On the Blog

Food Prices Are Soaring And Washington Doesn’t Care

Somewhat Reasonable - July 12, 2014, 1:26 PM

Today’s economy is driven by Washington in more than just determining the location of Maserati dealerships. We see the ramifications of current government policies in numerous obvious ways. Make full-time employment more expensive with required benefits, and suddenly there are more part-time jobs; provide ample benefits and low eligibility standards for defining disabled workers, and suddenly there are more long-term unemployed going on SSDI; keep interest rates at zero, and suddenly there are more elderly workers; end unemployment insurance, and suddenly you see people accepting jobs they were reluctant to take; and as we’ve seen at the state and local level, raise the minimum wage, and suddenly teens are struggling to find work.

In all the debates over these policies, interested parties go back and forth over how and when to use the knobs and levers of government to achieve certain ends, concerning mobility and inequality and job growth and a host of other goals. But lost in these debates over statistics and trendlines are the ramifications of government policy when it comes to the (less politically sexy) burdens faced by most middle and working class Americans. In these arenas, policy debates are almost completely divorced from the experiences of most Americans – particularly on the right, where Republicans talk over and over again about the burdens of taxes without addressing the costs of energy, food, and health care, all of which are squeezing household budgets.

We have a perfect example of this within the current debate over rising food prices, where a bunch of policy elites are currently debating the question: when is food inflation real?

U.S. food prices are on the rise, raising a sensitive question: When the cost of a hamburger patty soars, does it count as inflation? It does to everyone who eats and especially poorer Americans, whose food costs absorb a larger portion of their income. But central bankers take a more nuanced view. They sometimes look past food-price increases that appear temporary or isolated while trying to control broad and long-term inflation trends, not blips that might soon reverse…

The consumer price of ground beef in May rose 10.4% from a year earlier while pork chop prices climbed 12.7%. The price of fresh fruit rose 7.3% and oranges 17.1%. But prices for cereals and bakery products were up just 0.1% and vegetable prices inched up only 0.5%. The U.S. Department of Agriculture predicts overall food prices will increase 2.5% to 3.5% this year after rising 1.4% in 2013, as measured by the Labor Department’s consumer-price index. In a typical supermarket, shoppers are seeing higher prices around the store’s periphery, in the produce section and at the meat counter.

Now, a rational person might conclude that measuring food inflation without counting meat, fruit, and vegetables is like measuring the unemployment rate without counting men. Here are the increases in a number of food costs, as well as the average hourly earnings, since the end of the recession (June 2009) through May 2014.

Ouch. The increases since June 2009 are: Beef and veal: +35.2%, Pork: +27%, Fish and seafood: +20.1%, Eggs: +33.1%, Dairy: +16.1%, Fresh Fruits: +13.8%. At the same time, Average Hourly Earnings have increased by 10.1%.

So why aren’t politicians talking about this? It’s absolutely clear that Fed, farm, energy, and trade policy have all served to drive up these costs. Well, tearing down those policies runs contrary to the interests of Washington interest groups heavily invested in controlling those knobs and levers. But a bigger part of the problem is priorities driven by a linguistic trap. Politicians who are small businessmen or attorneys by training talk about the marketplace as a place full of entrepreneurs, and talk about government in terms of its size and tax burdens and barriers to job growth. They’re caught in the trap of viewing all these things in aggregate.

But that’s not how the middle or working class think about the economy. A politician talking about “creating new jobs” or “spurring investment” of “increasing exports” sounds nice, but that’s all it is – nice-sounding. Most Americans worry generally about the lack of jobs and growth, sure, but they are far more worried about what they perceive as a higher cost of living at a time of stagnant wages. They have expectations for the life they can provide for their families and children, and they’re worried they won’t be able to meet those expectations. This is all about delivering the life they want to those they care for. But when they look to government, they don’t see interest in that. Politicians insist that inflation is under control, just so long as you don’t include food, education, health care, housing, or energy, so it’s time to start focusing on More Important Things. You wanted cheeseburgers? Well, the Fed thinks it’s fine if you settle for chicken.

The opportunity is there to change the conversation. In so many of the areas where we’re seeing price inflation, government policy is contributing to the trendline, raising the costs not just of food, but of education, health care, energy, and housing, and putting pressure which multiplies for those with kids. All it takes is a willingness to go after those policies, and for a few smart politicians to start rejecting the priorities of the boardroom table in favor of the kitchen table.

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[Originally published at The Federalist]

Categories: On the Blog

Taxing The King

Somewhat Reasonable - July 11, 2014, 12:11 PM

Anyone that is remotely a sports fan, or has even glanced at ESPN for more than 15 seconds over the past few days, is well aware that the basketball world is holding its collective breath waiting for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony to make their decision on what jersey they will be suiting up in next year.

As of this writing the Twittersphere, and most likely the universe itself, is still waiting on “King James” in particular to make the decision that most likely will open the floodgates and cause the rest of the free agency dominoes to fall. In light of the media circus surrounding this ordeal The Heritage Foundation’s newly launched news site, The Daily Signal, published a graphic and story last week that showed the differences in state income tax James would incur depending on which team he selected of the ones he was considering:

I found it to be an interesting view of a factor in James’ decision that may not be as publicized as “The Letter” or the supporting cast of teammates, but one that James may be seriously considering like many other professional athletes in recent memory.

As the buzz around “Decision 2.0” has grown over the past several days, I felt intrigued to take the numbers a little further and see how much James would owe in state income taxes based on every team in the NBA. To do so I utilized the same factors as Heritage; an estimated $20,700,000 annual salary, no city tax or deductions, and the highest income tax bracket possible. The rates I used in my calculation were the state income tax rates for 2014 listed by the Tax Foundation. Before getting into the numbers, yes, I am aware that he would never go play for Milwaukee:

NBA Teams

Team Owed Taxes Tax Rate Team Owed Taxes Tax Rate Atlanta $1,242,000 6 Golden State $2,753,100 13.3 Boston $1,086,750 5.25 L.A. Clippers $2,753,100 13.3 Brooklyn $1,825,740 8.82 L.A. Lakers $2,753,100 13.3 Charlotte $1,200,600 5.8 Sacramento $2,753,100 13.3 Chicago $1,035,000 5 Portland $2,049,300 9.9 Cleveland $1,116,144 5.392 Minnesota $2,038,950 9.85 Dallas $0 0 Brooklyn $1,825,740 8.82 Denver $958,410 4.63 New York $1,825,740 8.82 Detroit $879,750 4.25 Milwaukee $1,583,550 7.65 Golden State $2,753,100 13.3 Atlanta $1,242,000 6 Houston $0 0 New Orleans $1,242,000 6 Indiana $703,800 3.4 Charlotte $1,200,600 5.8 L.A. Clippers $2,753,100 13.3 Cleveland $1,116,144 5.392 L.A. Lakers $2,753,100 13.3 Boston $1,086,750 5.25 Memphis $0 *0 Oklahoma City $1,086,750 5.25 Miami $0 0 Chicago $1,035,000 5 Milwaukee $1,583,550 7.65 Utah $1,035,000 5 Minnesota $2,038,950 9.85 Denver $958,410 4.63 New Orleans $1,242,000 6 Phoenix $939,780 4.54 New York $1,825,740 8.82 Detroit $879,750 4.25 Oklahoma City $1,086,750 5.25 Indiana $703,800 3.4 Orlando $0 0 Philadelphia $635,490 3.07 Philadelphia $635,490 3.07 Dallas $0 0 Phoenix $939,780 4.54 Houston $0 0 Portland $2,049,300 9.9 Memphis $0 *0 Sacramento $2,753,100 13.3 Miami $0 0 San Antonio $0 0 Orlando $0 0 Utah $1,035,000 5 San Antonio $0 0

The obvious observation here is that James has saved himself quite a nice chunk of change by spending the last 4 years in South Beach as opposed to any of the 22 teams that reside in states which levy state income taxes.

Now on a statistically less conclusive path, is it a coincidence that the past 4 NBA championships have been won by teams that reside in states with no income tax? Maybe. Is it a coincidence that of the ten teams with the highest state income tax burden only the Lakers have won a championship since the 1977 Portland Trailblazers? I will let you decide.

Also, I know that Toronto was not included, but as the Canadian province of Ontario is not part of the greatest country on earth I hope you will understand why I omitted the Raptors.

After finding the state income tax hit James would take for all NBA teams, I wanted to go a little further again, so I went ahead and did the calculation for an imaginary world where all 50 states had an NBA team. Yes, I am aware that there will never be an NBA franchise in Alaska, Hawaii, Maine, etc., but let’s see what it would look like if joining the Alaska Quake was an option:

