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A New Year’s Resolution: Becoming a Light of Liberty

January 06, 2015, 10:30 AM

With the beginning of 2015, what might be a “New Year’s resolution” for a friend of freedom? I would suggest that one answer is for each of us to do our best to become “lights of liberty” that will attract others to the cause of freedom and the free society.

For five years, from 2003 to 2008, I had the opportunity and privilege to serve as the president of the Foundation for Economic Education. FEE, as it is also called, was founded in 1946 by Leonard E. Read, with the precise goal of advancing an understanding of and the arguments for individual freedom, free markets, and constitutionally limited government.

One of the reasons that I accepted the position as president was that FEE had been influential in my own intellectual development in appreciating the meaning and importance of liberty from the time that I was a teenager, both through the pages of its monthly magazine, The Freeman and the books that it published and distributed at heavily discounted prices.

I wanted to assist in continuing the work that Leonard Read had begun at FEE, especially among the young whose ideas and actions would greatly influence the chances for liberty in the decades to come.

Self-Improvement as Lights of Liberty

In fact, it is now just over forty years ago, in June 1974 when I was in my mid-20s, that I first attended a weeklong FEE summer seminar at its, then, headquarters in a spacious and charming mansion building in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York.

There were many impressive speakers at the seminar that week, including the famous free-market journalist, Henry Hazlitt, and the riveting Austrian School economist, Hans Sennholz.

But I must confess that I only recall the content of one of the lectures that week, delivered by Leonard Read, himself. He pointed out that many of us wish we could change the world in ways that we consider to be for the better. But changing the world can only happen through changes in the attitudes, ideas, and actions of the individual members of any society.

He asked, out of all the people in the world, over whom do you have the most influence? The answer, he said, is, obviously, yourself. Therefore, changing the world begins with improving one’s own understanding and ability to explain and persuasively articulate the case for freedom and free markets.

At one point in his talk he asked that the lights be turned off in the classroom. In the darkness he slowly started to turn up the light of an electric candle that he held in his hand, asking us to notice how all eyes were drawn to it, however dim the illumination.

As the candle brightened he pointed out that more and more of the darkness was pushed away into the corners, enabling us to see more clearly both the objects and the people in the room.

If each of us learned more about liberty, we would become ever-brighter lights in the surrounding collectivist darkness of the society in which we lived. Our individually growing enlightenment through self-education and self-improvement would slowly but surely draw others to us who might also learn the importance of freedom.

Through this process more and more human lights of freedom would sparkle in the dark until finally there would be enough of us to guide the way for others so that liberty would once again triumph. And collectivism would be pushed far back into the corners of society.

Anything That’s Peaceful and First Principles

Central to Read’s philosophy of freedom was a commitment to first principles as the Archimedean point from which the logic of liberty flows. As Read explained in his book Anything That’s Peaceful (1964):

“I mean let anyone do anything that he pleases that’s peaceful and creative; let there be no organized restraint against anything but fraud, violence, misrepresentation, predation; let anyone deliver the mail, or educate, or preach his religion or whatever, so long as it’s peaceful. Limit society’s agency of organized force – government – to juridical and policing functions . . . Let the government do this, and leave all else to the free, unfettered market!”

What are the “first principles” of liberty, and what do they imply?

Each Individual’s Right to His Own Life

Firstly, and most importantly, liberty means the right of the individual to live his own life for himself. The starting axiom of freedom is that right of the individual to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property.

Either the individual has “ownership” over himself, or it must be presumed that the collective, the tribe, the group has the authority to dispose of his life and the fruits of his mental and physical labors.

If he does not have a right to his own life, then he is at the mercy of the wishes, whims and coercive caprice of others who claim to speak and act in political authority in the name of “society.”

Only the individual knows what will bring happiness, satisfaction, fulfillment, meaning and purpose to his own life. If this is taken away from him, then he is a slave to the purposes and brute power of others.

Respect for the Equal Rights of All

Secondly, liberty means for each of us to respect the equal right of every other individual to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. We cannot expect others to respect our own right to these things, if we do not, as a matter of principle, forswear any claim to their life and property.

To not recognize and abide by the reciprocity of respect for and defense of such unmolested individual rights is to abrogate any principle of human association other than force and plunder – the enslavement and spoliation by the intellectually manipulative and physically stronger over others in society.

On what basis or by what principle can we appeal not to be murdered, physically violated or robbed by others, if we do not declare and insist upon the right of each individual to his life, liberty and property, ours and everyone else’s, as a starting moral premise in society?

Voluntary Consent and Peaceful Agreement

Thirdly, this means that all human associations and relationships should be based on peaceful and voluntary consent and agreement. No one may be coerced or intimidated through the threat of force to act in any way other than he freely chooses to do.

Each of us only enters into those associations and exchanges from which we expect to be made better off, as we define and desire an improvement in our lives.

This does not mean that we often do not wish that the terms under which another is willing to trade with us would be more favorable to ourselves. But the fact that we may choose to exchange at some agreed terms that is minimally acceptable to ourselves as well as to the other person means that, all things considered, we anticipate that our circumstances will be better than if we passed up this trading opportunity.

The only time that it is clear that a trade or an association with others is not considered by us as a source of personal betterment is when we are forced or coerced into the relationship. Why would compulsion have to be used or threatened against us, if we did not view what we are being compelled to do is an action or a commitment that we evaluate as making us worse rather than better off?


The Mutual Respect of Private Property

Fourthly, liberty means that each individual’s honestly acquired property is respected as rightfully his, and may not be plundered or taxed away by others, even when majorities may think that some minority has not paid some supposed “fair share.”

What makes something the rightful property of an individual? When he has either appropriated unclaimed and previously unowned land and resources through their transformation in some manner through his mental and physical labor, or when he has acquired it through peaceful and non-fraudulent trade with another in exchange for something he has to offer in the form of a desired good or his labor services at voluntarily agreed-upon terms of trade.

The use of force by either private individuals or those in political authority to seize such rightful property or compel its use or sale on terms other than those freely chosen and agreed to by its owner is, therefore, unjust and indefensible in a free society.

A Free Market of Goods and Ideas

Fifthly, liberty means respect for the free, competitive interactions of people in the marketplace of goods and ideas, out of which comes the creative and innovative energy of mind and effort that bring about rising standards of living for all in society.

The free market is the arena of human association in which each individual is at liberty to make his own choices and decisions as both producer and consumer.

Yet, as has been understood since the time of Adam Smith in the eighteenth century, each individual, in his own self-interest, necessarily must apply his abilities in ways that take into consideration the circumstances and desires of others in society.

Since, in the society of liberty, no individual may acquire what he desires through murder, theft or fraud, he is left with only one avenue to obtain what others have that he wants. He must offer to those others something that he can produce or provide that those others value more highly than what they are asked to trade away to get it.

Thus, in the free market each receives in voluntary trade what they value more highly in exchange for what they value less highly. And each serves the interests of others as the means to his own end of the personal improvement of his self-defined circumstances.

Thus, the free market as a moral and starting principle eschews all forms of compelled self-sacrifice in the networks of human association.

Liberty and Limited Government

And, sixthly, a society of liberty means a limited government, a government whose purpose is to protect each individual in his freedom and peaceful market and social affairs, and is not to be an agency of political oppression or economic favoritism through special privileges and benefits that are given to some at the expense of others in society.

Compulsory redistribution of wealth and income, and regulatory coercions over the means and methods of production, and the peaceful buying and selling of goods and services are all inconsistent with the ideal of a society of free men and women, each secure in their individual rights to their life, liberty and honestly acquired property.

These are not easy rules and ideals to live by, but they are what America was founded upon and made it originally great as a land of liberty – a land of both wide individual freedom and rising prosperity.

Winning Others Over to Liberty, One Person at a Time

They are, also, ideas not always easy to get others around us to understand and appreciate the way we see them, ourselves. This gets us back to Leonard Read’s conception of self-improvement in our own understanding of what he called the “freedom philosophy.”

Our New Year’s resolution should be to do all that we individually can to better understand the principles of liberty, their logic, their moral rightness, and their convincing application to the political and economic issues of our day.

As we each become more enlightened and articulate spokespersons for freedom we widen the circle of people able to persuasively draw others into that illumination of liberty. And step-by-step, one person at a time, the supporters and advocates of collectivism will be reduced and the proponents and enthusiasts for freedom will be increased.

Make it your goal, therefore, to bring at least one person over to the cause of liberty in 2015, and if we all do this we will have, at a minimum, doubled the friends of freedom in this New Year. If we repeat this same process of reasoned persuasion in 2016, that larger number can and will be doubled again. And, then, again in 2017, and 2018, and . . .

Through this means of peaceful persuasion the friends of freedom can become the majority of Americans in our own lifetime. All it requires is enough of us willing to try.


[Originally published at EpicTimes]


Categories: On the Blog

The Future is Arriving Faster Than Ever

January 06, 2015, 10:08 AM

On the last day of 2014 I received a lapel pin from the Society of Professional Journalists in honor of my having been a member since 1979, thirty-five years ago. I confess I was a little stunned to think I had been an editor and reporter that long ago. Indeed, I had been one for several years even before I joined the Society.

 I doubt that today’s generation of young journalists have ever used a manual typewriter nor know what it feels like to hold the pieces of metal that a linotype machine created to make a column of newsprint.

 In theory journalism still has the same objectives; to get the facts and tell the story as objectively as possible.
Today, however, journalism has become far more subjective and the issue of bias blazes off the pages and from the television screen in terms of the selection of the events that are reported and the facts selected to be the news.

 There is an old saying in newsrooms that reporters are liberal and editors are conservative, but these days much of what appears on editorial pages and in the print and broadcast news is a blatant liberal interpretation of what is or is not news.

 This old journalist cannot escape the feeling that what we are reading much of the time is little more than a government press release handout. Sadly, I think we are witnessing a significant reduction of investigative journalism in the mainstream media. Fortunately that void is filled in these days by Internet sites that focus on various elements of the news occurring in the nation and the world.

 It was not, for example, a journalist who discovered the truth about Jonathan Gruber and his role in creating ObamaCare. He’s now famous for calling voters “stupid.”

 These days, according to the Pew Research Journalism Project, “Even at a time of fragmenting media use, television remains the dominant way that Americans get news at home, according to a (2013) Pew Research Center analysis of Nielsen data. And while the largest audiences tune into local and network broadcast news, it is national cable news that commands the most attention from its viewers.”

I suspect that the many new communications technologies will be the means by which people will get their news from ipads and similar devices. I feel positively ancient when I open the print edition of The Wall Street Journal, but I wouldn’t want to read it any other way. The same applies to reading a book.

In his 1970 book, “Future Shock”, Alvin Toffler warned that by the year 2000, technological advance would come so fast that they will actually make people’s lives more complex, not less. He called it “information overload” saying “Millions of ordinary, psychologically normal people will face an abrupt collision with the future, which will lead to distorted perceptions of reality, confusion, and fatigue.”

