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Education Incentives can Help End Low Expectations

October 02, 2014, 1:58 PM

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Behavioral psychologists and economists long have considered incentives to be a normal part of human nature, but applying them to education still stokes controversy.

For example, some people recoil at the idea of  paying kids and their teachers for high scores on advanced-placement tests that get students college credit in high school, as some schools in Northern Virginia are doing,

It sounds so … mercenary. Exchanging money for good performance? Handing out filthy lucre to reward a personally fulfilling and enriching achievement? Why, it almost sounds like the Grammys, or the World Series, or even a job. Nobody except the most Puritan-minded thinks any of these occupations or rewards is anything but a celebration of excellence, or at the very least a job well done. Adults can accept money as a reward for high performance. There’s no reason children cannot do the same — except prejudice.

These low expectations are endemic in education, research confirms. It starts with the teachers.For several generations now, Americans have underestimated their children. Laws mostly bar children from taking even a small-time job until age 16. Kids can hardly ride their own bikes down to the park or corner store any more.

University of Missouri economist Cory Koedel has found education students get the highest grades but the easiest work of all college majors. A 2013 study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found teachers typically assign books at their students’ reading level, not their grade level. This means teachers frequently assign too-easy books, a problem that compounds as children move up grades. If fourth-grader Suzy gets third-grade rather than fourth-grade books to read, and so on up through the grades, she likely is to remain behind in reading for the rest of her life.

Washington, D.C., mother Mary Riner became disgusted with the low expectations at her daughter’s supposedly well-performing grade school. Fifth-grade Latin homework, for example, didn’t involve memorizing vocabulary or practicing verb tenses, but coloring Latin words. Yes, coloring — with a crayon. Riner responded by helping start a truly demanding school, called BASIS DC.

Low expectations don’t occur in a vacuum. They result from a set of expectations in our society, and they reinforce and verify those expectations as a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. A smart use of incentives offers one way to address this problem.

In their new book “Rewards: How to Use Rewards to Help Children Learn—and Why Teachers Don’t Use Them Well,” authors Herbert Walberg and Joseph Bast illustrate how positive reinforcement can help lift expectations and thus raise student performance.

They discuss how the attitudes of many in the education establishment are a barrier to putting to work the science that shows kids respond to incentives just like adults. They also explain that rewards are about far more than money — good teachers use simple rewards, such as stickers or praise, to help instill in children the longer-lasting internal rewards of satisfaction in learning and pride in a job well done.

Perhaps the biggest shocker may be the realization that incentives always will be embedded in education, regardless of whether people acknowledge their existence. If teachers reinforce learning with encouragement, recognition and grades, that’s an incentive. If teachers give students too-easy work because they expect every real academic challenge to raise complaints, that creates a very different set of incentives for both teachers and students.

Incentives will always exist in education. The question is, will educators harness this power for the students’ good?

Joy Pullmann is managing editor of School Reform News and an education research fellow at The Heartland Institute.

[Originally published at WatchDog]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Education Incentives Can Help End Low Expectations

October 02, 2014, 9:56 AM

Behavioral psychologists and economists have considered incentives to be a normal part of human nature for decades, if not centuries, but applying them to education still stokes controversy. For example, some people recoil at the idea of paying kids and their teachers for high scores on Advanced Placement tests that get students college credit in high school, as some schools in Northern Virginia are doing,

It sounds so … mercenary. Exchanging money for good performance? Handing out filthy lucre to reward a personally fulfilling and enriching achievement? Why, it almost sounds like the Grammys, or the World Series, or even a job. Nobody except the most Puritan-minded thinks any of these occupations or rewards is anything but a celebration of excellence, or at the very least a job well done. Adults can accept money as a reward for high performance. There’s no reason children cannot do the same—except prejudice.

For several generations now, Americans in general have underestimated their children. Laws mostly bar children from taking even a small-time job until age 16. Kids can hardly ride their own bikes down to the park or corner store any more.

These low expectations are endemic in education, research confirms. It starts with the teachers. University of Missouri economist Cory Koedel has found education students get the highest grades but the easiest work of all college majors. A 2013 study by the Thomas B. Fordham institute found teachers typically assign books at their students’ reading level, not their grade level. This means teachers frequently assign too-easy books, a problem that compounds as children move up grades. If fourth-grader Suzy gets third-grade rather than fourth-grade books to read, and so on up through the grades, she is likely to remain behind in reading for the rest of her life.

