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Panel: Conservative Thought and Sustainability

Out of the Storm News - November 13, 2014, 9:30 AM
R Street's Lori Sanders will be speaking at the ASBC Annual Business Summit on November 13, 2014.

Untangling a Big Government Mess

Somewhat Reasonable - October 22, 2014, 4:07 PM

Changing our country and its laws back to a manageable and sane state is more complicated than the average small-government advocate may think. One cannot simply look at the situation in black and white, right and wrong mindset. A longer term strategy must be established.

This article is the result of a conversation I was engaged in earlier this week. I was speaking with a like-minded individual about the minimum wage. While we are both principally against the idea of a minimum wage, I was playing the “devil’s advocate” role. My stance was that there are so many laws and regulations on the books that distort and harm the economy, a minimum wage is necessary to prevent even lower wages.

Before I go any further, I want to state that I understand the consequences of a minimum wage and the effects it has on those that are unable to find a job.

The minimum wage is a solution the government created to deal with the side effects of failed economic policies. Like in many cases, the government chooses to treat the symptoms while leaving the underlying conditions unaltered. When capitalism is transformed by government into a crony-capitalism hybrid, the natural laws of supply and demand are not allowed to operate correctly. What we are left with is a flawed system with underutilized resources, including labor.

This is what brings me to my main point. Untangling the mess that we are in will take careful and thought-out steps. Our situation is like a stereotypical tangled ball of Christmas lights. You can’t just start pulling at strings; you have to pull the right strings first. The laws that we speak out against routinely do not exist in a vacuum; they have effects and consequences in other areas.

Here’s an example. Most, if not all, small-government advocates prefer smaller taxes. However, if a law passed eliminating all taxes only for the top 1%, most, if not all, would be against that change. Even though this appeals to the principle of lower taxes, most would concede that a more balanced approach is necessary.

While I do not advocate a raise in the minimum wage, I do believe other actions need to take place first prior to the potential elimination of said wage. Actions that level the playing field between small and big business, actions that create a friendlier environment to hire more people, etc., need to occur first. One major step in the right direction would be the simplification of the tax code. Closing loopholes exploited by big business and reducing regulations that hurt small business would create a more uniform market. Eliminating or reducing payroll taxes would also benefit employees by decreasing the cost of a new hire. These steps are just a few moves that could occur quickly with little or no unintended consequences.

If the economy were allowed to function in true free-market fashion, resources would be used as efficiently as possible. Eventually, full employment would be attained and a natural rise in wages would follow.

The laws that distort the free market and society have been built up since the founding of our nation. Unwinding the mess cannot be done haphazardly. Pulling the wrong string first may cause a knot that can’t be untied, causing the whole mess to crumble down on the average citizen’s back. Moving toward a society with a far more limited government requires careful planning and strategy.

Categories: On the Blog

The “Malaise” Has Returned

Somewhat Reasonable - October 22, 2014, 3:39 PM

The joke is that Jimmy Carter is happy that Barack Obama has replaced him as the worst President of the modern era.  It is a supreme irony that Obama’s campaign theme was “Hope and Change” when Americans have lost a great deal of hope about their personal futures and the only change they want is to see Obama gone from office.

Elected by a narrow margin in 1976, Carter managed in his one term to see his approval ratings fall to twenty-five percent by June 1979. The lesson Americans have to learn over and over again is that liberal policies and programs don’t work.

In six years, the kind of dependence on the government to take care of people from cradle to grave has left the nation with 92 million unemployed or who have stopped looking for a job, entitled 45 million to food stamps, and there is still talk of a “minimum wage” in the interest of “fairness” that simply kills jobs, especially those that used to be filled by young people just entering the workplace. The worst part of Obama’s presidency is the lies he tells in the belief, apparently, that most Americans are so stupid they won’t see through them.

On July 15, 1979, in an effort to encourage a greater sense of confidence, Jimmy Carter delivered a speech that became known as the “malaise” speech, but which did not include that word. What it did, however, is double down on all the bad policies Carter had pursued and blamed Americans for not accepting them. By then the economy was in decline, gasoline prices and interest rates had climbed to record levels, and the voters were understandably pessimistic. Iranians had taken U.S. diplomats hostage and they would not be released until Ronald Reagan took the oath of office.

Carter’s speech began by asking “Why have we not been able to get together as a nation to resolve our serious energy problem?”  Quite literally there was no need then or now for an energy problem because, as recently noted by the Energy Information Administration, the United States has enough coal to last more than 200 years! With the development of hydraulic fracturing, fracking, we now have access to more oil than exists in Saudi Arabia.

Obama literally came into office saying he intended to wage a war on coal and he has; using the Environmental Protection Agency to institute regulations that have led to the closing a mines and the shutdown of coal-fired plants that used to produce 50% of the nation’s electricity; now down to 40%. He resisted allowing the drilling for oil in the huge reserves on our east and west coasts. He has refused to permit the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. These policies have led to the loss of thousands of jobs during the time that followed the 2008 financial crisis.

In his speech, Carter said, “The erosion of our confidence in the future is threatening to destroy the social and the political fabric of America.” We would do well to remember that we have been through periods like this before and corrected course.

In 1980 Ronald Reagan would be elected to replace Carter and America prospered through his two terms, returning to being a major superpower, economically and militarily. That’s what conservatism produces.

Carter, however, blamed Americans for the problems of his times. “Two-thirds of our people do not even vote. The productivity of American workers is actually dropping, and the willingness of Americans to save for the future has fallen below that of all other people in the Western world.”

One of Obama’s earliest acts was to visit foreign nations and blame America for many of the world’s problems. Militarily he pulled our troops out of Iraq and he intends to do the same in Afghanistan. He has cut the military budget to the bone and has now defined its mission as one to address “climate change”, not the enemies of our nation.

