Rooted in Reason: Nurturing the Seeds of Liberty


It’s the Sun. Shhhh!! by maliab
September 7, 2011, 7:41 pm
Filed under: World | Tags: , ,

In some of his last works, the author Michael Crichton made an effort to point out that environmental non-profits are a business.  And not a struggling one either.  That fact–that non-profits must still behave as businesses, raising money on the strength of their ideas (or scare tactics)–is one that seems to be lost on a good portion of the media.  And the more left-wing the goals of the non-profit, the more people seem to miss the fact that there’s more than altruism behind the activist organizations pushing a “green” agenda.  There are reputations at stake, and money and influence to be pedaled.  And let’s not even get into the whole topic of grants.  Former Vice President Gore has practically made an industry out of environmental hysteria.  And I’m not just talking about the profits inherent in boring people senseless through books and lectures.  (I dunno, I guess some people like to be bored, or are willing to do anything to cure insomnia . . . or something.)  There’s also the millions he’s made investing in green companies that have then been awarded generous government grants  To be clear–I’m not suggesting that Mr. Gore is less than sincere in his beliefs.  I’m just pointing out that his beliefs very conveniently line up with the interests of his wallet.

But I shouldn’t only pick on the former VP.  Back in 2008, the Sierra Club’s 501(c)(4) listed an annual income of $84,438,083 and assets of $61,407,872.  Their COO earned $235,414 in compensation that year.  That may not reach the levels of the biggest corporations, but it’s still nothing to sneeze at.  (And for the record, Grassroot’s annual income doesn’t even come close.  Our entire yearly budget could probably be covered by their paper clips and printer cartridge allocations.)

My point (and there is one, if you’ll just bear with me) is that the picture painted by the environmental lobby where they are portrayed as the caring, future-oriented types backed-up by pure science, and anyone who disagrees is a troglodyte “denier” is as false and biased as anything else you can hear from an activist political group.  With so much money and political capital in play, we shouldn’t be surprised when such groups avoid, bury, or denounce anything that questions their worldview (and money stream).  Like the new report that we human may be just a tad vain and self-centered in taking all the credit for global warming:

The results from an experiment to mimic Earth’s atmosphere by CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, tell researchers that the sun has a significant effect on our planet’s temperature. Its magnetic field acts as a gateway for cosmic rays, which play a large role in cloud formation.

Consequently, when the sun’s magnetic field allows cosmic rays to seed cloud cover, temperatures are cooler. When it restricts cloud formation by deflecting cosmic rays away from Earth, temperatures go up.

Or, as the London Telegraph’s James Delingpole delicately put it:

“It’s the sun, stupid.”

This new finding of 63 scientists from 17 European and U.S. institutes from an experiment that’s been ongoing since 2009 is, if we may paraphrase Vice President Joe Biden, a big deal. Which is exactly why the mainstream media, with so much invested in global warming hysteria, is letting last week’s announcement from CERN pass like a brief summer shower, ignoring it.

Even CERN’s own director general, Rolf-Dieter Heuer, is trying to avoid the meaning of the findings.

He told Germany’s Die Welt Online that he’s “asked the colleagues to present the results clearly, but not to interpret them. That would go immediately into the highly political arena of the climate change debate.”

But, as British science writer Nigel Calder points out, Heuer would have no reservations about entering “‘the highly political arena of the climate change debate’ provided” his results endorsed man-made warming.



Rush Jobs by maliab
September 6, 2011, 7:26 pm
Filed under: Economy | Tags: , , , , , , ,

It’s the jobs, stupid.  At least, that’s what the new call of the politicians (and political advisers) seems to be of late.  Personally, I always find it a bit surreal watching politicians talk about their plans to increase jobs.  As though our economy was powered by hot air and political promises.  Granted, sometimes one of them will stumble upon an economic truth. (Like the fact that the best thing they can do for the job market is remove some of the federal barriers to economic growth–especially the banking regulations and monetary policy that prevent small to  mid-range businesses from growing in this struggling economy.)  But then, likely as not, they’ll just pick themselves up and hurry off as though nothing has happened.

And now, many of us are faced with a conundrum on Thursday night.  Do we tune in to see President Obama unveil his “Jobs Plan”?  Or do we make sure we are properly stocked up on buffalo wings and chips and watch the first game of the NFL season?  It’s true that we are facing a serious unemployment crisis in this country.  On the other hand, it seems unlikely that the President was visited in the night by the ghost of Milton Friedman and saw the error of his big government ways.  And the Saints are playing the Packers, which could not only be a glimpse of the NFC playoffs, but carries major implications for millions of fantasy football rosters.  And I’m not the only one feeling less than enthused about what I secretly fear is the unveiling of yet another giant spending program.   Consider what Dr. Merrill Matthews, Resident Scholar for the Institute for Policy Innovation has to say:

Perhaps the most underreported story last week was the announcement from the Office of Management and Budget that the unemployment rate would likely remain in the 9.0 percent range throughout 2012. And this a week before the president plans to deliver to Congress and the nation a jobs package that is supposed to help create jobs.

So what is OMB telling us? You would think that if the White House and its relevant advisors had been developing a drop-dead jobs-creation package, OMB would have waited until after the speech and then released an analysis saying that unemployment would likely remain in the 9 percent range, but that number could be significantly lower if Congress adopted the president’s jobs plan.

So did the White House not consult with OMB about its jobs proposals? Or, more likely, is it that everyone in the administration knows that there’s nothing new or innovative in the jobs package, and that it likely won’t pass anyway because it costs billions of federal dollars the government doesn’t have?

Either way, the “anticipation factor” for the president’s speech is very low, because no one expects that his proposals—mired as the White House is in Keynesian economics and big-spending notions—would do any good anyway. No one, including, apparently, the president’s own budget office.



A Victory for Voters (But Not Here, Unfortunately) by maliab
September 2, 2011, 4:34 am
Filed under: HawaiiVotes | Tags: , , ,

Ballotpedia (and it really exists, though one should not–as I initially did–accidentally go looking for Ballet-pedia, as that will not remotely answer your questions about referendums) tells us that pretty much the last time the initiative and referendum process got any support from the major parties in Hawaii was in 1907.  That’s when the Democratic Territorial Convention passed a resolution in favor of Initiative and Referendum.  The sentiment didn’t last.  Since then, both parties have been hostile to the notion, and multiple efforts (including one at the 1978 constitutional convention) to include a referendum process in the state constitution have come to naught.  Of course, we, the public, still occasionally get to vote on things that the legislature refers to us, but our ability to generate ballot initiatives is limited and controlled by the legislature, and ergo, the major parties.

Other states have all sorts of referendum rights, and are working to expand the influence of voter initiatives.  Perhaps we can take some inspiration from the recent federal court victory that knocked down yet another obstacle to petitions, which are one of the best checks that the People can hold over government excesses:

Paul Jacob, president of Citizens in Charge, a national voter rights group focused on the ballot initiative and referendum process, applauded yesterday’s federal court ruling striking down Nebraska’s restriction on non-resident petition circulators in the case Citizens in Charge v. Gale.

In his ruling, Judge Joseph Bataillon found that prohibiting non-residents from collecting signatures harmed the ability of citizens to use the state’s initiative, referendum, recall, and minor political party ballot access systems by substantially increasing the cost. The judge noted that no measure had made the state ballot “since the restriction had been put in place.”

“Nebraska is unique in that the people, through the initiative, make up the second chamber of the legislature,” Jacob pointed out. “For one chamber to so restrict and hamper the other that it can’t even function is unprecedented. Judge Bataillon’s ruling is a big victory for Nebraska voters.”

Jacob was disappointed that Judge Bataillon did not strike down the “scarlet letter” provision that requires petition forms to have printed in bold red type whether the petition is being circulated by a paid person or a volunteer. Ruling in a separate case, Bernbeck v. Gale, Judge Bataillon upheld a provision of state election law banning pay based on the number of signatures gathered, citing a prior ruling in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

“Unfortunately, the ban on productivity pay remains a substantial barrier to any Nebraskan petitioning her or his government, dramatically increasing the cost and difficulty,” Jacob added. “A similar law in Colorado has been enjoined by a federal judge as likely to be found unconstitutional.”



Unstimulated by maliab
August 31, 2011, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Economy | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The President will be unveiling his new jobs plan next week.  (Though when seems to be in doubt, as Rep. Boehner has indicated that Wednesday isn’t good for him and Congress, what with the GOP presidential debate and the last minute-ness of it all, and the White House has indicated that they’re not in love with Thursday as a day–with some commentators speculating that they don’t want to compete with the first NFL game of the season.)  If presidential conversation about jobs could create employment opportunities, we’d be at about 0% unemployment right now.

But, of course, it doesn’t.  And it turns out that buying jobs with huge chunks of federal dollars doesn’t do much better.

As the Weekly Standard points out, a study of the hiring practices of firms who received stimulus funds reveals that the stimulus package created as much job poaching as job creation.  Yet more proof (if we even needed it) that Keynesian economic theory so loved by this Administration seems to crumble in the face of the real world practice:

The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has just released an important new study on the hiring practices of firms that used stimulus funds. It’s fairly comprehensive, based on over 1,300 surveys of managers and employees. There’s been very little good empirical data on the stimulus thus far, so the study contains a lot of valuable insights. Among the findings by authors Dan Rothschild and Garrett Jones:

Hiring isn’t the same as net job creation. In our survey, just 42.1 percent of the workers hired at ARRA-receiving organizations after January 31, 2009, were unemployed at the time they were hired (Appendix C). More were hired directly from other organizations (47.3 percent of post-ARRA workers), while a handful came from school (6.5%) or from outside the labor force (4.1%)(Figure 2). Thus, there was an almost even split between “job creating” and “job switching.” This suggests just how hard it is for Keynesian job creation to work in a modern, expertise-based economy: even in a weak economy, organizations hired the employed about as often as the unemployed.

Put simply, stimulus funds caused more job shifting than job creation. Another key finding? Union-friendly wage protections kill jobs:

Among organizations required to pay prevailing wages, 38.2 percent thought that they could have hired workers at wages below the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage (Figure 3) while another 17 percent were unsure. This meant higher costs for the federal government and fewer jobs created.

Of course, merely having your economic philosophy proved disastrously wrong doesn’t seem much of a hindrance to the Left.  Talk about the power of wishful thinking.



Dale’s Latest on Transit, Energy, and the Rest by maliab
August 30, 2011, 6:11 pm
Filed under: Economy, World | Tags: , , , ,

Dale of Charley’s Taxi is back with the latest headlines on transit, funding, energy, zoning, and highways.  Highlights for this week include yet more eye-opening material on what I’m going to have to start calling “the Honolulu Rail Debacle.”  (One tiny bright spot in the whole mess–we’re bringing back the word “debacle”, which is just plain darned fun to say.)  And then there’s the not particularly surprising news that most legislators have no background knowledge of business.  I don’t know whether I should be relieved that the incompetence and obstructionism comes from ignorance and lack of experience or not, but it sometimes seems like our elected officials would have to know a lot about business to be able to muck things up so thoroughly.

QUOTES

PBN has long been in favor of mass transit, and we continue to be. We’re not saying, “Don’t build something.” We’re saying, “Don’t build an elevated rail project, and don’t build anything as it’s currently proposed.” This project cannot be fixed, and we are extremely concerned that its enduring legacy — should construction ever start — will be as our “rail to nowhere” effort. — Pacific Business News Editorial

I guarantee you this – I’m going to do my damndest to see that money [$1.5 billion from feds] comes in. It should be okay. But to predict an absolute outcome, only a fool would do that.” — Sen. Daniel Inouye to HART board

“Performance.gov tracks out progress on the administration’s efforts to create a government that is more effective, efficient, innovative and responsive. Importantly, the site is also a valuable tool for sharing best practices across the government – supporting learning and coordination across agencies.” — Jeff Zients, OMB

TOP HEADLINES
Green Scissors: Cutting Wasteful and Environmentally Harmful Spending 2011, Heartland Institute, 8/24/11

Study shows traffic accidents in Michigan costs the state US $4.4 billion more than crime, Traffic Technology Today, 8/25/11

The Henry Ford of Our Time, John Steele Gordon, American Enterprise Institute, 8/26/11

Is the Country on Empty?, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Special Issue, Inside ALEC, July/August 2011

U.S. has 200-year supply of coal, and 100-year supply of natural gas.

Impacts of Potential Oil Shale Development on Water Resources, Anu K. Mittal, GAO 11-929T, Testimony to House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Committee on Natural Resources, 8/24/11

US Geological Survey estimates that Green River Formation contains about 3 trillion barrels of oil, about half of it recoverable, depending on available technology and economic conditions. Equals entire world’s proven oil reserves.

News in Hawaii

Elevated rail project leads Oahu in wrong direction, Pacific Business News Editorial, 8/26/11

Inouye to HART: “I’ll do my best.”, Hawaii News Now, 8/25/11

How the city misled the public, Walter Heen, Benjamin Cayetano, Cliff Slater, Randall Roth, Honolulu Star Advertiser, 8/21/11

TAXES & ECONOMIES

Harkins: Upgrading U.S. infrastructure more important than cutting deficit, Jennifer Jacobs, DesMoies Register, 8/26/11

Nation’s economic growth slides down to 1 percent, Peter Schroeder, The Hill, 8/26/11

What’s Better for the Environment: Raising the Gas Tax or Fuel-Efficiency Standards?, Infrastructurist, 8/25/11

Labor chief: Obama needs to focus on job growth, not cutting the deficit, Kevin Bogardus, The Hill, 8/25/11

Green Scissors 2011: Cutting Wasteful and Environmentally Harmful Spending, Eli Lehrer, Autumn Hanna, Benjamin Schreiber, Tyson Slocum, Heartland Institute, 8/24/11

Office of Management and Budget puts accountability online, Joe Davidson,Washington Post, 8/24/11

CBO estimates show Congress faces huge test on debt, unemployment, The Hill, 8/24/11

Wall Street Aristocracy Got $1.2 Trillion in Secret Loans at Lowest Rates, Bradley Keoun, Phil Kurtz, Bloomberg, 8/22/11

U.S. Travel: Overseas visitor spending driving growth, Danny King, Travel Weekly, 8/20/11

Forget Corporate Jets. Government Limousines Show They’re Stealing You Blind, Iain Murray, Competitive Enterprise Institute, 8/19/11

HIGHWAYS & BRIDGES, PPP & TOLLING, DRIVING ISSUES

DUI, Uninsured Motorists, Tolling, PPPs, Variable Pricing, RUCS and Sustainable Transportation

Study shows traffic accidents in Michigan costs the state US $4.4 billion more than crime, Traffic Technology Today, 8/25/11

Drivers not happy about toll hike, Steve Metsch, Casey Toner, Chicago Sun-Times, 8/25/11

Big Brother Bloomberg, Charles C.W. Cooke, National Review, 8/25/11

Interview with Donald Shoup: Los Angeles Making Strides with ExpressPark, Damien Newton, LA.StreetsBlog, 8/24/11

HNTB survey shows Americans top concerns are poor road conditions and congestion, Traffic Technology Today, 8/23/11

The Wrong Road to Transportation Solutions, Benita Dodd, Georgia Public Policy Foundation, 8/19/11

TRANSIT
Watchdogs seek cost information on Dulles Metro line, Dana Hedgpeth, WashingtonPost, 8/27/11

Should a ‘Walker’s Paradise’ Save Plenty of Room for Parking?, Saqib Rahim, NYTimes, 8/25/11

TTC may ban criminals who assaulted transit workers, Metro Mag, 8/25/11

California’s Goofy Train Fixation Could Bankrupt the Country, Roger Hedgecock, Human Events, 8/26/11

No tram line for city centre and 4m-a-year loss, Brian Ferguson, The Scotsman, 8/26/11

What Does Opposition to Government Rail Projects Have to Do with Individual Liberty?, Matt Welch, Reason, 8/25/11

San Francisco High Speed Rail on Varney & Co., FoxNews, 8/24/11

Traveling back to the future on intercity buses, Michael Barone, Washington Examiner, 8/23/11

Dulles Metrorail Silver Line vs Bus Rapid Transit, Steve Lafleur, New Geography, 8/19/11

ZONING, HOUSING & LAND USE

TODs, Eminent Domain, Property Rights

How To Save The Housing Market: Destroy Houses, Massimo Calabresi, Stephen Gandel, Time, 9/05/11

The Evolving Urban Form: Beijing, Wendell Cox, New Geography, 8/29/11

America’s Gambling Craze: Playing with Fire, Neal Peirce, Citiwire, 8/25/11

Suburbanized Core Cities, Wendell Cox, New Geography, 8/26/11

Universal Principles for Creating a Sustainable City, Sven Eberlein, Planetizen, 8/11/11

ENERGY & ENVIRONMENT

Rigged For Failure, Investors Business Daily, 8/24/11

Last year, 3 oil rigs moved out of Gulf of Mexico. Now, it’s 10.

Is the Country on Empty?, American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Special Issue, Inside ALEC, July/August 2011

U.S. has 200-year supply of coal, and 100-year supply of natural gas.

Impacts of Potential Oil Shale Development on Water Resources, Anu K. Mittal, GAO 11-929T, Testimony to House Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources, Committee on Natural Resources, 8/24/11

Not Free to Choose: The Reality behind Clean Energy Standards, Kenneth P. Green, American Enterprise Institute, 8/23/11

Cities Mean Coal, Energy Facts, 8/23/11

What New Emissions Standards Will Mean to Automakers, Mike Orcutt, MIT Technology Review, 8/22/11

The EPA’s giant green jobs-killer, Michael A. Walsh, NYPost, 8/21/11

Ozone Standards Not Scientific Either, Adam Peshek, Reason, 8/19/11

Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises, NYTimnes, 8/18/11

Where to put spent U.S. nuclear fuel, Robert Bryce, Politico, 8/18/11

Climatology Professor Rebuts Smear on Skeptical ScientistJames M. Taylor, Heartland Institute, 8/15/11

The Wind-Energy Myth, Robert Bryce, National Review, 8/12/11

New Study Touts Benefits of Expanded Oil Trade with Canada, Christine Hall, Competitive Enterprise Institute, 8/09/11

The Economic Opportunities of Shale Energy Development, Timothy J. Considine, Robert W. Watson, Nicholas B. Consodine, Manhattan Institute, Energy Policy & the Environment Report No. 9, June 2011

Global Carbon Markets Dirty Secret, Will Evans, Center for Investigative Reporting, 5/21/11

Lawsuit by low-income groups may delay climate law, Sarah Terry-Cobo, CaliforniaWatch, 2/09/11

MISCELLANEOUS

Perry: Gates Gave China Fighter-Jet Superiority, William chedsey, Newsmax, 8/27/11

49% of Newborns on Food Assistance Programs, Newsmax, 8/27/11

How to Keep Your Cell Phone going as Long as Possible, Christopher Mims, MIT Technology Review, 8/27/11

Crime and the Great Recession, James Q. Wilson, City Journal Summer 2011 vol. 21. No. 3.

The minister of magic steps down, The Economist, 8/27/11

The Henry Ford of Our Time, John Steele Gordon, American Enterprise Institute, 8/26/11

Cheeky: Rick Perry Bills the Feds for Illegal Immigrant Imprisonment Costs, Erika Johnsen, Townhall, 8/26/11

Arming the Cartels, Geoprge H. Wittman, American Spectator, 8/26/11

Astronomers discover planet made of diamond, Ben Hirschler, Reuters, 8/25/11

Study: 80 Percent of Lawmakers Lack Academic Background in Business, Economics, FoxNews, 8/25/11

Employment Policies Institute found that 55.5 percent of lawmakers majored in a government-related field or “humanities. Only about 8 percent majored in economics, 14 percent studied business or accounting in college. These numbers raise questions about legislators’ ability to tacke otuch economic challenges.

Let’s Put a Stop to the War On Salt, Luke Pelican, Jacqueline Otto, Fox News, 8/15/11



Scoring the Hawaii Delegation by maliab
August 26, 2011, 7:14 am
Filed under: HawaiiVotes | Tags: , , , , , , ,

How conservative are Hawaii’s Senators and Congresswomen?