Now ask yourself if you’ve become accustomed to people walking down the sidewalk apparently talking out loud to themselves when in fact they are on a cell phone? Indeed, I rarely get in an elevator or go anywhere without seeing people who are looking at a device in their hand with which they are checking their email or conversing with someone. They are, however, literally cut off from any inter-relation with anyone around them, often oblivious to what is occurring.

Think now of how many passwords, remote controls, onboard navigation systems, and Internet search engines with which you interact every day. These are all relatively new technology even though they may seem to have always existed to millennials and younger folk.

Another futurist, R. Buckminster Fuller, an American philosopher and architect—inventor of the geodesic dome—predicted that by the year 2000, the world would have figured out how to eliminate poverty and hunger. We have made great progress with regard to growing abundant crops, but of course those who hate and fear any new way to benefit society are presently campaigning against genetically modified crops (GMOs). They are safe but many large food providers like McDonald’s are giving into the pressure from groups who claim they pose a health threat. They do not. Demands that GMO elements be listed on product labels are part of a despicable campaign against this extraordinary agricultural technology that enhances, protects, and increases crops.

As for poverty, Fuller’s prediction did not come true. The future that has arrived since he made the prediction requires a higher level of education for most jobs and computer skills to perform them. If you’re poor, you face an immediate obstacle trying to learn how to operate and own a computer.

At the same time, robots have replaced workers such as bank tellers. When I call customer service these days, I generally end up talking to a machine. Isaac Asimov, one of the 20th century’s most highly regarded science fiction writers, predicted in 1942 that robots would be so ubiquitous that he proposed “Three Laws of Robotics.” The prime law was that a robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being come to harm. We haven’t quite reached the point Asimov envisioned, but we are getting there.

In terms of how new technologies have occurred in my lifetime, it is fair to say that the future is arriving even more swiftly than it did in the past.

My Mother who at age 98 had lived through virtually the entire last century recalled how amazed she was when a box with earphones was her introduction to the first radio. Born in 1903 when the first Wright Brothers plane flight occurred, she lived to see men rocket to the Moon and airplane travel largely replace trains. 1903 was also the year Henry Ford founded his company and five years later began to roll out the first Model T.  Affordable automobiles transformed American society.

Since we live in an era of change we are often unaware of how greatly the newest technology will affect our lives, but we know we want to have it and use it. That is why, if I may return to my starting point, it is ever more essential that the news that journalists provide is even more important to our lives in terms of how accurately they report the changes affecting it.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Greg Lawson: Economic and Ethical Arguments for Workplace Freedom in the Midwest

January 06, 2015, 9:15 AM

Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions Policy Analyst Greg Lawson joins The Heartland Institute’s Budget and Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about the economic and ethical arguments for workplace freedom in the Midwest, and the rest of the country. In many states, union membership in some places of work is mandatory, forcing individuals to choose between working somewhere else and having their paycheck involuntarily deducted to fund union political activities.

In 2013, Indiana and Michigan enacted laws to allow workers to decide whether to join a workplace union or not, and other states have begun exploring the idea. Lawson explains how workplace freedom laws spread from state to state, noting that Ohio, a “forced-union state,” may soon be surrounded by states without such laws.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Even Republicans And GMO-Friendly Executives Are Caving To Insane Anti-GMO Demands

January 06, 2015, 8:20 AM

Instead of fretting over Sony’s sheepish release of a movie depicting the assassination of Kim Jong-un, consider how your grocery bill will look in 2015 if we accede to the anti-scientific demands of Europe, China, Russia, and Japan.

Long before every American household had a car, most American farmers owned tractors. The radio, GPS, handheld computers; farmers embrace new technology because they work harder and possess a profound appreciation for risk. This is why American, Canadian, Australian and Indian farmers have all embraced genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), crops that address these risks, while using less fossil fuel.

 This bothers urban organic activists who claim efficiency on the farm threatens the environment and makes us all fat. They’ve launched 67 initiatives to label or ban GMOs in half the states across America, much to the delight of their comrades in Europe, China, Russia and Japan. In response, pro-GMO executives will spend massive amounts of money fighting these initiatives, only to quietly cave in in the end.

Take for instance the recent decision by McDonald’s Restaurants to reject GMO potatoes; a repeat of what happened back in 2001. Organic activists failed to scare American potato farmers away from growing GMO potatoes the way they scared wheat and flax farmers; so they went after the fast-food industry instead, and McDonalds collapsed like a Happy Meal driven over by an 18-wheeler. And rather than counter with a science-based offensive, the CEO of the U.S. National Potato Council (NPC), John Keeling, decided instead to do nothing.

It gets worse. The future for GMO farming now rests on a tenuous plan to try to magically sweep away all of the organic movement’s anti-GMO initiatives by agreeing to allow GMO foods to be labelled at the national level, voluntarily. If bipartisan support for the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” bill didn’t convince you of the dangers of bipartisanship in Washington, just wait ‘til you see how this “magical” bill being championed with bipartisan support by Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo plays out.

Categories: On the Blog

White House Climate Lunacy

January 05, 2015, 3:27 PM

As January 2014 arrived with a blast of cold air ominously dubbed the “polar vortex”, the White House released a video in which the Chief Science Advisor to President Obama, Dr. John Holdren, managed to get on both sides of it, declaring the “extreme cold” to be “a pattern that we expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.” How the Earth is getting both colder and warmer at the same time defies reality, but that is of little concern to Dr. Holdren and, indeed, the entire global warming—now called climate change–hoax.

Earlier, in November 2013, the White House made Dr. Holdren available to social media saying he would answer “any questions that you have about climate change…”  As noted by Jim Lakely, Communications Director of The Heartland Institute, the invitation welcomed questions “but only if they conform to the notion that human activity is causing a climate crisis, and restricting human activity by government direction can ‘fight it.’” The answers would have to wait “because the White House social media experts are having a hard time sifting through the wreckage of their ill-conceived campaign and finding the very few that conform to Holdren’s alarmist point of view.”

Sadly, in addition to the United Nations where the hoax originated and any number of world leaders including our President and Secretary of State, Pope Francis has announced that he too believes the Earth is warming. Someone should tell him that it has been in a natural cooling cycle going on twenty years at this point!

Of course, such facts mean nothing to Dr. Holdren and even less to the President. That is why we are likely to not only hear more about climate change from him, but also discover that the White House intends the last two years of Obama’s term in office to be an all-out effort to impose restrictions and find reasons to throw money at the hoax. Dr. Holdren was no doubt a major contributor to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy initiative announced on December 3rd.

This “Climate Action Plan” called the “Climate Education and Literacy Initiative” is primarily directed at spreading the hoax in the nation’s classrooms and via various government entities as the National Park Service so they can preach it to the 270 million people who visit the nation’s 401 parks each year. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will sponsor five regional workshops for educators and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, along with the American Geosciences Institute and the National Center for Science Education will launch four videos likely to be shown in schools.

Joining the White House will be the Alliance for Climate Education, the American Meteorological Society, the Earth Day Network, Green Schools Alliance, and others. It adds up to a massive climate change propaganda campaign, largely paid for with taxpayer funding.

The “science” that will be put forward will be as unremittingly bogus as we have been hearing and reading since the late 1980s when the global warming hoax was launched.

When Dr. Holdren faced a 2009 confirmation hearing, he moved away from his early doomsday views on climate change, population growth, and the possibilities of nuclear war. Though warned by William Yeatman of the Competitive Enterprise Institute that Dr. Holdren had “a 40-year record of outlandish scientific assertions, consistently wrong predictions, and dangerous public policy choices” that made him “unfit to serve as the White House Science Advisor”, the committee voted unanimously to confirm him. They should have read some of his published views.

Regrettably Congress generally goes along with the climate change hoax. Dr. Holdren noted that “Global change research (did) well in the 2013 budget. One can look at that as a reaffirmation of our commitment to addressing the climate change challenge. There’s $2.6 billion in the budget for the United States Global Change Research Program.”

Let me repeat that. $2.6 BILLION devoted to “research” on global warming or climate change. One must assume it is devoted to finding ways for mankind to cope with the non-existent global warming or the threat of a climate change about which mankind can do nothing. It is comparable to saying that humans can get the Sun to increase or decrease its radiation.

In June 2014, Ron Arnold, the executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and Washington Examiner columnist, noted that Dr. Holdren has long held the view that the U.S. should “de-develop” its “over-developed” economy.

That likely explains the Obama administration’s attack on the use of coal, particularly in utilities that use it to generate electricity. In the six years since the policy has been pursued by the EPA, coal-fired utilities have been reduced from providing fifty percent of the nation’s electricity to forty percent. Less energy means less investment in new business and industrial manufacturing, less jobs, and less safety for all of us who depend on electricity in countless ways.

Arnold reported that “Holdren wrote his de-development manifesto with Paul and Anne Ehrlich, the scaremongering authors of the Sierra Club book, ‘The Population Bomb.’” Aside from the fact that every prediction in the book has since proven to be wrong, but it was clear then and now that Dr. Holdren is no fan of the human population of the planet. Like most deeply committed environmentalists, it is an article of faith that the planet’s problems are all the result of human activity, including its weather.

In December 2014, Dr. Holdren expressed the view that worldwide carbon dioxide emissions should be reduced to “close to zero”, adding “That will not be easy.”  This reflected the deal President Obama agreed to with China, but carbon dioxide plays no discernable role whatever in “global warming” (which isn’t happening) and is, in fact, a gas essential to all life on Earth, but particularly for all vegetation that is dependent on it for growth.

Dr. Holdren’s continued presence as the chief Science Advisor to the President encourages Obama to repeat all the tired claims and falsehoods of global warming and climate change. It is obscene that his administration devotes billions of dollars and countless hours to spreading a hoax that is an offense to the alleged “science” it cites.

Categories: On the Blog

Will FCC Grant Congress Legislative Deference?

January 05, 2015, 3:05 PM

Isn’t Congress due the same deference from the FCC that the FCC expects from the courts?

Will the FCC defer to the new Congress for a reasonable period of time so it can pass consensus on net neutrality legislation?

For the last year, ISPs have respected the FCC’s net neutrality rules, despite the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet Order being overturned by an appeals court last January.

What irreparable harm would occur if the FCC deferred to Congress, the source of all its existing and future legal authority, for a reasonable period of time in order to resolve this issue most legitimately?

A U.S. Supreme Court precedent called “Chevron Deference” is central to the FCC’s legal calculus of whether it can reclassify the Internet as a Title II telecommunications service for the implicit purpose of imposing a permanent zero-price on downstream Internet traffic.

“Chevron” is the Supreme Court precedent that grants administrative agencies like the FCC deference in interpreting the law if “the intent of Congress is clear” and the “agency’s answer is based on a permissible construction of the statute.”

Per a recent press report, Congress is working on introducing legislation to provide the FCC with the legal authority that the FCC says it needs to enforce net neutrality “rules of the road.”