State Owed Taxes Tax Rate State Owed Taxes Tax Rate Alabama: $1,035,000 5 California: $2,753,100 13.3 Alaska: $0 0 Hawaii: $2,277,000 11 Arizona: $939,780 4.54 Oregon: $2,049,300 9.9 Arkansas: $1,449,000 7 Minnesota: $2,038,950 9.85 California: $2,753,100 13.3 Iowa: $1,858,860 8.98 Colorado: $958,410 4.63 New Jersey: $1,856,790 8.97 Connecticut: $1,386,900 6.7 Vermont: $1,852,650 8.95 Delaware: $1,366,200 6.6 New York: $1,825,740 8.82 Florida: $0 0 Maine: $1,645,650 7.95 Georgia: $1,242,000 6 Wisconsin: $1,583,550 7.65 Hawaii: $2,277,000 11 Idaho: $1,531,000 7.4 Idaho: $1,531,000 7.4 Arkansas: $1,449,000 7 Illinois: $1,035,000 5 South Carolina: $1,449,000 7 Indiana: $703,800 3.4 Montana: $1,428,300 6.9 Iowa: $1,858,860 8.98 Nebraska: $1,415,880 6.84 Kansas: $993,600 4.8 Connecticut: $1,386,900 6.7 Kentucky: $1,242,000 6 Delaware: $1,366,200 6.6 Louisiana: $1,242,000 6 West Virginia: $1,345,500 6.5 Maine: $1,645,650 7.95 Georgia: $1,242,000 6 Maryland: $1,190,250 5.75 Kentucky: $1,242,000 6 Massachusetts: $1,086,750 5.25 Louisiana: $1,242,000 6 Michigan: $879,750 4.25 Missouri: $1,242,000 6 Minnesota: $2,038,950 9.85 Rhode Island: $1,239,930 5.99 Mississippi: $1,035,000 5 North Carolina: $1,200,600 5.8 Missouri: $1,242,000 6 Maryland: $1,190,250 5.75 Montana: $1,428,300 6.9 Virginia: $1,190,250 5.75 Nebraska: $1,415,880 6.84 Ohio: $1,116,144 5.392 Nevada: $0 0 Massachusetts: $1,086,750 5.25 New Hampshire: $1,035,000 5 Oklahoma: $1,086,750 5.25 New Jersey: $1,856,790 8.97 Alabama: $1,035,000 5 New Mexico: $1,014,300 4.9 Illinois: $1,035,000 5 New York: $1,825,740 8.82 Mississippi: $1,035,000 5 North Carolina: $1,200,600 5.8 New Hampshire: $1,035,000 5 North Dakota: $666,540 3.22 Utah: $1,035,000 5 Ohio: $1,116,144 5.392 New Mexico: $1,014,300 4.9 Oklahoma: $1,086,750 5.25 Kansas: $993,600 4.8 Oregon: $2,049,300 9.9 Colorado: $958,410 4.63 Pennsylvania: $635,490 3.07 Arizona: $939,780 4.54 Rhode Island: $1,239,930 5.99 Michigan: $879,750 4.25 South Carolina: $1,449,000 7 Indiana: $703,800 3.4 South Dakota: $0 0 North Dakota: $666,540 3.22 Tennessee $0 *0 Pennsylvania: $635,490 3.07 Texas: $0 0 Alaska: $0 0 Utah: $1,035,000 5 Florida: $0 0 Vermont: $1,852,650 8.95 Nevada: $0 0 Virginia: $1,190,250 5.75 South Dakota: $0 0 Washington: $0 0 Tennessee $0 *0 West Virginia: $1,345,500 6.5 Texas: $0 0 Wisconsin: $1,583,550 7.65 Washington: $0 0 Wyoming: $0 0 Wyoming: $0 0

As interesting as the figures may be to look at and compare, there are not too many surprises. Income taxes are high in states such as California, Oregon, Minnesota, New Jersey, and New York.

However, after looking at this chart I will tell you this, if I was a player for Sacramento back in May 2013 I would have done everything in my power to grease the wheels for that move to Seattle.

The latest report seems to be that James will be heading back home to Cleveland, although that seems to change by the minute from various “sources”, and these sources seem to be as reliable as the Obamacare website. The truth of the matter is that for someone whose net worth is estimated at nearly $270 million, taking the $1.1 million annual hit of income taxes may not matter a whole lot. With that being said  I must mention that signing with my hometown Pistons over the Cavaliers would annually save him $236,394 a year (I am just saying that could buy him one of these).

As I am writing this James could be making his decision  over Twitter, on Good Morning America, or at a UN Global Council Meeting, but will we ever know if taxes played a role? Probably not, but based on the statistics I think the main takeaway is that legislators in states such as Oregon, Minnesota, New York, and Wisconsin should really consider repealing or lowering (or at least make it flat!) their state income tax rates if they want to bring home some Larry O’Brien trophies in the future. California should be included on that list as well, but I guess that makes the success of the Lakers even that much more impressive.

While the factor of state income taxes may not matter as much to the true megastars such as James and Anthony, it very well could play a crucial role in the decision making process of lower level players with less money to work with.

So good luck to James wherever he ends up, but it will still be hard for me to understand how he could pass up the chance to save $1.1 million a year in taxes if he chooses to leave Florida for Ohio.

 

*While James would not have to pay state income tax on his salary in Tennessee, he would on investments because of the state’s Hall Tax.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Dispersing Millennials

Somewhat Reasonable - July 11, 2014, 9:38 AM

The very centers of urban cores in many major metropolitan areas are experiencing a resurgence of residential development, including new construction in volumes not seen for decades. There is a general impression, put forward by retro–urbanists and various press outlets that the urban core resurgence reflects a change in the living preferences of younger people – today’s Millennials – who they claim are rejecting the suburban and exurban residential choices of their parents and grandparents.

There is no question that the millennial population has risen in urban cores in recent years. Yet the growth in the younger population in urban cores masks far larger increases in the same population group in other parts of major metropolitan areas and in the nation in general.

Functional Analysis of Metropolitan Areas

This article continues a series examining the 52 major metropolitan areas (those with more than 1,000,000 residents) using the City Sector Model, which allows a more representative functional analysis of urban core, suburban, and exurban areas, by using smaller areas, rather than using municipal boundaries. The City Sector Model thus eliminates the over-statement of urban core data that occurs in conventional analyses, which rely on historical core municipalities, most of which encompass considerable suburbanization.

The City Sector Model classifies 9,000 major metropolitan area zip code tabulation areas using urban form, density, and travel behavior characteristics. There are four functional classifications: the urban core, earlier suburban areas, later suburban areas, and exurban areas. The urban cores have higher densities, older housing and substantially greater reliance on transit, similar to the urban cores that preceded the great automobile oriented post-World War Two suburbanization. Exurban areas are beyond the built up urban areas. The suburban areas constitute the balance of the major metropolitan areas. Earlier suburbs include areas with a median house construction date before 1980. Later suburban areas have later median house construction dates.

20-29s and the Urban Core

The age band best approximating millennials for the period of 2000 to 2010 is people of from 20 to 29 years of age.

Between 2000 and 2010, the total population of 20-29′s living in the functional urban cores increased by 300,000, from 4.3 million to 4.6 million from 2000 to 2010. Yet, the share of 20-29s living in the urban cores actually declined over the decade.

In 2000, 20.2 percent of the major metropolitan area 20- to 29-year-old population was in the urban core. By 2010, it had dropped to 19.3 percent, a 4.4 percent share reduction. This happened because the 300,000 increase in 20-29s in the urban core was dwarfed by the overall 2.6 million increase in the same age group throughout the major metropolitan areas. As a result, only 12 percent of the 20-29 population growth was in the urban core, 40 percent below its 2000 share.

While 80 percent of the 20-29s lived outside the urban cores in 2000, 88 percent of the 20-29 population growth was outside the urban core between 2000 and 2010 (Figure 1). Overall, the suburban and exurban millennial population grew nearly 8 times than in the urban core.

The 20-29s and the Balance of Major Metropolitan Areas

The trend among the 20-29s also tended away from the areas adjacent to the urban cores. These tend to be   earlier suburban areas (generally with median house construction dates before 1980). Between 2000 and 2010, the share of 20-29s living in the earlier suburbs fell from 46.1 percent to 42.0 percent. This was double the urban core loss noted above (4.4 percent), at 8.9 percent.

At the same time, millennials, long said to hate suburbs, have embraced dispersion. The more recently built suburban areas saw their share of 20-29s rise from 20.6 percent to 24.4, an 18 percent gain. A smaller gain was registered in exurban areas, where the share of 20-29s rose from 13.2 percent to 14.3 percent; an 8 percent share gains (Figure 2).

The net effect from 2000 and 2010: a full five percent more of all 20-29s in major metropolitan areas lived in the later suburban and exurban areas, while 5 percent fewer lived in the urban cores and earlier suburbs. The later suburbs and exurbs added 1,500,000 more 20-29s than the urban core and earlier suburbs.

Millennials and the Nation

The numbers of 20-29s continued to increase in the rest of the nation’s small towns and cities, as well as rural areas. In 2000, approximately 44.6 percent of the 20-29 population lived outside the major metropolitan areas. In the next decade, these areas added 20-29s at a lower rate (40.9 percent of the increase), yet this was enough to keep the share of 20-29s at 44.2 percent. In 2010, more than four times as many 20-29s lived outside the major metropolitan areas as lived in the urban cores. Between 2000 and 2010, the growth in 20-29′s living outside the major metropolitan areas was almost six times the growth in the urban cores (Figure 3).

Overall, only 7 percent of the growth in the 20-29 age group was in the functional urban cores between 2000 and 2010. That left 93 percent of the growth to be outside the urban core (Figure 4).

Consistency with Other Research

The trend among the 20-29s in the urban core may seem surprising. However, it is consistent with an analysis of 2000-2010 data by the US Census Bureau, which indicated that the population gains within two miles of the city halls of the largest cities were more than offset by losses in the ring between two and five miles from City Hall. While the gains in the course of the urban cores are impressive, they are much smaller when considered in the context of the entire urban core and even smaller in the context of the entire metropolitan area.

More recent data suggests the dispersion of Millennials is continuing. According to Jed Kolko, Chief Economist at Trulia.com Millennials located in larger numbers in suburban areas  than in the urban cores between 2012 and 2013 (more recent data for the city sector analysis is not yet available)

Dispersing, But Not Quite as Quickly

Essentially what we see here is myopic prejudices of contemporary journalism. More than 300,000 new 20-29 residents in the urban cores was more than enough to be noticed by analysts and reporters, since that’s where many of them spend much of their time. Moreover, the share of 20-29s living in urban cores dropped less than one-half the rate for all ages in the urban core.

Simply put, despite the conventional wisdom, 20-29s are not abandoning the suburbs and exurbs for the urban core. The data indicates that the 20-29s have been more inclined to choose the urban core than other age groups, but not enough to prevent their overwhelming numbers living in suburban and exurban communities. Nor has this inclination been sufficient to counter the continuing relative decline in the urban core among the 20-29s.

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Building a Libertarian Paradise

Somewhat Reasonable - July 11, 2014, 9:00 AM

Prominent libertarians have been making the news with various proposals to build libertarian paradises free of government control. Venture capitalist Peter Thiel has perhaps been the most vocal, with his support for building floating free cities in international waters well known. While such grand visions may be possible to achieve, they are still a ways off from fruition. If you are looking for a libertarian refuge in the here-and-now, however, there is a place for you to go: New Hampshire.

The Free State Project (FSP) is busily seeking to transform New Hampshire, already a very individualistic state, into a full-on libertarian society. The aim of the FSP is to encourage the immigration of libertarians from other states into New Hampshire in order to develop a critical-mass of voters that can mandate the permanent roll-back of government power over citizens’ lives. The project’s goal is to create a society in which the state is at its most minimalistic: its sole function will be the maintenance of people’s lives, liberty, and property.

