will cost 224,000 jobs, force US consumers to pay $289 billion more for electricity, and lower disposable incomes for American households by $586 billion, the US Chamber of Commerce calculates.

The House of Representatives holds hearings and investigations, and drafts corrective legislation that the Harry Reid Senate immediately squelches. When questions or challenges arise, the courts defer to “agency discretion,” even when agencies ignore or rewrite statutory provisions. Our three co-equal branches of government have become an “Executive Branch trumps all” system – epitomized by EPA.

Some legal philosophers refer to this as “post-modernism.” President Obama’s constitutional law professor called it “the curvature of constitutional space.” A better term might be neo-colonialism – under which an uncompromising American ruler and his agents control citizens by executive fiat, to slash fossil fuel use, fundamentally transform our Constitution, economy and social structure, and redistribute wealth and political power to cronies, campaign contributors and voting blocs that keep them in power.

Even worse, in the case of climate change, this process is buttressed by secrecy, highly questionable research, contrived peer reviews, outright dishonesty, and an absence of accountability.

Fewer than half of Americans believe climate change is manmade or dangerous. Many know that China, Australia, Canada, India and even European countries are revising policies that have pummeled families, jobs, economies and industries with anti-hydrocarbon and renewable energy requirements. They understand that even eliminating coal and petroleum use in the United States will not lower atmospheric carbon dioxide levels or control a climate that has changed repeatedly throughout Earth’s history.

Mr. Obama and EPA chief Gina McCarthy are nevertheless determined to slash reliance on coal, even in 20 states that rely on this fuel for half to 95% of their electricity, potentially crippling their economies. The President has said electricity rates will “necessarily skyrocket,” coal companies will face bankruptcy, and if Congress does not act on climate change and cap-tax-and-trade, he will. Ms. McCarthy has similarly said she “didn’t go to Washington to sit around and wait for congressional action.”

However, they know “pollution” and “children’s health” resonate much better than “climate disruption” among voters. So now they mix their climate chaos rhetoric with assertions that shutting down coal-fired power plants will reduce asthma rates among children. It is a false, disingenuous argument.

Steadily improving air pollution controls have sent sulfur dioxide emissions from U.S. coal-fired power plants tumbling by more than 40% and particulate emissions (the alleged cause of asthma) by more than 90% since 1970, says air quality expert Joel Schwartz, even as coal use tripled. In fact, asthma rates have increased, while air pollution has declined – underscoring that asthma hospitalizations and outdoor air pollution are not related. The real causes of asthma are that young children live in tightly insulated homes, spend less time outdoors, don’t get exposed to enough allergens to reduce immune hyperactivity and allergic hypersensitivity, and get insufficient exercise to keep lungs robust, health experts explain.

But the American Lung Association backs up the White House and EPA claims – vigorously promoting the phony pollution/asthma link. However, EPA’s $24.7 million in grants to the ALA over the past 15 years should raise questions about the association’s credibility and integrity on climate and pollution.

EPA also channels vast sums to its “independent” Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which likewise rubberstamps the agency’s pollution claims and regulations: $180.8 million  to 15 CASAC members since 2000. Imagine the outrage and credibility gap if Big Oil gave that kind of money to scientists who question the “dangerous manmade climate change” mantra.

Moreover, even EPA’s illegal studies on humans have failed to show harmful effects from pollution levels the agency intends to impose. Other EPA rules are based on epidemiological data that the agency now says it cannot find. (Perhaps they fell into same black hole as Lois Lerner’s missing IRS emails.) EPA’s CO2 rulings are based on GIGO computer models that are fed simplistic assumptions about human impacts on Earth’s climate, and on cherry-picked analyses that are faulty and misleading.

In numerous instances, EPA’s actions completely ignore the harmful impacts that its regulations will have on the health and well-being of millions of Americans. EPA trumpets wildly exaggerated benefits its anti-fossil-fuel rules will supposedly bring but refuses to assess even obvious harm from unemployment, soaring energy costs and reduced family incomes. And now Mr. Obama wants another $2.5 billion for FY-2015 climate change models and “assessments” via EPA and the Global Change Research Program.

EPA’s actions routinely violate the Information Quality Act. The IQA is intended to ensure the quality, integrity, credibility and reliability of any science used by federal agencies to justify regulatory actions.  Office of Management and Budget guidelines require that agencies provide for full independent peer review of all “influential scientific information” used as the basis for regulations. The law and OMB guidelines also direct federal agencies to provide adequate administrative mechanisms for affected parties to review agency failures to respond to requests for correction or reconsideration of scientific information.

Those who control carbon control our lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards and life spans. It is essential that EPA’s climate and pollution data and analyses reflect the utmost in integrity, reliability, transparency and accountability. A closed circle of EPA and IPCC reviewers – accompanied by a massive taxpayer-funded public relations and propaganda campaign – must no longer be allowed to rubberstamp junk science that is used to justify federal diktats. Governors, state and federal legislators, attorneys general, and citizen and scientific groups must take action:

  • File FOIA and IQA legal actions, to gain access to all EPA and other government data, computer codes, climate models and studies use to justify pollution, climate and energy regulations;
  • Subject all such information to proper peer review by independent scientists, including the significant numbers of experts who are skeptical of alarmist pollution and climate change claims;
  • Demand that new members be appointed to CASAC and other peer review groups, and that they represent a broad spectrum of viewpoints, organizations and interests;
  • Scrutinize the $2.5 billion currently earmarked for the USGCRP and its programs, reduce the allocation to compel a slow-down in EPA’s excessive regulatory programs, and direct that a significant portion of that money support research into natural causes of climate change; and
  • Delay or suspend any implementation of EPA’s carbon dioxide and other regulations, until all questions are fully answered, and genuine evidence-based science is restored to the regulatory process – and used to evaluate the honesty and validity of studies used to justify the regulations.