Apparently the proposal would be a straightforward compromise to settle this protracted and unnecessary controversy.

Congress would create a new “Title X” that would put into law the net neutrality protections that President Obama publicly called for in November, and grant the FCC the authority to prevent ISP blocking of content, throttling of traffic, and “paid prioritization.”

With this modern direct legal authority to preserve the open Internet, the FCC then would have no need to apply 1934 Title II, common carrier law to the Internet.

Why is FCC legislative deference to Congress so important?

The whole purpose of the Chevron Deference precedent is to ensure that both the courts and independent agencies like the FCC defer to the clear intent and language of Congress’ statutes.

Chevron is all about enforcing the actual direct authority granted by Congress in law, and not having courts, or an independent agency like the FCC, try and effectively create new law absent Congress.

The reality is that “net neutrality,” Internet “blocking,” “throttling” or “paid prioritization” are terms and concepts not found in archaic communications law.

That is the core reason why the FCC’s attempts to effectively legislate new law and policy absent Congress were overturned by the courts in Comcast v. FCC and in Verizon v. FCC.

Someday, the FCC will need Congress to update its authority for the Internet age. Why shouldn’t the FCC start working cooperatively with Congress now?

The bottom line here is that everything that the FCC is and does ultimately comes from Congress.

The FCC is an agency that is “independent” from the executive branch, but not independent of the legislative branch, its constitutional master, or the courts, its constitutional check and balance.

At bottom, how does the unelected FCC want to publicly start off its relationship with the newly elected Congress?

Does the FCC want to respond constructively to a good faith effort by Congress to resolve the FCC’s publicly stated net neutrality enforcement problem, on a bipartisan basis, and more quickly than the courts can, by deferring its proceeding for a reasonable period of time?

Or does the FCC want to reject Congress’ help and authority, and rush ahead on a Title II path that could cause unnecessary irreparable harm to the Internet, consumers, industry and the FCC?

How the FCC chooses to publicly start its relationship with the new Congress will speak volumes.

[This was first published in the Daily Caller]
Categories: On the Blog

A Year of Futility in Fight Against Climate Change

January 05, 2015, 2:56 PM

The year 2014 was another year of futility in the fight against climate change. Climatists redoubled efforts to convince citizens that urgent action is needed to stop dangerous global warming. But the gap between public warnings and actual events produced an endless stream of climate irony.

January began with a frosty bang as an arctic air mass descended on the central United States, following a similar event in December. What was once called a cold snap is now ominously christened a “polar vortex.” Record-low daily temperatures were recorded from Minnesota to Boston, along with all-time seasonal snowfalls in many cities.

In a White House video released on Jan. 8, John Holdren, chief science advisor to President Obama, made the paradoxical statement: “But a growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.”

Also in January, passengers of the research ship Akademik Shokalskiy were rescued after the ship was locked in ice for 10 days near the Antarctic coast. The expedition led by professor Chris Turney had intended to study how weather patterns near Antarctica were changing because of man-made global warming.

On Feb. 16, during a presentation in Indonesia, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that climate change was “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Only two days later, protestors set fire to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, leading to the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych. In March, Russia seized the Crimea. In July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, and political unrest continues today. In the Middle East, slaughter of innocent civilians and beheading of western captives became a growing trend. Man-made climate casualties seem remarkably scarce in comparison.

In March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations released “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability.” The report said that man-made climate change would reduce world agricultural output. Lead author Dr. Mark Howden stated: “There’s increasing evidence that climate change is also impacting on agriculture, particularly on some of the cereal crops such as wheat and maize. The negative impacts are greater and quicker than we previously thought.”

Meanwhile, farmers continued to ignore the warnings of the IPCC. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, world agricultural production set all-time records for all three major cereal crops in 2014, with rice output up 1.1 percent, wheat up 11.2 percent, and corn up a whopping 14 percent over 2013.

The Obama administration continued its attack on coal-fired power plants, which provide about 40 percent of U.S. electricity. In June, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new restrictions on carbon emissions that would make it virtually impossible to build a new coal-fired plant in the United States. At the same time, more than 1,200 new coal-fired plants are planned across the world, with two-thirds to be built in India and China.

In his 2007 Noble Prize acceptance speech, former Vice President Al Gore warned that the arctic ice could be gone in “as little as seven years.” But arctic sea ice rebounded in 2014 and Antarctic sea ice has been growing for decades. According to the University of Illinois, satellites measured global sea ice area at above the 30-year average at the end of 2014.

In September, the United Nations held a climate summit in New York City to urge the world to conserve energy and reduce emissions. Spokesman Leonardo DiCaprio stated, “This disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make.” Mr. DiCaprio neglected to mention his frequent flights on carbon-emitting private jets or his ownership of the world’s fifth largest yacht, purchased from a Middle East oil tycoon.

In October, climate skeptics reported the 18th straight year of flat global temperatures. Satellite data shows no temperature increase since 1997. The “pause” in global warming is now old enough to vote or to serve in the military.

Hurricanes and tornados are favored events for generating alarming climate headlines, but U.S. weather events were few in 2014. U.S. tornado activity was below average and the lack of strong hurricanes continued. No Category 3 or stronger hurricane has made U.S. landfall for more than eight years, the longest period since records began in 1900.

With all the climate fun in 2014, what will 2015 hold?


[This was first published in the Providence Journal]
Categories: On the Blog

NOW SHOWING! The Hack that Ate the Internet Ecosystem!

January 05, 2015, 2:43 PM

Recently Sony Pictures became the most recent victim of hackers. This hack captured American attention in ways that many previous hacks had not despite the seriousness of each of them largely because of the trove of private embarrassing emails, sensitive employee information such as salary negotiations and results, and intellectual property being made public. Attention was further driven by scandalous, sensationalist headlines…repeatedly. Tinsel Town lives in a bubble, disconnected from the rest of the country, much like Washington, DC, so when something goes awry in these places the national schadenfreude is wide spread. In this case, things went wrong in both places.

While the attack on Sony, if not a traditional act of war, certainly goes well beyond some hackers on a lark. This should demand the serious attention of the public. That some blamed the victim or took advantage of the situation is shocking.

Those who blame the company for taking a wrong turn where national security is concerned by delaying the release of the “Interview” are baffling. Doesn’t national security responsibility rest on Capitol Hill and the White House rather than a movie studio? Would we blame a hostage taken by ISIS for placing our Navy Seals at risk? Regardless of what Sony does with its property it can hardly be accused of making a “mistake.” To the extent a mistake was made, it was that cybersecurity legislation was not made law, or even that Washington has not seemingly taken cybersecurity as seriously as it should as it is a very real very present threat to national security and to our individual liberty.

Others went so far as to try to create a side show to this international attack by spinning up a policy debate about copyright, referencing some stolen emails from Sony employees discussing the harm of ongoing copyright piracy. That Sony Pictures or that its trade association, the Motion Picture Association of America, are concerned about the harm of people stealing their property is hardly shocking. With tens of billions of dollars in direct economic harm at stake, that they may appeal to the government for greater protection of intellectual property via laws or law enforcement should catch absolutely no one by surprise.

These sorts antics distract from the very real issue at hand – that the Internet ecosystem is under attack and as such the entire ecosystem needs to respond, not be divided. True success in the digital world is achievable when all parties understand that they cannot stand on their own, that in fact an economically thriving digital ecosystem requires cooperation with an eye towards what is best for the broader ecosystem. The distributed nature of the Internet is a fundamental part of its design, and no one entity can be an island. Stakeholder cooperation is imperative for the success of all.

In fact, as the Pew Charitable Trust Internet and American Life Project a notable percentage of Americans have not yet adopted broadband, or have stopped using it, because they believe the benefits of use are outweighed by the risk or a lack of compelling uses.  If the Internet becomes, or is perceived to have become, a mere tool to facilitate illegal activity whether copyright theft, property damage, financial fraud, drug sales, human trafficking or other things then all in the ecosystem from service providers to content producers to Internet companies lose.

Cyber security should be the focus. Trying to turn this most recent hack attack into some sort of Internet reality show episode is disturbing. To fixate on information gained in the hack seems a bit small, ignoring the warlike criminal behavior while attacking the victim over revealed competitive decisions problematic. All entities in the ecosystem must be proactive. Government, individuals and companies we must all be alert and focused. And when the ecosystem is attacked we all must focus on the attack not focus on attacking each other.

Categories: On the Blog

Survival Prospects for ObamaCare in 2015

January 05, 2015, 2:32 PM

Now that Republicans have control of Congress, they could possibly keep their promise to repeal ObamaCare—except for two immediate obstacles. One of course is the threat of the Presidential veto. Another is the already apparent willingness of craven politicians to surrender pre-emptively.

Once a government benefit is given, it becomes politically suicidal to take it back—at least in a way that people can see. There are likely a million or more Americans who are reveling in “having healthcare for the first time in their lives.” Or so the Administration’s messaging would have us believe. People are not yet onto the difference between having an insurance card and getting prompt medical attention. It may be years before a new beneficiary develops a serious illness and finds out that his policy is worthless. But he will know immediately if his subsidy is taken away, and the plan demands several hundred dollars every month. And the media will be on it instantly.

Lots of articulate and influential people are making out well: navigators, consultants, administrators, insurance plans, some doctors and hospitals. They don’t want to lose their benefits either. Every dollar that the government takes from a taxpayer is income to somebody.

But as the costs start to be felt, and certain sweeteners expire, the question may well be not “can ObamaCare be repealed?”, but “can it be implemented?”

“Fannie Med” is beginning to implode. One taxpayer-backed insurance “co-op” is heading into bankruptcy in Iowa and Nebraska. As nonprofits, co-ops are not subject to accountability to shareholders, and have tended to underprice their products. They may try to game ObamaCare rules, undercutting competitors to capture market share, likely driving normal insurers out of the market. When revenues fail to cover obligations, they count on ObamaCare’s reinsurance and risk-corridor safety nets. But these benefits are limited and will expire. CoOpportunity Health cut it too close. Any competitors that it displaced may be gone forever.

The Department of Health and Human Services poured $1.9 billion into two dozen co-ops now responsible for 450,000 Americans. What happens when the government fails as venture capitalist? Taxpayers take the loss. And what happens to its subscribers when an insurer runs out of money?

Millions of Americans are supposed to get coverage through expansion of Medicaid. But the bait-and-switch tactic is being exposed. The federal government promised to cover 100 percent of the additional costs—at first. In 2017, the support is cut to 95 percent, and by 2020 to 90 percent. That may still sound generous, but states will be hard pressed to come up with 10s or 100s of millions of dollars—$78 million for little Utah.

And who will see the patients? Primary-care physicians got a temporary (two year) fee boost of about 40 percent, funded by $5.6 billion from the federal government. As this runs out, some doctors will see pay cuts of more than 47 percent if states don’t take up the slack. Maybe doctors will have to continue caring for current patients, lest they be accused of abandonment, but will they accept new Medicaid patients?