Washington, DC mother Mary Riner became disgusted with the low expectations at her daughter’s supposedly well-performing grade school. Fifth-grade Latin homework, for example, didn’t involve memorizing vocabulary or practicing verb tenses, but coloring Latin words. Yes, coloring—with a crayon. Riner responded by helping start a truly demanding school, called BASIS DC.

Low expectations don’t occur in a vacuum—they result from a set of expectations in our society, and they reinforce and verify those expectations as a form of self-fulfilling prophecy. A smart use of incentives offers one way to address this problem.

In their new book Rewards: How to Use Rewards to Help Children Learn—and Why Teachers Don’t Use Them Well, authors Herbert Walberg and Joseph Bast illustrate how positive reinforcement can help lift expectations and thus raise student performance. They discuss how the attitudes of many in the education establishment are a barrier to putting to work the science that shows kids respond to incentives just like adults. They also explain that rewards are about far more than money—good teachers use simple rewards, such as stickers or praise, to help instill in children the longer-lasting internal rewards of satisfaction in learning and pride in a job well done.

Perhaps the biggest shocker may be the realization that incentives will always be embedded in education, regardless of whether people acknowledge their existence. If teachers reinforce learning with encouragement, recognition, and grades, that’s an incentive. If teachers give students too-easy work because they expect every real academic challenge to raise complaints, that creates a very different set of incentives for both teachers and students.

Incentives will always exist in education. The question is, will educators harness this power for the students’ good?

Joy Pullmann is managing editor of School Reform News and an education research fellow at The Heartland Institute.

Categories: On the Blog

New Commuting Data Shows Gain by Individual Modes

October 01, 2014, 2:12 PM

The newly released American Community Survey data for 2013 indicates little change in commuting patterns since 2010, a result that is to be expected in a period as short as three years. Among the 52 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population), driving alone increased to 73.6% of commuting (including all travel modes and working at home). The one mode that experienced the largest drop was carpools, where the share of commuting dropped from 9.6% in 2010 to 9.0% in 2013. Doubtless most of the carpool losses represented gains in driving alone and transit. Transit grew, increasing from a market share of 7.9% in 2010 to 8.1% in 2013 in major metropolitan areas; similarly working at home increased from 4.4% to 4.6%, an increase similar to that of transit (Figure 1). Bicycles increased from 0.6% to 0.7%, while walking remained constant at 2.8%.

Transit: Historical Context

Transit has always received considerable media attention in commuting analyses. Part of this is because of the comparative labor efficiency (not necessarily cost efficiency) of transit in high-volume corridors leading to the nation’s largest downtown areas. Part of the attention is also due to the “positive spin” that has accompanied transit ridership press releases. An American Public Transportation Association press release earlier in the year, which claimed record ridership, have evoked a surprisingly strong response from some quarters: For example, academics David King, Michael Manville and Michael Smart wrote in the Washington Post:”We are strong supporters of public transportation, but misguided optimism about transit’s resurgence helps neither transit users nor the larger traveling public.” They concluded that transit trips per capita had actually declined in the past 5 years.

Nonetheless, transit remains well below its historic norms. The first commute data was in the 1960 census and indicated a 12.6% national market share for transit for the entire U.S. population. By 1990, transit’s national market share had dropped to 5.1%. After dropping to 4.6% in 2000, transit recovered to 5.2% in 2012. But clearly the historical decline of transit’s market share has at least been halted (Figure 2).

Even so, in a rapidly expanding market, many more people have begun driving alone than using transit. More than 47 million more commuters drive alone today than in 1980, while the transit increased about 1.4 million commuters over the same time period.

The largest decline occurred before 1960. Transit’s work trip market share was probably much higher in 1940, but the necessary data was not collected in the census, just before World War II and the great automobile-oriented suburbanization. In 1940, overall urban transit travel (passenger miles all day, not just commutes) is estimated to have been twice that of 1960 and nearly 10 times that of today.

Transit’s 2010-2013 Trend

To a remarkable extent, transit continues to be a “New York story.” Approximately 40% of all transit commuting is in the New York metropolitan area. New York’s 2.9 million transit commuters near six times that of second place Chicago. Transit accounts for 30.9% of commuting in New York. San Francisco ranks second at 16.1% and Washington third at 14.2%. Only three other cities, Boston (12.8%), Chicago (11.8), and Philadelphia (10.0%) have transit commute shares of 10% or more.