Only in this manner can the United States expect to see a return to the essential separation of powers, checks and balances, economic and employment growth – and the quality, integrity, transparency and accountability that every American should expect in our government.

 

[Originally published at Townhall.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s Climate McCarthyism Demeans Presidential Office

Somewhat Reasonable - June 19, 2014, 11:20 AM

President Barack Obama demeaned the dignity of the presidency by ridiculing tens of thousands of scientists for simply disagreeing with his lay opinions on global warming. While the political left throws shrill temper tantrums against anybody who “disrespects” the Office of the Presidency by asking Barack Obama a challenging question (something they had no qualms about during the Bush administration), Obama himself is setting the applicable ground rules for disrespectful political discourse and climate McCarthyism.

At a commencement address Saturday at the University of California, Irvine, Obama encouraged students to heap scorn on Ph.D. scientists at some of the world’s most prestigious universities and scientific research institutions if they disagree with Obama’s global warming policies.

“When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it,” Obama said. “But nobody ignored the science. I don’t remember anyone saying the moon wasn’t there, or that it was made of cheese.”

President Obama is correct that no Ph.D. scientists – and likely no sane individuals – seriously argued that the moon was made of cheese or was merely an illusion. Does that analogy apply to the global warming debate?

Distinguished professors and scientific researchers on the staffs of Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, MIT, NASA, NOAA, etc., have published research and publicly expressed their findings that humans are not creating a global warming crisis. More than 30,000 scientists, including more than 16,000 with post-graduate science degrees and more than 9,000 with Ph.D.s, have taken the affirmative step of signing a petition summarizing such science. Almost certainly, tens of thousands more – and likely hundreds of thousands more – similarly agree but are unaware of the petition or haven’t taken the affirmative step to read it, review it, and submit their signatures.

As host of the Heartland Institute’s International Conference on Climate Change, which I host approximately once per year, I routinely have to turn away dozens upon dozens of highly qualified university science professors who have heard of the conference and hope to secure a speaking slot. With a limitless budget and time schedule, I could easily have hundreds of university science professors and thousands more professional scientists give presentations calling attention to the flaws in President Obama’s global warming alarmism.

Indeed, multiple surveys of professional meteorologists and climate scientists reveal that if a consensus on the issue exists at all, it is that whatever global warming is occurring is of mixed natural and human causation and does not justify the economy-killing prescriptions championed by self-serving politicians like Barack Obama.

To the limited extent global warming alarmists publicly debate the issue, their track record for success is about the same as that of China at soccer’s World Cup. For those who are skeptical, take a look at how one the global warming movement’s most visible advocates, Gavin Schmidt, fared the one time he participated in a public debate. After getting beaten so soundly that even he admitted it was a mistake to debate other scientists on the issue (and blamed his loss on one of his opponents being taller than him), is it any wonder he and his fellow alarmists avoid public debates the way John Edwards avoids National Enquirer reporters? Perhaps forgetting how badly Schmidt fared in his one-time debate, a Florida State University faculty member who was trained by Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project agreed to publicly debate me on the topic and fared just as miserably. Here is video of the debate that climate alarmists claim “is over.”

This brings us back to Obama’s attempt to vilify and ridicule scientists who disagree with his lay scientific conjecture. Perhaps it is true that ridicule and vilification are common, if regrettable, aspects of contemporary politics. Most Americans would hope that the President of the United States would not demean the office by engaging in such mean-spirited and sophomoric behavior, but we have also come to realize that politicians will be politicians, no matter how much power they have attained. But this isn’t about one ambitious politician smearing another ambitious politician. This is about the President of the United States – a non-scientist – making a grossly dishonest mischaracterization and analogy at the expense of expert scientists and then encouraging our nation’s best and brightest to shout down those scientists utilizing further dishonesty and McCarthyism to further political agendas. And the moment somebody questions the President about such reprehensible conduct – no matter how calmly the question is asked – the political left goes into conniptions about how appalling and reprehensible it is to disrespect the Office of the President of the United States in such a manner.

Sorry, Barack, but you have only yourself to blame for so pitifully demeaning the Office of the President.

[Originally published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Hell to the Redskins

Somewhat Reasonable - June 19, 2014, 11:07 AM

By a two-to-one vote, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a ruling that eliminates trademark registration for six current trademarks of the Washington Redskins NFL team (including for the “Redskinettes” cheerleaders).

Its argument is that the trademarks “were disparaging to Native Americans at the respective times they were registered.” It notes that its ruling does not prevent the team from using those words and symbols, but that it would prevent standard federal protections against others using them, including against companies, whether in a garage in D.C. or in factory in China, making unlicensed apparel and other items using the logos without paying a fee to the team or to the league.

The PTO refused all of the team’s defense arguments including laches — a legal term basically meaning that (due to equity concerns rather than something like a statute of limitations) the plaintiff waited too long to assert his/its claim. However, in a similar case in 1992 in which the PTO also revoked Redskins’ trademarks for nearly identical reasons, a federal court overturned the ruling based on laches, a decision that was eventually upheld after appeal and rehearing. The courts never addressed whether the trademarks themselves are disparaging to Native Americans, though the first court to hear the appeal ruled that the evidence to prove such a claim was insufficient.

The case was brought by five Native Americans of different tribes; the PTO’s decision does not specify the tribal affiliation of one of them, saying merely that she “testified that she is a Native American.” (Didn’t Elizabeth Warren do something similar?) That particular plaintiff’s testimony includes “that the use of the term REDSKIN is analogous to the term ‘n****r,’ and that people should not profit by dehumanizing Native Americans.” Others said they found the team name “disparaging” and “offensive.”