Come April, Americans will be having to tell the IRS about their insurance status, and pay an additional “tax” if it doesn’t meet requirements. Employers face onerous new reporting requirements come New Year’s Day, and the delayed employer mandate kicks in. But at least the economic outlook is rosy, right?

The economy purportedly “grew” by $140 billion in the third quarter of 2014—through what has been called fabricated fudging.At the same time, Americans became $80 billion poorer. How did that happen? Americans dug into their savings and spent billions on the “Affordable” Care Act.

And here is where ObamaCare, like mistletoe growing on a tree, may reach its limit. Already, some 25 percent of the uninsured are choosing not to enroll, preferring the tax to the premiums. What happens when people simply cannot pay? How much more can ObamaCare bleed from taxpayers, productive businesses, and Americans who are not yet destitute? And what happens when the medical system can sustain the load no longer?

ObamaCare can’t survive if the economy doesn’t. Is there no other way to free our country from this and other government overgrowth?

Categories: On the Blog

Obama Administration Kicks the Oil-and-Gas Industry While it is Down

January 05, 2015, 1:12 PM

For the past six years, the oil and gas industry has served as a savior to the Obama presidency by providing the near-lone bright spot in economic growth. Increased U.S. oil-and-gas production has created millions of well-paying jobs and given us a new energy security. The president often peppers his speeches with braggadocio talk about our abundant supplies and decreased dependence on foreign oil.

 So now that the economic powerhouse faces hard times, how does the Administration show its appreciation for the oil-and-gas industry boon to the economy over the past six years?

 By introducing a series of regulations—at least nine in total, according to the Wall Street journal (WSJ)—that will put the brakes on the US energy boom through higher operating costs and fewer incentives to drill on public lands.

 WSJ states: “Mr. Obama and his environmental backers say new regulations are needed to address the impacts of the surge in oil and gas drilling.”

 U.S. oil production, according to the Financial Times: “caught Saudi Arabia by surprise.” The kingdom sees that US shale and Canadian oil-sand development “encroached on OPEC’s market share” and has responded with a challenge to high-cost sources of production by upping its output—adding to the global oil glut and, therefore, dropping prices.

 Most oil-market watchers expect temporary low-priced oil, with prediction of an increase in the second half of 2015, and some saying 2016. North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness believes “We’re in an energy war.” He sees “the price slump could last 16 months or even one to two years as U.S. supply stays strong, global demand remains weak and OPEC continues to challenge U.S. production.” However, Ibrahim al-Assaf, Saudi Arabia’s finance minister, recently said: “We have the ability to endure low oil prices over the medium term of up to five years, even if it means delving into fiscal reserves to cover a large deficit.”

 While no one knows how long the low-price scenario will last—geopolitical risk is still a factor.

 Many oil companies are already re-evaluating exploration, reining in costs, and cutting jobs and/or wages. “In the low price circumstance like today,” Jean-Marie Guillermou, the Asian head of the French oil giant Total, explained: “you do the strict minimum required.”

 In December, the WSJ reported: “Some North American companies have said they plan to cut their capital spending next year and dial back on exploring for new oil.” It quotes Tim Dove, President and COO for Pioneer Natural Resources Co.: “We are seeking cost reductions from all our suppliers.”

 Last month, Enbridge Energy Partners said: “it has laid off some workers in the Houston area”—which the Houston Chronicle (HC) on December 12 called: “the latest in a string of energy companies to announce cutbacks.” The HC continued: “Other key energy companies have also announced layoffs in recent days as oil tumbles to its lowest price in years. Halliburton on Thursday said it would slash 1,000 jobs in the Eastern Hemisphere as part of a $75 million restructuring. BP on Wednesday revealed plans to accelerate job cuts and pare back its oil production business amid crumbling oil prices.” Halliburton said: “we believe these job eliminations are necessary in order to work through this market environment.”

 Civeo, a lodging and workforce accommodation company for the oil-and-gas industry has cut 30 percent of its Canadian workforce and 45 percent of its U.S. workforce. President and CEO Bradley Dodson said: “As it became evident during the fourth quarter that capital spending budgets among the major oil companies were going to be cut, we began taking steps to reduce marketed room capacity, control costs and curtail discretionary capital expenditures.”

 I have warned the industry that while they have remained relatively unscathed by harsh regulations—such as those placed on electricity generation—their time would come. Now, it has arrived. The WSJ concurs: “In its first six years, the administration released very few regulations directly affecting the oil-and-gas industry and instead rolled out several significant rules aimed at cutting air pollution from the coal and electric-utility sectors.”

 According to the WSJ: “Some of the rules have been in the works for months or even years.” But that doesn’t mean the administration should introduce them now when the industry is already down—after all, the administration delayed Obamacare mandates due to the negative impact on jobs and the economy.

 Greg Guidry, executive vice president at Shell, recently said that he doesn’t want the EPA to “impose unnecessary costs and burden on an industry challenged now by a sustained low-price environment.”

 Different from Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets it. Under pressure from the environmental lobby to increase regulations on the oil-and-gas industry, he, during a question session on the floor of the House of Commons in December, said: “Under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy—it would be crazy economic policy—to do unilateral penalties on that sector.” He added: “We are not going to kill jobs and we are not going to impose a carbon tax.”

 Introducing the new rules now kick the industry while it is down and shows that President Obama either doesn’t get it, or he cares more about burnishing his environmental legacy than he does about American jobs and economic growth.


Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – David Quast: Hydraulic Fracturing Ban in New York

January 05, 2015, 9:15 AM

New York has made headlines and history by becoming the first state with significant deposits of natural gas to ban hydraulic fracturing. The decision was announced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and came on the heels of the release of a controversial new study by the New York Department of Public Health which claims there is not enough evidence to prove that fracking is safe. However, studies used to bolster these claims have been widely discredited by state health officials around the country.

Research Fellow Isaac Orr and his special guest David Quast from Energy In Depth discuss the flaws in the “science” used to justify the ban, the economic impact it will have for the citizens of New York, and the broader implications this ban could potentially have on the industry in other states.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Weather Bulletin #4, January 5, 2015: The Iceman Cometh

January 05, 2015, 1:07 AM

Weather Bulletin #4, January 5, 2015

Temperatures in the coastal city of Syracuse in Sicily, dropped to record or near record lows on December 31 and again on January 2. January is typically the coldest month of the year in Syracuse, but the average low temperature according to Best of Sicily is a relatively balmy 50 degrees. In addition to unusually low temperatures, Syracuse rang in the year with a historic snowfall – something that had never happened before.

Indeed, snow and ice struck, and stuck, across much of Europe in late December, leaving thousands of homes without power in Britain, with accompanying high winds closing France’s port of Calais. While the French Alps welcomed the snowfall, so much snow fell so fast, traffic jams occurred resulting in fewer than 7,000 of 36,000 drivers expected to reach the alpine region of Savoie. France established emergency shelters for the thousands forced to spend the night on the road.

Meanwhile back in the United States, The National Weather Service (NWS) announced on Jan. 3 almost half of the U.S. should expect severe winter. Much of the eastern seaboard, including New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have been placed under a winter weather advisory. In New Hampshire, snow squalls have already led to massive highway pileups with whiteout conditions causing accidents involving 35 vehicles on one interstate.

It’s not just the North East and New England suffering under winter’s icy spell, however, as frozen water pipes exploded around Denver, leaving many residents without potable water. Southern California also experienced unusual cold and significant snowfall, with the town of Julian receiving six inches of snow.

Meanwhile, many residents of Hawaii experienced a white Christmas and Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Big Island have received blizzard warnings from National Weather Service which warned those traveling to these mountains’ could face life-threatening conditions.

Nor, evidently, will the Midwest or Southern states being spared the winter freeze. The coldest air of the season will plunge into the Midwest, bringing to mind the worst of last year’s polar vortex experience.

The Weather Channel predicts two rounds of arctic cold will hit the U.S. The first blast has already begun, pushing below freezing as far south as Amarillo, Texas.

Starting Monday almost the entire states of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin can expect to see extended days of subzero lows, with 20 below zero in northern Minnesota. The cold, accompanied by high winds are expected to deliver dangerous wind chills, with wind chill warnings out for much of the Upper Midwest. Several locations, including International Falls, Minnesota, already saw wind chills in the 40s below zero Sunday evening.

According to the Weather Channel, “High temperatures Monday will be up to 25 degrees below average for areas around Lake Michigan, including single-digit highs for much of Wisconsin and Michigan.”


The second round of freezing weather is expected to result in high temperatures up to 35 degrees below average in parts of the Midwest. For instance, “Chicago may see a subzero high temperature on Wednesday. The last time the mercury did not reach zero there was on January 6 of last year. Chicago may also set a daily record cold high temperature on Wednesday (current record is 3 degrees set just last year) and a record low temperature on Thursday morning (current record is 10 degrees below zero).”


Minneapolis will experience its coldest temperatures this season with lows as much as 15 degrees below zero expected in the Twin Cities early in the week.

New Yorkers can expected to see a nearly weeklong spell of below 32 degrees temperatures, and while Houston and New Orleans could get a break from their dreaded humidity as temperatures fall to the low 20’s by Thursday morning.

Cold is breaking out all over and the summer is a long way off. Tis the season for global warming alarmists to claim global warming causes record cooling.

Categories: On the Blog

Book Review: The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold

January 04, 2015, 6:22 PM

The first edition of Edmund Contoski’s book,The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold was excellent, and would be an outstanding textbook in a college economics course. The second edition, released in November 2014, is even better, because he has added significant new chapters, focusing on issues such as the world’s gold economy, alternative currencies, and Keynesian economics’ logical inconsistency.

In my opinion, this book ranks among those written by Adam Smith, Frederick Bastiat, and Ludwig Von Mises. Understanding Contoski’s message will make a reader a more effective participant in the fight to fix our country’s flawed economic policies.

By reading Contoski’s clearly-written book—a rare trait among economics books—one gains an understanding of just what money is. By inflating the money supply beyond the amount of resources supporting currency reserves, readers will learn, governments are the cause of all recessions.

The world is effectively covered in fiat money, paper unrepresentative of value from physical resources, Contoski explains.

The author explains the history of bank notes and checks and that fiat money descended from the receipts given by goldsmiths, the keepers of a valuable physical resource. Contoski also tells entertaining true stories of intrigue, such as how a single individual working at Goldman Sachs was able to keep Greece’s debt crisis from becoming public knowledge for years, collecting $300 million as a reward.

This, and other parts of the gold story, read like a best-selling mystery thriller.

He makes the failure of Fannie and Freddie easy to comprehend, naming thethe politicians who created the housing bubble which began with the Community Reinvestment Act, and expanded through FHA and various HUD housing mandates, involving characters such as Janet Reno to Barack Obama

Another true story, which reads like a best-selling mystery thriller, is Contoski’s retelling of some of President Richard Nixon’s economic measures to shift the American monetary system to a fiat system.