From 2010 to 2013, transit added approximately 375,000 new commuters. Approximately 40% of the entire nation’s transit commuting increase occurred in the New York metropolitan area. This was included in the predictable concentration (80%) of ridership gains in the transit legacy metropolitan areas, which are the six with transit market shares of 10% or more. Combined, these cities added 300,000 commuters, 89%, on the large rail systems that feed the nation’s largest downtown areas.

Perhaps surprisingly, Seattle broke into the top five, edging out legacy metropolitan areas (Figure 3) Philadelphia and Washington. Seattle has a newer light rail and commuter rail system. Even so, the bulk of the gain in Seattle was not on the rail system. Approximately 80% of its transit commuter growth was on non-rail modes. Seattle has three major public bus systems, a ferry system and the newer Microsoft private bus system that serves its employment centers throughout the metropolitan area. All of the new transit commuters in eighth ranked Miami were on non-rail modes, despite its large and relatively new rail system. New rail city Phoenix (10th) also experienced the bulk of its new commuting on non-rail modes (93%). Rail accounted for most of the gain in San Jose (9th), with a 58% of the total  The transit market shares in Miami, San Jose and Phoenix are all below the national average of 5.2%.

Outside the six transit legacy metropolitan areas, gains were far more modest, at approximately 75,000. Seattle, Miami, San Jose, and Phoenix accounted for nearly 60,000 of this gain, leaving only 15,000 for the other 42 major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, which had a 5,000 loss. Los Angeles now has a transit work trip market share of 5.8%, below the 5.9% in 1980 when the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission approved the funding for its rail system (the result of my amendment, see “Transit in Los Angeles“). Los Angeles is falling far short of its Matt Yglesias characterization as the “next great mass-transit city.”

Since 2000, the national trend has been similar. Nearly 80% of the increase in transit commuting has been in the transit legacy metropolitan areas, where transit’s share has risen from 17% to 20%. These areas accounted for only 23% of the major metropolitan area growth since 2000. By contrast, 77% of the major metropolitan area growth has been in the 46 other metropolitan areas, where transit’s share of commuting has remained at 3.2% since 2000. There are limits to how far the legacy metropolitan areas can drive up transit’s national market share.

Prospects for Commuting

At a broader level, the new data shows the continuing trend toward individual mode commuting, as opposed to shared modes. Between 2010 and 2013, personal modes (driving alone, bicycles, walking and working at home) increased from 82.3% to 82.7% of all commuting. Shared modes (carpools and transit) declined from 17.7% of commuting to 17.3%. These data exclude the “other modes” category (1.2% of commuting) because it includes both personal and shared commuting. None of this should be surprising, since one of the best ways to improve productivity, both personal and in the economy, is to minimize travel time for necessary activities throughout the metropolitan area (labor market).

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He was appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council to fill the unexpired term of Governor Christine Todd Whitman and has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Photograph: DART light rail train in downtown Dallas (by author)

 

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Does the GOP Need to Start Listening to Millennials?

September 30, 2014, 3:59 PM

Recently on his show, former Gov. Mike Huckabee ran a segment called, “Does the GOP need to start listening to millennials?” The answer to this question is not only a “yes,” it’s a “you should have started listening several years ago.”

The segment consisted of Huckabee speaking with three college students about what they stand for and what makes them active in politics. The students and Heartland Senior Fellow Benjamin Domenech gave good, thoughtful answers, however, they barely scratched the surface of the growing liberty movement and its potential impact.

This movement started to form into a cohesive group back during the primaries of the 2008 presidential election. The messages of freedom and peace espoused by Ron Paul resonated with many young people and spread wildly on the internet. While the candidate was mostly ignored by the mainstream media, his supporters did all in their power to counteract this apparent blackout in coverage.

A true grassroots campaign took shape. “Who is Ron Paul?” signs started showing up along many streets. Internet polls were targeted to show Ron Paul as the favorite among candidates. Then the money started to roll in. Supporters of Paul embraced the “Money Bomb,” a one day fundraising blitz. On November 5th, 2007, the campaign raised $4.3 million in a single day. Then on December 16, 2007, Paul’s campaign made headlines by raising nearly $6 million in one day, breaking the previous record.

