Shared posts

05 May 18:49

FDA’s Attack on E-Cigarette Will Cost Lives

by Mollie Dreisbach

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today announced broad new rules regulating the sales of cigarettes, cigars, hookahs and pipe tobacco. In addition to banning the sale of such products to consumers under 19 years old, they also bring e-cigarettes under the same onerous regulations as traditional tobacco products. While the public health goals of protecting consumers from possibly harmful vaping products and preventing kids from becoming addicted to nicotine are laudable goals, this heavy-handed approach will only likely push people—adults and teens alike—back toward far more harmful tobacco products.

05 May 17:00

Well, Back to Smoking: FDA Bans 99 Percent of E-Cigarettes

The FDA is driving smokers towards more dangerous tobacco products.

05 May 21:42

Schmidt’s Histogram Diagram Doesn’t Refute Christy

by Steve McIntyre

In the present case, from the distribution in the right panel:
a model run will be warmer than an observed trend more than 99.5% of the time;
will be warmer than an observed trend by more than 0.1 deg C/decade approximately 88% of the time;
and will be warmer than an observed trend by more than 0.2 deg C/decade more than 41% of the time.

schmidt histogram GLBIn my most recent post,  I discussed yet another incident in the long running dispute about the inconsistency between models and observations in the tropical troposphere – Gavin Schmidt’s twitter mugging of John Christy and Judy Curry.   Included in Schmidt’s exchange with Curry was a diagram with a histogram of model runs. In today’s post, I’ll parse the diagram presented to Curry, first discussing the effect of some sleight-of-hand and then showing that Schmidt’s diagram, after removing the sleight-of-hand and when read by someone familiar with statistical distributions, confirms Christy rather than contradicting him. Background 

The proximate cause of Schmidt’s bilious tweets was Curry’s proposed use of the tropical troposphere spaghetti graph from Christy’s more recent congressional testimony in her planned presentation to NARUC.  christy_comparison_2015 In that testimony, Christy had reported that “models over-warm the tropical atmosphere by a factor of approximately 3, (Models +0.265, Satellites +0.095, Balloons +0.073 °C/decade)”

The Christy diagram has long been criticized by warmist blogs for its baseline – an allegation that I examined in my most recent post, in which I showed that baselining as set out by Schmidt and/or Verheggen was guilty of the very offences of Schmidt’s accusation and that, ironically, Christy’s nemesis, Carl Mears, had used a nearly identical baseline, but had not been excoriated by Schmidt or others.

I had focused first on baselining, because that had been the main issue at warmist blogs relating to the Christy diagram. However, in twitter followup to my post, Schmidt pretended not to recognize the baselining issue,  instead saying that the issue was merely “uncertainties”, but did not expand on exactly how “uncertainties” discomfited the Christy graphic.   Even though I had shown that Christy’s baselining was equivalent to Carl Mears’, Schmidt refused to disassociate himself from Verheggen’s offensive accusations.

One clue to Schmidt’s invocation of “uncertainties” comes from the histogram diagram which he proposed to Judy Curry, shown below.  This diagram was accompanied by a diagram, which represented the spaghetti distribution of model runs as a grey envelope – an iconographical technique that I will discuss on another occasion.  The diagram consisted of two main elements: (1) a histogram of the 102 CMIP5 runs (32 models); (2) five line segments, each representing the confidence intervals for five different satellite measurements.


Schmidt did not provide a statistical interpretation or commentary on this graphic, apparently thinking that the diagram somehow refuted Christy on its face.  However, it does nothing of the sort.  CA reader JamesG characterized it as “the daft argument that because the obs uncertainties clip the model uncertainties then the models ain’t so bad.”  In fact, to anyone with a grounded understanding of joint statistical distributions, Schmidt’s diagram actually supports Christy’s claim of inconsistency.

TRP vs GLB Troposphere

Alert readers may have already noticed that whereas the Christy figure in controversy depicted trends in the tropical troposphere – a zone that has long been especially in dispute, Schmidt’s histogram depicts trends in the global troposphere.

In the figure below, I’ve closely emulated Schmidt’s diagram and shown the effect of the difference.  In the left panel, I’ve shown the Schmidt histogram (GLB TMT) with horizontal and vertical axes transposed for graphical convenience. The second panel shows my emulation of the Schmidt diagram using GLB TMT (mid-troposphere) from CMIP5. The third and fourth panels show identically constructed diagrams for tropical TMT and tropical TLT (lower troposphere), each derived from the Christy compilation of 102 CMIP5 runs (also, I believe, used by Schmidt.) Discussion below the figure.


Figure 1. Histograms of 1979-2015 trends versus satellite observations. Left – Gavin Schmidt; second panel – GLB TMT; third panel – TRP TMT; fourth panel: TRP TLT. The black triangle shows average of model runs.  All calculated from annualized data. 

The histograms and observations in panels 2-4 were all calculated from annualizations of monthly data (following indications of Schmidt’s method.)  The resulting panel for Global TMT (second panel) corresponds reasonably to the Schmidt diagram, though there are some puzzling differences of detail.   The lengths of the line segments for each satellite observation series were calculated as the standard error of the trend coefficient using OLS on annualized data, closely replicating the Schmidt segments (and corresponding to information from a Schmidt tweet.)  This yields higher uncertainty than the same calculation on monthly data, but less than assuming AR1 errors with monthly data. The confidence intervals are also somewhat larger than the corresponding confidence intervals in the RSS simulations of structural uncertainty, a detail that I can discuss on another occasion.

In the third panel, I did the same calculation with tropical (TRP) TMT data, thus corresponding to the Christy diagram with which Schmidt had taken offence.  The trends in this panel are noticeably higher than for the GLB panel (this is the well known “hot spot” in models of the tropical troposphere).  In my own previous discussions of this topic, I’ve considered the lower troposphere (TLT) rather than mid-troposphere and, for consistency, I’ve shown this in the right panel.  Tropical TLT in models run slightly warmer than tropical TMT model runs, but only a little.  In each case, I’ve extracted available satellite data.  Tropical TLT data from RSS 4.0 and NOAA is not yet available (and thus not shown in the fourth panel.)

The average tropical TMT model trend was 0.275 deg C/decade, about 30% higher than the corresponding GLB trend (0.211 deg C/decade), shown in the Schmidt diagram.  The difference between the mean of the model runs and observations was about 55% higher in the tropical diagram than in the GLB diagram.

So Schmidt’s use of the global mid-troposphere shown in his initial tweet to Curry had the effect of materially reducing the discrepancy.  Update (May 6): In a later tweet,  Schmidt additionally showed the corresponding graphic for tropical TMT.  I’ll update this post to reflect this.


The Model Mean: Back to Santer et al 2008

In response to my initial post about baselining, Chris Colose purported to defend Schmidt (tweet) stating:

“re-baselining is not the only issues. large obs uncertainty, model mean not appropriate, etc.”

I hadn’t said that “re-baselining” was the “only” issue. I had opened with it as an issue because it had been the most prominent in warmist critiques and had occasioned offensive allegations, originally from Verheggen, but repeated recently by others.  So I thought that it was important to take it off the table. I invited Gavin Schmidt to disassociate himself from Verheggen’s unwarranted accusations about re-baselining, but Schmidt refused.

Colose’s assertion that the “model mean [is] not appropriate” ought to raise questions, since differences in means are assessed all the time in all branches of science.  Ironically, a comparison of observations to the model mean was one of the key comparisons in Santer et al 2008, of which Schmidt was a co-author.  So Santer, Schmidt et al had no issue at the time with the principle of comparing observations to the model mean.  Unfortunately (as Ross and I observed in a contemporary submission), Santer et al used obsolete data (ending in 1999) and their results (purporting to show no statistically significant difference) were invalid using then up-to-date data. (The results are even more offside with the addition of data to the present.)

For their comparison of the difference between means, Santer et al used a t-statistic, in which their formula for the standard error of the model mean was the standard deviation of the model trends by the square root of the number of models (highlighted).  I show this formula since Schmidt and others had argued vehemently against inclusion of the n_m divisor for number of models.


The above formula for the standard error of the model, as Santer himself realized – mentioning the point in several Climategate emails, was identical to that used in Douglass et al 2008. Their formula differed from Douglass et al in the other term of the denominator – the standard error of observations s{b_o}.

In December 2007, Santer et al 2008 coauthor Schmidt had ridiculed this formula for the standard error of models as an “egregious error”, claiming that division of the standard deviation by the (square root of ) the number of models resulted in the “absurd” situation where some runs contributing to the model mean were outside the confidence interval for the model mean.


Schmidt’s December 2007 post relied on rhetoric rather than statistical references and his argument was not adopted in Santer et al 2008, which divided the standard deviation by the square root of the number of models.

Schmidt’s December 2007 argument caused some confusion in October 2008 when Santer et al 2008 was released, on which thus far undiscussed Climategate emails shed interesting light.  Gavin Cawley, commenting at Lucia’s and Climate Audit in October 2008 as “beaker”, was so persuaded by Schmidt’s December 2007 post that he argued that there must have been a misprint in Santer et al 2008. Cawley purported to justify his claimed misprint with a variety of arid arguments that made little sense to either me or Lucia.  We lost interest in Cawley’s arguments once we were able to verify from tables in Santer et al 2008 that there was no misprint and were able to establish that Santer et al 2008 had used the same formula for standard error of models as Douglass et al (differing, as noted above, in the term for standard error of observations.)

Cawley pursued the matter in emails to Santer that later became part of the Climategate record. Cawley pointed to Schmidt’s earlier post at Real Climate and asked Santer whether there was a misprint in Santer et al 2008.   Santer forwarded Cawley’s inquiry to Tom Wigley, who told Santer that Schmidt’s Real Climate article was “simply wrong” and warned Santer that Schmidt was “not a statistician” – points on which a broad consensus could undoubtedly have been achieved.   Unfortunately, Wigley never went public with his rejection of Schmidt’s statistical claims, which remain uncorrected to this day.  Santer reverted back to Cawley that the formula in the article was correct and was conventional statistics, citing von Storch and Zwiers as authority.  Although Cawley had been very vehement in his challenges to Lucia and myself, he did not close the circle when he heard back from Santer, conceding that Lucia and I had been correct in our interpretation.

Bayesian vs Frequentist 

In recent statistical commentary, there has been a very consistent movement to de-emphasize “statistical significance” as a sort of talisman of scientific validity, while increasing emphasis on descriptive statistics and showing distributions – a move that is associated with the increasing prominence of Bayesianism and something that is much easier with modern computers.  As someone who treats data very descriptively, I’m comfortable with the movement.

Rather than worry about whether something is “statistically significant”, the more modern approach is to look at its “posterior distribution”. Andrew Gelman’s text (Applied Bayesian Analysis, p 95) specifically recommended this in connection with difference in means:

In problems involving a continuous parameter θ (say the difference between two means), the hypothesis that θ is exactly zero is rarely reasonable, and it is of more interest to estimate a posterior distribution or a corresponding interval estimate of θ. For a continuous parameter θ, the question ‘Does θ equal 0?’ can generally be rephrased more usefully as ‘What is the posterior distribution for θ? (text, p 95)

In the diagram below, I show how the information in a Schmidt-style histogram can be translated into a posterior distribution, and why such a distribution is helpful and relevant to someone trying to understand the data in a practical way.   The techniques below do not use full Bayesian apparatus of MCMC simulations (which I have not mastered), but I would be astonished if such technique would result in any material difference.  (I’m somewhat reassured that this was my very first instinct when confronted with this issue: see October 2008 CA post here and Postscript below.)

On the left, I’ve shown the Schmidt-style diagram for tropical TMT (third panel above). In the middle, I’ve shown approximate distributions for model runs (pink) and observations (light blue) – explained below, and in the right panel, the distribution of the difference between model mean and observations.  From the diagram in the right panel, one can draw conclusions about the t-statistic for the difference in means, but, for me, the picture is more meaningful than a t-statistic.


Figure 2. Tropical TMT trends. Left – As in third panel of Figure 1. Middle. pink: distribution of model trends corresponding to histogram; lightblue: implied distribution of observed trends. Right: distribution of difference of model and observed trends.   In the data used in panel three above (TRP TMT), I got indistinguishable results (models  +0.272 deg C/decade; satellites +0.095 deg C/decade).  

The left panel histogram of trends for tropical TMT is derived from the Christy collation (also used by Schmidt) of the 102 CMIP5 runs (with taz) at KNMI. The line segments represent 95% confidence intervals for five satellite series based on the method used in Schmidt’s diagram (see Figure 1 for color code).

In the middle panel, I’ve used normal distributions for the approximations, since their properties are tractable, but the results of this post would apply for other distributions as well.  For models, I’ve used the mean  and standard deviation of the 102 CMIP5 runs (0.272 and 0.058 deg C/decade, respectively).  For observations, I presumed that each satellite was associated with a normal distribution with the standard deviation being the standard error of the trend coefficient in the regression calculation; for each of the five series, I simulated 1000 realizations. From the composite of 5000 realizations, I calculated the mean and standard deviation  (0.095 and 0.049 deg C/decade respectively) and used that for the normal distribution for observations shown in light blue.  There are other reasonable ways of doing this, but this seemed to me to be the most consistent with Schmidt’s graphic. Note that this technique  yields a somewhat wider envelope than the envelope of realizations representing structural uncertainty in the RSS ensemble.

In the right panel, I’ve shown the distribution of the difference of means, calculated following Jaynes’ formula (discussed at CA previously here). In an analysis following Jaynes’ technique, the issue is not whether the difference in means was “statistically significant”, but assessing the odds/probability that a draw from models would be higher than a draw from observations, fully accounting for uncertainties of both, calculated according to the following formula from Jaynes:

By specifying the two distributions in the middle panel as normal distributions, the distribution of the difference of means is also normal, with its mean being the difference between the two means and the standard deviation being the square root of the sum of squares of the two standard deviations in the middle panel ( mean 0.177 and sd 0.076 deg C/decade respectively).  For more complicated distributions, the distribution could be calculated using simulations to effect the integration.