When one reads Contoski’s common-sense approach to economics, one begins to wonder\ how government gets it so wrong. In a free market, he tells us, every transaction benefits both sides, according to their own judgment. If a transaction did not benefit all parties, they would not participate in the transaction.

However, in transactions forced by government, it is a win-lose game, because government seeks to benefit one side by imposing loss on the other.

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in a society,” French economist and philosopher Frederic Bastiat wrote, “they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

Throughout his book, Contoski provides evidence that we live in such a society. The Founding Fathers, Contoski explains, feared the evolution of such a system, in which politicians enacted policies by force, declaring such unilateral actions as beneficial to all.

Un-Convention-al Suggestions

This fear is coming true, Contoski writes, as government actions and regulations become more aggressive.

On a positive note, however, The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold is refreshing, because of the author’s pragmatic recognition of the improbability that any single politician will solve the nation’s economic problems.

Because of individual politicians’ desire to win votes by pleasing their constituents, Contoski concludes that a constitutional convention to change the rules by which government plays represents a solution more likely to succeed.

State legislators, he writes, should be willing to call for a convention, to retake their power over the government’s operation. At some point during the nation’s history, the states allowed themselves to become subservient to the federal government, an outcome our Founding Fathers would have found undesirable.

Additionally, Contoski describes a simple set of amendments he believes would meet with widespread approval during a constitutional convention, putting our nation back on its intended track.

Some examples supported by the author include reforming the Electoral College and a Balanced Budget Amendment punishing legislators with forced resignation, should the national government fail to balance its checkbook.

Other suggested reforms include the restoration of the Enumerated Powers of the Constitution, repealing The Federal Reserve Act and restoring the interpretation of “interstate commerce.”

My favorite suggestion, though, is official recognition of the right to pursue happiness, a reform which would eliminate government control over which crops we plant and which light bulbs or bathroom showerheads we install in our homes.

“Either we return to the principles on which this country was founded which were the basis for its success,” Contoski soberly concludes, “or we face a bleak future.”

Clearly, this outstanding text is a cautionary tale worth reading by anyone who has a serious interest in our economy.

I rarely rate the books I review, but economics books—often called “the dismal science”—sometimes scare readers away. Giving this book “five stars” may encourage people to pick up this enjoyable and informative book.

Categories: On the Blog

How the Left Wants to Eradicate Planes, Trains and Automobiles by Shutting Off Their Financial Fuel

January 04, 2015, 10:11 AM

“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is not just the name of Steve Martin and John Candy’s 1987 everything-goes-wrong comedy film. It’s also the prospective casualty list of the foundation-led anti-fossil-fuel campaign called the Divest-Invest movement.

The new crusade “responds to climate change by urging universities, churches, pension funds and other big institutional investors” to destroy petroleum and coal companies by dumping their shares and reinvesting in a “fossil-free clean-energy economy,” modeled loosely on the anti-apartheid activism of the 1980s.

In the past two years, dozens of public and private institutions have announced plans to divest fossil fuels from their portfolios. In August, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance white paper quoted one executive as saying Divest-Invest is “one of the fastest-moving debates I think I’ve seen in my 30 years in markets.”

The debate made headlines at the U.N. Climate Summit in September, where the “Divest-Invest Global Movement” delivered divestment pledges from 50 “philanthropic” foundations and more than 700 participating institutions and individuals” worth more than $50 billion.

At the United Nations, a small, functional “secretariat” was created to “survey all existing and pending Divest-Invest commitments, vetted by a committee of movement leaders.” That gave a patina of legitimacy to a “grassroots-driven movement” that was actually a “foundation grant-driven movement.”

Does all this hype matter? It could.

Even though there’s scant chance the movement can purge the nearly $5 trillion in oil and gas equities, the Bloomberg analysts think that “coal divestment could be relatively easy,” with existing shares worth less than 5 percent of oil and gas equities and large institutional investors much less invested in coal.

And an Oxford University “Stranded Assets” study asked, “What does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets?” It found that dumping stocks may not even be necessary to destroy the oil and gas industry because “stigmatizing” can do it.

“[T]he stigmatization process, which the fossil fuel divestment campaign has now triggered, poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies and the vast energy value chain. Any direct impacts pale in comparison.”

Why is that?

“In almost every divestment campaign we reviewed from adult services to Darfur, from tobacco to South Africa, divestment campaigns were successful in lobbying for restrictive legislation affecting stigmatized firms.”

Regulatory bans could be fatal.

The unanswered questions

Stigmatizers behave as if fossil-free alternatives are available for everything. Are they?

What if somebody answers the unasked question and reveals transportation’s vulnerability to stigmatization and government restrictions? The stock market is an open door that investors can enter and exit at will, and sometimes shocking news leads to shocking selloffs. If the Oxford researchers are right, stigmatization and restrictions could bring down the oil and gas industry in a jolting overnight panic.

What if the fossil fuel supply chain does suddenly vanish for lack of capital? What then?

What shall we do with America’s 254.4 million registered fossil-fueled passenger vehicles? Junk them? Convert them to biofuels or electric batteries or hydrogen? Force everyone to buy new? Where is the biomass or power grid or fueling network for that stupendous new load? Or do we just ban cars and forget being a mobile culture?

How will we power America’s 26.4 million registered commercial trucks and the 2.4 million heavy-duty trucks that deliver more than 70 percent of all freight, including our food? Where is the fossil-free infrastructure to take over that demand? How would we react to empty food shelves in every market and hungry millions ready to do anything for a meal?

What will fuel our 39,000 merchant ships? What about the estimated 40,000 ships of other nations? Go nuclear? The technology exists, but it’s not clear that we have the uranium and shipyard capacity for some 80,000 retrofits or new builds.

How will we keep rail freight carrying our bulk cargoes? Maybe hydrogen, which emits only water when burned? Experimental test locomotives are now being fueled by massive hydrogen tank cars and pulling standard strings of freight cars. None of these Hindenburg-on-rails experiments have exploded yet.

What will we use to make plastics, lubricants, asphalt for paving roads, wax for sealing frozen food packaging, fertilizer, linoleum, perfume, insecticides, petroleum jelly, soap, vitamin capsules, pharmaceuticals and the 6,000 other petroleum products we all use?

Without transportation fuel, modern civilization would collapse into an unimaginably horrendous chaos.

How will we fuel jetliners? Jet fuel is a high-energy, freeze-resistant mixture of a large number of different hydrocarbons, and that includes emerging biofuels. The aircraft biofuel industry hopes to cut jetliner carbon dioxide emissions in half—by 2050.

Zero-emission jet fuel is not expected on any time horizon. Even the synthetic fuels under study are all hydrocarbons. A fossil-free jet fuel would have to be extremely high energy per gallon because jetliners carry all their fuel inside the wings; none is carried beneath the passenger cabin. That fuel supply must take the plane to destinations near and far.

It also has to be freeze-resistant, because the atmospheric temperature at cruising altitudes is about 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and even in-wing heaters can’t keep gel-prone fuels from clogging. So, do we go fossil free and jetliner free? Anybody who recalls the closure of American airspace after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks knows what that means. U.S. stocks lost $1.4 trillion in one week.

Without transportation fuel, modern civilization would collapse into an unimaginably horrendous chaos. Don’t think it can happen? Who’s the denier now?

Who is behind Divest-Invest?

Unlike most grant-driven movements, the Divest-Invest movement is not just a blob of faceless “foundations.” It can be traced to a single private foundation, the little-known Washington-based Wallace Global Fund II—2012 assets, $115,471,213.

The WGF’s millions originally came from the 1920s-era Hi-Bred Corn Co. of Henry A. Wallace, who parlayed his wealth into political power and stints as secretary of agriculture, secretary of commerce, vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt and presidential nominee in 1948 of the ultra-left Progressive Party.

The current heirs, co-chairmen Scott and Randall Wallace and treasurer Christy Wallace, along with executive director Ellen Dorsey (2012 compensation, $298,596), realized their investments in coal companies conflicted with their ideological goal of eliminating coal use and divested the offending securities, according to the fund’s website. It was a short step to building their example into a movement.

In June 2011, Dorsey and program manager Richard Mott (2012 compensation, $238,434) convened a group of college students and environmental activists at the fund’s offices to discuss launching a coal divestment campaign on the nation’s campuses.

According to the fund’s IRS Form 990PF reports, it gave more than 20 cooperating groups a substantial chunk of its nearly $15 million in grants in 2011 and 2012. Recipients included the Sierra Club Student Coalition, $180,000; the Hip Hop Caucus, $40,000; the anti-corporate lawsuit group As You Sow, $160,000; and Bill McKibben’s, $205,000 to front the campaign. The scope quickly expanded from coal only to all fossil fuels.

McKibben gets the credit for starting the Divest-Invest movement, largely because of his scary articles in Rolling Stone and Grist. But McKibben is the sock puppet in this fight and has secured only 13 commitments to divest, all from small colleges with small endowments. He doesn’t have traction in the trustee councils of big universities, which refuse to give any symbolic divestment pledge because they have a legal fiduciary trust to keep their institutions solvent.

Matt Dempsey of Oil Sands Fact Check, told The Daily Signal, “The divestment campaign is pure political theater designed to draw attention around fringe anti-fossil-fuel efforts leading up to the UN Climate Conference in France in 2015. No wonder leading academic voices on campuses across the country are rejecting this extreme campaign that would significantly cut student resources while doing nothing to improve the environment.”

[Originally published at The Daily Signal]


Categories: On the Blog

A Question for 2015: Is the FCC Unlawful?

January 03, 2015, 9:42 AM

In May 2001, I published a law review article titled, “The Public Interest Standard: Is It Too Indeterminate to Be Constitutional?” In the article, I suggested that the ubiquitous public interest standard, invoked in support of so much of the Federal Communications Commission’s regulatory activity, is so lacking in any “intelligible principle” that the standard is unconstitutional. After all, in 1928 the Supreme Court held that, in order for congressional delegations of authority to comply with the constitutionally-mandated nondelegation doctrine, they must contain an “intelligible principle” to guide the agency or official exercising the authority. The public interest standard, I concluded, “is inconsistent with the separation of powers principles vindicated in our constitutional system through the nondelegation docrine.”

Not too long after the article’s publication, I was in attendance at a conference at which Cass Sunstein, now a Harvard Law School professor and former Obama Administration “regulatory czar,” was addressing the lawfulness of certain executive actions. I was startled when, referring to my “Public Interest Standard” article, Professor Sunstein, as part of a recitation of various challenges to administrative actions, declared: “And Randy May claims the FCC is unlawful!”

Well, to be frank, I had never considered my contention that the public interest standard is unconstitutional to mean that the FCC itself is unlawful. To my mind, I simply had suggested that the lawfulness of actions taken pursuant to the public interest standard should be questioned.

I suspected then, and still do, that perhaps Professor Sunstein simply used shorthand to capture what he understood to be my particular claim.