The campaign showed they were a force; it showed the supporters they could organize and cause ripples at a national level. Although Paul is no longer running, the supporters are still actively engaged in politics and policy discussions. In the years since the 2008 primaries, the Libertarian Party has seen an explosion in membership. Also, the presence of the liberty movement on the internet is unavoidable.

There are multiple reasons the freedom message connected with youth. Millennials, like myself, have grown up in a broken system. The national debt was already at appalling levels; the economy collapsed and has been limping on ever since; unemployment, especially among the youth, remains high; and student debt is piling up. What is most concerning is that the government seems unable to do anything about it. In fact, it is becoming more apparent that the government is the main source of these problems. This is why the liberty movement has grown so large recently; it is refreshing to think there may be a solution that takes the weight of such a large and bloated government off the backs of these disenfranchised individuals.

This is where the GOP comes in. The Republican Party has an opportunity to pick up these politically active individuals. They will have to work for it though. While generally the Republican Party advocates for smaller government, they have to take it a few steps further to win over the libertarian-minded youth. These millennials see no justification for the government to be involved in personal matters, bedroom issues, or other unnecessary prohibitions.

If the Republican Party embraces the idea of a smaller government with less intrusion into individual privacy, they’ll have a chance of absorbing much of this liberty movement. This alteration will turn the appearance of the GOP from a party of “old white men” to one that accepts and encompasses a wide range of people who believe freedom is the answer to societal problems.

Categories: On the Blog

Sea Level Rise Issues in Florida Elections

September 30, 2014, 3:03 PM

The September 24, 2014 New York Times (NYT) had an article by reporter Gail Collins “Florida Goes Down the Drain—The Politics of Climate Change”.  A more inflammatory title for the same article appeared in the September 27, 2014, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as “Florida soggier as GOP ignores climate change”.  Reading the articles shows the obvious intent to inject climate change into the November Florida elections—in particular the Governor’s race between incumbent Republican Governor Rick Scott and Democrat candidate Charles Crist.  Ms. Collins portrays Governor Scott as uninformed about climate change issues with regard to sea level rise.

This article may be of concern to Republicans campaigning in the 2014 and 2016 elections.

MISTATEMENTS OF CLIMATE SCIENCE FACTS

Ms. Collins article is fabrication and a testament many reporters have no concern about the truth with regard to climate science.  No one except climate alarmist’s mention concerns about the words “climate change”.   Climate change has taken place continuously since the planet was created 4.5 billion years ago.  These words always go together and are just as normal as the “sun always rises in the East”.  The controversy is about causes of global warming which Democrats blame on carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels.  The description of global warming is labeled catastrophic anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (CAGW)

Atmospheric carbon dioxide has been increasing since 1950 and this is thought by many to be due to human’s burning fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas.  The increase has been from 310 parts per million (ppm) in 1950 to 400 ppm in 2014.  From 1950 to about 1975 there was no global warming and some concern about an impending ice age shown by articles in the June 24, 1974 Time Magazine and the April 28, 1975 Newsweek.  Even Dr. John Holdren’s, president Obama’s science advisor, writings in 1971 “warned of a coming ice age”.  From 1975 to 1998, global temperatures slowly increased and since 1998 there has been no increase.  Annual increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide from 1998 to present are at the highest level in millennia of about 2 ppm.  Using global warming alarmist’s logic you could say carbon dioxide increases prevent global warming.

Environmentalists within the Democrat Party like Al Gore and Tim Wirth subscribed to CAGW in the 1980s and gained further support after the United Nations formed the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) which produced a series of 5 Assessment Reports released since 1990 with the most recent in 2014.  These documents are accepted without question.  CAGW proponents argue increased atmospheric carbon dioxide has caused increased heat waves, record high temperatures, flooding, drought, wildfires, reduced snowfall, tornadoes, hurricanes, sea level rise, Artic ice melting, etc.

To counteract omissions, half-truths, and false statements in these reports, the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) was formed in 2003.  Since 2009, NIPCC has released6 Reports that give authoritative, easily-read information about vast amounts of experimental data showing negligible influence of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels on climate, benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, financial losses from mitigation, and proper role of adapting to climate change.  NIPCC is supported by three non-profit organizations–Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global ChangeScience and Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute.

A host of data exists to show all catastrophic events alleged caused by CAGW occurred in the past when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were lower and constant.   For many weather events, rates of occurrences recently declined.  The U. S. government provides data on various climate events CAGW proponents claim are increased– heat wavesrecord high temperaturesfloodingdroughtwildfires, reduced snowfall,  tornadoeshurricanes, sea level riseArctic ice melting.  Inspection of the data shows CAGW claims are false or exaggerated.  Another factor omitted is Antarctic sea ice in September 2014is at the highest level since satellite measurements were started in 1979.

The lack of global warming the past 16 years, when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased the highest rate in thousands of years, is conveniently ignored in the UNIPCC Summary for Policymakers Reports.  Due to consternation among climate alarmists,  52 explanations have been produced to date for the pause in global warming.

In addition, lack of global temperature increases from 1998 has embarrassed climate alarmists so they changed the cause for concern from “global warming” to “climate change”.   Do they expect there is a planet with no climate change and temperatures remain constant forever?  Is this a condition once existing on Earth?  The actions of climate alarmists are deceitful and dishonest in their characterizing carbon dioxide increases causing “climate change” instead of “global warming”.

EXAGGERATION OF FLORIDA SEA LEVEL RISE

The NYT article exaggerates sea level rise in Florida by making charges Miami Beach may be under water in the near future.  The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration post their Tides and Currents Database of information about world-wide tidal gauge measurements of sea level change.  For Miami and adjacent areas is a table of sea level rise the past century.

                        SEA LEVEL RISE IN FLORIDA

 

LOCATION                       DATA YEARS            AVERAGE SEA LEVEL RISE

Miami Beach                           1931-1981                                  2.39 mm/year

Daytona Beach                        1925-1983                                  2.32 mm/year

Jacksonville, FL                      1928-2006                                  2.40 mm/year

Vaca Key                                1971-2006                                  2.78 mm/year

Key West                                1913-2006                                  2.24 mm/year

 

With current trends of sea level rise, the Miami Beach sea level may rise 240 mm in 100 years or 9.5 inches.   Gail Collins also claimed higher sea level rises with, “the group had pulled out their maps and projections — including the one that shows much of Miami-Dade County underwater by 2048.”  This nonsense is based on projections from computer models that are shown unable to predict current global temperature changes or local climate changes.  Thus, they are worthless for making energy policy decisions.  A May 2014 report, “Tide gauge location and measurement of global sea level rise” shows sea level rise is local, globally averaged 1 mm per year, and had not accelerated the past 50 years.  Another report, “Secular and Current Sea Level Rise” shows UNIPCC computer projections have no credibility.

Miami Beach and adjacent areas have unusual problem of street flooding during spring and fall high tides because of back flows in their storm drains.  The Palm Beach Post reported, “Much of Miami Beach’s drainage system dates back to the 1940s and there is limited data about how many outfalls were designed to remain above high tide or for how long.  But an analysis performed by Coastal Systems International, another contractor assisting in the project, showed the ends of the drain pipes are spending more time submerged, with the mean high water elevation creeping up by about 1.68 inches over the last 14 years.”  The flooding is a problem of design and not increasing carbon dioxide due to use of fossil fuels.  Their drainage systems needs re-designed to prevent back flows and improve drainage.  Adding increasing energy costs due to CAGW fears only exacerbates the financial costs to Florida beachfront residents.

History has shown us sea levels rise and fall with time.  Fifteen thousand years ago when the upper North America was covered with ice, sea levels were 400 feet lower than present.  Data from Europe around one thousand years ago indicates sea levels were “higher” than present.  Climate alarmists are using natural sea level changes to provoke fear among the population to provide support for economy killing policies of abolishing use of the United States abundant, economical, and geographically distributed fossil fuels of coal, oil, and natural gas.

CONSEQUENCES OF ACTIONS

The Cornwall Alliance, a Christian public policy organization, published a September 17, 2014 policy statement “Protect the Poor:  Ten Reasons to Oppose Harmful Climate Change Policies” that succinctly points out reasons against and consequences of enacting global warming policies advocated by Gail Collins in her NYT article.  With present technology, renewable energy sources of solar, wind, ethanol from corn, other biofuels, etc. are not practical and economical in many instances, herehereherehere,herehere.   Abandoning fossil fuel use will condemn developing nations to perpetual poverty and developed nations like the United States to a less healthy and enjoyable society.  Remember sub-Saharan Africa has the lowest penetration of electricity of any large area on earth with 550 million without access to electricity.   This is the reason plagues like Ebola can take root.

Categories: On the Blog

Thinking the Unthinkable: Imposing the “Utility Model” on Internet Providers

September 30, 2014, 10:38 AM

Back in 1997, then-FCC Chairman Reed Hundt titled a speech, “Thinking About Why Some Communications Mergers Are Unthinkable.” In his address, Mr. Hundt explained why, in his view, it was “unthinkable” to contemplate a merger between AT&T and one of the Bell Operating Companies. A principal reason had to do with what Mr. Hundt claimed would be the “resulting concentration” of “the long distance market.”

Well, this thinking about the unthinkable was not very prescient regarding the development of what, even then, was a rapidly changing marketplace. There is no longer any meaningful “long distance market.” Long distance is long gone.

But the regulatory immodesty that leads FCC commissioners, even well-meaning ones, to think that they can predict – and then manage for the benefit of consumers – increasingly fast-paced technological and marketplace changes is not, like long distance, long gone. Indeed, I fear that, right now, such immodesty is at a dangerously high point.

So much so that in recent days I have found myself “thinking the unthinkable.” It now looks possible that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and his two Democrat colleagues, Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, might actually vote to classify broadband Internet service providers (ISPs) as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. This means regulating Internet providers under a public utility-type regime that was applied in the last century to the monopolistic Ma Bell – even though the Internet service provider market is now effectively competitive.

It means regulating Internet providers under a regime like the one applied to electric utilities. Susan Crawford, one of the leading advocates of Title II regulation, explicitly equates the provision of electricity service and Internet service and advocates regulating them the same way. On page 265 of her book, Captive Audience, she concludes that “America needs a utility model” for Internet providers. Professor Crawford’s thinking is fully in line with that of other Title II advocates.

Well, I think it is unthinkable that Chairman Wheeler and his two Democrat colleagues might adopt a utility model for broadband. Sure, I understand that there are various theories going around that, after imposing Title II regulation, the Commission could then decide to forbear from actually applying some of the Title II common carrier requirements, such as requiring advance agency permission before ISPs construct new networks, or imposing agency-prescribed regulatory accounting requirements and equipment depreciation schedules on ISPs, or prescribing the value of the providers’ property. But the Commission is not even proposing at this time to exercise such forbearance authority. And, in any event, it has exercised forbearance authority only sparingly, and then only very slowly, since the Telecommunications Act of 1996 granted the agency such authority. And through its precedents the Commission has established high hurdles to granting forbearance.

More to the point, while a few of the Title II advocates suggest the FCC could forbear from applying all but Title II’s Section 202 nondiscrimination prohibition, this is a distinct minority view. Most do not advocate forbearing from Section 201’s rate regulation provision. After all, the “utility model” advocated by Professor Crawford and others has rate regulation at its very core. Many of the complaints of these Title II advocates concerning Internet provider practices, including wireless Internet providers, concern what they claim are “unreasonable” data tiers or limits, and they routinely seek to have the FCC compel the production of information concerning demand and usage levels, service provider costs, and service revenues. This is the very type of information central to traditional utility rate cases.

In a recent letter to Verizon Wireless concerning the way Verizon administers its unlimited data plan, FCC Chairman Wheeler questioned whether the provider was trying to “enhance its revenue streams.” Frankly, I don’t believe America’s Internet providers could have invested over $1.3 trillion since 1996 – and $75 billion just in 2013 -if they didn’t have an eye on their revenue streams. But what is most important to appreciate is that FCC inquiries regarding Internet provider revenue streams, usage levels, data tier modeling, and cost of providing service presage rate regulation under Title II.

To me, it is unthinkable that the FCC would now consider going backwards by imposing Title II common carrier regulation on broadband Internet providers. In 2002, the Commission declared “broadband services should exist in a minimal regulatory environment that promotes investment and innovation in a competitive market.” In classifying cable broadband, and then wireline broadband, as information services rather than services subject to Title II regulation, the Commission emphasized it wanted to create a rational framework “for the competing services that are provided via different technologies and network architectures.” It recognized, in 2002, that Internet access already was “evolving over multiple electronic platforms, including wireline, cable, terrestrial wireless and satellite.”