The FSP has seen some success. More than 1,000 people have already moved to New Hampshire, and nearly 16,000 more have pledged to eventually do so. There are currently 11 members of the FSP in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. The organization has succeeded in making major inroads into the New Hampshire social and political scene. The dream of the FSP to completely transform the state in a libertarian image is far from realized, though its leaders are optimistic for the future.

All is not entirely well with the project, however. New Hampshire is a state whose citizens have a clear and proud identity not only as individuals, but also as New Hampshirites. As with much of New England, the people of New Hampshire do not take too kindly to carpet-baggers coming in from out of the state to tell them what to do. The reasoning for concentrating like-minded people in order to further libertarian aims may be sound, but the very independent streak on which the Free State Project relies generates the risk of a backlash from the broader populace the greater the larger and more vocal the FSP becomes.

If there is a perception that FSP supporters, particularly those who are not natives of the state, are trying to force massive changes on the people of New Hampshire, even if they are changes in keeping with a large segment of the population’s philosophy, then there will be a very negative response.

If the FSP hopes to succeed it needs to be more than an aggressive libertarian movement. It has to adopt New Hampshire’s cultural and historical legacy, or at least acknowledge and respect it. It has to treat New Hampshire and its people like a true polity, and not just a useful means to an end. If they can do that, perhaps New England will be the cradle of individual liberty once again.

Categories: On the Blog

Correcting the Bloomberg Piece on Heartland’s Climate Conference

Somewhat Reasonable - July 11, 2014, 2:34 AM

Correcting errors in prominent media reports about Heartland’s just-concluded Ninth International Conference on Climate Change is turning out to be an exhausting job. I did it earlier for Slate’s Will Oremus, and now it’s Abe Streep’s turn over at Bloomberg.

Abe,

An interesting take on our conference. Some errors require correction, however.

1. Pat Garafalo is a state representative in Minnesota. That is, he serves in the Minnesota House of Representatives in St. Paul, not in Congress in Washington. You chatted him up at a two-hour dinner and still made that mistake? Good grief!

2. You wrote: “Called the ICCC for short, the acronym is an intentional echo of the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body that has published the most comprehensive studies of global warming. The ICCC, not IPCC, conference has been held in New York, Munich, and Chicago.”

I don’t believe that was intentional, but it could be. I’ve never asked Joe. But you have no possible way of knowing that it was “intentional” — because you didn’t ask me, nor can you read Joe’s mind — so how is that statement true?

Also: We’ve held our conferences in New York, Chicago, Washington, Munich, and Sydney.

3. You wrote: “Bast seemed to be trying to adjust to this shift in his speech, arguing that Heartland does not promote denial of a changing climate, but rather skepticism of the scientific consensus that anthropogenic (man-made) global warming is a grave threat to the planet.”

I’m assuming that you are operating on the constant lie by Heartland’s ideological enemies that we “deny climate change.” Heartland and the scientists it works with have never promoted “denial of a changing climate.” The climate is always changing. The question is whether man’s contribution to climate change rises above statistical noise and whether it is a crisis. So, since Heartland has never denied climate change, what Joe said is not really an adjustment. That’s been a consistent theme throughout now nine conferences on climate change.

4. You wrote that Joe Bastardi “touched the hem of full-blown denial.”

Bastardi did not deny that the climate changes. Watch it again. (He starts at about the 30-minute mark.)

5. You wrote about Peter Gleick.

Peter Gleick admitted to stealing our internal documents by pretending to be a member of Heartland’s board of directors via email. Something he sent to leftist websites to attack us was called a “climate strategy document,” which is a leftist fantasy about how Heartland operates. hat is the forgeddocument, and it’s obvious. Get caught up on all this at Fakegate.org.

6. You wrote of our event at the National Press Club in April to release the latest in the Climate Change Reconsidered series: “Turnout was minimal, the event cut short when multiple reporters asked why much of the science cited within came from the 1970s.”

I don’t recall seeing you there, so by what do you base that characterization? We actually had two consecutive press conferences in that room because of confusion about when the press release said it started. We were available to reporters for two hours. Joe answered questions about the dates of the citations from partisan reporters from the Guardian and a lefty website. We did not “cut it short” because of those questions. Again, how would you know? You weren’t there. Why don’t you share your source for that — if not with me with your readers?

7. You wrote: “Heartland’s strategy seemed to be to throw many theories at the wall and see what stuck.”

We don’t strategize with the scientists and policy experts who present. If there is any unified perspective of the skeptic scientists it’s that various natural factors are the main drivers of climate change. So it is really a surprise that scientists from varied disciplines are going to talk about/advocate for their own discipline as being a main driver?

We’re likely to have another conference next year. Maybe you’ll have a better understanding of what is going on the second time.

Best,

Jim

UPDATE, July 11: Abe replied today.

Garofalo’s title has been corrected. We regret that one. I’m sorry if you dispute other characterizations in the story, but we stand by it. 

Categories: On the Blog

Informing a Slate Reporter About Heartland’s Climate Skeptic Conference

Somewhat Reasonable - July 10, 2014, 6:30 PM

Slate reporter Will Oremus reached out to me on Tuesday afternoon seeking comment about Heartland’s climate conference in Las Vegas this week. We talked for about 20 minutes and I tried to fill in what he might have missed while he watched the conference from home.

Oremus was cordial enough — as was I — but the information I tried to impart didn’t take in his story for Slate.

Below is the email I sent Ormeus to correct the record:

Will,

After wrapping up The Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change, I saw your piece in Slate titled “The Climate Optimists.” That term has a good ring to it, and is a pretty accurate description of the views expressed at the world’s leading conference of scientific “skeptics” of man-caused global warming. Considering all the doom and gloom the media has reported about the climate over the last couple of decades, the optimistic and data-based truth needs quite a bit more play in the media.

As I explained over the phone to you, the term “denier” is a calumny the eco-left has long employed to equate skepticism of catastrophic man-caused global warming with Holocaust denial. It is shameful, and I’m disappointed to see you employed that slur in your story. Nonetheless, I appreciate your efforts to write a story about Heartland’s latest climate conference remotely by watching some of the live feed.

You would have served yourself and Slate’s readers better, however, if you had come to Las Vegas in person. Your understanding of the data and viewpoints of the speakers and scientists would have been greatly enhanced by a chance to talk to them on the side between sessions, as other journalists did. Since you were not able to do that, let me correct some errors, and fill in some of the facts and context your story lacked.

For starters, a lot more than “several” of the speakers at the conference were scientists. Twenty-eight of the 61 presenters have earned PH.Ds, while others have masters degrees. Also, you note that many of the scientists who presented aren’t “climate scientists.” But what is a “climate scientist”?

Bob Carter, Ph.D., is a paleogeologist. His expertise allows him to closely examine the historical climate record. Is understanding that climatic history irrelevant to examining what’s been happening since the Industrial Revolution? Of course not. So he is a “climate scientist.”

Willie Soon, Ph.D., specializes in solar activity. Indeed, he is among the world’s leading scientists in that field. Sebastian Lüning, Ph.D., is a geologist who has also been keenly focused on how the sun affects the climate and is a leader in this field. Is solar activity irrelevant to the earth’s climate? Of course not. So they are “climate scientists.”

Jennifer Marohasy, Ph.D., specializes in analyzing and interpreting historical rainfall data. Is an examination of precipitation patterns over a long period of time irrelevant to the earth’s climate? Of course not. So she is also a “climate scientist.”

I could do that all day with only the 28 Ph.D.s who presented at our conference. As I explained in our phone interview, gaining the full picture of what is happening to our climate requires bringing together experts in various disciplines to share their data and analysis. Any single person who claims to be strictly a “climate scientist” — and suggests he has definitive authority — is merely preening for the sake of PR. Understanding the climate is a team effort, as the scientists who presented at The Heartland Institute’s latest conference would attest.

You write: “Still, the Heartland crowd is careful to frame its arguments in terms of science and skepticism rather than dogma.”

The “Heartland crowd” was not being “careful” about that. It just happens — because the scientists who speak at our conferences actually do frame their arguments in terms of science. You really should have come to or watched more of the conference, which you can still do here by clicking on the links below the “live feed.”

You write: The nearly 18-years of no global warming “has been a godsend for those looking for holes in the prevailing models of catastrophic future warming.”

Another way to write that sentence would be:

“The lack of global warming for almost 18 years pokes holes in the prevailing models of catastrophic future warming.”

The models the IPCC and alarmists rely upon to make policy have been wrong for decades. (See Dr. Roy Spencer’s presentation at our conference here.) If they couldn’t accurately predict what’s happened for the last 30 years, why should we trust them to be right in predicting the next 100 years? You should have a little more healthy skepticism about that, and be asking the alarmists why their models have failed so spectacularly.

You write: “Many are still focused on disputing the basic link between atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and global temperatures. As I watched the conference, it became clear that some have little trouble flipping between the two viewpoints.”

As I explained to you over the phone, unlike the alarmists — who all sing in perfect harmony about man-caused climate calamity from the group-think hymnal — the scientists who speak at our conferences don’t all agree on everything. That’s the nature of bringing together scientists who study the climate from diverse disciplines. That’s healthy for science, as well as the goal of advancing greater public understanding of what is actually happening to the climate.

Also, there is no “basic link” between CO2 levels and global temperatures. As I mentioned to you on the phone, global human-caused CO2 emissions have increased over the last 17 years and 10 months, but global temperatures have not risen along with it. Yet 95 percent of the UN IPCC’s climate models said temperatures would. Doesn’t that tend to disprove the “basic link”?

As Patrick Moore showed in his presentation at the conference — and others did in their turns at bat — the long-term historical record shows no causal connection between CO2 and global temperature. Correlation is not causation, and there isn’t even a strong correlation — as we’ve seen for the last 17 years and 10 months.

You write: “That doesn’t mean, of course, that the evidence on both sides is equal. There’s a reason the climate deniers are losing the scientific debate, and it isn’t because academia is better funded than the energy industry.”

This is a non sequitur that presumes the climate realist side is swimming in “energy industry” money. As I told you on the phone, Heartland’s conference was not funded by the energy industry, and no skeptic scientist is getting rich. To the contrary, many of the scientists at our conferences suffer professionally because they do not toe the alarmist line, but instead concentrate on the data that contradicts the alarmist, always-wrong computer models. That level of basic scientific and personal integrity has cost the skeptic scientists plenty. There’s an excellent story for you in that fact, shared often during the conference.