After a tedious analysis of whether the term “Redskin” is disparaging, including “expert reports” that say just what you’d expect them to say, the PTO references several letters to current and former Redskins’ owners, such as this gem to Edward Bennett Williams in 1972:

Since you continue not to believe that the term “Redskins” is not [sic] offensive to anyone, let me make this clear: The name “Redskins” is very offensive to me and shows little human interest or taste. I am a Comanche Indian from Oklahoma. Indians are having enough trouble trying to erase misconceptions about themselves without having to be hit in the face with it every day in the form of a football team or baseball team. If you think you are preserving our culture or your history, then may I suggest a change? To live up to your name, your team would field only two men to the opponents eleven. Your player’s wives would be required to face the men of the opposing team. After having lost every game in good faith, you would be required to remain in RFK stadium’s end zone for the rest of your life living off what the other teams had left you. (Which wouldn’t be much.) Since you would probably find this as distasteful as 300,000 Indians do, I would suggest a change in name. In sticking to your ethnic theme, I would suggest the Washington N*****s as a start.… This would start a fantastic trend in the league. We would soon be blessed with the San Fransisco [sic] Chinks, New York Jews, Dallas Wetbacks, Houston Greasers, and the Green Bay Crackers. Great, huh? Mr. Williams, these would be very offensive to many people, just as Redskins is offensive to myself and others. You can take a stand that would show you and the team as true believers in civil rights, or you can continue to carry a name that keeps alive a threatening stereotype to Indian people. People, Mr. Williams. We don’t want the Redskins!

The “findings of fact” include that starting in 1966, dictionaries began noting that the term “Redskin” is “offensive, disparaging, contemptuous or not preferred” as well as listing a litany of objections against the team name by Native American groups. The PTO also states that “at a minimum, approximately thirty percent of Native Americans found the term REDSKINS used in connection with respondent’s services to be disparaging…” and continues to note that the law “prohibits registration of matter that disparages a substantial composite, which need not be a majority, of the referenced group.” They add that even if views of the term change when used in the context of football, that does not change the underlying offensiveness to those who feel offended.

Returning to the question of why the PTO would assume that a court would treat this ruling any differently than it did last time, the PTO notes that the 2011 America Invents Act “changed the venue for appeals” from the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. Basically, they’re hoping that a new court will overturn the prior court’s ruling, and also hoping that something in the America Invents Act modifies the ability to use laches as a defense in the case. We’ll see. On one hand, courts do not love overturning precedent, especially when the second case is essentially identical to the first. On the other hand, this entire issue has become very political and, sadly, Chief Justice Roberts demonstrated that judges even at the highest levels can be influenced by what they read in the newspapers.

Administrative Trademark Judge Marc Bergsman dissented from the ruling noting that the case is not (or should not be) about “the controversy, currently playing out in the media, over whether the term ‘redskins’…is disparaging to Native Americans today.” (Emphasis in original.) Rather the test is whether the term was disparaging “at the time each of the challenged registrations issued. Bergman also noted that the evidence used by the plaintiffs in the current case was basically just a resubmission of the evidence of the prior case, with the addition of brief testimony of a few current plaintiffs who said they found the term “redskin” offensive.

The district court that first reviewed the original PTO cancellation of the trademarks more than a decade ago ruled that there was insufficient evidence to do so, and Bergman wonders how using the same evidence could now somehow be sufficient. In short, Bergman says that while the term “redskins” may have been disparaging when the trademarks were registered, “the evidence petitioners put forth fails to show that it was.” Bergman also notes that up to at least 1978, only two dictionaries referenced the term as offensive and “two does not make a trend.”

For now, Harry Reid is happy to have 2 minutes to talk about anything other than his absolute failure as a Senate leader and his president’s absolute failure as a leader of any sort. (Who can lead with such tempting putting greens available and when we have pressing issues to deal with like climate change — while the planet isn’t warming — and LBGT discrimination among federal contractors?)

In today’s increasingly lawless America, it is no easy prediction as to whether the PTO’s ruling will be upheld or overturned by the courts.

If the law restricts the issuance of trademarks that are deemed to be disparaging at the timeby a substantial part of a substantially large group of people, then if that disparagement test can be proven the trademarks should indeed be cancelled. That said, one would think that the PTO would have considered the question of disparagement at the times the trademarks were applied for and found that it was not sufficient to stop registration. The burden of proof must be on the petitioners and must be quite substantial, especially given the enormous economic interests at stake and the sizeable investments in marketing and branding made by the Washington Redskins.

The legal issue is quite different, however, from the question of whether the team shouldchange its name and the issue of American hypersensitivity to everything. There’s no right not to be offended, and political correctness is an acid being poured on civil discourse and good government. Additionally, nobody seriously looks at the use of the name “Redskins” for an NFL team and thinks of anything other than strength and tradition (even when the ’Skins aren’t very good). One would think that a reasonable part of a test of whether a term is offensive is whether those using the term mean it that way. For these reasons, I hope that the PTO’s ruling is overturned.

If the trademark cancellations are upheld by the courts, Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder might be forced, for financial reasons, to change the team’s name since the loss of license revenue (to himself and to the league) on a non-trademarked logo — sweatshirts and coffee mugs produced by pirate operations anywhere and sold as “official” gear without paying for the right to use the team name and related images — might be too expensive to tolerate (despite some suggestion that there may be other legal protections for the team’s use of those names and images).

While nothing would then be stopping anyone else from using the Redskins’ unprotected logos for their own purposes — perhaps even to tweak the PC police by using them for a new sports team — that’s not a particularly likely outcome.

Instead, if the PTO’s ruling stands, given the tendency of the forces of political correctness and “tolerance” to go too far, such as laws protecting workplace cross-dressing and allowing a boy who “believes” he’s a girl to use a school’s girls’ bathroom, one wonders whether every other Native American-referencing team name and logo — not only the many “Redskins“ around the country — will soon be under assault. And next will come any other corporate trademark that some “activist” wants to claim as offensive, to use as a punching bag to earn his own five minutes of fame.

For now, thinking like the trader that I am, perhaps a good investment would be a brand spanking new Washington Redskins jersey. It could soon be a collector’s item if the PC police, using a federal agency and spurred on by Democrats in Congress (much like the IRS Scandal), can end more than 80 years of Washington Redskins history.