But, more recently, and increasingly, I have been turning over in my head the question suggested by Professor Sunstein’s characterization: “Is the FCC unlawful?” Now, to be sure, and not to be misunderstood, I do not wish to suggest that I believe a court, or certainly the Supreme Court, will hold in 2015 that the FCC itself is unlawful.

Instead, here I propose only to begin what I anticipate will be a yearlong conversation. As we begin the New Year, there are reasons why this year will be a propitious time to examine – even more intensely than in the past – the FCC and its actions through just such a lawfulness frame of reference.

First, 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. There are many ways of thinking about the Magna Carta and what the “Great Charter” represents. Some of these ways of thinking are contested as matters of history and of legal significance. But there is widespread agreement that the Magna Carta signed by King John at Runnymede in 1215 represents an important milestone in the development of our rule of law tradition. In fairly short order, Magna Carta came to be understood to mean that the law, at least in certain ways, protected the king’s subjects against certain of the king’s claims.

The most famous of Magna Carta’s protections – and most significant for purposes of advancing the rule of law tradition – was Clause 39: “No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” As Brian Tamanaha points out in his book, On the Rule of Law: History, Politics, Theory, the phrase “due process of law” was used in a statute in England as early as 1354, and it soon came to be identified with Magna Carta’s phrase “ by the law of the land.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has invoked Magna Carta over 170 times, including Clause 39 on many of these occasions. For example, in 1855 in Murray’s Lessee v. Hoboken Land and Improvement Co., the Court stated that “[t]he words, ‘due process of law,’ were undoubtedly intended to convey the same meaning as the words, ‘by the law of the land,’ in Magna Carta.”

In his concurrence in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, which held that President Truman’s order seizing control of the nation’s steel mills exceeded the president’s executive authority, Justice Jackson invoked the Due Process Clause when he famously declared, “there is a principle that ours is a government of laws and not of men, and that we submit ourselves to rulers only if under rules.”

On this 800th anniversary year of the signing of Magna Carta, it is especially fitting to consider whether the actions of our government, including those of the Federal Communications Commission, are consistent with the rule of law.

The second reason the timing is propitious to consider the question “Is the FCC lawful?” is that we now have before us Philip Hamburger’s magisterial new book, Is Administrative Law Unlawful? In a massive work that surely consumed many years, Professor Hamburger claims – and backs up his claims by extensive research into English and American constitutional history – that most, if not all, of the actions of our administrative agencies are unlawful. The FCC and its actions fall squarely within the ambit of Professor Hamburger’s critique.

In no way can I do justice to the fullness of Professor Hamburger’s argument here. For present purposes, I need only to state the boldness of his contention:

“Once it is clear how administrative power revives absolute power, and how this power conflicts with the very nature of American law, liberty, and society, one can dig into the details of how it violates the Constitution. Because it returns to the very power that constitutional law developed in order to defeat it, it does more than simply depart from one or two constitutional provisions. It systematically steps outside the Constitution’s structures, thereby creating an entire anti-constitutional regime.”

Or as he states in his conclusion:

“Apologists for administrative power thus must overcome many constitutional objections. They must put aside the specialization or separation of powers, the grants of legislative and judicial powers, the internal division of those powers, the unrepresentative character of administrative lawmaking, the nonjudicial character of administrative adjudication, the obstacles to subdelegation, the problems of federalism, the due process of law, and almost all of the other rights limiting the judicial power.”

Although there is much rich scholarship in Professor Hamburger’s book, I don’t necessarily subscribe to his claim, at least as expounded in its most expansive fashion, that all “administrative law is unlawful.” I say this for no other reason than, aside from the merits of the claim, it is most improbable that, at any time in the foreseeable future, the Supreme Court will agree with him.

But that does not mean that Professor Hamburger’s contentions, and the questions he raises, won’t impact administrative law or our nation’s jurisprudence. In my view, they should and will – and these arguments and questions should also impact the way we think about the lawfulness of various FCC actions and the way the courts consider these actions on review. Professor Hamburger’s arguments concerning the lawfulness of administrative rulemaking and administrative adjudication, subdelegation of agency decision-making, affording due process of law, and so forth, all apply to the FCC and its modes of operation.

Most fundamentally, the FCC, an agency at the crux of what has been called the “headless fourth branch” of government, derogates from separation of powers principles at the core of our tripartite constitutional system, with the legislative, executive, and judicial branches established and their powers delineated. In an early case, FCC v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co., involving the FCC’s authority under the public interest standard, Justice Frankfurter, an enthusiastic supporter of the Progressive Era and New Deal alphabet agencies, quoted Elihu Root to this effect:

There will be no withdrawal from these experiments. We shall go on; we shall expand them, whether we approve theoretically or not, because such agencies furnish protection to rights and obstacles to wrong doing which under our new social and industrial conditions cannot be practically accomplished by the old and simple procedure of legislatures and courts as in the last generation.

I suspect our Founders would shudder if they could hear the words concerning “these experiments.” Nevertheless, it is likely true that, despite any arguments by Professor Hamburger or me to the contrary, there will be “no withdrawal from these experiments,” at least in the sense of any wholesale withdrawal – and at least in the sense that a court will conclude that “the FCC is unlawful.”

But that is not really the point for the work ahead in 2015 for myself, Free State Foundation scholars, and for all those who share the conviction that the FCC, and communications law and policy, at least should be reformed in ways that are consistent with rule of law norms.

And there will be plenty of such reform and rule of law-oriented work on which to focus. By way of example:

  • Despite two previous setbacks in which courts already have held that the FCC exceeded its authority under the Communications Act, Chairman Tom Wheeler appears intent, especially after President Obama’s intervention, on forcing adoption of new public utility-like net neutrality mandates applicable to Internet service providers – once again relying on questionable legal authority.
  • And it is likely – given a past statement by Mr. Wheeler to the effect that the FCC should use its authority to review proposed mergers to achieve broad industry-wide regulatory objectives – that the agency will abuse its merger review authority by imposing, or inducing merger applicants to “volunteer,” conditions unrelated to any competitive concerns directly raised by the proposed transactions.
  • Moreover, it is likely that the FCC will continue to try to micromanage competition in ways that favor certain parties over others without sufficient regard to reliance or proprietary interests or due process concerns.
  • Finally, during his short tenure Chairman Wheeler increasingly has evidenced a tendency to diminish his colleagues’ ability to participate in FCC decision-making processes, for example, by directing the agency staff to act on “delegated authority” on significant matters or acting alone. Of course, each commissioner, under the law, has an equal vote, but that vote becomes meaningless if the Commission’s business is conducted in a way that avoids voting on various measures.

These and other examples implicate both substance and process issues that should be considered this coming year with an eye on reform. And, in one way or the other, they implicate rule of law norms that harken back to what was done in the fields of Runnymede in 1215. It is not my intent to suggest that the FCC’s past or future actions in any way rise to the level of the import of Magna Carta. And it is not my intent to subscribe in any wholesale manner to Phillip Hamburger’s contention that all of administrative law is unlawful.

But I do want to suggest, as 2015 begins, that we ought to draw inspiration from Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary and the recent publication of Professor Hamburger’s book to renew our commitment to contributing in a constructive way to reforming communications law and policy and the FCC as an institution, always with an eye on consistency with rule of law norms.

[Originally published at The Free State Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

The NYPD’s Revolt Is A Direct Threat To Democracy

January 03, 2015, 8:06 AM

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio should take a page out of the book of Calvin Coolidge.

Since the moment when police officers turned their backs in protest on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, we’ve seen the type of escalating activity in the city which would be more recognizable as the preview to a messy Latin American coup d’etat.

The latest is a form of purposeful sabotage on the part of the NYPD, which is now actively shirking its duty to enforce the law. According to the New York Post, traffic tickets and summonses have plummeted by 94 percent, and overall arrests are down 66 percent for the week compared to the same period last year. Here’s the data comparisons from this year to 2013:

Citations for traffic violations fell by 94 percent, from 10,069 to 587, during that time frame. Summonses for low-level offenses like public drinking and urination also plunged 94 percent — from 4,831 to 300. Even parking violations are way down, dropping by 92 percent, from 14,699 to 1,241. Drug arrests by cops assigned to the NYPD’s Organized Crime Control Bureau — which are part of the overall number — dropped by 84 percent, from 382 to 63.

Considering how much New York, as with many of our other major cities, has leaned toward over-policing, this isn’t all a bad thing – I’m not going to get worked up about cops handing out fewer parking violations. But as a whole, this represents a completely irresponsible rejection of the duty to enforce the law. Yesterday, speaking to a graduating class of more than 800 new officers at Madison Square Garden, de Blasio was booed and heckled as he struggled to extend an oratorical olive branch. De Blasio told the gathering of new cops “you will confront all the problems that plague our society, problems that you didn’t create” – in response, a heckler jeered “You created them!” People in the audience applauded and cheered as a de Blasio tried to recover with even more voluminous praise for the force.

Supporters of the NYPD have pointed out throughout the back-turning that their officers feel upset at Mayor de Blasio and others, that they feel they are less safe because of the comments of politicians. This is one more example of one of the most irritating tendencies of unionized police forces today – a recurring demand that they receive the same attitude of respect for authority given to the United States military, without any of the responsibility and duty that comes with it. A poll last week found that a mere 15 percent of active duty service members approve of President Obama – understandable, considering his many policy decisions and a laundry list of questionable choices.

But is the American military turning their backs on the Commander in Chief? Showing contempt for him? Going AWOL with the endorsement of their superiors? Shirking their duty? Booing and jeering at him at a graduation ceremony? No. They, after all, are not unionized.

The real rise of frustration with police officers in America comes down to one thing: an enduring sense that the current law enforcement system is unfair. We have to abide by rules they do not. We are the civilians, as if they are not. When we go before a court, enduring bias assumes that police are responsible and honest, even if the evidence suggests otherwise. District attorneys have one method for grand juries with cops, and different methods for ones without cops. The problem is one of institutional disrespect for their own civic obligations. We have to obey the commands of officers, but they have no real desire to obey the commands of their own authorities, or the ultimate authority they serve – the people.

In retrospect, Mayor de Blasio should’ve responded to the backs turning by firing people immediately. The NYPD needed to be reminded that chain of command exists, and that they are not at the top of it. Instead, what New York City is experiencing now amounts to nothing less than open rebellion by the lone armed force under the worst kind of weakened junta, one led by a figure ideologically radical and personally weak, who has lost control of his bureaucracies and may soon be devoured by them.

Perhaps he can take a cue from a political leader of another time, who faced open revolt from a police force in another major city.

To Mr. Samuel Gompers
American Federation of Labor
New York City, N.Y.

Replying to your telegram, I have already refused to remove the Police Commissioner of Boston. I did not appoint him. He can assume no position which the courts would uphold except what the people have by the authority of their law vested in him. He speaks only with their voice. The right of the police of Boston to affiliate has always been questioned, never granted, is now prohibited. The suggestion of President Wilson to Washington does not apply to Boston. There the police have remained on duty. Here the Policemen’s Union left their duty, an action which President Wilson characterized as a crime against civilization. Your assertion that the Commissioner was wrong cannot justify the wrong of leaving the city unguarded. That furnished the opportunity, the criminal element furnished the action.

There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time. You ask that the public safety again be placed in the hands of these same policemen while they continue in disobedience to the laws of Massachusetts and in their refusal to obey the orders of the Police Department. Nineteen men have been tried and removed. Others having abandoned their duty, their places have, under the law, been declared vacant on the opinion of the Attorney General. I can suggest no authority outside the courts to take further action. I wish to join and assist in taking a broad view of every situation. A grave responsibility rests on all of us. You can depend on me to support you in every legal action and sound policy. I am equally determined to defend the sovereignty of Massachusetts and to maintain the authority and jurisdiction over her public officers where it has been placed by the Constitution and law of her people.

Calvin Coolidge
Governor of Massachusetts

I doubt that the Salvador Allende of Park Slope has the stomach for such a confrontation – but the reality is that the NYPD today is turning into an embarrassing neighborhood bully, and the only thing a bully understands is force. You wouldn’t want those broken windows to stay broke, would you?

Ben Domenech is the publisher of The Federalist. Sign up for a free trial of his daily newsletter, The Transom.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Making Predictions

December 31, 2014, 6:57 PM

If there is one thing pundits like to do it is to make predictions. If they turn out to be right you can always look back and quote them as proof of your prescience and if they are not, you can always ignore them.

The best ones, of course, are those filled with doom and I suspect they are the most prevalent. We all live to some degree in fear of the future. It is, after all, unpredictable and we are conditioned to believe something awful will happen. That’s what keeps insurance companies in business. Governments continue to create problems and then promise to solve them.

For example, at some point there will be a huge earthquake in California thanks to the San Andreas Fault and in a comparable fashion the Yellowstone National Park will have an even bigger event due to a huge volcano that lies beneath it. The loss of life and economic impact will be historic no matter when they occur.

What is predictable will be natural events such as hurricanes and tornadoes, but what is largely unreported is that both have been occurring less in recent years. As noted this year, “the Atlantic basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, produced the fewest tropical cyclones and fewest named storms since 1997.”  Worldwide, there are some 40,000 tornadoes and the U.S. averages some 1,200 a year. So the weather guarantees some unhappy news for some of us some of the time.

Blaming natural phenomenon on “global warming” which is not happening or on “climate change” which has been happening for 4.5 billion years is the way the merchants of fear keep everyone scared of real and imaginary weather events. The planet has been in a naturalcooling cycle for the past nineteen years because the Sun is in one as well, producing less radiation.

As for climate, it is measured in units as small as thirty years and as big as centuries and millenniums. Nothing mankind does has any impact. The Pope is wrong. The President is wrong. And lots of others who claim that climate change is an immediate threat.

What interests most people is the state of the economy and the good news is that it appears to be improving although relying on government issued statistics is problematic because they are often mathematically skewed to show a favorable trend. There is a natural dynamism to the U.S. economy which would be even greater if the government would eliminate the hundreds of thousands of regulations that interfere with the conduct of business and stop issuing more. Less taxation would boost the economy as well.

I am hopeful people will stop being taken in by the talk about “income inequality.” If the economy improves there will be jobs and the marketplace will determine the salaries they will pay. By contrast, legislating minimum wage increases reduces jobs. We’ve been watching machines replace humans for a long time now.

Elsewhere in the world, the economy is very iffy. The drop in the price of oil will have a dramatic impact on nations whose economies are dependent on it. The Russian Federation will likely be less aggressive with neighboring nations. Venezuela is already in a world of trouble. The Middle East will feel its impact as well. The reason traces back to the increase in the technology of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking. It had its beginnings in 1947 and today it is unlocking huge amounts of oil and natural gas. It will make the U.S. energy independent and that’s a very good thing. It will also continue to generate jobs and revenue.

Will there be wars in the world? The short answer is that there will always be conflicts because that is the nature of the world. Wars are very expensive and most nations want to avoid them. The big problem in 2015 will focus on two nations. North Korea is led by a mentally unstable dictator, a threat to others in its region thanks to its nuclear weapons, missiles, and huge army. Iran will be a threat if it is allowed to acquire the ability to make its own nuclear weapons. When that happens the threat level to Israel and the U.S. increases, along with every other nation its missiles can destroy.

What is entirely predictable will be the horrific attacks of Islam’s “holy war” on all other religions and, testimony to its lack of internal cohesion, its attacks based on whether Muslims are Sunni or Shiite.

It would be nice to predict that science will find cures to many of the ills of mankind and the fact is that it has been doing that for much of the last century and will continue to do so in this one. In 1973, life expectancy in the U.S. was 71 years of age and it is now up to 78. In much of the world people are living longer and that is having some interesting demographic impacts in nations that are trying to cope with providing care for a growing older generation.

In the sphere of U.S. politics the most encouraging trend as seen in the last two midterm elections has been voters—those who actually show up and vote—toward conservatism. The Republican Party has regained control of the Senate and expanded its control of the House. The majority of U.S. states have Republican governors. The Tea Party has played a significant role in this, but it is a movement and will continue to take the lead in seeking to reduce the size of the federal government that is far too large for a society based on the idea of freedom and liberty. In what is likely to be an increasing bipartisan effort, the new Congress will work to control as much as possible the damage Obama seeks to inflict.

It takes no great prescience to predict that Barack Hussein Obama will spend his remaining two years in office doing what his Communist roots and ideology has trained him to do; stir as much racial divisiveness as possible, encourage more illegal immigration, keep the increasingly unpopular ObamaCare alive, undermine our moral structure, degrade our military strength, and other such mischief.

Two years sounds like a long time, but he will be gone by January 20, 2017 when a new President takes the oath of office that he has ignored. One prediction about him is easy. He will be judged the worst President the nation has had and, in fact, that judgment has already been rendered.

What is not predictable are the directions the U.S. Supreme Court will take the nation in 2015. Despite its august name, it has made some supremely bad decisions in the past. Wouldn’t it be nice if it undermined ObamaCare after having helped inflict it on a health system that was the best in the world and is now suffering greatly from it?

If any of my predictions turn out to be true, I will claim bragging rights, but mostly what I intend to do is maintain my personal sense of hope, sensing that more people worldwide are discovering that others share their desire for less corruption and more freedom.

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

Exodus of the School Children

December 31, 2014, 11:29 AM

The urban cores of the nation’s 52 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population) lost nearly one-fifth of their school age population between 2000 and 2010. This is according an analysis of small area age group data for children aged 5 to 14 from Census Bureau data, using the City Sector Model. Over the period, the share of 5 to 14 age residents living in the functional urban cores declined from 15.0 percent to 12.0 percent (Figure 1).

The City Sector Model

The City Sector Model analysis avoids the exaggeration of urban core data that necessarily occurs from reliance on the municipal boundaries of core cities (which are themselves nearly 60 percent suburban or exurban, ranging from as little as three percent to virtually 100 percent). It also avoids the use of the newer “principal cities” designation of larger employment centers within metropolitan areas, nearly all of which are suburbs, but are inappropriately joined with core municipalities in some analyses. The City Sector Model” small area analysis method is described in greater detail in Note 1 below (previous articles are listed in Note 2). The approach is similar to the groundbreaking work of David Gordon, et al at Queen’s University for Canadian metropolitan areas.

School Age Losses

The urban core school-age population dropped from approximately 3.40 million in 2000 to 2.73 million in 2010, for a loss of 670,000 (Figure 2). Much has been made about the affinity of the Millennial generation for the urban cores. Despite this, our small area analysis indicated that the percentage of 20 to 29 year olds living in the functional urban cores declined between 2000 and 2010, with 88 percent of the growth in suburbs and exurbs (see Dispersing Millennials). Coincidentally, over the period, there was a reduction of two school age children in the urban cores for every additional resident aged 20 to 29 (Figure 3).

A loss was also sustained in the earlier suburbs (with median house construction dates between 1946 and 1979). The school-age population declined slightly more than 1 million in the earlier suburban areas. In 2000, 45.3 percent of school age children lived in the earlier suburbs, a figure that declined to 40.5 percent in 2010.

Virtually all of the gain in 5 to 14 age residents was in the later suburban areas (a median house construction dates of 1980 or later) and exurban areas. Overall, these two city sectors added 1.9 million school-age children, while the urban cores and the earlier suburban areas experienced a reduction of 1.7 million, for a reduction of approximately 10 percent.

The largest increase was in the newer suburban areas (median house construction dates of 1980 or later), where 1.47 more school-age children lived in 2010 than in 2000. This represented an increase of approximately 30 percent. Exurban areas have a more modest increase of 310,000 school-age children, up 8.3 percent from 2000.

Losses in the Largest Urban Cores

All of the large urban cores in the metropolitan areas experienced losses in school aged children from 2000 to 2010. Among the 24 urban cores with more than 100,000 residents, Washington (-5.5 percent) and Seattle (-8.4 percent) came the closest to retaining their 2000 school age numbers in 2010.  Seven large urban cores experienced losses of at least 30 percent. Baltimore’s loss was approximately 30 percent. Los Angeles joined rust belt cities St. Louis, Rochester and Cleveland at 33 percent to 34 percent and Detroit at 38 percent. New Orleans had the largest loss (-70.2 percent), owing in part to population loss from the disastrous hurricanes (Figure 4).

Finally, in all of the 52 metropolitan areas, the later suburban and exurban areas (combined) retained more of their school age children than the urban cores and earlier suburbs. There were gains in 45 of the later suburban and exurban areas.

Better Schools: The Necessary (But Maybe Not Sufficient) Condition

One of the issues of most interest among urban analysts has been whether urban cores will be able to retain the share of Millennials that they have attracted. The functional urban cores seem likely to maintain their attraction for younger adults, so long as the cores sustain their improved living environment (such as much lower crime rates than before and continued investment by retailers and other commercial business to support the new populations).

However, the continuing exodus of people with school-age children described seems to indicate that young adults tend to move to the suburbs and exurbs around the time their children enroll in school. Suburban and exurban schools often provide better educations than urban core schools.The Editorial Projects in Education found that high school graduation rates were 77.3 percent in suburban school districts, compared to 59.3 percent in “urban” school districts (Note 3). There are other difficulties as well, such as having sufficient defensible outdoor space for children to play and for parents to feel secure. But education seems likely to be the most important consideration.

Of course, in urban areas the highly affluent can enroll their children in private schools. The alternative of private schools can be overly expensive, inducing households to relocate to school districts with higher quality education. According to research by Chief Economist Jed Kolko of Trulia: “Private school enrollment in the lowest-rated school districts is more than four times as high as private school enrollment in the highest-rated school districts after adjusting for neighborhood demographic differences.”