You single out Patrick Michaels, and dismiss him as receiving “fossil-fuel industry” money. Dr. Michaels was past president of the American Association of State Climatologists. He was a professor at the University of Virginia for 30 years. His credentials are impeccable. Michaels’ presentation this year focused on how science has been corrupted because anyone who dares to apply the scientific method to the alarmist conclusions is blackballed from science journals — and also doesn’t receive university support or grants. You really ought to watch Michaels’ presentation. There’s another story just in that.

Academia is better funded than the “energy industry” in the only aspect that matters: funding to support climate research. The federal grants flow only to university professors who will toe the alarmist line. Exxon, which stopped donating to Heartland in 2006 (two years before our first climate conference) donates generously to green groups. Chesapeake Energy has donated (as of 2012) $26 million to the Sierra Club. There are scores more examples of the “fossil fuel industry” supporting alarmists and green groups a whole lot more than any skeptic scientist.

One last thing on the idea that the skeptics are “losing the scientific debate.” A Rasmussen poll released July 9, the last day of Heartland’s conference, showed that only 20 percent of Americans “think the global warming debate is over.” Sixty-three percent said “the debate about global warming is not over” and another 17 percent is “not sure.” That means this: Decades of media and academic alarmist indocrination have left only 20 percent of Americans agreeing with Al Gore, various climate alarmist groups, Hollywood, and the mainstream media’s insistence that “the debate is over” about the hypothesis that human activity is causing a climate crisis.

The Heartland Institute is proud to have played any part in that poll result. For what it’s worth, a Gallup poll from January showed that 23 percent of Americans identify themselves as “liberal.” Most liberals believe in man-caused global warming and have little interest in hearing the other side of the scientific argument. While I’m not a fan of correlation studies, the data match is interesting and something to explore.

You write: “Touting the recent slowdown in global average surface temperatures, for example, implies that such temperatures do in fact tell us a lot about the health of the climate. That will become an awkward stance in a hurry if the temperatures soon resume their climb.”

Again, isn’t the “recent slowdown in global average temperature” a much more troubling problem for the alarmists? None of them predicted it. But for them, the rising temperatures from about 1950 forward in the 20th Century was “proof” that AGW is a “fact” — a huge problem that requires massive, government-directed reorganization of the energy economy. As Patrick Moore and others pointed out at our conference, we’re actually not all that warm today from a long-term (epochal) perspective. And even if you want to shrink that perspective down to the dawn of human history, the earth has still often been significantly warmer in the past than it is today. Those periods of warming, by the way, have been beneficial to humans, plants, and animals.

Indeed, many of the scientists at our conference agree with what Patrick Moore stated in his plenary address: Living things on Earth would benefit from even more CO2 in the atmosphere, not less. You surely think that is a radical statement, but the science backs it up. Again, watch Moore’s presentation.

Finally, “extreme weather events” are not on the rise. Category 3 hurricanes striking the US are at an all-time low since record-keeping began — which means tomorrow and the next day set a new record for major hurricanes not hitting the US. Tornadoes, especially the number of strong ones, are significantly fewer these days than the most recent 20th century peak in the 1970s. And Joe Bastardi was right: Wildfires have burned up less acreage of land in 2013 than in many years past.

That is all directly opposite of what climate alarmists predicted. Maybe you should ask them some questions.

Best,

Jim

Categories: On the Blog

ICCC Panel 8 – Costs and Benefits of Renewable Energy

Somewhat Reasonable - July 10, 2014, 1:36 PM

Panel 8 of the 9th International Conference on Climate Change was on the subject of “Costs and Benefits of Renewable Energy.” The panel was focused on the subject of renewable energy, specifically the high cost and potentially devastating economic consequences produced by the federal government’s efforts to replace the current energy sources with renewables.

The featured speakers in this panel were Dr. Howard Hayden, Steve Goreham, and Marita Noon. These three panelists argued that the consequences of the renewable energy regime in America, and in Europe, will have ruinous effects on the economy and people’s lives.

In his talk, Dr. Hayden discusses the relative market share of various energy sources. He points out that renewables as a whole still account for just 13% of electricity generation in the United States. Breaking that percentage down into its constituent parts, hydroelectric power makes up 62%, wind power 23%, and solar a measly 0.35%.

Hayden spends some time articulating the many issues with wind power. He calls it a “capricious” energy source, one that operates only about 35% of the time, and has consistent problems with maintaining power-grid stability.

Hayden also has time to bash biofuels, which he points out are a complete waste of time. He deftly points out that even if all of the arable land in the United States was used to produce biofuels, it would still be insufficient to meet the energy needs of Americans.

The fact is the renewable energy industry has consistently failed to live up to the hype promoted by the political left. Hayden says, “The wind, solar, biofuel, and geothermal industries are not fledgling industries,” and it is time to stop treating them like they are. It is not hard to come to the conclusion that it is time for governments to stop propping these industries up with vast subsidies and let them stand or fall on their own.

Steve Goreham furthers Hayden’s case by highlighting the various economic madnesses produced by energy regulators around the world. In Denmark, 5,000 wind towers, that’s one for every 1,000 citizens, dot the landscape producing the energy of just one conventional power plant. Danes pay for the privilege of all this wind power by having some of the highest energy prices in the developed world (three times that of America).

In Germany, coal has been experiencing a resurgence thanks to the subsidies and privileges of the solar and wind industries having driven gas plants out of business. In the United Kingdom, coal-burning plants have been converted at enormous cost to burn less efficient wood because the country’s environmental regulators do not measure carbon dioxide output of wood burning.

Goreham also takes time to discuss the pressures on the American power-grid, and how they are being made worse by the promotion of renewable energy. The past winter pushed the nation’s grid to the limit, and needed 89% of all extant coal plants just to prevent blackouts. Yet these plants face closure thanks to dangerously ruinous regulations put out by the Obama administration. Nuclear plants also face closure thanks to new regulations expunging profits. These policies are pure folly.

Marita Noon’s presentation looks at renewable energy by following the money. She describes the mind-boggling use of money from the 2009 stimulus package to green energy projects. In all, the stimulus provided just shy of $100 billion on renewable energy projects. Noon’s research has found personal or financial connections between 90% of all the projects receiving this funding and senior Democratic Party figures. And since 2009, more than 50 of those projects have failed or are on their last legs.

Renewable energy projects have devoured taxpayer money for years with virtually no return on the investment. It is about time that governments cut their losses.

Categories: On the Blog

The Vicious Cycle: Government Warps Markets Until Government Stops Warping Markets

Somewhat Reasonable - July 10, 2014, 12:17 PM

The pernicious effect of government warping markets is absolute – and the evidence is obvious and everywhere.

When 300+ million Americans (and when 8+ billion worldwide are able to) make their own decisions, markets constantly morph to accommodate those decisions – and the maximum amount of success and happiness is achieved.

When government sticks its prodigious proboscis into the private sector, things quickly go sideways and upside down.  When government makes decisions for us – the market is mutated into a grossly less efficient government-accomodation model.  The examples are myriad.

Green energy – which is neither green nor energy – is a fabulously terrible one.  “Sustainable” energy isn’t sustainable unless and until it no longer requires government rafts of cash and policy favoritism to stay afloat. It must – all on its own – produce energy at least as prodigiously and cheaply as traditional sources.  You know, the actually sustainable ones.

Government-propped-up ethanol has been a decades-long disaster.

Ethanol Uses More Energy Than It Makes

EPA Acknowledges Ethanol Damages Engines

Government pouring its money and favors on something makes it less agile, athletic and quick to adapt – that something gets quite comfortable in the Leviathan-provided hammock.

The American Ethanol Industry Needs to Innovate to Avoid Disaster

This was written forty-plus years into the ethanol experiment.  Ummm…way too late – that SS Disasterhas long since sailed.

When the government acts, it doesn’t do so in a vacuum – actions always have reactions.  And when the actions are government-level bad – so too are the reactions.

75,000 Protest Tortilla Prices in Mexico

Water Shortages Leading Right Back to Ethanol

Ethanol Fuel Faulted as ‘Unsustainable Subsidized Food Burning’

And government action crowds out private sector action.  What company wants to get into a shoving match with the Leviathan?

Company Stayed Fit by Reducing Sugar

The world’s biggest sugar producer has lost its appetite for sugar.

Cosan, which controls top producer Raizen Energia in a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell, is cutting investments in sugar cane amid a global glut of the sweetener and Brazilian government policies that hold down the price of ethanol, Chief Financial Officer Marcelo Martins said….

“Reinvestment in the sector will be made only if returns become satisfactory, and we don’t see it happening now,” Martins said at Bloomberg’s office in Sao Paulo….

Government-induced over-production and under-pricing making the market…unsustainable.  When there’s been this much government for this long – even the biggest private companies bail.

Unintended government consequences.  The Leviathan crowding out the private sector.  Anyone still surprised by any of this is willfully ignorant – or has been really, really sleepy the past century-plus.

Originally published at RedState.

Categories: On the Blog

The Sky Fell last month, but almost nobody noticed.

Somewhat Reasonable - July 10, 2014, 11:35 AM

The sky fell on Hawaii last month, all because carbon dioxide levels peeped above the much-hyped 400 ppm hurdle. Chicken Littles all over the world squawked into their friendly media megaphones about numerous imminent global warming disasters. One warned: “the fate of the world hangs in the balance.” (Similar alarms were rung when the 350 ppm level was passed).

But nobody else noticed anything scary.

Four pieces of well-established evidence say that 400 ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not a concern.

Firstly, there has been no increase in global temperatures since 1998 despite 16 years of rising carbon dioxide levels and heavy usage of carbon fuels. Clearly, CO2 is not the main driver of global temperatures.

Secondly, the ice core records show clearly, with no exceptions, that all recent ice ages have commenced when the atmosphere contained relatively high levels of carbon dioxide. The temperature fell first, and then carbon dioxide levels fell. This proves that high carbon dioxide levels do not guarantee a warm globe, but could suggest that they may be a harbinger of a coming ice age. Ice will cause far more damage to the biosphere than the even the worst warming forecast.

Thirdly, current levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are not extreme or unusual. Carbon dioxide reached 2,000 ppm in the luxuriant era of the dinosaurs, and ten times current levels (4,000 ppm) when the great Devonian coral reefs were flourishing. There is no tipping point into runaway global warming, or we would have tipped eons ago.

Finally, current carbon dioxide levels are just above starvation levels for plants. All vegetation would grow stronger, faster, and be more drought resistant and heat resistant if carbon dioxide levels trebled to 1,200 ppm. Such levels are no threat to humans – US submarines operate at up to 8,000 ppm for cruises of 90 days. Topping 400 ppm should be a cause for celebration – it shows that Earth is emerging from the cold hungry years of the ice ages.

Climate Cassandras have blown false trumpets once again.

Categories: On the Blog

The Pied Piper of Permisos

Somewhat Reasonable - July 10, 2014, 11:33 AM

It’s beginning to sink in with the intelligentsia: The flood of illegal aliens (yes, I said “illegal”) and particularly the tsunami of children traveling alone — parents risking their youngsters’ lives by sending them from Central America through gang-ravaged Mexico — threatens to turn the immigration debate into a major political liability for Democrats in November.

While immigration is typically low on the list of issues Americans care most about, it was to be a trump card for the left in turning out otherwise apathetic or demoralized Hispanic and liberal voters four months from now. But, as seems to be the result of almost every Obama administration policy, reality is blowing up the best laid plans of the DNC.

As liberals are wont to do, their responses to the collapse of their one potentially winning issue fall into two main categories: demonizing critics of the president and others who are troubled by current events along our southern border and trying to change both the direction and actual words of the conversation about the problem. The latter is a particular sign of desperation.

Murrieta, California, a city of just over 100,000 people in Riverside County, was the site last week of protesters waving American flags and blocking buses transportingillegal aliens who had been apprehended illegally crossing the border into Texas. They were being moved to California because of overcrowding of Texas holding facilities. Not least due to health concerns, residents of Murrieta wanted no part of it.

In the last six months, over 52,000 mostly Central American children have been caught at the border. The estimated cost of taking care of them is $252 per child per day, with a total cost to American taxpayers of over $2 billion expected for 2014.

CNN’s Candy “I’m here for you, Barack” Crowley interviewed Murrieta mayor Alan Long on Sunday using language that should be journalistically disqualifying: “As you look at these protests, the overwhelming concern did not seem to be ‘Oh my goodness, the poor children.’ The overwhelming concern seemed to be ‘Go away. Not here.’”

The problem with Ms. Crowley’s attempt to reframe the question as a purely humanitarian one is twofold: First, there are real costs to American taxpayers and burdens on our law enforcement system that may be allowing criminal elements to “flood the zone” and infiltrate violent lawbreakers into the U.S. while Border Patrol agents are busy playing babysitter.

Second, Crowley’s approach is nearly identical to the mindset behind President Obama’s 2012 implementation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy which all but invited the current flood of children into the country; the moral hazard cannot be overstated, even by those (like me) who support increased legal immigration into the United States.

The macro impacts of making the conversation about “the poor children” would be, first, to redouble the number of Central American parents willing to risk their children’s lives (albeit in the hope of bettering those lives) to get them across our border and, second — and this was the goal all along — eventually to create many more Democratic voters. Republicans, even those who favor reform, shouldn’t take the “it’s for the children” bait, and they’re not.

Candy continued: “Are you at all rethinking the idea that a town can turn away busloads of children without documents who are heading to a federal processing center?” Again, to the Obama protectors the children — for whom we should all have real sympathy — are little more than a moral and charitable obligation of Americans.

But they are simply not that. They are a cost, a burden, a risk, and fundamentally the responsibility of their parents, not of Americans. And they are, like it or not, because they are “without documents” which are required to enter the United States, illegal aliens.

But, argues leftist commentator Sally Kohn, you can’t use the “i-word” because doing so is as un-American as using the “n-word” for blacks or the (other) “f-word” for gay men. According to Kohn, “That those terms seem radically inappropriate and out of step with mainstream culture now is only because social movements and legal and political changes have shifted the landscape.” It’s hard to disagree with her on the use of terms that have no purpose or meaning other than to insult, degrade, and diminish blacks, gays, Jews, or any other group.

But “illegal,” contrary to Ms. Kohn’s overwrought assertions, is not in the same category as “n**ger.” It is a statement of fact about the status of the person, one designed to clarify or amplify the alien’s status under the law rather than to cast the person as inferior. No doubt some people use the term “illegal alien” with derision. No doubt some people who object to their presence within our borders do so out of xenophobia or what is frequently called “racism” (even though most Hispanics are Caucasians).

But not most of us. And that’s why their arguments are failing.

Americans are not buying what the left is selling, the myth that many or most of those who recognize illegal aliens as illegal aliens do so out of malice. Rather, even for those (again, like me) who support immigration reform that increases legal immigration into the United States, the recognition of the magnetic power of an implicitly open border — and the relative sophistication of those who game loopholes in our laws (since children from Central America are treated differently from adults and differently from Mexican children) — makes absolutely plain what most Democrats don’t want to admit: controlling the border is a necessary first step in any conceivable immigration reform.

An added liberal non-admission: President Obama has yet another massive policy failure on his hands.

Crowley and Kohn are therefore desperate to change the conversation with the latter asking, “Even if you don’t support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, can’t you find some compassion for them as human beings who live on the same planet?” Sure I can, Sally, but that’s well down the list of priorities when it comes to making sound public policy.

But then sound public policy is not the left’s goal. Increasing the size of government and the number of Democratic voters is.

And therefore, liberal partisans and pundits must attempt to make the conversation about us, about “incredibly offensive” Americans using the “i-word” to describe people here illegally, about “nativists” whose only goal is to “dehumanize” people whose first language isn’t English and who have better tans than I do.

But it just isn’t working.

A Rasmussen Reports poll released Monday says that 46 percent of Americans believe that the Obama administration’s policies have “prompted the flood of illegal immigrant children at the border, and most want them sent back home right away.” Thirty-one percent disagree. Even prior to the news of this flood across the border, more than half of Americans believed that “the government is not aggressive enough in deporting illegal immigrants”; only 14 percent think Obama has been too aggressive.

“Immigrant rights” groups — which is to say organizations aiming at fleecing taxpayers while eroding the rule of law — frequently complain that the Obama administration has been too aggressive in its deportation policies. And the administration is trying desperately to have it both ways, to portray itself as both pro-immigration and strong on enforcement.

However, like all “data” from this government, claims of diligent enforcement of immigration law is somewhere between misleading and untruthful: studies of government data show large declines in deportations in recent years. Furthermore certain removals are now being classified as deportations even though they would not have been reported as deportations in prior years — thus goosing Obama’s credibility of being strong on border security. (Why the administration would either want or expect to have credibility given their political goals and allies remains unclear.)

The willingness to lie about everything from a Syrian red line to what counts as “enrolled” in Obamacare to every aspect of the immigration debate explains why Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) amusingly ruffled the feathers of David Gregory, host of NBC’s Meet the Press, by saying the show’s tag line should be, “If it’s Sunday, it’s another administration official making stuff up on Meet the Press.”

While support for immigration has been trending higher during the Obama presidency and while Americans still believe by roughly a 2-to-1 margin that immigration “on the whole is a good thing for this country,” the support fordecreasing immigration levels into the U.S. has increased substantially in just the last four months; current events on the border will only exacerbate that trend.

When it comes to immigration (and presumably everything else Obama has failed at), Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) is “really getting fed up with some of the critics of this administration, particularly from House Republicans.” But the Senate’s “comprehensive” immigration reform bill is fundamentally flawed; both because of the policy and the politics, House Republicans are right to ignore it and insist on one-step-at-a-time reform. They are also obviously correct to mistrust President Obama’s commitment to enforce any duly passed law. Given Obama’s consistentlawlessness, a view that “I just don’t trust him to secure the border” is entirely reasonable. Mix in Texas Governor Rick Perry’s unrebutted suggestion that President Obama doesn’t “particularly care” whether the border is secure, and add a dash of thin-skinned Obama’s “so sue me” and you have the makings of a bitter political stew for Democrats.

Liberals were hoping to belittle the view of the president as unreliable and use Republican “obstructionism” on immigration reform to gin up their base in November’s elections. It was already a heavy lift given how disappointing this president has been (even to many liberals) and because immigration consistently polls near the bottom of any list of issues when voters are asked about the most important problems facing the country. Still, the left was hoping to raise the significance of immigration policy in voters’ minds — and some pro-reform Republicans shared that hope though for different reasons.

To the extent that immigration is now more “front of mind” than in recent memory — thanks to images of busloads of illegal immigrant children traveling without their parents — it can only hurt Democrats election hopes in November along with the chances for any policy reform no matter how modest, at least while this man remains president.

No amount of trying to change the language, trying to demonize critics of Barack Obama or those who accurately use the term “illegal” to describe people crossing our border illegally, will help Democrats heading into November’s critical elections. And while liberal talking heads do their best to obfuscate the utter failure of yet another Obama policy, some Democratic politicians are speaking the truth.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) speaking to the very same Candy Crowley moments after her shameful performance with the mayor of Murrieta said, “With all due respect to the administration, they’re one step behind. They should have seen this coming a long time ago.… There is an incentive [to send a child here].”

Cuellar also voiced support for changing the 2008 human trafficking law that provides the loophole for Central American children who can make their way illegally into the United States. A Republican House member will propose such a bill in coming days. President Obama himself suggested such a change but the Los Angeles Times reports a senior Senate Democratic staffer as saying that Obama “can’t get it passed” because of Democratic opposition.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will do everything possible to avoid putting vulnerable Senate Democrats in the position of having to cast that vote, not least because he wouldn’t want it to pass. It’s about time for the Democrats to form their own circular firing squad, typically the exclusive formation of the GOP.

And so, with the message becoming impossible even for Team Obama to ignore, the White House, turning the tables on Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson’snon-answers on Sunday, announced on Monday that “most of these kids… will not have a legal basis for remaining in this country and will be returned.”

From a policy and moral hazard perspective, it’s a good start. However, the current situation in which Central American children are not immediately deported represents the unusual spectacle of the Obama administration actually following current law. Prejudging whether courts will in fact return “most of these kids” to their countries of origin is foolhardy and smacks of “unlawful command influence,” which has caused trouble for this big-mouth president in the past. The president is in a box of his own construction. Republicans have no interest in helping him out of it and the president’s own remarkable lack of comity with congressional members of his own party leaves him precious few allies, particularly going into an election in which many Democrats, if offered the chance to have President Obama campaign with them, are saying “thanks, but no thanks.”