Obama spent his entire first term blaming George W. Bush for every problem that he did nothing to correct. Indeed, Obama has never seen himself as the real problem, finding anyone else to blame.

Those Americans watching Carter deliver his speech must surely have cringed as he announced that he intended to set import quotas on foreign energy resources. He said he wanted Congress to impose a “windfall profits” tax on the very energy firms that he wanted to get us out of the doldrums and dependency that was causing the problem. He wanted the utility companies to “cut their massive use of oil by fifty percent within a decade.” He wanted them to switch to coal and now we live in a nation whose President doesn’t want our utilities to use coal. Why? Despite massive evidence to the contrary, he has advocated “renewable” energy, wind and solar, neither of which can ever meet the nation’s needs.

“In closing, let me say this: I will do my best, but I will not do it alone. Let your voice be heard,” said Carter.

In the 1980 election the voter’s voice was heard. Carter was gone and Reagan was our President. With him came his infectious patriotism and optimism. By late 1983 his economic program had ended the recession he inherited from Carter. A similar program would have put an end to what is now routinely called Obama’s Great Recession.

We are at a point not dissimilar from the days of Jimmy Carter and with an even greater sense of dissatisfaction and distrust of Barack Obama.

I reach back in our recent history to remind you that on November 4thin our midterm elections and in the 2016 presidential election we can repeat history by ridding the nation of those members of Congress that voted for ObamaCare and have supported President Obama. We must wait to see who the GOP will offer as a presidential candidate, but we have time for that.

We have time to “hope” for a better future and we have the means to make the “change” to achieve it.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Who Says you Need a Doctor to Fight Ebola?

Somewhat Reasonable - October 22, 2014, 2:10 PM

Perhaps it’s not surprising coming from our first Community Organizer president that the trait the administration claims is most needed in an “Ebola czar” — not that it’s been shown that such a position needs to be created in the first place — is, as Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health put it, “somebody who’s a good organizer.”

It’s been proven that rabble-rousing on the South Side of Chicago does not qualify one to lead anything more significant than a golf foursome (though you have to give Obama credit for spending his time doing what he’s best at, showing a clear understanding of the principle of comparative advantage).

Similarly, one wonders just what the newly named czar, Ron Klain, has “organized” that should give the American people confidence that the most incompetent administration in modern U.S. history is doing what needs to be done to keep citizens safe from a virus that the media is turning into the biggest medical scare since the Spanish Flu.

To wit, Ron Klain — no doubt a very smart man and talented lawyer, including having graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School and clerking for a Supreme Court justice — is best known for organizing and advising Democratic politicians from Ed Markey to Bill Clinton to Al Gore to Gen. Wesley Clark to John Kerry, and most recently serving as Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden (proving that intelligence cannot be gained by proximity) before taking a job in the private sector.

Other notes of interest about Mr. Klain include his membership in the Algore Cult of Global Warming and that he was a lobbyist for Fannie Mae, helping a firm that required tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts with “regulatory issues,” according to the Washington Post. He has publicly supported the ill-conceived “Buffett Rule” — calling for higher taxes on the wealthy — although within an analysis that at least recognizes that the “middle class” is as skeptical of Democrats as it is of Republicans.

Clearly the man is indeed a qualified organizer — of the office workings and spin machines of liberals.

But unless you count a couple of health advice-related portfolio companies of Case Holdings, where he serves as president, Mr. Klain’s medical experience seems limited to visits to his own GP.  A quick note to Mr. Case: Klain sure couldn’t sniff out the impending disaster of Solyndra despite being warned of it, so you might want to keep an eye on him if he’s involved with keeping your money safe.

Most of all, the selection of Ron Klain underscores the blindness of President Obama to what the American public really thinks of his Keystone Cops approximation of an executive branch.

Petty (and not so petty) dictators throughout history have valued loyalty over competence or honesty. That characteristic, perhaps more than any other, defines the composition of the Obama cabinet and their underlings such as Lois Lerner and Susan Rice — to whom, strangely, we are told that Ron Klain will report. I expect Mr. Klain to be far more competent than either Lerner or Rice (or Eric Holder or Janet Napolitano or Kathleen Sebelius, just to name a few), but every bit as loyal — which is really the point.

But what purpose does even the existence of this position serve?

Are there not literally dozens of people within the Departments of Health and Human Services or Homeland Security or even Defense or State, within the Centers for Disease Control or the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases or within management of major teaching hospitals, who could combine managerial skill with medical or epidemiological experience in a way that would be both useful and credible?

(My two cents: I recommend Dr. Alex Rowe of the CDC who has led important work in “improving health care provider performance in low- and middle-income countries” in Africa. Alex (whom I’ve known since high school) is just one example of a person whose experience seems vastly more relevant than Mr. Klain’s medically empty résumé, though I’m far from certain that his wife would appreciate my suggesting him for the job.)

And should not an “Ebola czar” be reporting to the HHS Secretary (and perhaps secondarily to the Secretary of Homeland Security) rather than to counter-terrorism adviser Lisa Monaco and national security adviser Susan Rice, a political hack whose only redeeming quality is that she’s willing to lie to the public (not just about Benghazi) and take the political heat for the boss? If anything, this chain of command is a recipe for complete dysfunction in the American response to Ebola, not just because the public doesn’t trust Susan Rice but also because the actual work needs to be done well outside of her and Ms. Monaco’s nominal areas of expertise and control.

The obvious conclusion is that the purpose of the naming of Ron Klain to the post of Ebola czar is political: to demonstrate that the administration is doing something about an issue over which the media is shamefully whipping the public into a frenzy. It is the health care equivalent — not least in the modest immediate risk to the homeland being amplified by horrific images from far-away places — of Obama’s air campaign against ISIS. (Or, if you work for the administration where the word “Syria” appears to be verboten, ISIL.)