Hail to the Redskins!

 

[Originally published at The American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Author Calls for Obama Impeachment

Somewhat Reasonable - June 19, 2014, 11:02 AM

Recently author Andrew McCarthy has been a guest on various Fox News shows, in addition to many appearances throughout the country promoting his new book, Faithless Execution,  At each event McCarthy weighs the political dynamics as he builds an impeachment case through assembling a litany of abuses that add up to one overreaching offense by the President, specifically, his willful violation of his solemn oath to execute the laws faithfully.

It is McCarthy’s contention that our elected representatives are duty-bound to take up the dare. This, however, is much easier said than done. The “why” will be covered later on.

The Heartland Institute had an overwhelming response to its noon time Author Series event that featured  McCarthy on Thursday, June 12 at The Heartland Institute library, One South Wacker Drive, Suite 2740 in Chicago.

McCarthy, as a nationally acclaimed author, is a prominent voice on security issues, specifically the threat of radical Islam in America. His books include: “The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America” and “Willful Blindness: A Memoir of the jihad.” At the present time McCarthy is a senior fellow at the Foundation of Defense for Democracies and a columnist for the National Review. Previously he was the Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District in New York. Most famously McCarthy was the lead prosecutor in the trial against Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman and 11 other terrorists involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombings.

When writing Faithless Execution, McCarthy admitted there came a time when he had to finish writing about Obama’s abuses of power. Summarily, McCarthy found himself a few events behind by the time the book was published. McCarthy was especially taken aback by the Obama administration’s failure to abide by the National Defense Security Act which mandates a 30-day notification period to members of Congress before Gitmo prisoners can be released. Because of the failure to notify Congress about the details of the prisoner swap of five dangerous Gitmo terrorists in exchange for Sergeant Bengdahl, this usurping of congressional authority is gaining more traction than have previous infractions of the law, most likely due to bipartisan anger over the reckless exchange.

Violation of Presidential Oath

Why is the willful flouting of the law by President Obama so egregious and dangerous to this nation?  It should be evident that unchecked power in a single chief executive poses a serious threat to liberty.  Andrew McCarthy doesn’t take lightly, nor did he forget candidate Barack Obama’s promise back in October, 2008, when during a campaign rally Obama remarked that he was only “five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America

Time and again President Obama has blatantly elected not to follow the oath of office of the President of the United States, which is simple and concise and reads:

“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Instead of living up to that oath, President Obama has actively attempted to subvert, ignore, and completely destroy large parts of the Constitution.  It is all together reasonable to conclude that President Barack Obama is well aware of what he is doing and that his actions are completely intentional.  A further thought, just why shouldn’t Obama continue with his lawlessness?

So far the main stream media has given President Obama a free pass.  Furthermore, Obama’s past history places him as a devotee of Alinsky and his “Rules for Radicals” in his work in the 80′s as a community organizer in Chicago.  Rule No. 8 of Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” is definitely in play when considering Obama’s lawful actions and behavior as president.

Rule No. 8:  Keep the pressure on. Never let up. Keep trying new things to keep the opposition off balance. As the opposition masters one approach, hit them from the flank with something new. (Attack, attack, attack from all sides, never giving the reeling organization a chance to rest, regroup, recover and re-strategize.) 

As suggested in Alinsky’s Rule No. 8, hit the public with one event after another to cause confusion.  Obama’s transgressions against the Constitution happen with such regularity, often with little daylight between them for reflection, that the American people have become overwhelmed and somewhat inoculated as to how to react when one lawless act follows another with little time elapsing to understand the previous one.  It doesn’t help that the public has such a short attention span, or that Obama is able to so masterfully divert blame from himself to another person or entity.

Impeachment as an option

As set forth by McCarthy, the Framers of our Constitution, because of concern over how placement of power in a single chief executive could lead to a rogue executive, vested in Congress two ways to deal with presidential excess:  1) Power of the purse, whose responsibility the current Republican-led House of Representatives has, for all practical purposes abdicated and 2) the power of impeachment.  These stand alone to check the president.   There are no other ways.

At the federal levelArticle II of the United States Constitution (Section 4) states that “The PresidentVice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of,TreasonBribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeaching, while the United States Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments.  Most of the framers knew the phrase “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” well. Since 1386 the English parliament had used “high crimes and misdemeanors” as one of the grounds to impeach officials of the crown

McCarthy believes that President Obama has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” through his abuse of power as a holder of high public trust.   Because of numerous infractions, Obama’s rampant lawlessness poses a systematic threat to our constitutional order, thereby making the case that Obama is unfit to continue in his role as president.  In comparing the campaigns to impeach President Nixon and Clinton to the call for President Obama’s impeachment, McCarthy describes Obama’s behavior as president “a willful, systematic attack on the constitutional system of separation of powers, an enterprise that aims to bring about a new regime of government by executive decree.”  In comparison, he Nixon and Clinton episodes involved misconduct that did not aim to undermine our constitutional framework.