In the present case, from the distribution in the right panel:

  • a model run will be warmer than an observed trend more than 99.5% of the time;
  • will be warmer than an observed trend by more than 0.1 deg C/decade approximately 88% of the time;
  • and will be warmer than an observed trend by more than 0.2 deg C/decade more than 41% of the time.

These values demonstrate a very substantial warm bias in models, as reported by Christy, a bias which cannot be dismissed by mere arm-waving about “uncertainties” in Schmidt style.  As an editorial comment about why the “uncertainties” have a relatively negligible impact on “bias”: it is important to recognize that the uncertainties work in both directions, a trivial point seemingly neglected in Schmidt’s “daft argument”.  Schmidt’s “argument” relied almost entirely on the rhetorical impact of the upper tail of the observation distributions nicking the lower tail of the model distributions.  But the wider upper tail is accompanied by a wider lower tail and, for these measurements, the discrepancy is even larger than the mean discrepancy.

Unsurprisingly, using up-to-date data, the t-test used in Santer et al 2008 is even more offside than it was in early 2009. The t-value under Santer’s equation 12 is 3.835, far outside usual confidence limits. Ironically, it fails even using the incorrect formula for standard error of models, which Schmidt had previously advocated.

The bottom line is that Schmidt’s diagram does not contradict Christy after all, and, totally fails to support Schmidt’s charges that Christy’s diagram was “partisan”.


As a small postscript, I am somewhat pleased to observe that my very first instinct, when confronted by the data in dispute in Santer et al 2008, was to calculate a sort of posterior distribution, albeit in a somewhat homemade method  – see October 2008 CA post here.

In that post, I calculated a histogram of model trends used in Douglass et al (tropical TLT to end 2004, as I recall – I’ll check what I did).  Note that the model mean (and overall distribution) at that time was considerably less than the model mean (and envelope) to the end of 2015.   When one squints at the models in detail, they tend to accelerate in the 21st century.  I had then calculated the proportion of models with greater trend than observations for values between -0.3 and 0.4 deg C/decade (a different format than the density curve in my diagram above, but one can be calculated from the other).

Figures from CA here. Left – histogram of model runs used in Douglass et al 2008; right 





05 May 11:20

How a FOIA Request into Hillary Clinton's Emails Revealed a Criminal Investigation (New at Reason)

by Reason Staff

Hillary Clinton

Former President Bill Clinton recently compared the controversy over his wife Hillary's use of a private email server while she was Secretary of State to a speeding infraction. His argument was essentially that you can't prosectute someone for something that wasn't a crime when the infraction was committed. 

For her part, Secretary Clinton has always maintained that she never knowingly handled any classified material on her private server, and has characterized the FBI investigation into her emails as a routine procedural review of State Department practices. But the government's response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit brought by Vice News' Jason Leopold has changed that perception. 

In a new column, Andrew Napolitano writes:

The DOJ moved to dismiss his lawsuit, and in support of its motion, it filed a secret affidavit with the court, signed by an FBI agent familiar with the bureau's investigation of Mrs. Clinton. In its brief filed the day before Mr. Clinton made his silly speeding prosecution analogy, the DOJ — which also once worked for him — characterized the secret affidavit as a summary of the investigation of Mrs. Clinton. The DOJ argued that compliance with Leopold's FOIA request would jeopardize that investigation by exposing parts of it prematurely.

In the same brief, the DOJ referred to the investigation of Mrs. Clinton as a law enforcement proceeding.

That was the first public acknowledgment by the DOJ that it is investigating criminal behavior — a law enforcement proceeding — and it directly contradicts Mrs. Clinton's oft-repeated assertions that the FBI investigation is merely a routine review of the State Department's classification procedures.

View this article.

05 May 12:00

300 Hours Training Required to Shampoo Hair In Tennessee

by Elizabeth Nolan Brown

If you're like most people, you probably shampoo your own hair several times per week—hell, maybe even every day—and have since you were a very young child. Shampooing hair is something that takes no particular skill and bring no particular safety concerns, save for getting a little suds in your eye. But in Tennessee, people who would like to shampoo hair in professional salons must receive hundreds of hours of training and fork out thousands of dollars before they're legally allowed to lather, rinse, repeat. 

The Beacon Center of Tennessee is trying to change this. The libertarian-leaning think tank is suing the state cosmetology board over its onerous occupational-licensing requirements for people who want to wash hair. At present, obtaining a government permission to shampoo hair requires taking two exams, at a cost of $140, plus a $50 annual fee. On top of that, someone must take 300 hours of training "on the theory and practice of shampooing," at a cost of upwards of $3,000 for the tuition. 

"Tennessee is one of only five states that require a license to wash hair, and this is just one of the many senseless licensing laws that the Volunteer State currently has on the books," Beacon Center states on its website.

But—surprise!—nowhere in the state even offers "shampoo tech" classes at present. So even someone prepared to put in the time and money to become a pro hair-washer right now can't. Their only options would be a) to go through the more rigorous and expensive process (1,500 hours and tens of thousands of dollars in tuition) of obtaining a cosmetology license, or b) to wash hair illegally.

Beware the latter option, however. Those who wash hair without a license face up to six months in prison and a $500 criminal fine, or a $1,000 civil penalty.  

At the center of the Beach Center's case is Tammy Pritchard, a police officer who would like to wash hair in her friend's natural hair-care salon on weekends to pick up some extra money. Her niece Leanna, a high-school student, would also like opportunity to do so as an after-school job. Neither are interested in becoming full-time cosmetologists, so the cosmetology license option just doesn't make sense for them. Yet they have no other option if they would like to shampoo hair legally. 

This Catch-22 also puts salon owners such as Regina Washington, owner of Fabulous Fantasy Styles, in a bind. "Because no school offers the curriculum for the hair-washing license, there is a shortage of licensed shampoo technicians in the state," explains Beacon Center. Washington would have to hire a fully licensed cosmetologist at a higher hourly rate in order to have someone who can legally wash customers' hair. There are many salon owners like Washington who "just need someone to help them wash hair or fold towels during peak times," notes Beacon Center, "a position that could be easily filled by friends, family members, interns in cosmetology school, high school students, or retirees. That is, if the government didn’t stand in their way."

In Pritchard v. Board of Cosmetology, Beacon Center argues that Tennessee's hair-washing license scheme violates the state's prohibition against monopolies. "Because no school offers the shampooer curriculum, no one else may become a shampoo technician who is not already licensed as one, meaning that the state has created a monopoly for existing license holders," Beacon explains. 

Furthermore, the requirement violates Pritchard's right to economic liberty under Article I, Section 8 of the Tennessee Constitution, Beacon argues. "The right to engage in a chosen profession is a liberty and property interest protected by our state constitution," it notes. "By applying regulations that far exceed whatever legitimate public health and safety requirements are necessary to protect the public in the context of unregulated shampooing, and by prohibiting anyone from shampooing absent expensive training, the Board has violated [Pritchard's] constitutional rights."

Lastly, it claims the requirement violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by "irrationally, arbitrarily, and excessively restrict[ing] the ability of our clients to engage in a legitimate vocation." 

04 May 18:45

Little Girl Detained By Police After Trying to Buy School Lunch with Real $2 Bill

by Robby Soave

LunchThere are stupid school discipline stories, and then there's this: a Houston, Texas, public school called the police after a 13-year-old girl attempted to purchase chicken nuggets from the cafeteria using a $2 bill. 

The police took the little girl, Danesiah Neal, to the office and told her she could be in "big trouble" for using counterfeit money. 

But the $2 bill was real, of course. There aren't very many of them but $2s are out there. They constitute perfectly legal tender. 

The police didn't believe it. They called Danesiah's grandmother and insisted the bill was fake, according to ABC 13: 

'Did you give Danesiah a $2 bill for lunch?' " the grandmother, Sharon Kay Joseph, recalled being asked. "He told me it was fake." 

Finally, the mystery was solved: The $2 bill wasn't a fake at all. It was real. 

The bill so old, dating back to 1953, the school's counterfeit pen didn't work on it. 

"He brought me my two dollar bill back," Joseph said. He didn't apologize. "He should have and the school should have because they pulled Danesiah out of lunch and she didn't eat lunch that day because they took her money." 

That's right: the 13-year-old didn't even receive an apology from the authority figures, even though she was ultimately denied lunch that day, according to her grandmother. Grandma also had this to say: "It was very outrageous for them to do it. There was no need for police involvement. They're charging kids like they're adults now." 

This may seem like a small, silly story, but the grandmother has it exactly right: public schools overwhelmingly assume that children's misdeeds represent criminal wrongdoing and should be referred to the police. If little Danesiah had actually been attempting to pass off a fake $2 bill as legal tender, it was the school's job to discipline her, not a matter for the police. And yet law enforcement is routinely brought in to handle the most trivial behavioral disputes in public schools. 

Ironically, while K-12 institutions increasingly refer all disciplinary matters to the police, the trend for colleges is the reverse: universities are now encouraged to handle violent sexual crimes themselves, rather than automatically involve the police. These developments could not possibly be any more backward. When there is serious violence in schools, the police should always be called. When kids are just goofing around, let the school—or the parents—take care of it. 

Updated at 4:30 p.m. on May 5: I initially claimed that the government doesn't print $2 bills anymore. This isn't true: it still issues them.

05 May 17:06

State chemist was high daily, thousands of drug prosecutions jeopardized

by David Kravets

(credit: ibbl)

A former Massachusetts drug-lab chemist was high on the job nearly every day for eight years, according to a report from the state's attorney general. The report said that the chemist, Sonja Farak, was under the influence of drugs like crack, meth, LSD, and ketamine as she testified in court in drug cases and while examining drug samples in a crime lab between 2004 and 2013.

The report from AG Maura Healey also said the chemist cooked crack cocaine in a crime lab at night while working overtime.

Anthony Benedetti of the Committee for Public Counsel Services said that "thousands" of drug prosecutions were imperiled. "Anything that went through that lab while she was there is in question," he told the Boston Globe.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

05 May 16:59

Justices Behaving Badly

by Keith Broaders

In practically every profession, the employer evaluates the job performance of his employees.

Contrary to popular opinion, Supreme Justices are not appointed for life. They are to serve during periods of good behavior. When in the opinion of the people the members of the Supreme Court are behaving badly they need to be dismissed.

When a doctor, a dentist, a lawyer or school teacher has an unsatisfactory evaluation, they lose their jobs. Why are we not evaluating the job perfo…rmance of the Supreme Court Justices.

We the people are the employer and when in our opinion the Justices are behaving badly, it is our right and our duty to dismiss them.

A process needs to be established to evaluate the job performance of each Justice. The ones with unsatisfactory evaluations need to replaced.

Those chosen to evaluate the Justices must consist of be made up of a panel non-partisan Constitutional Scholars.

According  to the Constitution the Justices of the Supreme Court do not have the Constitutional authority to interpret the Constitution. It is the responsibility of the people and the states to decide what is and what is not Constitutional.

The views expressed here are those of the blogger and do not necessarily represent those of the Tenth Amendment Center

05 May 04:15

“Administrative Law Judges Are Unconstitutional”

by Walter Olson

Administrative law judges are executive-branch as distinct from judicial officers, yet the President has no power to remove them; at the Securities and Exchange Commission and many other federal agencies, they are themselves employed by the agency on whose enforcement cases they must render quasi-judicial rulings. In recent years federal judges have expressed unease about whether assigning ALJs this particular combination of adjudicatory powers and institutional affiliations is entirely consistent with the U.S. Constitution, and now a Cato Institute amicus brief, in the D.C. Circuit case of Timbervest LLC v. Securities and Exchange Commission, urges courts to take the next logical step and rule that it is not. [Ilya Shapiro and Thaya Brook Knight; earlier here, here, here here, etc.]

“Administrative Law Judges Are Unconstitutional” is a post from Overlawyered - Chronicling the high cost of our legal system

05 May 12:25

How John Roberts Begat Donald Trump

by Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

When the returns came in from Indiana, so many questions came to mind. How did we get to the point where a reality-TV mogul became the standard-bearer of the party of Abraham Lincoln? Did Barack Obama succeed in transforming an exceptional nation into a “normal” one, such that we finally got the Berlusconi we deserve? Or maybe it’s the Republican Party that’s to blame, reaping the whirlwind of its appeals to populism such that even Ted Cruz got sucked into the anti-establishment maw?

Or, worse, has our presidential system finally revealed its flaws such that we’re stuck with Latin America-style politics that feature crude demagogues and the wives of former presidents, all of no discernible ideology save the will to power?

As I drowned these existential sorrows in Johnny Walker and “Archer” reruns, it occurred to me that, yes, Obama (and George W. Bush before him), the perfidious GOP elite, the Reid-Pelosi nihilists, demographic shifts, globalization, and a host of other forces have brought us to where we are. Plenty of exegeses have been and will be written about all these culprits. But, no, if I have to point to a moment that spawned the current annus horribilis, it would have to be John Roberts’s vindication of Obamacare on June 28, 2012.

If I have to point to a moment that spawned the current annus horribilis, it would have to be John Roberts’s vindication of Obamacare in 2012.

Contempt for Rule of Law

Not because his ruling in NFIB v. Sebelius—and last year in King v. Burwell, when the die had already been cast—allowed a hugely unpopular piece of legislation to survive and corrode our health-care system and economy. But because Roberts recognized that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional yet still saved it out of a misbegotten devotion to judicial restraint—under the guise of deferring to “the people.”

Sure, the chief justice cleverly wrote his opinion so it wouldn’t increase Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce and even cut it back under the Necessary and Proper Clause. He also ultimately upheld the individual mandate only by rewriting it into a “unicorn” tax—a creature of no known constitutional provenance that will never be seen again.

But by refusing to follow his own logic, to go where even Justice Kennedy full-throatedly went—I was in the courtroom to hear Kennedy passionately summarize a dissent that would’ve struck down the entire law—Roberts increased cynicism and anger at play-by-the-rules conservatives and decreased respect for institutions across the board.

The man’s twistifications drove the constitutionalist Tea Partiers into the arms of the populists—or made it easy for their populist instincts to “trump” their constitutional ones (pun unintended, but fitting). Why bother with the Constitution? Even when you’re right, you lose.

Indeed, if Kennedy had joined the liberals in their view that there are simply no structural limits on federal power, there would have been disappointment, but it would have been understandable given the conventional Left-Right rubric. But to lose in a wholly extra-legal way was a sucker punch, belying the idea that there’s a difference between law and politics and that the judiciary is an anti-majoritarian check on the excesses of the political branches.

If It’s Will to Power, We’ll Play

Roberts essentially told would-be Trumpistas not to bother the courts with important issues, that if you want to beat Obama you have to get your own strongman—complete with pen, phone, and contempt for the Constitution. So they did, bypassing several flavors of constitutional conservative in favor of a populism that knows nothing but “winning.”

It’s such a shame, and deeply ironic. A constitutional moment had actually arrived in 2010. Remember, the people had risen up against crony capitalism, against bailouts and out-of-control government in every aspect of our lives. Real constitutionalists were sent to Congress—Massachusetts even elected a Republican senator in a bid to stop Obamacare—and state legislatures turned red based on opposition to federal overreach.

The last domino, the White House, was poised to fall, too—would have already if any A-list constitutionalist had run in 2012—with the most talented and intellectually vibrant GOP primary field since Ronald Reagan ran unopposed in 1984. But then Roberts ushered in the Trump tornado. Constitutional conservatism simply couldn’t survive judicial conservatism. The genteel Roberts and the vulgar Trump thus have one thing in common: a belief that judges should stop striking down laws and just let political majorities rule, individual liberty be damned.

In sum, the constitutional moment expired on the shoals of Roberts’s judicial restraint. Even Scott Brown, the Republican briefly elected to “Ted Kennedy’s seat,” endorsed Trump.

Instead of teaching the people that our republican form of government works, we’re left with the false empowerment of a self-consuming democracy.* Comes now our own Peron, leading his modern-age descamisados down the road to a “Great America” that could genuinely have existed if Roberts had only done his job.

Ilya Shapiro is a senior contributor to the Federalist. He is a fellow in Constitutional Studies at the Cato Institute and Editor-in-Chief of the Cato Supreme Court Review.
05 May 14:47

Free Market Solution Expands Access to Care

by Commonwealth Foundation

Harmful regulations prevent Pennsylvania’s nurse practitioners—highly-trained medical professionals who interpret diagnostic tests, treat chronic conditions, and prescribe medication—from doing what they do best: providing quality health care for patients in need.

State law currently requires nurse practitioners to enter into expensive contracts, called collaborative agreements, with two physicians. These contracts cost nurse practitioners up to $25,000 per year, but they do not serve the public interest. They do not improve the quality of care for patients. And they do not promote health care access.

Collaborative agreements simply serve as barriers for nurse practitioners to enter the marketplace.

Earlier this week, hundreds of nurse practitioners gathered in Harrisburg to lobby for full practice authority—which would allow them to practice without expensive collaborative agreements. HB 765, sponsored by Rep. Topper, and SB 717, sponsored by Sen. Vance, would make Pennsylvania the 22nd state to grant full practice authority.

An amendment recently offered by Sen. Boscola establishes full practice authority after nurse practitioners first abide by collaborative agreements for 3 years and 3600 hours. This compromise was endorsed by the Hospital and Healthsystem Association, which clears an important legislative hurdle.

These bills present an incredible opportunity to lower prices, increase access, and sustain high quality medical care. Every study conducted about nurse practitioners demonstrates they achieve equal or better patient health outcomes

Care provided by nurse practitioners is not only equal in quality, it is less expensive. Since Medicaid reimburses at lower rates for nurse practitioners than physicians, full practice authority will save taxpayer dollars—unlike many other state-funded health care proposals which rely on higher taxes.

Most importantly, full practice authority is a triumph for health care in rural or underserved areas—since these are precisely the areas where collaborating physicians are hard to find. The bills championed by Rep. Topper and Sen. Vance, which currently sit in committee, will increase access to high quality care without costing taxpayers a dime—the epitome of free market health care.

05 May 15:06

GM and Lyft will start testing self-driving electric taxis on public roads 'within a year'

by Nathan McAlone

Lyft Ride Car Customer

GM and Lyft will start testing self-driving electric taxis on public roads "within a year," according to the Wall Street Journal.

This comes after GM recently invested $500 million Lyft, and acquired self-driving car technology company Cruise Automation, in a reported $1 billion deal.

The program will feature electric Chevy Bolts and "real customers," who will have the chance to opt in or out, but many details haven't been hashed out, a Lyft executive told the Journal.

“We will want to vet the autonomous tech between Cruise, GM and ourselves and slowly introduce this into markets,” Taggart Matthiesen, Lyft’s product director, told The Journal. The company wants to “ensure that cities would have full understanding of what we are trying to do here.”

News of the rollout largely matches expectations, as GM unveiled the production model of the Chevy Bolt at the Detroit Auto Show in January, and the company has announced the new Bolts will begin rolling off production lines later this year. GM has also been actively developing its self-driving tech for years.

If Lyft wants to compete with the much bigger and better-funded Uber, it will need help. Sidecar, which was once a semipopular alternative to Lyft and Uber, shut down because it wasn't able to raise as much money or grow as quickly as its competition. Uber, Google, and Tesla are also separately working on driverless cars.

Business Insider has reached out to Lyft and GM for comment.

You can read The Wall Street Journal's full report here.

Additional reporting by Alyson Shontell and Steven Tweedie.

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05 May 13:06

For-Profit Kidney Sales and Altruistic Motivation

by Jason Brennan

Many  people believe for-profit kidney sales are wrong because they think people who save lives ought not be motivated by self-interest.*

There are lots of problems with this thought. Does it imply that competent and skilled surgeons (firefighters, nurses, police officers, EMTs, etc.) who are just in it for the money, or who are significantly motivated by personal gain, ought not take the job? Suppose Helen is a sociopath who doesn’t care about others. She would all things equal prefer to be a fighter pilot, because that’s the job she most intrinsically enjoys. She thinks the life of a surgeon sucks. But suppose she would be an excellent surgeon. She decides to become a surgeon just because it pays better. As a result, she saves many lives. By hypothesis, Helen has bad character, but it seems weird to say that she’s done anything wrong, or that she should not become a surgeon for the money.

Consider a variation of Singer’s drowning child thought experiment:

Three toddlers are drowning in three different pools. In the first case, a person says, “I value the toddler’s life for it’s own sake, and I am willing to save the child without getting a reward.” In the second case, a person says, “I am willing to save the child only if I make a small profit. $10 will do it.” In the third case, a person says, “I am not willing to save the child myself–I can’t be bothered to do so, because I don’t care enough about other people. However, I think the idea of saving a child for profit is evil. So, in addition to not saving the child myself, I’m also going to make sure that person 2 doesn’t save the child for $10 either.”

The first person is the most noble. The second person isn’t noble, but at least he’s willing to help people for money. The third person, it seems to me, is vile and rotten. He uses moral language, but he is himself a morally contemptible figure. He refuses to help a child himself, and also, at the same time, stops less than fully virtuous people like person 2 from saving children.

Many opponents of kidney sales strike me as being like person three. I’ve given the Markets without Limits talk in front of about 3000 total people at this point. I’ve always ask if anyone has voluntarily given another person a kidney. So far, no one has, even though it’s reasonable to estimate that at least 2700 of the audience members I’ve encountered were healthy enough to do so with little to no long-term health costs. So, one thing I know about the audience members I’ve encountered (including those at left-wing places like Boulder or Hanover**) is that they don’t care enough about strangers to save their lives by donating a kidney.

But many of them do not simply fail to save lives themselves. They also express moral outrage at the idea that a person might donate a kidney in order to make a profit, rather than out of a desire to help.

Perhaps donating a kidney out of altruistic motivation is nobler than selling a kidney for profit. But, even if we grant that, it still seems that a person who is willing to save a life for money is (all other things equal) better than a person who is not willing to save a life, either for money or out of the goodness of her heart. “I won’t save a life that way, and no amount of money could get me to do it” seems to me an admission of deep moral depravity. “I won’t help, even for money,” is a badge of dishonor.

Of course, there are other objections to kidney sales besides the one I’m considering here. People think kidney sales involve exploitation, the misallocation of resources, coercion, etc. But, as Peter and I show in our book, these are at worst contingent problems that could easily be regulated away in a legalized kidney market.


*One of the first things you learn in moral theory is that the moral status of an action and of the motivation behind that action can come apart. A person can do the right thing for the wrong reason or the wrong thing for the right reason. For instance, suppose I rescue a drowning toddler, but only because I mistakenly believe the toddler is the next Hitler. My motives are bad, but my action was still right. Or, suppose a parent gives her autistic child a bleach enema because she falsely believes that will cure the disease. Here, her motives might be good, but her action is wrong.

**I always ask people if they would be willing to sell a kidney for various amounts of money. Two trends I’ve noticed: Young people seem more willing to sell than middle-aged people at any given price. That’s not surprising. The other: people at very left-wing universities are far less willing to sell than people at more moderate universities. (Or, to be precise, less willing to admit they are willing to sell.)

05 May 13:30

Keynesianism Is Not a "Big Government" Theory

There is nothing inherently "big government" about the Keynesian model, even if Keynesians act as if there is.

05 May 12:53

The man who claimed to have invented Bitcoin says he doesn't have the 'courage' to provide proof

by Rob Price

craig wright bitcoin satoshi nakamoto maybe

Craig Wright, the Australian man who explosively — and dubiously — claimed to have invented bitcoin says that he will not be providing any further proof of his claims.

In a statement posted to his website, Wright said that as he prepared to provide "proof" of his access to the earliest bitcoin that would verify his identity, he broke down. "I do not have the courage. I cannot," he wrote. "I know now that I am not strong enough to this."

The identity of the inventor (or inventors) of bitcoin is one of the enduring mysteries of the tech sphere. There have been multiple attempts to track down its mysterious creator, known only by the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, but none have been conclusive; indeed, some have been positively disastrous.

Craig Wright entered the running last year when allegedly leaked documents supplied to Wired and Gizmodo suggested he might have hand in the the creation of the digital currency, although doubts remained.

Wright didn't comment at the time, but in the last week finally came forward to claim to have invented bitcoin.

His claim was initially bolstered by the support of Gavin Andresen, a leading developer in the bitcoin community who worked closely with Nakomoto during the cryptocurrency's earliest days to develop its software. Andresen had met with Wright, and became convinced he was telling the truth: "After spending time with him I am convinced beyond a reasonable doubt: Craig Wright is Satoshi."

But very significant doubts have since been poured on Wright's claims — namely the lack of any clear independently verifiable proof. It'd be technically simple for him to prove his claims (or at least, prove ownership of bitcoin that once belonged to Satoshi Nakomoto) by signing a message with the encryption key associated with the "genesis block," the first block of bitcoin ever mined. But Wright failed to do so.

He had promised to provide more evidence for his claims, writing that "over the coming days, I will be hosting a series of pieces that will lay the foundations for this extraordinary claim." But this is no longer the case.

"I'm sorry," the message on Wright's website reads. "I believed that I could do this. I believed that I could put the years of anonymity and hiding behind me. But, as the events of this week unfolded and I prepared to publish the proof of access to the earliest keys, I broke. I do not have the courage. I cannot."

This about-face is certain to be taken by doubters as proof that Wright is lying — that he was called on his bluff, could not provide the evidence people are demanding, and is trying to save face. (It's also possible that Wright's website has been hacked, but there has so far been no evidence of this.)

craig wright bitoin statement

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03 May 11:16

When Everyone Goes to College: a Lesson From South Korea

by Stephen Hsu

h/t Whig Zhou

South Korea leads the world in college attendance rate, which is approaching 100%. This sounds great at first, until you consider that the majority of the population (in any country) lacks the cognitive ability to pursue a rigorous college education (or at least what used to be defined as a rigorous college education). Chronicle of Higher Education: ... Seongho Lee, a professor of education at
04 May 20:54

Original Resource Location Is Irrelevant

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)


Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Matt O’Brien writes that “Venezuela, by all rights, should be rich.  As we just said, it has more oil than the United States or Saudi Arabia or anyone else for that matter” (“Venezuela should be rich. Instead it’s becoming a failed state,” May 4).

As Mr. O’Brien’s report itself shows, however, a people’s wealth is not determined by the quantity of raw materials that happen to exist within those people’s political jurisdiction.  Instead, a people’s wealth is determined by how well their institutions and their attitudes encourage market-directed trade, commercial innovation, and entrepreneurial risk-taking.  If such activities are encouraged, wealth for the masses is produced; if such activities are discouraged, the masses remain impoverished.

Witness rich Hong Kong, which has few natural resources yet buzzes with the busy-ness of capitalism.  Likewise, witness Tucson.  It’s in a literal desert and yet its people are among the richest on earth.  The prosperity of Hong Kong and Tucson proves that a free and innovative people produce great wealth by shipping and trucking in from around the globe whatever resources are useful for improving their living standards.  Such resources need not be originally located within their political jurisdictions.  In contrast, the poverty of Venezuela and Nigeria proves that the existence of resources within a people’s political jurisdiction does nothing to enrich those people if in their attitudes they scorn commercial activity or through their government they severely obstruct the operation of free markets.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercator Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

06 Apr 18:09

How Republicans Can Make Energy a Winning Issue in 2016

by Alex Epstein

Not interested in the (R) vs (D) dynamic, but I like the rhetorical technique.

The 2016 elections will have an enormous impact the future of energy in this country and around the world. The Obama administration has set in motion a combination of executive orders and international agreements aiming to drastically restrict national and global use of fossil fuels–a policy I believe would be highly damaging to our economy and catastrophic for billions of people who need fossil fuels to rise out of poverty. The Congress and above all the President we elect this year can turn that around–or they can entrench it.

While I rarely think along party lines, on the issue of energy freedom and energy progress most Republicans are dramatically better than most Democrats. Thus, I would like to share with Republicans–and any pro-fossil fuel Democrats–some thoughts on energy messaging in the 2016 election.

Proactive and overwhelming—the Democrats’ winning position on energy issues

The essential dynamic of the debate over energy policy is that Democrats proactively promote an overwhelming number of policy initiatives and the Republicans reactively wage a defensive battle on each one, usually unsuccessfully.

Consider the following ongoing policy battles: the Clean Power Plan, methane regulations, fracking bans, ozone regulations, pipeline blocking, new pipeline regulations, new train regulations, renewable fuel standards, wind production tax credit, solar subsidies, CAFE standards, green building standards, energy efficiency mandates, “green jobs” schemes.

All of these policy initiatives were initiated by Democrats, and Democrats are winning on most of them. Even when they “lose,” it doesn’t change the trajectory; Democrats have an unlimited supply of new anti-development, anti-freedom initiatives to propose if the old ones fail. Witness the short-lived “victory” of blocking a particular anti-fossil fuel proposal (cap-and-trade) being followed by a host of Executive Orders and international agreements to accomplish the same goal.

Since the Democrats make all the proposals and the Republicans react, Democrats control the direction of energy policy—against development and freedom, particularly the development of our most important form of energy, fossil fuels.

This is disastrous for energy policy, which affects the well-being of every other industry and ultimately every human being on the planet. More broadly, it is disastrous for economic freedom across the board, because by controlling the energy debate Democrats make energy a winning issue for their party and its policies. When one party is proposing all the new ideas in the name of “progress” and the other side is just saying “no” to most or all of the new ideas, the proactive party seems far more appealing and gains the moral high ground—and votes.

Case in point: In 2008 Barack Obama ran on a seemingly idealistic energy platform. The Republicans had no coherent response and, indeed, their candidate, John McCain, agreed with Obama that we should make fossil fuel restrictions a significant focus. Energy (and environment) was a winning issue for Obama—and Obama’s election has had a ruinous effect on economic freedom across the board.

So long as the Republicans’ policy positioning is reactive and overwhelmed and the Democrats’ is proactive and overwhelming, we are courting disaster with this country’s energy future and with every election—especially the Presidential election.

But what if I were to tell you that it is possible to take energy from an issue that gets Democrats more votes to an issue that gets Republicans more votes—for pro-development, pro-freedom energy policies? From my experience changing tens of thousands of minds on energy issues, particularly on the morality of fossil fuels, I believe it is possible.

The key is to understand the fundamental tool the Democrats use to win with false ideas. Only then can we see how that tool can be used even more effectively by Republicans to win with true ideas.

The Anti-Hydrocarbon Hydra

Observe that while every energy policy dispute has its own unique set of activists, arguments, lawyers, NIMBYs, activists, financial backers, trade groups, regulators, and elected officials, the battles are all driven by the same ideal: the ideal of eliminating fossil fuel use and using green energy instead.

This ideal is what makes the Clean Power Plan good, what makes fracking suspect at best, what makes oil spills cause for shutting down industry, what makes Keystone XL objectionable—fill in practically any battle and you will see that the Democrats’ core premise is that we need to get off fossil fuels and onto green energy.

Without that ideal, each proposal would lose much of its power and in most cases its very basis for being.

Thus, we are not dealing with separate attacks that each require a separate strategy. We are dealing with an anti-hydrocarbon hydra. If we fight this multi-headed monster by trying to take off one head at a time, we will find that two (or ten) emerge to take its place. But if we understand the heart of the hydra, its moral ideal, we can cut it out—and, more importantly, use that knowledge to create a hydra of our own, a hydra that will overwhelm the opposition.

The Democrats’ most powerful tool: “Arguing to 100”

To understand and explain how that power works in the debate, I have coined the term “Arguing to 100.”
Here is an X-axis from -100 to 100, with 0 as the midpoint.



The axis refers to our moral evaluation of a policy, product, or technology. -100 means the lowest evil, 0 means neutral, and 100 means our highest ideal.

In today’s debate, -100 is the ever-growing use of fossil fuels (“dirty energy”) and 100 is a society completely powered by “green” energy, usually solar and wind.

A good policy, on this scale, is one that helps us get off fossil fuels and onto green energy. With each proposal, Democrats are “arguing to 100”—arguing that a given policy is bringing us closer to the ideal and away from the evil. If anyone ever stands up for fossil fuels, Democrats will “argue to -100”—argue that the person is bringing us toward evil.

This positioning is incredibly powerful—because the ideal frames the debate. And he who frames the debate, wins the debate.

The Republicans’ failure comes from the very nature of setting ideals and framing debates. The Democrats have set an ideal, framed the debate, and argued their policies to 100 and their opponents to -100. The only way to defeat this is for Republicans to argue for an ideal of their own and reframe the debate accordingly.

But Republicans have not challenged the Democrats’ ideal or reframed the debate. They have conceded the Democrats’ ideal, but try to win policy debates by arguing that Democrats’ particular policies for achieving the ideal are impractical, at least temporarily. This is the method of “Arguing to 0.”

The Republicans’ white flag: “Arguing to 0”

Consider the debate over shale energy technology, perhaps the greatest, most life-giving technology of our age—a debate that has (revealingly) been framed as a debate over “fracking.” In the late 2000s, Republicans had the opportunity to proactively frame shale energy development as an epic opportunity to advance human progress. But they did not. Instead, they let Democrats frame “fracking” as evil.

Democrats introduced “fracking” to the world by arguing to -100 that it is an extension of our addiction to fossil fuels that has the added menaces of poisoning groundwater, causing earthquakes, releasing methane, and injecting toxic wastewater underground, to name a few among the ever-growing hydra heads. And of course they argued to 100 that we should be moving toward green energy instead of pursuing new forms of fossil fuels.

Once the Democrats had taken the lead, the Republicans still did not try to reframe and argue to 100—nobody knew (or knows) what ideal they stand for, and they were unwilling to challenge the Democrats’ ideal. Instead, Republicans tried to mitigate or refute the specific charges on these specific issues. But even if this worked, what would be the best-case scenario on the scale of -100 to 100? It would be 0—people would think of fracking as nothing. If your best-case scenario is 0, you have a problem.

And once the anti-fossil fuel framework is accepted, it is impossible to get anywhere near zero—because Republicans are defending new fossil fuel development while working within the anti-fossil fuel framework.

The Republicans’ seemingly positive arguments for fracking—like jobs and tax revenues and lower electricity bills—are also forms of arguing to zero. Since all of these benefits can theoretically be produced by the ideal form of energy, green energy, the Republican argument amounts to: fossil fuels are a temporarily necessary evil because green energy isn’t yet practical. Since Democrats also agree that there needs to be a transition time, the Republicans aren’t counter-arguing on a framework or a principle but on an expiration date. They are trying to argue the Democrats’ green energy policies down to 0 from 100, offering nothing positive of their own.

And since the Republicans’ concede the Democrats’ framework, including its claim that fossil fuels are causing long-term destruction, the Democrats have an easy argument that they are being practical by preventing the worst thing of all: the destruction of the planet we live on. And thus they have the moral high ground to condemn Republicans as “delayers and deniers.”

So long as this dynamic exists, the restriction of fossil fuels will continue and Democrats will continue to have energy as a winning issue—to the detriment of all.

Challenging the Democrats’ ideal: humanism and the moral case for fossil fuels

The Republicans’ energy strategy is bankrupt. So far, we have discussed why it is rhetorically impractical. But more fundamentally, it is immoral. If Republicans are going to concede that anti-fossil fuel ideal then they should take ideas seriously and help Democrats dismantle our fossil-fueled civilization. But if they think there’s something wrong with that course of action, then they should try to figure out the right ideal, the one they can confidently and compellingly stand behind.

What is that ideal?

In naming an energy or environmental ideal, it is essential to recognize that an energy or environmental ideal is not a primary—it depends on the more fundamental question: What is the overall ideal we should strive for, in energy, environment, and everything else?

My answer is: the overall ideal is to maximize human well-being. While most Americans would agree with this ideal if and when it was made explicit, this ideal is almost never made explicit—and it is not driving our energy debate whatsoever. The ideal that is actually driving our debate without being noticed, the ideal that underlies the anti-fossil fuel ideal, is the ideal of minimizing human impact—which I will discuss in the next section.

In The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, I explore the benefits and costs of fossil fuels and other forms of energy with maximizing human well-being as the moral standard. Here is a quick recap.

To reach the right conclusion on what to do about energy, we need to be clear on our moral goal, our standard of value—and that the right standard of value is maximizing human well-being rather than the environmentalist standard of minimizing human impact. If we look at the big picture, both positives and negatives, of fossil fuels by the standard of maximizing human well-being, we find that short-term and long-term they improve every aspect of life by increasing mankind’s ability to use machines—including our capacity to make a naturally dirty environment far cleaner and our capacity to make a naturally dangerous climate far safer.

If we look at the risks and side-effects of fossil fuel use, we see that they are incomparably smaller than the benefits. This is also true for other forms of cheap, plentiful, reliable energy such as nuclear and hydroelectric. Thus, short-term and long-term, the energy policy ideal is energy liberation.

The evil ideal underlying the attack on fossil fuels

If the moral case for fossil fuels and energy liberation flows from a humanist standard of value, where does the moral case against fossil fuels and energy liberation flow from?

It flows from one of the most popular moral ideals of our era, the ideal of being “green”—minimizing our impact on the planet. This ideal is completely contrary to human well-being. Despite claims that human beings live on a nurturing but fragile planet that we must tread lightly on to survive, nature does not give us a good standard of living; we need to create it by dramatically impacting—transforming—nature. In doing so, we want to maximize human well-being, which means minimizing human-harming impacts—but we want to make as much impact on the planet as necessary.

When fossil fuels are discussed, the green standard is invariably applied by both Republicans and Democrats. Republicans regularly accept the minimizing impact ideal left and right, whether by accepting “renewable” (vs. life-enhancing) as an ideal—or by obsessing over every exaggeration of our climate impact but spending no time celebrating our climate mastery—or by calling more attention to the birds killed by wind turbines than the people who would be killed if we had to rely on wind turbines.

Both sides agree: the ideal is to find the form of energy that has as little “environmental impact” as possible. This is an application of the green ideal: to minimize our impact on the planet. This must be rejected and replaced with the ideals of human well-being (or human progress) and energy liberation. Those are the real ideals, and those can be used to rapidly win hearts and minds.

Reframing the debate

Whenever I discuss any energy and environmental issue with anyone, near the very beginning I make sure to ask: “Would you agree that our goal here is to find the policy that will maximize human well-being? Would you agree that we need to look carefully at all the costs and all the benefits to get to the right answer?” It’s often necessary to bring up the non-impact issue explicitly: “Would you agree that to maximize our well-being we need to impact the world in all kinds of ways and that impact is not a bad thing but often a good thing? That we just want to minimize impacts that harm us?”

That reframing may seem simple or go unnoticed, but the resulting framework changes everything.

If we reframe the debate, making our ideals explicit, we can both win supporters and champions of the right policies, and expose the evil and anti-humanism of the wrong policies.

We have seen some of the power of defining the ideal and arguing to 100 at work in the few instances where the Republicans articulate anything remotely positive. For example, in the 2014 midterm elections, Republicans’ mild support for fossil fuels was a political asset, not a liability.

A prime reason was the ideal of “energy independence” (or “energy security”)—a vague and problematic ideal (it has anti-free trade implications, which go against energy freedom) but an ideal nonetheless. While in previous elections Democrats had often owned this ideal, the shale energy revolution and America’s rapid energy rise made it clear that in supporting fossil fuels one was supporting American industry and American economic security, and that the Democrats were clearly against this. The Keystone XL pipeline provided another example. (Note that we are still in a sorry state when the only confident stand Republicans can take is about one specific pipeline, and many of the arguments they use involve it not increasing CO2 emissions.)

The energy independence/security ideal, while being a net benefit in recent years for energy/economic freedom, does not solve the fundamental problem of the anti-fossil fuel ideal. Democrats still confidently rail against fossil fuels and Hillary Clinton can run as an idealist who will move the world forward by “fighting climate change.” It is quite possible she will do this through a combination of short-term concessions to American energy development as well as “promising investments in American renewable energy,” to claim the energy independence issue, while passing policies and signing treaties that will destroy energy freedom over the next several decades.

But while advocating energy independence doesn’t solve the fundamental energy problem, it illustrates the power of solving it by reframing the debate with a new ideal.

The framework in action; the good hydra

Framing the debate with maximizing human well-being as the ideal enables us to better reach the truth—and for that reason it makes it far, far easier to persuade others of the truth—in every issue and sub-issue. When made explicit, this ideal is compelling to the vast majority of people, much more so than the anti-impact ideal (or no ideal). It transforms our view of fossil fuels (and energy liberation) from self-destructive addiction to life-enhancing technology. The person who advocates this ideal conveys deep confidence and obvious sincerity.

The thousands of notes I have received about the moral case for fossil fuels reflect these dynamics. For example, an Obama supporter wrote me: “I am a lifelong Democrat and a strong Obama supporter. I especially liked the way you framed the issues using an identified standard (human life and prosperity), a consideration of both the risks and benefits of fossil fuels and their alternatives.” Notice that he specifically mentioned reframing the issue on a different moral standard (ideal).

Recall how the green ideal inexorably leads to the anti-fossil fuel ideal, which inexorably leads to a hydra of policies to fulfill that ideal. This is logical because once we have an ideal and an evil, we naturally look at ways in which the world doesn’t measure up and try to move in the direction of the ideal. For example, the anti-fossil fuel ideal observes that fracking is a new form of fossil fuel extraction, labels it bad, looks for things wrong with it, and seeks policies to stop it. If CO2 is bad, one looks for way after way of opposing it: Kyoto protocol, cap and trade, CO2 tax. On the positive side, one looks for ways to promote green energy: state renewable mandates, federal renewable fuel standard, international commitments, etc.

Here is the good news: the power of an ideal to inexorably shape other realms is true for any ideal that gains a following. It is certainly true for the right ideal. If the ideal is to maximize human well-being and human progress by empowering ourselves and billions of people around the world, we will naturally look for ways of doing that—and for things that are getting in the way. We will see enormous potential in coal deposits that are going unutilized—in pipelines that could be built—in nuclear power plants that could be built if not for the technophobic opposition—in shale that could be used to create wealth—in energy jobs that could exist. In short, we see opportunity—to move toward the ideal and fight anything that moves us away from it.

By the same token, if we hold the pro-human framework we see Democrats’ policies in a very different light. We don’t see them as potentially legitimate ways of achieving an ideal. We see them as negative, as obstacles toward our ideal of progress. Just as they call us “deniers and delayers,” that is how we view them: they are denying the value of energy (and the right of people to pursue it) and delaying the revolution we want to bring about.

When anti-fracking policies come up, the reaction is not: Maybe that’s a good idea, let’s prove that nothing can ever go wrong with fracking. It’s: We are creating this amazing energy revolution and technophobes are trying to hold it back. Suddenly, the dozens of proposals that seemed progressive are all revealed to be roadblocks that, at best, take legitimate issues and abuse them to stop progress.

Reframing the energy debate in human terms is the key to effective messaging. And the key vehicle for delivering such messaging is a positive, inspiring platform.

Changing the political debate with a positive, inspiring energy platform

A “platform,” as I am using the term, is a vision of what policy could be and should be, including a set of specific policy prescriptions, ideally rooted in a coherent set of principles, that will lead to great results.

Platforms are rare these days. What we usually find in lieu of platforms are sets of concrete talking points in response to “issues.” For example, a Republican candidate will have some talking points about “climate change,” about Keystone XL, about coal, etc.

This is invariably reactive. If we ask what determines the issues, the answer is overwhelmingly the ideal of getting off fossil fuels (and minimizing impact) combined with where we happen to be economically and politically. And nobody is inspired by talking points. The purpose of talking points is usually to score some mild approval points with supporters while not alienating non-supporters. The overall impact is to inspire no one and make everyone cynical.

The problem with the lack of a platform was powerfully illustrated in the debate over the moral atrocity of Obamacare. Obama had a (seemingly) clear policy based on a clear ideal: health care for all, based on the ideal of the right of all to healthcare. The Republicans had endless arguments as to why Obamacare was bad—the term “Obamacare” being one of them—but where was the proactive, positive, inspiring policy based on a compelling moral ideal? It has been nowhere for a quarter of a century. Voters concluded that a bad policy is better than no policy.

A platform doesn’t react to what people happen to feel about issues they have thought very little about; it connects with people’s core values and tries to move them on the issues.

Here are some basic elements I think belong in any proper platform:

  • A moral ideal: Maximizing human well-being and human progress.
  • An energy policy ideal: Energy freedom—enabling human ingenuity to produce as much cheap, plentiful, reliable energy as possible, while protecting the rights of all.
  • Core principles for achieving that ideal: Property rights, pro-development, science-based health and safety standards.
  • Specific policy opportunities for moving toward that ideal.
  • Answers to common objections to energy freedom, such as climate change-related arguments for fossil fuel restrictions.
  • Actions supporters can take.

One platform I hope candidates draw from is the America’s Energy Opportunity platform, which shows the connection between energy freedom and eight crucial issues:

  1. Jump-start the American economy.
  2. Create millions of well-paying job opportunities.
  3. Lower your cost of living.
  4. Increase our industrial competitiveness.
  5. Shrink the deficit.
  6. Increase national security.
  7. Fight global poverty.
  8. Improve environmental quality worldwide.

The platform is based on five key principles for maximizing energy progress and protecting health and safety.

  1. Energy lawmakers have a right and responsibility to protect the rights, health, and safety of Americans using demonstrated science, not speculated, unproved assertions and predictions.
  2. Energy consumers have the right to choose the forms of energy they judge best; the government should not force them to use expensive, unreliable forms of energy.
  3. Energy producers have a right to produce every kind of energy source so long as they protect health and safety; the government should not pick winners and losers.
  4. Energy transporters have a right to build the infrastructure necessary to get energy where it is needed; the government should not stop projects unless they provably threaten health and safety.
  5. Energy innovators have a right to pursue and harness energy in new ways, such as new nuclear and fracking technologies; the government should not restrict development based on unproven fears.

Get Involved

2016 is a once-in-a-generation energy election and it is headed on the wrong track; the Republicans have barely discussed energy and the Democrats are competing with one another on how much they can restrict energy–Hillary Clinton wants to allow barely any oil and gas development from shale (aka “fracking”) and Bernie Sanders claims superiority by promising to ban all of it.

If you believe that the principles of energy freedom are right, and if you believe that we need a positive, inspiring platform for energy freedom, please share this with your favorite politicians and candidates–and, if they take the right positions, volunteer to help them spread the message. I will do the same; if any pro-energy campaigns need help with their platform and messaging, whether on fossil fuels or nuclear or fracking or climate change, I volunteer.

04 May 00:30

Ep. 653 The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels: Educating Barbara Boxer

by Tom Woods

Alex Epstein, author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, recently testified before a Senate committee — and as you might guess, sparks flew.

About the Guest

Alex Epstein is president and founder of the Center for Industrial Progress.

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Ep. 285 The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

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04 May 10:31

McCloskey in Romania

by Don Boudreaux
(Don Boudreaux)


This just-published video is of the great Deirdre McCloskey speaking last year in Romania.

04 May 13:31

Why Cruz lost: He became an establishment candidate

by Lauren Duffy

Ted Cruz built his political reputation as a brash outsider taking on the Republican establishment in Washington – which is why he survived as long as he did in the 2016 primaries, while all the candidates favored by the establishment fell one by one.

As they dropped out, Cruz tried to consolidate the support of the GOP establishment around his campaign, making the case that, hate him as they might, he was the only acceptable alternative to Donald Trump. He sought, and received, endorsements from establishment leaders (with many choking down their bile as they backed him). He used the establishment’s rules to vacuum up as many delegates at state conventions possible. He even forged an ill-fated alliance with the last establishment candidate in the race, John Kasich, in a final effort to stop Donald Trump.

As he did all this, the voters began to see him not as an outsider, but as an insider. An April Huffington Post/YouGov poll tells the story:

In a new HuffPost/YouGov survey, 62 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters say that Cruz is more of an establishment candidate, while just 29 percent describe him as an outsider. That’s a marked shift since December, when just 36 percent considered him part of the establishment.


In the year of the outsider, Ted Cruz lost his outsider status. Before, he was the guy who shut down the government, called the GOP Senate majority leader a “liar,” and took on the Washington cartel.

By the time he reached Indiana, voters saw him as part of that cartel.

That was deadly. In Indiana, exit polls showed that 58% of Republican primary voters want the next president to be an outsider (76% of those supported Trump) and 53% said they felt “betrayed” by the Republican party. In New York last week it was a similar story; 69% of Republicans wanted outsider and they gave Trump a sweeping victory.

Even as he trailed Trump, it said something that 74.4% of Republicans supported the two outsiders in the race, Trump and Cruz. But Cruz could never “out-outsider” Trump. And so he tried to win over the establishment. His superior “ground game” sweeping up delegates in state conventions, and his alliance with Kasich, cost him. Voters saw it as two politicians gaming the system, and did not like being gamed. His actions fed Trump’s narrative that the system was “rigged” and that the establishment was trying to steal the election.

Cruz got into the “establishment lane,” and it was a dead end.

The transformation culminated earlier this week, when Cruz debated a Trump voter outside a campaign event, and the man told him, “You’re the problem, politician.”

That says it all. In the eyes of GOP voters, Ted Cruz became a politician – precisely what they did not want in 2016. He tried to win over establishment voters who did not want Trump, but in the process alienated the GOP majority who wanted an outsider to shake up the system.

Cruz got into the “establishment lane,” and it was a dead end.

The post Why Cruz lost: He became an establishment candidate appeared first on AEI.

04 May 13:42

Signed into Law: Tennessee Bill Will Help Expand Hemp Market; Set Stage to Further Nullify Federal Prohibition

by Mike Maharrey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (May 4, 2016) – Last week, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam signed a bill into law that will help expand the hemp industry in Tennessee.The measure opens the door to in-state processing of hemp products, paving the way for faster development of the state’s hemp market, and further nullifying federal prohibition in effect.

Rep. Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) introduced House Bill 2032 (HB2032) in January. The legislation expands existing hemp regulations in Tennessee to allow licensing of hemp processors.

The House passed an amended version HB2032 86-2 on April 7. The Senate unanimously approved the measure 31-0 on April 19. With Gov. Haslam’s signature, the law went immediately into effect.

Provisions allowing the state to license hemp processors will potentially serve to expand the market for raw hemp in the state. Creating a state-level legal structure for hemp processors makes it more likely for businesses to begin processing hemp into various marketable products.

Language in the Tennessee hemp law does not require any federal permission for licensing growers or processors. It leaves it to the Tennessee Department of Agriculture to establish licensing criteria. How licensing plays out in practice depends heavily on how the department writes its rules.

The new law also changes the definition of hemp to exempt institutions of higher education in the state from requirements to grow plants using only certified seed.

“Industrial hemp” means the plants and plant parts of the genera cannabis that do not contain a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration more than three tenths of one percent (0.3%) on a dry mass basis and that are either grown from seed certified by a certifying agency, as defined in § 43-10-103, OR grown by an institution of higher education in this state that offers a baccalaureate or post-graduate level program of study in agricultural sciences.”

This change is crucial because a shortage of usable certified seed throws up one of the biggest barriers to hemp research and farming. No domestic seed sources exist, and federal government strictly regulates importation and transportation of hemp seeds. Allowing universities to do research with non-certified seed opens the door to create a domestic source for certified seeds in the future, an extremely important step in developing a viable hemp industry in the Tennessee and the U.S.

The Tennessee legislature initially legalized industrial hemp production in 2014. The new law established a quick, orderly, efficient, farmer-friendly process to license industrial hemp growers, and permit them to distribute the crop in the marketplace. A WATE report illustrates the success of Tennessee’s policy.

Thousands of hemp plants on Rasmussen’s farm will be harvested this October, mainly by hand. That means they’ll take each plant, dry it out and sell it as seed…

Rasmussen’s 2.5 acre industrial hemp farm is a pilot project and one of 50 in our state.

Workers with the Tennessee Department of Agriculture stopped by Wednesday for a yearly review. They took samples to make sure hemp plants are within Tennessee’s legal 0.3 percent limit of THC.

Licensing processors will likely spur similar on activity on the processing side of the business and ultimately grow the hemp industry as a whole.

The federal government still prohibits the cultivation of industrial hemp in most cases, and it prohibits the commercial cultivation of hemp in all cases. Despite federal prohibition, Tennessee’s current law sets the foundation for people to nullify the ban by encouraging hemp production in the state. By facilitating further development of the hemp industry with this new law, Tennessee will ultimately expand this “illegal” market.

The evolution of the hemp program in Tennessee also demonstrates a practical reality. Tenth Amendment Center executive director Michael Boldin pointed out when states pass bills that remove a layer of law, markets will inevitably begin to develop.

“As those markets take root, legislators start feeling the pressure to relax laws further,” he said. “Some critics complain that state licensing programs ‘restrict freedom.’ Still, state-restricted hemp farming is better than no hemp farming at all. That’s at least a little more freedom. And as we’re seeing in Tennessee, it ultimately opens the door to even freer markets down the road. A little freedom begets more freedom.”


Early in 2014, President Barack Obama signed a new farm bill into law, which included a provision allowing a handful of states to begin limited research programs growing hemp. The “hemp amendment”

…allows State Agriculture Departments, colleges and universities to grow hemp, defined as the non-drug oil-seed and fiber varieties of Cannabis, for academic or agricultural research purposes, but it applies only to states where industrial hemp farming is already legal under state law.

In short, current federal law authorizes the farming of hemp – by research institutions only, for research only. Farming for commercial purposes by individuals and businesses remains prohibited. Oregon law ignores federal prohibition and authorizes commercial farming and production anyway.


Tennessee joins with a number of other states – including Oregon, Colorado, South Carolina, Connecticut, Maine, North Dakota and Vermont – simply ignoring federal prohibition and legalizing industrial hemp production within their state borders.

While prospective hemp growers still have to take federal law into consideration, by eliminating the state requirement for federal permission, state hemp legalization clears away a major obstacle to widespread commercial hemp farming within the borders of the state.

Farmers in SE Colorado started harvesting the plant in 2013, and farmers in Vermont began harvesting in 2014, effectively nullifying federal restrictions on such agricultural activities. On Feb. 2 of last year, the Oregon hemp industry officially opened for business and one week later, the first license went to a small non-profit group. As more people engage in hemp production and the market grows within these states, more people will become emboldened creating an exponential wave, ultimately nullifying the federal ban in effect.


According to a 2005 Congressional Research Service report, the U.S. is the only developed nation that hasn’t developed an industrial hemp crop for economic purposes.

Experts suggest that the U.S. market for hemp is around $600 million per year. They count as many as 25,000 uses for industrial hemp, including food, cosmetics, plastics and bio-fuel. The U.S. is currently the world’s #1 importer of hemp fiber for various products, with China and Canada acting as the top two exporters in the world.

During World War II, the United States military relied heavily on hemp products, which resulted in the famous campaign and government-produced film, “Hemp for Victory!”.

HB2032 represents a second step toward hemp freedom in Tennessee.

04 May 00:50

Signed into Law: Georgia Right to Try Act Rejects Some FDA Restrictions on Terminal Patients

by Mike Maharrey

ATLANTA, Ga. (May 3, 2016) – Last week, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed a bill into law that sets the foundation to nullify in practice some Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules that deny access to experimental treatments by terminally ill patients.

Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek) introduced House Bill 34 (HB34). The new law enables terminally ill patients to access to medications and treatments not yet given final approval for use by the FDA.

The Senate unanimously passed the bill 55-0. on March 11. The House also unanimously approved the measure 173-0. With Gov. Deal’s signature the law will go into effect July 1.

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act prohibits general access to experimental drugs. However, under the expanded access provision of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, 21 U.S.C. 360bbb, patients with serious or immediately life-threatening diseases may access experimental drugs after receiving express FDA approval.

HB34 creates a process to bypass the FDA expanded access program and allows patients to obtain experimental drugs from manufacturers without first obtaining FDA approval. This procedure directly conflicts with the federal expanded access program and sets the stage to nullify it in practice.

Physicians who prescribe these drugs and procedures to patients are shielded from liability under the law. The statute states that “the Georgia Composite Medical Board shall not revoke, suspend, sanction, fail to renew, or take any other action against a physician’s license solely based on such physician’s recommendation, prescription, or treatment of an eligible patient with an investigational drug, biological product, or device pursuant to this chapter.”

The manufacturers of such experimental treatments enjoy similar protection under the new law.

HB34 further declares that “no official, employee, or agent of the state shall block or attempt to block an eligible patient’s access to an investigational drug, biological product, or device.”

“Americans shouldn’t have to ask the government for permission to try to save their own lives,” said Darcy Olsen, president of the Goldwater Institute. “They should be able to work with their doctors directly to decide what potentially life-saving treatments they are willing to try. This is exactly what Right To Try does.”

So far, 26 states have passed similar legislation into law. Although Right to Try bills only address one small aspect of FDA regulation, they provide a clear model that demonstrates how to nullify federal statutes that violate the Constitution. The strategy narrows the influence of nullification to limited aspects of the law itself, which has proven to be very effective.

The Right to Try Act is a no-brainer. When someone is on their deathbed, the fact that FDA regulations would let them die rather than try, has got to be one of the most inhumane policies of the federal government. Every state should take action to nullify the FDA like this.

03 May 23:33

Is Donald Trump a Threat To the American Way of Life? Or Just the Republican Party?

by Nick Gillespie

Let's cut to the chase: Is the possibility of a President Donald J. Trump really an "extinction-level event" to all that is good and decent about "liberal democracy and constitutional order," as Andrew Sullivan claims in his widely read debut at New York Magazine?

Not even remotely.

Indeed, if anything, the chaos Trump has rained down on the 2016 election may well accelerate the demise of not just the current moribund iteration of the GOP but also drive a stake through the heart of a dead-but-still-with-us Democratic Party. Here's hoping.

After quoting long passages of Plato's Republic (which, he informs us helpfully, he "first read" in "graduate school") and name-checking the truly mediocre Sinclair Lewis's meditation on U.S.-grown fascism, It Can't Happen Here, here's where Sullivan ends up:

Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.

I like and respect Andrew Sullivan tremendously, and I consider him a fellow traveler in a (very) broadly defined libertarian movement (indeed, the Christmas party he mentions attending in his story was at Reason's DC HQ). Far more importantly, he's a true pioneer in the world of new media and a thinker who brings an enormous amount of erudition and seriousness to political and cultural discourse (as much as any single individual, he reframed the debate on same-sex couples as one of marriage equality and his anti-drug-war stance nearly makes up for his pro-actual-war stances over the years).

But when it comes to Trump as an existential threat to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, he is not simply wrong, but incredibly wrong.

I say this as someone who is as anti-Trump as his first two ex-wives and Rosie O'Donnell put together. The emergence of Donald Trump as a presidential frontrunner is many, many things and none of them is good. He's an embarrassment to the Republican Party, which is simply reaping the anger, resentment, and stupidity it has sown for years. He's a cause of serious concern for illegal immigrants, especially Mexicans, and all of us who see relatively open borders and free trade as central to any definition of "American exceptionalism" that's worth a damn. And he is a completely unqualified delusioniac whose grand-mal narcissism and radical inconsistency from one minute to the next is tougher to stomach than (I imagine) a Trump steak. But FFS, he in no serious way poses a threat, much less an "extinction-level" one, to liberal democracy, a society of laws-not-men, or limited government. However bad he might be as president, it's unfathomable that he would be worse than his two immediate predecessors when it comes to flouting law and convention (this is especially the case since he would face pushback on every front and has no experience with how to govern).

The most important thing to understand about Trump is that he is not the start of anything new but the culmination of a long degenerative process that has been at work for the entirety of the 21st century. He is a sterile mule in the end, not a jackass who might have hideous offspring. He is the effect, not the cause, of the ways in which the two major parties have destroyed themselves by refusing to take their own rhetoric or govern seriously. The Republican Party said it stood for small government when virtually every major action it has pursued at least since the 9/11 attacks has yielded the opposite result. The Democratic Party, still trying to maintain a disparate collection of special-interest groups that started morphing and changing and expiring by the mid-1960s, lays claim to the mantle of caring about regular Americans even as its last three major presidential candidates (John Kerry, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton) long ago achieved escape velocity from caring about anything resembling everyday reality.

And then there is simple fact that politics is less and less engaging to all of us, thank god. Do we need to keep pointing that fewer and fewer of us form our identities, our communities, or our meanings in life via political affiliation? The last time Gallup checked in, just 26 percent of us admitted to being Republicans and just 29 percent to being Democrats, figures that are near and at historic lows for the parties.

Who can blame us? And who can stop us? No one.

Despite serious economic issues (which have been extended and intensified by government interventions when not caused by them in the first place), our lives in the 21st century have been getting better and better thanks to an unstoppable mix of technological innovations, cultural shifts toward pluralism and tolerance, and the decline in all sorts of public and private gatekeeping institutions.

The "libertarian moment" that Matt Welch and I heralded in The Declaration of Independents is real and it continues apace in our personal and commercial lives. If you don't think so, take a few minutes to recall what your life was life back in, say, 2000 or 2001. At every level of American society back then, people had less stuff and less options for life, even though the things we did have were spectacularly better than what we had in 1990 or 1991. I'm no Dr. Pangloss and I don't take material and social progress for granted; it's just that I believe eventually Americans route around political obstacles to achieve a more perfect union. Ask Obama about his shifts toward legalizing pot, embracing gay marriage, and pursuing criminal-justice reform if you don't believe me. He was pulled there by cultural forces that forced his hand politically.

Arguably, the one thing that was indeed better at the start of the 21st century then now was the state of national politics. Due to a set of truly weird, unpredictable, and unrepeatable circumstances, a Democratic president and a Republican Congress that his early incompetence brought to power—unimaginably, at the time—somehow managed to govern semi-competently in a way that didn't completely piss away the "peace dividend" that came with the end of the Cold War. That said, serious discusson of foreign policy went missing and nothing was done to rein in the old-age entitlement spending that is slowly bleeding the federal budget dry. Even back then the rancor and partisanship of that period was seen as historically high at the time, with Bill Clinton being called a serial murderer by characters such as the Rev. Jerry Falwell and Newt Gingrich, Clinton's even-darker twin brother by a different mother, was chased from office for all sorts real and imagined crimes against decency. From the indefensible (and politically stupid to boot) impeachment trial to the eventual elevation of the child-molester Dennis Hastert to Speaker of the House, the negative spiral took over and whatever brief moments of patriotic solidarity emerged in the wake of the 9/11 attacks—there was more bipartisan support for the completely unjustified (and Sullivan-approved) invasion of Iraq in 2003 than in 1991!—dissipated fast enough so that by 2004 the parties were once again at each throats.

This is not a small thing, but we too easily forget how each of the national parties completely betrayed voters in various ways for the past 15-plus years. The century was ushered in under the single-most-contested election in U.S. history, with each party suddenly adopting the other's philosophy in pursuit of victory. The Republicans called it a federal matter while the Dems wholeheartedly embraced state's rights (this switcheroo would repeat itself in the Terri Schiavo affair). The deep-seated recognition by voters that each party is uncommitted to anything approaching its core values is what's driving the 2016 election season. While enjoying complete control of the federal government for years under Bush, the Republican Party didn't just go war-crazy but spending-crazy, regulation-crazy, and entitlement-crazy.

At the same time, the party's leadership lied to the people again and again about how it was prosecuting and succeeding in the "global war on terror" and paraded frauds and incompetents such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld in front of us as if they were grand statesmen. Even before he left office, Bush had delivered part of Congress to the Democrats, who immediately failed to follow through on their own promises to restrain government spending and act more forthrightly than the GOP had. When given his own super-majority amidst financial panic in 2008, Barack Obama got everything he wanted, from a useless and oversold stimulus to about the only truly major legislative reform bill passed solely by one party since the Civil War (and even then, Obama had to "sweeten" his health-care-reform offerings to the last Democratic holdouts so much that he damn near gave Sen. Ben Nelson sugar diabetes).

We should not forget how awful Obama was in his first two years—the opposite of the blandly inspirational "Hope and Change" candidate—and the sense of disappointment with him and his party eventually gave rise to yet another shift in power (a "shellacking," Obama dubbed it, but it was really a swift kick in the pants). Like Bush before him, it's not simply that Obama failed to deliver on campaign promises or rosy scenarios that folks hoped for. It's that he openly alienated us by lying through his teeth about civil liberties and higher truths. The proprietor of the "most transparent administration ever" wasn't simply letting his various apparatchiks enter lobbying immediately upon leaving federal service, the guy was running an extra-legal, secret "kill list," for Christ's sake, tripling troops in a losing and "dumb war" in Afghanistan, and actually prosecuting journalists under phony espionage charges. On top of it all, he was sending feds to raid medical marijuana dispensaries in California and deporting immigrants by the boatload.

I reprise a condensed version of the 21st-century parade of horribles not simply to wallow once again in the failures of the Bush and Obama years or to suggest a plague on both houses. We've been so long accustomed to absolute rancor in politics (at least back to the early 1990s) that we've become numb to the fact that both the Republican and Democratic Parties have had chances at governing and have not just done poorly but catastrophically. They refused to ratify budgets, make themselves accountable, and do anything other than bail out Wall Street and car companies and buy votes from this or that group.

That's the landscape into which Donald Trump emerged, and Hillary Clinton too. These two wedding-party pals in no way represent a new turn in American politics but simply the end of the road for, on the one hand, a party that fielded more than a dozen candidates—including senators, governors, and sons and brothers of presidents!—who had so little to say that they withered under a real estate developer's sophomoric put-downs. On the Democrat's side, Clinton was nobody's first choice in 2008 and still isn't. Back then, it only took an anonymous senator with no track record to bump her off. This time, the only difference is that her party is so totally lacking in warm bodies that a 74-year-old socialist who still hasn't processed the collapse of the Soviet Union (much less Chavez's Venezuela) actually made a former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State sweat out her eventual nomination.

In his New York essay, Sullivan likens Trump to Vladimir Putin, thereby appealing to Trump's own vanity while revealing an overdeveloped sense of drama:

Tyrants, like mob bosses, know the value of a smile: Precisely because of the fear he’s already generated, you desperately want to believe in his new warmth. It’s part of the good-cop-bad-cop routine that will be familiar to anyone who has studied the presidency of Vladimir Putin.

But in fact, unlike Putin (or Bush or Obama or Clinton), Trump hasn't ever killed anyone, whether in a KGB operation or via an execution chamber or a battlefield decision. Trump may win the presidency, but he will face not pliant lackeys but bitter clingers to the shreds of the tattered old Democratic and Republican Parties. Beyond that, as even Sullivan acknowledges, he is already moderating his views on everything from his disgusting plan to deport 12 million illegals to banning abortion to killing the children of terrorists. A reverse Teddy Roosevelt, Trump will speak loudly and carry a little stick everywhere he goes.

That's because for all his bombast, fabulism, and crudeness (making fun of a handicapped reporter, suggesting Ted Cruz's father was friends with Lee Harvey Oswald, any comments regarding Megyn Kelly, pretending to have seen Muslims celebrating 9/11 in New Jersey), Trump is actually not channeling a true tyrannical or fascistic urge among Americans. His signature promise that he "will make America great again" has been widely misunderstood, I think. It's less about dropping bombs and invading foreign countries or poking the Chinese in the eye and more about something far less frightening.

As Peggy Noonan puts it at the Wall Street Journal, Trump stands out in this election season not because he is dangerous but because he is the only candidate who seems to give a shit (my words, not hers) about the lives of regular people. Remember when he thanked the "poorly educated" after winning in Nevada? When's the last time they were even acknowledged as something other than a problem to cured? Noonan observes that where Bush and Obama were all about ideology in one form or another, about pushing grand visions of right and wrong and using regular people as markers in a game of Risk, Trump is either pre- or post-ideological and the only thing he cares about is the country writ large:

You could see this aspect of Trumpism—I’m about America, end of story—in his much-discussed foreign-policy speech this week. I have found pretty much everything said about it to be true. It was long, occasionally awkward-sounding and sometimes contradictory. It was interesting nonetheless. He was trying to blend into a coherent whole what he’s previously said when popping off on the hustings. He was trying to establish that there’s a theme to the pudding.

She calls what Trump is performing "simple patriotism." It's certainly simple-minded but it's also a revelation at this late date in the American Experiment.

He certainly jumbles up the categories. Bobby Knight, introducing him at a rally in Evansville, Ind., on Thursday, said that Mr. Trump is not a Republican or a Democrat. The crowd seemed to like that a lot.

Those conservative writers and thinkers who have for nine months warned the base that Mr. Trump is not a conservative should consider the idea that a large portion of the Republican base no longer sees itself as conservative, at least as that term has been defined the past 15 years by Washington writers and thinkers.

We can add to this that most Americans are as sick of conservatives who say they want small government while doubling budgets as they are of liberal Democrats who bomb foreign countries and prosecute the drug war and deport immigrants. If Trump was actually channeling something other than the public's disenchantment with two failed parties and with politics itself, it might be worth getting worried about him. But unless you are a Republican who worries that his heading up the ticket will make it hard for your own preferred poseur to win re-election or a Democrat who deep down knows that Hillary Clinton is a terrible person and would be a terrible president, lighten up already. One of these two people, Trump or Clinton, will be president come next year. Either of them will almost certainly be terrible, but that only makes them the latest in a line of terrible presidents who subverted the Constitution and increased the size, spending, and scope of government in ways that are still not yet fully understood.

Trump's victory tonight in Indiana—and likely later in California and Cleveland and maybe even in November—will thus only speed up the evacuation from partisan politics that's been taking place since the 1970s, when far higher percentages of Americans defined themselves as Rs or Ds and dutifully went along with all that entailed. As political consultant and ABC News analyst Matthew Dowd has noted, Trump is not so much a threat to the future as he is the end of line for parties that need to be disbanded or completely transformed. "This cycle," wrote Dowd a couple of months ago, "is likely to be an accelerator for the success of independents locally and at the state level-developments that can only be good for our democracy."

Precisely because he is showing how weak the Republican Party apparatus actually is, Trump may even be the least-bad outcome in November, for his victory will force us finally as a nation to move into the 21st century politically as we have culturally. We have started growing up when it comes to sexual orientation and pot legalization; we're embracing school choice for poor kids as well as rich ones and we're confronting the damage done by locking up entire generations of young men. Most of us (Gallup again) want the government to do less and for individuals and businesses to do more. Politics—the systematic organization of hatreds, as Henry Adams put it—has long gotten in the way. With Trump at the helm (or for that matter), it will be more attractive than ever for us to figuratively leave D.C. behind and get on with our lives out here in the rolling fields of the Republic.

03 May 14:35

Where White America lives

by Sarah Gustafson

The Bubble Quiz has gotten a lot of attention since I started posting results from the people who took it on the NewsHour’s website. Some have recently complained that the Bubble Quiz ignores the real America, which is urban and racially diverse. The website FiveThirtyEight, bringing its formidable quantitative skills to bear, has determined that the most “normal” American setting is a place like Tampa.

None of this is relevant to the Bubble Quiz, which is explicitly intended to illustrate how isolated the new upper class (overwhelmingly white) is from mainstream white America, but the complaints made me curious: Where does the typical non-Latino white American live?

If you’re asking about the mean population of the places where white Americans live, the answer is a city of 647,700 people — a big city. The mean is meaningless, however. If you have a sample of 10 Americans, one from New York City, population 8.5 million, and 9 from villages of 100 people, the mean population of the ten is 850,090 people. That doesn’t tell you much.



If you’re asking about the median population of the places where white Americans live, the answer is 45,200. That’s not Tampa. That’s the size of Wallingford, Connecticut, a town between New Haven and Hartford and home to Choate, the famous prep school.

Let’s be clear about what that median represents, because it’s a pretty astonishing result: Fully half of white Americans live in places smaller than 45,200 people.

Fully half of white Americans live in places smaller than 45,200 people.

It’s so astonishingly low that you should be suspicious. Specifically, a place can be called a “city” with its own mayor and city council, but for practical purposes it is part of a dense urban area. Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, is technically a city of 107,000 people, but it is contiguous to Boston, and you definitely feel like you’re in an urban area. Belmont, only three miles to the west, is listed at 24,700. It is a residential community with a small-town shopping center and doesn’t have the feel of a city, but it is a suburb of Boston.

I had to worry about such issues a few years ago when I was working on a study of American diversity. To deal with it, I defined a “Greater X”—e.g., a “Greater Colorado Springs”—for each of the fifty largest cities, based on contiguous high-density census tracts rather than the official city limits. For cities of 500,000 or more, I also identified satellites such as Belmont that were not connected by high-density census tracts, but were suburbs of an urban area. So the median of 45,200 is based on a treatment of the problem in which the population of Cambridge is classified as part of the city of Boston and Belmont is defined as a satellite. A town of 45,200 as I am classifying it is a stand-alone community.

Now let’s see if I can give you a more intuitive sense of how many white Americans live outside the great urban centers. I’ll use my home town of Newton, Iowa, population of a little over 15,000, as the first break point. If you live in a place smaller than Newton, you’re definitely in a small town or living in rural America. Wallingford is the next break point, demarcating populations of 15,000–45,000 as the gray area between “town” and “small city.”

I’ll use Des Moines, Iowa, to mark the break between small cities of more than 45,000 and major cities. Greater Des Moines has a population of about 370,000. You can drive from one end of the downtown area to the other in about seven minutes, including stops at red lights along the way. It is a city, yes. It is not “urban America” in any meaningful sense of the term.

Only 10.5% of white Americans live within the top twenty cities. 

Greater Indianapolis serves to mark the high point for major cities that are not huge ones. With a population of a little over 1.2 million, Greater Indianapolis ranks twenty-first among my configuration of urban areas. But it’s still just a fifteen-minute drive from the football stadium in downtown Indianapolis to Marian University, which is already deep into Indianapolis’s residential area.

That leaves the twenty largest urban areas, all of which are larger than 1.2 million, including all the cities that come first to mind when we think of urban America: Greater Los Angeles, New York, Houston, Chicago, Miami, Seattle, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Dallas, and Atlanta.

Sprinkled among the top twenty are other places that may surprise you: Minneapolis, Fort Lauderdale, San Antonio, Sacramento, Orlando, and San Jose.

Here’s how the breakdown for where white Americans live works out:

Rural areas–Newton IA (0–15,000)                            26.4%

Newton–Wallingford CT (15,000–45,000)                 18.9%

Wallingford–Des Moines (45,000–370,000)              20.9%

Des Moines–Indianapolis (370,000–1.2 million)     11.8%

Suburbs of cities                                                             11.6%

The top twenty cities                                                    10.5%


More than a quarter of all white Americans live in small towns (or no town at all) and almost two-thirds live in cities smaller than Des Moines. Only 10.5% of white Americans live within the top twenty cities. So the lesson for today is that white America is still, by a substantial majority, an America of rural areas, small towns and small cities.

Since 17% of the entire American population lives in the 20 largest cities compared with less than 11% of white Americans, isn’t the implication that the residential profile for nonwhite America is radically different from the one for white America? It is indeed. Precisely how is a lesson for another day.

Get the entire results of the Bubble Quiz here

The post Where White America lives appeared first on AEI.

02 May 16:20

The US Has The Best Rail System in the World, and Matt Yglesias Actually Pointed Out the Reason

by admin

Yglesias has a very good article on why passenger rail is not a bigger deal in the US.   In it, he says this (emphasis added):

Instead the issue is that the dismal failure of US passenger rail is in large part the flip side of the success of US freight rail. America's railroads ship a dramatically larger share of total goods than their European peers. And this is no coincidence. Outside of the Northeast Corridor, the railroad infrastructure is generally owned by freight companies — Amtrak is just piggybacking on the spare capacity.

It is a short article, so it does not go into more depth than this, but I have actually gone further than this and argued that the US freight-dominated rail system is actually far greener and more sensible than the European passenger system.  As I wrote years ago at Forbes:

The US rail system, unlike nearly every other system in the world, was built (mostly) by private individuals with private capital.  It is operated privately, and runs without taxpayer subsidies.    And, it is by far the greatest rail system in the world.  It has by far the cheapest rates in the world (1/2 of China’s, 1/8 of Germany’s).  But here is the real key:  it is almost all freight.

As a percentage, far more freight moves in the US by rail (vs. truck) than almost any other country in the world.  Europe and Japan are not even close.  Specifically, about 40% of US freight moves by rail, vs. just 10% or so in Europe and less than 5% in Japan.   As a result, far more of European and Japanese freight jams up the highways in trucks than in the United States.  For example, the percentage of freight that hits the roads in Japan is nearly double that of the US.

You see, passenger rail is sexy and pretty and visible.  You can build grand stations and entertain visiting dignitaries on your high-speed trains.  This is why statist governments have invested so much in passenger rail — not to be more efficient, but to awe their citizens and foreign observers.

But there is little efficiency improvement in moving passengers by rail vs. other modes.   Most of the energy consumed goes into hauling not the passengers themselves, but the weight of increasingly plush rail cars.  Trains have to be really, really full all the time to make for a net energy savings for high-speed rail vs. cars or even planes, and they seldom are full.  I had a lovely trip on the high speed rail last summer between London and Paris and back through the Chunnel — especially nice because my son and I had the rail car entirely to ourselves both ways.

The real rail efficiency comes from moving freight.  As compared to passenger rail, more of the total energy budget is used moving the actual freight rather than the cars themselves.  Freight is far more efficient to move by rail than by road, but only the US moves a substantial amount of its freight by rail.    One reason for this is that freight and high-speed passenger traffic have a variety of problems sharing the same rails, so systems that are optimized for one tend to struggle serving the other.

Freight is boring and un-sexy.  Its not a government function in the US.  So intellectuals tend to ignore it, even though it is the far more important, from and energy and environmental standpoint, portion of transport to put on the rails. ....

I would argue that the US has the world’s largest commitment to rail where it really matters.  But that is what private actors do, make investments that actually make sense rather than just gain one prestige (anyone know the most recent company Warren Buffet has bought?)  The greens should be demanding that the world emulate us, rather than the other way around.  But the lure of shiny bullet trains and grand passenger concourses will always cause some intellectuals to swoon.

Which would you rather pounding down the highway, more people on vacation or more big trucks moving freight?  Without having made an explicit top-down choice at all, the US has taken the better approach.

02 May 09:25

BBC, media suddenly join TRF: Craig Wright created the Bitcoin

by Luboš Motl

Some of the counter-arguments are still on the table, so I've got an open mind (leaning "yes") about whether Wright is or isn't Satoshi, but this article is amusing.

In December 2015, you could read my comments why
I would bet: Sydney climate skeptic is the father of the Bitcoin
At that time, lots of tech media mentioned the emerging evidence that Craig Steven Wright (*1970) created the world's most famous cryptocurrency but almost all of them were mostly skeptical and those who were not skeptical were sort of dismissed.

Five months ago, Wright wasn't loudly boasting – and he wasn't even explicitly admitting – that he was the father of the Bitcoin. However, he didn't say "No", either, and the dominant theme in the newspaper articles was that "he created some bogus evidence that would make others think that he was the creator of the Bitcoin".

I just found such a theory analogous to the conspiracy theories about the moonlanding staged by Hollywood in Nevada.

Much like it is easier and more straightforward to actually build and send some rockets to the Moon (the laws of physics make it clear that it may be done and it isn't infinitely different from the airplanes) than to create a network that convinces hundreds and then billions of people that they're taking a part in a great engineering event that isn't real, it just seems much more straightforward to actually write the paper and the programs; than to create a fake life consistent with someone's being the father of the Bitcoin.

Today, the BBC has shown Wright who explicitly said he was Satashi Nakamoto, the artistic name of the previously unknown father(s) of the Bitcoin (some other people made the decision for him to reveal the secret now), and the media suddenly seem to be in a full consensus that the father of the Bitcoin has been found, after all. In front of the eyes of many journalists, he did something that may be described as "the usage of some Bitcoins known to be owned by the founder of the Bitcoin only".

He owns about one-seventh of the Bitcoins in the world – which puts his net worth at $400 million and he may have shown some public key proving that he, Wright (nicknamed Nakamoto), initiated the first Bitcoin transaction in the history.

Some new technical evidence may have been shown (Wright's signature method to prove that he is Satoshi that was posted on his website is a cryptographic tour-de-force by itself; Wright has also signed the Genesis block [a joke] later on Monday) and some Bitcoin experts were persuaded (Gavin Andresen, the #1 powerful Bitcoin research+trading guy, said that he was certain that Satoshi was Wright; Jon Matonis, another Bitcoin big shot, said that the proof was conclusive). Amusingly enough, Gavin Andresen – the top authority currently quoted to confirm the Satoshi=Wright theory now, was the main authority quoted by the New Yorker and others against the theory four months ago. ;-)

But all these things are somewhat vague and hard to verify by a journalist who doesn't really understand how the cryptographic keys work and whether this or that coincidence may be faked. That's why I find the sudden "phase transition" or "paradigm shift" making the journalists say "yes, it is him" to be similarly irrational as the skepticism of the same body of journalists five months ago. If they had at least partially rational reasons to be deeply uncertain 5 months ago, they should still be uncertain.

The best explanation of the "paradigm shift" is that the journalists are basically mindless parrots who copy things from each other. Almost every journalist basically realizes that he is a stupid scumbag who must rely on some better people, so he has some "better journalists" from whom it's always OK to copy the stories uncritically. So the world of journalism is secretly hierarchical and the phase transition was simply caused by some people's (at the BBC?) getting persuaded.

Journalists' lousy work is one part of the December 2015 skeptical opposition. The other, perhaps more important, part of the opposition were the Bitcoin cultists who were imagining (without any glimpse of evidence) that Mr Nakomoto had to be some angel or semi-god flying above the Earth, a saint who would never try to earn any money in controversial ways or obtain undeserved subsidies, someone whose scholarly credentials and the general brightness must be so amazing that every person around him or her would immediately see the aura and the divine character of Mr Nakamoto. No one could ever name the father of the Botcoin The Australian Nobody, they believe. The similarity between this type of a Nakomoto cult and the Islamic or even Christian religions – and other examples of the irrational mass brainwashing powered by a wishful thinking – is hopefully self-evident. I do think that most of the folks at the Bitcoin Reddit forums may be classified as these religious nutcases.

Well, it isn't the case. Wright's credentials are cool and sufficient (and I agree with lots of his previous "boasting" that he was the best man in the world in certain related skills) but the attitude, drive, and cleverness of an auto-didact, a locally important entrepreneur, and the alumnus of some universities of the regional importance was simply enough (or exactly the "right thing") to create the Bitcoin. Whether you decide to say that it means that the Bitcoin isn't as divinely ingenious as previously claimed; or that Craig Wright isn't the kind of a mediocre tech guy as he was being painted by many people who knew him, it's up to you.

Nevertheless, if the identification of Nakamoto is right as most people believe today, the huge metaphysical gap between the Bitcoin on one side and Craig Wright (or similar tech people) on the other side has been a complete superstition. The Bitcoin is something that a good enough specialized programmer of this kind simply may create rather easily. And yes, things like Facebook are even more straightforward.

The main difference between Zuckerberg and Wright is that Zuckerberg's identity and wealth has been known from the first successful moments of the Facebook, and most of the people surrounding him were always licking his rectum, with a clear motivation – to get some droplets from the wealth. On the other hand, people didn't know that Wright was sitting on $400 million so they were not praising him and licking his rectum so vigorously. Zuckerberg's (and others') more shining aura (relatively to wright) is mainly a consequence of the aßlicking maneuvers. If your buttocks were licked by thousands of people in the environment for many years, you would shine, too (try it).

We will see whether many people start to do these things to Wright now (he says that he will try to avoid all such things) – and whether the Bitcoin cultists reconcile themselves with the fact that the father of their favorite toy is a human being – one that also wanted to get wealthier at some moments in the past – and not a divine one.

Congratulations to Mr Wright for his groundbreaking contribution to the industry of e-currencies and I wish him lots of peace and isolation from the obnoxious people!

My congratulations are tripled if Craig Wright is also the hacker who is behind the 2009 ClimateGate. I've presented some hints in the previous blog post about him.

Despite my wishes of privacy, I am sure that Wright will be getting the same treatment as J.C. in the song above for quite some time! ;-)

P.S.: in the BBC interview, Wright says that he preferred to be kept in secret and he would prefer that status now, too. Why should one take credit? Well, on one hand, I do think that there could have been other, less impressive and more mundane reasons why he didn't reveal his identity earlier. On the other hand, this belief in the privacy is very natural, I understand it, and you surely should expect it from the father of an important cryptocurrency, shouldn't you? What he says makes so much sense from his viewpoint – although many other people actually like or need to get the credit for their contributions.

By the way, this comment "it's right and natural not to get outed" has implications for many more questions, e.g. for gays. I do think it's OK – and probably more right – when gays keep their sexual orientation as their private secret, for example. People's personalities are different, some of them want private things to remain private and others are extroverts. But with all the gay parades and the completely indefensible boasting, we have surely entered the era of excessive gay (and related) exhibitionism.

An actual Satoshi Nakamoto.

Wright also says that he should only pay taxes from this rather new and abstract asset class when the wealth is actually "deployed"; and he makes himself saint in the financial sense now (he needs neither fame and adoration nor money; the latter is easier to do so with a $400 million pillow) and says that he will reject any Nobel, Turing, Abel, or other prizes. I am also promising that once I have a $400 million pillow, I will reject all these prizes. ;-) Wright has also made the dramatic statement that he will never allow any TV camera to shoot him again.
03 May 04:26

A minimum wage thought experiment: What if employers responded with a 2-year minimum work experience requirement?

by Mark Perry

Here’s a minimum wage thought experiment.

1. Suppose that a $15 an hour minimum wage is imposed on employers by government mandate.

2. In response to the $15 an hour minimum wage legislation, suppose that most employers then impose a 2-year minimum work experience requirement for new employees, to more closely match the higher productivity of more experienced workers to the new higher mandated wage.

Q: How would the employer practice of a 2-year minimum work experience requirement in response to a $15 an hour minimum wage affect employment opportunities for unskilled and limited-experience workers?

A: The answer should be self-explanatory and obvious, and perfectly consistent with the economic reality of what will inevitably actually happen as a result of the $15 an hour minimum wage laws being phased in around the country in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, California and New York, and being considered in many other cites and states throughout the land.

As Milton Friedman explained it many years ago, “The minimum wage law is most properly described as a law saying that employers must discriminate against people who have low skills.”

The post A minimum wage thought experiment: What if employers responded with a 2-year minimum work experience requirement? appeared first on AEI.

03 May 10:51

Adblock Plus and The Pirate Bay founder have launched a service to let people pay the online publishers they love the most

by Lara O'Reilly

till faida adblock plus

Popular ad blocker Adblock Plus has partnered with online donation startup Flattr, created by the founder of The Pirate Bay, to launch a new tool that will let users pay the online publishers and content creators they visit the most.

On sign-up with Flattr Plus, users select how much they want to spend a month — with no minimum fee at launch.

The Flattr Plus browser extension will then run in the background as users consume content on the web and automatically distribute that monthly budget, based on the websites they "engage" with the most. 

The "engagement" metric is still being tested, but Flattr says in a press release the model is to reward "engagement and attention" rather than site visits.

Any online content creator can apply to Flattr Plus — from large online news organizations, to YouTube creators, and podcast owners. Only those that have signed up to the whitelist will be compensated — but any money due to them will be held until they join.

Adblock Plus and Flattr will take 10% of the monthly subscription money. Adblock Plus has also made an undisclosed investment in Flattr as part of the partnership. Flattr launched in 2010 and was co-founded by The Pirate Bay founder Peter Sunde. Flattr found fame after becoming the payment method to donate funds to WikiLeaks after PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard froze the site's access to funds.

"Our goal is to get to 10 million users ... once we rech that, we will give publishers $500 million"

The Flattr Plus model is somewhat similar to Adblock Plus' controversial "Acceptable Ads" list, which requires large advertising companies to apply for their ads to be whitelisted. Those large companies — which includes Google, Amazon, Criteo, and Taboola — are charged 30% of the additional revenue created by having their ads whitelisted.

Critics of the model have compared it to everything from "extortion," to "blackmail," and being a "Mafia-like advertising network." The leader of US digital advertising trade industry the Interactive Advertising Bureau accused Adblock Plus in January of being an "unethical, immoral, mendacious coven of tech wannabes" and an "old-fashioned extortion racket."

till faidaWe asked Adblock Plus-owner Eyeo's CEO Till Faida whether he was worried Flattr Plus might be met with the same criticisms.

"No matter all we do, that will always be part of it for some people," Faida said. "The beauty of this model is that we will be able to provide significant funds to [content creators] without them needing to do anything other than collect the cash. Hopefully that will help us overcome some of the perception hurdles."

Faida said the companies expect the average user will pay $5 per month. The goal is to reach 10 million users — compensating content creators $500 million.

He thinks the Adblock Plus userbase is the "perfect match" for the service, due to its "massive" userbase (Adblock Plus has been downloaded 500 million times) that want to support online content creators but are fed up of "aggressive" advertising.

"We've already proven that fewer but better ads provide more value, so this is the next logical step. This fits perfectly into what Adblock Plus has always been about," Faida added.

Flattr Plus is similar to an "ethical" ad blocking service that launched in beta late last year. asks users to pay $5.99 per month to experience an ad-free web, with that fee distributed back to publishers. Like Flattr Plus, an algorithm determines which publishers are compensated the most, but users can also choose to give a higher percentage of their monthly fee to their favorite content creators.

SEE ALSO: Adblock Plus just revealed for the first time exactly how it makes its money

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Here’s why airlines ask you to raise the window shades for takeoffs and landings

02 May 23:53

Science into agitprop: “Climate Change is Strangling Our Oceans”

by curryja

I stopped reading Phil Plait at his badastronomy blog back in like 2007 because of his nasty tone and also credibility problems like this. Disappointing, but not surprising, to learn that slate has picked him up.

by Larry Kummer, from the Fabius Maximus website

The public policy debate about climate science shows the dysfunctional nature of the US media. Here’s another example of how propaganda has contaminated the news reporting of this vital subject, looking at stories about a new study of our oceans.

Oxygen loss in the oceans

Image courtesy Matthew Long, NCAR. It is freely available for media use.

NCAR’s press research accurately describes the paper: “Widespread loss of ocean oxygen to become noticeable in 2030s” (although it omits a crucial detail, mentioned below). Phil Plait at Slate turns this into agitprop: “Climate Change Is Strangling Our Oceans“. His conclusion: ““messing with {the ocean} habitat is like setting fire to your own house. Which is pretty much what we’re doing.” Maddie Stone at Gizmodo also has a sensational headline “The Oceans Are Running Low on Oxygen” (the paper says nothing like that; for example, “detectable change” does not imply a “low” level).

To see how science becomes sensational propaganda let’s start by looking at the paper — “Finding forced trends in oceanic oxygen” by Matthew C. Long et al, Global Biogeochemical Cycles, February 2016. Ungated copy here. It is interesting and valuable research about climate dynamics. The abstract:

“Anthropogenically forced trends in oceanic dissolved oxygen are evaluated in Earth system models in the context of natural variability. A large ensemble of a single Earth system model is used to clearly identify the forced component of change in interior oxygen distributions and to evaluate the magnitude of this signal relative to noise generated by internal climate variability. The time of emergence of forced trends is quantified on the basis of anomalies in oxygen concentrations and trends.

“We find that the forced signal should already be evident in the southern Indian Ocean and parts of the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic basins; widespread detection of forced deoxygenation is possible by 2030–2040.

“In addition to considering spatially discrete metrics of detection, we evaluate the similarity of the spatial structures associated with natural variability and the forced trend. Outside of the subtropics, these patterns are not wholly distinct on the isopycnal surfaces considered, and therefore, this approach does not provide significantly advanced detection. Our results clearly demonstrate the strong impact of natural climate variability on interior oxygen distributions, providing an important context for interpreting observations.”

Note the difference between the paper and Slate’s agitprop. The climate scientists ran models and said “We find that the forced signal should already be evident” (not that it is evident). Their conclusions are similarly modest (i.e., we don’t have sufficiently detailed or long records to validate the model’s output)…

“Our results suggest that ocean deoxygenation might already be detectable on the basis of state anomalies and/or trends in regions within the southern Indian Ocean, as well as parts of the eastern tropical Pacific and Atlantic basins. Observations have insufficient spatiotemporal coverage, however, to adequately characterize the natural [O2] distribution, in the case of evaluating state anomalies. Furthermore, in most regions where early detection is possibly {sic}, relatively long records (>50 years) are required to assess the exceedance of a trend from the O2 variability generated in a stationary climate without external forcing.”

Slate sweeps all this away. Model outputs become definite observations of damage appearing today. Tentative conclusions become certainties. Those are Slate’s smaller misrepresentations of this paper.

The big omission

The paper clearly states that the model was run using a specific scenario: “the CMIP5 Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 (RCP8.5) for 2006–2100”. The nightmarish predictions of climate change that dominate the news almost all rely on this, the most severe of the four scenarios used by the Fifth Assessment Report (the IPCC’s most recent report). It describes a future in which much has gone wrong (details here), most importantly…

  • a slowdown in tech progress (e.g., coal becomes the major fuel of the late 21st century, as it was in the late 19thC), and
  • unusually rapid population growth (inexplicably, that fertility in sub-Saharan Africa does not decline or even crash as it has everywhere else).

RCP8.5 is a valuable scenario for planning, reminding us of the consequences if things go wrong. But presenting forecasts based on it without mentioning its unlikely assumptions is agitprop. The current bankruptcies of coal miners already suggests that the late 21st century will not be dominated by burning coal (details here). There is little evidence that fertility in Africa will remain high as their incomes grow.

Some journalists more accurately reported this paper. The WaPo wrote “Global warming could deplete the oceans’ oxygen – with severe consequences” — saying “could deplete”, not “is depleting” or “will deplete”. They also say “High levels of greenhouse gas emissions, the study reports, produce a ‘sharp acceleration of oceanic deoxygenation in the first half of the 21st century’” — a nod to the RCP8.5 scenario.


The steady flow of this kind of propaganda is already slowly shaping US public opinion. A few large extreme weather events — promptly (even if inaccurately) blamed on CO2 — and the course of US public policy might change radically.

Climate skeptics’ lack of strategy or coordination makes this kind of propaganda easy and effective. It’s one of the reasons I believe that skeptics will lose the US public policy debate about climate change (details here).

Other examples of sensationalist reporting of climate change

JC note:  As with all guest posts, please keep your comments civil and relevant.

Filed under: Communication, Oceans