From a political perspective, the Democrats’ hoped-for trump card of immigration is now being played against them — and against much-needed immigration reform more broadly — with great effect.

The cynical Barack Obama, facing the humanitarian and political crisis of thousands of hungry children for whom he has played the Pied Piper of Permisos, has no one to blame but himself.

 

[Originally published in the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

ICCC Panel 11 – Climate Change, Human Health, and Adaptation

Somewhat Reasonable - July 10, 2014, 11:14 AM

Panel 11 of the 9th International Conference on Climate Change was on the subject of “Climate Change, Human Health, and Adaptation.” The panel was primarily concerned about how climate change, and government responses to it, might affect the quality and extent of human life in the future.

The featured speakers in this panel were Dr. Craig Loehle, Dr. John Dale Dunn, and Myron Ebell. These three panelists argued that the negative health effects touted by the IPCC and the federal government are not realistic and that the real threat people face is regulatory overreach.

In his talk, Dr. Loehle, an ecologist, asks the question at the beginning of his talk: “Will warming increase disease?” This is what the IPCC and the Obama administration’s 2014 Climate Assessment Report contend. But is that the case?

Contrary to the IPCC narrative, Loehle argues that an historical survey of the diseases in question will reveal that warming is not so great a threat as is believed. He explains that most diseases have been fought by improvements in infrastructure and general welfare, not environmental.

In the case of malaria particular, Loehle challenges some of the prevailing narratives. The contention of the IPCC and various public health organizations is that increased temperatures will increase mosquito populations, warm the water and increase the incidence of flooding. Loehle says that malaria is not prevalent because of temperature, but because of other factors. Indeed, he says that malaria was endemic in Russia and Scandinavia until very recently.

The defeat of malaria in the Western world was thanks in large part to elimination of standing water, particularly in rain barrels, in favor of piped water. By denying mosquitoes their breeding grounds near humans, the disease was eradicated. Loehle suggests that the same could be accomplished in the developing world by focusing on economic development over environmental issues. He also favors the widespread use of DDT to control mosquito populations.

Dr. Dunn, a physician, carries the torch of public health further in his presentation. He contends that warmer temperatures tend to be better for humans, as their cardiovascular and circulatory systems tend to be overtaxed in winter. He points to the fact that deaths in winter are 10% higher than in summer. Climate change may thus provide some positive public health benefits to people.

Myron Ebell turns the panel toward the subject of regulations and other responses to the perceived threats of climate change. Ebell argues that the dominant paradigm in which the issue of climate change is viewed is misguided, saying that, “We should not be talking about mitigation of climate change. We should be talking about adaptation to environmental change and environmental challenges.”

Ebell shows particular concern for the Obama administration’s plans to beef up the EPA and policies that will radically increase the scope of the Endangered Species Act. As government projects will be required to take into account climate change impacts before being undertaken, and as “habitat corridors” are carved out of the nation’s landscape, individuals’ freedoms look sure to be curtailed.

The problem with regulations of such a sweeping sort as the Obama administration is rolling out is that they do not allow for much nuance, and invariably stifle the economic development that is at the core of America’s prosperity. It does not seem like the administration realizes the full extent of the damage it might do to the economy. We can only hope they wise up before it’s too late.

Categories: On the Blog

ICCC Panel 17 – Peer Review, Herding, and the Reliability of Climate Science

Somewhat Reasonable - July 10, 2014, 9:12 AM

Panel 17 of the 9th International Conference on Climate Change was on the subject of “Peer Review, Herding, and the Reliability of Climate Science.” Anyone interested in the way science is actually conducted and the problems with the prevailing peer-review system can find a lot of interesting material in the discussion.

The featured speakers in this panel were Dr. Patrick Michaels, Dr. Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, and Dr. Tim Ball. These three scientists spoke on the problems and distortions in the scientific profession of which laymen are frequently unaware.

In his talk, Dr. Michaels asks the question at the beginning of his talk: “Why do scientists herd?” In other words, why do scientists attach themselves to a set of beliefs or positions and defend them even in the presence of conflicting evidence?

Michaels answers this question by explaining what scientific communities actually are, namely “communities of self-interested, self-reinforcing people.” Scientists are not disinterested parties. They have ideologies and reputations to defend, and that sometimes means defending the positions they have spent careers building up.

Michaels went on to describe the growth of “big science” and the “myth of science as a public good.” He describes the Manhattan Project as the birthplace of these two phenomena in which was seen the “complete socialization of the relevant scientific community.” With the phenomenal success of the Manhattan Project, the federal government decided that the arrangement could be repeated in peacetime with all of the sciences.

The result of all of this was a new funding regime in the sciences, in which the government became the primary funder of research through the nexus of universities. Michaels contends that this arrangement is what has promoted the statist attitude of university professors.

Further problems with the way science is done are highlighted in the presentation of Dr. Boehmer-Christiansen. An avowed socialist, she still sees the inherent problems in a scientific funding regime, whether public or private, that expects researchers to produce the results it desires. The desire to retain funding for research means scientists experience an impetus to “massage” their results to suit their funders.

Dr. Ball examines another problem in the world of science, namely that laypeople are not plugged into the scientific process or the biases that twist it. For the majority of the public,” Ball says, “science is of no consequence whatsoever.” When people do not care to be informed about issues, the problems are allowed to fester.

The important lesson to take from the panel as a whole is that science is not a disinterested endeavor. It has as much personality and politics as any profession. It is essential that informed citizens understand that and allow that understanding to inform their interaction with the scientific community.

Categories: On the Blog

Why Countries Must Pay Their Debts

Somewhat Reasonable - July 10, 2014, 9:00 AM

Debt is an issue that affects countries all over the world. Almost all countries are in debt as their governments take loans to cover for variations in their tax receipts. Yet while many developed countries such as Greece and Ireland are increasingly facing debt crises of their own, the effect of such debt is not nearly as crippling as it is for developing nations.

Many countries have, over the past few decades, sought debt restructuring from the IMF and other international institutions, and others have sought outright cancellation of their debts, such as Mexico in 1982 and 1994, Russia in 1996, Argentina in 2001, and Hungary in 2010.

Normalized Debt Forgiveness

Debt cancellation for the world’s poorest countries in the wake of the 2005 Gleneagles Summit has made such cancellations seem acceptable in the course of international affairs. As a result of this, as well as a result of rapid economic growth in the developing world, debt as a percent of gross national income has fallen significantly

Yet debt remains a persistent problem in many countries. Headlines have been grabbed in recent weeks by Argentina’s most recent rumbling about debt repayment. A recent U.S. federal court ruling, which was then upheld by the Supreme Court, instructs Argentina to repay its American creditors. Argentina’s president, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner, has accused the U.S. government of being unfair, and even extortionate.

The case of Argentina reveals the problem with debt forgiveness: it gives the perverse incentive to governments to run up debts they know they will not have to pay. America should stick by its guns and ensure the repayment of its loans.

Perverse Incentives

People are more irresponsible when they do not face the consequences of their actions. The same is true of states. When a state is not liable for the risks it takes, it has an incentive to increase its risk. This is the case in debt cancellation. When the developing country does not have to pay off its debt, it has no reason to concern itself with spending loans effectively; if things get bad they can simply have their debt forgiven.

This problem was made abundantly clear among financial firms during the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the ensuing global financial crisis; firms felt an incentive to grow so large that their governments would feel compelled to bail them out in the event of a crisis. When the crisis came, states felt compelled to bail out these irresponsible firms. Thus the incentive is always to take on greater amounts of debt, because the more a firm or state takes on the less able they are to service it, and thus the more likely they will require cancellation.

The moral hazard problem causes the further perverse incentive for elites within countries to allow their people to suffer as a means of expediting acknowledgment by the creditor countries that they cannot possibly pay off their debts. It is pure folly to allow countries to renege on their lawfully accrued debts.

The Domino Effect

When one state, or group of states, is awarded a debt cancellation, fear of similar provisions being made for other states may be aroused in investors. This will lead to panic and movement of investment funds from developing world economies, which are already considered relatively more risky, to safer investments in the developed world.

This phenomenon is analogous to the flight of capital from countries defaulting on debt, although the effect is admittedly less extreme in this case as the cancellation is being overseen by other sovereign states and international institutions. Nevertheless, fear over investments will drive up interest rates in developing countries that have accepted debt cancellations and in those that are suspected of seeking one. This can drive countries that may not have considered themselves in need of a cancellation to seek one in light of reduced foreign investment.

National Responsibility

A country can only be accepted as a mature and active member of the society of nations if it can behave like one. When developing countries go hat in hand to the developed world, and often their former colonial masters, they reaffirm a tiered international system and their subordinate place within it.

When states fail to pay off their debt, they lose a great deal of international prestige. Spain, for example, in the 16th century, was a major world power. After it defaulted on its debt in 1520, it never succeeded in regaining that status as a major player, always being consigned to the role of minor power that could not even be trusted to handle its internal finances responsibly.

By paying off their debts, however painful such payments may be in the present, not having to kowtow to creditors ensures their independence and engenders respect, rather than pity or contempt in a country’s neighbors. Default breeds contempt.

Developing countries must resolve their internal corruption and organizational problems that prevent them from effective development. In the case of Argentina, Ms. Kirchner must accept responsibility for her government’s profligacy and quit acting like a petulant child.

Categories: On the Blog

Climate Realists Reach a High Mark at Latest Heartland Conference

Somewhat Reasonable - July 10, 2014, 2:49 AM

On Wednesday night, The Heartland Institute brought to a close the 9th International Conference on Climate Change at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. By universal acclaim from the 600-plus attendees, sponsors and speakers, this one was the best ever.

If you missed any of it, you can view the “instant archive” from our live stream here. (Just scroll down from the now-ended “live stream” and click on the links on the titles below.) Proper “archival” videos of every one of the scores of panel presentations and keynotes will soon be available at Heartland’s YouTube channel.

Some highlights from the keynote presentations:

Patrick Moore and John Coleman Awards to: Patrick Moore and E. Calvin Beisner. (Program begins at the 3-minute mark.)

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Dr. Patrick Michaels and Hon. George Christensen, a member of the Australian Parliament; awards to: Tom Harris and Alan Carlin (Begins at the 1-minute mark)

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Lord Christopher Monckton; awards to Fred Singer and Christopher Monckton. (Program starts at the 1-minute mark.)