Impeachable offenses cited by McCarthy

In Part 2 of “Faithless Execution” Andrew McCarthy builds the political case for President Obama’s impeachment by setting forth the broad range of his high crimes and misdemeanors and willful subversion of the Constitution by factoring in seven articles of impeachment:

1.  Refusal to Execute Laws Faithfully.

2.  Usurping Constitutional Authority.

3.  Dereliction of Duty as Commander in Chief.

4.  Fraud on the American People.

5.  Failure to Execute Laws Faithfully:  Immigration.

6.  Failure to Execute Laws Faithfully:  Department of Justice.

7.  Undermining the Constitutional Rights of the American People.

Impeachable offenses that fit under the above seven categories

  • McCarthy cites the implementation of ObamaCare as one key aspect of a potential impeachment effort.  McCarthy asserts that Obama committed fraud on the American people by deliberately misleading voters in regard to his healthcare intention, which Obama continues to change at will whenever it suits him politically.
  • The botched gun-walking operation arming Mexican criminals is another scandal McCarthy believes rises to a level that meets potential impeachment proceedings.  According to McCarthy, Obama engaged in “systematic politicization of a Department of Justice that has covered up the Fast & Furious scandal.”
  • Through the appointment of a U.S. House select committee to investigate the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, attempts are still being made to find out what happened the night of 9/11/2012.  The failure to provide adequate security was described by McCarthy as a “dereliction of duty” by Obama as commander in chief.  This was followed by the fraud of the video, rather than Islamic Supremacists, as the suggested entity responsible for the Benghazi massacre deaths of U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others killed in a night of violence.
  • The president and his subordinates involved this nation in an unauthorized war in Libya that empowered jihadist enemies of the United States.  Furthermore, the purpose of the war was spun as an attempt to protect civilians, pursuant to a United Nations resolution, when the  real purpose was to overthrow the Libyan regime of Muammar Qaddafi, a government that had previously been portrayed as a key counterterrorism ally of the U.S.
  • The selective targeting of political opponents for harassment and abuse by the IRS occurred when Lois Lerner, who ran the Exempt Organizations division of the IRS, subjected Republican and conservative groups to heightened scrutiny.  McCarthy thought Lois Lerner should have been given immunity and is doubtful she will be prosecuted.  The latest wrinkle in the IRS scandal took place when it was recently reported that two years of e-mails had gone missing during a period when tea party groups were being targeted.   Sounds much like the dog ate my homework!
  • Obama’s immigration amnesty by executive edict is now indirectly responsible for the flood of children crossing the southern border from Guatemala and Honduras.  Acting over the authority of the Department of Homeland Security, Obama has conferred administrative amnesty on categories of illegal immigrants which he has unilaterally defined, undermining federal immigration laws and the constitutional authority of Congress to enact immigration law.
  • The American people were defrauded, including investors in the public securities exchanges, when President Obama and his subordinates willingly subsidized Solyndra with over half a billion taxpayer dollars despite obvious indication that the venture was not viable and would collapse.

Political trumps legality

Andrew McCarthy’s closing thoughts were somewhat sober in nature when he recounted why the impeachment of Obama, although warranted, would not help conservatives, Republicans or any elected official or individual who seeks to defend this nation’s constitutional framework.  Noted was how the case for impeachment is not the same as moving forward with articles of impeachment, although legally speaking a president may be impeached for a single offense that qualifies as “high crimes and misdemeanors,” whether it includes a breach of the profound pubic trust vested in the president, or a violation of his constitutional duty to execute the laws faithfully.

Real impeachment can only occur if there is a public will to remove the president from office.  Even with a thousand impeachable offenses, impeachment is not an appropriate remedy absent a political consensus.  This said, all Americans should be concerned regardless of political affiliation.  Why is this so?  The lawlessness President Obama is getting away with today will be available to every future president unless checked.

McCarthy proposed in his book and during his talk what amounts to a concerted effort to change the political environment by bringing the issue of lawlessness front-and-center in public discourse. Through changing the political environment, mused McCarthy, Obama could be pushed to execute the laws faithfully through actions that fall within the bounds of the Constitution.  Given Obama’s leftist political philosophy and his determination to build his progressive legacy through fundamentally changing this nation, aided by the backing and financial support of George Soros and others, McCarthy’s musings seem little more than a pipe dream.

The only way to build a political case for impeachment it to make it clear to the American people that all have a stake in what happens to this nation, not only as it pertains to their present lives, but also how future generations will fare through Obama’s misguided policies of today.

Minus the public firmly on the side of impeachment, President Obama’s reckless abandonment of lawlessness and breaches of public trust will continue unchecked, assuring that both this nation and its people will reap little of substance.  Instead, mostly grief and a loss of liberty and freedom will result from the bitter seeds of progressive socialism Obama is sowing and will continue to sow throughout the remainder of his presidency if there is no outcry from the public otherwise.

Save this date:  Stephen Moore, Chief Economist with the Heritage Foundation, will give a dinner lecture on Thursday, July 17, at The Heartland Institute headquarters in Chicago at One South Wacker Drive, #2740.  He will speak about his new book:  “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of States.”

Also of note is that from July 7-9, The Heartland Institute will be holding its 9th International Conference on Climate Change in Las Vegas, Nevada.

For more information and to register for events, call 312/377-4000, or visit heartland.org.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Understanding Bitcoin’s True Potential

Somewhat Reasonable - June 19, 2014, 10:13 AM

Bitcoin has seen remarkable success over the past year. More and more people have been using it, and more and more businesses have become willing to accept it as a payment method. As the first widespread cryptocurrency, many people in all walks of life have been paying rapt attention to the young enterprise.

It is thus fitting that Bitcoin was the subject of a recent Heartland Daily Podcast, featuring Bret Swanson, president of Entropy Economics. Swanson shared several of his insights into the potential advantages and problems of Bitcoin.

Swanson characterizes Bitcoin as “a platform for distributed trust.” In other words, the Bitcoin platform, more than just a cryptocurrency management system, serves as a mechanism for the broader establishment of trust between parties in an online peer-to-peer environment that have never met physically.

Swanson explains that the “blocked chain” program in the Bitcoin platform “stores all the transactions that have ever been made.” This is necessary in the trading of bitcoins, because it is the mechanism that prevents their duplication (ie. Counterfeiting). To Swanson, the blocked chain is even more valuable in its broader application as a means of authenticating the identity of another party in a transaction or interaction online.

The blocked chain system is a very important innovation for online commerce as it is a mechanism by which parties can establish trust, an expectation in most sophisticated financial and commercial interactions. Swanson perceives the Bitcoin platform as a way to bring banking and currency into alignmnet with the altered nature and demands of a more digital world.