Of course, since the FCC adopted a “minimal regulatory environment” for broadband in 2002 – and then successfully defended its decision all the way to the Supreme Court in the Brand Xdecision – the broadband Internet market, in fact, has become increasingly competitive, with facilities-based competition evolving over multiple platforms as the Commission envisioned. Now, I understand that Professor Crawford wrote an entire book, Captive Audience, in an attempt to demonstrate that cable operators have a “monopoly” in the provision of Internet service because, in her view, only they can provide the speed of 100 Mbps that she claims qualifies as high-speed (or “high-enough” speed) broadband.

Recently, Chairman Wheeler gave a speech in somewhat the same vein. He acknowledged that 80% of American households have access to a broadband connection that delivers a speed of 25 Mbps or better, and that a majority of households have access to a speed of 100 Mbps. Then, remarkably, he suggested it is “unacceptable” that 40% presently do not have access to 100 Mbps.

Of course, we all want to see deliverable speeds continue to improve as they steadily have improved over the past decade. But it is wrong – and it leads to the wrong policy prescriptions – to suggest that the “market” is uncompetitive by defining market parameters in a Crawford-like way that necessarily excludes alternative service providers that satisfy consumer demand at prices consumers are willing to pay. In his speech, Chairman Wheeler did something like this by concluding that wireless is just not a “full substitute” for fixed broadband – this despite accumulating evidence to the contrary. Indeed, three of the four major wireless providers in the U.S. already offer average actual speeds of over 30 Mbps, and 91.6% of the U.S. population has access to three or more wireless Internet providers. But if “full substitute” is taken to mean that, in every case and at all times, wireless will satisfy the demands of all consumers, then this is just a mistaken attempt at unsupportable market definition narrowing.

It is wrong to ignore the remarkable progress in broadband that American consumers have enjoyed since 2002 when the Commission adopted the minimal regulatory broadband regime, which has, for the most part, prevailed since then. It is wrong to suggest market definitions that do not comport with the way consumers see the available choices for services they demand.

Indeed, perhaps recognizing, at least sub silentio, that claims that the broadband market is uncompetitive are wrong, the FCC is proposing to impose new net neutrality regulations without requiring any showing of market failure or consumer harm resulting from existing Internet provider practices.

Even though I once thought the notion of imposing the Title II “utility model” on Internet providers was unthinkable, most unfortunately, it is now thinkable. And, even though Chairman Wheeler and his two Democrat colleagues will say they are acting in the name of consumers, and in conformance with the wishes of “consumer advocates,” I am convinced such action will harm consumers and diminish overall consumer welfare.

In order to avoid the unthinkable, it will be necessary for Chairman Wheeler very shortly to begin to mount a vigorous principled defense of his proposal to adopt a “commercial reasonableness” standard for assessing the lawfulness of Internet provider practices. As I have stated here many times, in light of the lack of evidence of present market failure or consumer harm, the preferred course at this time is for the Commission not to adopt any new net neutrality regulations. (The transparency regulation remains in effect, and it is a useful consumer protection measure.) But assuming there is Commission majority for adopting additional regulatory mandates, from a consumer welfare standpoint, the “commercial reasonableness” proposal under Section 706 is superior to adoption of the Title II utility model.

As for consumer welfare, which ought to be the Commission’s lodestar, I want to end on this point, one I made in remarks during the FCC’s first Open Internet Roundtable and in this Free State Foundation Perspectives“Net Neutrality v. Consumers.” The most vocal Title II advocates, including those in the Roundtable in which I participated, Public Knowledge’s Michael Weinberg and Stanford’s Professor Barbara van Schewick, insist that new so-called “zero-rating” wireless plans, such as those introduced by Sprint and T-Mobile, must be considered discriminatory and, therefore, unlawful under the net neutrality regime they advocate. Essentially, these plans, in one way or another, limit consumers access to the entire Internet in exchange for offering a lower price for access, or they prefer some sites over others for purposes of avoiding data charges. You can read the details of the plan in my “Net Neutrality v. Consumers” piece. I agree with the Title II advocates that these plans are based on a form of “discrimination,” as they use the term, because the plans do not treat all bits in a completely “neutral” fashion. So they claim such plans are inconsistent with an “Open Internet.”

