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R Street welcomes Mike Godwin as director of innovation policy

Out of the Storm News - January 22, 2015, 9:10 AM

WASHINGTON (Jan. 22, 2015) – The R Street Institute is proud to welcome Mike Godwin as director of innovation policy and general counsel. Starting Monday, Godwin will lead the institute’s research and advocacy efforts in the areas of patent and copyright reform and technology policy.

“I’ve admired Mike from afar for years and I’m delighted that he’s joining the team at R Street,” said President Eli Lehrer. “He’s the absolute best person we could possibly imagine for this job, and we are eager for him to bring his knowledge on board.”

Godwin brings to R Street a deep background and knowledge of technology policy and intellectual property, having worked on these issues for the past 25 years.  Most recently, he has served as a senior policy advisor at Internews, advising the organization’s public-policy partners in developing and transitional democracies, as part of the Global Internet Policy Project.

Prior to his return to Washington, he served as general counsel for the California-based Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia and other collaborative projects. At the foundation, he created and directed anticensorship, privacy, trademark and copyright strategies and policies including Wikimedia’s responses to the SOPA and PIPA initiatives.

Godwin began his legal career as the first staff counsel for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which he advised on a range of legal issues during the accelerating growth of internet access in the United States. His continuing career as an Internet-law thought leader has included a policy fellowship at the Center for Democracy and Technology and a research fellowship at Yale Law School.

He has been a contributing editor at Reason Magazine since 1994 and is the originator of the widely cited “Godwin’s Law of Nazi Analogies,” which in 2012 was added to the Oxford English Dictionary.

“My experience in Washington and California policy circles underscores the importance of an organization like R Street,” Godwin said. “Like me, the R Street folks know how vital it is to proactively shape good government policy that’s both effective and minimally risky in terms of unintended consequences.”

“So of course when we found this opportunity to work together, we had to seize it — I’m thrilled to join such a great team,” he said.

Godwin’s first day with R Street will be Monday, Jan. 26, when he will moderate a panel on Capitol Hill entitled “Understanding copyright in the Internet age,” featuring Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo. The event is free and open to the public.

Insuring a Way Out: Modernizing the California Earthquake Authority

Out of the Storm News - January 22, 2015, 9:00 AM

California faces severe earthquake risk, yet consumers routinely choose not to purchase insurance products to cover this risk. Low earthquake insurance take-up rates create a scenario in which a major event could result in significant personal, societal, governmental and financial disruptions. The problem is real and serious, although understanding its precise magnitude will require more research.

More than one-third of California’s earthquake risk is held by the California Earthquake Authority. The CEA is a publicly managed but privately funded state instrumentality founded to stabilize the state’s homeowners insurance market in the midst of an availability crisis following 1994’s Northridge quake. The crisis resulted directly from California law insisting that homeowners insurers must offer earthquake insurance, a law that still stands. However, the mission of the CEA has changed over the past 20 years. It is now the CEA’s goal to increase the state’s earthquake insurance take-up rate.

Increasing the take-up rate is an important objective. Risk that is not maintained in private hands will become a public burden. But to achieve higher take-up rates with a repurposed CEA, the organization’s structure needs to evolve. Disincentives to marketing earthquake insurance need to be removed and replaced with sales incentives. Mitigation incentives need to be linked with policy sales in a financially attractive way. Finally, tax incentives, coupled with regulatory updates, are needed to address a current perverse incentive to self-insure.

In addition to the affirmative steps California must take to increase the earthquake insurance take-up rate, it also must avoid potential missteps. Increasing the take-up rate by relying on post-event funding mechanisms will lead to actuarially unsound pricing practices that will burden all Californians, regardless of their relationship to earthquake risk. To grow the number of insureds prudentially, California should instead look to introduce an insurance requirement for mortgages that are backed by taxpayers. Such a system would preserve individual decisional autonomy while simultaneously reducing the seismic risk currently shouldered by taxpayers. Fortunately for California, should the will exist to avail itself of the opportunity, there is substantial risk-transfer capacity available to facilitate a mortgage requirement of that type.

McCarty deserves some credit for stabilizing Florida market

Out of the Storm News - January 21, 2015, 5:50 PM

Testifying this week before the Florida House Insurance and Banking Subcommittee, Office of Insurance Regulation Deputy Chief of Staff Monte Stevens echoed much of what has been reported in recent months about Florida’s property insurance market: it has largely stabilized and, thanks in part to declining reinsurance rates, consumers are seeing their own rates decrease in most areas of the state.

This is indeed welcome news for Floridians who have otherwise seen their rates steadily increase and their options decrease in recent years. Though Stevens is right to credit the “buyers’ market” in global reinsurance, decisions made both by lawmakers and state regulators also deserve honorable mention.

As Citizens’ rates have steadily risen pursuant to the 10 percent “glidepath” enacted by the Legislature in 2009, many parts of the state have finally reached actuarially sound levels, on par with rates charged in the private market. This has led to a largely organic migration of policies from Citizens to private carriers, thanks to greater competition and coverage options among companies.

Taken together, all of these factors have led to responsible rate reductions in most parts of the state, as opposed to the arbitrary, politically imposed reductions that placed Florida one storm away from fiscal calamity a few years back. This confirms that market forces not only protect consumers from insurance insolvencies and massive taxpayer bailouts, but also promote the kind of competition and risk-sharing that eventually brings down rates.

Another major cost-driver contributing to rate increases over the past several years has been the proliferation of sinkhole claims, along with the consequent litigation. Legislation enacted in 2011 closed exploitable loopholes and has largely reined-in these claims, resulting in a 55 percent decrease in such losses for Citizens alone. The downward trend in sinkhole claims has slowed, and in most cases halted, increases in insurance rates.

Indeed, lawmakers and the governor deserve credit for enacting these laws, but Insurance Commissioner Kevin McCarty and the regulators in his office executing these laws also deserve credit. As rumors currently swirl about his future, it’s important to note that Florida’s insurance market has undoubtedly stabilized on McCarty’s watch.

The OIR has analyzed and approved Citizens “takeout” deals that transferred billions of dollars of risk from taxpayers to private companies, while simultaneously protecting consumers. Over 185,000 such policies were transferred in 2014 alone. They have also overseen the entrance of new insurance carriers into the state (ten property & casualty insurers in 2014), and streamlined the administrative process to make it easier for more companies to do business in Florida. And most importantly, they have carried out their core mission, which is to ensure that consumers are protected.

This is what insurance market stability looks like. But unless more is done, this stability is likely to be shaken, or worse, when Florida’s unprecedented hurricane-free streak comes to an end. The state should therefore continue taking steps to fortify its property insurance system, so that Florida isn’t left bare and vulnerable after the wind blows.

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

A Common Core Standards Primer for Rev. Meeks and Governor Rauner

Blog - Education - January 21, 2015, 5:37 PM

Earlier this week, Rev. James Meeks announced on on WLS 890 AM that he had been chosen by Governor Bruce Rauner to be the new chairman of the State Board of Education. During the interview Tuesday morning, Rev. Meeks’ said, “We have to have a Common Core Curriculum in the state of Illinois.”

That statement set off alarm bells within me.

Although Meeks, a Democrat, headed the Senate Education Committee while in the state senate, and bucked his party by advocating for vouchers and charter schools — a  noble and outstanding thing to do — Meek’s unconditional support for Common Core is unacceptable.

Having been chosen by Governor Rauner to reform education, how can he say the Common Core Curriculum is really the pathway to education reform? Are Meeks and Rauner so out-of-touch that they are unaware Illinois started to adopt the Common Core standards in 2010 and fully implemented them last school year?

Starting this spring, the PARCC tests linked to Common Core standards will be used in school districts across the state. The tests will be given to students in grades three to eight, but only partially rolled out in high school because the state board of education had its budget request for assessments cut by $10 million. The ACT exam has been a state mandated assessment for high school juniors in recent years and doubles as a college entrance exam.

Being out-of-touch might be excused for the time being, but it is evident that both Governor Rauner and Rev. James Meeks need to be educated on what Common Core is all about, which will not be an easy task. Why is this so?  The Illinois Education (IEA), as a progressive organization, fully supports Common Core. It also has tremendous clout in getting what it want as a Democrat-aligned organization.

As shared by Joy Pullman, research fellow for the Heartland Institute, in her recent booklet, “Common Core:  A Bad Choice for America”:

Some advocates of Common Core insist it is not a curriculum and that it will promulgate an academic curriculum based on great works of Western civilization and the American republic.  But the standards are being used to write the tables of contents for all the textbooks, used in K-12 math and English classes.  This may not technically constitute a curriculum, but it certainly defines what children will be taught, especially when they and their teachers will be judged by performance on national tests aligned with these standards.

Initiatives related to Common Core include teacher evaluations, since many states tie teacher ratings to student performance on tests; school choice, because many school choice states require participating private schools to administer state tests; nearly all learning materials, because these must now correspond to Common Core; and college entrance exams including the SAT and ACT.

Following is shocking information about a teacher, Dr. David Pook, who helped write the controversial Common Core State Standards.

Dr. David Pook is a professor at Granite State College in Manchester, New Hampshire. He’s also the chair of the History Department and one of the authors of the Common Core standards.  Pook’s role is documented at the pro-Common Core website, AchieveTheCore.com, which confirms that he worked closely with Susan Pimentel and the Council of Chief State Officers in drafting the Core Standards for English Language Arts, and currently has several projects underway with Student Achievement Partners on work aligned with the CCSS.

As a guest at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Dr Pook opened up on his reasons for participating in the creation of the Common Core standards.  In the video posted by Campus Reform, the audience can be heard gasping and laughing, stunned and revolted by this comment by Dr. Pook’s:

The reason why I helped write the standards and the reason why I am here today is that as a white male in society I am given a lot of privilege that I didn’t earn.

Dr. Pook went on to say that all kids deserve an “equal opportunity to learn how to read,” the same advantages he had.  Ironically, as Campus Reform notes, the Derryfield School where Pook works does not use the Common Core State Standards and has a student body that is 91 percent white.

Below are some basic facts about Common Core for Governor Rauner and Rev. Meeks to consider, both having endorsed the disaster that is Common Core:

  • Common Core gives the federal government the power to collectextensive data from students including Social Security numbers, records of school attendance, supposed learning disabilities, religious affiliation, disciplinary records and parent’s income information.
  •  Regarding the claim that the Common Core standards were developed by top leaders in states, this is false.  The standards areowned and copyrighted by two private trade associations in Washington, D.C. and were drafted by essentially five people. The standards were then submitted to a “validation” process that was little more than a rubber stamp. The only two content experts on the Validation Committee, Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. James Milgram, were so disgusted by the charade and by the deficiencies of the resulting standards that they refused to sign off on Common Core.
  • The Common Core standards have never been tested or piloted anywhere, and indeed are acknowledged to be considerably less rigorous than many of the state standards they replaced. Kids are being used as human Guinea pigs on untested standards, all in the hope that Common Core is the magic bullet to solve our education problems.
  • In English language arts, Common Core replaces content knowledge with what Dr. Stotsky labels “empty skill sets” that will not prepare students for authentic college coursework. The standards also diminish the study of classic literature in favor of nonfiction “informational text” of the type students may find in their entry-level jobs (after all, Common Core consists more of workforce-development training than genuine education). This theory – that exposure to technical manuals rather than great stories will make students better readers, and ultimately better employees – is not only preposterous on its face, but refuted by all available research.
  • The Common Core math standards are even less likely to achieve the lofty results touted by the Chamber authors. One of the lead authors of the math standards admits that they are not designed to prepare students for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies in college. How could they, when they include no trigonometry or calculus and stop with an incomplete Algebra II course? And as Dr. Milgram of Stanford University points out, Common Core’s mandated “reform math” techniques stand in stark contrast to the traditional techniques employed by the highest-achieving countries. The Gates Foundation gave over $7 million, much of which has gone to promote Gates’s pet education project – the Common Core national standard

The truth about Common Core is obvious to all who are willing to take the time to evaluate the untested educational program.  Common Core is very racist and very political.  As stated by Dr. Pook early on this this article, his aim was to balance the scales because he, and many others, were benefiting from some mythical ‘white privilege‘ that was not earned.

As Jason Dewitt of Top Right News notes:

Common Core is not only about irrational and bizarre math problems as some might think. Make no mistake, this program is about indoctrinating our children into a leftist way of thinking which includes destructive ideas such as the embracing of Islam and normalizing sexual promiscuity.

Is it any wonder that states are rejecting and suing the federal government over Common Core?  45 states signed on to Common Core education standards in 2010, sight unseen.  States, however, are starting to rebel and are taking action. As of September, 2014, Oklahoma and Indiana have dropped Common Core, with Oklahoma having its No Child Left Behind waiver revoked in retaliation.  South Carolina and Missouri have taken strong steps toward replacing Common Core, while North Carolina seems to have found a compromise in which they’d merely tweak the standards. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been doing everything in his power to drop the standards, though so far to no avail. He’s currently embroiled in a lawsuit against the US Department of Education. Check here for a roundup of other state action against Common Core.

Michelle MalkinGlenn Beck and many others have written extensively about the abject disaster that is Common Core, and as Americans have been exposed to examples of its instruction, and motivations of its backers, they have increasingly rejected it.

U.S. schools, and many in Illinois, do need to improve. Consider this 1912 eighth grade exam: Could you make it to high school in 1912?

Education has been dumbed down since 1912, but is Common Core the answer?  On the contrary, it seems like a bad choice for America – and for Illinois.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

A Common Core Standards Primer for Rev. Meeks and Governor Rauner

Somewhat Reasonable - January 21, 2015, 5:37 PM

Earlier this week, Rev. James Meeks announced on on WLS 890 AM that he had been chosen by Governor Bruce Rauner to be the new chairman of the State Board of Education. During the interview Tuesday morning, Rev. Meeks’ said, “We have to have a Common Core Curriculum in the state of Illinois.”

That statement set off alarm bells within me.

Although Meeks, a Democrat, headed the Senate Education Committee while in the state senate, and bucked his party by advocating for vouchers and charter schools — a  noble and outstanding thing to do — Meek’s unconditional support for Common Core is unacceptable.

Having been chosen by Governor Rauner to reform education, how can he say the Common Core Curriculum is really the pathway to education reform? Are Meeks and Rauner so out-of-touch that they are unaware Illinois started to adopt the Common Core standards in 2010 and fully implemented them last school year?

Starting this spring, the PARCC tests linked to Common Core standards will be used in school districts across the state. The tests will be given to students in grades three to eight, but only partially rolled out in high school because the state board of education had its budget request for assessments cut by $10 million. The ACT exam has been a state mandated assessment for high school juniors in recent years and doubles as a college entrance exam.

Being out-of-touch might be excused for the time being, but it is evident that both Governor Rauner and Rev. James Meeks need to be educated on what Common Core is all about, which will not be an easy task. Why is this so?  The Illinois Education (IEA), as a progressive organization, fully supports Common Core. It also has tremendous clout in getting what it want as a Democrat-aligned organization.

As shared by Joy Pullman, research fellow for the Heartland Institute, in her recent booklet, “Common Core:  A Bad Choice for America”:

Some advocates of Common Core insist it is not a curriculum and that it will promulgate an academic curriculum based on great works of Western civilization and the American republic.  But the standards are being used to write the tables of contents for all the textbooks, used in K-12 math and English classes.  This may not technically constitute a curriculum, but it certainly defines what children will be taught, especially when they and their teachers will be judged by performance on national tests aligned with these standards.

Initiatives related to Common Core include teacher evaluations, since many states tie teacher ratings to student performance on tests; school choice, because many school choice states require participating private schools to administer state tests; nearly all learning materials, because these must now correspond to Common Core; and college entrance exams including the SAT and ACT.

Following is shocking information about a teacher, Dr. David Pook, who helped write the controversial Common Core State Standards.

Dr. David Pook is a professor at Granite State College in Manchester, New Hampshire. He’s also the chair of the History Department and one of the authors of the Common Core standards.  Pook’s role is documented at the pro-Common Core website, AchieveTheCore.com, which confirms that he worked closely with Susan Pimentel and the Council of Chief State Officers in drafting the Core Standards for English Language Arts, and currently has several projects underway with Student Achievement Partners on work aligned with the CCSS.

As a guest at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics, Dr Pook opened up on his reasons for participating in the creation of the Common Core standards.  In the video posted by Campus Reform, the audience can be heard gasping and laughing, stunned and revolted by this comment by Dr. Pook’s:

The reason why I helped write the standards and the reason why I am here today is that as a white male in society I am given a lot of privilege that I didn’t earn.

Dr. Pook went on to say that all kids deserve an “equal opportunity to learn how to read,” the same advantages he had.  Ironically, as Campus Reform notes, the Derryfield School where Pook works does not use the Common Core State Standards and has a student body that is 91 percent white.

Below are some basic facts about Common Core for Governor Rauner and Rev. Meeks to consider, both having endorsed the disaster that is Common Core:

  • Common Core gives the federal government the power to collectextensive data from students including Social Security numbers, records of school attendance, supposed learning disabilities, religious affiliation, disciplinary records and parent’s income information.
  •  Regarding the claim that the Common Core standards were developed by top leaders in states, this is false.  The standards areowned and copyrighted by two private trade associations in Washington, D.C. and were drafted by essentially five people. The standards were then submitted to a “validation” process that was little more than a rubber stamp. The only two content experts on the Validation Committee, Dr. Sandra Stotsky and Dr. James Milgram, were so disgusted by the charade and by the deficiencies of the resulting standards that they refused to sign off on Common Core.
  • The Common Core standards have never been tested or piloted anywhere, and indeed are acknowledged to be considerably less rigorous than many of the state standards they replaced. Kids are being used as human Guinea pigs on untested standards, all in the hope that Common Core is the magic bullet to solve our education problems.
  • In English language arts, Common Core replaces content knowledge with what Dr. Stotsky labels “empty skill sets” that will not prepare students for authentic college coursework. The standards also diminish the study of classic literature in favor of nonfiction “informational text” of the type students may find in their entry-level jobs (after all, Common Core consists more of workforce-development training than genuine education). This theory – that exposure to technical manuals rather than great stories will make students better readers, and ultimately better employees – is not only preposterous on its face, but refuted by all available research.
  • The Common Core math standards are even less likely to achieve the lofty results touted by the Chamber authors. One of the lead authors of the math standards admits that they are not designed to prepare students for STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) studies in college. How could they, when they include no trigonometry or calculus and stop with an incomplete Algebra II course? And as Dr. Milgram of Stanford University points out, Common Core’s mandated “reform math” techniques stand in stark contrast to the traditional techniques employed by the highest-achieving countries. The Gates Foundation gave over $7 million, much of which has gone to promote Gates’s pet education project – the Common Core national standard

The truth about Common Core is obvious to all who are willing to take the time to evaluate the untested educational program.  Common Core is very racist and very political.  As stated by Dr. Pook early on this this article, his aim was to balance the scales because he, and many others, were benefiting from some mythical ‘white privilege‘ that was not earned.

As Jason Dewitt of Top Right News notes:

Common Core is not only about irrational and bizarre math problems as some might think. Make no mistake, this program is about indoctrinating our children into a leftist way of thinking which includes destructive ideas such as the embracing of Islam and normalizing sexual promiscuity.

Is it any wonder that states are rejecting and suing the federal government over Common Core?  45 states signed on to Common Core education standards in 2010, sight unseen.  States, however, are starting to rebel and are taking action. As of September, 2014, Oklahoma and Indiana have dropped Common Core, with Oklahoma having its No Child Left Behind waiver revoked in retaliation.  South Carolina and Missouri have taken strong steps toward replacing Common Core, while North Carolina seems to have found a compromise in which they’d merely tweak the standards. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has been doing everything in his power to drop the standards, though so far to no avail. He’s currently embroiled in a lawsuit against the US Department of Education. Check here for a roundup of other state action against Common Core.

Michelle MalkinGlenn Beck and many others have written extensively about the abject disaster that is Common Core, and as Americans have been exposed to examples of its instruction, and motivations of its backers, they have increasingly rejected it.

U.S. schools, and many in Illinois, do need to improve. Consider this 1912 eighth grade exam: Could you make it to high school in 1912?

Education has been dumbed down since 1912, but is Common Core the answer?  On the contrary, it seems like a bad choice for America – and for Illinois.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Louisiana’s largest parish could legalize ride-sharing

Out of the Storm News - January 21, 2015, 4:28 PM

Jefferson Parish – a New Orleans suburb and Louisiana’s most populous parish — is considering an ordinance by Parish Councilmembers Cynthia Lee-Sheng and Ben Zahn that would legalize ride-sharing services such as Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. If approved, the measure would allow ride-sharing services to operate in unincorporated parts of the parish, although city governments still would have authority to regulated ride-sharing services within their borders.

Ridesharing also wouldn’t be allowed at Louis Armstrong International Airport, which is physically located within Jefferson Parish but is property of the City of New Orleans. New Orleans, which received a Ridescore of D+ in R Street’s inaugural survey of cities across the country, continues to ban services like UberX.

Despite these and other limitations, the council has the opportunity to give at least some Jefferson Parish consumers accesss to more, less-expensive and more environmentally friendly choices in transportation, in addition to providing opportunities for part-time drivers to earn some cash. According to the New Orleans Advocate, the Jefferson Parish Council could vote on the ordinance as soon as Jan. 28.

As expected, the ordinance has drawn opposition from the taxi industry, which sees ride-sharing companies as unfair competition. The two major complaints, according to Dave Sutton, a spokesman for the industry-backed WhosDrivingYou.org campaign, are that Uber conducts inadequate background checks and maintains inadequate liability insurance. Sutton points out that taxi drivers must have their background checks conducted by the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, whereas Uber does background checks in-house. The ordinance would require ride-sharing companies to look back as far as seven years when screening drivers, but does not require them to go through the sheriff’s office.

But with some minor amendments, the ordinance could be a win-win situation for both the ride-sharing industry and the taxi industry. Instead of adding burdens to the ride-sharing industry, the council should lower the regulatory barriers all around. There’s no evidence to suggest ride-sharing drivers are more dangerous than taxi drivers. There have been reports of assaults by taxi drivers even with their more allegedly strict background checks. Jefferson Parish should eliminate the requirement to the sheriff’s office for all driver background checks. In addition, taxis should be open to allowing customers to rate their drivers online, just as ride-sharing companies already do. This system empowers consumers to screen out bad drivers.

The ordinance does require that so-called “surge” pricing, activated when there is increased demand for service or reduced supply of drivers, must be in accordance with Louisiana’s price-gouging law when a state of emergency is declared. It also would be fair to require ride-sharers and taxi companies to adhere to the exact same minimum insurance coverages.

A properly drafted ordinance from Jefferson Parish could serve as a model, not just for the neighbors in New Orleans, but for other cities and counties and parishes across Louisiana. Consumers deserve more choices in how they get from Point A to Point B. Those looking to earn extra income should have the opportunities that ride-sharing provides. Local entrepreneurs who want to compete with Uber, Lyft and Sidecar should get that opportunity to do that, as well.

Mardi Gras season is here. How nice would it be to extend this wonderful new market of safe, affordable rides to the revelers, so that they can laissez les bons temps rouler.

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

Obama dredges Sacramento’s mire for SOTU

Out of the Storm News - January 21, 2015, 2:00 PM

California’s left-leaning political chattering classes were tweeting with enthusiasm last night as President Barack Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union address. To their delight, the president embraced some of the more significant of California’s latest policy stumbles.

The President wants paid sick leave? As goes California, so goes the country. Than you @JerryBrownGov for signing our CA Paid Sick Days Law!

— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) January 21, 2015

So it was that, while much of the rest of the nation no doubt groaned, Sacramento’s elites reveled in apparent vindication as the chief executive endorsed high-speed rail, paid sick leave, a higher minimum wage, etc.

Obama’s #SOTU2015 is describing a country that looks more like California — bullet train, paid sick leave, higher minimum wage — Chris Megerian (@ChrisMegerian) January 21, 2015

In fact, as Gov. Jerry Brown’s press office would have us recall, virtually all of the president’s policy prescriptions are remains scrapped up from Sacramento battlegrounds.

✓Raise the Minimum Wage ✓Paid Sick Leave ✓Health Coverage ✓Wind Power ✓Solar Power ✓Faster Trains ✓Jobs of the Future #GoldenState #SOTU

— Gov. Brown Press Ofc (@GovPressOffice) January 21, 2015

What must have escaped the notice of that California crowd (and also, of the president) was that the largest Republican congressional majority since the 1920s was seated on the floor of the House of Representatives.

Stone-faced, incredulous and numbed, the dark-suited and red-blazered Republican bloc simply stared at him. They were the personifications of an utter repudiation of his new-found Golden State agenda.

That a loudly quacking lame-duck President is willing to throw populist haymakers at his political opposition as a means of revitalizing his base should in no way be mistaken for a realistic endorsement of California’s direction. In fact, it is precisely because the president was willing to embrace these ideas in the context of his final two years in office that California liberals should be alarmed. His agenda is going nowhere in Washington.

Still, Californians who identify with the right must grapple with explaining why, in spite of the adoption of statist policies that nobody else in the country wants anything to do with, California continues to prosper. There are two ways to address this claim, one more compelling than the other.

The first is to take a clear-eyed look at California’s success. It is not inaccurate to point out that the state maintains a “wall of debt” and can only hope to address its pension liabilities by mid-century. As the argument goes, with success like this, who needs failure?

But that argument diminishes the facial truths of this California moment. Silicon Valley is the envy of the world and the state’s economy is prosperous in spite of government. While it is plain that economic success is not the only measure of quality, both conservatives and libertarians must recognize such success. Incredibly, California seems to be working.

Because of this, the second argument about why California succeeds, in spite of itself, is more attractive. California is the twin beneficiary of America’s federal system and fortuitous geo-political development. Using the language of the left: the state is a creature of its circumstances.

Because states are able to act as laboratories in which policy experiments are carried out, California is able to insulate itself from the sort of widespread policy implementation that would otherwise doom its nascent collectivist impulses. It is easier for California to offer generous programs for the more than 38 million people residing within its border than it is for the federal government to do the same for the more than 300 million Americans because of California’s relative wealth.

This fact often escapes Sacramento’s professionally generous left-wing political class. It certainly did during the State of the Union. The most obvious reason California can sustain problematic policy is that, of all of the laboratories of democracy, California’s is as nicely outfitted as they come.

The state has every conceivable natural advantage, from resources to climate. It has been the repeated beneficiary of capital migration from back East, from the days of the Gold Rush through the Cold War military build-up. The rest of the nation generously sustained California’s adolescence and California now reaps the rewards.

Which brings us back to President Obama’s California-inspired State of the Union. California is a special case. It is a statist policy aberration that proves the free-market rule. The Golden State is succeeding in spite of itself and not even the most dedicated efforts of redistributionists have been able to kill it…yet.

Still, if the complexion of the chamber during the State of the Union is any evidence, California isn’t leading the way, so much as it is running in the wrong direction.

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

It’s Copyright Week! Let’s talk about copyright cronyism

Out of the Storm News - January 21, 2015, 12:34 PM

Every year, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a host of other organizations — including think tanks, trade groups and public interest advocates — align their efforts for one week in January to raise awareness about contemporary challenges in copyright policy and how we can make it better.

Yesterday was the first day of Copyright Week 2015. You can follow the campaign and learn more at EFF’s handy website. Here are the themes for each day of the week:

  • Tuesday, Jan. 20: Transparency
  • Wednesday, Jan. 21: Building and Defending the Public Domain
  • Thursday, Jan. 22: Open Access
  • Friday, Jan. 23: You Bought It, You Own It

This year, R Street is one of a small number of right-of-center organizations participating. This is a shame, since libertarians and conservatives long have been the most vocal opponents of crony capitalism, regulatory capture and government-granted monopolies running amok. With conservatives in control of the House and Senate, and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte poised to advance reform, their voices are more important than ever.

You don’t have to go deep into the weeds to see how our current copyright system is an arena that exemplifies big government cronyism. Just take a look at the graph below (via TLF) showing the repeated extension of copyright term.

Today, it’s nearly 580 percent of what it was in the original 1790 Copyright Act, contrasting sharply with a relatively modest 43 percent growth of patent terms, and with the framers’ more limited view of intellectual property. Worse, these extensions were always retroactive, and coincided with the interest of high-dollar rent-seekers looking to protect their revenues.

Take, for example, the most recent extension, the Copyright Term Extension Act (aka the Sonny Bono Act). When it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1998, it tacked on on another 20 years of copyright protection for major works that were about to expire — such as Superman, Mickey Mouse, “Gone With the Wind” and George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

While it was pitched for its trade benefits, in reality, this was a windfall for wealthy estates and corporations that owned these works (who also lobbied extensively for it), at the expense of the public’s ability to reuse and reimagine them.

While copyright has a clear mandate in Article I of the Constitution to provide incentives for creative works, its limits have become more opaque as it has evolved through the courts. As Thomas Nachbar writes for the Heritage Foundation’s Guide to the Constitution, historically, “the court has deferred to Congress’ view of its own powers.” So while these retroactive extensions plainly fail to meet their constitutional purpose, the courts have largely left the issue up to Congress.

This, unfortunately, is just one example of copyright cronyism. As the week goes on, look forward to more content from R Street advancing free-market ideas for reform.

For a more robust discussion of restoring constitutional copyright, check out Tom W. Bell’s book Intellectual Privilege published by the Mercatus Center, and R Street’s paper on copyright term length by Derek Khanna.

For those in Washington, R Street is hosting a Hill briefing on January 26 with Public Knowledge and Rep. Jared Polis, explaining the fundamentals of copyright law and its challenges in the Internet age. You can RSVP here: http://copyrightbriefing.splashthat.com/

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

Jeff Judson

Out of the Storm News - January 21, 2015, 10:49 AM

Jeff Judson is the principal of public policy consulting firm Judson & Associates and an associate fellow of the R Street Institute.

He is the former president of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, the largest free-market think tank in the second-largest U.S. state, and was named one of the “most influential people in San Antonio in 2014” by the San Antonio Express-News for his successful efforts to block construction of a light-rail system in the city.

Jeff’s prior experience includes serving as industry affairs director for USAA and as a special assistant to U.S. Sen. John Tower, legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Tom Loeffler and chief legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay. He also is a member of the Heartland Institute Board of Directors and served for seven years as an elected member of the Olmos Park City Council.

Phone: 210.822.1292

Email: jeff@jeffjudson.com

Heartland Daily Podcast – John Berlau: Taxpayers Lose Billions on Auto Bailout

Somewhat Reasonable - January 20, 2015, 5:25 PM

Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow John Berlau joins The Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News managing editor Jesse Hathaway to talk about the U.S. Treasury Department’s recent announcement that the “auto bailout” portion of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) had officially ended with the final repayment of taxpayer-funded loans to Ally Financial, formerly known as GMAC.

Berlau offers a brief history of the auto bailout, started by President George W. Bush and continued under President Barack Obama, and explains the consequences affecting taxpayers today.

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

Categories: On the Blog

2015 SOTU – Expect All Show and No Substance

Somewhat Reasonable - January 20, 2015, 5:24 PM

With the Presidential State of the Union address tonight, The Heartland Institute Director of Research S.T. Karnick talks with Tony Katz, host of The Big Story, about what to expect from the speech. Both Karnick and Katz agree, tonight’s State of the Union will be all show and no substance.

President Obama is expected to layout a number of programs designed to appeal to the public and, most of all, his political base. As Karnick states in the interview, the address has devolved over the years into a laundry list of things the government is going to do for you. Instead of the address explaining the challenges that lie ahead for the nation, it now resembles more of a political stump speech.

The President will likely outline a number of plans. He is expected to discuss tax cuts and hikes, new infrastructure and housing projects and a plan to offer free community college. But as Karnick warns in his interview, most of these concepts are formed around misconceptions and bait-and-switch tactics.

Be sure to stay tuned to The Heartland Institute for news and analysis of the 2015 Presidential State of the Union.

Categories: On the Blog

Before reacting to Obama’s State of the Union, try learning from Reagan’s

Out of the Storm News - January 20, 2015, 4:31 PM

President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address will carry about as much drama as listening to a reading of the dictionary on public radio. The speech will outline his perspectives and plans for the nation, and Republicans will undoubtedly disagree.

While President Obama certainly has his detractors, he has aggressively and successfully promoted his priorities throughout his presidency. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Clean Power Plan and his executive actions on immigration are a few examples of a president willing to push his agenda and dare his opponents to stop him.

Many who disagree with President Obama’s policies and tactics still recognize and grudgingly respect the fact that he puts forth ideas and turns them into reality one way or another.

After tonight’s address, conservatives may be offended; they may even be outraged. But are those of us who value limited government, emphasize the importance of family and support a marketplace full of opportunity capable of winning over the Republican Party, let alone a nation?

As a conservative, I hear lots of talk about taking back our nation, about halting Barack Obama’s liberal agenda and how one policy or another is destroying our country and debilitating the next generation. Many conservatives are not happy about the way things are, so they wish them to return to the way they were. If only we could go back to the Reagan administration…

That is not going to happen nor should it.

In his 1985 State of the Union, Ronald Reagan said, “We honor the giants of our history not by going back but forward to the dreams their vision foresaw.” In the same address that he assailed overregulation and taxation, Reagan argued that those at or near the poverty level should pay no federal income tax. As he attacked government welfare programs as reactionary, he highlighted the importance of improving economic power for blacks and Latinos. Reagan even went so far as to suggest that all public housing residents should have the opportunity for home ownership.

Is there any conservative, even in the reddest of red states like Alabama, willing to go after Reagan as a weak political squish?

Americans, and many conservatives, have largely forgotten that conservatism is more than a crude economic theory moving us toward an every-man-for-himself society. Rather than a simple sterile mantra appealing to a desire to keep more of the stuff we earn, Reagan spoke of faith, freedom, family, work and neighborhood. He might not have been a community organizer, but he wanted Americans to know that they were not alone and that together, we could aspire to greatness.

Conservatives must focus on being champions of the common man, not mere protectors of the elite. We must ensure that our ideas and policies create social and economic mobility rather than simply preserving the status quo. President Obama’s policies may not effectively achieve those goals, but many conservatives are not even trying to suggest real alternatives.

Being offended is easy. Winning hearts and minds is not. We conservatives have allowed our ideology, which is fundamentally grounded in a belief that each individual matters deeply, to drift into a dangerous zone of self-protectionism and government antagonism.

President Obama may poke at conservatives, try to rile them with talk of tax increases, more “free” government programs and repeatedly espouse his “middle class” ideas for America. We need to stop reacting to him and start changing ourselves. We should not pine for Reagan, we should learn from his actions and words and move forward.

Conservatives so often like to call upon our founding fathers, but we often fail to remember that they sacrificed their lives, fortunes and families to ensure that others could experience a new dream of freedom. If conservatives want to change the Republican Party and our country, the personal cost will and should be high.

Americans crave leaders willing to consider their interests, who care about their future, and who are willing to humbly explore ideas that will improve prospects for their communities. Instead of the usual outrage at every liberal idea, conservatives give Americans a vision better than “middle-class.” They might just chase after it and prosper a nation in the process.

Global Free Trade Makes for Mutual Prosperity and World Peace

Somewhat Reasonable - January 20, 2015, 3:10 PM

The recent brutal events in France have reminded us how small the world is that we all share. Violence and conflicts that have their origin in one part of the globe shows itself in another part of our planet. And mass media immediately shares those events to the rest of us, no matter where we are.

The impression that is often created by these events and those images is that the world is a dangerous place. And that the more interconnected we become, the more we face the threat of that violence and those conflicts coming our way.

However, the sensationalism of the pictures and videos capturing such tragic events as those in Paris should not distract us from the much more fundamental and everyday linkages that increasingly bind all of us together for mutual prosperity and possible world peace here on Planet Earth.

The Global Economy and Gains from Trade

I mean, of course, the global economy and the network of supplies and demands, productions and consumptions of goods and services that has been and continues to make us one interdependent market of buyers and sellers regardless of the political lines that appear to divide us into different nations and countries in this common world of ours.

For the last two hundred years the increasing integration of our world has, certainly been, been greatly influenced by new, better, and swifter means of travel and communication.

For example, about 160 years ago, in the 1850s, a journey from Boston, Massachusetts to Charleston, South Carolina took about 15 to 16 days of hard riding by stagecoach, or anywhere between 7 and 25 days by sailing ship, depending upon the winds.

Now, in the 21st century, flying nonstop gets you from Boston to Charleston in less than two and a half hours. Air travel enables us, as well, to circumvent the globe in less than twenty-four hours.

But what has been the prime factor behind the develop of trade and its increasingly global nature is a social and economic setting in which individuals are relatively free to peacefully interact in networks of exchange guided by market prices that inform producers and consumers about potential gains from trade.

More and more parts of the world are being drawn into this nexus of international trade, and reaping benefits from it.

South Carolina’s Place in the Global Economy

Let’s take South Carolina, the state in which I now live, as an example of the impact and significance of global trade on people’s livelihood and well being. South Carolina is part of this global economy no less than the rest of the United States.

In 2013, South Carolina industries exported goods to over 200 countries worth more $26 billion, making up nearly 15 percent of the state’s Gross Domestic Product. Charleston, alone, made up $3.5 billion of those export earnings

If 160 years ago, cotton was “king” in export earnings, today, the state’s leading export sectors are automobiles, machinery, rubber, aircraft, plastics, paper and wood products, optics and organic chemicals. Indeed, South Carolina, in 2013, was the number one state in the export of tires, and number two in the export of automobiles to the global market.

Nearly 30 percent of South Carolina’s manufacturing jobs are connected with its export trade. In fact, out of an employed labor force of over two million, more than 500,000, or one-fourth of the total jobs in South Carolina, are connected with exports, imports, and international shipping. Twenty percent of those half-a-million trade related jobs are supplied from foreign direct investment in the state of South Carolina.

Foreign imported goods into South Carolina in 2013 came to over $32 billion, with the largest share of those goods coming into the state arriving from Germany, China, Canada, and Mexico. Nearly 200,000 South Carolinians are employed where foreign, imported goods are sold in the state.

I wish to highlight the import side of South Carolina’s foreign trade because most discussions over the benefits that the state or America as a whole receives from international commerce focuses on the gains in sales and jobs in the export sectors of the state’s economy.

Imports as the Real Gain from Trade

The only real purpose and benefit from “exporting,” however, is its ability to enable us as individuals or a country to earn the financial means to buy “imports” either from our neighbors next door or from sellers on the other side of the globe, who can produce and supply those goods at a lower cost and/or a better quality than if we tried to manufacture them for ourselves.

As Adam Smith expressed it in his famous book, The Wealth of Nations, in 1776:

“It is the maxim of every prudent master of a family, never to attempt to make at home what it will cost him more to make than to buy. The tailor does not attempt to make his own shoes, but buys them of the shoemaker. The shoemaker does not attempt to make his own clothes, but employs a tailor . . .

“What is prudence is the conduct of every private family, can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom. If a foreign country can supply us with a commodity cheaper than we ourselves can make it, better to buy it of them with some part of the produce of our own industry, employed in a way in which we have some advantage.”

A concern is often expressed that the purchasing of any good or service from the producers of another country deprives domestic businesses and workers of employment.

Imports are Paid for with Exports

But we need to remember that, just like ourselves, the foreign seller does not give his goods away for free. He wishes to sell them precisely in order to earn an income that enables him to, then, turn around and purchase other goods that we or some other country’s producers can make better or less expensively than if he made those goods in his own home country.

When manufacturers in Germany, China, Canada, or Mexico sell some of their goods in South Carolina or some other part of the United States, they earn dollars. Since U.S. dollars are not the currency of use in any of these countries, they will either spend those earned dollars back in the United States demanding American goods in exchange for what they have sold to us, or will sell those dollars on the foreign exchange market for some other currency they wish to use to buy desired goods and services.

If, for example, an export producer in Canada would prefer to buy goods made in Germany than those produced in the U.S., he will sell his earned dollars for Euros. But why would some holder of Euros have sold them for U.S. dollars other than that he, instead, wishes to buy goods made in America or even in South Carolina?

Ultimately, it is goods that trade for goods through the medium of one type of money or another. And what we buy from other countries must, finally, be paid for through part of our own output as individuals and as a nation.

It is true that if American consumers find it more attractive to purchase a foreign version of some product, the domestic American producer(s) may experience declines in their sales, market share, and profitability. Some U.S. firms in this part of the economy may reduce output or even go out of business, with a matching loss of some jobs in this sector of the domestic market.

Those businesses and jobs will have to shift into other areas of enterprise. To where will these businesses and workers “migrate”? Some will find alternative profitability or employment in the export industries with which South Carolina’s and America’s imports are paid.

Imports and Cost-Efficient Trade Improve Our Standard of Living

Others will find new profits and employments satisfying different domestic demands. For instance, suppose that a foreign import costs $10, while the domestic version of this product that Americans or South Carolinians used to buy costs $15. Consumers in America now pay $10 for what used to cost them $15. They have the desired good, plus they have saved $5 on the price. The less expensive foreign product has “freed up” $5 of purchasing power in each consumer’s pocket that now enables them to increase their demand for other things that previously they could not afford when they were paying the higher American-made price for this good.

No doubt, in the short-run this requires some people to change what products they produce or where they are employed. But this is the price of economic progress from which we all gain in the long-run: new, better, and less expensive goods and services available to improve our standard of living as well as the quality of our life.

The fact that more commercial airplanes and automobiles are now manufactured in South Carolina has, no doubt, resulted in the loss of some business and jobs in other states in America where these planes and cars were previously being produced. (Or, if nothing else, a loss of greater business and jobs that might have come to those other states, if factories had not been built in South Carolina, instead.)

But in the long run everyone in America is better off with those planes and cars being produced where they could be manufactured most cost-efficiently to the gain of all of us as consumers. When goods that we, the consumers, want are produced in the most least costly manner, which includes the comparative advantage of the manufacturing location as well, all in society benefit from the resources available to people being used in the ways that enable getting the most out of them that is possible in both physical and value terms.

Finally, I would emphasize another gain from international trade and commerce that goes beyond its more narrowly “economic” benefits to all participants.

Ends in Ourselves, and Means to Each Other’s Ends

I am referring to the fact that trade is a means and a method for people who may live very differently from each other, based on widely diverse beliefs and values, to cooperate and mutually benefit from free and voluntary association.

The nature of the market economy, both domestic and international, is that it leaves each individual and voluntary group free to follow whatever ends, goals or purposes they may find desirable to pursue, given their values and belief-systems. Each serves others in society as the means to their own ends, with little concern or consideration as to why and for what purpose those who fulfill our demands want the income they earn by selling us the goods we desire.

For example, how much do any of us know about those who earn a living making commercial planes or automobiles at the Boeing or BMW factories in South Carolina, and how they use their incomes in their own role as consumers? The answer is, virtually nothing.

In some cases, no doubt, if we knew how some of them spend the income they have earned by producing and selling us automobiles, we would be shocked and disturbed because of, maybe, radically differing views about what values and ends people should pursue in their lives.

But the beauty of the market system is that we use each other as means, while each of us is free to follow the ends that give meaning, purpose and value to our individual lives. Whether a vocal minority or a substantial majority disapproves of how you furnish your home, select your wardrobe, decide on the church to go to, or contribute to some charitable cause, you are at liberty to make your own decisions in these matters as a sovereign consumer in a free market, given your success as a producer in fulfilling and satisfying the ends and goals of others with whose choices you may have no agreement or even respect.

Political Decentralization and Market Freedom Make for Diversity

It is this aspect or element of a, now, global market, that makes for, and even fosters the social and cultural “diversity” about which many often speak, but about which they frequently have little understanding concerning how it is only made possible through a competitive, open, and free market order.

A Muslim in Kuwait who makes his living in his country’s oil fields may use his income to contribute to his mosque and maintain a standard of living for his two-wife family. The American Christian family that drives to church on Sunday with gasoline that has been refined from Kuwaiti crude oil may tithe for significantly different reasons than that Muslim half-way around the world, and consider having more than one wife morally and legally unacceptable.

But each can live his own life as he chooses without a “conflict of visions” about a moral and right life leading to violence and bloodshed between them. What makes this possible at an international level is that fact that we live in a world of global anarchy.

That is, there is no single and unified political authority that controls the world and imposes the political and ideological values of one society on all the rest. It is that decentralization of political power among many governments rather than one global united nation that leaves people free in their international dealings from the values and preferences of others in other parts of the world with which they may disagree.

When governments do not intrude into international trading affairs for either economic or ideological reasons through political or military intervention, there is often the potential for greater peace and mutual harmony than within a country, where different groups and individuals vie for control over their own government to impose their particular values, beliefs and desires on their fellow citizens.

This is why on the mundane, everyday level, the people of South Carolina and those of the United States as a whole are able to trade and associate with the other people of the world through buying and selling, importing and exporting, with all the participants gaining and benefiting from the talents, skills, and specializations of others in faraway places.

All of this happens for everyone’s mutual betterment without having to accept or have imposed on them the values, beliefs and ideals of others in those faraway lands. If we understand this better and leave markets and people free in this manner, there would be a greater chance for both world peace and material and cultural prosperity for all.

[The text is based on a talk given at the Charleston Rotary Club of South Carolina on January 13, 2015 And, first appeared at Epictimes]
Categories: On the Blog

US returns Magna Carta to England

Out of the Storm News - January 20, 2015, 3:05 PM

Today, America bids farewell to the Magna Carta. The 800-year old document returns home to Lincolnshire, England, after six months in America. It landed at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts in July and spent the past few months at the Library of Congress.

This copy of the Magna Carta visited here once before when England asked the United States to safeguard it from Nazi bombs. But we should not expect to see the Lincoln Magna Carta on these shores again. It is one of only four surviving copies of the 1215 charter, and it shows its 800 years of age. The parchment will be preserved in a newly constructed, high-tech protective case in Lincoln Castle.

Much has been written about Magna Carta’s current visit to America, particularly in relation to the inchoate liberties it birthed. Rightly so. The Magna Carta’s importance cannot be understated. It is font of the liberties we enjoy today.

After tolerating one outrage after another by King John, barons in league with English church officials rebelled. They renounced their allegiance to the king, who foolishly seized their property. The king was quickly overwhelmed, with the barons taking London.

At Runymede in June 1215, King John signed, in effect, a treaty with his own people. The Magna Carta curbed the authority of the king, offering protections to the church and the rights of free men. In return for renewing their oaths to the king, he was forced to cede some power. His power over the pockets and persons of freemen was reduced. The barons could check the king’s authority to enact certain types of tax. King John also recognized the “ancient liberties” of some inhabitants. Jailing them willy-nilly in perpetuity was expressly disallowed.

No Freeman shall be taken or imprisoned, or be disseised [dispossessed] of his Freehold, or Liberties, or free Customs, or be outlawed, or exiled, or any other wise destroyed; nor will We not pass upon him, nor condemn him, but by lawful judgment of his Peers, or by the Law of the land.

Additionally, the Magna Carta was a key moment in the advancement of civilization. The Great Charter helped move the accepted basis for human governance further away from rule by might to rule by law. Words on paper, not arms, would structure a polity. Humanity could flourish under the stability and liberty afforded by shared agreements about the basic rules of social life.

Politics, the ancient Greeks noted, was a means of moving fights from the streets into a forum. Lay down arms and use words to settle conflicts. Written agreements on power-sharing naturally followed from this notion. But these ancient treaties rarely had lasting power. Inevitably, one party to the agreement would see advantage in reneging, and war would return.

The term “charter” is derived from the ancient Latin “charta” or, perhaps, the ancient Greek “chartês,” both of which mean “paper.” In the 1200s, charters were a common legal instrument in England. They had been in use since 600 AD, and they tended to deal with mundane property matters. For example, a 679 AD charter from Hlothhere, King of the Men of Kent to Beorhtweald, the Abbot of Reculver, declares:

In the name of our Lord, Our Savior Jesus Christ, I, Hlothhere, King of the men dwelling in Kent, for the cure of my soul give land in ‘Thanet’ which is called ‘West of the stream,’ to you, Beortwheald, and to your monastery, fields, pastures, marshes, little woods, springs, fish ponds, [M]ay you hold, possess, and your successors defend in perpetuity …. [T]his little charter of donation remaining nonetheless in its own effect …. Let it be contradicted by no man, which God forbid, neither by me nor my relations nor by others.

King John himself broke his word soon after putting his seal on the Magna Carta. It was a huge mistake, but a fortunate one for posterity. The outrage was immediate and subsequent kings understood that maintaining peace required reaffirming the charter. Thus, what began as a written agreement between warring equals was progressively elevated to a higher authority held sacred. Magna Carta—the Great Charter.

This conception of a piece of paper as expressing higher law that binds both rulers and the people is a philosophical assumption undergirding American and modern Western constitutions generally.

It is the dawn of the 21st century, and much of the globe remains mired in civil warfare. Despots ruling by might are the norm not the exception. All of which makes the Great Charter and its achievement appear even greater.

Green Energy Powered our Past, but Cannot Provide for our Future.

Somewhat Reasonable - January 20, 2015, 2:56 PM

Climate Alarmists turn back the Clock

Three centuries ago, the world ran on green power. Wood was used for heating and cooking, charcoal for smelting and smithing, wind or water-power for pumps mills and ships, and whale oil or tallow for lamps. People and soldiers walked or rode horses, and millions of horses and oxen pulled ploughs, wagons, coaches and artillery.

But smoke from open fires choked cities, forests were stripped of trees, most of the crops went to feed draft animals, and streets were littered with horse manure. For many people, life was “nasty, brutish and short”.

Then the steam engine was developed, and later the internal combustion engine, electricity and refrigeration came along. Green power was replaced by coal and oil. Carbon energy powered factories, mills, pumps, ships, trains and smelters; and cars, trucks and tractors replaced the work-horses. The result was a green revolution – forests began to regrow and vast areas of crop-land used for horse feed were released to produce food for humans. Poverty declined and population soared.

But new environmental problems emerged. Smoke pollution from burning cheap dirty coal in millions of open fires, old boilers and smelters produced massive smog problems in cities like London and Pittsburgh.

The solution was improved technology, sensible pollution-control laws and the supply of coal gas and coal-powered electricity to the cities. The air was cleared by “Clean Coal by Wire” at the flick of a switch and “Piped Coal Energy” at the click of a gas-lighter. In some places use of hydro, geothermal and nuclear power also helped.

In recent years, however, affluent urban alarmists have declared war on the carbon dioxide produced by burning coal, oil and gas. They claim it is a pollutant and it causes dangerous global warming.

The pollutant claims are easy to refute.

The worst air pollution in the world today is the Asian smog. Smog is very visible – but carbon dioxide is a transparent gas that is exhaled by all living creatures.

Smog is air polluted with particulates and noxious gases – but there are no particulates or noxious components in carbon dioxide. Therefore carbon dioxide plays no part in creating smog.

Smog consists of ash particles, unburnt fuels and noxious gases produced by the inefficient combustion of anything, usually in open fires or obsolete boilers engines or smelters with no pollution control equipment. Wind-blown dust, bush and forest fires, blue haze from forests and drifting volcanic ash add to the smog. Modern coal-fired power stations with efficient pollution controls do not release detectable particulates or noxious gases. Bans on dirty combustion and more clean electricity will clear the smog of Asian cities.

All gases in the atmosphere have an effect on global climate, usually a moderating one, reducing the intense heat of the midday sun and reducing the rate of cooling at night. But only in theoretical climate models does carbon dioxide drive global warming – real evidence contradicts them.

The unrelenting war on carbon fuels has far greater risks, with some zealots advocating “Zero Emissions”, while also, incredibly, opposing nuclear and hydro-power. They would take us all back to the BC Era (before coal).

Already urban environmentalists are polluting city air by burning wood (“biomass”) and briquetted paper in stoves and home heaters; and trying to prevent millions in Asia and Africa from getting cheap clean electricity. Other misguided nations are clearing forests and transporting low-energy wood chips to burn in distant power stations. And the high costs of green energy are already forcing some poor people to burn old books and strip parks and forests for fire-wood.

In addition, crops that once fed people are now making “green” ethanol to fuel cars, and native forests are being cleared and burnt to make way for more fuel crops. Our modern “Iron Horses” are eating the crops again.

The use of carbon fuels in the production, fertilising, transport and storage of food has been a major factor in allowing the world population to grow by several billions since the start of the industrial revolution. If climate alarmists succeed in turning back the clock, food and energy will again become reserved for the rich and powerful, and billions of poor people will die of starvation or exposure.

For those who would like to read more:

Wood burning stoves are encouraged but they produce soot:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/environment/climatechange/8474733/Wood-burning-stoves-cause-global-warming.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/interiorsandshopping/9839432/Everyone-loves-a-wood-burning-stove-but-are-they-bad-for-us.html

The Fireplace Delusion:
http://www.samharris.org/blog/item/the-fireplace-delusion

Burning Yak Dung in Tibet:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2015/01/16/breaking-science-news-yak-dung-burning-pollutes-indoor-air-of-tibetan-households/

Greeks raiding National Parks for Firewood:
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/world/europe/oil-tax-forces-greeks-to-fight-winter-with-fire.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

Drax power station converts from burning coal to burning wood:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-09-25/biggest-english-polluter-spends-1-billion-to-burn-wood-energy.html

The New Dark Green Age coming to Britain:
http://www.spectator.co.uk/essays/all/6954843/a-green-dark-age.thtml

Dust storms envelope Iran:
http://iranprimer.usip.org/blog/2014/apr/07/dust-storms-cloud-iran%E2%80%99s-future#.U0plXcuGRIE.email

Most of the trees in England had been cut down to make charcoal for iron making. Britain was the first country to reach crisis point over the shortage of wood and charcoal. The industrial revolution faltered because of the shortage of timber in England. Then a bright spark, Abraham Darby, came up with the idea of making iron with coke. His first pour was on 4/1/1709 in Coalbrookdale (where there was low-Sulphur coal). After that Coalbrookdale became the centre of the British iron industry.
Source: Robert Raymond, “Out of the fiery furnace”, MacMillan, Australia, 1984.  ISBN 0 333 38024 X.

Politicians Promote Futuristic Schemes to Gullible People:
http://blog.heartland.org/2015/01/government-phony-science-waste

Some thoughts on coal power and The Asian smog:
http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/greenpeace-selective-blindness.pdf
http://carbon-sense.com/2013/03/02/chasing-a-will-o-the-wisp/
http://carbon-sense.com/2008/08/04/clearing-the-smog/
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VRF, 6/1/15

Rising Seas are Nothing New.

The most careful analysis of world sea levels suggests they are rising at between zero and 2mm per year. Measurements to this accuracy are questionable as they are complicated by changes in ocean currents and wind direction, and shorelines that may rise and sink.

Sea levels are never still, but with global temperatures flat and snow cover and polar ice steady, sea levels are probably as stable today as they ever get.

However, we still have creative climatists concocting complex computer models that predict dangerously rising seas to justify their goal to ban coastal development and to revive their failing war on carbon.

Alarmists should study earth history.

At the depth of our recent ice age, just 16,000 years ago, a thick sheet of ice covered much of North America and Northern Europe.

Source: created by Randall Munroe from Dyke et al 2002
If the above image does not display, Click the following link: 
http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/green-energy-is-past.pdf


So much water was locked up in ice that humans could walk on dry land from London to Paris, from Siberia to Alaska and from New Guinea to Australia. The River Rhine flowed across a broad coastal plain (which is now the North Sea) and met the Atlantic Ocean up between Scotland and Norway.

There was no Great Barrier Reef as Queensland’s continental shelf was part of the coastal plain, and rivers like the Burdekin met the ocean about 160 km east of its current mouth. Most of its ancestral river channel can still be recognised beneath the Coral Sea.

Then, about 13,000 years ago, with no help from man-made engines burning hydrocarbons, the Earth began warming. This was probably caused by natural cycles affecting our sun and the solar system, aided by volcanic heat along Earth’s Rings of Fire under the oceans.

The great ice sheets melted, sea levels rapidly rose some 130m and coastal settlements and ancient port cities were drowned and are being rediscovered, even today.

As the oceans warmed, they expelled much of their dissolved load of carbon dioxide. The warm temperatures and extra carbon dioxide plant food caused vigorous plant growth. Permafrost melted, forests colonised the treeless tundra and grasses and herbs covered the Great Plains. Iceball Earth became the Blue/green planet, supporting a huge increase in plant and animal life.

Without any zoning laws to guide them, our smart ancestors moved ahead of the rising waters and adapted happily to the warmer climate with less snow, more rain, more carbon dioxide plant food and more ice-free land.

This warming phase peaked in the Medieval Warm Era about 1,000 years ago, when sea levels also peaked. They fell during the Little Ice Age, rose slightly during the Modern Warm Era, and are relatively stable now.

Rising seas are never a lethal threat to life on Earth. The danger sign is falling sea levels caused by a return of the great ice sheets. This would quickly put high-latitude farming into the deep freezer, thus creating widespread starvation. Trying to grow crops on emerging salty mudflats in a stormy, icy climate will give some future farmers a real climate concern.

And despite World Heritage listing, when the next ice age comes the skeletons of the stranded Great Barrier Reef will become bleached limestone deposits on the coastal plain. The indestructible coral populations will abandon their marooned homes and build new reefs further out under the retreating seas.

For those who would like to read more:

Ice Age Europe
http://donsmaps.com/icemaps.html

Nothing New about Rising sea levels:
http://carbon-sense.com/2013/11/30/nothing-new-about-climate-change/

Sea levels were probably been higher than this during the Medieval Warming, and fell in the Little Ice Age:
http://carbon-sense.com/2013/12/02/endlich-sea-level-claims/

The Buried Burdekin River Channel:
http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/geosciencefacpub/386/

Sea level in the southwest pacific is stable:
http://carbon-sense.com/2010/01/01/south-pacific-sea-level-changes/

VRF, 15/12/14

Is Diesel the New Green Fuel?

Are Climatists giving a green tick to diesel power?

Ten thousand professional climate crusaders recently attended yet another Climate Carnival in Lima, Peru. Did they use green power to minimise their carbon footprint? No way; massive diesel generators were trucked in on diesel-powered lorries because the local hydro/solar power could not cope. The delegates were also moved between hotels and the venue in more than 300 diesel buses – few bothered to walk or ride the bicycles provided.

In sunny Spain, the government solar subsidies were so generous that some entrepreneurs managed to produce solar energy for 24 hours per day. However, inspectors discovered that diesel generators were being operated at night, thus producing great profits in selling “solar” energy to the grid.

Then in “go-green, vote-blue” Britain, wind power is proving so erratic that thousands of reliable diesel generators are being installed by utilities and businesses to maintain power when the grid becomes unstable.

Finally we have people who disconnect from the grid, aiming to become independent by generating their own power from small solar and wind installations. After the first long spell of cloudy windless weather, most turn to a reliable on-demand diesel backup generator to keep the fridge running and the lights on.

It seems that diesel is the new “green” fuel. In some bitter winter, when real blackouts hit UK or Europe, maybe clean “green” coal will be re-discovered and cranked up again.

For those who would like to read more:

Diesel powers Lima Climate Festivities:
http://iceagenow.info/2014/12/lima-climate-talks-ultimate-hypocrisy/

Lima Climate Confab generates record carbon footprint:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-2867303/Lima-climate-talks-set-record-carbon-footprint.html

Nothing Useful Achieved at Lima Climate Gabfest:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/southamerica/peru/11292469/Frantic-efforts-to-save-Lima-climate-change-talks.html

Climate Conference generates vast Carbon Footprint:
http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/environment/article4296131.ece

Diesel generates solar power in Spain:
http://blogs.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/timblair/index.php/dailytelegraph/comments/the_future_of_solar_is_diesel/

The Spanish Solar Inquisition:
http://wattsupwiththat.com/2014/08/17/nobody-expects-the-spanish-solar-inquisition/

Diesel Generators step in when the volatile grid power fails in Britain:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2362762/The-dirty-secret-Britains-power-madness-Polluting-diesel-generators-built-secret-foreign-companies-kick-theres-wind-turbines–insane-true-eco-scandals.html
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/energy/10220083/We-could-soon-be-paying-billions-for-this-wind-back-up.html

Is Coal Dirty?
http://carbon-sense.com/2012/07/14/is-coal-dirty/

Coal, Combustion, and the Grand Carbon Cycle:
http://carbon-sense.com/2010/06/03/coal-combustion/

VRF 23/12/14

Save the Snipe AND the Swamps

The surest way to find an “endangered” species is to declare a major development site, and something “threatened” will soon turn up.

So it is no surprise that the proposed expansion of Abbot Point, which has been continuously shipping coal from Queensland for thirty years, has discovered the rare Australian painted snipe in a possible silt dumping site in adjacent swamps.

But we can save the snipe AND the Abbot Point wetlands by shifting the natural silt from port development further out to sea. That’s where rivers, creeks and ocean currents are taking it anyway.

And everyone knows we should not try to thwart nature – natural processes will dump it there eventually.

The Overflow Column

The ‘ocean acidification’ scare may be as fraudulent as ‘global warming’
Mike Wallace, a PhD candidate at the University of New Mexico, discovered that Richard Feely, the scientist who was richly rewarded for claiming that rising levels of CO2 is causing ocean acidification and, thereby, threatening sea life, committed fraud in constructing his theory. Freely omitted data prior to 1988 going back a hundred years. When all the data is included, there is no evidence of increasing ocean acidification. Wallace is incensed that it is acceptable among global-warmists to omit data and then hide the omission. So are we.

American Thinker. 25 December 2014
http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2014/12/evidence_discovered_that_ocean_acidification_scare_may_be_as_fraudulent_as_global_warming.html

Remembering “The Little Ice Age”.
Global Warming is not the big danger– It is Ice that Kills. The Little Ice age was a time of storms, extreme weather, natural climate disruption, famine, death, disease, revolution and war. Climate is always changing, and we do not know the future. But climate history can give us a clue.:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=DzvyTj10zm0

Another Cold Winter in The Northern hemisphere:
https://stevengoddard.wordpress.com/2015/01/13/us-having-10th-coldest-january-on-record/
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2896884/Deadly-cold-snap-strike-half-Monday-bringing-sub-zero-temperatures-heavy-rain-snow-50-MILLION-people.html

And the Arctic is NOT Warming:
https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2014/12/26/warm-arctic-is-simply-part-of-natural-cycle/

Don’t Forget: “The Great Global Warming Swindle”
http://carbon-sense.com/2014/12/22/the-great-global-warming-swindle/


Civilisation is Doomed – More Planned Propaganda on the road to Paris:
2015 is shaping up as the Climate Alarm Waterloo, but the climax will be seen in Paris, not Waterloo. The world climate alarmists will make one last attempt to stitch up yet another agreement that transfers power and cash to the UN and various unelected international pressure groups. We can expect a flood of climate alarm propaganda – lies, outlandish claims, abuse of sceptics and doomsday forecasts. For example, Lonnie Thompson who received the U.S. National Medal of Science in 2010, said recently that virtually all climatologists “are now convinced that global warming poses a clear and present danger to civilization.

Pulitzer Prize-winner, Ross Gelbspan says that the climate crisis “threatens the survival of our civilization”.

Mark Hertsgaard agrees, saying that the continuation of global warming “would create planetary conditions all but certain to end civilization as we know it.”

Source: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/01/14/opinion/co2-crisis-griffin/index.html

Finally, a chance to listen to Professor Carter and Professor Franks in Perth, Sydney or Brisbane:

http://www.ipa.org.au/events/information/event/climate-change-briefings

Categories: On the Blog

What D.C.’s food scene can teach us about copyright law

Out of the Storm News - January 20, 2015, 2:44 PM

As Congress prepares for another battle over copyright law, D.C. policy wonks seeking guidance need look no further than the way the local restaurant scene has developed. Though there are clear differences, the district’s eating places offer some valuable insights into the intersection of intellectual property and creativity.

Washington has seen vast improvements in its food scene over the past few decades. From humble foods like hamburgers, Ethiopian wots or Vietnamese banh mi to the finest high-end New American, French and Indian cooking, D.C. has the bases covered. We even have bona fide celebrity chefs with national reputations, like Michel Richard and José Andrés.

Of course, it isn’t just the local chefs offering more and better culinary options to consumers. National chains like Chipotle, Panera and the Lorton, Va.-based Five Guys sell top-notch fast-casual food at thousands of locations for very reasonable prices.

This is a huge change for the better. When Lyndon Johnson occupied the White House 50 years ago, there were no Thai, Ethiopian or Vietnamese restaurants anywhere in the United States and pizza was sold in only a few big cities. Much of the food people cooked at home was so bad that it’s now a topic for gross-out humor.

Bear in mind that this massive change and incredible outflowing of culinary creativity has burst forth from an industry in which copyrights play almost no role.  While the names of dishes can be trademarked, anybody can cook and sell any recipe. Well-known chefs almost all publish cookbooks full of “secrets” and many restaurants will hand out copies of their recipes at no charge.

Local celebrity chef Michel Richard’s signature desert refines the flavors of the Kit Kat candy bar (which he, of course, didn’t invent) and versions of it have shown up on menus from Birmingham, Ala. to San Francisco. The trend isn’t confined to high-end dining. Burger King, for example, serves a near carbon-copy of McDonald’s Big Mac sandwich.

Certain types of intellectual property protection do exist for food: trademark law allows restaurants to safeguard their brands; there are copyrights in the publishing of recipes; and patents are available when somebody develops a truly novel cooking process. But by and large, the lack of strong legal protections can’t be said to have hindered the flourishing of creative output in the world of restaurants.

A look at the progress of American cooking and eating may not provide specific guidance as to how we should reform copyright law. But it does show that there’s plenty of room for creativity, innovation and invention even in a business where copyright isn’t a major factor.

How Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Vision Underpins the Compact for a Balanced Budget

Somewhat Reasonable - January 20, 2015, 1:04 PM

Perhaps the most important aspect of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision was his core belief that every American should be represented equally in our system of governance, regardless of race, color or creed.

King understood that good intentions were not enough to secure such equality. He understood that the structure of governance itself had to be reformed, and from the bottom-up.

The same core value animates the Balanced Budget Amendment, which is advanced by the Compact for a Balanced Budget.

The national debt problem is, at its root, a problem of representation. Without a limit on the federal government’s borrowing capacity, there is just too great an incentive for elected federal officials to make unsustainable political promises that advance their career. This is because they can borrow the money and send the bill to our kids and grandkids, who do not vote yet. Unprincipled elected officials know our kids and grandkids cannot punish them politically for many years—probably long after they’re gone.

Without a Balanced Budget Amendment, our kids and grandkids have to rely on us to represent their interests. But the truth is nobody can represent their future adult interests as well as they will be able to—just as wives could not rely on loving husbands to represent their interests adequately before women got the right to vote.

Our kids and grandkids are just not equally represented when it comes to our national debt, which undeniably burdens their future adult lives.

This problem of representation cannot be fixed by reforming access to the ballot. There is no time machine that can transport our kids and grandkids when they reach voting age to vote in our current elections.

Instead, just like civil rights reform required all Jim Crow laws to be uprooted, not just an end to the poll tax, we must reform the system itself to ensure that it does not treat our kids and grandkids unequally when they come of age.

That is precisely what the Balanced Budget Amendment at the core of the Compact for a Balanced Budget would do.

The Amendment would limit the federal government’s borrowing capacity, ensure fiscal transparency, and demand a wide national consensus for federal debt policy.

In short, the Amendment would ensure that our system of governance itself does not unequally represent our kids and grandkids when it comes to decisions that severely restrict their future freedom as adults.

While many battles continue on other fronts to fulfill King’s vision (and fiscal policy reform was not King’s focus), we sincerely believe that he would be proud of the Compact for a Balanced Budget.

If you agree, please like and share this blog! And don’t forget to support our Bring the Fight to Them campaign to put scholarly boots on the ground in DC to educate the Washington political class about the Compact for a Balanced Budget.

[Originally published at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

NASA Keeps Telling “Warmest” Lies

Somewhat Reasonable - January 20, 2015, 12:24 PM

On January 16 The New York Times reported the lies NASA keeps telling about global warming with an article titled “2014 Breaks Heat Record, Challenging Global Warming Skeptics.”  We have reached the point where neither a famed government agency nor a famed daily newspaper can be believed simply because both are lying to advance the greatest hoax of the modern era.

Remember that 2014 started off with something called a “polar vortex” to describe the incredibly cold weather being experienced and remember, too, that we were being told that it was evidence of global warming! That’s how stupid the “Warmists” who keep saying such things think we are.

The Earth is in the 19th year of a natural cooling cycle based on the reduced radiation of the Sun which is in its own natural cycle. It hasn’t been getting warmer and most people who give it any thought at all know the truth of that.

Enough people have concluded this that, according to a recent CNN poll, more than half, 57%, say that global warming is not a global threat. In addition, the poll revealed that only 50% of Americans believe the alleged global warming is not caused by man-made emissions, while 23% believe it is the result of natural changes, and 26% believe global warming is not a proven fact.

That’s progress. No youngster under the age of 19 has ever experienced a single day of global warming. No computer model that ever predicted it has been accurate. Neither the Pope nor the President, nor any other world leader who repeats the global warming claim is correct.

The latest claim came from NASA and, as I continue to remind readers, it is a government agency whose budget depends on parroting the lies the President keeps telling about global warming.

Astrophysicist, Dr. David Whitehouse, said “The NASA press release is highly misleading…talk of a record is scientifically and statistically meaningless.”  He was joined by climatologist Dr. Roy Spencer who said “We are arguing over the significance of hundredths of a degree.”

Do you believe that a hundredth of a degree makes a difference? Well, it does if you are a government agency desperately trying to keep the global warming hoax alive. Climatologist Dr. Pat Michaels asked “Is 58.46 degrees distinguishable from 58.45 degrees? In a word, NO.”

Marc Morano, the editor of CFACT’s ClimateDepot.com, said, “There are dueling global datasets—surface temperature records and satellite records—and they disagree. The satellites show an 18 year-plus global warming standstill and the satellite was set up to be ‘more accurate’ than the surface records.” As for the NASA claim, Morano dismissed it as “simply a political statement not based on temperature gauges.” Morano, a former member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Environmental & Public Works Committee, is working on an upcoming documentary “Climate Hustle.”

How does this affect you? The lie that carbon dioxide and methane emissions, dubbed “greenhouse gases”, are causing global warming is the basis for the Obama administration’s attack on the nation’s energy sector and, in particular, the provision of electricity by coal-fired plants. In the past six years many of these plants have been shut down or will be. The result is less electricity and higher prices for electricity. The other result is an attack on the oil and natural gas industry that drill to access these resources.  There is not a scintilla of truth to justify what is being done to Americans in the name of global warming.

There is yet another result and that is the loss of jobs in the energy sector and the reduction in revenue to the nation and states it represents. The nation’s economy overall has been in sluggish state which the word “growth” doesn’t even begin to describe. That hurts everyone.

Most of us don’t have a lot of time to get up to speed and stay there regarding the facts surrounding global warming or climate change. An excellent source of information is theEnvironment & Climate News, a monthly publication by The Heartland Institute, a thirty year old non-profit free market think tank that will sponsor its tenth annual International Conference on Climate Change in Washington, D.C. in June.

NASA has been allowed to degrade to the point where the agency that sent men to the Moon no longer has the capacity to even transport them to the International Space Station built by the Russians. We have gone from the world’s leader in space exploration to an agency that has been turned into a propaganda machine asserting that a hundredth of a degree “proves” that global warming is happening.

The U.S. and the rest of the world are setting records, but they are records for how cold it has become everywhere. There was snow recently in Saudi Arabia from a storm that swept across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan. Does that sound like global warming to you? For an excellent source of information on the cooling of the planet, visithttp://iceagenow.info.

You have an obligation to yourself, your family, friends and co-workers to not just know the truth but to denounce entities like NASA, the EPA, and The New York Times, Time, Newsweek, National Geographic, and others that keep repeating the lies about global warming.

Categories: On the Blog

International Housing Affordability in 2014

Somewhat Reasonable - January 20, 2015, 11:49 AM

The just released 11th Annual Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey shows the least affordable major housing markets to be internationally to be Hong Kong, Vancouver, Sydney, along with San Francisco and San Jose in the United States. Honolulu, which should reach 1,000,000 population this year (and thus become a major metropolitan market) was nearly as unaffordable as San Francisco and San Jose. An interactive map in The New Zealand Herald illustrates the results.

Rating Housing Affordability

The Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey uses the “median multiple” price-to-income ratio. The median multiple is calculated by dividing the median house price by the median household income. Following World War II, virtually all metropolitan areas in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States had median multiples of 3.0 or below. Since that time, housing affordability has been seriously retarded in metropolitan areas that have been subjected to urban containment policies. This includes virtually metropolitan areas of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and some markets in the United States and Canada.

Housing affordability ratings are indicated in Table 1.

 

Table 1 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey  Housing Affordability Rating Categories Rating Median Multiple Severely Unaffordable 5.1 & Over Seriously Unaffordable 4.1 to 5.0 Moderately Unaffordable 3.1 to 4.0 Affordable 3.0 & Under

 

Table 2 summarizes housing affordability ratings for the 86 major metropolitan areas in the nine nations covered. Apart from China (Hong Kong), the least affordable nation among the major markets is New Zealand, at 8.2, followed by Australia at 6.4. Both nations (and Hong Kong) are rated severely unaffordable.

 

Table 2 Housing Affordability Ratings by Nation: Major Markets (Over 1,000,000 Population)  Nation Seriously Unaffordable (4.1-5.0) Severely Unaffordable (5.1 & Over) Affordable (3.0 & Under)  Moderately Unaffordable (3.1-4.0) Total Median Market  Australia 0 0 0 5 5 6.4  Canada 0 2 2 2 6 4.3  China (Hong Kong) 0 0 0 1 1 17  Ireland 0 0 1 0 1 4.3  Japan 0 1 1 0 2 4.4  New Zealand 0 0 0 1 1 8.2  Singapore 0 0 1 0 1 5  United Kingdom 0 1 10 6 17 4.7  United States 14 23 6 9 52 3.6  TOTAL 14 27 21 24 86 4.2

 

Least Affordable Major Markets

Hong Kong registered the highest median multiple out of the 86 major markets and also in the history of the Survey, at 17.0. Vancouver reached 10.6. Sydney had its worst recorded housing affordability, with a median multiple of 9.8. Adjacent metropolitan areas San Francisco and San Jose had median multiples of 9.2, while Honolulu’s median multiple was 9.0. The ten least affordable major metropolitan areas are shown in Figure 1. In nine of these markets, housing was affordable before adoption of urban containment policy (Hong Kong data is not available).

 

Affordable Major Markets

All of the affordable major markets are in the United States. This includes perhaps the most depressed market, Detroit as well as Atlanta, which has spent most of the last three decades as the fastest growing larger metropolitan area in the high income world. At the same time, Atlanta has consistently been among the most affordable. Detroit’s median multiple is 2.0, while Atlanta’s is 2.9.

Comparing Demographia Results to The Economist and Kookmin Bank

This year’s edition includes a comparison of housing affordability multiple data from The Economist’s survey of 40 metropolitan areas in China and Kookmin Bank’s survey of major metropolitan areas in South Korea. The least affordable major markets are in China, New Zealand and Australia, all with severely unaffordable median multiples. The most affordable major markets are in the United States and Korea, both rated as moderately unaffordable (Figure 2).

 

Perspective

Hugh Pavletich, of performanceurbanplanning.com and I have published each of the annual editions, which began in 2005. The perspective of the Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey is that domestic public policy should, first and foremost be focused on improving the standard of living and reducing poverty. This requires policies that facilitate both higher household incomes and lower household expenditures (other things being equal). Housing costs are usually the largest component of household expenditure and it is therefore important that public policy both encourage and preserve housing affordability.

Housing Affordability and Urban Containment Policy

However, in recent years, land use policy has not been focused on this concern. Conventional urban theory sees urban containment as a necessity. Yet, urban containment policies are associated with the loss of housing affordability, due principally to their rationing of land for development. This effect is consistent with basic economics – restricting supply of a desired good tends to drive up prices – that has been long established.

Some of the most important contributions have come from Sir Peter Hall, et al (see The Costs of Smart Growth Revisited), Paul Cheshire at the London School of Economics (New Zealand Seeks to Avoid “Generation Rent”) and William Fischel at Dartmouth University (The Consequences of Smart Growth). Donald Brash, former governor of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand attributed the housing affordability losses to “the extent to which governments place artificial restrictions on the supply of residential land” in his introduction to the 4th Annual Edition.

The Importance of Urban Expansion

This year’s introduction is provided by Dr. Shlomo Angel, leader of the New York University Urban Expansion Program. Dr. Angel reminds us that “where expansion is effectively contained by draconian laws, it typically results in land supply bottlenecks that render housing unaffordable to the great majority of residents.”

He describes the Urban Expansion Program is “dedicated to assisting municipalities of rapidly growing cities in preparing for their coming expansion, so that it is orderly and so that residential land on the urban fringe remains plentiful and affordable.” Urban Expansion Program teams are already working with local officials in Ethiopia and Colombia to achieve this goal. Angel’s previous work documented the association between urban containment policy in Seoul and large house price increases relative to incomes (see Planet of Cities).

Policies seeking the same goals of plentiful and affordable land on the urban fringe are just as necessary in high income world metropolitan areas.

As time goes on, the negative consequences of urban containment policy on housing affordability and the standard of living have been increasingly acknowledged. Christine Legarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund said that “supply-side constraints will require further measures to increase the availability of land for development and to remove unnecessary constraints on land use.” in a recent statement on housing affordability in the United Kingdom.

Similarly a recent feature article in The Economist (see PLACES APART: The world is becoming ever more suburban, and the better for it) noted that the only reliable way to stop urban expansion was to stop them forcefully (such as through urban containment policy). Yet, The Economist continued, “But the consequences of doing that are severe” and cites the higher property prices that have been the result:”

The Economist continued to note the effect of the policy on households: “It has also forced many people into undignified homes, widened the wealth gap between property owners and everyone else…”

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.

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA’s Methane Madness

Somewhat Reasonable - January 20, 2015, 9:26 AM

The Obama administration’s attack on America’s energy sector is insane. They might as well tell us what to eat. Oh, wait, Michelle Obama is doing that. Or that the Islamic State is not Islamic. Oh, wait, Barack Obama said that.

Or that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is about protecting the environment. It used to be decades ago, but not these days.

There was a time when the EPA was devoted to cleaning up the nation’s air and water. It did a very good job and we now all breathe cleaner air and have cleaner water. At some point, though, it went from a science-based government agency to one for which science is whatever they say it is and its agenda is the single minded reduction of all sources of energy, coal, oil and natural gas, by telling huge lies, citing junk science, and generating a torrent of regulation.

Americans have been so blitzed with global warming and climate change propaganda for so long one can understand why many just assume that these pose a hazard even though there hasn’t been any warming for 19 years and climate change is something that has been going on for 4.5 billion years. When the EPA says that it’s protecting everyone’s health, one can understand why that is an assumption many automatically accept.

The problem is that the so-called “science” behind virtually all of the EPA pronouncements and regulations cannot even be accessed by the public that paid for it. The problem is so bad that, in November 2014, Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) introduced a bill, HR 4012, the Secret Science Reform Act, to address it. It would force the EPA to disclose all scientific and technical information before proposing or finalizing any regulation.

As often as not, those conducting taxpayer funded science studies refuse to release the raw data they obtained and the methods they used to interpret it. Moreover, agency “science” isn’t always about empirical data collection, but as Ron Arnold of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, noted in 2013, it is “a ‘literature search’ with researchers in a library selecting papers and reports by others that merely summarize results and give opinions of the actual scientists. These agency researchers never even see the underlying data, much less collect it in the field.”

The syndicated columnist, Larry Bell, recently noted that “Such misleading and downright deceptive practices openly violate the Information Quality Act, Executive Order 12688, and related Office of Management and Budget guidelines requiring that regulatory agencies provide for full, independent, peer review of all ‘influential scientific information.’” It isn’t that there are laws to protect us from the use of junk science. It’s more like they are not enforced.

These days the EPA is on a tear to regulate mercury and methane. It claims that its mercury air and toxics rule would produce $53 billion to $140 billion in annual health and environmental benefits. That is so absurd it defies the imagination. It is based on the EPA’s estimated benefits from reducing particulates that are—wait for it—already covered by existing regulations!

Regarding the methane reduction crusade the EPA has launched, Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, says “EPA’s methane regulation is redundant, costly, and unnecessary. Energy producers are already reducing methane emissions because methane is a valuable commodity. It would be like issuing regulations forcing ice cream makers to spill less ice cream.”

“The Obama administration’s latest attack on American energy,” said Pyle, “reaffirms that their agenda is not about the climate at all—it’s about driving up the cost of producing and using natural gas, oil, and coal in America. The proof is the EPA’s own research on methane which shows that this rule will have no discernible impact on the climate.”

Fred Singer, founder and Director of the Science and Environmental Policy Project as well as a Senior Fellow with The Heartland Institute says “Contrary to radical environmentalists’ claims, methane is NOT an important greenhouse gas; it has a totally negligible impact on climate. Attempts to control methane emissions make little sense. A Heartland colleague, Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett, says “Obama is again avoiding Congress, relying on regulations to effectively create new laws he couldn’t legally pass.”

As Larry Bell noted, even by the EPA’s own calculations and estimates, the methane emissions limits, along with other limits on so called greenhouse gases “will prevent less than two-hundredths of a degree Celsius of warming by the end of this century.”

That’s a high price to pay for the loss of countless plants that generate the electricity on which the entire nation depends for its existence. That is where the EPA is taking us.

Nothing the government does can have any effect on the climate. You don’t need a PhD in meteorology or climatology to know that.

Categories: On the Blog
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