While Swanson is very enthusiastic about the Bitcoin platform, he has serious, and understandable, reservations about Bitcoin as a replacement currency to more conventional, state-backed currencies. While he acknowledges that there is a certain romance and libertarian impetus to develop an economic arena outside of the clutches of governments, he points out that the Bitcoin market is very volatile, which has made economists across the ideological spectrum quite wary. He is also skeptical of the ability of Bitcoin and its ilk to remain unregulated, especially if it becomes a preferred platform for illicit transactions.

The simple fact is that currency’s worth is in its function as a store of value. The inherent volatility of Bitcoin does not lend itself to this function. While merchants may be willing to trade in it, it has more characteristics of a risky investment than of a true currency. It is also a risky currency because it could simply be superceded by another, better cryptocurrency. The advent of such a competitor could weaken the value of Bitcoin currency, or even wipe it out.

Swanson is right to view Bitcoin with a raised eyebrow. So long as the system is so volatile, people would be better off simply holding cash, or maybe gold, if they want to protect the value of their savings. Bitcoin is exciting, but people should not be blinded by the excitement. That’s how people lose money in a market.

Categories: On the Blog

Sea Levels are Never Still

Somewhat Reasonable - June 19, 2014, 9:34 AM

Sea levels have been rising and falling without any help from humans for as long as Earth’s oceans have existed.

The fastest and most alarming sea changes to affect mankind occurred at the end of the Pleistocene Ice Age. Seas rose about 130m about 12,000 years ago, at times rising at five metres per century. Sea levels then fell as ice sheet and glaciers grew in the recent Little Ice Age – some Roman ports used during the Roman Warm Era are now far from the sea even though sea levels have recovered somewhat during the Modern Warm Era.

Many natural factors cause sea levels to rise – melting of land-based glaciers and ice sheets; warming and expansion in volume of the oceans; extraction of groundwater which ends up in the oceans; and sediments, sewerage, plant debris and volcanic ash washed into the oceans by rivers, storms and glaciers. In addition, tectonic forces cause some blocks of land to rise while others fall, hence the paradox of sea levels appearing to rise on one coastline while falling on another.

Currently the world’s oceans are rising at about 1mm per year, which has not changed much with the great industrialization since 1945. Amongst all the factors moving the restless sea, man’s production of carbon dioxide is obviously an insignificant player.

Sea levels are always changing, at times very destructively. Waves move sea levels by a few metres and at places like Derby, WA, king tides can move sea levels by eleven metres. Then there are rogue waves up to 30 metres high which have sunk oil tankers, and tsunamis which can smash coastlines with a ten metre wall of water moving at over 800 km per hour.

Despite coping with all of the above, climate alarmists say we should be scared to death by the threat of seas rising gently at 1mm PER YEAR. Even a slow-moving sloth could escape water rising at that rate.

King Canute showed his nobles that no man can hold back the rising sea. It’s time the climate alarmists learned Canute’s lesson and focused on real world problems.

Even if we ceased using all carbon fuels for electricity and transport, no one could measure the effect of that huge sacrifice on global sea levels.

Categories: On the Blog

The Danger of Big Data and the Progressive Plot for Education

Somewhat Reasonable - June 18, 2014, 3:14 PM

Click image above to see original source.

With the federal government’s increasing involvement in education, advocates of this national education system claim gathering immense amounts of data is necessary for the system to properly function. This data is more than simple aggregate of test scores, but rather it is personal information about individual students, including their values and facts about their family life.

Through the implementation of the Common Core State Standards Initiative and the increasing use of technology in the classroom, the federal government has a greater capability to access individual students’ personal information. Additionally, with vast amounts of data being released and collected in comprehensive data banks, the chance that this personal information will be hacked is greatly heightened.

In addition to merely gathering overall performance standards, the government, through state and the federal education departments, desires to collect information regarding the student’s values, religion, family status, and attitudes. The purpose of collecting these types of facts is for “correcting” these alleged prejudices that parents pass on to their children.

In the Pioneer Institute study “Cogs in the Machine,” Emmett McGroarty, Joy Pullmann, and Jane Robbins argue that the government has no right to collect this massive amount of student data. Individuals have a right to their own personal information, and it should be protected as personal property. When the state desires to seize private property, it must provide a reason. In the same way, the government should provide reasons why it needs individual student data, who will be able to see this information, and for what purpose it will be used.

As the authors articulate, this data-amassing scheme dates back to the ideas of Progressives like John Dewey. Progressives believed (and still believe) that government need not be limited by the principle of individual autonomy. The Constitution, they claimed, was outdated and no longer applicable to modern society. This view maintains that the government and “experts” know better than individuals how to solve modern-day issues. Because of this superior knowledge, these experts need access to large amounts of data, including personal information, to form solutions to modern problems.

John Dewey, the famous social engineer, desired to use education as a means to liberate children from their parents’ values and the biases of religion and tradition. In his eyes, the goal of education was to quash individualism and create Progressive citizens, reliant on the government.

Later Progressives, such as Marc Tucker continued this trend in education citing the necessity of gathering data so that experts can use this information to form education in such a way that is beneficial to society. In Tucker’s view, schools exist to serve the economy and produce the kind of workers, with specific skill sets, that the economy requires. Under this model, the purpose of education is no longer to produce learned individuals capable of discerning their own career paths.

Tucker advocated implementing national standards, created by a board that forms the standards based on skills needed for particular jobs. Children would receive admittance into postsecondary education if they met the criteria and developed the skills dictated by the standards. Labor market boards would post all jobs, public and private, that the students with specific skill sets could earn. In Tucker’s system, the purpose of individuals is to serve the economy, and the economy does not exist to serve the individual. The purpose of this type of education is to create workers to drive the economy instead of to create free citizens. This shift is manifested in the Common Core, which follows the system Tucker supports.