And just as the air campaign is not a serious military strategy, the Ebola czar-naming is not a serious medical strategy. Even more ridiculous, it’s already failing as a political CYA.

Ron Klain did not attend a high-level meeting last Friday to discuss the federal response to Ebola. He also missed a Saturday evening meeting on the same subject. But with President Obama having spent Saturday afternoon golfing (you must see that link), Mr. Klain can be forgiven for believing that all this “Cancel my fundraisers!” and “It’s our top priority!” rhetoric is just for the masses.

So let’s see if we can summarize this: Motivated by a fear of even greater public perception of presidential incompetence and aloofness as we head into an election that should result in the trouncing of congressional Democrats, the president has appointed a politically loyal “organizer” with no medical experience whatsoever to a medically focused position that should not exist.

This in order to make the public feel better about a virus that, although often fatal when contracted, would be unlikely to pose a substantial threat to the U.S. if the government would take the obvious step of stopping residents of a few West African countries from entering the United States (apparently there’s no “red line” there either) until the breakout can be controlled where it currently exists rather than trying to hire airport Ebola screeners for$19/hour.

For any other administration, this confused mess would be considered a blunder. For President Obama, it’s quite literally par for the course.

[Originally published at The American Spectator

 

Categories: On the Blog

Radio Rewind: National Football League Sacks Taxpayers

Somewhat Reasonable - October 22, 2014, 1:53 PM

Recently, I joined Columbus radio talker Chuck Douglas — host of Saturday-morning talk show On Point with Chuck Douglas — to discuss how the National Football League (NFL) receives special tax carve-outs and exemptions, as well as millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies for stadium construction and maintenance.

Despite volumes of academic evidence to the contrary, supporters of sports subsidies often claim that the National Football League requires taxpayer support to remain solvent, and that public financing of privately-owned stadiums will lead to increased economic revenue. Neither claim, unfortunately, is supported by the evidence.

In fact, the academic evidence shows that subsidization actually “reduces the level of real per capita income in metropolitan areas,” by causing public money that would otherwise be spent on core government functions, to be diverted to socializing team owners’ risks, while they’re allowed to pocket the rewards.

Take a listen!

Categories: On the Blog

Thinking the Unthinkable – Part II

Somewhat Reasonable - October 22, 2014, 12:50 PM

In Scott Cleland’s recent piece titled, “Silicon Valley’s Biggest Internet Mistake,” he makes an important, too little addressed point: Were the FCC to classify Internet service as a “telecommunications” service under Title II of the Communications Act, this drastic step likely would have significant adverse international ramifications.

In a September 29 paper titled, “Thinking the Unthinkable: Imposing a ‘Utility Model’ on Internet Providers,” I explained, from a purely domestic policy perspective, why FCC imposition of the Title II common carrier utility model on broadband Internet providers should be “unthinkable.” The adverse international consequences provide another reason.

As Scott explains in his commentary:

Legally, “telecommunications” is what international treaties and agreements regulate like a utility, under the Constitution of the United Nations’ International Telecommunications Union (ITU). Specifically, ITU agreement: ITU-T D.50, recognizes the sovereign right of each State to regulate “telecommunications” as that State determines. Apparently, Silicon Valley interests are blind to the many risks of “telecommunications” regulation to their foreign businesses….[T]he FCC reclassifying the American Internet as “telecommunications” predictably would invite most every other country to reclassify their Internet traffic as “telecommunications” too, so that they could impose lucrative price tariffs on Silicon Valley’s dominant share of Internet traffic into their countries.

This is not an unjustified concern. Indeed, there is rising apprehension in many quarters about the designs of many foreign countries harbor to exert more government control over Internet traffic within their own countries and, indeed, throughout the world through international organizations. Especially at a time when the U.S. has embarked on a process that is intended to lead to a new governance structure for ICANN, the FCC – and the entire U.S. government – ought to be concerned about actions here at home that are likely to be construed by foreign governments as authorizing more government interference in Internet operations.

In fact, this very concern regarding the international ramifications resulting from FCC adoption of net neutrality regulations was expressed by Ambassador Philip Verveer in May 2010 in his capacity as the State Department’s Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy. Of course, Philip Verveer now serves as Senior Counselor to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler.

Answering a question at a Media Institute luncheon as the FCC was considering the then-pending net neutrality rulemaking, according to the report in Broadcasting & Cable, Ambassador Verveer said this:

“I can tell you from my travels around the world and my 
discussions with figures in various governments around the world there is a
very significant preoccupation with respect to what we are proposing with 
respect to broadband and especially with respect to the net neutrality.”

Most significantly, Ambassador Verveer went on to say that the net neutrality proceeding “is one that could 
be employed by regimes that don’t agree with our perspectives about essentially
 avoiding regulation of the Internet and trying to be sure not to do anything to
damage its dynamism and its organic development. It could be employed as a
 pretext or as an excuse for undertaking public policy activities that we would
 disagree with pretty profoundly.”

Of course, many others were saying much the same at the time, but Ambassador Verveer was subjected to a harsh attack by Public Knowledge’s Harold Feld for deviating from what Mr. Feld considered to be the established Democratic party line. He wondered how someone as experienced as Mr. Verveer “manage[d] to get so off message at precisely the wrong time.”

I happen to think that Mr. Verveer’s job was not primarily to stay “on message,” but rather to serve the American people by explaining the risks of adopting an ill-advised policy. I have known Phil Verveer since we served together at the FCC in the late 70s and early 80s, and I have a high regard for his qualifications and his dedication to public service. At the time of Mr. Feld’s attack, I defended him. And shortly thereafter, in the context of responding to another of Mr. Feld’s blogs, this time urging FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to act quickly to adopt net neutrality regulations “to fire up the base before the election,” I called Mr. Verveer a “stellar public servant.”

