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Individual Self-Determination vs. Ukrainian or Russian Nationalism (Part 1)

March 19, 2014, 11:26 AM

The Ukrainian-Russian crisis over the de facto occupation of Crimea by Russian military forces, which has enveloped the concerns and fears of the world over the last several weeks, revolves around two conflicting claims of national self-determination. It has, once again, brought with it the danger of war on the European continent.

What is this conflict about? It concerns the issue of how it will be decided under what political authority people will live.

Americans do not easily understand the anger and fear this issue has for many in Europe and other parts of the world, and why it can result in such potential or actual violent conflict.

The American Philosophy of Individualism

The American political system was based on a philosophy of individualism. That is, each individual is recognized as possessing certain inalienable rights to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property. The individual is not the property of an absolute monarch or an arbitrary majority.

Under the traditional American system, virtually every area of human life was viewed as the private affairs of the individual who had that inalienable right to guide and design his life according to his own values, beliefs, and purposes. Interpersonal relationships in society were formed, took shape and changed over time based on the voluntary and mutually beneficial associations and exchanges into which people freely entered.

In the social arena this individualistic philosophy implied that people should be judged as individuals, and not on the basis of such “accidents of birth” as language, religion, ethnicity or race. Of course, and unfortunately, people in their social interactions with others have not always consistently practiced this ideal. Americans, in their private life, too frequently have judged others and acted on the basis of racial, religious, linguistic or other group prejudices.

However, where such racial prejudice was still legally imposed as in the southern states until the 1960s in the form of segregation laws, it was recognized by more and more Americans to be inconsistent with and an offense against the founding principles of the country, and which could not stand in the long run.

Private prejudices and discriminatory acts on the basis of race, religion or language surely might be morally reprehensible but were a part of an individual’s freedom to decide with whom to associate. However, such discrimination was not supposed to be brought into the arena of governmental social or economic policy since this was considered to be violations of individuals’ rights by using the power of the state to harm them on the basis of a collective classification of their identity.

Americans also have been a highly mobile people. From colonial times, Americans always have been open to “moving on.” That nineteenth century phrase attributed to Horace Greeley, “Go west young man,” has been the cultural motto of the nation. Immigrants came from faraway countries and spread across the continent, as did every generation of the native-born Americans.

While the continent has been “conquered” and settled long ago, Americans still pick themselves up and change in what part of the country they live and work far more readily and frequently than most Europeans do in their own part of the world.

The lowering of the migration barriers within the European Union is changing this, especially among the younger generation of Europeans, but it is still, in general, less than among Americans. People in Europe, due to their relatively greater immobility, have traditionally felt a stronger “connectedness” to a specific and local geographical area.

Europe’s Philosophy of Collectivism

Europe’s history is grounded in a philosophy of collectivism, the idea that the group comes before the individual and that his identity and sense of meaning and purpose is tied to the particular “tribe” into which he has been born.

One of the most powerful modern variations on this collectivist theme has been nationalism. Before the demise of monarchism in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the individual owed his allegiance to the king or emperor who claimed to own and rule over all and everything with absolute authority in his domain, and usually by asserted “divine right.”

But with the coming of the French Revolution in 1789, all this began to change. With the end of monarchy, the issue arose, “If not to the king, to whom does the individual owe allegiance?” It was declared that within the boundaries of what had been the territory of the former king, the new ruler was “the people” themselves. The “nation” was the new collective to which the individual owed his allegiance and for which he should expect to sacrifice himself if the good of “the nation” required it.

Nationalism and Collectivist Identity

But what defined a “nation” or a “people” as one collective group versus another? Some of the advocates and propagandists of the new nationalist ideal of human identity spoke of a common culture or set of traditions extending over many generations that shaped and made the individual’s sense of who he was and to whom he was connected.

Others spoke of language or race as the unifying determinate of what bound a people together as “one” in terms of national belonging and common destiny. The structure of language and the meanings of words shape how a group of people think and reason, it was said, thus, binding together all those speaking the same language. Even deeper, it was argued by others, was the connection between those coming from the same genetic stock; the collective identity and sense of “oneness” among a group of people was “in the blood.”

All of these ways of identifying a people’s common nationality were also often linked to a geographical area in Europe that for long period of time, it was claimed, marked off the historical or “natural” homeland of the people sharing that common collectivist root.

The rise of nationalism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries now saw the call for all “suppressed peoples” (that is, those minority national groups living within a country dominated by the majority of another nationality) to have their own nation-states to preserve and protect their language, cultural and ethnic uniqueness.

In addition, since under the monarchical system lands had been conquered or acquired through royal marriages that had nothing to do with those “natural” geographical boundaries of various national groups, borders needed to be redrawn. The political borders of countries, it was said, should reflect the national groups that lived within those areas.

There was a problem, however, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. Hundreds of years of wars, conquests and migrations had created overlapping areas of “mixed” national populations. There was little way to nicely and neatly draw the political lines on the map so that only those of a particular national group lived within that national group’s borders.

Every nation-state invariably contained within its political boundaries one or more minorities belonging to other linguistic, cultural or ethnic groups.

Now, if the same individualist and (classical) liberal philosophy that was at the foundation of the American political system also had been present in Europe, there would have been no or few “conflicts” between different national groups living within the same country.

Some people might have found it personally irritating or inconvenient that some of their neighbors spoke a different language, or practiced a different religion or had different cultural traditions and manners. But if their political systems had been based on those same liberal individualist principles as America, then there could have been no politically bestowed favors or privileges for the benefit of those in the majority national group at the social and economic expense of the members of any national minority groups.

But, alas, and again especially in Central and Eastern Europe, this was not the case. Governments were elected or came to power that viewed it as their purpose to secure and safeguard the interests and improvements of the majority national group. Government interventions, regulations, and restrictions were implemented to benefit the one group at the expense of any others. And sometimes this included acts of violence and brutality, which the government either instigated or turned a blind eye to.

Nationalism and the Conflicts over Borders

This ideal of and appeal for national self-determination and self-rule was behind the drive for Italian and German political unification and the revolts of the Poles against the Russians and the Hungarians against the Austrians in the nineteenth century.

The First World War broke up the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian Empires that dominated Central and Eastern Europe. In their place arose a host of new or expanded nation-states meant to represent a new political order of national self-determination and self-rule. Many of the governments of these nation-states used the cover of national independence and national preservation to discriminate against and politically and economically abuse clusters of minority national groups under their jurisdictions.

Hitler played upon these “injustices” against German-speaking minorities in neighboring Czechoslovakia and Poland to justify the need to use political and military force to protect these minorities and bring them within the national fold of a greater and “racially purer” Nazi Germany.

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Soviet Union’s conquest of Eastern Europe and the imposition of communist governments in the countries that were totally controlled by Moscow artificially suppressed practically all of the nationalist differences and animosities of the pre-World War II period.

But with the collapse of those communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989-1990 and then the end to the Soviet Union itself in 1991, many of the nationalist conflicts once more rose to the surface. It was witnessed with the peaceful division of Czechoslovakia into two separate countries in 1993.

It was most viciously exposed in the cruel and murderous wars in the former Yugoslavia throughout the 1990s as the various national groups that had comprised Yugoslavia vied for national independence and an insistence upon lands and boundaries consistent with their respective notions of their “rightful” historical borders, which inescapably overlapped with the claims of some of the other national groups.

Borders and Nationalism in the Post-Soviet Countries

With the disintegration of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, the fifteen “Soviet Republics” had had comprised the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) became independent nation-states. The problem was that their national boundaries were the legacy of lines drawn on the map by the Soviet leadership, in some cases directly by Stalin in the 1920s and 1930s.

In the case of the Crimea, it had been a provincial unit within the Soviet Russian Republic and was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet Republic by a decree of the Soviet government in Moscow in February 1954. It was a “gift” to mark the three hundredth anniversary of the merging of Ukraine into the Russian Empire.

Both post-Soviet Russia and Ukraine contain linguistic or ethnic minorities within their borders. In Russia this has been most visible in the conflict that the government in Moscow has waged against the Muslim groups in the North Caucasus mountain regions, the most brutal of which has been with the Chechens desiring national independence.

The political boundaries of Ukraine include the two dominant linguistic groups of the Ukrainians, who make up about 68 percent of the population, and Russian speakers who comprise around 30 percent. (Virtually all Ukrainian speakers also fluently know and use Russian, and many Russian speakers know and understand Ukrainian.)

In the Crimean peninsula, the breakdown is almost 60 percent Russian speaking, 25 percent Ukrainian speaking, and 12 percent Tartars, who are Muslims and speak a Turkic-based language. After the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Crimea remained part of the new independent state of Ukraine, with no thought to the fact that many of the Russian-speaking people there would have preferred to be part of the post-Soviet Russian Federation.

Historically, many Ukrainians living especially in the western part of the country have long been strongly anti-Russian. This part of Ukraine had been part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the First World War, and then was incorporated into the new Poland after 1918.

Western Ukraine only was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939, as part of the infamous Hitler-Stalin Pact that started the Second World War by a mutual agreement to divide Poland and Eastern Europe between the two totalitarian tyrants.

“Sovietization” of western Ukraine bore down heavily, with many Ukrainians killed or deported to Siberia by Stalin’s secret police as “enemies of the people.” And this was after millions of other Ukrainians in the part of the country already controlled by the Soviet Union before 1939 had been shot, starved or worked to death in the early 1930s as part of Stalin’s forced collectivization of the land.

A sizeable number of Ukrainians actively collaborated with the Nazis after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June of 1941, including participation in the mass murdering of Jews. Even after the war ended in 1945, bands of Ukrainian nationalists continued to fight the Soviet Army in the forests of western Ukraine until 1951.

The more radically nationalist of the Ukrainians, no doubt, wish to limit the linguistic liberty and language education of the Russian speakers in the eastern areas of the country, where the Russian-speaking part of the population is most concentrated. But many Ukrainians, from all evidence, have no or little sentiment for such discriminatory policies against their Russian-speaking fellow citizens.

A good number of the Russian-speaking citizens of the country feel a much stronger linguistic and cultural tie to Russia next door. Many do resent the sometimes anti-Russian nationalist fervor of some of their fellow Ukrainian citizens. They also sometimes look down upon the Ukrainians as mere “little brothers” of the wider and “greater” Russian people.

This is, clearly, most intense right now in the Crimea. Even separate from the manipulations of the Russian government’s propaganda machine, the majority of the Russian-speakers living in Crimea would most likely prefer a far greater autonomy from the Ukrainian authorities in Kiev, or even to be politically joined with the neighboring Russian Federation.

At the same time, the Ukrainian-speaking parts of the Crimean population, along with the Tartars, would rather be politically a part of Ukraine than under the tighter political control of a Russian-speaking majority, whether just in the Crimea and as part of Russia.

It must be emphasized that the propaganda that has been coming out of Russia since the overthrow of the Ukrainian president, Victor Yanukovych, in February that there has been a “fascist” takeover in Kiev by Nazi thugs and Ukrainian nationalist extremists is an exaggeration from all accounts.

Many of the thousands who were out on the streets of the Ukrainian capital in opposition to Yanukovych’s corrupt regime for over three months, and dozens of whom were shot and killed by government forces, came from a wide spectrum of Ukrainian society, both politically and ethnically. But nonetheless, members of the most extreme Ukrainian nationalist parties do have a number of prominent ministerial positions in the provisional government leading up to the elections to be held in May 2014.

Nationalism and Interventionism the Core of the Dilemma

Nonetheless, the core of the conflict arises from two dilemmas: First, “self-determination” is defined in collective terms. It is not the individual’s right to decide in which nation-state or other political entity he shall freely choose to live. No, this is a matter for the linguistic and cultural group as a whole to which he is identified to belong.

The implicit assumption is that all people who happen to share a common language or culture or religion all have the same interests and desires. This would include a preference to want to belong to the same nation-state as guardian and preserver of one’s group national identity against other national groups who are presumed to be a “threat” to the national collective.

Second, in spite of the degree of market-oriented reforms that have been introduced in both Ukraine and Russia since the end of the Soviet Union, the fact is that both, in their own distinct ways, are political and economic plunder lands of government intervention and manipulation.

The government is viewed as an engine of favor, privilege, and protection from competition. Political connections, bribery, and influence are the determiners of wealth and social status. Tens of billions have been corruptly made and corruptly hidden away at the expense of the majority of the population based on political “pull” and power.

Ukrainians fear that if they were under the control of Russia, the levers of privilege and plunder would flow more through Russian hands than their own, so they would be the victims at whose expense others might benefit. And some Russian-speakers in Ukraine fear that the more radical Ukrainian nationalists would use political power to repress and discriminate against them in various cultural and economic ways.

But it must also be said that an important distinction between the Ukrainian and Russian situations is that in Ukraine right now vast numbers of people have taken to the streets and demonstrated, sometimes with the loss of their lives, their desire for real political change away from political corruption and power plundering. Whether it succeeds in the longer-run without a radical change in political philosophies away from collectivism and in the direction of true individualism remains to be seen.

In Russia, on the other hand, political dissent is forcefully kept in check by an authoritarian regime. It has the additional element of a Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who considers the collapse of the Soviet Union to have been the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the twentieth century, and who wants to restore the “greatness of Russia” in terms of political power and fear on the global stage of international affairs. In Putin’s eyes, Ukraine and Crimea need to be in the Russian sphere of influence and control as a matter of “vital national interest,” even if this means the use of military force and propagandistic lies and deceptions.

Since two political authorities cannot occupy and have administrative control over the same geographical area at the same time – it is either Ukrainian national and political sovereignty or Russian national and political sovereignty over Crimea – the conflict over borders and political control threatens to spill over into potential real war.

Is there no way out of this dilemma? While the reality of nation-state power politics and nationalist appeals to collective identity makes it unlikely, what might be a (classical) liberal or individualist solution to this crisis?

This will be discussed in part II of this article next week.


[Originally published at EpicTimes]
Categories: On the Blog

Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiations Need to Lead to Fully Free Trade

March 19, 2014, 9:15 AM

The United States and Japan are at the trade negotiation table – for the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

“The 2005 Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement (TPSEP or P4) is a trade agreement among Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, and Singapore….

“(T)he US joined the TPP in 2011…. The Obama Administration has begun talks with Asian and Latin American nations to enter into the Trans-Pacific Strategic and Economic Partnership Agreement (TPPA). The talks with Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam were originally initiated by the Bush Administration.”

Absolutely excellent.  The freer the trade the better – the more the merrier.

Not everyone agrees.  Here is the nearly-always-ridiculous New York Times – proffering Joseph Stiglitz.

On the Wrong Side of Globalization

“The conflicting views about the agreements are actually tearing at the fabric of the Democratic Party….”

Good to see Mr. Stiglitz and the Times have their priorities in order.  “It may be great for the nation – but it really hurts our domestic politics.”

In his State of the Union address, for example, (President Barack Obama) blandly referred to “new trade partnerships” that would “create more jobs.

Most immediately at issue is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which would bring together 12 countries along the Pacific Rim in what would be the largest free trade area in the world.

Negotiations for the TPP began in 2010, for the purpose, according to the United States Trade Representative, of increasing trade and investment, through lowering tariffs and other trade barriers among participating countries.

That all sounds very good to me.  Protectionism has been a problem for decades, both abroad – and here.

“For years, (America’s) ridiculous, bloated subsidy-and-tax farm law was only terrible domestic policy.  But as a global farm market developed, it became yet another free trade impediment.

“And it led other farm-exporting countries to erect their own free trade impediments.  Lather-rinse-repeat – decades later the we have turned the global market into an a la carte protectionism nightmare mess.”

So far in TPP negotiations, Japan has been resistant to rolling back some of the government policies that impede free trade.

U.S. Fails to Get Japan to Budge on Tariffs for ‘Sacred’ Produce Items

“The U.S. side has strongly demanded Japan remove tariffs on beef and pork in past negotiations. The other four products are rice, wheat, dairy products and sugar.”

Which is not entirely non-understandable, given the terribleness our government just extruded.

After the Heinous Farm Bill – What Next?

What we need to do is go tit-for-tat with Japan.  Very vocally offer to axe protectionisms in our just-passed nightmare mess – and beyond – in exchange for the Japanese axing theirs.  Oh look – some key domestic players are looking to do exactly that:

US Farm Groups Puts More Pressure on TPP Talks with Japan  

“While strong opposition to the TPP exists in President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party,…several farm industry groups are pushing for its approval.”

There again is the always helpful Democrat Party.

Ag Groups Want Japan Trade Concessions

“Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and representatives of several leading farm groups said Thursday that the U.S. should not agree to a Japanese proposal to leave agricultural products out of the current negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that would reduce tariffs among 12 nations.

“If they get their way, then every other country will suddenly have a list of sacred products that can’t be touched,” said Grassley….”

They’re right – piecemeal freer trade is not free trade.

S.Korea Can’t Join Pacific Trade Talks Until U.S. Issues Fixed

“South Korea will not be welcomed into a planned Pacific free-trade pact until all problems are resolved in carrying out an existing trade deal with the United States, a senior U.S. official said on Thursday.

“Two years after the agreement came into force, the United States was still trying to make sure promises to ease the path for U.S. exports into South Korea were fully met, the official said, pointing to problems with customs regulations and autos.”

So let’s have everyone open up every possible free trade avenue – and let innumerable blossoms of capitalism bloom all over the world.


[Originally posted at PJ Tatler]
Categories: On the Blog

New York’s War on Charter Schools

March 18, 2014, 3:45 PM

Charter schools, schools that receive public funding but operate as independent entities, first began to bloom in New York City during the administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Thousands of New Yorkers, sick of the overstretched and ineptly-led public school system, embraced the new era of choice. Organizations like the Success Academy have been opening new schools, in both private and public premises, with astonishing speed, yet they have not been able to keep up with galloping demand. Many places last year had to be allocated by lottery. The demand for and support of charter schools is beyond questioning, as The Economist points out:

“Demand for charter-school places outstrips available slots; entry is by lottery, and some 50,000 children are on waiting lists. Before the election, 20,000 parents, children, and teachers marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall in support of charter schools.”

The success of the charter school movement in New York is not merely a matter of demand. It is a matter of results. Staggering results, in fact. Children who attend charter schools benefit from better teaching, and are shown to outperform their public school peers across the board. Many underprivileged children from minority backgrounds with traditionally subpar academic performances have, in charter school environments, closed and in some cases reversed the age-old performance gap.

Charter schools offer many cities a palatable mechanism for offering greater choice to families in the field of education. They do take some public funding, and they often rely on state infrastructure to operate, but these qualities ought to be weighed against the alternative, which is incompetent and corrupt state monopoly of education, especially in cities with greater percentages of low-income households. The existence of choice alone has helped revitalize competition in one of the most sclerotic and venal arms of the government apparatus. With the proven enhanced performance, wide popularity, and general social improvements charter schools provide it would seem like a no-brainer for city government to support them.

Yet in New York City, the new mayor, Bill de Blasio, has been waging all-out war against the burgeoning charter school movement. Almost from the moment of taking office in January, Mayor de Blasio has been cutting funding, restricting approval of new charters, and blocking use by charters of public school facilities. The result has been to rob many children of a brighter future they might have gained from a competent educational system.

The reason to de Blasio’s madness is quite simple: teachers’ unions. De Blasio ran for mayor on a platform of returning to pre-Bloomberg norms in New York, a New York he portrayed through rose-tinted glasses as having been more fair and equitable, as a world in which the government took care of its citizens. The problem with that picture, which New York’s voters sadly swallowed, is that it is a complete fabrication. The old New York de Blasio is reviving with gusto was one rife with corruption, a city run to serve the interest of public-service insiders, not the people. Thus it is no surprise that de Blasio has decided to crack down on charter schools, one of the most potent demonstrations, by means of contrast, of the total ineptitude of public schools.

Public school teachers’ unions have long fought against the establishment of any kind of performance standard. Apparently teaching quality cannot be “accurately measured” in any empirical way, so we should allow the unions to make those decisions for us. Apparently, their more holistic approach has led to the conclusion that seniority ought to determine all pay and promotions, and that no one should ever be fired. It is strange that that conclusion has not been reached by any of the thousands of public and private organizations that do consider things like performance standards to be worth evaluating.

The sad truth is that Mayor de Blasio is robbing children of their futures in order to placate the crooked unions he relied on to get elected. His actions are the grossest kind of selfishness, destroying young lives and turning his city back toward oblivion, all while claiming to be leading a return to “fairness”.

Categories: On the Blog

Minimum Wage Fuels Poverty

March 18, 2014, 1:30 PM

Minimum wage has become a contentious political issue, even though it has nothing to do with a living wage. Workers are paid for the worth of the job they are paid to do. Nevertheless, Democrats plan to tap into what they perceive as income inequality by using minimum wage as a plank in their populist economic platform heading into the November elections.

It matters not to President Obama that according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (the “government’s own bean counter) Obamacare will result in the loss of two-to two-and-a-half million jobs in the years to come, or that on its heels another CBO report notes how President Obama’s propose minimum wage hike would cost this nation another half-million jobs.

The Democratic ploy in their election-year playbook to hold Republicans hostage to minimum wage was reinforced by President Bush nationwide, when during his State of the Union address he issued an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour for future federal contractors.

And minimum wage continues to be a priority for President Obama. Recently Obama used his weekly address of Saturday, Feb. 22, to cajole Congress into approving a raise in the federal minimum wage that now stands at $7.25 per house, further noting that “while the economy was beginning to recover from the last recession, wages have barely ticked upwards over the past four years.”

According to ObamaRaising Americans’ wages isn’t just a good deed; it’s good business and good for our economy.  It helps reduce turnover, it boosts productivity, and it gives folks some more money to spend at local businesses.

A day before this weekend’s address of Friday, Feb. 21, President Obama pitched the same message at a meeting with members of the Democratic Governors Association in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, at which Obama admitted that higher pay is not only “good policy, it also happens to be “good politics.”

Meanwhile, John Boehner, Republican Speaker of the House, believes it’s a job killer.  Boehner once said that he would rather commit suicide than vote for a “clean” increase. 

President Obama is correct in saying that an overwhelming majority of the American people favors minimum wage hikes.  Accordingly, a Quinnipiac poll of Wednesday, January 8th, indicates voters support for raising the federally mandated minimum wage at 72% to 27% percent, with voters still split on what it should be raised to.  But despite this overwhelming support, half of the voters (50% to 45%) believe raising the minimum wage would cause businesses to cut jobs.

How then might such an overwhelming support for a minimum wage hike be explained?  One explanation: The American people tend to be compassionate in nature when suffering is perceived, and believe it isn’t right for a person to work full time and then have to raise their family in poverty.

At the same time there is a dichotomy over concerns expressed for minimum wage workers and what issues Americans care most about.  In a recent Gallup poll conducted on what Americans rate as this country’s biggest problem, raising the minimum wage didn’t make the Top 10.  Unemployment and jobs was rated #1, while Poverty came in at #10.

Might, however, the Quinnipiac poll indicating overwhelming support for a minimum wage hike produced different results had those questioned been privy to facts which discount the benefits accrued from increasing the minimum wage for low income workers?


[Originally posted at Illinois Review]
Categories: On the Blog

Big Business Targets Common Core’s Band of Mothers

March 18, 2014, 10:52 AM

The special interests behind national curriculum and testing mandates are pouring millions into public relations and lobbying this spring after parents across the country began to oppose and destabilize their big project. Friday, Politico reported that the Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce are buying pricey ads on Fox News and mobilizing their state chapters to keep lawmakers in line. The same day, Bill Gates joined George Stephanopoulos to continue branding the Common Core mandates as a catalyst for improving U.S. education. Gates has joined with left-leaning philanthropies on a communications push worth more than $2.35 million.

Even the federal government is in the game. Through the Common Core testing organizations it exclusively funds, the feds spend at least $9.9 million to promote Common Core, largely through locating teachers who like the project and training them as spokespeople. The Fox News ads will also feature teachers, since focus groups have found them to be well-received pitch-men.

Since January 1, lawmakers in at least 23 states have proposed to amend or repeal Common Core. This spring’s state legislative sessions mark the last real chance to ditch it, so the battle has escalated.

This fall, federally funded and controlled Common Core tests are slated to roll out and essentially cement it (until the next big thing). These tests and their corresponding curriculum mandates will influence almost everything about most American schools: teacher evaluations, textbooks, learning software, school funding, even student grades. In 2013, most parents and teachers first met Common Core. Some began to complain about federal overreach, lack of public debate, pilot test questions and format, open-ended data collection, academic quality, technology costs for the all-online tests, and lack of training for teachers.

In Oklahoma this week, Gov. Mary Fallin and the Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce worked overtime to keep a Common Core repeal bill from getting a hearing or vote. Eyewitnesses said the governor pulled senators off the statehouse floor to lobby them to kill the bill. It worked, but only halfway: Senate leaders killed the Senate bill, but a House version passed 78-12.

Also working the floor was Jenni White, a mother of five (two adopted) and former science teacher whose main weapon against the business coalitions and their millions is her smartphone. White’s family checkbook covers her frequent trips to the statehouse to counter well-paid, hardened lobbyists and career backroom dealers. She and a small band of moms have been patrolling the statehouse, visiting lawmakers’ offices to look them in the eye and remind them that hundreds of Oklahomans have repeatedly swarmed the capitol on their own dimes just to get their bill a hearing.

“It’s never been about kids or parents, it’s about ‘the Chamber of Commerce can help me with my campaign,’” White fumed from the capitol late Wednesday.

White has counterparts everywhere. In Kansas, it’s Kristin George.

“I look at my kids and I can’t imagine not fighting back for what I see as their whole future in education,” George says over the phone as her preschooler pesters her in the background. “It’s so much more to me than just standards. My son will tell me, ‘Mom, I think you’ve had enough computer time today.’ I feel like I’m fighting something because of them, and then taking time from them to do it.”

U.S Education Secretary Arne Duncan was right about one thing when he attacked anti-Common Core activists again in November: like George, they are mostly mothers. The media still usually labels Common Core opposition as Tea Party-driven, and that’s true to some extent, but the real drivers are mothers who saw Common Core in their kids’ classrooms and thought it degraded instruction.

Pack ‘n Play in tow, George frequently drives five hours to Topeka to lobby for legislation to curtail or repeal Common Core. She stays with her in-laws, leaving her five- and two-year-old sons there while she and other mothers trot to legislators’ offices for hours before crucial hearings and votes.

“The grassroots has only gotten stronger across the country and in Kansas,” she says. They will need strength to compete. Common Core’s supporters include the world’s largest nonprofit organization (the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has spent more than $172 million to underwrite Common Core), President Barack Obama, and big businesses such as Exxon Mobil and GE.

Business groups often believe the talking points that proclaim Common Core will end rising phenomena like workers who won’t show up on time, can’t read or do basic math, and loaf around on the job. These are business’s biggest complaints about the kids our education system turns out. Oddly, business interests seem to ignore not just the evidence that Common Core graduates will not be internationally competitive, but that family degradation is a major—perhaps the major—reason for workers’ eroding soft skills and academic incompetence. Ironically, White and George’s devotion to their families makes them the kind of mothers whose kids will be the productive citizens employers want schools to produce.

George has talked to moms in her library’s toddler reading group and held potlucks to tell others about Common Core. A Kansas Tea Party group passed around a blue bucket last year to pick up donations from a room of retirees and parents to cover an out-of-town speaker who criticized Common Core. Grassroots folks in New York tried a crowd-funding site to cover travel expenses for their two February Common Core speakers. They raised $1,005 toward their $5,000 goal.

Common Core opponents typically don’t have much money or prestige. They do have a common motivator: their kids. George’s biggest concern is her ability to have a say in the policies that affect her family.

“I grew up with parents who said, ‘You can do anything you put your mind to,’ and that was the beauty of the country we live in,” George said. “I don’t want to see that changed for my children.”


[Originally posted at The Federalist]

Categories: On the Blog

In Defense of the Uninsured

March 18, 2014, 9:21 AM

The entire premise of the trillions of dollars being spent on Obamacare is that it is essential that every single person have health insurance coverage at all times under all circumstances.

Health insurance is the most important thing on the face of the earth — more important than food, more important than clothing, or housing, or a job, and certainly more important than cell phones and cable TV, according to the President.

People without health insurance are terrible people – free riders, leaches, irresponsible deadbeats.  There is us (the insured) and them (the uninsured). We are good and they are not. Which is why we never bothered to ask them what they might be looking for in a health insurance policy. We passed the law requiring them to buy what we think they should buy.

With this contemptuous attitude towards the people the elite is trying to “help” perhaps it is not surprising that the helpees are not behaving the way the helpers would like them to. Amy Goldstein writes in the Washington Post that “Health insurance marketplaces (are) signing up few uninsured Americans…”

Megan McArdle is even more stark in Bloomberg, “How Not to Help the Uninsured.”  She includes a fascinating graph:

We are five months into open enrollment and 56% of the uninsured haven’t even looked into getting coverage, and another 34% looked but declined to buy. Ten percent of the uninsured are newly covered, but 18% of the previously insured are newly uninsured.

Very few of the people who wrote this law have ever been uninsured or even know anyone who has been. They are well educated and gainfully employed. Their entire world-view and values belong to what used to be called the bourgeois state of mind. They obey all the laws, are generally well mannered, save money for their children’s college funds, eat right and exercise regularly. They don’t take risks and they don’t get into fistfights.

They believe that the world would be a better place if everyone were more like them.  They are also pretty powerful people, though they may not see themselves that way. They have money and influence, they rank high on Google searches, they write articles that actually get published. They are articulate and respected by their peers.

And they want to do good. They want to leave the world a better place. So they reach out for the levers of influence available to them – usually government – to create policies that will improve the lives of the less fortunate. These efforts range from the annoying, like banning Big Gulp sodas, to Obamacare’s mandate that everyone must buy insurance or be penalized.

The problem is that these people are not much like the rest of America. They may disapprove of Big Gulp sodas but the product is wildly popular in the rest of the country. As Rick Santorum reminded the crowd at CPAC, only 30% of the country will ever graduate from college. That doesn’t make the other 70% stupid or ill-informed, it just means they don’t have the patience to sit in a classroom day after day for years on end being lectured to by pompous buffoons.

Some seven years ago (2007) Duke Law School published an edition of its journal “Law and Contemporary Problems” devoted to “Distributional Issues in Health Care.” It included articles by writers such as Mark Pauly, Mark Hall, Christopher Conover, and Tom Miller, but for me the most interesting article was the Foreword by editors Clark Havighurst and Barak Richman.

They argue that poor and working people are poorly served by coverage decisions made by upper middle-class managers who load up on benefits with little value to lower-income workers — “… lower-income insured get less out of their employer’s health plans than their higher-income coworkers despite paying the same premiums.” They conclude, “… in health care perhaps more than any other sector, the true interests of consumer-voters are ill-served by the political, regulatory, and legal environment.”

In other words, workers in a corporate environment will accept the coverage provided by upper-class management, but once they are on their own they simply don’t see any value in the super-rich and expensive benefits the elites prefer. But the regulatory structure precludes the offering of anything more modest, so these people vote with their feet and become uninsured.

That was certainly my experience. In the 1990s, after I left my job with the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, I went without coverage for five years while I started three separate businesses. I simply could not afford to both start these businesses (which ended up employing 45 people in Northern Virginia) and pay for health insurance. You might not make the same decision, but the 45 people I hired were probably pretty happy that I did. If some sort of catastrophic illness plan had been available I probably would have bought it, but such were not permitted at the time.

I am not alone. Tens of millions of people have made rational decisions to spend their money on things that are more important than health insurance, at least for a time. I could list a couple of dozen people I know personally who have made this decision. Who is to say they are wrong?

In most markets when a large number of people are not buying your product, you look to see how to improve the product to make it more appealing. Only in health care is it considered acceptable to command people to buy what they have rejected. No wonder the elite wants to ban the word “bossy.”

[Originally posted at The Federalist]

Categories: On the Blog

Accelerating the De-Americanization of the Internet

March 18, 2014, 9:03 AM

The Internet’s moorings are detaching from America.

Last week two big decisions — one American and one European – accelerated the  de-Americanization  of the Internet. Edward Snowden’s revelations catalyzed both.

The U.S. government just chose to hand over its master key to the  Internet — the “root-zone-file” — to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names  and Numbers (ICANN), a multi-stakeholder non-profit organization, in October of  2015.

The “root zone file” is the essential core-addressing database that the  Internet depends upon to ensure any Internet addressed device can link to any  other Internet-addressed device.

To understand the significance of this real and symbolic transfer of power,  one must appreciate America’s history of Internet stewardship.

The U.S. Defense Department invented Internet protocols in the 1960s. Since  then the government has been the owner and steward of the Internet’s  connectivity architecture.

In the 1990s, the government privatized the Internet backbone. In 1997, the  Clinton administration laid the Internet’s current commercial foundation in The  Framework for Global Electronic Commerce. In 1998, it  transferred responsibility for the administration of many Internet-related tasks  to ICANN.

The ceding of control over the “root-zone-file” database is a big deal. With  it America will cede ultimate “ownership” of the Internet’s core to the Internet  community-at-large via ICANN.

Practically, this means America will no longer effectively control how the  Internet changes or evolves.

Anyone who thinks transferring ownership of the Internet’s proverbial rudder  won’t alter the Internet’s long-term trajectory does not understand this  change.

America’s stewardship of the Internet for the last twenty years fostered its  commercial potential. Consequently, it is no surprise America’s Silicon Valley  effectively dominates most every commercial and behavioral aspect of the  Internet.

The priorities of a multi-stakeholder, not-for-profit organization that’s  un-tethered from, and unaccountable to, sovereign or commercial interests will  prove to have very different priorities than America’s as it tries to  incorporate the rest of the world’s conflicting priorities.

What does this mean?

Over time the Internet will become much less American, much more diverse, and  vastly more political, both internally and geopolitically.  And expect a  less American Internet to naturally become less commercial, less Silicon  Valley-centric, and less friendly to property.

This unmooring of the Internet from American sovereign control and dominance  comes with one last big stewardship caveat from the U.S. government. To affirm “the United States support for the  multistakeholder model of Internet governance, [the U.S. government] will not  accept a proposal that replaces the [the U.S. government] role with a  government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.”

This is a profound geopolitical change and challenge. It effectively will try  to officialize a sovereign-less third global power base separate from national  sovereign powers and intergovernmental organizations like the UN.

Thus the Internet’s long-term evolution will now hinge on how much sovereign  power the rest of the world is actually willing to cede to, or how much power it  tries to take from, this newly empowered sovereign-less polity. Welcome to the  Internet realpolitik era.

The second big decision last week that will accelerate the de-Americanization  of the Internet was made by the European Parliament.

The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly 621-10 for much stronger  data protection (privacy) laws, the first such change since 1995.

It also overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling for the suspension of the  U.S.-EU data protection Safe Harbor that lets U.S. firms self-certify  as being in compliance with EU privacy law, by a vote of 544-78.

This seminal new data protection law could be a game changer for much of the  Internet. While much more remains to be worked out, the EU’s new post-Snowden  trajectory is clear.

Essentially, 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.

To simplify, the EU is calling for a more consumer-centric, opt-in privacy  model in stark contrast to America’s ecommerce-centric, opt-out privacy model.  This is a frontal assault on Silicon Valley’s privacy-hostile, dominant  advertising business model.

So what does this European decision foretell?

A more privacy-friendly Internet is a less American-dominant Internet, a less  Silicon-Valley or Big Data driven Internet. Since cloud computing is a euphemism  for American-based data centers and data-processing, this new law will likely  force a lot more EU-localized data centers.

The real purpose of this new law is not only to protect Europeans’ privacy,  but also to create economic opportunity for an indigenous European tech, cloud  and Internet sector to succeed.

In sum, the precipitating cause of both of these two decisions is the same –  Snowden revelations.

However, the consequential effect of these decisions is the opposite. The  U.S. decision cedes its sovereign power to a new sovereign-less power. In  contrast, the EU’s decision asserts much more sovereign power over a  sovereign-resistant Internet.

As the Internet’s moorings increasingly detach from America, the Internet  ship will enter the uncharted waters of Internet realpolitik.

This article is Part 5 in the series “World Changing the Internet”. To read the other installments, click here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

[Originally posted at The Daily Caller]
Categories: On the Blog

Portland Light Rail Revolt Continues

March 18, 2014, 12:15 AM

In a hard fought election campaign, voters in the city of Tigard  appear to have narrowly enacted another barrier to light rail expansion in  suburban Portland. The Washington  County Elections Division reported that with 100 percent of precincts  counted, Charter Amendment 34-210 had obtained 51 percent of the vote, compared  to 49 percent opposed.

The Charter Amendment establishes as city policy that no  transit high capacity corridor can be developed within the city without first  having been approved by a vote of the people. High capacity transit in Portland  has virtually always meant light rail.

In a previous ballot issue, Tigard voters had enacted an  ordinance requiring voter approval of any funding for light rail. Similar  measures were enacted in Clackamas  County as well as King City in Washington County. Across the Columbia River  in Clark County (county seat: Vancouver), voters rejected funding for  connecting to the Portland light rail system. After  the Clackamas County Commission rushed through a $20 million loan for light  rail (just days before the anti-light rail vote), two county commissioners were  defeated by candidates opposed to light rail, with a commission majority now in  opposition.

Further, a Columbia River Crossing, which would have  included light rail to Vancouver was cancelled after the Washington legislature  declined funding. In a surreal aftermath, interests in Oregon seriously  proposed virtually forcing the bridge on Washington, fully funding the project  itself. A just adjourned session of the Oregon legislature failed to act on the  proposal, which now (like Rasputin) appears  to be dead.

At the same time, Portland’s transit agency faces  financial difficulty and has been seriously criticized  in a report by Secretary of State. The agency has more than $1 billion in  unfunded liabilities and carries a smaller share of commuters than before the  first of its six light rail and commuter rail lines was opened. Moreover, the  latest American Community Survey data indicates that 3,000 more people work at  home than ride transit (including light rail and commuter rail) to work in the  Portland metropolitan area. Before light rail (1980), transit commuters  numbered 35,000 more than people working at home. Over the period, transit’s  market share has dropped one-quarter.

[Originally posted at New Geography]
Categories: On the Blog

I’ve Figured Out the AGW Strategy

March 17, 2014, 11:22 PM

I am starting to think the AGW/climate change/climate disruption/carbon pollution agenda is to simply make such outrageous comments that my side gets tired of having to deal with it.

This hit me a couple of nights ago when I tried to watch five minutes of the “all nighter clim-a-thon” being staged by a select group of senators. After a couple of minutes – and I will not say what I heard or who said it to set me off – I decided it was enough, so I watched something with more substance – Dallas – on TNT.

Oddly enough Bobby Ewing stopped his nephew JR Jr from fracking his part of Southfork by saying there was an endangered species on the property (the lean Prairie Chicken I think it was). Even Dallas has an energy-based debate going on. Interestingly enough Southfork, which in the show is a working cattle ranch, is also in the cross hairs of climate change since, after all, we all know cows cause increases in methane which is one of those dreaded greenhouse gasses that, if left unchecked, will take the Earth to Venetian temperatures (sarcasm).

And besides, eating meat is bad for you. I never have steak for dinner anymore – it’s usually breakfast, when I can afford it (which is getting rarer; then again, that is how I like my steaks: rare).

So when I was writing this week, I decided to have a little fun and pull out an outrageous example of how absurd this is getting. And I am not going to pick on the obvious – some of the leaders of our government pushing all this. Instead I want you to think about this headline:

Will climate change bring back SMALLPOX? Siberian corpses could ooze contagious virus if graveyards thaw out, claim scientists …

• The disease, which causes a painful blistering rash and sometimes blindness and death, was wiped out in 1979

• Some experts fear defrosting bodies in Siberia could potentially begin a cycle of infection, if a person makes contact with remains

• Defrosting bodies are coming to light as a result of global warming, although so far scientists have not found any remains with a virus in them

Now this is fascinating for a couple of reasons. Just how long has Siberia been warm where all these corpses are thawing out? Well over the last 3 years, it hasn’t been warmer than normal except near the Arctic Circle where it’s so cold anyway that a one degree rise isn’t that big a deal. Besides, who is buried in the Arctic Ocean? (Maybe that is where Jimmy Hoffa is…)

And if they were thawing before, they certainly aren’t this winter!

But this is not the real question. Again, think about the extremity of foolishness going on here. They are so foolish that they don’t even stop to think: Just how did they bury the people in the first place if the ground wasn’t thawed out before? It had to be warm enough to dig deep enough to bury these people – or did they have some type of drill none of us know about during the time of small pox to bury people? The whole article supports the notion of natural climate variations, because if it warms to levels to thaw these graveyards out, it is merely warming to where it had to be before. You can’t have it any other way.

But things like this are all too common in this argument. In all my years in weather and climate, which I use and always have as a major piece in the foundation of my forecasts, I have never seen such nonsense and ignorance being spewed with no regard for the facts of what actually happened.

I guess one has to laugh at all this. At least I am trying too. I am on everyone’s mailing list so I get sent countless articles on this. I also get sent the scholarly articles both for and against human influence on the climate. I know and understand the reason this is actually a debatable point and have pointed out several times that two major indicators – stratospheric cooling and the outgoing radiation measurements – support the idea of a slowly warming troposphere. Whether that is natural or man-made is impossible to call, for Earth has warmed before (it had to if you could bury people in Siberia) and has also cooled. How one could possibly know this is CO2-driven given the history of CO2 and temperatures that show there is no correlation, yet alone causation, is beyond me.

But I guess one needs to keep a sense of humor about all this. I believe many of the people putting out things like what you see here are whistling by the graveyard in this sense:

To enter a situation with little or no understanding of the possible consequences.

The consequences are basically the disruption, if not destruction, of our way of life and the hopes of countless people for a better life.

I prefer, when looking at this debate and what its actually about, to use part of a second definition.

To attempt to stay cheerful in a dire situation.

In the meantime, just in case they are right, I have cancelled plans for a tour of Siberian graveyards. Too cold anyway, given the actual weather.

[First posted at The Patriot Post.]

Categories: On the Blog

Governments Mandate Monopolies Then Complain About a Lack of Competition

March 17, 2014, 10:23 PM

The solution to government – isn’t more government.  But that’s exactly what governments proffer all the time.

They pass a government-expanding law – which warps, distorts and otherwise damages the private marketplace.  They don’t offer to repeal the law – of course not.  They instead pass another government-expanding law – to “fix” the mess they made with the last one.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Just wait – soon the Democrats will propose as the “solution” to the disastrous ObamaCare…all-government-all-the-time single payer.

But we already had Huge Government health care – Medicare and Medicaid.  Which face tens of trillions of dollars in looming shortfalls.  Did the Left proffer less government reform?  Of course not.  They gave us government-expanding ObamaCare – and stole (at least) $741 billion from already-broke Medicare to do it.

You know why the federal government is the only entity delivering First Class Postage?

The Postal Service has a legal government monopoly on delivering first-class mail…. (Prospective competitors) are required by law to charge a high minimum price and cannot undercut USPS rates.

Nothing like the government gaming the system – to favor the government.  And how’s their monopoly working?

Postal Service Loss Of $15.9 Billion Sets Record

And guess who’s screwing up cable and Internet delivery?  Why, it’s government.

Don’t Blame Big Cable. It’s Local Governments That Choke Broadband Competition

Game of Kickbacks

Local governments and their public utilities charge ISPs far more (for building rights) than these things actually cost. For example, rights of way and pole attachments fees can double the cost of network construction….

These (government) incumbents – the real monopolists – also have the final say on whether an ISP can build a network. They determine what hoops an ISP must jump through to get approval.

This reduces the number of potential competitors who can profitably deploy service.… The lack of competition makes it easier for local governments and utilities to charge more for rights of way and pole attachments.

It’s a vicious circle…(A) system of forced kickbacks….(also) includ(ing) ISPs…building out service where it isn’t demanded, donating equipment, and delivering free broadband to government buildings.

How bad does it get?

Video franchises are the revenue-sharing agreements that cable TV companies sign with local governments in return for the exclusive right to offer video services to customers.

Get that?  It’s the government creating the monopolies – not the (very un-free) market.  The answer?  Less government.

Video Franchise Reform Would Support Competition and Consumer Choice

Because (private providers) were able to go directly to the state capital for permission to deploy video services anywhere in the state, they were able to accelerate their rollout. Consumers saw quick results.

Amazing what happens when you can bypass all the local governments and their myriad shakedowns.

The Left’s response?  More government.  They want local government broadband – ObamaCare for the Internet.

The Promise of Municipal Broadband

Municipal Broadband Networks Bridge the Digital Divide

To Help Connect the Two New Yorks, Bill de Blasio Should Build More Community Broadband

Municipal Broadband Would Provide the Competition Necessary to Make Seattle’s Broadband Market Function

Government mandates create private monopolies – government then decries the dearth of competition as justification for government broadband.

Government taxes private broadband companies – and then uses their money to fund competitors to their businesses.

And imagine these private companies trying to set up service – having to ask the permission of the governments that are competing with them.

The people wanting this nonsense are the same ones demanding Network Neutrality imposition to prevent Comcast-NBC from slowing Netflix so as to favor their video service. Which has never happened – and never will.  Because their customers would freak – and fire them.

Will government block private companies to favor their service?  Of course.  See: Medicare.  And the U.S. Postal Service.  Because no matter how much we “customers” freak – we can’t fire them.  Government law says so.

President Barack Obama loves the local government broadband approach.  It’s community broadband organizing - building single-payer government-only service from the ground up.

“(T)he ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.

The 2009 “Stimulus” law contained a $7.2 billion down payment towards it.  How’s it all worked?  Predictably – terribly.

The Internet ‘Stimulus’-Just as Destructive as the Rest of the ‘Stimulus’

Yet Another Terrible Internet ‘Stimulus’ Project

Despite Glossy Reports, Muni Broadband is Still a Net Money Loser 

Provo’s Failed Muni Broadband Purchased by Google for $1

Google did not assume the thirty nine million dollar debt already hanging over the project. The city is still on the hook for that….

Google will be subsidized in Provo by the citizens, some of whom in delusion think that they are getting ‘free’ internet….

A citizen who opts for a competitor will be paying the fee for the service, and also the elevated taxes and fees the failed municipal broadband project has left behind.

Hard to fathom why Google favors government broadband.

North Carolina Taxpayers Face Bailout of Muni Broadband Service 

Burlington, Vermont Broadband Mess Haunts Northland, Minnesota

It’s so bad.

20 States Now Have Restrictions on Municipal Broadband

Is the Barack Obama Administration thinking less government?  And federalism?  Of course not.

FCC Thinks It Can Overturn State Laws that Restrict Public Broadband

“The Commission will look for opportunities to enhance Internet access competition,” (FCC Chairman Thomas) Wheeler said in a statement.

“One obvious candidate for close examination was raised in Judge Silberman’s separate opinion, namely legal restrictions on the ability of cities and towns to offer broadband services to consumers in their communities.”

According to this Administration, the “solution” to government-mandated monopolies and disastrous government broadband is…more government broadband.

And if they have to unConstitutionally steamroll the states to do it – so be it.

[First published at Human Events.]

Categories: On the Blog

U.S. Energy, the Ukraine, and Russia

March 17, 2014, 10:00 AM

The Ukraine came apart when a protest against its president forced him to flee to Russia. The issue was whether the Ukraine would be allied with Russia or with the European Union. Due to a combination of the obscene corruption of its former president, Viktor Yanukovych, and the mismanagement of the nation in general, the Ukrainian Parliament ousted him in February, a move supported by 328 members of the Parliament. He still claims to be president.

In contrast to the “melting pot” of America where people come from all over and develop strong feelings for our nation, the Ukrainians, divided primarily between the East and West, never quite gelled, the younger generation does not want to be back under the sway of Russia while many of the older ones, recalling the bad old days when it was, want closer ties with Europe. It remains divided and whether it will reunite is anyone’s guess.

If it does reunite, it will be missing the Crimean republic which has been seized by Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin. It had been part of Russia for hundreds of years and represents a critical warm water port. Krushchev relinquished it to Ukraine, but Putin will not. Sending troops into a foreign nation is an act of war, but I doubt that many Crimeans, see themselves as a foreign nation. They were Russian and they are Russian. Let’s move on.

Putin’s bold action brought a lot of other issues into play, not the least of which is Russia’s provision of natural gas to Ukraine and many European nations that depend on it, not the least of which is Germany.

One thing is for sure, NATO will not intervene to restore Crimea to the Ukraine and the European Union has so many financial ties to Russia that there is little reason to do anything than go through the charade of sanctions and criticism. I think the general consensus is that while Putin would like to expand the Russian Federation to the size of the former Russian empire, the cost of similar military actions would be too high.

The response of President Obama has been predictably weak. He is abandoning the Middle East to Islamic fascists. He has failed to provide an umbrella of military protection to Europe. He and Democrat members of Congress continue to tell us that the greatest threat here and worldwide is a global warming that isn’t happening.

The greatest threat to American security is President Obama for two reasons: (1) He has deliberately weakened the U.S. military and (2) his domestic energy policies have failed to take advantage of discoveries of massive amounts of natural gas and oil reserves. Drilling for them on federal lands and offshore has been largely thwarted. As a result the U.S. economy has limped along when it could be booming just from the energy sector alone.

Two reporters for The Wall Street Journal spelled out why the “U.S. Push for Natural-Gas Exports to Ukraine Faces Hurdles” in its March 12the edition.

“Neither the infrastructure nor international markets for natural gas have evolved to the point where the U.S. can step in and provide the kinds of energy supplies that would quickly reduce these nations’ dependency on Russian gas.”

“U.S. energy companies need several more years to build plants to export the gas—and Ukraine doesn’t have the facilities to receive it…The giant machines and cooling towers it takes to make liquefied natural gas, or LNG, take years to construct and cost billions of dollars.” There is at present a LNG terminal in Spain that could take gas shipments that could be added to the extensive European pipeline network, helping many nations there such as Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Suffice to say, U.S. policy and lawmakers have failed to take the actions necessary to respond to the recent surge in natural gas and oil supplies. Many Americans will be surprised to learn that in the 1970s Congress made it illegal to export domestically produced crude oil without a license. Those were the days of the Arab oil embargo.

At this point, the U.S. has more untapped oil than Saudi Arabia, as well as enough natural gas and coal to make us energy independent.

In addition, an odd and idiotic law requires the production of ethanol, a gasoline additive. In 2013, ethanol production was 316,964 thousand barrels. Ethanol not only decreases the mileage of the gasoline we purchase at the pump, it damages auto engines, two very good reasons to end this conversion of corn into energy that in turn drives up the cost of countless food products.

Even moving crude oil around the domestic U.S. poses a challenge despite a network of pipelines. Doing so by train has created many new problems. President Obama has delayed the Keystone XL pipeline that would increase crude oil supplies to our Gulf State’s refineries; thus denying us the jobs its construction would create and other benefits. The good news is that the U.S. has become one of the largest gross exporters of refined oil products such as gasoline and diesel.

If the U.S. government would get out of the way, new refineries and export facilities for natural gas could be built. The U.S. would prosper and energy costs would be reduced, along with our national debt. For now, however, the Ukraine, a longtime financial basket case, and Europe are not going to get a surge of natural gas or crude oil that would help reduce their dependence on Russia.

So long as President Obama remains in office, none of the steps that must be taken to restore the nation’s economy and tap the huge potential of our energy sector will occur.

Categories: On the Blog

Relentless Global Warming ‘Scientists’ Continue Their Scams

March 17, 2014, 3:41 AM

Despite the growing worldwide recognition that global warming—now called climate change—is a hoax and that the Earth has been in a cooling cycle going on seventeen years, those most responsible for it continue to put forth baseless “science” about it.

The hoax has its base in the United Nations which is hosme to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and got its start with the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 that went into force in 2005. It limits “greenhouse gas” emissions, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2). It purports that the gases are warming the Earth and many nations signed on to reduce them. The U.S. did not and in 2011 Canada withdrew from it. Europe is suffering economically from the billions it invested in “alternative energy” sources, wind and solar power.

Five years ago, emails between a group of the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia scientists and others who were generating computer models that “proved” global warming were revealed. It was quickly dubbed “climategate” for the way the emails demonstrated the manipulation of data claiming that global warming was real. They had good reason to be worried, given the natural cooling cycle the Earth has entered, but of even greater concern was the potential loss of enormous amounts of money they were receiving for their deception.

To date, not one of theirs and other computer models “proving” global warming have been accurate.

On Wednesday, March 10, The Wall Street Journal published an article, “Scientists Say Four New Gases Threaten the Ozone.”  It reported on the latest effort of “scientists” at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia and it is no coincidence that the university was the center for the original IPCC data created to introduce and maintain the global warming hoax.

“Traces of four previously undetected man-made gases have been discovered in the atmosphere, where they are endangering Earth’s protective ozone layer, a team of scientists from six countries reported Sunday.”

Trace gases are those that represent less than 1% in the Earth’s atmosphere. CO2, for example, represents a meager 0.038% of the atmosphere and represents no impact whatever on the Earth’s climate. It is, however, vital to all life on Earth as it is the “food” for all of its vegetation.

“The gases are of the sort that are banned or being phased out under a global treaty to safeguard the high altitude blanket of ozone that protects the planet from dangerous ultraviolet radiation, experts said.” These “experts” failed to mention that everywhere above the Earth’s active volcanoes the ozone is naturally affected by their massive natural discharge of various gases. The oceans routinely absorb and discharge CO2 to maintain a balance. The bans included the gas used primarily in air conditioners and for refrigeration. It has since been replaced.

Another gas that was banned is a byproduct of chemicals called pyrethroids that “are often used in household insecticides.” Banning insecticides is a great way of reducing the Earth’s population as insects spread diseases and destroy property. Ironically, termites produce massive amounts of carbon dioxide.

The means used to detect the gases included comparing “the atmosphere today to old air trapped in annual layers of Greenland snow” and they also studied “air collected by high altitude research aircraft and by sensors aboard routine passenger jet flights around the world.” Not mentioned is the fact that the Earth has had higher amounts of CO2 in earlier times which posed no threat to it, so a few trace gases hardly represent a “threat.”

This kind of questionable “science” was practiced by one of the most well-known of the East Anglia scientists, an American scientist named Michael Mann, who used tree ring data to prove a massive, sudden increase in CO2 in his “hockey stick” graph that has since been debunked by skeptical scientists.

Mann has brought a libel law suit against columnist Mark Steyn, the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, charging defamation. Such suits cost a lot of money and Robert Tracinski, writing in Real Clear Politics in February noted that “it’s interesting that no one asks who is going to go bankrupt funding Mann’s lawsuit. Who is insuring Mann against this loss?”

Tracinski pointed out that “It is libel to maliciously fabricate facts about someone” but that it is “legal for me, for example, to say that Michael Mann is a liar, if I don’t believe his erroneous scientific conclusions are the product of honest error. It is also legal for me to say that he is a coward and a liar, for hiding behind libel laws in an attempt to suppress criticism.” The East Anglia emails revealed that they were doing whatever they could to suppress the publication of studies that disputed global warming in various science journals.

How specious is this latest announcement about trace gases that they assert are a threat to the ozone layer? An atmospheric chemist, Johannes Laube of the East Anglia group making the announcement, was quoted as saying “We are not able to pinpoint any sources” for the trace gases. “We are not able to point a finger.”

The objective of the announcement is the same as the creation of the entire global warming hoax. It provides the basis for the transfer of funds between developed and undeveloped nations and would grant greater power to the United Nations to reduce the world’s manufacturing base while endangering and controlling the lives of everyone on Earth.

Is the latest “research” a lie? The data it cites has some basis in fact, but those facts are an excuse, like those cited about greenhouse gases, to frighten nations into wasting billions on climate threats that do not exist. The real threats remain climate events over which mankind never has and never will have any control.

[First posted at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

A New FCC and a New Communications Act

March 16, 2014, 8:10 PM
Anyone who has followed communications law and policy for a number of years – and I’ve been doing so for over thirty-five years – knows that the marketplace environment has changed dramatically in the last “number” of years. And undeniably – although at times some do try to deny it – the change has been in the direction of more competition and more choice for consumers.

Another way of saying this is that there is more competition and more consumer choice for data, video, voice, and any other service or application that is offered over various digital networks, whether the technological platform employed is called “cable” or “telephone” or “wireless” or “satellite” or “fiber” or whatever.

Of course, there may be legitimate debates concerning theextent to which competitive market forces are present in particular market segments at particular times. It has never been my view that in instances of demonstrated market failure there is not a role for proper government regulation. I have often stated, however, here and elsewhere, that in today’s communications marketplace, in which the digital revolution is driving more competition, absent convincing evidence of market failure, the default presumption should be that the costs of regulation outweigh the benefits.

You may have thought it strange that I put “number” in quotes in the first paragraph. But I did it for a reason. I want you to think about the passage of time – maybe about how quickly time flies, as they say – while many of the laws and regulations that govern participants in the communications marketplace remain in place, as if frozen in time.

So, for example, in thinking about marketplace change and the passage of time, recall that the regulations governing multichannel video distributors, like cable operators, largely were put in place by the Cable Act of 1992 – almost a quarter century ago.

And the “silos” that establish the regulatory framework for most market participants were left in place in the last major revision to the Communications Act – the Telecom Act of 1996. Yet the “Internet,” which so dominates our policy debates now, was mentioned only twice in the 1996 Act.

And in 2000, in connection with their “petition to deny” filed with the FCC, a coalition of consumer groups issued a dire warning that the then-proposed merger between AOL and Time Warner “would fuse the country’s largest online company with the world’s biggest media and entertainment conglomerate.” This, they argued, “would allow two enormous firms to dominate the markets for broadband and narrowband Internet services, cable television, and other entertainment services, which could leave consumers with higher prices, fewer choices, and the stifling of free expression on the Internet.” Well, we know how that prediction turned out.

And in 2004, the FCC initiated what it called the “IP-Enabled Services” proceeding to consider a proper regulatory model for the rapidly growing Internet services. The agency pointed out that the greater bandwidth of broadband networks encourages the introduction of services “which may integrate voice, video, and data capabilities while maintaining high quality of service.” Then, in a prediction that came to pass shortly thereafter, the FCC added: “It may become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish ‘voice’ service from ‘data’ service, and users may increasingly rely on integrated services using broadband facilities delivered using IP rather than the traditional PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).” In the decade since 2004, the Commission never took any further meaningful action in the IP-Enabled Servicesproceeding. Finally, earlier this year, in response to a petition filed by AT&T in 2012, the agency authorized trials as part of its IP-Transition project.

I could go on with the timeline but you get the point. The communications marketplace environment has been and continues to change rapidly – and the laws and regulations governing the marketplace have not kept pace.

Which brings me to the Free State Foundation’s Sixth Annual Telecom Policy Conference next Tuesday, March 18, at the National Press Club. The conference theme is: “A New FCC and a New Communications Act: Aligning Communications Policy with Marketplace Realities.”

A “New FCC” refers to the fact that the agency has a new Chairman and a new Commissioner. Whenever the agency is reconstituted, especially with a new Chairman, there is an opportunity for a fresh start, for changing course. A “New Communications Act” refers to the House Commerce Committee’s recently-initiated effort to review and update the Communications Act. And “Aligning Communications Policy with Marketplace Realities” refers to…well, just go back to the timeline sketched out above.

So, at Tuesday’s conference, we will be discussing what a new FCC and a new Communications Act may mean for communications law and policy – and not just what they maymean, but also what they ought to mean. After all, for a think tank that proclaims “Because Ideas Matter” in its logo – and which has confidence this is true – the “ought” is most important of all.

Take a quick look at the agenda. I’m sure you will be convinced that the conference promises to be interesting, informative, and lively. In addition to the keynote sessions with FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly and FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, the two panels are packed with nationally-prominent law and policy experts of all stripes. Both panels will be conducted in a lively Q&A conversational format, with no initial presentations…and no filibustering!

In order to attend the conference, please register here. You must register to attend. Because there is no charge to register, I cannot offer a money-back guarantee. But I pledge that if you do attend, when you leave you will know a lot more about what a new FCC and a new Communications Act may mean – and what they ought to mean – than when you arrived.

I hope to see you on Tuesday. And, as always, we appreciate your support for the Free State Foundation’s programs.

[Originally published at Free State Foundation]
Categories: On the Blog

Chris Christie’s ‘Sin Tax’ on E-cigs Would Burn Quitters

March 16, 2014, 4:33 AM

Why is Gov. Chris Christie trying to punish people who have quit smoking?

Tucked within Christie’s budget plan for 2015 is a brand new “sin tax” on the sale of electronic cigarettes, a smoke-free, tobacco-free alternative that many smokers and ex-smokers use to quit smoking. Christie apparently disapproves of this behavior, as he seeks to apply a tax on e-cigarette sales that would supposedly be equivalent to the excise tax paid by smokers who buy real cigarettes.

If Christie and supporters in the Legislature are looking for a catchy nickname for this portion of the budget, they may want to go with the Combustible Cigarette Protection Act of 2014. Such a title would accurately summarize the consequences of this poorly constructed plan.
Practically all e-cigarette users are or once were smokers, and a sudden price hike could send some back to smoking.

Additionally, with the most commonly available e-cigarettes — single-use disposables sold in convenience stores and general stores — already priced similarly to or even more than a pack of cigarettes, enactment of this brand-new tax would serve as a barrier preventing smokers from switching to a far less hazardous alternative.

Contrary to activists’ claims, nicotine at the levels used in e-cigarettes is no more harmful than regular caffeine use. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has recognized the low-risk nature of smoke-free nicotine use; it recently approved labeling changes to nicotine replacement therapy products to allow for long-term use by smokers looking to quit.

Independent studies of the water-like vapor produced by e-cigarettes have shown the levels of toxicants and chemicals are far lower than in cigarette smoke and comparable to the trace amounts present in traditional nicotine-replacement therapy products such as the nicotine inhaler, patch or gum. Moreover, smokers are increasingly using e-cigarettes in attempting to quit. A randomized clinical trial published last September in the medical journal The Lancet found e-cigarettes helped just as many smokers quit as the nicotine patch did, and e-cigarette users were much more likely to recommend friends use e-cigarettes to try to quit.

So why tax e-cigarettes at a rate that will make them less attractive to smokers?

Supporters of these taxes in other states have argued taxes on e-cigarettes will keep them out of the hands of children. This is a bogus argument because the sale of e-cigarettes to minors has already been banned in New Jersey, as it should be.

According to Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer), there is another reason to tax e-cigarettes the same as cigarettes: “If e-cigarettes are taxed less than regular cigarettes ,we’re sending a message out there that they’re somehow safer, and I think the jury is out on that,” he told NJ 101.5.

In other words, Benson wants you to believe the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette may be just as hazardous as inhaling the burning smoke from a cigarette. The idea of using taxes as a propaganda tool exemplifies the intellectual heft of those trying to pretend cigarettes and e-cigarettes are the same product.

In reality, with each month that passes, more public health and tobacco-control professionals are realizing the great harm-reduction potential of smoke-free products such as e-cigarettes. The only state that currently applies excise taxes to electronic cigarettes (over and above the sales tax), Minnesota, imposed the tax in 2010 when the product was in its infancy.

Given the potential health benefits of e-cigarettes compared with smoking, it’s no wonder attempts to apply excise taxes have failed in a diverse group of states, including Delaware, Iowa, Maine, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah.

For the sake of smokers desperately trying to quit, New Jersey legislators should reject this irrational cash grab.

[First published at the Newark Star-Ledger.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Yaron Brook on the Principles of Liberty – Part 2

March 14, 2014, 10:30 AM

This weekly podcast features the second half of a conversation between Jim Lakely, Heartland’s communications director, and Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute. In this half of the interview, Jim and Dr. Brook discuss President Obama’s treatment of capitalism, corporate cronyism, and the morality of libertarianism.

Dr. Brook describes Obama’s rhetoric as “the language of taking”, in which greedy executive take an unfair share of “our income”. It is a dangerous road the President wants to lead America down, one that invalidates hard work and innovation. Dr. Brook emphatically: “We do build it. We do make it”.

On the subject of corporate cronyism, Jim and Dr. Brook discuss how it is the people who have taken federal bailouts, and who have colluded with the government against the capitalist system, who might not “deserve” what they earn. But they are not real proponents of the free market at all, are they?

The morality of libertarianism takes up the latter part of the discussion. In the question of moral goodness, the only answer can be what the individual considers to be valuable. Dr. Brook says that he believes a political system that acknowledges human reason will respect people’s autonomy. Yet today we have a system in which both Left and Right try to undermine individuals. Politicians have forgotten that government is a means, not an end.

The conversation is brilliant, ranging across many of the issues facing the free market and the causes of reason and independence. While things may seem bleak in political circles at the moment, Dr. Brook seems confident in people’s ability to resist the oppression of the state in the end.

Listen to the podcast in the player above.

Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast free at this link.

Categories: On the Blog

Alex Sink Rides Global Warming Alarmism to Surprise Congressional Defeat in FL-13

March 14, 2014, 10:21 AM

The national media this morning are calling Democrat Alex Sink’s surprise defeat in a bellwether special Congressional election yesterday a foreboding referendum on Obamacare. Perhaps this is so, but only slightly less noteworthy is Sink supporters’ failed attempt to turn victorious Republican David Jolly’s global warming skepticism into a political albatross.

Having just moved into Florida’s U.S. House District 13, I was shocked these past two weeks to discover how global warming became the central issue dominating television’s political commercials. Granted, I haven’t been watching much television, as moving from one house to another has been nearly a full-time job. Nevertheless, it seemed I couldn’t go 15 minutes into my limited viewing schedule without seeing the same Sierra Club/League of Conservation Voters commercial excoriating Jolly for being a global warming skeptic. I honestly can’t recall seeing any other political commercials these past two weeks, either pro-Sink or pro-Jolly. However, I must have seen the global warming commercial at least a dozen times.

Most campaign analysts and all pre-election polls named Sink the favorite in the race. Sink held statewide office as Florida Chief Financial Officer from 2007-2010. In 2010, one of the bloodiest political years for Democrats ever, Sink came within a hair of winning Florida’s gubernatorial election. Sink had a tremendous name recognition advantage over Jolly, a former lobbyist who nobody had even heard of six months ago. Sink’s campaign outspent Jolly. And Sink decided to counter anti-Obamacare sentiment by defining Jolly as a scientifically dangerous climate change skeptic.

If there is any congressional district in America where Democrats should theoretically get the most bang for their buck selling global warming alarmism, Florida District 13 should be it. The district is urban and decidedly moderate. The Tea Party barely exists here. Northeastern and Rust Belt snowbirds dominate the demographics. President Obama carried the district in 2008 and 2012. And global warming alarmists’ constant (and erroneous) harping about sea level rise and hurricanes should prove especially scary to voters in District 13, which hugs the Gulf of Mexico.

Jolly didn’t even fight back against the constant global warming political onslaught. He never answered the Sierra Club/League of Conservation Voters attacks with a defense of his views on global warming, energy and the environment. He simply let Sink’s supporters sink their political war chest on what turned out to be a loser political strategy. Maybe Sink, despite all her advantages, was unavoidably going to suffer the political upset, anyway. Then again, maybe not. What we do know is a well-known Democrat who had recently served in statewide office lost to a lobbyist running his first political campaign after global warming became the most visible campaign advertising issue in the weeks leading up to the election.

Interestingly enough, the Florida District 13 election occurred just as the Senate Democratic Climate Action Task Force wrapped up an all-night session in which 30 Democratic senators filibustered to protest the Democratic-controlled Senate’s failure to pass a carbon tax. Democratic U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Kay Hagan (D-NC), all of whom face difficult reelection contests in the upcoming November elections, stayed conspicuously away from the high-profile hijinks.

Maybe they know something Alex Sink’s supporters should have, but didn’t.

[First published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Senate Democrats’ Anti-Scientific Hot-Air Marathon

March 14, 2014, 10:00 AM

While this week’s Senate  Climate Action Task Force all-night marathon may seem like the ultimate  comedy, real climate scientists are crying over the event. It’s not just because  of the numerous basic science mistakes made by the senators.

Scientists are also concerned that most of the media and public will fail to  realize that many of the senators’ absolute assertions are simply science  fiction.

The senators repeatedly argued that the science of climate change is  “settled.” Scientists supposedly know with certainty that our carbon-dioxide  emissions are causing a climate crisis.

There is no further need to investigate the validity of the theory or to  consider alternative evidence, the senators asserted. Rather, we must take  action to stop the  unfolding human-caused climate catastrophe.

Like children frightening each other with ghost stories, senators seemed to  be competing for the most alarming forecasts of eco-disaster.

Sen. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts  Democrat, easily took first place with his warning: “The science proves there is  a danger  . The planet is running a fever, but there are no emergency rooms for  planets.”

Professors Chris Essex of the University of Western  Ontario and Ross McKitrick of the  University of Guelph classify this sort of remark as part of the “Doctrine of  Certainty” that has ruined the climate debate.

In their book “Taken by Storm,” they explain, “The Doctrine is a collection  of now-familiar assertions made about climate, all of which must be accepted  without question.”

If one dares question the Doctrine, the reaction from true believers is  immediate: You are a denier, an enemy of nature, a pawn of big oil — and you  must be silenced.

The senators did not even consider the possibility that, as Mr.  Essex and Mr. McKitrick say, “The  Doctrine is not true. Each assertion is either manifestly false or the claim to  know is false.”

Following Mr. Obama’s assertion in January’s State of the Union address that  “the debate is settled,” Mr. Kerry told  Indonesians last month that the science backing what he called “the greatest  threat that the planet has ever seen” is “something that we understand with  absolute assurance of the veracity of that science.”

In reality, trying to unravel the causes and consequences of climate change  is arguably the most complex science ever tackled. Mr.  Essex and Mr. McKitrick explain:  “Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. Some knowledgeable scientists  believe that the climate problem can never be solved.”

One of the reasons the Senate Climate Action Task  Force can get away with their exaggerations is that the U.S. National  Academy of Sciences, the United Kingdom’s Royal Society and other national  science bodies are not doing their jobs.

Rather than working to help to defeat the anti-science “Doctrine of  Certainty” distorting the climate debate, these scientific bodies and others who  should know better engage in propaganda, making absolute assertions concerning  topics about which we have little knowledge

The National Academy of Sciences-Royal Society report, “Climate Change:  Evidence and Causes,” released on Feb. 27, is a prime example. In it, there  appear numerous unfounded assertions that cannot be supported by science.

For example, it says, “If the rise in [carbon dioxide] continues unchecked,  warming of the same magnitude as the increase out of the ice age [i.e., 7 to 9  degrees Fahrenheit] can be expected by the end of this century or soon  after.”

Not only does such a confident prediction undermine the careful approach  scientists normally take when addressing difficult fields of study, it is  irresponsible, since it encourages governments to prepare only for warming while  ignoring the possibility that far more dangerous cooling is on the way as the  sun weakens into a “grand minimum” over the coming decades.

Reports such as that from the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal  Society provide political cover for politicians of developed country to bring in  draconian and unnecessary carbon-dioxide regulations that are destroying their  most important source of electric power — coal.

Ontario has already closed most of its coal stations because of the  government’s blind adherence to climate-change doctrine. This has led to soaring  electricity prices, a major  cause of the province’s decline from “have” to “have not” status.

With the Senate Climate  Action Task Force’s help, the Obama  administration appears determined to do the same in the United States, ending  America’s use of coal, the least expensive and most reliable electricity  source.

The president and his allies promote wind and solar power, the least reliable  and most expensive options available, in the vain belief that this will stop the  climate from changing.

No one knows whether spending billions of dollars revamping  the U.S. energy infrastructure will finally break America’s back. Still, there  are limits to how many blunders even a great nation can commit and still  survive.

Let’s not find out if  bowing to the climate-change “Doctrine of Certainty” will be America’s final,  fatal mistake.

[Originally posted at The Washington Times]
Categories: On the Blog

The Austrian Economists Who Refuted Marx (and Obama)

March 14, 2014, 9:47 AM

Left unspoken in Obama’s assertion of knowing what a minimum “fair” or “just” wage should be in America is the ghost of a thinker long thought to have been relegated to the dustbin of history: Karl Marx (1818-1883).

Marx’s Labor Theory of a Worker’s Value

Marx’s conception of the unjust “wage slavery” that businessmen imposed on their workers became the premise and the rallying cry that resulted in the communist revolutions of the twentieth century, with all their destruction and terror.

Marx insisted that the “real value” of anything produced was by determined by the quantity of labor that had gone into its manufacture.  If it takes four hours of labor time to produce a pair of shoes and two hours of labor time to prepare and bake a cake, then the just ratio of exchange between the two commodities should be one pair of shoes in trade for two cakes. Thus the quantities of the two goods would exchange at a ratio representing comparable amounts of labor time to produce them.

If a worker’s labor produced, say, three pairs of shoes during a twelve-hour workday, then the worker had a just right to the ownership of the three pairs of shoes his labor had produced, so he might exchange it for the productions of other workers from whom he wanted to buy.

But, Marx insisted, the businessman who hired the worker did not pay him a wage equal to the value of the three pairs of shoes the laborer had produced.  Simply because the businessman owned the factory and machines as private property with which the worker produced those shoes, and without access to which the worker would be left out in the cold to starve, the employer demanded a portion of the worker’s output.

The employer paid him a wage only equal to, say, two of the pairs of shoes, thus “stealing” a part of the worker’s labor. Hence, in Marx’s mind, the market value of the third pair of shoes that the businessman kept for himself out of the worker’s work was the source of his profit, or the net gain over the costs of hiring the worker.

Here is the origin of the notion of “unearned income,” the idea of income not from working and producing, but from, well, simply owning a private business in which the workers who really did all the work were employed.

The businessman, you see, does nothing. He lives off the labor of others, while sitting up in his office, with his feet on the desk, smoking a cigar (when it was still “politically correct” to do so). It is not surprising that given this reasoning about work, wages and profit that a president of the United States then says to businessmen “You really did not make it.”

Carl Menger and the Personal Value of Things

Karl Marx died in 1883, at the age of sixty-four.  A decade before his death, in the early 1870s, his labor theory of value had been overturned by a number of economists. The most important of them was the Austrian economist, Carl Menger (1840-1921), in his 1871 book, “Principles of Economics.”

Menger explained that the value of something was not derived from the quantity of labor that had been devoted to its manufacture. A man might spend hundreds of hours making mud pies on the seashore, but if no one has any use for mud pies, and therefore does not value them enough to pay anything for them, then those mud pies are worthless.

Value like beauty, as the old adage says, is in the eyes of the beholder. It is based on the personal, or “subjective,” use and degree of importance that someone has for a commodity or service to serve some end or purpose that he would like to satisfy.

Goods do not have value because of the amount of labor devoted to their production. Rather, a certain type of labor skill and ability may have value because it is considered useful as a productive means to achieve a goal that someone has in mind.

And furthermore, the value of things decreases as our supply of them increases, because we apply each additional quantity of a good at our disposal to a purpose less important than the purpose for which previously acquired units of that good were used.

As I am adding shirts to my wardrobe, each extra shirt generally serves a use for that type of clothing less important to me than the shirts I had purchased earlier. Economists call this the “diminishing marginal utility of goods.”

Nobody Pays More for Anything Than They Think its Worth

So there is no “objective” minimum value that labor is inherently worth. An employer hires workers because they have value to him in assisting to produce a product that he thinks he can sell to potential buyers. As he hires workers of a particular type and skill, each of these workers is assigned to a task less important than the one the previous worker was hired to do.

As a result, no employer can or does pay more for any worker than he thinks his labor services are worth in contributing value to his production activities. The value of the worker to the employer is an assigned reflection of what that employer thinks the product is worth to the buying public who may purchase what the worker helps to produce.

Suppose that he thinks that some of the people in his work force contribute no more than, say, $6.00 an hour to the making of a product he hopes to sell to consumers. It should not be surprising that when the government tells him that he is legally obligated to pay each one of them a minimum wage no less than $7.40 an hour or $10.10 an hour, he lets go those that he considers now to be more costly to employ than they are worth. In addition, other jobs that he might have made available at that $6.00 an hour will never come into existence.

All that a government-mandated minimum wage succeeds in doing is pricing out of the labor market those workers whose valued contribution in the eyes of the employer in making a product is less than what the government dictates must be paid to them.

But what, exactly, does the employer do? What does he contribute to the production process, over and above the work down by the hired employees? Marx, as we saw, argued that the businessman’s “profit” was the value of that portion of the worker’s output that he appropriated for himself simply because he owned the business in which the worker was employed.

Böhm-Bawerk and the Importance of Savings for Job Creation

Another Austrian economist, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (1851-1914), who developed many of the ideas that originated with Carl Menger, gave the answer to Marx. In an important three-volume work on “Capital and Interest” (1914), and in several essays, the most important of which were, “Unresolved Contraction in the Marxian Economic System” (1896) and “Control or Economic Law” (1914) Böhm-Bawerk asked: Where does the business come from in which the worker is employed? And from where comes the funds with which the worker is paid his salary?

How has the factory been built? From where comes the capital – the machinery, tools, equipment – in the factory with which the hired workers do their work to produce the products that eventually are available for consumers to buy?

Böhm-Bawerk’s answer was that someone had to do the necessary savings out of income earned in the past so resources could be devoted to building the enterprise and housing it with the capital equipment without which any worker’s labor would be far less productive, far smaller in output, and far more crude in its quality.

The businessman who undertakes an enterprise must either have saved the necessary funds to cover his own investment expenses to do all of this, or he must have borrowed if from others who had done the necessary savings. Someone had to sacrifice, forego, the desirable consumption uses in the present that that savings could have been used for if it had not been invested in starting up and maintaining the operations of the business that may generate a financial payoff in the future when a product has been produced and can be sold at some point in that future.

No one sacrifices the uses and enjoyments that their income could provide them with today unless they are sufficiently compensated with a gain in the future that makes it worthwhile to forego those consumption uses and pleasures of the present.

That is why interest is paid, as the price for trading the use of resources across time, between the present and the future. It is the price that savers receive in the future for sacrificing satisfactions closer to the present until the borrowed sums are paid back. And the borrower pays that interest because he values more highly the uses he has for the money and resources he borrows today than the interest premium that he pays over the principle on the loan when it is repaid in the future.

Businessmen Save the Workers from Having to Wait for Their Wages

The fact that the businessman has such savings at his disposal, either from his own savings out of income earned in the past or from the borrowed savings of others, means that those that he employs do not have to wait until the product is finished and actually sold to receive their wages for the work they perform over the period of production.

The employer, in other words, “advances” to the workers the discounted value of what their labor services are worth while the production process is ongoing, precisely to relieve those whom he is employing from having to wait until revenues are received in the future from the sale of the product to consumers.

Indeed, this is why it is correct to say that the businessman really did “make it,” because without his willingness and ability to organize, fund, and direct the enterprise those whom he employs would have no jobs and would have no wages to live on before a marketable product was made and successfully sold.

This last point is also crucially important to appreciate. The businessman is not only the organizer of the enterprise and the investor of savings to “make it” happen, he is also the entrepreneur, the one who may or may not earn a profit from his enterprising efforts.

Businessmen Bear the Uncertainty of Planning for the Future

The workers and all others who supply businessman with the useful services and resources to undertake a production process receive their pay while the work is on going and being done. But the entrepreneur bears the uncertainty of whether or not he will earn enough from selling the product to cover all the expenses he has incurred when the product is finally ready for sale and actually offered on the market.

By paying those he employs the agreed upon and contracted for wages, he relieves his employees from the uncertainty as to whether or not, at the end of the day, a profit is earned, a loss is suffered, or the enterprise barely breaks even.

It is the businessman who has to make the creative speculative judgments about what to produce and at what price his product might sell. The correctness of that entrepreneurial judgment, in better anticipating than his competitors what it is consumers may want to buy in the future and the price they might pay for it, is what determines the success or failure of his enterprise.

Thus, Karl Marx had it all wrong in misunderstanding what determined the value of goods, the worth of workers in the production process, and the vital and essential role of the enterprising entrepreneurial businessman who really does “make it” all happen.

The Harm That Comes from Marxian-Based Polices

It matters little whether the president of the United States and others who share his views about work, wages and businessmen are consciously aware of how much their conception of capitalism and the labor market is implicitly derived from and influenced by the obsolete ruminations of a long-dead socialist revolutionary from the middle of the nineteenth century.

What does matter is that economic policies based on such Marxian misconceptions of the nature and workings of the free market economy can only lead to harm and disaster for multitudes of the very people it is claimed they wish to help.

And such misplaced policies will further undermine the essential foundations of the free market system that over the last two hundred years has given man more personal freedom and material prosperity than has ever known in all of human history.  They are policies that erode away at people’s liberty to work and freely associate in the ways they find most advantageous, and therefore move society down a road that leads to potential ruin.



[Originally posted at EpicTimes]
Categories: On the Blog

How the Global Warming Scare Began

March 13, 2014, 9:11 PM

Heartland friend John Coleman is among the many courageous meteorologists who are speaking out against the fake science of man-caused global warming. He’s brave, influential, and has the backing of his TV station in San Diego, KUSI, to produce videos such as the one below titled “How the Global Warming Scare Began.”

Coleman is the founder of The Weather Channel, was the first weatherman on “Good Morning America,” and was named “Broadcast Meteorologist of the Year” by the American Meteorological Society. (NOTE: Coleman quit the AMS when, he says, it was clear “the politics had gotten in the way of the science.”)

In the video below, Coleman says something all global warming “skeptics” could agree upon: If the science actually backed up the notion that humans were endangering the earth’s climate, he’d be on the front lines to save the planet. “But it’s just not happening,” he said.

The little warming we have now is well within (and even below) natural variations over the centuries. But the fruitless “fight” against man-caused global warming is wasting enormous sums of money — seen in government outlays, and in the unduly rising energy bills of every American.

In his video, Coleman gives us many “Cold Hard Facts.” Here are some of them:

  • Arctic ice levels are well within the average measured by satellites since first recorded about 35 years ago.
  • Polar bear populations are up, not down.
  • The “global warming” superstorms the alarmists predicted have not materialized. No hurricanes hit the US in 2013. Superstorm Sandy was nothing compared to the Galveston Hurricane in 1900, before man supposedly had influence on the climate. Strong tornadoes have been diminishing, too.
  • We haven’t had a “killer heat wave” since the 1950s.
  • Al Gore got a “D” in the only science course he took at Harvard, taught by the godfather of climate alarmism, Roger Revelle … and the rest is history (including Revelle apologizing for his previous alarmism and Gore responding by calling him “senile.”)

There is so much more. This is the primer you must show your alarmist friends:

For more information on what’s really happening to the earth’s climate, visit The Heartland Institute’s archive of its eight international conferences on climate change — featuring more than 300 presentations by 187 scientists, economists, and policy experts (including Coleman).

For the very latest observable climate science, as opposed to political climate science, visit the Climate Change Reconsidered site. Stay tuned to that site, and The Heartland Institute, for news about yet another report from the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) that will be released later this month.

Categories: On the Blog

Obama Golfs While Americans Job-Seek

March 13, 2014, 11:00 AM

A close relative of mine has been spending months job-seeking and the news from the White House in the first week of March was that the President was playing golf in Key Largo while Joe Biden was in the Virgin Islands soaking up the sun. It’s not that they don’t deserve some down time, but down time for the unemployed is full time. The U.S. has 866,000 fewer people employed today than when the recession began in the wake of the 2008 recession.

Since Obama became President in 2009, there has been a 3.5 million increase in jobs, but 12 million new working age people. This is supposed to be a “recovery” according to the White House but the job numbers are not keeping pace with the job-seekers.

It’s not widely reported, but the labor force participation rate of 63% remains stuck at or near its lowest point since the late 1970s. There are two million fewer Americans in the labor force today than a year ago. The number of long-term unemployed, six months or more, rose by 203,000.

While Obama keeps bloviating about income inequality, too many Americans have no income at all.

At the same time, thanks to Obama, the U.S. debt, according to the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of Public Debt, has increased $6.666 trillion since he took office on January 20, 2009. As of January 31, 2014, the total debt stood at $17,293,019,654,983.61. While he has been President, the U.S. has accumulated as much new debt as it did in the first 227 years.

This is a President who has been pushing to raise the minimum wage, but according to the Congressional Budget Office, raising it to $10.10 an hour would cost the U.S. economy a half-million new jobs by 2016.

In an article by Michael D. Tanner that was published by the New York Post in August of last year, he noted that “The federal government funds 126 separate programs targeted towards low-income people, 72 of which provide either cash or in-kind benefits to individuals.” In addition, state and local governments have welfare programs as well. Who funds these programs? Those with jobs. Welfare benefits are not taxed.

“There is no evidence that people on welfare are lazy,” wrote Tanner. “Indeed, surveys of them consistently show their desire for a job. But they are not stupid. If you pay them more not to work than they can earn by working, many choose not to work.”

Former Presidents have encountered recessions when they entered office and those such as Kennedy and Reagan put an end to them. When taxes are lowered it puts more money into the economy and that stimulates it. There is no such talk from Obama and, indeed, his 2014 budget adds billions more that he wants to add to government revenue and spending.

A March 10th Rasmussen survey found that the President’s proposed new $3.9 trillion federal budget that includes $55 billion in new spending for fiscal 2015, is regarded by one-out-of-two voters (50%) who think the Obama administration has already raised spending too much.

Spending is controlled by the House of Representatives, but legislation to address the present economy has been consistently blocked in the Democrat controlled Senate. It’s the same one that enacted the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, which is playing havoc with the nation’s health system and impacting its economy by forcing businesses to either cut the number of people employed or reducing full-time workers to part-time status.

Other actions of the Obama administration are contributing to the unemployment roles as its “war on coal” has shut down more than 150 coal-fired plants that generate electricity and its loans to “green” industries have cost billions as many have declared bankruptcy.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of State, John Kerry, is telling everyone that “climate change” is the greatest threat to the planet and urging U.S. ambassadors to make it a priority. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency is engaged in an orgy of regulation based on zero proof that carbon dioxide warms the Earth.

Obama and his administration is so detached from reality that it is afflicting millions of Americans who want to work while at the same time its policies are reducing the number of new jobs being created.

If this is a deliberate policy—as I believe it is—the only conclusion is that the President is intentionally inflicting a huge debt and impediments to our economy that are reducing the greatest nation on Earth to a third world nation status. He opposed the view of American exceptionalism and is doing everything he can to kill it.

[Originally posted at Warning Signs]
Categories: On the Blog