This view of education promotes Outcome Based Learning; however, it is not based on the knowledge that students obtain but rather the attitudes they form. Progressives use “transformational” outcome based learning to engineer students into the types of workers, with the right attitudes, they deem necessary for society. Data collection is part of the Progressive master plan for government to control society through education by transforming students into human capital to fuel the economy.

This view of education fundamentally alters what America is and has always been—a free nation created by the people and for the people. This country was built on the power of the free individual, capable of flourishing into a respectable citizen and choosing what type of job serves him. The government and the economy are created by and for the use of the people; the people do not exist to serve the government.

To read the full study, please click here.

Categories: On the Blog

Obama Talks Climate Change While Iraq Implodes

Somewhat Reasonable - June 18, 2014, 1:07 PM

It is depressing beyond words that we will have to endure two and a half more years of an endless stream of lies about climate change from President Obama.

On June 14 he gave a commencement speech to graduates of the University of California at Irvine, using it to tell Big Fat Lies, not the least of which was that the Earth’s temperatures were rising when in fact they have been falling for nearly eighteen years.

It is an endless source of wonder to me that no part of the mainstream media disputes him when he says things like this. For years now they have been reporting the evidence of increasingly cold weather worldwide.

On the same day the President was lying about warming, eight inches of snow fell in Rize, Turkey. It has fallen as well in South Africa, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia while closer to home snow fell on several cities in Idaho with cold freezes extending into Oregon. In June!

Obama used the speech to demand that politicians take steps to acknowledge climate change which used to be called global warming until it became undeniable to everyone except the charlatans lining their pockets with utterly bogus “research” that underwrites the source of the lies, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Obama continues to listen to his White House advisor, Dr. John Holdren, whose contempt for the human race is such he would happily see large parts of it disappear. In February, Holdren told reporters that all weather is impacted by climate change, but that is what climate change has done for 4.5 billion years. Not mentioned was that climate cycles are measured in centuries while weather is a short-term event. The most recent mini-ice age lasted from 1300 to 1850.

Holdren alluded to droughts affecting parts of the nation, claiming they were getting longer and drying. Two leading climate scientists, former NASA scientist Dr. Roy Spencer and University of Colorado climate scientists, Roger Pielke, Jr, called Holdren’s assertions “pseudo-science rambling.” “The idea that any of the weather we are seeing is in any significant way due to humanity’s greenhouse gas emissions verges on irrationality,” said Spencer. Pielke called Holdren’s assertions “zombie science.”

While Holdren is warning about droughts that could cause famines, James M. Taylor, the managing editor of the Heartland Institute’s monthly, Environment & Climate News, took aim at the IPCC claims, noting that U.S. and global crop production, especially the most important staple food crops, corn, rice, and wheat, “have more than tripled since 1970. During the past few years, the United States has set crop production records for alfalfa, cotton, beans, sugar beets, sweet potatoes, canola, corn, flaxseed, hops, rice sorghum, soybeans, sunflowers, peanuts and wheat, to name just a few.”

The worst part of Obama’s lies about the so-called “greenhouse gases” that we’ve been told for decades are warming the Earth is the way those lies are translated into government policies. The Obama administration, via the Environmental Protection Agency, has launched a war on coal-fired plants that produce 40% of the nation’s electricity claiming that their emissions such as carbon dioxide (CO2) are causing a warming that is not happening. What is happening is a deliberate effort to drive up the cost of electricity for everyone.

America runs on electricity and 68% of it is generated by fossil fuels, 20% by nuclear, and 7% by hydropower. So called “clean energy”, wind and solar, provides about 4% at far higher costs than the others and exists largely due to government subsidies and mandates.

Claims about increased severe storms, heat waves, and hurricanes simply have no basis in fact. In recent years there has been a record low in the numbers of tornadoes, hurricanes, no change in the rise of sea levels, but record gains in Arctic and Antarctic ice. None of this is reported by the mainstream media.

Yet Obama told graduates that rising temperatures and sea levels, as well as intensifying storm patterns represent “one of the most significant long-term challenges that our country and our planet face.” He said this even though his administration’s recent National Climate Assessment acknowledged that “There has been no universal trend in the overall extent of drought across the continental U.S. since 1900.” The report, however, is being used to justify carbon-related regulations.

While the world’s attention is on one of the greatest threats facing it, the takeover of northern Iraq by a barbaric Islamist group—one from which even al Qaeda disassociated itself—Obama is talking about non-existent climate threats to further policies that kill jobs in the U.S. and harm its struggling recovery of our economy.

While the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) seeks to expand its control of a major portion of the Middle East, Obama thought it was more important to lie about the climate to college graduates.

How much more damage Obama can inflict on the economy between now and the end of his second term in office is unknown, but what we do know is that his priorities, based on scare-mongering speeches about the climate will continue until he leaves office.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Interactive Map Reveals the True Cost of Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - June 18, 2014, 12:06 PM

Today, the Manhattan Institute re-released its Obamacare Interactive Map. The map is one of the most comprehensive and useful tools for people looking to determine how Obamacare will affect their healthcare premiums. Presenting data by county, individuals can see just how costly the “affordable” care act is going to be.

Taking the map as a whole reveals a very disconcerting trend in the cost of healthcare in the wake of the Obamacare roll-out. From the data presented, just 12 states enjoy a net reduction in healthcare costs. The rest see increases of varying degrees. While most states are experiencing very significant increases to their citizens’ average premium payments, nine states face astonishing average increases of more than 80 percent!

That’s a far cry from the promises Obama has been making for years. The drastic failure of Obamacare is revealed in cold, hard evaluation of the numbers. The government can fudge its presentation all it wants, but the raw data must eventually reveal itself. That is what is happening now, and the results are staggering.

Perhaps most disconcerting is that the states enjoying reductions in their average premiums tend to be among the wealthiest in the union. New York, to take one example, is seeing a 45 percent reduction in average premiums across all age groups. Meanwhile, Kentucky has seen a comparable increase in average premiums across the board.