Hey!  Stop laughing!  I mean it.

Ok, I’ll just give you a moment to get a hold of yourselves.

So obviously, the answer to that question is “not very.”  But even if you think of your Congressional delegation as slightly to the Left of Che Guevara, it still helps to know the particulars.  So no matter what side of the aisle you’re on, you may be interested in Heritage Action’s new legislative scorecard, which calculates how each Senator and Congressman/woman scores compared to their preferred stance on specific legislation.  And while it’s no surprise that Senators Inouye and Akaka each scored a big fat 0%, it may interest you to know that Congresswomen Hanabusa and Hirono are exponentially more conservative than the Senators, with each coming in at an anemic (but comparatively huge) 10%.  Moreover, Hirono’s and Hanabusa’s slight toe-dip into the waters of the right came primarily on fiscal issues:

  • Both voted “No” on the Temporary “Kick the Can”  Spending Measure (Legislation provided for the continuing appropriations for the federal government through April 8, 2011 – a short-term funding measure that “kicked the can down the road.”)
  • Hirono voted against the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (which would overhaul the U.S. patent system, changing how patents are awarded, reviewed and challenged.)
  • Hanabusa voted against reducing funding for missile defense (as part of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 that would reduce authorization for ground-based midcourse missile defense systems by $100 million.)
  • Both voted against an effort to increase the debt limit with minimal cuts ( Budget Control Act of 2011 – would provide for a two-step debt limit increase of $900 billion and $1.6 trillion, in exchange for various “cuts” and statutory spending caps.)  (Alas, however, they did vote the wrong way on the final debt limit legislation, so the promising start was for naught.)
So there we are.  We’re 10% of the way towards a perfect conservative record on spending, family issues, and national defense.  Or 5%, if you average in the Senators.  We have almost nowhere to go but up.


Fact Check: Criticizing the “Texas Economic Miracle” by maliab
August 24, 2011, 5:58 pm
Filed under: Economy | Tags: , , , ,

There is an interesting game that goes on when the political conversation turns to unemployment.  Despite the rather depressing unemployment numbers, there are still plenty of arguments to be found about the kinds of jobs available.  Some of these criticisms are well-founded, as when it is pointed out that creating temporary government jobs via state-funded spending sprees is not a path to long-term economic recovery.  Others, such as the spats over the relative “quality” of new jobs available are a bit more complex.  As Dr. Steve Pejovich, a Professor Emeritus from Texas A&M University writing for the Institute for Policy Innovation, explains, there’s a lot more to economic recovery than the wage rate:

Challenging the supposed “Texas economic miracle” under Governor Rick Perry, CBS recently reported, “Critics also note that many of the jobs created on Perry’s watch are low-paying and lack benefits.” This statement is wrong at best and stupid at worst. Here is an economist’s explanation for non-economists.

The demand for labor, like the demand for all scarce goods, is a function of price. The lower the wage the more people are hired.

What’s known as the “market-clearing wage” (i.e., price) is the wage at which all people who want to work at that wage have jobs. At any wage above the market-clearing wage not all people who want to work at that wage have jobs.

Government can’t determine the market-clearing level, only markets can. But government can distort it by imposing regulations on business, minimum wage laws, and unions (think of the Boeing case), which force wage rates above the market–clearing level.

Perry’s critics are confusing the wage rate with income. The higher the wage rate (above the market-clearing level) the more who are unemployed. That is, high wage rates mean zero income for many. The market-clearing wage rate means positive income for all.

Governments can choose to make labor markets less or more competitive. Perry has chosen the latter for Texas. Yes, the average wage rate in Dallas might be lower than in Detroit, but more people are earning money from work in Dallas than in Detroit. This raises an important question upon which a free society depends: the freedom of choice.

Any person in a right–to-work environment can choose between zero income and the wage he or she could get in the labor market. No person in a union-controlled or government-regulated environment can choose between zero income and the wage at which he or she is willing to work.

No one has to work for a lower wage, but at least in Texas more people can choose that option over being unemployed.




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