Nothing has changed my view that Phil Verveer is a stellar public servant. But I do wish he would avail himself of the opportunity once again to explain that the concerns he expressed in 2010, when he was responsible for coordinating international communications policy on behalf of the U.S., are still valid today. Regardless of whatever good intentions may be expressed, if the U.S. government adopts new net neutrality mandates, especially in conjunction with classifying Internet providers as “telecommunications” carriers, other countries may well use such action as an excuse or pretext for, in Ambassador Verveer’s words, “undertaking public policy activities that we would
 disagree with pretty profoundly.”

In other words, despite any protestations to the contrary uttered by U.S. officials, the FCC’s actions regulating Internet providers will speak louder than its words. Other countries, with obvious designs on exerting more control over Internet communications, and over international entities that play a role in managing Internet communications, will seize upon the FCC’s action as a justification.

Scott Cleland is right that this would not be good for Silicon Valley.

I would go further: When then-FCC Chairman Bill Kennard in 1999 rejected dumping what he called the telephone world’s “whole morass of regulation” on the then-emerging cable broadband systems, he concluded, “That is not good for America.”

Dumping the telephone world’s “whole morass of regulation” on broadband Internet providers still would not be good for America today. Indeed, it ought to be unthinkable.

[Originally published at The Free State Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

‘This is not an Education Problem. This is a Government Problem’

Blog - Education - October 22, 2014, 12:15 PM

The world needs more teachers like Susan Bowles. The kindergarten teacher at Lawton Chiles Elementary School in Gainesville risked her job to stand up for what she believes in.

What she believes is that conducting standardized testing three times a year, some of it required to be computerized, is simply not in the best interests of the kindergarten students she teaches.

Despite the risk of losing her job after 26 years of teaching, Bowles felt compelled to speak out.

And something amazing happened. Instead of her being fired or reprimanded, the policy was changed. The community rallied around Bowles after she took a stand. Now, K–2 grade students will not be required to take the FAIR tests that Bowles refused to administer.

In the letter Bowles wrote to parents, she explained that even though she would be in breach of contract, she couldn’t in good conscience give the test to her students. The FAIR testing would have meant kindergarten students being tested on a computer using a mouse, Bowles said.

Although many of her students are well-versed in using tablets or smart phones, most had not used a desktop computer before. Once an answer is clicked, even if a mistake was made and a student accidentally clicked the wrong place, there is no way to go back to correct it. This means the data that would have been collected would not have been accurate.

“While we were told it takes about 35 minutes to administer, we are finding that in actuality it is taking between 35-60 minutes per child,” Bowles wrote. “This assessment is given one-on-one. It is recommended that both teacher and child wear headphones during the test. Someone has forgotten there are other five-year-olds in our care.”

The problem is not with the people she works for, Bowles said. “This is not an education problem. This is a government problem,” she wrote.

Bowles was not directly named in the letter to parents from officials changing the testing policy, but the letter does mention the recent attention surrounding the issue.

Bowles was brave in facing down the school administration, state and local officials, and teachers unions who continually protect the status quo and each other. She stood up by herself with no way of knowing what the consequences would be.

Bowles told me she feels lucky to have had the opportunity to speak her mind, because her husband was supportive and her children are grown. After hearing the policy had changed, Bowles said, she “hugged, laughed, cried, and did a happy dance” with other teachers who had been waiting outside her classroom because they had already heard the news.

“I was surprised and pleased that they actually backtracked on the FAIR, suspending it for one year,” said Bowles, noting tension over standardized testing has increased because of Common Core. “Of course, the fear is it will be back next year with a few tweaks.

“This fight should continue — not just regarding the excessive testing that takes away from our children’s learning, but also for the standards that have been adopted that are not developmentally sound, at least for elementary students,” said Bowles. “I can speak for the elementary grades that any developmental psychologist or early childhood educator would tell you that these standards are inappropriate.”

Two bills have been introduced recently to decrease the federal footprint on standardized testing. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has spoken about the possibility of over-testing.

The hope is that these changes aren’t just lip service. Parents, teachers, and legislators will have to continue to fight for students and against the education establishment. The contrasting approaches of the federal government and Susan Bowles regarding how children should be educated suggest we all should support more local control rather than failing federal mandates.

Heather Kays (hkays@heartland.org) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute and is managing editor of School Reform News.

 

[Originally published at The Tampa Tribune]

‘This is not an Education Problem. This is a Government Problem’

Somewhat Reasonable - October 22, 2014, 12:15 PM

The world needs more teachers like Susan Bowles. The kindergarten teacher at Lawton Chiles Elementary School in Gainesville risked her job to stand up for what she believes in.

What she believes is that conducting standardized testing three times a year, some of it required to be computerized, is simply not in the best interests of the kindergarten students she teaches.

Despite the risk of losing her job after 26 years of teaching, Bowles felt compelled to speak out.

And something amazing happened. Instead of her being fired or reprimanded, the policy was changed. The community rallied around Bowles after she took a stand. Now, K–2 grade students will not be required to take the FAIR tests that Bowles refused to administer.

In the letter Bowles wrote to parents, she explained that even though she would be in breach of contract, she couldn’t in good conscience give the test to her students. The FAIR testing would have meant kindergarten students being tested on a computer using a mouse, Bowles said.

Although many of her students are well-versed in using tablets or smart phones, most had not used a desktop computer before. Once an answer is clicked, even if a mistake was made and a student accidentally clicked the wrong place, there is no way to go back to correct it. This means the data that would have been collected would not have been accurate.

“While we were told it takes about 35 minutes to administer, we are finding that in actuality it is taking between 35-60 minutes per child,” Bowles wrote. “This assessment is given one-on-one. It is recommended that both teacher and child wear headphones during the test. Someone has forgotten there are other five-year-olds in our care.”

The problem is not with the people she works for, Bowles said. “This is not an education problem. This is a government problem,” she wrote.

Bowles was not directly named in the letter to parents from officials changing the testing policy, but the letter does mention the recent attention surrounding the issue.

Bowles was brave in facing down the school administration, state and local officials, and teachers unions who continually protect the status quo and each other. She stood up by herself with no way of knowing what the consequences would be.

Bowles told me she feels lucky to have had the opportunity to speak her mind, because her husband was supportive and her children are grown. After hearing the policy had changed, Bowles said, she “hugged, laughed, cried, and did a happy dance” with other teachers who had been waiting outside her classroom because they had already heard the news.

“I was surprised and pleased that they actually backtracked on the FAIR, suspending it for one year,” said Bowles, noting tension over standardized testing has increased because of Common Core. “Of course, the fear is it will be back next year with a few tweaks.

“This fight should continue — not just regarding the excessive testing that takes away from our children’s learning, but also for the standards that have been adopted that are not developmentally sound, at least for elementary students,” said Bowles. “I can speak for the elementary grades that any developmental psychologist or early childhood educator would tell you that these standards are inappropriate.”

Two bills have been introduced recently to decrease the federal footprint on standardized testing. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has spoken about the possibility of over-testing.

The hope is that these changes aren’t just lip service. Parents, teachers, and legislators will have to continue to fight for students and against the education establishment. The contrasting approaches of the federal government and Susan Bowles regarding how children should be educated suggest we all should support more local control rather than failing federal mandates.

Heather Kays (hkays@heartland.org) is a research fellow with The Heartland Institute and is managing editor of School Reform News.

 

[Originally published at The Tampa Tribune]

Categories: On the Blog

Roy Spencer: Why 2014 Won’t Be the Warmest Year on Record

Somewhat Reasonable - October 22, 2014, 12:14 PM

Dr. Roy Spencer of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a frequent presenter at Heartland’s climate conferences, is an invaluable and prominent voice among scientists who are righly skeptical about the hypothesis of man-caused climate change. In a post today, Dr. Spencer throws a lot of cold water on the idea that 2014 is shaping up to be the “warmist year on record.”

Much is being made of the “global” surface thermometer data, which three-quarters the way through 2014 is now suggesting the global average this year will be the warmest in the modern instrumental record. I claim 2014 won’t be the warmest global-average year on record … if for no other reason than this: thermometers cannot measure global averages — only satellites can. The satellite instruments measure nearly every cubic kilometer – hell, every cubic inch — of the lower atmosphere on a daily basis. You can travel hundreds if not thousands of kilometers without finding a thermometer nearby.

(And even if 2014 or 2015 turns out to be the warmest, this is not a cause for concern…more about that later).

The two main research groups tracking global lower-tropospheric temperatures (our UAH group, and the Remote Sensing Systems [RSS] group) show 2014 lagging significantly behind 2010 and especially 1998:

With only 3 months left in the year, there is no realistic way for 2014 to set a record in the satellite data.

Granted, the satellites are less good at sampling right near the poles, but compared to the very sparse data from the thermometer network we are in fat city coverage-wise with the satellite data.

In my opinion, though, a bigger problem than the spotty sampling of the thermometer data is the endless adjustment game applied to the thermometer data. The thermometer network is made up of a patchwork of non-research quality instruments that were never made to monitor long-term temperature changes to tenths or hundredths of a degree, and the huge data voids around the world are either ignored or in-filled with fictitious data.

Furthermore, land-based thermometers are placed where people live, and people build stuff, often replacing cooling vegetation with manmade structures that cause an artificial warming (urban heat island, UHI) effect right around the thermometer. The data adjustment processes in place cannot reliably remove the UHI effect because it can’t be distinguished from real global warming.

Satellite microwave radiometers, however, are equipped with laboratory-calibrated platinum resistance thermometers, which have demonstrated stability to thousandths of a degree over many years, and which are used to continuously calibrate the satellite instruments once every 8 seconds. The satellite measurements still have residual calibration effects that must be adjusted for, but these are usually on the order of hundredths of a degree, rather than tenths or whole degrees in the case of ground-based thermometers.

And, it is of continuing amusement to us that the global warming skeptic community now tracks the RSS satellite product rather than our UAH dataset. RSS was originally supposed to provide a quality check on our product (a worthy and necessary goal) and was heralded by the global warming alarmist community. But since RSS shows a slight cooling trend since the 1998 super El Nino, and the UAH dataset doesn’t, it is more referenced by the skeptic community now. Too funny.

You’re going to want to read the whole thing.

Categories: On the Blog

Global Warming's Shark Jumping Moment

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - October 22, 2014, 11:41 AM
Weeeeeeeeeeeeeee! Travel day today, so something light and airy—and incomplete. President Obama, presumably sacrificing a tee time, went to keyboard and typed…

Quicky Mid-October 2014 El Niño Update

Environment Suite - In The News - October 22, 2014, 11:40 AM
Guest Post by Bob Tisdale This is a quick update on the status of the sea surface temperatures of the equatorial Pacific, along with a brief discussion of the…

Section 10 forbearance offers no easy path to 'Title II Lite'

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - October 22, 2014, 11:10 AM
By Lawrence J. Spiwak, contributor As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) struggles to write new net neutrality rules, the agency is coming under…

If the Internet is Working Well, Don’t Add New Regulations | MIT Technology Review

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - October 22, 2014, 10:56 AM
David Farber Demands for network neutrality have reached fever pitch in Washington, D.C., as many voices stress the need for the Federal Communications

Tax Consequences of Net Neutrality

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - October 22, 2014, 10:56 AM
Would the Federal Communications Commission expose broadband Internet access services to tax rates of at least 16.6% of every dollar spent on international and…

Minimum Wage Backfire

Stuff We Wish We Wrote - Homepage - October 22, 2014, 10:55 AM
If there’s a silver lining for McDonald’s in Tuesday’s dreadful earnings report, it is that perhaps union activists will begin to understand that the fast-food…

Council’s New Bill to Boost Smoking

Somewhat Reasonable - October 22, 2014, 10:49 AM

New York City was the first major city to ban vaping, the use of e-cigarettes, wherever cigarette smoking is banned. Cities around the country have followed suit.

As a result, smokers who are trying to quit are forced to take their e-cigarettes outside together with the smokers. Now the council may go further and ban the sale of flavored e-cigarettes.

Councilman Costa Constantinides’ bill, introduced this month, would be a blow to smokers who want a less harmful alternative that actually tastes good.

Flavors are critically important because they make e-cigarettes attractive to smokers who are trying to quit. Smokers who’ve switched from smoking to vaping regularly report that they enjoy the various flavors of e-cigarettes, often more than the flavor of burning tobacco.

In fact, in a survey published last November in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, participants reported that e-cig flavors, including fruit flavors, were “very important” to them in their effort to quit or reduce smoking.

No, the ban wouldn’t immediately send folks back to smoking. They’d just buy their e-cigs online and outside of the city. So the initial impact would be to hurt legitimate businesses that are trying to offer their customers an appealing and less harmful alternative to cigarettes.

The real harm of the bill comes later, when other legislatures follow our example. I’ve testified against bans on public vaping at City Council meetings around the country.

Almost every time, the supporters cite the impressive fact that New York City passed a similar law. In fact, it’s probably their best argument. The same would happen if Constantinides’ poorly considered bill becomes law.

As is often the case, those calling for a ban to restrict the choices of adults tell us that their goal is to protect children.

“These flavors are direct marketing to children,” Constantinides said when introducing the bill. “They appeal to children, and we’re taking them out of that market.”

That’s absurd. Legislatures around the country, including the City Council, have already banned the sales of all e-cigs to minors. The Food and Drug Administration’s proposed rule does the same.

The council and the Health Department should get back to basics and make sure stores don’t sell e-cigarettes, flavored or not, to kids.

Perhaps while they are at it, they might be able to stop the greater threat, sales of actual cigarettes to kids. It’s all too common here, for all the Health Department’s aggression in other areas.

Flavor-ban proponents also argue that until all the science is in, it’s better to be safe than sorry. But that “precautionary principle” approach doesn’t apply so simply here.

The World Health Organization, the FDA and scientists at leading anti-smoking groups such as the Legacy Foundation have all recognized that while e-cigarettes have risks, they also have potential to help people reduce their harm dramatically by switching from smoking.

Specifically, the Legacy Foundation’s David Abrams lauds e-cigarettes as a “disruptive technology,” telling the Washingtonian, “I think we’re missing the biggest public-health opportunity in a century if we get [the regulations] wrong.”

He adds, “We’ve got to thread this needle just right. We’ve got to both protect kids and non-users and use it as a way to make obsolete the much more lethal cigarette.”

The FDA has proposed rules to govern e-cigarettes, but hasn’t opted to ban flavors. Instead, the agency is looking into not only the science of e-cigs, but how products such as flavored cigarettes are being used.

It won’t have to look far: Vapers report that the appeal of flavors have made the much more lethal cigarette obsolete, at least to them.

Councilman Constantinides’ proposed ban would not only “thread this needle” the wrong way, it would stick smokers not in the finger, but in the lungs, by suggesting flavored cigarettes present a risk in the same category as smoking.

 

[Originally published at Pundicity]

Categories: On the Blog

Crony Socialists Looking to Ban Online Gambling Don’t Seem to Realize It’s a WORLD WIDE Web

Somewhat Reasonable - October 22, 2014, 10:35 AM

I used to bet football games, and play occasional hands of cards (I’m mostly retired).  I did so mostly online – via a company based in Costa Rica.

Did I know the owner of the Costa Rican company?  No.  Did I know anyone in Costa Rica?  No.  Did I have any particular affinity for that nation?  No.  To quote Joe Walsh (the James Gang, solo and Eagles musician, not the former Congressman):

Aint never been there – they tell me its nice. 

The Costa Rican company got my money because the World Wide Web allowed me to shop large swaths of the planet for the business I liked best.  Free trade is a fabulous thing.  The Internet is a fabulous thing.  The latter makes the former even easier – which is a fabulous thing.

Unless you have an old school brick-and-mortar business model – and insist on not changing as the world does. For most stubborn businesses – that spells doom.  If you’re an industry titan and can afford to pony up to politicians – you look to get the government to protect you from Reality.  It’s called Crony Socialism (it’s not Crony Capitalism – because it has nothing to do with capitalism).

And with this particular federal government – with a $4 trillion-a-year budget, countless huge regulatory hammers poised over every nook and cranny of the economy and politicians looking to deal – very bad things can happen.

It’s usually Democrats – the Huge Government Party – who use the Leviathan as a government-money-and-regulation fundraising weapon.  For instance – remember the “green” “energy” (which isn’t green and provides nearly no energy) portion of the abysmally failed 2009 “Stimulus?”  80% of DOE Green Energy Loans Went to Barack Obama Donors. It did nothing for energy or the economy.  But it did a lot for Obama Backers. Sadly, Republicans – allegedly Less Government’s representatives – are not immune to the pernicious infection that is Crony Socialism.

Meet casino magnate Sheldon Adelson.  Who has generated a personal net worth of $37 billion in large part with his brick-and-mortar gambling houses.  Who sees U.S. online gambling as a threat to his empire – but doesn’t seem to see that the Internet extends WAY beyond our borders.

Who has been a huge Republican donor – he gave $49.8 million to center-right Super PACs just in 2012.  And who is now looking for Crony Socialist legislative payback – someone to save him and his older-school businesses from the Reality that is the WORLD WIDE Web. Sadly, some Elephants are willing to oblige. The bill to ban most online gambling for money was introduced by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) earlier this year.

How exactly will said bill ban online gambling?  By reworking a half-century-plus old law – to apply it to the 21st Century Internet economy.  Behold the 1961 Federal Wire Act. Here’s Senator Graham on video: Uhhh, yeah.  We’re going back to the wiring act.  The Wire Act prevented transfer of money for online gambling.”

Stop right there.  How did a 1961 law prevent online…anything?  There was no online.  The Senator continues: “Even if you wanted to do online gambling you would have to have regulations, right?” Stop right there.  The Senator’s bill doesn’t regulate online gambling – it bans it.  And my personal online Costa Rican experience was just outstanding – without regulations.  It was most likely much more outstanding precisely because there were no regulations.

Senator Graham seems a bit confused.  What could be contributing to his un-clarity? After Casino Mogul Throws Him Big Money Fundraiser, Graham Seeks Internet Gambling Ban. Big-time contributions.  The solution to Crony Socialism is Less Government.  If the Leviathan wasn’t quite so enormous, the cronyism from which we constantly suffer wouldn’t be quite so prevalent.

The less power and money government has to throw around – the less money will be campaign-contributed to swing government the contributors’ way.

It’s sad – and angering-ly pathetic – when allegedly Less Government Republicans look to expand the Leviathan further still to get some of that Crony Socialism money for themselves.

[Originally posted on Red State]

Categories: On the Blog

Aging Metropolitan Areas Ranked

Somewhat Reasonable - October 22, 2014, 9:21 AM

America is getting older, as medical science prolongs life expectancy and the fertility rate hovers at or even below the replacement rate. One metric for gauging the nation’s aging is the median age – the age at which one half the population is younger and the other half is older. In 2000, the median age in the United States was 35.3. By 2013, the median age had increased to 37.5.

But the nation’s aging is by no means uniform. Each of the nation’s 52 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population), got older between 2000 and 2013. However, the difference was substantial, from a relatively small 0.4 years to a more than 10 times larger 4.6 years.

Metropolitan Areas Aging the Least

Nine of the 10 metropolitan areas that have aged the least attracted more residents from other parts of the country than they lost between 2000 and 2013 (net domestic migration data from the Census Bureau annual population estimates). This is consistent with data showing that younger households move more. The Current Population Survey reports indicates that households with householders less than 35 years of age are more than 2.5 times as likely to move between states as those led by householders from 35 to 64. The real competition for migrants between metropolitan areas is for younger households,

Oklahoma City aged the slowest of any major metropolitan area between 2000 and 2013. In 2000, the median age was 34.2 years, which increased to 34.6 in 2013, an increase of only 0.4 years. Orlando, the second slowest aging metropolitan area, added nearly three times as much to its median age, which is now at 36.7 year, up 1.1 years from 2000. Indianapolis and San Antonio tied at third with increases of 1.3 years, while Kansas City and Washington tied for 5th, at 1.4 years. The top ten was rounded out by Nashville, Houston, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Riverside-San Bernardino (Table 1, complete data is at demographia.com).

Metropolitan Areas Aging the Most

Detroit aged faster than any other major metropolitan area, as its median age rose from 35.4 to 40.0 years, an increase of 4.6 years. Cleveland aged 4.0 years, Los Angeles 3.5 years, Rochester 3.4 years and Providence 3.3 years. The bottom ten also included Salt Lake City, Hartford, Cincinnati, San Jose, Pittsburgh and Buffalo (the later three in a tie, which makes the bottom 10 a bottom 11). Eight of the bottom 11 cities were in the Northeast and Midwest. The three others, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and San Jose have median ages below the national average, but Los Angeles and San Jose will be older than average within a decade if current trends continue. All of the 11 cities experienced domestic migration losses between 2000 and 2013.

Youngest Metropolitan Areas

The youngest major metropolitan area is Salt Lake City (31.8 years), which held that title both in 2000 and 2013. Salt Lake City, however, was among the fastest aging cities, as is noted above. Riverside-San Bernardino is in hot pursuit, having gained 1.3 years on Salt Lake City, and with a 2013 median age of 33.3. Riverside-San Bernardino has aged less because it has become a refuge for many younger households from nearby Los Angeles, where house prices are stratospheric compared to household incomes. Texas holds the next four positions, with Austin at 33.5 and Houston at 33.6. Dallas-Fort Worth and San Antonio are tied for 5th at 34.2 (Table 2)

Oldest Metropolitan Areas

All of the five oldest cities had median ages of 40 years or more. The oldest metropolitan area in 2013 was Pittsburgh (42.8), followed by Tampa St. Petersburg (41.9), Cleveland (41.3), Buffalo (40.8) and Hartford (40.5). As in the case of the fastest aging cities, the oldest cities are mainly from the slower growing Northeast and Midwest.

Sustaining Urban Economies by Attracting Younger Households

Unless there is a substantial increase in birth rates (which no one expects), metropolitan areas will continue to age. But, as before, some will age more rapidly than others.

Part of the reason some slow growth or declining “Rust Belt” Northeastern and Midwestern cities have aged faster is strong outward domestic migration, with its large share of younger households. However, metropolitan areas with high household incomes have also experienced strong net domestic out-migration. This is evident in Boston, New York, San Francisco, and San Jose.

Other cities, like Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth or Indianapolis can be more attractive, because their lower cost of living can leave households with more discretionary income and a better quality of life. Much of this cost of living advantage is the result of lower house prices relative to incomes.

This association between better housing affordability and greater net domestic migration is identified in research by Harvard economists Peter Ganong and Daniel Shoag. Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman also observed the connection between net domestic migration and housing affordability in a recent New York Times column entitled “Wrong Way America.”

There are other reasons that people move. However, the common thread among movers is aspiration — seeking better lives. People move to places they can afford and where they can hope for a higher standard of living. Metropolitan areas that meet the needs of younger households, with a better quality of life and job creating sustainable economies, are likely to age more slowly

 

[Originally published at Huffington Post]

Categories: On the Blog

America should learn from the German job-training model, but not copy it

Out of the Storm News - October 22, 2014, 8:00 AM

The U.S. labor market may finally be picking up steam, but when it comes to our structural labor problems, big questions about stagnant wages and underemployed workers remain.

Will labor market tightening do anything to accelerate wage growth for middle- and lower-class workers? Will it ease the difficulties manufacturers and other skills-based employers face in finding an adequately trained workforce? Almost certainly not.

While today’s college-educated workers stand ready to step in to managerial and professional roles, those with only a high school degree or some college frequently frequently lack the skills to provide adequate value to employers. The result has been to accelerate the shift toward mechanization, further decreasing the opportunities for those who need them most.

Whatever answer policy-makers pursue will require big changes in how we think about providing services and training to those in need. Countless important battles are being fought at the state and local level over the future of K-12 education. Many more are being fought over higher education – the rise of student loan debt; the high drop-out rate, particularly for those in community college; the questionable value provided by many institutions and degrees.

But one crucial piece of the puzzle has been missing. As Tamar Jacoby pointed out in The Atlantic last week, the United States fails to provide worker training services for many roles in manufacturing and other traditional blue-collar services. Offering this sort of training used to be the role of unions. Their decline during the last half-century, combined with the push for college-for-all, has left the country with a skills gap.

Jacoby’s piece highlights the success of the German model, where the national government, labor and businesses have collaborated to create a series of standardized apprenticeship programs, beginning at age ten. They provide workers with a combination of traditional education; skills needed for a specific industry; and the further intangible skills learned through experience on the job.

Jacoby worries that such a model would never work here. She highlights as sticking points the Germans’ top-down, standardized approach and the coordination between business and labor. But a first question is whether the German approach would be either necessary or desirable.

America already is home to a plethora of local job-training programs – public, private and somewhere in between. For example, after moving its facilities to South Carolina, Boeing worked with local technical schools through the state’s ReadySC program to take work-ready locals and teach them skills to work in Boeing facilities. As the aerospace industry moves more jobs to the South, many of the incentive packages offered by states include provisions for worker training, including a $52 million facility in Alabama where workers are trained at state expense; $136 million in North Carolina; and $30 million from South Carolina.

Many partnerships between manufacturers and local job boards and state governments look to prepare high-school educated workers for positions in local plants. Some, such as the Wisconsin Regional Trading Partnership, go even further. The WRTP allows even those with only a 10th grade equivalency to access the program, which provides participants a 27 percent wage premium two years after graduation.

The Career Academies starts even younger, taking high school youth and putting them to work in local industry. Graduates receive an earnings premium of 11 percent over non-participants. Unfortunately, programs like these tend to be the “alternative” for at risk-students, rather than a path to be prized on its own merits.

These sorts of partnerships provide incentive for industry to see their workers as investments. Indeed, the German employers and educators Jacoby spoke with highlighted this as the most important aspect of the model. Being able to look, in their words, “beyond ROI” and see the longer-term benefits for the company is difficult in today’s corporate culture, but necessary if we want to close the skills gap.

To be sure, this piecemeal approach has flaws. Large areas are left unaddressed and the lack of national consensus allows the myth that college is the answer for all to persist. But it also allows experimentation, flexibility and local response to changing circumstances. Given the backdrop of rapid technological change, innovation in education is a key goal that tends to be stifled by top-down national programs.

The last thing the United States needs is to turn worker training into the adult version of K-12 education, where by most accounts we continue to train students in subpar ways for a world that no longer exists. Training programs need to stay nimble and businesses must have the right incentives to respond to changing circumstances.

It would be impractical and unwise to expect business to shoulder all of the burden of this kind of training, given the free-rider problems that inevitably crop up when workers take their skills to the competition. Rather than pursuing a German-style, top-down model, what we need is a bottom-up movement to take worker training seriously. We need to invest in our workforce, particularly those who have been hurt by the dramatic shifts in the need for skilled workers. Federal funds for worker training should flow to these programs, but the federal role should stop there.

Even if a national program were desirable, the political will to create one is close to nil. It is a large leap for conservatives to get on board with such an idea. However, many conservative politicians are looking for solutions for the poor and middle class, and redesigning our federal funding to support local programs such as those in Wisconsin or South Carolina would be a step in that direction.

Americans need to get past the idea that it’s college or bust. For too many twenty-somethings, the “bust” has left them at a competitive disadvantage in the international labor market, and without a clear path forward. The average annual salary for an aerospace machinist in Charleston, S.C. is $45,500, almost 200 percent of the poverty line for a family of four. As Boeing’s General Manager Jack Jones said in a 2013 interview:

It’s a prestige job. And you say you’re from Boeing or you work at Boeing, and there’s a prestige within the community.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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