The idea that Obamacare would provide for the most vulnerable while keeping rates affordable for the majority has proven to be a cruel joke. As healthcare premiums continue to grow under the weight of Obamacare regulation, more and more people will find they can no longer afford their plans, thus perpetuating a vicious cycle of government dependency.

Obamacare is the perfect example of a government run amok. It was an ill-thought out policy with so many moving parts that it was impossible to determine what its actual impact would be before it was implemented. Years after the passage of the original legislation, commentators were still debating what sort of impact it would have. Now we know.

The Affordable Care Act is a trick played on the American people. Citizens everywhere need to view this map and understand the true cost they will be facing because of it. Unless we take action now, Obamacare will continue on its path of social and economic destruction.

Categories: On the Blog

Time to Move a Clean, Permanent Internet Tax Moratorium

Somewhat Reasonable - June 18, 2014, 11:26 AM

This morning the House Judiciary Committee will undertake the markup of the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act.  The Act would protect consumers from the increased costs in accessing and using the Internet by permanently extending the moratorium on Internet access taxes, and would prevent multiple and discriminatory taxation of Internet sales.

The legislation already boasts deep bipartisan support with 138 Republican and 76 Democrat co-sponsors. That’s 214 members of the House supporting it, and rumors of more to join soon would bring the total to more than 50 percent. The Senate version of the bill has 50 co-sponsors. So, there is already enough support for a permanent moratorium that doesn’t add extraneous elements that could cause the moratorium to fail.

The legislation also enjoys broad support of thought leaders and citizens, as was made clear in an April letter to Congress. But time to pass the measure is of the essence since the moratorium will expire on November 1 of this year. If allowed to expire, states would begin to collect taxes on Internet access, or apply other discriminatory taxes that may already be in place but which have been held at bay during the moratorium.

Scott Mackey, former chief economist for the National Conference of State Legislatures and currently a consultant to the wireless industry, has estimated that an average household’s taxes would increase by $50 to $75 a year if states decide to apply their sales or telecommunications taxes to Internet access. While that doesn’t seem like much, keep in mind that that’s about what a low-income family spends in a year on subsidized school lunches. Those who qualify for such programs are exactly those who will be most negatively affected by a lapsed moratorium.

Businesses also lose money when Congress doesn’t send a clear message. If Congress dallies—and history has proven that Congress rarely acts in time—telecommunications providers would need to prepare to collect the new taxes. That effort would be a waste of time and resources if Congress were to ride to the rescue at the last minute—a result of the cavalier attitude by government. Less economic growth and fewer jobs are the result.

Hopefully, the next step on the right path will be taken today with the House Judiciary Committee deciding that the moratorium must continue and refraining from introducing other issues designed to intentionally impede its ultimate passage in the House.

Hopefully, the next step on the right path will be taken today with the House Judiciary Committee deciding that the moratorium must continue and refraining from introducing other issues  which will end its progress  in the House.

 

[Originally published by the Institute for Policy Innovation]

Categories: On the Blog

Saving the American Dream

Somewhat Reasonable - June 17, 2014, 5:39 PM

The American Dream is one of the driving concepts in our country’s national story, one that occupies a special place in the national discourse. It is a sort of national ethos, born out of various statements of the Founding Fathers, particularly Thomas Jefferson’s in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Those words have meant different things to different people, but at their most basic level they all expound the ethos that opportunity for success and hard work will lead to upward personal social mobility, irrespective of racial, religious, or economic background. Yet the Dream is in trouble today.

The political left has been waging war on the idea of the American Dream. They sound off on income inequality and supposed lack of social mobility, arguing that the promise of the American Dream is an empty one. They cite data such as Pew Research’s finding that income inequality has been growing in America since the 1970s. Taken in a vacuum, such a finding would be worrying indeed. But could there be another explanation?

One credible explanation is that a foul mixture of unaffordable social programs and an overly expansive government tax regime has “produced a country of government addicts with an entitlement mentality. These twin maladies have eroded self-reliance, individual initiative and personal accountability.”

Basically, inequality is the product of people becoming “addicted” to government largesse and who become unwilling to work hard, while those who still strive and embrace the promise of the American Dream can still reach the heady heights of opportunity. Rather than worry about income inequality per se, what we should focus on is a policy that “encourages saving and wealth creation, so families can be more independent, more economically secure, and more able to pass that security on to their children.”

The left does not want to promote saving and social mobility. Instead, it favors policies that keep citizens as effective clients of their government charity. That is not the way to promote a healthy, independent citizenry. It is the way to create a nation of serfs.

The problem with a dream is that it is a fragile thing. A niggling doubt or germ of disbelief can sweep it into the wind. Americans began to question the promise of the American Dream during the last great economic downturn in the 1930s: “The Great Depression damaged the self-confidence of the young, and that is beginning to happen now, according to pollsters, sociologists and economists.”

The problem today, however, is even more intractable. America came out of the Great Depression and World War II with a rapidly growing economy and a dominant position in global commerce undreamt of in all of human history. From that tremendous advantage, the American Dream was able to gain a new lease on life.

Today, America’s economic dominance is swiftly being eroded by new rivals in the developing world. Added to that are the troubles of growing debt and an aging population. It is no wonder that faith in the American Dream is fading. That is a terrifying and tragic prospect. It has always been America’s boundless optimism and daring to take risks to achieve greatness that have made it such an exceptional country. Losing the Dream might also cause the loss of that vital dynamism.

To revitalize the American Dream, proponents of liberty must sell it. They need to reclaim the romance that made the Dream such a powerful force in the American psyche. The only way to do that is to promote self-reliance, not dependency.

It will only be through convincing the public that the Dream we cherish can be saved. For the sake of America, and for the sake of the flame of liberty and prosperity, we must succeed in saving the American Dream from oblivion.

Categories: On the Blog
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