A balanced broad age distribution of households, including those with children of school age, is not likely to be achieved in urban cores unless Millennials are retained in substantial numbers. Once having moved, the chances of their returning are slim, because households move less frequently as they move up the age scale.

Note 1: The City Sector Model allows a more representative functional analysis of urban core, suburban and exurban areas, by the use of smaller areas, rather than municipal boundaries. The more than 30,000 zip code tabulation areas (ZCTA) of major metropolitan areas and the rest of the nation are categorized by functional characteristics, including urban form, density and travel behavior. 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 suburbanization that followed World War II. 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.

Urban cores are defined as areas (ZCTAs) that have high population densities (7,500 or more per square mile or 2,900 per square kilometer or more) and high transit, walking and cycling work trip market shares (20 percent or more). Urban cores also include non-exurban sectors with median house construction dates of 1945 or before. All of these areas are defined at the zip code tabulation area (ZCTA) level.

Note 2: The City Sector Model articles are:

From Jurisdictional to Functional Analyses of Urban Cores & Suburbs

The Long Term: Metro American Goes from 82 percent to 86 percent Suburban Since 1990

Beyond Polycentricity: 2000s Job Growth (Continues to) Follow Population

Urban Cores, Core Cities and Principal Cities

Large Urban Cores: Products of History

New York, Legacy Cities Dominate Transit Urban Core Gains

Boomers: Moving Farther Out and Away

Seniors Dispersing Away from Urban Cores

Metropolitan Housing: More Space, Large Lots

City Sector Model Small Area Criteria

Note 3: This report (which was prepared with support from the America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) provides graduation rates using the US Department of Education “local codes.” This typology generally defines “urban” school districts as those in core cities as well as other principal cities (such as Arlington, Texas and Mesa, Arizona). Most of the population of core cities and principal cities is classified as functionally suburban (see: Urban Cores, Core Cities and Principal Cities). Further, the typology classifies some districts as suburban that have large urban components (such as Las Vegas, Miami, Louisville and Honolulu), which is necessary because of county level school districts that include both urban cores and suburban areas. As a result the functionally suburban component of urban districts is overstated and the functionally suburban component of suburban districts is understated. Because urban graduation rates tend to be less than suburban rates, both of these factors seem likely to overstate the “urban” graduation rates and understate the “suburban” graduation rates.


[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

2014: Year of Futility in the Fight Against Climate Change

December 31, 2014, 10:26 AM

The year 2014 was another year of futility in the fight against climate change. Climatists redoubled efforts to convince citizens that urgent action is needed to stop dangerous global warming. But the gap between public warnings and actual events produced an endless stream of climate irony.

January began with a frosty bang as an arctic air mass descended on the central United States, following a similar event in December. What was once called a cold snap is now ominously christened a “polar vortex.” Record-low daily temperatures were recorded from Minnesota to Boston, along with all-time seasonal snowfalls in many cities.

In a White House video released on January 8, John Holdren, chief science advisor to President Obama, made the paradoxical statement, “But a growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.”

Also in January, passengers of the research ship Akademik Shokalskiy were rescued after the ship was locked in ice for 10 days near the antarctic coast. The expedition lead by professor Chris Turney had intended to study how weather patterns near Antarctica were changing due to man-made global warming.

On February 16, during a presentation in Indonesia, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that climate change was “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Only two days later, protestors set fire to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, leading to the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych. In March, Russia seized the Crimea. In July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, and political unrest continues today. In the Middle East, slaughter of innocent civilians and beheading of western captives became a growing trend. Man-made climate casualties seem remarkably scarce in comparison.

In March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations released Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, part of its Fifth Assessment Report. The report said that man-made climate change would reduce world agricultural output. Lead author Dr. Mark Howden stated, “There’s increasing evidence that climate change is also impacting on agriculture, particularly on some of the cereal crops such as wheat and maize. The negative impacts are greater and quicker than we previously thought.”

Meanwhile, farmers continued to ignore the warnings of the IPCC. According to the US Department of Agriculture, world agricultural production set all-time records for all three major cereal crops in 2014, with rice output up 1.1 percent, wheat up 11.2 percent, and corn up a whopping 14.0 percent over 2013.

The Obama administration continued its attack on coal-fired power plants, which provide about 40 percent of US electricity. In June, the EPA proposed new restrictions on carbon emissions that would make it vitually impossible to build a new coal-fired plant in the US. At the same time, more than 1,200 new coal-fired plants are planned across the world, with two-thirds to be built in India and China.

In his 2007 Noble Prize acceptance speech, former Vice President Al Gore warned that the arctic ice could be gone in “as little as seven years.” But arctic sea ice rebounded in 2014 and antarctic sea ice has been growing for decades. According to the University of Illinois, satellites measured global sea ice area at above the 30-year average at the end of 2014.

In September, the United Nations held a climate summit in New York City to urge the world to conserve energy and reduce emissions. Spokesman Leonardo DiCaprio stated, “This disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make.” Mr. DiCaprio neglected to mention his frequent flights on carbon-emitting private jets or his ownership of the world’s fifth largest yacht, purchased from a Middle East oil tycoon.

In October, climate skeptics reported the eighteenth straight year of flat global temperatures. Satellite data shows no temperature increase since 1997. The “pause” in global warming is now old enough to vote or to serve in the military.

Hurricanes and tornados are favored events for generating alarming climate headlines, but US weather events were few in 2014. US tornadic activity was below average and the lack of strong hurricanes continued. No Category 3 or stronger hurricane has made US landfall for more than eight years, the longest period since records began in 1900.

The last half of 2014 witnessed a steep drop in world petroleum prices from over $100 per barrel to under $60 per barrel. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, technologies perfected by US geologists and petroleum engineers over the last two decades, produced an explosion in US oil production and triggered the fall in world prices.

But the concurrent drop in US gasoline prices to two dollars per gallon is not welcomed by man-made global warming believers. Former Energy Secretary Stephen Chu said in 2008, “So we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” English journalist George Monbiot has lamented, “We were wrong about peak oil: there’s enough in the ground to deep-fry the planet.”

With all the climate fun in 2014, what will 2015 hold?

[Originally published at Communities Digital News]

Categories: On the Blog

People I Don’t Like

December 31, 2014, 1:44 AM

At the end of every year it is customary to offer up lists of all kinds—the best this, the worst that—and it is a brief, generally amusing exercise.

I don’t usually make lists, but lately though I have been thinking a lot about people I don’t like and at the top of the list are the monsters of the Islamic State, the Taliban, and Boko Haram, all “militant” Islamists who justify their barbaric immoral slaughters, kidnappings, and other crimes in the name of Allah. I have had a bellyful of these horrid people and am weary of hearing they are only a small part of Islam.

There are more than a billion Muslims in the world and, if the Islamists are “just” ten percent, that means there are a hundred million who are active waging their “holy war” or who support them. Among those whom I do not like are the millions of silent Muslims who do nothing to organize and speak out against them. It is true, however, that the handful that do speak out literally risk being killed. What kind of a religion is predicated on making war on all other religions?

Closer to home among the people I do not like are those who joined marches to denigrate our nation’s police corps, defaming them with charges of racism and murder. The events that followed the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, one of self-defense by a white cop against a black thug and the death in Staten Island that resulted when a long-time offender refused to be arrested, were simply an excuse by those who apparently prefer the streets to be filled with criminals whom the police are not supposed to “profile.”  Well, cops make judgments about the people on their beat all the time, black, white, or otherwise. That’s their job!

I do not like people crying “racism” every time the commission of a crime goes badly for a black perpetrator are people I do not like. People in high office who use these events to exacerbate racial divisions are high on my list of those I don’t like.

Among the much discussed social issues, I am less than sympathetic for those women who enter into consensual sex and then cry “rape.” If they have been raped, they need to contact the police. I am not sympathetic to those colleges and universities who think it is their job to regulate the private sexual activities of students with all manner of “codes” that one can add to those that crimp freedom of speech and other Constitutionally-protected behavior.

At this time of year, I really don’t like those people who insist that one cannot or should not say “Merry Christmas” or that communities should not display Christmas scenes on public property. These are the same dreadful people forever declaiming against any public display of religious belief such as the kind that has for centuries opened government and legislative meetings of every description in America. The atheists among us have every right to be atheists, but they have no right to insist we deny a greater power because they refuse to do so. Even the Supreme Court has ruled against them.

While I see no practical or even moral way to deport the eleven million illegal aliens among us, that doesn’t make them any less illegal. Like a lot of others, I want to see our borders made more secure and less open to swarms of invaders—not “refugees”—that we saw occur when 75,000 children and their families who invaded the U.S. this year and who must now be absorbed at a cost that comes out of the pockets of every native-born and naturalized citizen. That must stop. For those illegals who have been born here or lived here for five years or so, they should be permitted to go to the back of the line and seek naturalization. For others, temporary work permits are a common sense option.

A group of people I have not liked for decades are the environmentalists. The reason is very simple. They lie about everything they champion in the name of “global warming” or “climate change.” Both are hoaxes that, like most everything else the Greens protest, result from the way they debase meteorological science or their absurd claims about the use of fossil fuels. As far as Greens are concerned, anything that benefits mankind from new housing to more industry producing more jobs, and anything that requires the use of chemicals in their manufacture (that is everything!) is just a tiresome scare campaign that is promulgated to line their pockets with the millions they receive every year. I don’t like the liberal foundations that give them millions.

In America politics has always been a blood sport. It’s vigorous. It sometimes produces real leaders. It increasingly requires millions of dollars to run for high office and that has led to a high degree of control by those entities that have deep pockets. I suspect it has always been thus though not at the levels of cost that exist today. I am not a big fan of those politicians of the Far Left or the Far Right. Those in the middle and those who understand that a republic requires compromise are often seen as too willing to go along, but finding a middle way to solve problems is usually the best way.

In the last midterm elections those who showed up to vote sent a clear message to Congress and to a President who claimed he heard them as well as those who didn’t vote. Those who didn’t vote should shut their mouths because their message was surrender.

I don’t like the Obama administration that has produced six years of unrelenting failure domestically and internationally. That’s what happens when the voters put a Marxist and very likely a Muslim in office. I don’t like Barack Hussein Obama, a man many regard as the worst President this nation has ever had.

If the last two midterm elections are any indication, voters have learned their lesson—which leaves the 2016 election. Don’t listen to anyone who says they know who will run or who will win. Two years in American politics is an eternity and people vote differently in national elections than in midterms.

There are a lot of people I do like.

I like the ones who go to sporting events or concerts and share the enjoyment with everyone around them without regard to race, gender, or any other reason.

I like the ones who volunteer in their community to make it a better place in which to live and raise children.

I like the ones who put their lives on the line—police and firemen—for the rest of us.

I like those who are members of our armed forces at a time when they are being treated in a shabby fashion, but believe enough in America to defend it.

I like those in the medical professions who devote themselves to helping cure and treat the ill.

I like the legion of caregivers who look after older family members and others.

There are others I like, but this is a pretty good list, right?

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog