This originally appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera on December 15, 2012.
Many people will uncritically blame fossil fuel use for recent warm weather. But they are blind to how fossil fuels have reduced climate-related deaths since the 1920s. Since then, climate-related death rates have decreased by 98 percent, explains a Reason Foundation study by Indur Goklany. During this time, carbon dioxide emissions increased significantly.
Thanks to the fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, and farm machinery enabled by fossil fuels, increased global food production has made droughts less deadly. Where extreme weather leaves people hungry and injured, fossil-fuel based transportation enables fast delivery of food, medical supplies, and disaster response units.
Wealth is a population’s best protection from climate risks, and wealth creation requires affordable, reliable energy. But billions of people in poor under-developed countries are still very vulnerable to climate risks. They need affordable and reliable energy — now. Obstructing their use of fossil fuels endangers their lives.
And droughts? Two recent studies published this year challenge the notion that global warming contributes to them. In the Journal of Climate, CU-Boulder and NOAA researchers “conclude that projections of acute and chronic [increases in severe droughts] … are likely an exaggerated indicator for future Great Plains drought severity.” In the journal Nature, Princeton University researchers find that “there has been little change in drought over the past 60 years.” In the same issue of Nature, a lead IPCC author wrote that “the findings imply that there is no necessary correlation between temperature changes and long-term drought variations.”
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“The Industrial Manifesto,” by Alex Epstein (Center for Industrial Progress. He debates Bill McKibbon above.)
This originally appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera on December 1, 2012.
Former Buffs football coach Jon Embree has claimed some credit for his players’ improved GPAs: ”You had the highest GPA the last three semesters that this school has ever had in the football program,” he said. If Embree is to blame for CU football’s losses, he might also take some credit for improving GPAs of CU football fans.
Like the Buffs, the University of Oregon Ducks play in the Pac-12 conference. Economists there tracked student GPAs as the Ducks’ winning percentage varied over nine years. For male students, they found “meaningful decreases in the probabilities of receiving As and Bs and increases in the probabilities of receiving Cs or lower … in response to the success of the team.” Seeking an explanation, their student survey found, predictably, that: “Relative to females, males report being more likely to increase alcohol consumption, decrease studying, and increase partying around the success of the football team.”
As for the Buffs’ team GPA, the value of a high GPA depends on the major. Forbes.com lists the ten worst and fifteen best college majors in terms of post-graduation employment and earnings prospects. The Wall Street Journal recently listed college majors of around one thousand students on major-college football teams. Just two percent of players’ majors were among Forbes’ best. Meanwhile, almost forty percent of players’ majors were among, or similar to, one of Forbes’ worst majors. Eight percent “majored” in general studies.
A version of this was printed in the Boulder Daily Camera on October 6, 2012.
Kudos to Phillips Electronics and the YWCA for dropping their sponsorship of the debates, run by the Commission on Presidential Debates. They “pulled their support over the exclusion of Libertarian presidential candidate [and former New Mexico governor] Gary Johnson, arguing that the commission … is locked into a two-party outlook,” says U.S. News & World Report.</
Indeed, the “non-partisan” commission is truly bipartisan. The major parties’ national chairmen were founding co-chairs, and opposed including third party candidates, reported the New York Times.
Today the commission claims to “ensure that debates … provide the best possible information,” and have the “goal of educating voters.” Nonsense. That’s like trusting McDonald’s and Burger King to publish honest restaurant reviews.
Instead of educating voters, the commission blinds voters by presenting only blue, red, and “moderate” purple as possible colors on the political spectrum. As Andrew Napolitano notes in the above video and the essay “What If November Changes Nothing?,” Demopublican presidential candidates agree on issues including military interventionism, increasing government debt, baseless fiat currency, and drug prohibition. Disagreements are typically superficial, concerning only how, but not if, government should meddle in some part of our lives. Voters deserve better.
Instead, PBS’s Jim Lehrer moderated. In the 2008 debate, he said the winner would “rule the country as president.” As Gene Healy writes, “That was a cringe-worthy way to describe a constitutional officer for a free republic. … Neither Sen. McCain nor Sen. Obama objected to the idea.” Gary Johnson would.
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See also Let Gary Johnson Debate, by Andrew Napolitano.
On September 22 2012, the Daily Camera published my response to the Sept. 11 (2012) protests and the (unrelated) attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi. . It’s a little dated now, with the information that has since come out.
Governments should protect free speech, and not condemn or censor speech that some find offensive.
Yet in president Obama’s response to the killings, he mentions “America’s commitment to freedom,” but also that the “United States rejects efforts to denigrate … religious beliefs.” Acting on this policy, the White House also asked YouTube to consider taking the controversial video off-line.
Instead of this flimsy commitment to free speech, Obama should firmly and proudly defend it. For example,Obama should refute the juvenile view expressed by Palestinian journalist Khalid Amayreh: “My right not to be offended and insulted overrides a scoundrel’s right to malign [a religion].” There is no such right. Rights are freedoms to act, not an entitlement that authorities silence others and shelter you from handling criticism like an adult.
As a Reason.com blog notes, some U.S. journalists share Amayreh’s rejection of personal responsibility: by advocating censorship, rejecting free will, and blaming provocative speech for violence. Violent protesters could have chosen peaceful responses to offensive speech. Blaming or censoring videos or cartoons is like blaming a rape victim for her attire and enforcing a “less provocative” dress code.
Censorship also endangers people not connected with offensive speech. As Cato’s Julian Sanchez notes, when government censors allow offensive speech, it does so “in the name of all its citizens collectively.” Hence, violent protesters will more likely seek retaliation against all citizens.
Worse still, censorship appeases terrorists and advances their totalitarian goals.
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See also: Our self-crippled policy encouraged the deadly embassy attacks, by Elan Journo. Excerpts:
The murders of American diplomatic and military personnel in Libya underscore the consequences of America’s longstanding failure to uphold the rights of Americans to live and speak their minds in the face of the Islamist threat. …
The cycle persists, because without connecting the dots to see the big picture,without grasping the uniting religious goal of the Islamist movement, we cannot take the steps necessary to stop it. Until we end America’s policy of passivity, inaction and appeasement, we can only expect more Islamist aggression.
This was printed in the Boulder Daily Camera on August 2012.
What scares the Boulder City Council? That some Boulder businesses become secure in their right to sell legal products without asking permission from city authorities. Dear Council members: The permission to sell or serve alcohol is not rightfully yours to give. The purpose of government is to protect our rights to voluntary exchange, not violate them. But the Council acts like overlords who own the land within city limits. It has no such claim.
The Council also wants to target bars that it calls “bad operators.” City Council: This is not your business – literally. If an establishment wants a reputation for drunk, rowdy customers who vomit on other patrons, that’s the owner’s right. Alternatively, the owner can hire servers who stop serving drunken customers and trained bouncers who remove troublesome patrons.
Contrary to the Council, business owners are not responsible for keeping customers sober and well-behaved. Nor is government responsible. That’s each person’s responsibility.
Government should be involved only if an establishment violates someone’s rights or if patrons harm or endanger others. For example, assault or reckless driving.
Instead of using government force to address alcohol abuse, Council Members and concerned citizens should support non-profits like the Gordie Foundation. Dedicated to the memory of a CU student, it is committed to reducing “hazardous drinking and hazing and promot[ing] peer intervention among young adults.”
This originally appeared in the Boulder on Saturday, July 28, 2012.
Want safer theaters? Blogger Ari Armstrong suggests that theaters offer free tickets and popcorn to armed off-duty police officers, and publicize the policy.
Gun prohibitions won’t work. “At the very least, federal lawmakers ought to outlaw the high-capacity magazines,” argues a Denver Post editorial after the Aurora homicides.
After a mass shooting, England went well beyond “the very least” by effectively banning civilian gun ownership in 1998. Soon after, a Telegraph headline read “Gun crimes soaring despite ban” — a 40 percent increase. In the 2010 Cumbria shootings, a man killed twelve in northwest England.
Criminals ignore both gun bans and so-called “gun free” zones. Mass shootings have occurred in “gun free” zones such as schools and malls. And now movie theaters. The Aurora Cinemark theater “bans firearms on the premises,” reports the New York Times. Such “gun free” zones leave peaceful citizens defenseless against violent criminals. Hence the title of professor Dave Kopel‘s law review article: “Pretend ‘Gun Free’ School Zones: A Deadly Legal Fiction.”
Kopel provides examples of heroic armed citizens stopping mass shootings. In 2007, a man opened fire in a Colorado Springs church parking lot and entered the crowded church. A volunteer security guard shot him, saving many lives. The Cato Institute‘s “Tough Targets” study provides many instances of armed citizens thwarting criminals.
Regarding high-capacity magazines, Governor Hickenlooper is correct about the bomb-making Aurora killer: “If it was not one weapon, it would have been another.”
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- The Gold Standard of Gun Control: Book Review of Joyce Malcolm, Guns and Violence:The English Experience, by Dave Kopel
- Colorado Consensus on Gun Laws: Broadly supported post-Columbine reforms balance gun rights and gun control, By Dave Kopel, in National Review
- Thoughts on the Aurora Murders and Armed Citizens, by Ari Armstrong
- Non-Firearm mass murders, (a blog post) by Clayton Cramer
This was printed in the Boulder Daily Camera on July 14, 2012.
One reason medical care costs so much because patients pay so little for it directly. Most Americans’ health coverage is not real insurance, which covers large unexpected expenses. It’s really prepaid medicine that also covers small predictable expenses. The tax code is the main culprit. It punishes cash payment for medical care and rewards payment through insurance. Medicaid and Medicare are also prepaid medical plans.
Costs soar because patients are consumers, but not paying customers. Like business travelers dining on their employers’ expense accounts, patients are largely insulated from medical costs, and hence pay scant attention to price. For example, if a doctor recommends a high-end treatment, a patient has little incentive to inquire about its necessity or the availability of lower cost alternatives.
Costs stay low when patients pay, rather than when insurers or government health plans pay. For example, The Guttmacher Institute reports that 57% of abortion patients pay out-of-pocket, while abortion prices have been fairly constant for decades.
Real health insurance can save money – for example – high-deductible insurance combined with Health Savings Accounts for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Such “plans can produce significant (even substantial) savings without adversely affecting member health status,” reported the American Academy of Actuaries. The RAND Health Insurance Experiment reached similar conclusions.
But so-called “reform” does not address these problems. Rather, it entrenches them by mandating costly health plan benefits, limiting tax-exempt medical purchases, and threatening to ban high-deductible insurance policies.
See also “Why are health costs rising?” by Devon Herrick.
This article was printed in the Boulder Daily Camera on June 30, 2012.
A recent controversy at the Boulder Public Library concerns choosing architects for a multi-million dollar redesign. Regardless of how this resolves, Boulder’s cash-strapped libraries can preserve funding for improvements by doing what several public library systems have done: outsourcing library operations to a private company.
In 1997, Riverside, California outsourced “the management of day-to-day library operations” to Library Systems & Services, Inc. (LSSI), says a Riverside County report. “LSSI offered employment to all existing library staff,” while preserving base salaries and vacation time.
In the first year, operating costs decreased by more than a million dollars while patrons enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, increased materials budgets, library hours, and community programming. Since 1997 the library tax rate has remained flat.
Patrons in nearby Santa Clarita have a similar experience with LSSI. As the city’s mayor writes, patrons benefit from “increased hours of operation, the addition of $900,000 in new materials and providing for a $300,000 annual increase in the book and media budget.”
In Redding, California, another LSSI customer, the city’s community services director says residents enjoy “better service, more convenient hours, new technology, clean facilities, courteous staff, and programs designed by and for their communities.”
Indeed, the Boulder Library Commission has considered outsourcing library operations – but to a new government entity “that would raise property taxes,” reported the Camera in 2010. Given LSSI’s record of using tax dollars efficiently, the Commission should instead give private firms a chance and taxpayers a break.*
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Thanks to Harris Kenny at the Reason Foundation for pointers. And check out the recent article about privatization in the Wall Street Journal, which he co-authored: Look Who’s Embracing Privatization—Big City Democrats.
* Of course, the best way to give taxpayers a break is to privatize not just the library operations, but the funding. Libraries should be funded with voluntary donations rather than forced donations through taxes.
On June 16, 2012, the Boulder Daily Camera printed my response to the following question:
The 2nd Congressional District for Colorado had traditionally been viewed as a Democratic stronghold — or Republican lockout depending on your point of view. But the district has been slightly changed, and there’s an interesting race that could wind up putting a strong challenge to incumbent Rep. Jared Polis, D-2nd CD, in the fall. He’s running unopposed; businessman Eric Weissmann is running against state Sen. Kevin Lundberg in the primary. What do you think?
Democrat Rep. Jared Polis should relish running against Republican Kevin Lundberg, and fear opposing Eric Weissmann. Lundberg’s social conservatism will be unpopular among CD 2 voters. Since Eric Weissmann supports both economic and personal liberties, he is better positioned to defeat Polis.
Consider civil unions. In 2006, 55 percent of CD 2 voters supported Referendum I, which would have established legal domestic partnerships. While Lundberg opposes civil unions, Weissmann’s Denver Post Voter Guide profile says “government should not be in the business of deciding who can or cannot get married.”
Abortion is similar. Almost 75 percent of CD 2 voters opposed the 2010 “Personhood” Amendment, which would have granted legal rights to human embryos. Lundberg has repeatedly supported such measures and “has been an ally of the pro-life movement for many years,” says the Colorado Right to Life Blog. Meanwhile, Eric Weissmann “opposes spending taxpayer money on abortions, but rejects government intrusion on the choice to get an abortion,” reports the Fort Collins Coloradoan.
These election results validate polling conducted for the Weissmann campaign [which nicely shared it me]. In a contest between Polis and a “Republican State Legislator who is a well-known social conservative” (like Lundberg), Polis won by 18 percentage points, with 22 percent of respondents undecided. When Polis instead opposes a “successful small businessman who has never run for public office before” (Weissmann), Polis’s margin of victory decreased to 5 percentage points, with 17 percent undecided.
Registered Republicans have until June 26 to vote in the primary election. They should choose wisely.
A version of this article was printed in the Boulder Daily Camera on May 19, 2012.
By Boulder’s standard of “zero waste,” the City Council’s plan to restrict plastic bag use is garbage. Regardless, such restrictions are foul rubbish. They empower bag bullies to self-righteously trash our liberties.
Plastic bags contribute just 0.4 percent of Boulder County’s municipal solid waste, says a recent Waste Composition Study. By weight, there’s more than ten times as much recyclable plastic, “clean dimensional lumber,” and items accepted at the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials. Instead of shaking down shoppers, bag banners should wade through dumps to extract these items for reuse or recycling.
Bag restrictions stifle reuse and recycling trends. Consumers reuse plastic grocery bags at home, and restrictions increase sales of thicker, single-use plastic bags. Plastic bag recycling has increased by 50% since 2005, yielding durable plastic and lumber products,reports Moore Recycling Associates. RecycleYourPlasticBag.com lists local places to recycle bags. The City Council should add its meetings to this list.
Meanwhile, durable bags meant for reuse “are seldom if ever washed” and “almost all” contain bacteria, concludes a Loma Linda University study. Just last week MSNBC reported that one such bag spread “nasty … norovirus infections” to a youth soccer team.
Comparing various bag types, the British Environment Agency found that plastic bags had the lowest “environmental impact,” which is most determined by resources required for manufacturing, rather than transport and disposal.
Regardless of which bag is best, retailers have a right to distribute bags, and customers have a right to discard them through voluntary means. Boulder City Council, stop your bag bullying.
If you say government authorities can justly restrict voluntary exchange of a plastic bag, then you’re conceding that can justly restrict any other type of voluntary exchange. You can no longer you can no longer oppose any government action by arguing that it violates people’s right to liberty.
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Plastic Bag Ban Will Put Los Angeles In Landfill: Proposal would provide no environmental benefits and deepen city’s economic depression.