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream<

Joe Bastardi and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher; awards to: Sherwood Idso and Willie Soon

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

Dr. Roy Spencer and Dr. Jay Lehr; awards to Art Robinson and Roy Spencer

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

There is so much more. Do check it out.

Categories: On the Blog

Twenty 9-0 Supreme Court Rulings Against – Obama Prepares Even More Power Grabs

Somewhat Reasonable - July 09, 2014, 12:27 PM

Unanimous Supreme Court rulings are certainly noteworthy.  When a case lines up every single Justice – appointed by Democrats and Republicans both – the decision must be unbelievably clear cut.

Nine-to-nothings don’t happen very often.  The ever-overreaching Barack Obama Administration, however, is in historic fashion racking them up.  And they ain’t in its favor.

So there is bipartisanship in Washington – against this Administration.

When even the two Justices you just appointed – Sonya Sotomayor and Elena Kagan – are voting against you, just how far from the Constitutional path have you strayed?

Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz is no stranger to cases before the Court – though his record is more than a little better than the Administration’s.  And he has compiled the list of the unanimous-es against Administration over-action.

Obama’s 20 Unanimous Supreme Court Losses

Twenty – in under six years.  There should in fact have been more, what with all the fundamental transforming going on.  But that’s still a lot.  And it doesn’t fully capture the breadth of the Administration’s rebukes.

“This tally does not capture all of the Obama Administration’s losing arguments, as it does not include unanimous rejections for more governmental power made in the Obama Administration’s friend-of-the-court (amicus) briefs supporting non-federal parties, which would put the Obama Administration’s losses much higher,” Cruz wrote.

Some of these 9-0 rulings have rejected Obama’s overreaches in the Technology Sector – the latest frontier for the Fourth Amendment.  Here is but one 9-0 – but frighteningly close – call:

United States v. Jones, 132 S. Ct. 945 (2012):

The Department of Justice (DOJ) sought the right for the government to attach a Global Position System device to a vehicle and monitor its movements without cause, unsuccessfully arguing that the Fourth Amendment, which protects Americans from unreasonable search and seizure, does not extend to electronic tracking devices.

…Thus, according to DOJ, police could attach a GPS to a car and monitor its movements in public without a search warrant or any cause to believe a crime would be committed.

Why does this sort of Administration Tech Sector overreach sound familiar?

Court Strikes Down FCC Net Neutrality Rule

The court (unanimously) noted that the FCC simply lacked the authority to impose those kinds of regulations….

Oh yeah.  And why does that sound familiar?

Court: FCC Has No Power to Regulate Net Neutrality

Panel of three federal judges unanimously tosses out Federal Communications Commission’s Net Neutrality sanctions…, saying the agency has no legal authority….

Oh yeah.  But is that stopping them?

FCC Plans to Issue New ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules

Of course not.  Twice bitten – not shy.

And to fundamentally transform America – you have to steamroll a lot of states.  But in another pesky unanimous Supreme Court decision:

Arizona v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2492 (2012):

In Arizona v. United States, DOJ tried to take away states’ rights to create their own laws on the basis that the federal government had different…priorities.

So why then is the Administration saying this?

State Laws That Ban Municipal Internet Will Be Invalidated

But can the FCC preempt all 20 state laws that limit public broadband?

Given the Arizona v. United States decision – it doesn’t look like they can.

But as we’ve seen time and time again, this Administration never allows facts – or the laws of the land, or the Constitution – to get in the way of a good beating.

 

Originally published at RedState.

Categories: On the Blog

Misguided Beliefs in Political Leaders

Somewhat Reasonable - July 09, 2014, 10:22 AM
This is an election year and as in all past election years we are inundated with promises and proposals from candidates, each hoping to attract our votes. For the most part what they are promising is “leadership” and political solutions to our personal, social and economic problems. They almost always fail to remind us, however, that in the political arena there is nothing they can do for us unless they have coercive power over us.

We need to remember that whenever political leaders undertake to “guide” America it always means a reduction in our freedom to peacefully solve our own problems and improve our own lives as we think best. Rather than each of us having the autonomy to decide what matters to us, those in political control make us all march to a single government drummer.

More Government Means Less Freedom

Are the American people to be guaranteed government-provided or subsidized health care? The only way government can do this is to tax some members of society to cover the full costs of providing it to the targeted beneficiaries, as well as prohibiting under threat of fine and/or imprisonment all attempts to choose one’s one preferred medical service and insurance.

Is government to guarantee every “working American” a decent living through a higher minimum wage? There is no way for government to impose this than by denying individuals under the threat of penalty and imprisonment the freedom to peacefully and voluntarily agree among themselves at what remuneration one person shall hire the labor services of another.

Will government undertake management of “climate change” both with in the United States and around the world? How can the political authorities even attempt to do this – however impractical and impossible – other than by abridging people’s rights to determine the use of their own property in matters of production and the pricing of goods and services they offer to the consuming public.

Besides which, whatever significant environmental problems that may be confronting the world are invariably the results of earlier government regulations over the marketplace, as well as infringements on private property rights that normally serve to limit people’s legal ability to damage others in society. Recognized and enforced private property rights minimize the negative spillover effects of one person’s actions on the property and well being of another, and all without heavy-handed government oversight and control.

Political Control Equals Fewer Personal Choices

Are various selected industries and trades to receive special protection and support from tariff walls against foreign competition, or subsidies to maintain domestic prices and stimulate foreign sales? Then American consumers will pay higher prices for the goods they wish tobuy and have less money to spend in ways that would have been available on an unhampered free market. Government, and not the free choices of buyers and sellers on an open, competitive market, then influences and directs what is offered to consumers and under what terms.

Are the youth of America to be provided with “better education” through greater government involvement in determining school standards, curriculum, and testing around the country? Then parents and children will have even fewer personal choices concerning the content and quality of education, as a government-imposed guidebook of regulations emanates from Washington, D.C., and the state capitals.

Government Commands Require Obedient Individuals

Often the imagery conjured up with the concept of “leadership” is that of the military. The leader is the commander in charge not merely of rallying but also of directing the troops to attain “victory” over a common enemy. A single strategic plan is designed and imposed on the rest of us through a chain of command.

But the very notion of such leadership implies subordination and obedience. What you or I may want must be made subservient to what the political leaders have decided for us. Unlike the totalitarian systems of the last century, such subservience in contemporary America does not involve the direct heavy-handed use of brute police power—at least not in most instances.

It is done in the United States and most Western countries more lightly through taxation, regulations, and legal prohibitions or mandates. Also, there is not one overarching central plan, as used to be imposed in the former Soviet Union. Rather there is an intricate web of different political plans, each the result of the corrupting and often contradictory interactions of politicians, bureaucrats, and special-interest groups in the modern interventionist state.

The Hubris of the Political Power-Lusters

But the fact remains that practically all those politicians running for office are selling themselves as leaders into whose hands we should place some corner of our life, since they assure us that they can take care of us and our problems better than if we tried to handle them ourselves.

Friends of freedom have long warned of the dangers from ceding authority over such matters to political leaders. Adam Smith’s words ring as true today as when he wrote them in The Wealth of Nations more than two centuries ago:

“The statesman, who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals [wealth and resources], would not only load himself with a most unnecessary attention, but assume an authority which can safely be trusted, not only to no single person, but to no council or senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.”

Concerning how to apply his time, resources, and energies, Adam Smith said, “Every individual, it is evident, can, in his local situation, judge much better than any statesman or lawgiver can do for him.”

In more recent times Adam Smith’s warning has been echoed by the Austrian economist and Nobel Laureate, F. A. Hayek, who warned of the “pretense of knowledge” on the part of those who wish to direct the affairs of society.

And the German free market economist, Wilhelm Röpke, long ago lamented the “hubris of the intellectuals,” who arrogantly presume they know enough to redesign the social order. We need to remember that the people who offer themselves to us at election time are mere mortals like ourselves. They possess no special wisdom, no Olympian powers that provide them with capacities above the “common man,” whom they claim to want to represent in political office but in reality over whom they wish to rule and command.

Political Parents and the Perpetual Citizen Child

Candidates motivated by various forms of collectivist ideology assume that when men are free, outcomes will be undesirable and that only government can set things right. These candidates view themselves as the political parents who must oversee the citizen-children (the rest of us), who perpetually are never grown up enough to be free and responsible adults.

But whether they are guided by ideology or simply a baser desire for the power that political office can provide, the reality of politics in the modern interventionist state is that “leaders” use their authority to advance special interest plundering at the expense of the rest of society.

To continue with the metaphor, these office holders are in fact abusive political parents who hurt and manipulate many of the citizen-children in their “care” to benefit themselves and favored groups that help maintain them in office. They then use various propaganda devices to persuade the abused citizen-children that it’s all being done for their own good. And, alas, too many of our fellow citizens fall victim to this psychological manipulation and cannot imagine a world without political parents who watch over and “care” for them.

In the free society – in which government is confined to the essential but limited functions of protecting life, liberty, and honestly acquired property – politicians and bureaucrats have no assigned “leadership” role. Their function is far more modest, though a useful one: seeing that each of us is left free from violence and fraud to direct his own life, as he considers best and most fulfilling.

Freedom means for each of us to be “captain of his own fate” and not to be a docile subordinate waiting for those in political authority to decide his fate for him. Indeed, those who advocate political leadership to get the nation moving, to steer it in the right direction, or to impose government cures on supposed social ills at home and abroad are the gravediggers of liberty.

The Real Political Question: Liberty vs. Power

That is why we must always beware, and most especially in election years, of those who offer themselves as our political leaders. Their triumphs mean more nails hammered into the coffin of freedom.

The friends of freedom must remind their fellow citizens that the only fundamental political question in any election is whether or not those running for political office unswervingly declare their allegiance to the philosophy of individual rights to life, liberty and property and its accompanying social system of free market capitalism?

It they do declare such allegiance, then such candidates may be worthy of the citizen’s vote on election day, and if elected they should be constantly challenged to practice the principles of freedom and limited government that they preached when running for political office.

Otherwise, we shall continue down the dangerous path of political paternalism and plunder that ends with neither freedom nor prosperity.