I maintain plans, such as those offered by T-Mobile and Sprint, are attractive to consumers, especially low income and minority consumers. Indeed, I am confident that if consumers are asked, “If an Open Internet is interpreted to mean that plans like T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s must be withdrawn, do you favor an Open Internet?” the vast majority of consumer would say “no.” This is a much different, but much more meaningful – and much more honest – question to ask than “Do you favor an Open Internet?”

As far as I know, unlike the Title II advocates, neither Chairman Wheeler nor Commissioners Clyburn or Rosenworcel have yet taken the position that, in their view, “zero-rating” plans like T-Mobile’s and Sprint’s harm consumers. But as they seemingly go further down the road towards adopting the utility model for the Internet, including for wireless Internet providers, they should ask themselves, and then tell the rest of us, whether they agree that those plans, and similar ones, should be banned as discriminatory and inconsistent with an Open Internet. Because, if they do think so, then I don’t think they will find themselves on the side of the majority of consumers.

So, it comes to this: At least under the multi-factored “commercial reasonableness” standard, properly implemented, there would be an opportunity to defend, in a principled way, innovative, consumer-friendly plans. But the Title II advocates will settle for nothing less than rigid interpretations that outlaw any differential treatment of data, regardless of consumer benefits.

If the unthinkable of regulating broadband under the “utility model” is not going to become the reality, it is time for Chairman Wheeler, along with all those on the side of consumers, to make clear the stakes. In 1999, FCC Chairman William Kennard firmly rejected the notion of dumping the “whole morass of regulation” of the utility model on the cable pipe. He concluded: “This is not good for America.”

Given that competition in the broadband Internet marketplace is indisputably more robust today than in 1999, what would not have been good for America in 1999 would certainly not be good for America in 2014.

* Randolph J. May is President of the Free State Foundation, an independentnonpartisan free market-oriented think tank located in Rockville, Maryland.

A PDF of this Perspectives may be accessed here.

[Originally published at Free State Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

Penguins Pray for Global Warming

September 29, 2014, 3:47 PM

For decades, climate alarmists have been attempting to trigger global cooling by killing industry with carbon taxes and absorbing solar energy with windmills, solar panels and wood-fired power stations.

It seems they may have succeeded as Antarctica now has an expanding fringe of sea ice which recently reached an all-time high. 

Where are the environmentalists raising alarms about pooped penguins at the edge of survival, trudging extra mile after mile across the frozen Antarctic sea ice to reach open water? 

And who is preparing to protect the native penguins of Chile when feral Emperor penguins start walking onto Cape Horn? 

Seems like the Greens have goofed again?

Categories: On the Blog

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

September 29, 2014, 3:40 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tactical Title II “Nuclear Option” Proposals:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Congress paying attention?

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

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

***

FCC Open Internet Order Series

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at PrecursorBlog]

Categories: On the Blog

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

September 29, 2014, 3:28 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at Breitbart]

Categories: On the Blog

America’s Densest Cities

September 29, 2014, 2:47 PM

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

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

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

New York and Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

Balance of the Top Ten

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Bottom Ten

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

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

Density Goes West

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

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

[Originally published at Huffington Post]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Repeal The Oil Export Ban

September 29, 2014, 9:36 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Originally published at Investors.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Notes From TPPF’s Climate and Energy Summit

September 29, 2014, 1:26 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

5 Reasons Leonardo DiCaprio Can Stop Worrying About the Climate

September 28, 2014, 4:21 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Global Warming Stopped in 1997

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

  • Extreme Weather Events Have Actually Decreased

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

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

  • Sea-Level Rise is Not Accelerating

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

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

  • The Ice Caps Are Fine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[First published at Hollywood in Toto.]

Categories: On the Blog

Cut the Costly Climate Chatter

September 28, 2014, 1:14 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

Goodbye Eric Holder

September 27, 2014, 3:59 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Protect the Poor – From Climate Change Policies

September 27, 2014, 2:30 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

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

September 26, 2014, 5:07 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories: On the Blog

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

September 26, 2014, 2:30 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

[Originally published at The American Culture]

Categories: On the Blog

New Climate Report Misses Point on US Cities

September 26, 2014, 10:57 AM

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

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

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

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

 

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Some Useful FACTS About Global Warming and Climate Change

September 26, 2014, 10:49 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog