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Political hacks stand to gain from Florida gerrymander fix

Out of the Storm News - August 06, 2014, 12:14 PM

Looks like Florida lawmakers will have to put their summer campaign activities and fundraising on hold. Last week, Leon County Circuit Court Judge Terry Lewis ordered the Legislature to redraw and ratify by Aug. 15 two congressional district maps that in July he ruled were in violation of the state’s anti-gerrymandering law.

The two districts in question are currently held by U.S. Reps. Dan Webster, a Republican from Winter Garden, and Corrine Brown, a Democrat from Jacksonville. Lawmakers are set to convene in Tallahassee tomorrow, where a committee will be appointed to redraw the maps over the weekend. The rest of the Legislature will reconvene sometime next week to vote on their final passage.

Although state legislative leaders have acquiesced  to redraw the maps per the judge’s order, they intend for the newly drawn districts to take effect in 2016, as it is logistically too late for them to apply before this year’s November election.

Candidates would have to re-qualify, supervisors of election would have to redraw precinct maps and update their databases and voters would need to receive their new cards, all of which would cost state and local agencies—and candidates—a substantial amount of money and resources. Absentee ballots have already been mailed for the primary election in August, and any changes to the maps would undoubtedly affect adjacent districts as well.

In light of the logistical impossibility of applying the new maps in time for the Nov. 4 election, Judge Lewis has indicated that he may order a special election sometime after November for the newly drawn districts. Legislators have vowed to challenge such a ruling.

With her district as one of the two targeted by Judge Lewis, Rep. Brown has emerged as a strange bedfellow ally for the Republican leadership in Tallahassee. She slammed the judge’s ruling as “certainly not in the best interests of Florida voters,” and said it “ignores one of the central principles of redistricting: maintaining communities of interest or minority-access districts.”  Many expect her to challenge the ruling regardless of how the Legislature acts.

Her district stretches from Jacksonville down into Orlando and is made up of predominantly African-American and Democratic voters.

This entire ordeal was a result of a lawsuit filed by a coalition headed by the League of Women Voters and other left-leaning groups that alleged the Republican-controlled Legislature drew maps based on favoring incumbents and other such political considerations in violation of the “Fair Districts” amendment approved by voters in 2010. Brown unsuccessfully sued to invalidate it after its passage.

During the course of the trial, it was revealed through e-mails and other evidence that legislative staff were secretly sharing drafts of maps and other information with Republican political consultants.  At least one of the maps shared by political operatives was submitted under someone else’s name. According to Lewis’ ruling, these “seemed to be in the Central Florida area, which coincidentally, were the areas in the enacted map [he] found to be problematic.”

The judge zeroed-in on this issue of operatives trading information behind the scenes, stating that “it make[s] a mockery of the Legislature’s proclaimed open and transparent process.”

The special session is estimated to cost Florida taxpayers more than $68,000 per day, in addition to the time, resources and expenses that local election supervisors will have to incur to update their databases and voter rolls after new congressional maps are adopted–especially if the courts order a special election.

Will the millionaire political operatives whose shenanigans instigated this ruling be forced to cover any of these costs? Nope. Will they make more money off these changes?  You bet.

Such is politics in the Sunshine State.

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

R Street applauds Virginia agreement on ridesharing services

Out of the Storm News - August 06, 2014, 11:59 AM

WASHINGTON (August 6, 2014) - The R Street Institute welcomed today’s news of an agreement between the Commonwealth of Virginia and transportation networking companies Uber and Lyft. This arrangement will help ensure the safety of passengers, provide transparency into company operations and promote a level playing field for transportation providers.

Under the agreement, Uber and Lyft will be granted transportation broker’s licenses and temporary operating authority, so long as they meet a set of regulations to promote passenger safety, have appropriate insurance and comply with Virginia law.

“Gov. Terry McAuliffe and State Attorney General Mark Herring should be commended for their work to legalize the operations of Uber and Lyft,” said Zach Graves, policy analyst for the R Street Institute. “Through this operating agreement, Virginia residents will reap the benefits of more consumer choice, and increased competition for transportation services.”

However, Graves warned that this is only a first step in government working with businesses in this emerging sector.

“Public interest advocates should be wary that this is only a temporary measure, and the battle over transportation services regulation in Virginia is certain to come up again in the 2015 legislative session. Ultimately, policymakers in Virginia and other states need to advance legislation that offers permanent legalization for all transportation network companies, without imposing additional anti-competitive regulations at the behest of the taxi industry,” he said.

California’s incomplete prescription for reducing climate risk

Out of the Storm News - August 06, 2014, 11:19 AM

The California Natural Resources Agency has just released its Final Safeguarding California Plan for Reducing Climate Risk. The roughly 350-page plan is designed to provide policymakers with recommendations about how best to craft an “integrated strategy” to address climate change. While it is not entirely clear what that means, it is clear the strategy would touch virtually every California industry in a meaningful way.

Are the recommendations worth anything? In at least one area, likely not.

Inevitable and historic instances of climate change and its various manifestations have impacted the world profoundly. Severe weather, sea-level rise and fall and changes in the frequency and severity of wildfires may all be tied to climate change. What is less clear is whether California’s lengthy plan is sufficiently precise in its particulars to be of any use.

For example, one industry to which the plan directs special attention is insurance. Why? Because, the CNRA believes that insurer solvency is directly threatened by climate change. With regard to its insurance recommendations, the plan leads readers into a maze of narratives replete with brief but equivocating solutions.

Not all of the plan without merit, however. There is an instance of clarity where it asserts that

Efforts to reduce climate risks through hazard mitigation activities, including but not limited to fire hazard reduction, minimizing new development in areas most vulnerable to hazards and improved flood management, will be important to managing risks and supporting sustainable insurance and disaster programs.

This translates to “mitigating risks is a good idea,” which it obviously is.

As for the selectively chosen solutions, the plan is under the thrall of a decision made by the California Department of Insurance to mandate that insurers complete a “climate risk disclosure survey.” It also refers approvingly to a 2008 National Association of Insurance Commissioners report in which the survey idea was presented. Boldly, the plan doubles down on the NAIC report and recommends that insurers should be required to provide even more specific, detailed and potentially proprietary information to the CDI for public display.

While the value of such surveys may be negligible, there is a more serious problem with the plan’s recommendation. For some reason, it ignores less ideological and more relevant tools that were presented alongside the NAIC recommendation to undertake surveys. Among the tools referenced in another NAIC report cited by the plan and by the same author, but omitted from the Plan’s recommendations, is risk-based pricing.

Risk-based pricing is not revelatory. It is the pricing of risk based on probabilities of loss. It is the foundation of insurance, but is endlessly inconvenient to ideology. While not revelatory, the practice of risk-based pricing is increasingly subverted by the policy goals of various regulators.

In California, as in many other states, it is necessary for property/casualty insurers to file for approval with the CDI the rates that they plan to charge. The commissioner has the authority to reject rate changes that he/she deems inappropriate. In some states, spurious rejection has led to rate deficiencies which have forced insurers to limit their exposure to under-priced risk.

By treating reporting as a panacea without mentioning the role of risk-based pricing, the plan cripples the credibility of what are meant to be a set of objective policy recommendations.

An interesting and ironic juxtaposition to the grave concern articulated by the CNRA is the perception of the risks posed by climate change by those within the international insurance industry. An annual study by the Centre for the Study of Financial Innovation found that professionals within the industry ranked climate change as the number 18 risk facing the industry. What was the number one risk the industry felt it faced? Regulation!!

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

Risky Business: The Best Global Warming Alarmism Money Can Buy

Somewhat Reasonable - August 06, 2014, 11:04 AM

It’s been a month since the billionaire triumvirate of Tom Steyer (pictured), Henry Paulson and Michael Bloomberg introduced their ballyhooed Risky Business report on the climate, and after all the op-eds, blog posts and public interviews so far, all that can be said about it is that it is already an empty, meaningless PR campaign upon which the financial hot shots have wasted their money.

There is no there, there.

Logical scrutiny of the project, from its genesis to its outcome, would reveal how deeply flawed and biased it is. Given every contributing factor, there is no other verdict that would have been reached other than “we must all do something about global warming!” Yet the legacy media has treated Risky Business as something that was objectively conceived, and which has delivered perfectly reasonable conclusions. That is to be expected from pack journalists who don’t look beyond the climate crystal balls (also known as “models”) spoon-fed to them by big government scientists, but that doesn’t mean (and hasn’t in the past) that the public will swallow it.

Let’s start with the founders of Risky Business. They portray their effort as nonpartisan (Fortune called it “scrupulously nonpartisan”), striving to show the project is represented by Democrats and Republicans alike. At the co-chairmen level the Democrats are Steyer and Bloomberg, and the Republican is Paulson.

A tip for discerning public policy consumption: If the proponents use the word “nonpartisan” as part of the pitch for their work, then they are likely pushing a controversial agenda that they have attempted to sell with personalities drawn from both major political party affiliations. Unfortunately there is no shortage of crony capitalists, government interventionists, and science ignoramuses in both the Democratic and Republican parties, and finding the players from both sides is pretty easy. So a peek under the packaging is necessary.

Steyer is the driver. Risky Business is staffed by his nonprofit group Next Generation, whose primary mission is to mitigate the “risk of dangerous climate change.” Besides the “educational” nature of his think tank, Steyer has thrown his considerable wealth into the election (or re-election) of Democratic candidates via his SuperPAC NextGEN Climate. His policy priorities, in the context of the global warming fight, are the revival of cap-and-trade and opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. He pledged (but so far has miserably failed) to raise $50 million to match his own $50 million in contributions to climate-conscious candidates.

Bloomberg is the quintessential nanny-statist, so he’s perfect to join the leadership of a group that seeks to dictate what kinds of energy the masses may use. As Mayor of New York City he sought to control how citizens consumed soda, trans-fats and cigarettes, and since then has poured millions of dollars into gun control initiatives. As politician Mike he said “that big cities must take the lead in reducing the threat of climate change,” and pushed the well-worn “green” and “sustainable” themes.

That leaves Paulson the Republican to enable Risky Business to allegedly fulfill its claim to “nonpartisanship,” at least among the co-chairmen. The former CEO of Goldman Sachs pushed for the government bailout of failing financial institutions, when he was Treasury Secretary under President George W. Bush.

Paulson’s nomination was opposed by National Legal and Policy Center President Peter Flaherty in May 2006, over an apparent conflict of interest in chairing both Goldman Sachs and the Nature Conservancy. As NLPCalleged at the time, in part:

In November 2005, Goldman Sachs adopted an “Environmental Policy” that closely parallels the Nature Conservancy agenda on key issues like global warming. Moreover, Paulson’s son Merritt is a trustee of a Nature Conservancy-related group that was the recipient of a Goldman Sachs donation in the form of a tract of land totaling 680,000 acres in Chile.

In his remarks at the annual meeting, Flaherty also noted that the Nature Conservancy has been mired in scandal in recent years, as detailed in a Washington Post series and in Senate hearings. The group sold ecologically sensitive land at a discount to its own trustees on which they built multi-million-dollar vacation homes, and structured land donations so wealthy donors could improperly receive tax breaks.

Flaherty said, “There remain unanswered questions about Paulson’s personal and business ethics. At Goldman Sachs, Paulson promoted his own personal interests at the expense of shareholders. As Treasury Secretary, will he promote the public interest, or his own?”

Paulson’s wife, Wendy, also has served on the board of The Nature Conservancy. In 2011 he established The Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago, which promotes economic growth and “environmental preservation” in the United States and China. He is a “longtime conservationist,” and told Bloomberg News (yes, owned by the former mayor) in October 2013 as Risky Business was launched, “Climate change is every bit as big a risk to our economy as it is to the environment. With any complex issue, we can never know with certainty what the timing and the impact will be, but we know from the data that the climate risk is very real.” Compare that to the most recent findings about the issue in a Rasmussen poll, in which 57 percent of all voters think the debate isnot over, and 64 percent of Republicans think the media makes climate change appear worse than it actually is. So to uphold Paulson as representative of the GOP, in a “nonpartisan” consensus on global warming, is a stretch.

It is now 2014, so we know the answer to Flaherty’s 2006 question about what kind of Treasury Secretary Paulson would be. As Treasury Secretary, he made sure that Goldman Sachs survived the financial crisis, by banning the short selling of Goldman shares, while Main Street businesses went under. The financial bailouts, and related policies, resulted in the largest transfer of wealth from working people to the rich in history. It also set back the fortunes of the Republican Party for years. (Yes, Obama and Democrats supported the bailouts, but thanks to Paulson, Republicans took the blame. No wonder Paulson gets along so well with Democrats. )

Paulson now seeks to jack up electricity rates and the cost of everything else, which will have absolutely no affect on his lifestyle. He walked away from Goldman with almost a half-billion dollars. He would, however,reduce the standard of living for just about everyone else.

Another layer of leadership to which the faux adjective “nonpartisan” is applied is to Risky Business’s “Risk Committee Members,” which includes prominent Democrats Henry Cisneros, Robert Rubin and Donna Shalala, and Republicans George Shultz (who served in President Nixon’s cabinet and was President Reagan’s Secretary of State) and former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe. Here also the GOP participation can hardly be classified as the conservative mainstream of the party.

From this cast of characters – the co-chairs to the “Risk Committee” – we are expected to acknowledge their authority based upon their wealth and power, apparently. Accepting that, we are expected to swallow the research they’ve produced, which is “an independent assessment of the economic risks posed by a changing climate in the U.S.” The possibility that there might be no “risk” (at least, not any more “risk” than there has been in the past) is not a consideration – of course, because then we wouldn’t have a project called “Risky Business.”

So it isn’t a surprise that they called upon two firms that are all about hazards and consequences. According to the Risky Business Web site, Steyer, Bloomberg and Paulson “tasked” the Rhodium Group, a firm whose expertise is analysis of “disruptive global trends,” to evaluate the economic effects from climate change. They also called upon Risk Management Solutions (RMS), the “world’s largest catastrophe-modeling company for insurance, reinsurance, and investment-management companies around the world.”

Again, forecasting for no disasters as the result of global warming was not an option. Nor was challenging the premise that there has been a planetary temperature increase in the first place – even though there hasn’t been warming for nearly 18 years. It follows that Rhodium Group chose alarmist climate scientist Dr. Robert Kopp of Rutgers University as lead scientist for Risky Business.

“My scientific and policy research interests are guided by the recognition that, over the last two centuries, human civilization has become a geological force,” Kopp writes in his autobiographical information. “We are inducing planetary environmental conditions like those that Earth has not experienced for millions of years.”

Those are the kinds of things you hear from the alarmist world, despite facts that – for example – show there’s been no change in Arctic sea ice for 40 yearsrecords for cold temperatures are being shattered; and thedisappearance of hurricanes – all which confound the predictions made by the “experts” in decades past (thanks to those taxpayer-funded computer climate models). Nonetheless, this is the foundation upon which Risky Business builds economic extrapolations in order to convince the business world to account for global warming.

Those deductions are based upon – you probably guessed it – econometric models. So the thesis of global warming leads to all kinds of assumptions in the Risky Business report about yields for various (but not all) crops, mortality (but not quality of life), labor production, and even violent crime! Thanks to the collaborative nature of the Internet, a (complete) list of things supposedly caused by global warming – supported by source links – has been compiled. Revealing that to the experts behind Risky Business could send them back to fiddle with their models.

But all the “scholarliness” doesn’t matter – there is no humanly possible way to account for all the variables and contingencies, climatically or economically, to accurately forecast the future. The point of Risky Business is not to deliver sound conclusions based upon reliable data, but only to appear to be doing so. Putting out reports with lots of formulas, coefficients, technical jargon and footnotes accomplishes that task.

It is with that “authority” that Steyer, Bloomberg and Paulson (but mostly Steyer) hope to apply pressure to the business world. On the Risky Business Web site that takes the form of the “Next Steps” they advocate: Business adaptation, investor adaptation, and public sector response. In all the categories the goals are clear: businesses and governments must spend exorbitant amounts of money for adaptation to, and mitigation of, the effects of global warming. As a result the co-chairs want greater demands for reporting on these “actions” in boardrooms and shareholder meetings across the country.

The Risky Business co-chairs have taken their message to the public over the last month, with Steyer trying to hit up donors, Paulson writing for theNew York Times, and Bloomberg promoting it through his media business. They’ve thrown gobs of money to create the appearance of an intellectual, scientific authority on both the science and economics of global warming. Investors and corporate executives should be aware of this scheme to distort their companies’ financial reporting and bottom lines.

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.


[Originally Published at NLPC]

Categories: On the Blog

It’s Time for a More Robust National Missile Defense Program

Somewhat Reasonable - August 06, 2014, 9:55 AM

Since the Reagan administration, the United States has, under various guises, sought to develop technology that would render enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles non-threatening to its people and interests. The national missile defense program has been aimed at bringing about the end of foreign missile threats from rogue states and geopolitical foes alike. Missile defense systems have grown exponentially more effective and sophisticated, and have culminated in an interceptor system that will soon make missile attacks on areas shielded by such systems pointless.

Much of what has held back the wider development and roll-out of missile defense systems in the United States and in the territories of its allies has been a degree of skepticism about their effectiveness. The strategic fear has been that missile defense systems might prove scary enough to rivals to spark aggression while being insufficiently effective to actually halt that aggression. In the past several weeks, we have seen the practical vindication of such systems (on a smaller scale) in Israel.

The Proof is in the Iron Dome

The missile defense shield of Israel, known as the Iron Dome, is an extremely sophisticated missile interceptor system based on American technology. It has successfully knocked most of the missiles fired into its territory by Hamas out of the sky. It is actually quite astounding how rapidly the technology has improved. T

The United States has, for several years, been developing the most extensive and complete ballistic missile shield ever devised. When fully armed with a complement of anti-ballistic missiles both within the United States itself, and in allied nations in Europe and Asia, the shield will be virtually impregnable to external missile attack. This means the chance of a nuclear attack (the worst-case scenario and original raison d’etre of the missile defense program) succeeding against it will be very unlikely, reducing the chance not only of a full-scale nuclear war between the United States and another nuclear power, but also against missiles fired by rogue states or terrorists, the biggest threats in terms of actual use of nuclear weapons.

The Iron Dome has shown that nuclear weapons are not the only potential targets of a missile defense system. They provide a powerful defensive tool against missiles and ordnance. American military technology is the most advanced and prodigiously financed in the world, so it is good that its military investments are directed toward the development of weapons platforms that are by their nature defensive. Missile defense technology is one of the great hopes for the defense of America and its allies.

Under America’s Aegis

The system currently being put into operation by the United States is the Aegis combat system, designed for deployment on American naval vessels. Basing a missile system on specially modified destroyers is serving to sidestep somewhat the problems associated with ground and space-based missile defense arrays, due to the slow response time of ground missiles, and the still unfeasible orbital deployment. Most important to geostrategic thinking is the fact that the sea-based defense array lacks the problem of the land-based system in that it does not need to be placed on the soil of countries other than the United States in order to be effective.

A flaw with this latter reasoning has been revealed by the recent events in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Russia has been bellicose toward its former Soviet neighbors for several years, yet the United States and NATO have largely sought to ignore or underplay the threat the Putin regime represents. It has taken Putin’s tremendously brazen aggression in annexing Crimea and backing pro-Russian separatists to galvanize the West to lay sanctions on Russia. Putin has been able to exploit the relative inattention of America and the EU and has gambled on their unwillingness to take the steps necessary to stop him and bolster Eastern Europe against the resurgent Russia. A missile defense system operational in these border nations could serve to dampen Russia’s ambitions.

For Peace, Prepare for War

The United States should seek to build further missile defenses on the soil of its vulnerable allies. It is a less costly endeavor than maintaining huge foreign bases and puts fewer American lives at risk while at the same time guaranteeing the security and providing an essential moral boost to embattled allies. Russia could not act with such impunity if its air and missile power were neutered by a missile defense screen courtesy of the United States. In an Eastern Europe that is ever more terrified of Russia and more and more unsure of whether America and NATO would come to their aid, this policy would be a simple way to shore up support for liberal democracy.

Military spending and “entangling alliances” certainly rub against the conventional grain of free market, small government ideology. But sometimes we must face the ugly realities of a world in which thugs try to push free nations into servility. The United States has an interest in preserving a world order that believes in the values of free trade and limited government. That means being willing to support allies in that cause who are under threat.

An operational national missile defense system renders intercontinental ballistic missiles more obsolete. When a country can shoot down all enemy missiles, those weapons lose their power. The future of war, once countries have access to missile shields, will no longer be marked by fingers held over the proverbial red button. Rather, the incentive for conflict between states armed with effective missile defenses will be to seek diplomatic solutions to problems.

The technology will likely be in the hands of many nations very soon, as the United States has already provided the technology to Japan and Australia, and will be building defense batteries in Romania from 2015. With missile defense, war will be less likely and, should it occur, less destructive. To secure a safer world, America must show leadership. If our ideals are to survive and thrive, we must be willing to defend them.


Categories: On the Blog

Urban Cores, Core Cities and Principal Cities

Somewhat Reasonable - August 06, 2014, 8:05 AM

Many American cities, described commonly as urban cores, are functionally more suburban and exurban, based on urban form, density, and travel behavior characteristics. Data from the 2010 census shows that 42.3 percent of the population of the historical core municipalities was functionally urban core (Figure 1). By comparison, 56.3 of the population lived in functional suburbs and another 1.3 percent in functionally exurban areas (generally outside the urban areas). Urban cores are defined as areas that have high population densities (7,500 or per square mile or 2,900 per square kilometer or more) and high transit, walking and cycling work trip market shares (20 percent or more). Urban cores also include non-exurban sectors with median house construction dates of 1945 or before. All of these areas are defined at the zip code tabulation area (ZCTA) level, rather than by municipal jurisdiction. This is described in further detail in the “City Sector Model” note below.

The Varieties of Central Cities

Of course the “urbaneness” of central cities vary greatly. Some, like New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco experienced much of their growth before the 20th century, well before the great automobile oriented suburbanization that occurred after World War II. Others, that experienced early growth, such as Milwaukee and Seattle, annexed substantial areas of suburbanization after World War II, so that their comparatively large functional urban cores have been overwhelmed by suburbs within the city limits. Los Angeles, with a large functional urban core, annexed huge swaths of agricultural land that later became suburban. Finally, a number of other central cities, such as Phoenix and San Jose, have developed since World War II and are virtually all suburban,

Moreover, central cities comprise very different proportions of their respective metropolitan areas (the functional or economic definition of “city”). For example, the central city of San Antonio comprises 62 percent of the San Antonio metropolitan area population. Conversely, the city of Atlanta comprises only 8 percent of the Atlanta metropolitan area population. Obviously, with such a large differential, the term central city describes jurisdictions that are radically different.

This difference is caught by examining the functional urban cores by historical core municipality classifications. The Pre-World War II Core & Non-Suburban central cities have functional urban cores comprising 72 percent of their population. The Pre-World War II Core & Suburban central cities have functional urban cores that are only 14 percent of their populations. The Post-World War II Suburban central cities have very small urban cores, representing only 2 percent of their population (Figure 2).

Among the 54 historical core municipalities, the share of central city population in the functional urban cores varies from a high of more than 97 percent (New York) to virtually zero (Birmingham, Charlotte, Dallas, Jacksonville, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Bernardino, San Jose, and Tampa).

Core Cities with the Strongest Urban Cores

It is not surprising that the central cities with the largest share of their populations in the functional urban cores are in the older, established are concentrated in the Northeast Corridor (Washington to Boston) and the Midwest. Only one of the 14 central cities with the highest population share in functional urban cores is outside these areas is San Francisco, the first large city to be built on the American West Coast Among the 25 central cities with the highest functional urban core share, only seven are outside the Northeast Corridor or the Midwest (San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, New Orleans, Portland, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City).

It is not surprising that the city of New York has the largest function urban core population share, at 97.3 percent. Nearly one-third of the total urban core population in the 52 major metropolitan areas lives in the city of New York (nearly 8,000,000 residents).

Two other central cities have functional urban core population percentages above 90 percent. Buffalo ranks second, at 94.5 percent. San Francisco is third at 94.0 percent.

The next three highest ranking cities are in New England. Boston has an 89.7 percent functional urban core population, followed by Hartford (87.4 percent), and Providence (86.5 percent). These are all of the major metropolitan areas in New England.

Three Midwestern central cities have more than 80 percent of their populations in functional urban cores, including St. Louis (84.1 percent), Minneapolis (83.5 percent), and Cleveland (80.1 percent). Washington (83.4 percent) and Philadelphia (83.4 percent), in the Northeast Corridor also have greater than 80 percent functional urban core shares.

Pittsburgh (76.9 percent) and Chicago (76.6 percent) have functional urban core population shares between 70 percent and 80 percent. At 67.7 percent, Baltimore (67.7 percent) is the only central city in the Northeast Corridor that with less than 70 percent of its population in the functional urban core.

Oakland (54.7 percent), at 15th, is the highest ranking central city outside the Northeast Corridor and the Midwest other than San Francisco. Cincinnati, Rochester, and Milwaukee also have more than 50 percent of their population in functional urban cores.

The top 25 is rounded out by Seattle (37.5 percent), New Orleans (36.8 percent), St. Paul (36.7 percent), Portland (35.2 percent), Detroit (31.3 percent), Los Angeles (29.9 percent) and, somewhat unexpectedly, Salt Lake City (27.1 percent).

The central cities with the largest functional urban core percentages have overwhelmingly suffered large population losses. Among the 25 with the largest urban core shares, only seven were at their peak populations at the 2010 census, and only two of the top 18 (New York and San Francisco). Overall the cities with large functional cores lost more than 35 percent of their population and 8 million residents.

“Other” Principal Cities

Starting in 2003, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) retired the term “central city” and replaced it with “principal city,” which includes the 54 former historical core municipalities and approximately 160 additional cities. The adoption of principal city terminology recognized as OMB described it, that metropolitan areas were no longer monocentric, but had become polycentric. OMB specifically rejected the use of geographical terms other than “principal city” within metropolitan areas, including “suburb.” Indeed, the very employment of polycentricity that justified abandonment of the central city designation was the suburbanization of employment. Yet some popular usage (even in some Census Bureau documents), considers any area that is not a principal city as suburban. The more appropriate term would be “not principal city.”

Some principal cities that are not historical core municipalities (“other” principal cities) have strong urban cores, especially in metropolitan areas where the urban core stretches well beyond the core municipality’s city limits, especially in New York and Boston. Four such principal cities have urban cores larger than 100,000 and urban core population shares exceeding 90 percent, including Cambridge in the Boston area (97.0 percent, and the New York area’s Newark (94.7 percent) and Jersey City (100.0 percent), which is higher even than New York City itself. None of these cities was at its population peak in 2010.

Even so the vast majority of the “other” principal cities are overwhelmingly suburban, comprising less of the functional urban core population than areas that are not principal cities (1.5 million compared to 4.1 million outside the principal cities). Overall, the other principal cities are 7.9 percent urban core (compared to 42.3 percent for the historical core municipalities). If the 11 municipalities with cores larger than 50,000 are excluded, the share living in functional urban cores for the remaining more than 150 cities is 1.5 percent. (Figure 4).

Crude Measurement

The perhaps stunning conclusion is that the average difference between the historical core municipality population and the functional urban core population is 73 percent. Core cities — themselves 57 percent suburban and exurban — are a crude basis for classifying urban cores and suburbs. Principal cities — 92 percent functionally suburban or exurban — are even worse. The bottom line: America is fundamentally more suburban in nature than commonly believed.

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

R Street testimony to Houston City Council on ride-sharing

Out of the Storm News - August 05, 2014, 5:59 PM




Remarks by Steven Titch
Associate Fellow, R Street Institute
Re: Legalization of ride-sharing services
Houston City Council meeting

Aug. 5, 2014

Good Afternoon,

I would like to thank the City Council for the opportunity to speak on what may prove to be a defining issue for the city of Houston.

As a resident of Sugar Land, a community well within the Houston metropolitan area, the decision the City Council makes tomorrow will affect my transportation choices. Ride-share services like Uber and Lyft provide an economical, reliable alternative to the paucity of cab services in Houston and the surrounding suburbs. While some compromise may be necessary, I urge the City Council to approve the proposal and allow Uber and Lyft to legally operate without an undue regulatory burden that would undermine their ability to do business.

But this issue is about more than whether a ride-share service deserves legitimacy. I urge council members to consider this in the context of how Houston will treat new businesses that use technology to add greater value and convenience to the routine matters of everyday life.

The City Council, Mayor Annise Parker, the Harris County Independent School District and many other public agencies have voiced strong support for nurturing the environment and skills conducive to the growth of high-tech industry and jobs. We all want to see the creation and improvement of STEM programs in our schools. We do our best to showcase Houston as a city that welcomes 21st century entrepreneurs.

Uber and Lyft are where those policies pay off. They are at the vanguard of companies that use technology to meet market needs that were impossible or impractical to meet before. We tend to think of high tech as Google or Facebook, businesses that employ lots of engineers and software coders. But consider also the value created by those who take their technology skills and connect them to everyday needs, and create something that has immediate benefits for everyone. That’s Uber. That’s AirBnB. That’s Bitcoin. All the good intentions about promoting high tech will mean nothing if the city’s first reaction is to ban anything that threatens to disrupt comfortable enterprises that depend on the status quo.

Right now, there are students our local universities and colleges and our high schools, who are designing the next disruptive service or product. They are watching this vote. It will tell them if Houston is truly a city that will welcome their talents and ideas. What message do you wish to send?

Thank you.

Half a trillion unaccounted for on federal spending transparency website

Out of the Storm News - August 05, 2014, 5:39 PM

The federal government can’t find $619 billion dollars on the website it built six years ago to give a transparent account of its spending activities. USA Today‘s Gregory Korte has the full story:

A government website intended to make federal spending more transparent is missing at least $619 billion from 302 federal programs, a government audit has found. And the data that does exist is wildly inaccurate, according to the Government Accountability Office, which looked at 2012 spending data. Only 2% to 7% of spending data on USASpending.gov is “fully consistent with agencies’ records,” according to the report….OMB spokesman Jamal Brown said the administration is already working to improve the data.

The website is currently maintained by the Office of Management and Budget, and had an initial budget of $15 million.

Hat tip to AEI’s Arthur Brooks for the tweeting the story.

Tesla vs. Edison: Why All the Hate?

Somewhat Reasonable - August 05, 2014, 4:17 PM

Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor, while not a household name, has been recognized by the scientific community many times over the years. The metric system unit for magnetic field strength, for example, is known as the tesla. Tesla made many contributions to various sciences over the years, including pioneering work in magnetic fields, induction motors, and electricity. In recent years, various communities on the Internet have sought to lionize Tesla’s life and to expand knowledge of his scientific achievements. This goal is a noble one, as Tesla’s life is frequently reduced to the position of footnote in science histories. But these communities have also engaged in a very wrong-headed pursuit: trashing the reputation of Thomas Edison.

The reason for Tesla’s latter-day advocates’ attacks on Edison is understandable: They see Edison as an opportunistic (even evil) businessman masquerading as a scientist who stole the ideas of other real scientists, particularly Tesla. Edison is singled out in particular because it is believed by Tesla’s fan club that he deliberately tried to destroy Tesla’s career and reputation, and whitewashed history to suit himself.

The Hero Tesla and the Villain Edison

The story Tesla’s fans tell is that he was a visionary who designed extraordinary machines and technology so far ahead of its time that we still have not completely caught up with some of his inventions. It is a story with a clear hero, Tesla, who embodies all the qualities of the enquiring mind. It also has a villain in the form of Edison, who opportunistically exploited Tesla and then tried to destroy his life and reputation for personal gain.

The most frequently cited example of this conflict is the case of the Current Wars, when the world was debating the relative merits of alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). Tesla’s supporters say Tesla invented AC, which was a superior and safer form of electrical transmission than DC. DC systems were refined by Edison’s laboratories and he made big financial bets on the success of DC. Tesla was ruined by a smear campaign orchestrated by Edison.

Another example was Tesla’s pioneering work in radar, which he tried to submit for military application during World War I (ie. one world war before the radar was actually used). Again Tesla was thwarted by the nearsightedness of the Naval Consulting Board, of which Edison was a member, which did not see the practical applications of Tesla’s invention and rejected it out of hand.

Yet another example of the conflict, was Tesla’s claim to have devised a way to broadcast unlimited free electric power through the air, removing the need for wires and rendering obsolete most of the world’s power companies. The application of this invention was only stopped by the machinations of business leaders, led by Tesla’s old nemesis Thomas Edison.

The Simple Truth

The main problem with all of these claims about Tesla is that they are all utter rubbish. The Current Wars were a brutal business affair, with reputations and fortunes bet on the outcome. Edison was protecting his investments and his business by playing rough in the marketing of his product. His opponents gave as good as they got, as his main rivals were other business interests. Indeed, Tesla was barely a minor player in the Current Wars and was barely on Edison’s radar throughout the conflict. Furthermore, Tesla did not even invent AC. He did some work to refine it, but it was not the product of his individual invention.

As for radar, Tesla’s supporters usually fail to mention that Tesla’s proposal to the Naval Consulting Board were simply conjecture. He did not have a working prototype (and he did not invent the radar), just an idea. Spit-balling to a military commission preoccupied with developing actual existent technologies was never going to be smiled upon. Even if he did have a prototype, the Board still would have rejected it because Tesla’s whole aim was to make it applicable to submarine warfare. Anyone with a basic grounding in how radar works will understand that such an idea is a complete nonstarter. The signals would be so disrupted by the water as to make them useless. The military did invest in developing sonar, which we still use today.

When it comes to Tesla’s Holy Grail, the promise of free and limitless energy, we again see that the scientist has no clothes. Did Tesla ever build a prototype? No. Did he ever show anyone his designs? No. Could anyone find his designs or notes on the subject after his death? No, because they supposedly burned up in a fire.

In all, Tesla was a good scientist and competent tinkerer. He might even be described as a visionary futurist. But as an inventor of world-shaking technologies decades ahead of his time, he comes up more than a little short.

Why All the Love and Hate?

It is strange, given all these facts that are readily obtained, that Tesla continues to hold a certain mystique with a large crowd on the Internet. The impact has been so great as to make Edison a virtual pariah online while Tesla is venerated to the point of deification.

One explanation is that people like to support the underdog and, when combined with a story of futuristic mad science, the promise of Tesla becomes irresistible. There is probably some truth in that. It is fashionable these days to reject the “mainstream history” in favor of the stories of the oppressed and disenfranchised. When Tesla can be portrayed as a visionary, and not just as a pretty good scientist, he can become a powerful symbol.

There is probably also some truth in the fact that people like simple narratives with clear good guys and bad guys. That is why, once people are primed with the idea that Tesla was a genius deprived of his rightful recognition by a grubby businessman like Edison, that they can turn on Edison as some sort of embodiment of all that is evil.

Why So Anti-Business?

Another, more worrying sentiment is also present in the vilification of Edison and lionization of Tesla, namely that of hatred of business. The criticisms of Edison often revolve around his not being a real inventor, but instead exploiting the minds of others for his own profit. Tesla is portrayed on the opposite hand as being out to serve the good of all through invention with only secondary thought toward remuneration.

But what’s so wrong with being a businessman? Edison brought together brilliant technicians, engineers, and inventors into a laboratory that produced many of the most important innovations of the 20th century. The light bulb is just one of many inventions that were the product of Edison’s visionary leadership. His greatest strength was making people’s inventions usable in a practical mass-market setting. Tesla was a tinkerer whose ideas rarely met the rigorous standards of practical applicability.

Few people live without doing things wrong. That is especially true for people who dare to do great things. There is no doubt that Edison stepped on a lot of toes and was a fearsome competitor in the business sphere. But there can also be no doubt that the weight of scientific and practical contributions he and his laboratories produced was amongst the most important in the 20th century.

The idea that capitalist ambitions, the desire to prosper and compete in the market, are somehow lesser to more airy pursuits is a poisonous one. America’s scientific achievement is the product of a free market, of ideas and works. Treating the profit motive like a villainous trait is what will spell the end of our scientific and technological advantages in the world.

By all means celebrate the achievements of Tesla. Just don’t pretend he was a super genius with godlike scientific powers. And please try to recognize the very real debt we all owe Thomas Edison for his vast achievements in both science and business.

Categories: On the Blog

EPA goes from Environmental Protection Agency to Extremist Political Agenda

Somewhat Reasonable - August 05, 2014, 3:03 PM

During the week of July 28, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held hearings in four cities: Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington. DC. The two-day sessions were to allow the public to have their voice heard about the proposed rules it released on June 2 that will supposedly cut CO2emissions by 30 percent. Many, including myself, believe that these rules are really an attempt to shut down coal-fueled electricity generation and implement a cap-and-trade program that the Administration couldn’t get through Congress in 2009, when cap-and-trade’s obvious allies held both houses of Congress.

If the EPA’s plans were clear, direct, and honest, the public would likely revolt outright. Instead, the intent is hidden in pages of cumbersome language and the messaging becomes all about clean air and water—and about the health of children.

Because I was in the area—speaking a few hours from Atlanta on Sunday—I took advantage of the proximity and signed up to speak at the hearing. When I first attempted to sign up, day one was already full. The EPA had so many people who wanted time to share their opinions, a second day was added, and I was put on the schedule.

The first day, Tuesday, July 29, included competing rallies held in near-record low temperatures for Atlanta in July. Supporters of the EPA’s plan—many of whom were bussed in from surrounding states—gathered in Centennial Olympic Park. I spoke at the rally, made up of plan opponents, that was organized by Americans for Prosperity’s Georgia chapter held at the Sam Nunn Federal Center—where the hearing was originally scheduled (before a power outage forced a move to the Omni Hotel).

I spent the rest of the day at the hearing. It had a circus-like atmosphere. With tables of literature, people carrying signs, and many of the plan’s supporters identified by their matching pale-green tee shirts emblazoned with:

Protect our communities


Once I had a taste of what to expect the next day, when I was to present my comments in the five minutes allotted, I prepared what I wanted to say. The following is my original text—though I had to edit it down to get it within the allowed time frame. For presentation here, I’ve also enhanced my comments with some additional insights from others. The verbiage that is not a part of my original testimony is included in italics.

* * * *

I was here yesterday and earlier today. I’ve listened to the well-intentioned pleas from many who have begged you, the EPA, to take even stronger action than this plan proposes. One even dramatically claimed: “You are the Environmental Protection Agency. You are our only hope. If you don’t protect us no one will?”

I heard a teary-eyed, young woman tell a tale about a man she knows who is dying of cancer, supposedly, because he grew up near a coal-fired power plant—he couldn’t be here, so she told his story. She also said: “I am fortunate enough to have not been around in the 1960s when there was real smog.” Her father has told her about it.

One woman claimed her neighbor had gotten asthma from global warming.

Another addressed how she gets headaches from emissions. She told how lung tissue could be burned. And, how particulates are why people can no longer see the mountain in her region.

An attorney’s testimony told about seeing “carbon pollution” every day from his 36th floor office “a few blocks from here” from where he looks “out over a smog-covered city.”

The passion of these commenters supersedes their knowledge as none of the issues I’ve mentioned here, and there are many more, are something caused by carbon dioxide—a clear, colorless gas that each of us breathe out and plants breathe in.

Dave Bufalo is a retired civil engineer who attended and testified at the EPA’s Denver location. He told me he had a similar experience: “I was only able to stay for about an hour but I did hear about 10 testimonials. They were all in support of the EPA’s proposed regulation.  I don’t believe that anyone had really read the proposal prior to testifying. Their testimonies seemed to lack an understanding of the chemical nature of CO2. One elderly woman could only state that she thanked the EPA for insuring that she had clean air and water. One gentleman was clearly pushing for the sale of his company’s solar panels.”  

James Rust, PhD, is a retired professor of nuclear engineering from Georgia Tech. In his testimony in Atlanta, he referenced thousands of peer-reviewed papers showing carbon dioxide emissions had a negligible effect on climate change. He pointed to the stack of documents from the Heartland Institute called Climate Change Reconsidered I and II that contained these peer-reviewed articles. It was at that point, that a man in the front row shouted out “Liar!” Rust told me: “This is the typical type of response from the mob that promotes this climate change scare. They use ad hominem attacks and don’t debate the real issues because they have no experimental data that backs up what they are proposing.”   

Carbon dioxide is a natural, and essential, part of the environment—with massive, unknown, quantities of carbon dioxide emitted each year from natural sources, such as volcanoes. Were you able to eliminate carbon dioxide from every industrial source in the United States, it would have virtually no impact on global carbon dioxide emissions.

I understand the concerns over true smog and pollution. I grew up in Southern California—graduating from high school in 1976. At that time, we had made a mess of our environment. We had polluted the air and water. Cleaning up our collective act was an important public policy issue. San Bernardino, California, where my family lived, is in a valley, surrounded by mountains. It was not uncommon for a family to move into the area in the summer, when the smog was the worst, and not even know the beautiful mountains existed. In the fall, when the winds came in and blew the smog out to sea, newcomers where amazed to discover the mountains.

But that pollution, that smog, has largely been cleaned up. Utilities have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on scrubbers, and other highly technical equipment such as SCR’s, electrostatic precipitators, and bag houses, to, successfully, remove the vast majority of the particulates. People often see a billowing white cloud coming from the stacks at a coal-fueled power plant and confuse it with pollution when it is really H2O—water in the form of steam. Depending on the time of year, or the time of day, it may be more, or less, visible. The weather conditions may make it settle like fog until the sun burns it off. And this, I believe, is mistaken for pollution.

If you haven’t seen Randy Scott Slavin’s Bird’s-Eye-View of New York City, I encourage you to check it out as it shows an amazingly clean city—despite the more than 8 million people living in those compact 469 square miles. New York City is one of the most populated places on the planet, yet its air is sparkling.

This rule is not about pollution. It is about shutting down coal-fueled power plants and killing jobs and raising electricity rates—both of which punish people who can least afford it. But plenty of others have addressed the economic impact so I won’t take more of my time on that topic.

Dozens of members from a variety of different unions were present in Atlanta to speak out against the plan. Skip Howard, Business Manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 421 in North and South Carolina, explained: “Although Nuclear Power is a clean, renewable source of energy and not affected by fluctuating oil-and-gas prices, energy from Coal-fired Plants is cheaper and helps keep the cost of electricity affordable to consumers. Coal-fired Plants are reliable and cheaper to build than a Nuclear Plant. Coal-fired plants are now designed to be a safe and efficient source of energy that supports grid systems, helping to avoid blackouts. New clean coal technologies create many thousands of new high-wage jobs across our country, helping our economy grow.” 

Several of the union members who testified in Atlanta assailed the EPA representatives because the hearing locations were far from where those most impacted—the coal miners—live.  

I spent some time on Tuesday talking with many of the union representatives. David Cagle, Marketing Representative for the Plumbers, Pipefitters, and HVAC/R Service Technicians Local Union 72 based in Atlanta, told me: “I appreciate your interest in helping our country to be able to continue to provide economical electric energy and well-paying jobs to America’s families and businesses.” He, then, offered me this brief history of what the coal-fired electric energy industry means to his family: 

After World War II my father worked in one of the first large coal-fired powerhouses built in the state of Georgia. That well-paying job allowed him to help his parents pay off the mortgage on their house and also to start saving for a down payment for a home of his own one day. 

My father worked on several coal-fired powerhouses throughout his career in the piping industry. These well-paying jobs provided a decent standard of living for his family.

The powerhouses that my father helped build are still providing well-paying jobs for the people who run them and the workers who do the maintenance on them. Hundreds of thousands of construction workers have benefited from the well-paying jobs in the construction and maintenance of these facilities. They are also still providing low-cost electrical power to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of customers. 

Beside my family benefiting from the coal-powered electric generation industry, I can tell you firsthand what coal does for our country across the continent. 

I lived in Campbell County, Wyoming for two years in the mid-90s. Campbell County Wyoming is the Energy Capitol of the United States. Thousands of families would lose a very good way of living, if the coal mines in Wyoming were shut down. The coal mined there is very low sulfur and produces some of the cleanest electricity on earth. I also know many people from West Virginia who depend on coal to be able to make a decent living. 

I fully understand the devastating effects the Obama administration’s new EPA rules on coal-fired powerhouses would have on people on a fixed income. My parents are in their late 80’s and early 90’s. They are on a fixed income and in poor health. The last thing they need are large power bills that would destroy their budget and force them to rely on their children to help pay their power bills. 

My whole family are outdoorsmen. We have all been raised to hunt and fish and respect and protect our environment. My family would be the first to embrace a low-cost environmentally sound alternative to coal-fired powerhouses. The problem is, there is no alternative economically viable source available at this time. 

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) covered a union protest that took place at the Pittsburgh hearing. Itstates: “Unions opposing the proposed rule argue that U.S. workers will pay the price for lowering emissions domestically while other countries—most notably China, where coal usage has grown rapidly—will continue to burn coal and emit carbon dioxide.” The WSJ reported: “unions focused their efforts on Pittsburgh, sending busloads of unionized miners, utility workers, railroad workers and others from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama and other states.”

But, I do want to address the constitutionality of the proposed plan, as it does exactly what the Supreme Court admonished the EPA about on June 23. Justice Antonin Scalia, for the majority, wrote this about the Tailoring Rule decision: “Were we to recognize the authority claimed by EPA in the Tailoring Rule, we would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers… The power of executing laws…does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms that turn out not to work in practice.” Yet, this is exactly what this proposed plan will do.

Later in the decision, Scalia says: “When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate ‘a significant portion of the American economy’ . . . we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism. We expect Congress to speak clearly if it wishes to assign an agency decisions of vast ‘economic and political significance.’”

I believe on these grounds, this plan must not go forward. It is one more example of executive overreach.

I fear that if it does, America will pay a dear price. This hearing was scheduled to take place down the street at the Sam Nunn Federal Center. However, it was moved due to a power outage. Note: business cannot be done without power. You were able to move this hearing. In a reduced-power environment businesses will move to places where they have access to energy that is effective, efficient, and economical. They will move, as many have already done, to places with far-looser environmental policies and the perceived gain will be lost.

Thinking that what we do in the United States will have a serious impact on global carbon dioxide emissions is like thinking that declaring a “no pee” section in the swimming pool will keep all the water urine free.

I’ll end with a quote from the smog-viewing attorney who closed with: “I am hopeful that my new grandchildren, who will live into the 22nd century, will enjoy a world that my grandparents, born in the 19th century, would recognize.” If this plan is passed, he may get his wish. His grandparents’ world contained none of the energy-based modern conveniences or medical miracles we consider standard and essential today—let alone those yet to be developed or discovered by the 22nd century. In his grandparents’ day, life expectancy in the U.S. was estimated at 45 years. By 2000, this had increased to 78 years—mostly due to our expansion of cost-effective electricity throughout the nation.

Remember, the countries with the best human health and the most material wealth are those with the highest energy consumption. America needs energy that is abundant, available and affordable.

* * * *

While the public hearings are over, you can still give the EPA your comments online. Please add your voice to the debate. http://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/how-comment-clean-power-plan-proposed-rule


[Originally published at Red State]


Categories: On the Blog

Paying for permissionless innovation

Out of the Storm News - August 05, 2014, 11:49 AM

We’re big fans of permissionless innovation—the concept and Adam Thierer’s excellent book. The biggest, most consequential enemy of permissionless innovation in the United States is undoubtedly the Food and Drug Administration. Its long, expensive approval process delays access to life-saving drugs and other innovations for years, dramatically increases the price of such things once they reach the market, and skews the investment incentives for the health industry. Many economists would like to see the FDA radically reformed, some would like to abolish it entirely. In the spirit of the sort of political compromises that Milton Friedman was famous for proposing, I’d like to suggest an intermediate solution: a permissionless premium.

Here’s how it would work: there would be some specified amount (either an absolute amount per unit or a percentage of the revenue) that patients would have to pay in order to get a given drug or access to a medical device before it was FDA approved. The patient should be made well aware that the risks are at this point unknown (not that they’re thoroughly understood just after FDA approval anyway). The revenue would bolster the FDA’s budget, thus in theory helping to investigate the risks associated with the drug and drugs like it in the future.

Moreover, this would allow pharmaceutical companies to start getting revenue before FDA approval, lowering the burden of their overhead. As things currently stand, they spend billions on drug development and by the time the FDA process is complete, they have a very short window before their patent expires. As Alex Tabarrok documents well, the result is that pharma companies have almost no incentive to develop drugs that treat diseases that are anything other than very broadly experienced. The pharma dream in this scenario is not to find an effective treatment for rare but aggressive cancers, but to find the next Lipitor.

However, if they could develop experimental new drugs for rare diseases that could be bring in revenue immediately, that might just change the cost-benefit analysis sufficiently to see some real progress on that front. The premium will act as a Pigovian tax rather than an outright ban on the consumption of such still largely untested drugs, and will help fund both pharmaceutical companies and the FDA’s efforts to increase our stock of medical knowledge. It seems, from a number of perspectives, to be a win-win.

The News Media Now Reports All Weather as ‘Extreme’

Somewhat Reasonable - August 05, 2014, 11:07 AM

In a desperate effort to keep the global warming hoax alive even though it is now called “climate change”, the meteorologically challenged print and broadcast media is now declaring all weather “extreme” these days.

The Media Research Institute recently analyzed broadcast network transcripts between July 1, 2004 and July 1, 2005, along with those between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014. What it discovered was the network coverage of “extreme weather” had increased nearly one thousand percent!

As Sean Long reported, “during that time, extreme weather was frequently used by the networks to describe heat waves, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, and winter storms, and they often included the phrase in onscreen graphics or chyrons during weather stories.”

Thanks to Al Gore who continues to lie about global warming despite the fact that the Earth has been in a cooling cycle for seventeen years, the news media, print and broadcast, now substitutes its latest reincarnation, “climate change”, when reporting the weather. It’s worth noting that the weather is what is outside right now wherever you are and climate is something that is measured in decades and centuries.

The one thing you need to keep in mind is that every form of weather has been around for much of the Earth’s 4.5 billion years. Long before humans were blamed for causing it, they developed ways to adapt and survive, but tornadoes, hurricanes and floods, among other events, still kill humans with the same indifference to them that Mother Nature has always demonstrated.

Gore became a multi-millionaire based on the global warming scam and, along the way; the U.S. wasted an estimated $50 billion on alleged “research” whose sole purpose was to give credence to it. Too many scientists lined their pockets with taxpayer dollars and many government agencies increased their budgets while falsifying their findings.

The entertainment media got into the act by producing films such as Showtime’s “documentary series” called “Years of Living Dangerously.”  It has received two nominations for “Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series and Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming.” Its executive producer, Joel Bach, said “Every day, more Americans are experiencing the devastating impacts of a warming world and we had to tell their story.” Except that the world is NOT warming.

The Showtime series featured those noted climatologists and meteorologists, Harrison Ford, Jessica Alba, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Matt Damon among others. The final episode featured President Obama whose climate lies rival Al Gore’s. “Science is science”, said the President. “And there is no doubt that if we burned all the fossil fuel that’s in the ground right now, that the planet’s going to get too hot and the consequences could be dire.”

The real dire consequences people around the world are encountering include frostbite and freezing to death.

In a June article in Forbes magazine, James Taylor, editor of The Heartland Institute’s Environmental & Climate News, noted that “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s most accurate, up-to-date temperature data confirm the United States has been cooling for at least a decade. The NOAA temperature data are driving a stake through the heart of alarmists claiming accelerating global warming.” The latest data support the longer cooling cycle that began around 1997.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently announced that “The growing consequences of climate change are putting many of the country’s most iconic and historic sites at risk”, citing Ellis Island, the Everglades, Cape Canaveral and California’s Cesar Chavez National Monument. The UCS said that “we must work to minimize these risks in the future by reducing the carbon emissions that are causing climate change…” This is utter rubbish.

Called a “pollutant” by the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide is, along with oxygen, a natural gas that is vital to all life on Earth as the “food” on which all vegetation depends.

William Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics at Princeton University, told the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that “Our exhaled breath contains about 4% CO2. That is 40,000 parts per million or about 100 times the current atmospheric concentration. Our own primate ancestors evolved when the levels of atmospheric CO2 were about 1000 parts per million, a level that we will probably not reach by burning fossil fuels, and far above our current level of about 380 parts per million.”

The Earth would benefit from more, not less, CO2.

How concerned is the public? Not very. In May, a Gallup poll noted that Americans consider unemployment/jobs, government corruption, and the economy as the three “most important” problems facing the nation. “Just 3% of those surveyed listed the environment/pollution as America’s most important problem. From a list of thirteen problems, it was number twelve.

The news media will continue to misrepresent the weather and/or climate and those determined to keep us from accessing and using the USA’s vast reserves of coal, oil and natural gas will continue to lie about it. The good news is that a growing portion of the public no longer believes the three decades of lies.

© Alan Caruba, 2014


[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama Administration Doing Everyone’s Job – But Theirs

Somewhat Reasonable - August 05, 2014, 10:46 AM

The Barack Obama Administration has spent just about its entire tenure doing things it is not supposed to do.

The myriad executive branch Departments, Agencies, Commissions and Boards have been in omni-directional fashion vastly exceeding their authority – doing things that are clearly the Constitutional purview of (amongst other others) the legislative and judicial branches.

In so doing, these many Leviathan tentacles leave unattended the things they are actually supposed to do.

The examples of proactive overreaches and attending abrogations are nearly without limit.

The executive branch Administration is supposed to enforce existing immigration law.  They are not.  They are instead pretending to be the legislative branch and making up out of whole cloth brand new law.  And are now threatening to do so – even huge-er – yet again.

This Administration signed into law the Affordable Care Act.  It has since unilaterally rewritten it forty-two times.  They have been so focused on illegally re-doing Congress’ job over and over again that they fundamentally fumbled the parts of the law they were actually supposed to handle.  Like the ObamaCare website.  On which they have wasted (thus far) $840 billion – and which still doesn’t work.

When the Administration isn’t pretending to be Congress, it is taking on the role of the Supreme Court –unilaterally declaring unConstitutional things like the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Administration won’t even keep its myriad wings on task – or in their respective lanes.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has just about given up on manned space flight.  And is instead prioritizing…boosting Muslim self-esteem – and pushing global warming andgeneral Leftist activism.

Perhaps if the Administration wasn’t so focused on fundamentally transforming America – veterans and diplomats in their Veterans Administration (VA) and State Department charge wouldn’t have died.

The Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is no less distracted by wander-power-lust.

The FCC is supposed to operate within the confines of the 1996 Telecommunications Act – the last time the legislative branch laid out the FCC’s parameters.  Does the law need a rewrite?  To be sure.  But Congressional gridlock is not a green light for President Obama or his FCC to exceed existing authority.

The 1996 Act intentionally left the Internet almost completely unregulated – which is why it has become the free speech-free market Xanadu we all know and love.  Why on Earth would we want to increase government control of the Internet?  We shouldn’t – and most of us don’t.

But of course Obama’s FCC does.  Without any actual legal authority, it is working tirelessly to dramatically increase government imposition on the Web.

The FCC has already twice imposed Network Neutrality – and twice been unanimously rebuked by the D.C. Circuit Court.  Undaunted, they are currently considering an even huge-er Internet power grab.

They are looking to steamroll the laws of twenty states – who do not want any more uber-failed government broadband – to jam more government broadband down their throats.  Which will be bad money after bad money after bad.  We wasted $7.2 billion in federal coin on government broadband in the 2009 “Stimulus” bill – after the states themselves wasted on it a billion or two and the entirety of the 2000s.

Meanwhile, the very few things on which the FCC is supposed to move – aren’t moving.  Key amongst these is identifying and mapping government-controlled wireless spectrum – so as to prep it for sale to the private sector.

Private wireless service is hurtling heroically forward – getting routinely, exponentially faster and ever more accommodating of ever more data.  But video use is exploding – and video is a gi-normous bandwidth hog.  The wireless revolution has been and is amazing – but it needs more spectrum to deal with the ever increasing video and data use and continue its phenomenal-ness.

Spectrum is a finite resource – and not all spectrum is equal.  Think of it as a Monopoly board.  Some of it is minimally useful Baltic and Mediterranean Avenue, some of it premiere Boardwalk and Park Place – and the rest exists all around the board.

The federal government holds about 60% of all spectrum – much of it of the higher and highest quality.  And they are using it woefully inefficiently (shocker). And they have no idea exactly what they have (shocker) – which is where the FCC is supposed to come in.

The FCC has been promising for years to map government’s spectrum, clear as much of it as possible – and get it out the door for private sector use.

But they haven’t been doing their actual job – because they’ve been far too consumed with doing everyone else’s.

The FCC – the entire Obama Administration – needs to get back to their legitimate, legal parameters.

And their actual tasks at hand.


[Originally published at RedState]


Categories: On the Blog

Supreme Court and European Union Expose Google’s Massive Privacy Liabilities

Somewhat Reasonable - August 05, 2014, 9:43 AM

Google has privacy clay feet.

The NSA and Big Data may also, since they are relying on many of the same outdated legal assumptions as Google.

In the last few months, both the U.S. Supreme Court and European authorities have made new baseline privacy decisions that have greatly strengthened individuals’ right to privacy. As a result, they’ve also exposed and heightened Google’s massive privacy liabilities.

Contrary to tech-driven conventional wisdom, privacy is not dead. It’s being resurrected by SCOTUS in the U.S. and by various European authorities in the EU.

This post-Snowden change is real and profound. The next twenty years will be different than the last when it comes to privacy.

Some may have heard of some of these individual privacy decisions, but most have missed the new big trend — that people actually do have a legal right to privacy.

Google is the focus of this privacy discussion because of its pervasive, invasive collection of private data, and its uniquely defiant legal and operational assumption that people have “no expectation of privacy” when Google acquires their private data.

Let’s start in the U.S.

Last month SCOTUS refused to hear Google’s appeal in “Google v. Joffe,” which declared Google Street View’s mass-collection of millions of homes’ unencrypted WiFi signals as illegal interceptions, or wiretaps, of private communications — not legal collection of public communications, as Google tried to argue.

This is a big decision — the court effectively rejected Google’s longstanding data-collection presumption that if communications are not encrypted and Google can technically, easily, or cheaply intercept them, then Google can deem them public instead of private.

Google’s routine records interception of communications from Google and non-Google users involving Gmail, Glass, YouTube, Android, etc. represents the company’s broad legal presumption of “implied consent.”

The seriousness here for Google is two-fold. The first discovery  was in the Gmail class action case “Fread v. Google,” which exposed Google’s secret install of a “Content One Box” to intercept, read and analyze all emails prior to reception from 2010 to 2013, according to Bloomberg.

In the case Federal District Court Judge Lucy Koh ruled Google was not exempt from wiretap law, and that creating personal advertising profiles by reading people’s email is not an “ordinary course of business.” Koh went to say that “accepting Google’s theory of implied consent… would eviscerate the [wiretap] rule against interception.”

That means Google secretly, and without reasonable consent from users, intercepted three years of email communications from more than one hundred million Americans and just as many Europeans for commercial purposes.

It is very likely the largest illegal commercial wiretap in history.

In the court’s “Riley v. California” decision last month, the court ruled unanimously that a person has a right to privacy over the content of their smartphone, and that police must get a warrant to search it.

According to the court, “modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all that they reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life.”

The decision marks a revolutionary and transformative privacy precedent.

Google and the NSA have justified their omni-interception and collection of people’s data on the pre-digital 1979 SCOTUS precedent “Smith v. Maryland.”

At the time the court ruled that checking a third party’s phone logs was not a search, and thus people had “no expectation of privacy” if a third party gained possession of someone’s private information.

Anyone who reads the unanimous “Riley v. California” decision can’t help but realize that the court, for the first time since 1979, has effectively updated and changed its fundamental legal take on the constitutional right to privacy, and what a digital search constitutes today.

Apparently technology may change, but one’s constitutional right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment does not.

Google and Big Data undoubtedly have taken note concern, because if the circumstances require the government to get a warrant, third parties will be expected to get reasonable consent from users to obtain their private data for commercial purposes.

According to the court “more substantial privacy interests are at stake when digital is involved,” and “cell phones differ in both quantitative and qualitative sense from other objects.”

The court was unanimous in recognizing four big privacy changes: the breadth of “many distinct types” of private information that reveal much more in combination,” the vast “capacity” of data involved, that information can “date back for years,” and that “the data viewed… may be stored on a remote server.”

Now consider that Google combines orders of magnitude more information about more people than any cellphone, stores an unimaginable amount of data about people, stores it largely indefinitely and does it all on remote servers.

If the court applies this new Internet-age logic and digital data reality to future privacy cases involving Google, the NSA or Big Data, they’re logically going to come to a different conclusion than SCOTUS did in 1979.

Big change is afoot for privacy in the U.S., and even bigger in Europe.

In March the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted 621-10 for stronger data protection laws in its first update to European privacy law since the advent of the Internet in 1995.

That same month, the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling for the suspension of the US-EU data protection Safe Harbor that lets U.S. firms self-certify as being in compliance with EU privacy law in a 644-78 vote.

The EU is asserting sovereignty over the European Internet, so European data will be subject to EU law and stored in the EU. The law also grants EU citizens the right to demand erasure of their online data for the first time.

In May a high-profile court decision by The Court of Justice of the European Union quickly enforced Europeans’ “right to be forgotten” by requiring search engines like Google to remove links to irrelevant or outdated information on regular citizens based on their right to privacy.

“The ruling confirms the need to bring today’s data protection rules from the ‘digital stone age’ into today’s modern computing world,” EC Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said.

The ruling eviscerates Google’s claim that it has an absolute right to free speech in organizing search results, and that no outsider can legitimately request a change in the Google search algorithm. The legitimization of the right to be forgotten will lead to more exemptions for privacy, copyright, etc.

The development that may signal the biggest privacy liability for Google may be a recent decision by the Italian data protection authority, which could be the first of such national decisions to come from France, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands and the U.K. — countries that previously have banded together to enforce privacy law against Google.

“Google would not be allowed to use the data to profile users without their prior consent and would have to tell them explicitly that the profiling was being done for commercial purposes,” the Italian ruling said, according to Reuters. “It also demanded that requests from users with a Google account to delete their personal data be met in up to two months.”

To the extent that European privacy authorities enforce European data protection law, Google will have to revolutionize the way it treats Europeans’ privacy and data.

Europe is essentially calling Google’s bluff.

Now the company that has long boasted of its innovation and superiority in targeted advertising and personalized services on a global basis will be expected by European privacy authorities to, in turn, personalize European users’ real control over what information Google collects on them and how it monetizes it.

The more the privacy authorities learn, the more they will realize that Google has broken users’ private data eggs and scrambled them for their own convenience and profit maximization.

Undoing this mess of Google’s own making is going to be very costly for Google. It will take many years and constant regulatory vigilance by the EC and EU member nations to accomplish.

Other Big Data companies have privacy liabilities, but none on the scale, scope and seriousness facing Google going forward.

Justice Roberts poignantly wrote that “privacy has a cost” in the recent “Riley v. California“ decision.

“Privacy has a cost” because privacy is valuable.

It appears the tech assault on privacy rights of the last twenty years may have bottomed out, and the legal obligation of respecting individual’s right to privacy is beginning a long climb back.

Google is on a collision course with SCOTUS and the EU — Google will either be forced to respect people’s privacy, or the two will surrender their sovereignty to Google’s exceptional market power over private information.

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Cloward and Piven’s Marxist-Based Radicalism Alive Today

Somewhat Reasonable - August 05, 2014, 9:28 AM

[This article was co-authored by Elizabeth Clarke]

An an Education Reporter article published July 2007, William A. Borst wrote:

The public schools have become the new Marxist laboratories for social engineering. The average public schools is mired in a sociological swamp of pornographic sex education, declining test score, violence and speech codes. . . They have created what David Kupelian calls [in his book, "The Marketing of Evil"] an “Alice in Wonderland environment.” where small boys are dosed with Ritalin to contain their natural restlessness while others are suspended for playing Cowboys and Indians. . . One of the greatest casualties of progressive education has been literacy. The progressives abandoned traditional phonics, the sounding out of words, which necessitates the memorization of each individual word.

Phyllis Schlafly in her Eagle Forum article of November 15, 2006, Public Schools Define American Culture, relates the significance of Sidney Simon’s 1972 book “Values Clarification.” Simon’s book sold nearly a million copies and was widely used to teach students to “clarify” their values, such as casting off their parents’ values and making their own choices based on situation ethics. This was followed by the public schools welcoming Kinsey-trained sexperts that espoused diversity to sex-in-marriage.

Few will dispute that public schools guide the morals, attitude, knowledge and decision-making of most American children. The countless billions spent every year, which are forcibly taken from us in taxes, are spent by the public school establishment under what amount to a thin veneer of accountability to school board members elected in government-run elections.

Those who attended public schools prior to the 1960′s did quite well. Teachers accepted their role in defining the culture of the children under their supervision. Some of you might remember using a McGuffey-Reader-style curriculum through which children learned not only the basics but also values such as honesty and patriotism, while immigrant children assimilated into the American culture by learning our language and culture.

How then did schools become, as described by William Borst, “new Marxist laboratories for social engineering?”  The origin can be traced back to Karl Marx  and his theories developed in association with philosopher Friedrich Engels, which include:

  • All historical change was caused by a series of class struggles between the bourgeoisie “haves” and the proletariat “have nots.”
  • Capitalism was the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.”  Like previous socioeconomic systems, capitalism produced internal tensions which would lead to its self-destruction and replacement by a new system:socialism.

John Dewey’s role at Columbia University

Marx’s philosophy was embraced by Humanist John Dewey.  Dewey, born in Vermont (1859 – 1952), was a confirmed socialist.  He is viewed today as the “Father of Progressive Education.”  Dewey put into practice what he saw happening in Russia during the 1920′s when a professor of philosophy at Columbia University while working at the Columbia Teachers College on the side.  Dewey was mesmerized by the Soviet ideal of a world without capitalists, traditional families, or religion.

John Dewey taught at Columbia for 25 years from 1904 to 1930.  But it was while John Dewey was a teacher and researcher at the Columbia Teachers College that his influence in American education was unparalleled.  W.F. Ward (George Novack) relates in his article, “John Dewey’s Theories of Education”:

Dewey’s theories blended attention to the child as an individual with rights and claims of his own with a recognition of the gulf between an outdated and class-distorted educational setup inherited from the past and the urgent requirements of the new era.

By the early 1950′s Columbia was producing a third of the nation’s largest school system’s principals and superintendents.  As such Dewey’s education philosophy set in motion a progressive education movement (learning by living) which spawned many experimental educational programs.

It was not until the 1960′s, however, when the turning point for education occurred, resulting from Dewey’s past influence and his Columbia Teachers College acolytes who argued against objective truth, authoritative notions of good and evil, and religion and tradition. During the same 1960′s era Columbia likewise earned its reputation as a hotbed of academic progressive radicalism, which exists to the present day by means of a network of Open Society Foundation (OSF) funding.  Founded in 1993, known as the Open Society Institute until 2011, the OSF is a grant making operation of George Soros, well-known as a supporter of progressive-liberal political causes.

Cloward/Piven as 1960 acolytes of Dewey at Columbia

Richard A Cloward, born in 1926 as the son of a radical Baptist minister, is defined as a sociologist and social activist who was an architect of the welfare rights movement. Cloward earned both his master’s and doctoral degrees at the Columbia University School of Social Work before joining the Columbia faculty in 1954. He served as a faculty member at the Columbia University from 1954 until his death in 2001 at age 74.  While at Columbia, Cloward won numerous awards for his teaching and academic work

Frances Fox Piven was born in Calgary, Alberta, Canada in 1932.  A daughter of Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Piven was married to Richard Coward.  Having outlived her husband who died in 2001, Piven, at 82, remains a member of the Democratic Socialists of America (Communist Party), as was her late husband, and serves as one of the eight honorary chairs of that organization.

Piven remains active as a Socialist agitator.  During an interview early in 2000, Fox Piven praised socialism as a movement founded on “the values of equality and fraternity and democracy.” She further added: “That tradition has a future.  It’s the only future that’s possible.”  By Piven’s reckoning socialism would be instituted in the U.S. by means of an incremental rather than a revolutionary process (and its happening!).

In 2011 Fox Piven rang in the New Year with renewed calls for a revolution. In an editorial published in The Nation, “Mobilizing the Jobless,” Piven called on ‘”the jobless to rise up in a violent show of solidarity and force with language that was dripping of class struggle,” the same language she and her late husband Richard Cloward had made popular in the 60′s.  In October of the same year, Piven gave a speech of protest at an Occupy Wall Street rally. Listen here.

The 1966 Cloward-Piven strategy

During the 60′s while husband and wife Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Pivenwere both political activists and professors of sociology at the Columbia University School of Social Work, they produced a political strategy for which they are most remembered.  It called for the overloading of the U.S. public welfare system in order to precipitate a crisis that would lead to a replacement of the welfare system with a national system of “a guaranteed annual incomeand thus an end to poverty”. The strategy, known as the Cloward-Piven strategy, was formulated in a May 1966 article in the liberal magazine, The Nation, titled “The Weight of the Poor:  A Strategy to End Poverty.” The article helped to foster the emergence of a more militant welfare rights movement, including the occupation of welfare offices in many cities and other acts of civil disobedience.

Cloward and Piven believed that many Americans who were eligible for welfare were not receiving benefits, and that a welfare enrollment drive would strain local budgets, precipitating a crisis at the state and local levels that would be a wake-up call for the federal government, specifically the Democratic Party, to take federal action to help the poor (In 1966 Democrats controlled both the presidency and both houses of the United States Congress.).

Cloward and Piven were likewise the impetus for the Motor Voter law of 1993. In 1983 Piven and Cloward co-founded HUMAN SERVE, an organization that sought to register voters at social-service agencies and Departments of Motor Vehicles. This organization foreshadowed the so-called “motor voter” law of 1993, which would prove to be a breeding ground for election fraud.  Bill Clinton invited Cloward and Preven to the White House at the bill signing ceremony.

Cloward-Piven strategy as applied today

Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, both lifelong members of the Democratic Socialists of America, drew many of the ideas outlined in their Cloward-Piven strategy from Saul Alinksy, who we know as Chicago’s notorious revolutionary community organizer.

It is not an overstatement to say that President Obama, instead of trying to lead America to recovery, prosperity, and strength, is doing just the opposite. His strategy, sometimes called the Strategy of Manufactured Crisis, is  akin to the Cloward-Piven methodology which David Horowitz described as such

The ‘Cloward-Piven Strategy’ seeks to hasten the fall of capitalism by overloading the government bureaucracy with a flood of impossible demands, thus pushing society into crisis and economic collapse.

Crowning achievements of the Cloward-Piven Strategy prior to the election of Obama, as noted by James Simpson in his American Thinker article, “Cloward-Piven Government,” was the creation of the radical reform organization ACORN which exploited our electoral system and the passing of the already mentioned Motor Voter law of 1993. Motor Voter opened up registration to a vast number of illegal immigrants who then reliably vote Democrat.

With the election of President Obama in 2008, the Cloward-Piven Strategy was ramped up on a scale never seen before.  Since then this nation has been flooded with a tidal wave of poisonous initiatives, orders, regulations, laws, and executive orders.  It was Rahm Emmanuel who famously said as Obama’s Chief Advisor during Obama’s first term, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”

Upon reflection, the ultimate goal of the health care legislation, of attempts to enact cap-and-trade, and of the massive stimulus package, was to rip the guts out of our private economy and transfer wide swaths of it over to government control.  Through the deliberate enactment of a flood of legislation that seems never ending, many Americans are becoming so discouraged, demoralized and exhausted that they are have given up or have become too distracted to fight.


Might it be because of the brazen way in which Piven has been making her intentions known since 2000 with no fear of retaliation, that the current administration has been given a license to brazenly undermine the “Constitution” to initiate polices that are in opposition to the basic concepts of freedom and liberty?  Despite the Obama administration’s violation of countless laws that do quality for action under the provisions of our Constitution, too many Americans remain oblivious to what is happening around them, while the mainstream media harbors the same socialist philosophy held by Leftists.  The Left, feeling comfortable given the political climate, are not hesitant to express their views openly, freely, and unabashedly without fear.

Every citizen who cares about this country should be spending every minute of their spare time lobbying, organizing, writing and planning.  This is not too much to ask to save our Republic and our democratic way of life.  Destructive initiatives must be fought, as is now happening as countless Americans are rising up against the massive surge of illegal immigrants from Central American countries.

We are up against an evil force.  It is critical that we root out evil in November by electing competent and principled leaders who are willing to defend our “Constitution.”  If not what has been set in motion will be too entrenched to change, and this once proud and strong nation will cease to exist.


[Originally published in Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

The sharing economy will thrive only if government doesn’t strangle it

Out of the Storm News - August 04, 2014, 1:02 PM

The so-called sharing economy is many things to many people. To Wall Street and Silicon Valley, firms like Uber and Airbnb offer tantalizing market capitalizations, the likes of which have not been seen since the go-go ’90s. At the same time, political operatives see the emerging debates over regulation of ride-sharing and space-sharing as a potential opening for the libertarian right to assert their world view in urban politics for the first time in a long time.

At the other end of the political spectrum, some on the left see the rise of these services as yet another brick in the wall of income inequality, putting downward pressure on service workers’ already paltry incomes while simultaneously expanding the myriad opportunities the wealthy already have to pay to jump to the front of most any line. Others on the far left disagree, going so far as to hold up “peer to peer” transactions as the model for a new, post-capitalist economic regime.

If ye gaze into the sharing economy, the sharing economy gazes also into ye. It contains multitudes.

It’s easy to dismiss these various takes as just more grist for the hype mill, as pointless navel-gazing over fads that most Americans have never used and for which they might never have need. But there is reason to suspect the sharing economy might, in fact, be more than that. Indeed, the potential economic benefits of putting our vast stores of trapped and dormant capital into the stream of commerce and reducing the costs of productive work on the margin really are quite enormous.

A national survey in the United Kingdom showed that, in 2008, more than one in every three households was “under-occupied,” with more bedrooms than people to sleep in them. Meanwhile, of the world’s roughly 1 billion cars, about 740 million are mostly used only by a single rider. These sorts of statistics help demonstrate the scope of currently fallow resources that new technological platforms are beginning to put to productive use. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that social technologies could unlock $900 billion to $1.3 trillion of annual consumer surplus in just four key sectors of the economy: consumer packaged goods, consumer financial services, professional services and advanced manufacturing.

In this way, it’s possible that Lyft and Flightcar, SnapGoods and ShareDesk, TaskRabbit and Etsy and DogVacay – rather than merely being the new digital toys of over-entitled millennial hipsters – are following in the footsteps of other grand innovations and social movements throughout history that have unlocked trapped capital and powered economic growth. These include the public offerings of non-railroad companies in the 1920s and the development of high-yield bonds in the 1980s. But they also include the even larger unlocking of human capital that came in the form of the mass movement of women into the U.S. workforce and the opening of skilled jobs to African-Americans in the second half of the 20th century.

But in order to achieve these benefits, regulators must not strangle the emerging peer production economy in the cradle. In too many cases, when confronted with disruptive business methods, the tendency of public officials is to apply regulatory models developed in an earlier era. This obviously provides clear benefits to incumbent firms, but the benefits for consumers, who lose access to expanded choices and cheaper prices, is not so obvious.

In a new paper, my colleague Andrew Moylan and I suggest regulators tread extremely lightly in this emerging sector, allowing firms and industries to self-regulate to the extent practical. For instance, reputation has shown itself a powerful force in these markets, where most firms offer a system for participants to rate each transaction. Those who receive consistently poor ratings are edged out and sometimes barred from operating, while those who receive good ratings see that translated into better sales.

Which is not to say that there is no room for regulation of any kind. For providers of services such as transportation and lodging, it may be appropriate to require they maintain liability insurance to cover the costs of injuries sustained by consumers. Where this is the case, insurance can also serve something of a self-regulatory function, as insurers tend to make coverage available at attractive rates to those who demonstrate good market conduct, while limiting coverage or raising rates on those who demonstrate a pattern of recklessness. (We also would urge peer production services, the insurance industry and insurance regulators to work together to develop and approve new products in areas where existing offerings are not good fits for the nature of these emerging risks.)

Finally, where lawmakers do find the need to pass new legislation to deal with sharing economy services, they should take this opportunity to significantly scale back, rather than increase, reliance on occupational licensure. Occupational licensing laws, which impact as much as one-third of the U.S. workforce, cost roughly $100 billion annually in lost economic output, despite no evidence that licensing improves the quality of services provided to consumers.

The sharing economy has not, for the most part, birthed many truly novel services. Instead, what it does is harness technology to connect buyers and sellers who otherwise would not have connected. A regulatory approach that is modest and even-handed, and that does not discriminate between new and old providers or new and old business models, is the best way to ensure those connections are not cut prematurely.

What Mississippi can learn from Louisiana

Out of the Storm News - August 04, 2014, 11:56 AM

Good planning efforts can ensure that the coming financial windfall is not wasted.

One month into the 2014 hurricane season, Gulf Coast residents, businesses and governments once again have our eyes on the North Atlantic, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico. Of course, we all hope this season will be a calm one. But with many of our communities still feeling the effects of Katrina, Ike and Rita, we know how devastating these storms can be.

This summer, Mississippi and the other Gulf states will have a unique chance to make major investments in coastal restoration and improvement. If done correctly, there is a great opportunity for our states to significantly reduce the potential for damage from future hurricanes and floods.

The opportunity comes thanks to the RESTORE Act. Passed by Congress in 2012, the law earmarks to the five Gulf Coast states 80 percent of the civil fines stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The RESTORE Act directs the states to spend on projects that benefit both our economies and our natural environments.

If done right, our coastlines will become stronger, our communities better protected and our economies strengthened. But if done poorly, taxpayers could be left on the hook for big costs later on, and we will be no better protected against natural disasters than we are today.

In this regard, Mississippi could take a page from its neighbor to the west. Since 2007, Louisiana has undertaken a planning process to address the decades-long problem of coastal land loss that has taken a toll on our state’s economy and effectively moved the southern half of the state closer to the Gulf of Mexico and into harm’s way.

The result of this process is Louisiana’s “Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast,” a document most recently revised in 2012 and unanimously approved by the Legislature. The plan is ambitious, with a $50 billion price tag over the next half-century. But it’s also the first such plan in any state that would address coastal risks in a comprehensive, sustainable and cost-effective way.

Louisiana’s plan is held up as a model for a number of reasons. It is comprehensive and systematic, looking at the economic and ecological health of the coast and how different projects interact. It is budget-conscious and does not pretend that resources are unlimited. Because it has the support of the Legislature, the governor and stakeholders ranging from oil and gas companies to environmental groups, it represents a shared vision. This gives the plan a combination of popular legitimacy and political viability.

Finally, Louisiana lawmakers have passed legislation requiring that RESTORE Act funds go to master plan projects, making it unlikely that money will be wasted on projects that have not been thoroughly vetted or that don’t support coastal restoration.

The coastline is deeply important to both Louisiana and Mississippi for a number of reasons, not the least of which its importance to our economic growth. Across Mississippi’s three coastal counties, 26,000 jobs and $2 billion in annual spending are supported by nature-based tourism, such as hunting and recreational fishing. In fact, nearly one in five jobs along Mississippi’s coast is tourism-related, while the state’s commercial fishing industry tallies up some $250 million in sales annually.

With that in mind, the RESTORE Act will provide Mississippi an opportunity to make critical investments in its coastline, from restoring coastal habitats and barrier islands to enhancing flood control to better protect against future natural disasters. With sufficient and effective planning, Mississippians will reap the benefits of this investment for decades to come, but planning must be both transparent and participatory.

Just as a building is only as good as the blueprints that underlie it, the strengths of the coastal investments that Mississippi and other states make with RESTORE Act funds will only be as good as the plans that go into them. As unlikely as it may sound, Louisiana’s state government has done some first-class planning work, and we invite our neighbors to follow our lead.

Mr. President: Please Mind Your Own Business

Somewhat Reasonable - August 04, 2014, 11:35 AM

Dear President Obama,

For nearly six years, now, you have declared your intention and desire of being my Nanny-in-Chief. Your original campaign slogan of “Hope and Change” was really a promise of “Control and Command.” Well, Mr. President, I have a request: Mind your own business.

Let me start out with some simple questions. How do you know what is right and good for me? Have we ever met? Do you know anything about me as a real, living distinct individual? Have you the slightest idea about the goals and purposes, and hopes and dreams I’ve had about my life? What do you know about the experiences I’ve had or the knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years as the guides and tools for deciding what I consider best for my family and me?

The answers to these questions and countless others like them are: You don’t know a damn thing.  Yet you have proposed, implemented and enforced legislation and regulations that imply that you possess the knowledge, wisdom and, most importantly, the right to tell me how I should live, work, and act.

Your attitude and statements suggest a hubris and arrogance concerning your own superiority, along with those who work for you, that borders on a serious and dangerous elitist complex.

For someone who often refers to the dignity of the ordinary American against presumed powerful special interests, your own outlook and behavior manifests a disbelief in and contempt for the individual person as a free, responsible human being.


A Life of Hopeless Dependency on Government

In your world, Mr. President, everyone is a dependent child needing a paternalist government to take care of him or her from cradle-to-grave. Remember your “Life of Julia” story that you hailed as a model for the future world of triumphant “hope and change.” From her entry into kindergarten to her time in college, through her work life to final retirement, not one aspect of “Julia’s” life was considered possible without the “helping hand” of government to provide education, job security, financial support, and a guaranteed old age pension.

Years ago, singer Helen Reddy may have sang of independent women who could say, “Hear me roar.” But in the world you envisage every woman is presumed not able to stand on her own two feet, and to compete and succeed in a society of equal individual rights for all men and women.

No, she is clearly a “weaker sex” that cannot make it on her own without lifelong and unending safety nets and financial and regulatory supports from a government that is viewed as the “adult” who always has supervision over the eternal female adolescent.

Is this how you view your own daughters’ future, Mr. President, never free of a political Daddy that takes care of his “little girls,” because the governmental Daddy cannot imagine them growing up and being on their own?


Hubris of Presuming How I Should Live and Choose

Let’s talk about your signature legislation, ObamaCare. Set aside the embarrassing disaster that followed the initial opening of the website or the shock and the anger among millions of people who discovered the loss of their health insurance and the higher premiums they were now faced with under your “affordable” health care act.

The underlying premise behind ObamaCare is that you and those manning the bureaucracies in government know what every American needs and should have in terms of health insurance and medical care.

How do you and your “experts” know this, Mr. President? What makes you think you know enough about every one of the nearly 320 million Americans in terms of what would serve their health care needs and requirements?

The collectivist mindset that clearly guides your view of people and society reduces the entire population of the United States to a homogeneous and interchangeable mass that if not confined exactly to one size fits all, then to a rather narrow range of options from which the citizens of the nation are to be allowed and commanded to select.

Each of us, Mr. President, has our own circumstances, our own family needs and preferences, our own judgments about trades-offs between coverage, premiums and deductibles. Plus, our personal situations and evaluations about these and many other related matters change over time.

Do you sit at our dinner tables after the plates have been cleared when husbands and wives decide what they can afford, what is the best alternatives based on their estimates about what will serve their and their children’s health care requirements?

Do you not think that your attitude demonstrates a degree of hubris that you would find presumptuous if I or any other individual American were to mandate what you and your family should be allowed and coerced to have for your possible medical needs?


The Mentality of the Meddler

I don’t know your daughters or your wife or you, Mr. President. For that very reason I would not presume to tell you how to plan your family’s health care and insurance, or how to raise your children, or where to vacation, or how to spend your money, or how to manage the domestic “ups” and “downs” of any marriage between two unique individual human beings over the course of their lives together.

I would be considered a busy body, a meddler, a know-it-all, or an arrogant and irritating pest if I were to put my nose into the business of your personal and intimate affairs of everyday life. So why, Mr. President, do you presume to do just that through the rules, regulations, controls and commands that you say you are willing to us your pen and phone to impose on me?

I only ask that you show me the same respect as a free and self-responsible human being that you would expect from me if we were simply neighbors living next door to each other in any city, town or small hamlet across the United States.


The Arrogance of Presuming What I’m Worth

Finally, Mr. President, how do you know what my skills and abilities are worth to me or anyone else in terms of the salary I may earn in the marketplace? To be honest if someone had asked me whether I thought a person who had never worked in the business world, had never held any truly senior management and administrative responsibilities, and only had a few years of elected governmental office should be President of the United States and be paid $400,000 a year, I would have said, “I don’t think so,” and quiet separate from that person’s political views.

But there you are, Mr. President, sitting in the White House, holding your finger on the nuclear button, while having that pen and phone in your other hand. And with plenty of time to go golfing and flying off on Air Force One for Hawaiian vacations and fund-raising trips around the nation. Only in America! What a country!

So how do you know that the minimum wage that I should be paid is not less than $10.10 an hour? Why not $9.99 or $11.11? While we are at it, why not $20.20? The last one, after all, might match my eye vision. That seems pleasantly symmetrical.

The fact is that what anyone is worth in terms of services they might render to others in the market is dependent upon a whole variety of combined circumstances about which you and others in the government know absolutely nothing.

Each person’s background, education, personal and workplace experience and skills have certain distinct qualities and characteristics different from many others in the type of complex and diverse modern society in which we all live.

At the same time, what particular skills, knowledge and abilities possible employers are looking for from employees in the context of the products or services they offer and sell to consumers, given the potentially every-changing demands those buyers demonstrate in an on-going competitive market, should make it very clear that it is absurd for you or anyone else to sit in your governmental offices in Washington, D.C. and dictate what people may be worth in terms of an hourly wage.

Have you ever given any thought to the fact that your minimum wage policy might price some low or unskilled workers out of the market, because you’ve legally priced them above what many possible employers may think that are actually worth? Have you taken the time to reflect that you might be preventing someone from ever getting that entry-level job that may pay little at first, but over time provides them with the on-the-job experience that can make them more valuable to that or some other employer in the future?


Only Paying What You Think Something is Worth

Before you had government employees to serve you hand-and-foot in the White House, there was a time, Mr. President, when you, no doubt, went food shopping, or bought a car, or purchased a pair of shoes, or spent money on an anniversary gift for your wife.

You had a certain income that constrained what you could buy and how much of the various things you would have liked to have. In other words, there was a time when you were closer to being, well, like the rest of us.

Did you ever pay more for anything than you thought it was worth? Did you not sometimes hesitate or decide not to buy something or not of the quality or in quantity you might have desired, because to do so would have left you with too little money left over out of your limited budget to purchase something you considered to be more important to you or your family?

If you think back and remember such a time, then why do you think it is any different for the rest of us now? Say that a person may not be paid less than $10.10 per hour, and anyone that a prospective employer or customer does not consider to be worth this amount will not be hired.


Plundering for Political Power

Sitting in the White House, such a minimum wage may make you feel good, that you’ve imposed a salary floor that you consider “fair,” “socially just,” or every person’s entitlement “right.” But that will not help the poor individual left without a job, prevented from getting his foot on the bottom rung of the ladder of lifetime employment opportunity, and now dependent on the redistributive largess of paternalistic government.

But perhaps that is what you want. If others in society will not give people what you think they should pay them, then you’ll just tax the rest of us to pay for this unfortunate person’s welfare safety-net programs. And, besides, the government-supported unemployed and unemployable will feel so grateful to those who care for and feed them at other’s expense that they will show their appreciation by keeping those who think and act like you in political office.

Plunder some so you can pander to others to maintain the political power you cannot imagine your life without.


Individual Freedom Instead of Collectivist Control

Mr. President, this is not the America that the Founding Fathers of our country wanted for themselves, for their children, or the future generations for which they signed a Declaration of Independence or constructed a Constitution that was meant to restrain government and leave each individual free to be a self-governing human being responsible for his own life, and respectful of the equal freedom and rights of every other unique person in society.

I have a simple but profoundly important request, Mr. President: Mind your own business and leave me and everyone else alone. I don’t want you managing and controlling my life.

Do I always make the right choices and decisions? No, I do not. Just ask my wife!

But I do not want to be controlled by a political collective possessing coercive power to tell me what I may do or not do, or with whom I may associate and on what terms. I am not your slave, I am not your government ward, I am not some helpless or hopeless “Julia” who needs you to serve as my lifelong Nanny.

I declare that I am a thinking, reasoning human being. I am a free person with inalienable rights to my life, liberty and honestly acquired property. I insist upon my right to live for myself, guided by my own purposes and goals, and free to interact and exchange peacefully and voluntarily with all others, with the only essential moral principle behind my conduct toward them being that I respect their life and liberty just as I insist that they recognize and respect mine.

You, of all modern presidents, should be most sensitive to the dangers and immorality of making some men masters over others who are to be coerced and commanded as slaves.

The master-slave relationship is equally unethical and perverse whether the master is a private person owning other human beings on a plantation, or a “democratically elected” set of masters who use the power and force of the government to make some others obey their commands under the threat or use of political violence.

Mr. President, I ask you to mind your own business, and I promise not to put my nose into your life, in turn. If not, at least admit the truth that you arrogantly believe that you should be the head master on the political plantation that your vision of “hope and change” has really always been about.

[Originally published at Epic Times]


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