 

Categories: On the Blog

The Idiocy of “Environmental Justice”

Somewhat Reasonable - July 09, 2014, 10:21 AM
A news item in late June caught my eye. It was in the Washington Free Beacon and the headline was “EPA spends $1.6 million on hotel for ‘Environmental Justice’ conference.” The event will occur in the fall and the location is the Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel. By its own description, it is located “Just one mile from the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, this Arlington hotel features a chic lobby and indoor swimming pool. Rooms come with 37’’ HDTVs and plug-in connectivity panels.” A room for one night will cost approximately $349. The EPA is booking 195 of them for 24 nights! The environmental movement began as the conservation movement. Its early leaders were concerned about preserving our great forests and other landmarks. President Teddy Roosevelt was enthusiastic about that and used his powers to initiate national parks and reserves. These days, however, Clinton and Obama used those same powers to close off access to vast energy reserves. So what is “environmental justice”?  According to the EPA, it is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” In other words, it is another justification for the EPA’s existence. But there’s more. “It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work.” Aside from the fact that you can attend the next zoning board meeting in your town or city, this is just sheer rubbish. By what level of insanity can the EPA achieve the “same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards…”? Can it protect Midwesterners from tornadoes? The Gulf and East Coasts from hurricanes? What is its policy regarding blizzards in the winter or droughts in the summer? None of this has anything to do with “justice.” How does the EPA propose to ensure that “everyone enjoys the same degree of protection”? Answer: It cannot. So, instead, it devotes its time to punishing a landowner who gets local permission to build a pond on his farm, but who did not also check in with the Corps of Engineers. On July 2, the EPA put a notice in the Federal Register asserting the right to “garnish non-federal wages to collect delinquent non-tax debts own the United States without first obtaining a court order.” ( Emphasis added) That is a definition of tyranny and lawlessness that defies the protections afforded by the Constitution. Along with the global warming hoax, the term “environmental justice” comes out of the early 1980s where the liberal loonies saw it as a new social movement to ensure, according to Wikipedia, “the fair distribution of environmental benefits and burdens.” As John F. Kennedy famously said, “Life is not fair.” Everyone’s life depends in part on the cold reality of numerous factors over which they had or have no control, and choices they made regarding their lives. Some might think that EPA’s spending $1.6 million on luxurious hotel rooms where their “Environmental Justice” conference is held is “unfair”, especially if the cost of attending is being picked up by the taxpayers. Again, Wikipedia: “Environmental justice advocates frequently make the argument that minority populations disproportionally undertake or are subjected to environmentally hazardous activities because they have few economic alternatives and/or are not fully away of the risks involved.” The Green ideology of environmentalists blinds them to reality and the reality is that we are all born into different levels of wealth, different lifestyles, and different challenges, but we are all born in a nation where studying hard in school, hard work and a positive outlook can help us achieve as much as we aspire to. America is the home of millions of success stories. The environment has nothing to do with social issues of poverty, race, or sex with which Greens want to associate it. Joseph Bast, the president of The Heartland Institute, opened its ninth International Conference on Climate Change earlier this week by noting that “In Fiscal Year 2013, the U.S. federal government spent $22.5 billion on ‘global warming.’ It spent $200 billion over the past twenty years. By one estimate the world is spending $1 billion a DAY on projects that wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for global warming alarmism.” When one contemplates how such an exorbitant expenditure could have funded the building and repair of U.S. highways and bridges, how it could help equip our nation’s military, or how it could help provide housing for the poor, the global warming/climate change agenda of the EPA and other U.S. agencies is an obscenity. The EPA should be eliminated and its functions returned to the individual states, all of which have their own departments of environmental protection. At the very least, we would save billions. Originally published at Warning Signs. 
Categories: On the Blog

Garth Brooks in Ireland: A Tale of Bureaucratic Insanity

Somewhat Reasonable - July 09, 2014, 10:06 AM

A cautionary tale about the pitfalls of bureaucratic incompetence played out in Ireland over the last several days. American country music star Garth Brooks was scheduled to play five concerts in the Croke Park arena, one of the largest venues in the country. In all, 400,000 tickets were sold. That is an astonishing number, considering Ireland’s population is just under 4.6 million. Close to one in ten citizens was planning to attend!

Everything was going ahead smoothly until a few residents in the area around Croke Park filed a complaint with the Dublin City Council citing a rule buried in the statute books that special events could not run more than three concurrent nights. Rather than try to make an exception, the unelected city manager initially stated that two of the nights would have to be cancelled. This decision was obviously unpopular with the more than 100,000 people who were put out by the bureaucratic decision. It was also unpopular with Garth Brooks and his crew.

When confronted with the mandate to truncate his shows, Brooks responded by saying he preferred to do all five or none. This statement threw not only the Dublin city government into turmoil, but the whole national government as well. This may seem like an extreme reaction over a concert, but when bureaucracy scuppers the desires more nearly 10% of your population, you have a reason to get involved!

Even with the leaders of all the major political parties lining up behind an effort to allow the performances to go ahead, the city manager upheld the rule. Garth Brooks has since cancelled all five concerts, as he promised. One hired bureaucrat scuppered the whole show!

The cost of this unmitigated bureaucratic madness is estimated at 50 million euro ($68 million). For a cash-strapped country just coming out of a grueling recession to spit in the face of so much income is just crazy. It seems like a lot of Irish people are also aghast at the ineptitude of the political class to deal with what ought to have been a simple problem to resolve.

The lesson to be learned from the sorry Garth Brooks affair is that allowing any bureaucracy to develop and entrench itself to the point where the elected representatives of the people have no power to challenge its decrees is not only anti-democratic, it is directly harmful to people’s lives. Rules and regulations are like plaque in the body of the economy. Only by cleaning them out can it hope to survive. Hopefully this case will serve as a wake-up call to Ireland and as a cautionary tale for other countries as well.

Categories: On the Blog

ICCC9 Panel 6 – The Right Climate Stuff

Somewhat Reasonable - July 09, 2014, 9:39 AM

The 6th Panel of the International Conference on Climate Change was based around three men who worked with NASA. The group called, The Right Climate Stuff, focused on the actual facts and data related to the climate change debate. This information filled panel is a can’t miss for ICCC9.

Thomas Wysmuller – Tide Gauges/Satellites; Different Measures – Same Ocean! Will the REAL Sea-Level Please Rise???

The first speaker of this panel was Thomas Wysmuller who worked for NASA for five years. Wysmuller started his speech with a picture of Manhattan partially under water stating this “will never happen.” He reassured the audience that the projected rate of sea-level rise was falling incredibly short of the predictions. The rise in the sea-level that has been measured is miniscule and can be attributed to other factors.

One example, stated by Wysmuller, is the fact that some of these sensors that are detecting water rising are placed in areas where skyscrapers are being built. These large buildings are in effect pushing the land down ever so slightly. Another interesting factor examined by Wysmuller is the flaws in satellite measurement. He explained that when the atmosphere is heated up by solar activity, orbital degradation occurs. This means the satellites that are measuring the sea-levels fall lower slightly which causes errors in the readings.

Dr. Hal Doiron – On Bounding GHG Climate Sensitivity

Former engineer with NASA Dr. Hal Doiron was the second speaker in this panel. Doiron used many statistics to explain the errors often cited when discussing CO2 levels in the atmosphere. Doiron discusses how we will never see a rise in CO2 levels that would threaten life on earth. These levels would have to exceed  6-8 thousand ppm to be considered harmful to humans. Doiron predicts earth will peak around 600 ppm in the next century.

Walter Cunningham – The Global Warming War

The last speaker in this panel was American astronaut Walter Cunningham. Cunningham tackled the logical flaws seen in many alarmists’ arguments. He started off by stating the sun and orbit are the principle drivers of our climate. Another example explained by Cunningham is the correlation fallacy. He showed the flaw in this by showing a graph that showed a strong correlation between UFO sightings and ocean temperatures. These data points were correlated and also completely meaningless.

Cunningham said this global warming war is being fought on many fronts. He said we are winning the battle on the scientific front but losing on the media, public and political front. To counter this, we have to improve our communications. Cunningham said the best way to persuade others is by saying, “look at the empirical data.”

To see Panel 6 in its entirety, Click Here.

Categories: On the Blog

ICCC9 Panel 3 – Combating Climate Myths with Science Facts

Somewhat Reasonable - July 09, 2014, 9:06 AM

Day Two of the 9th International Conference on Climate Change was stacked with qualified speakers discussing a wide range of subjects relating to global warming. Panel 3, titled “Combating Climate Myths with Science Facts, featured three speakers, Tom Harris, Anthony Watts and James Taylor. These three men spoke about the causes of the hysteria that swirls around the topic of climate change and how to push back against it.

Tom Harris – Expanding the Tent of Climate Realism

Tom Harris of ICSC started the panel off by talking about the ways to convince people of the truth about global warming. He warned that simply poking fun at key figures like Al Gore will win nobody over from that side. He said the best way to “convince people to be sensible” is to use logical reasoning. He explained that it is silly to invest massive amounts of money to solve a hypothetical problem in the future when it could be used to help people today.

For example, Harris mentioned that we spend $1 Billion a day on climate finance. According to the information available, 94% of that money is used to mitigate the effects of global warming in the future while only 6% is used to help people here and now. Harris said we can appeal to more people when we explain that we are letting people starve today in order to possibly help a future problem.

James Taylor – Check the Source!

The second speaker in this panel was The Heartland Institute’s own James Taylor. Taylor discussed ways to battle against the unfounded claims that are often cited by climate alarmists. He said we must simply check the facts. When debating about global warming topics, Taylor said that alarmists make claims that often go unchallenged. This can be very harmful. Taylor said, “The facts are available to everybody.”

When climate change is talked about in the media, it is regularly stated that storms are getting stronger, forest fires are getting more frequent and crop yields are falling. When these stats are checked, they are found to be untrue. Taylor said that when we check the facts we are looking under the hood of these claims; and when we check under the hood, we find there is no engine.

Anthony Watts – Digging Deep – Beyond Science by Press Release

Anthony Watts, from the website Watts Up With That?, was the final speaker of this panel. This information filled talk explained the difference between the real science and what is covered by the media. Watts mentioned that pieces of information are skewed to add shock value to a segment. “Overly exaggerated presentation of research findings” are used to grab viewers attention while non-attention grabbing information is ignored.

Watts said we can help minimize this by challenging the claims that are reported. He said when we come across a claim that is misleading or skewed, we should go to the source with our concerns. This will help prevent the information from continued manipulation from its original form.

To watch the panel in its entirety, Click Here.

Categories: On the Blog
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