Archive for the ‘obama’ Category

So, what happened at Copenhagen?

December 23rd, 2009 No comments

Briefly, Obama succeeded in getting China and India to agree that they need not simply to improve efficiency as they grow, but to make verifiable cuts in emissions.

This is a major accomplishment, as it addresses the chief reason why Clinton and Bush refused to submit the Kyoto Protocol to the Senate. It also clearly indicates that these and other developing nations view the climate threat very seriously, and that Obama has done an effective job in gaining the trust and confidence of their leaders.

As this provides assurance that any action by the US will be reciprocated to some degree by China and others, and thus may actually be meaningful rather than simply driving jobs from our economy to theirs, this may be the hand-writing on the wall for the passage of climate legislation by Congress (though the acrimony over health care, economic woes and the mid-term elections may weigh in the opposition direction).

But by coming in on the penuitimate day, working directly with China, India, South Africa and Brazil, and then leaving behind a bare-bones “Accord” that didn`t fit into the prior negotiation framework, Obama ruffled the feathers of smaller nations, and left poorer and island nations (which wanted to see firm mitigation and funding commitments) and indigenous groups (which hoped to be acknowledge as the recipients of offsets funnding that would help them preserve their forests) very upset.

Further, logistics for thousands of accredited NGOs and other observers who had planned side events were apparently very screwed up, so many people were apparently locked out in the cold for a day or two and are now steaming.

The result will no doubt be revitailzed pressure on political leaders over the coming year, in preparation for a climate summit in Mexico City in 2010.

Robert Stavins, Director of the Harvard Environmental Economics Program, has here the most useful and readable summary that I`ve seen.

I note that in September, Stavins participated in a debate with AEI`s Steven Hayward in the Wall Street Journal on the question of whether countries cut carbon emissions without hurting economic growth. Stavins provides links to the discussions here.


Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize; "What For?" asks green group

October 9th, 2009 No comments

Pres. Obama has apparently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize this morning “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,” but there appears to be a few on the left who feel that the award is undeserved.

I copy below an interesting message that I just ran across in my Inbox from the group Green Change; the message – which looks like it could have been written by a libertarian group! (or Glenn Greenwald) – also appears on their webpage:

This morning, President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize “for
his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and
cooperation between peoples,” the Nobel Committee said.


Did Obama bring peace to Iraq?

No.  He continues to station 124,000 U.S. troops there, with tens of thousands deployed perhaps indefinitely.

Did he bring peace to Afghanistan?

No.  He has escalated the war there, and is part responsible for the scores of civilian deaths that have occurred there.  He has done this despite that most Americans now believe the Afghan war is “not worth fighting.”

Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Nobel committee said in an
interview that “Obama has as president created a new climate in
international politics.” Has Obama done anything singular to stop the
worldwide crisis of climate change?

No.  He has spent little or no political capital on the climate crisis, and still refuses to publicly commit the U.S. to strong actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Jagland said that “The Nobel Committee has in particular looked at
Obama’s vision and work toward a world without atomic weapons.”  But on
this issue, Obama is merely implementing the ideas of the more
conservative foreign policy minds of our nation, including Henry Kissinger.

Did he beat the swords of the giant U.S. defense budget into plowshares of peace?

No.  In fact, he will soon approve the largest defense bill in our nation’s history

Has he brought home the troops scattered across the world stationed to maintain our empire?


Has he stopped our nation’s scandalous weapons trade?

No.  The U.S. has expanded its weapons trade.  We now supply 2/3rds of the world’s foreign armaments.

Did Obama sign the cluster munitions treaty to ban cluster bombs, because 98% of cluster bomb casualties are children?

No.  The U.S. has not signed the cluster munitions treaty.

Has Obama brought home the army of mercenaries we have stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan?

No.  He has expanded the ranks of these mercenaries to 250,000.

There are millions of people across our world who spend their blood
and sweat every day for peace — real peace.  Each and every one of
them deserves the Nobel Peace Prize far more than Barack Obama.


Gary Ruskin
Green Change

P.S. If you like our work, please help us reach our $25,000 fundraising goal by 12/31. Donate $15 or whatever you can today.


So why WAS Obama awarded the Peace Prize?  A cynic might wonder if it was given to put moral pressure on Obama not to become even more bellicose (towards Iran), and perhaps to encourage him to achieve more.

Categories: Glenn Greenwald, libertarian, Nobel, obama, peace, war Tags:

Obama uses climate change concerns to mandate a slimming of government energy use and carbon footprint

October 8th, 2009 No comments

I`d like to see how conservatives can figure out how to bitch about Obama`s new executive order. From WaPo on Monday (Juliet Eilerin)

The federal government will require each agency to measure its
greenhouse-gas emissions for the first time and set targets to reduce
them by 2020, under an executive order signed by President Obama

The measure affects such things as the electricity federal buildings consume and the carbon output of federal workers’ commutes.

“As the largest consumer of energy in the U.S. economy, the federal
government can and should lead by example when it comes to creating
innovative ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase energy
efficiency, conserve water, reduce waste, and use
environmentally-responsible products and technologies,” Obama said in a
statement. “This executive order builds on the momentum of the Recovery
Act to help create a clean energy economy and demonstrates the Federal
government’s commitment, over and above what is already being done, to
reducing emissions and saving money.”

Each agency must report its 2020 emission targets to the Council on Environmental Quality within 90 days.

Administration officials said they could not estimate the federal
government’s carbon footprint, since it has never been measured before,
but the government ranks as the nation’s largest energy consumer. It
occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates more than 600,000 vehicles
and employs more than 1.8 million civilian workers.

Under the executive order, all federal agencies will have to meet a
series of environmental targets over the next decade. They include 50
percent recycling and waste diversion by 2015; a 30 percent reduction
in vehicle-fleet petroleum use by 2020; and a 26 percent improvement in
water efficiency by 2020.

President George W. Bush signed an executive order in 2007 that
asked four agencies to draw up regulations to reduce greenhouse-gas
emissions from cars and trucks by the end of his administration, but
didn’t ask for specific targets. His move came after the Supreme Court
ruled that his administration did not follow Clean Air Act requirements
in not regulating greenhouse-gas emissions from motor vehicles.

Okay, I got one: if it applies to “defense” spending, how dare Obama cripple our ability to defend America!

Steve Milloy criticizes GE’s "smart-meter profiteering" via green mandates, but ignores state grants of "public utility" monopolies

October 2nd, 2009 No comments

Anti-enviro gadfly Steven Milloy has a new blog post up that rightly skewers the green mandates that are providing a taxpayer-funded stream of business and profits to GE.  Notes Milloy:

GE announced today that utility giant American Electric Power (AEP)
will purchase 110,000 smart meters from GE. And just how is AEP
managing to buy all these smart meters? President Obama and Congress
are making us pay for them.

On Sep. 1, AEP applied to the Department of Energy for $75 million in federal stimulus money for the smart meter purchase.

It’s a good thing that GE’s Immelt sits on Barack Obama’s Economic
Recovery Advisory Board — how else would the Department of Energy know
to direct smart meter purchases to GE?

Of course, AEP isn’t the only conduit for sending federal stimulus
money to GE. So far about 50 utilities have applied to DOE for a piece
of the almost $4 billion in stimulus money earmarked for smart meter

From an Austrian perspective, what`s wrong with this post? The simple fact that Milloy isn`t interested in problem-solving, but in bashing greens, Dems and GE. If he were a problem-solver, he would be a little less partisan and would devote a little more effort to throw light on some of the underlying factors that fuel green concerns and utility mandates, such a the little problem that states have prevented the development of free power markets by granting “public utility” monopoly status to local power providers, as I have noted in a number of posts.

A problem-solver might also devote some time to examining the entanglement of the state with other rent-seeking corporations, such as the coal producers; but those trapped in partisan, rent-seeking games are often good only at seeing the flaws of those whom they criticize, while ignoring the way that they themselves are co-opted by other rent-seekers.

I left Steven the following comment:

Steven I think your criticism of GE is fair, but it`s clearly lacking in context.

Where`s your post criticizing the states for their continuing grant
of monopoly status to “public utilities”, which is the chief reason why
there is no free market in providing power to consumers? With a free
markets, we`d have seen smart meters like GE`s years ago, and there
would be no basis for all of these “green power” mandates.

Obama-Man Can! Laugh (and cry) at this spoof by Canadian comedian Greg Morton

June 12th, 2009 No comments

A buddy sent me this and I just had to pass it on:






Categories: Greg Morton, obama Tags:

Executive compensation: Robert Wenzel sees a "United States of Obama"; I see people too frazzled to give a screwdriver to a those who only have a hammer

June 11th, 2009 No comments

Robert Wenzel has a couple of posts up on his blog that rightly ring alarm bells about the plans of the Obama administration to seek legislative changes that would allow regulators to oversee executive compensation (1) in the financial sector (“The United States of Obama Has Arrived“) and (2) for all public companies generally (“It`s Worse Than I Thought:”). 

And make no mistake, Wenzel is VERY alarmed:

“Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s statement on
executive compensation packages is a clear signal that a dictatorship
has arrived in America. Make no mistake, the compensation package
regulations that are about to be instituted will go way beyond
regulations on banks and other financial institutions that took TARP
money. It is about controlling the entire financial sector–which will
ultimately result in controlling the entire economy.”

“Now that the government is moving in to control the financial sector,
the rest of the economy will be a lay up. Money controls the economy
and Barack Obama is about to take over the money infrastructure. Money
is going to end up going to some very funny places. Mostly to people
who control lots of votes in the next presidential election, and to
those who finance such election campaigns. In other words, the
connected. In the first group, we are talking unions, in the second
group we are talking about Goldman Sachs, Carlyle Group and the like.

this is all over, the United States of Obama is not going to look
anything like the America we now know. Think Cuba, think North Korea,
that’s how all dictatorships end up.”

“The compensation oversight programs announced by Geithner will not be
limited to financial companies. The Treasury will propose legislation
giving the SEC the power to ensure that compensation committees are
more independent, for all publicly traded companies, according to Sperling.”

“What should be of major concern is that this is going to bring to the
compensation table all kinds of people with all kinds of agendas”.

“In short, there appears to be Herculean oversight of executive
compensation coming that is likely to turn into more regulation than
oversight. And there is enough wiggle room in these proposals, at this
point, that the Administration can drive the programs in any direction
they want, any time they want or need to. It sounds like a Paulson plan
all over again. Throw everything up against the wall, get legislation
passed and interpret all these broad generalizations any way you want,
down the road.

“Very scary.”

But in his rush to tell us that the doctor is about to enslave the patient, Wenzel neglects
to offer an opinion on whether the patient is sick, if so, why, and what treatment might be more apt.  Such analysis must be offered if one wants to persuade – either the patient that the doctor is a quack (and to run), or those with the lobotomizing tools to put them down (in favor of a more appropriate diagnosis and treatment). 

Have faulty incentive structures in the financial sector and within public firms not contributed to the financial crisis?  If indeed they have – as seems to be universally acknowledged –  how did those incentive structures arise, and what are the best ways to remedy them? 

While the discussion can become quite nuanced, it seems to me fairly clear that root causes lie in financial regulation and in the regulation of “public” companies, both of which have served to loosen shareholder/investor control over management. 

This loosening of control, of course, has an even deeper root, namely, the grant of limited liability to shareholders for the torts committed by company executives and employees.  This grant incentivized lighter oversight by shareholders (as gains from risky activities could be captured, with losses in excess of  assets being shifted to the public), and in turn has led to a continuing cycle of federal regulation intended to rein in risks – particularly on environmental, health and safety areas, and regulation of stock markets and “public” companies – with resistance from and rampant rent-seeking and gamesmanship by larger risk-generating firms.  Sometimes forgotten by advocates of “free markets” is how larger firms utilize their political influence to co-opt regulators and regulations, both to raise barriers to entry to keep smaller and nimbler competitors at  bay and to ensure that they can continue in business without facing the full external costs of their business activites.

This dynamic – and the way free market advocates miss it – can be seen in Wensel`s most recent post, where he notes:

“The Treasury will propose legislation
giving the SEC the power to ensure that compensation committees are
more independent, for all publicly traded companies, according to Sperling.

championed this as putting standards into effect for compensation
similar to those put in place for audit committees as part of the
Sarbanes-Oxley Act.

“I know of no one, including most legislators
, who don’t think that Sarbanes-Oxely was a big mistake, that it costs
companies millions of dollars annually in compliance costs, with zero
benefit. Setting up such a nightmare for all publicly traded companies
will make it even more difficult, if not impossible for small companies
to raise money and go public, and will force others to leave the public
markets and go private (or overseas).”

Sarbanes-Oxley vastly extended the reach of federal securities regulation, and raised costs for public firms.  But while Wenzel can see this, why has he failed to note that such regulation also greatly raised the costs of access to the public capital markets, thus benefitting public companies by insulating them from potential competitors?

The whole system of public company regulation is rotten.  We need less regulaton, and greater self-policing by investors and market counterparties of the risks they face.  The alternative of lightly-regulated private companies (especially unlimited liability structures like partnerships) ought to be more vigorously explored.

I quote  a summary of my views on this subject from another recent post:

“I share Ariely’s concern that we are likely to be distracted by a
focus on big “bad apples” that may satisfy our needs to string someone
up, but that will ignore the rot at the core – the systemic
cheating that, in the American system, is very much related to the
institution of state-granted “limited liability” to corporate
.  This grant (1) frees investors from the
downsides of losses suffered and borne by third parties as a result of
corporate actions, (2) limits investor incentives – and abilities – to
monitor and control risks faced by and generated by executives,
managers and other employees, (3) thus incentivizing risky behavior and
providing greater freedom of action to executives and managers –
including freedom of action to seek favors from government , (4)
leaving executives and managers freer to loot their companies by taking
large bonuses, which shifting downside risks to shareholders and
taxpayers, and (5) fuelling pressures by consumers and others adversely
affected by corporations to seek to use legislative, regulatory and
judicial mechanisms to check corporate behavior.  In sum, limited investor liability has proven to lie at the core of the moral
hazards which have produced the Great American Ponzi scheme that our
fearless leaders are now struggling mightily to patch together and
profit from

“Did I leave anything out?  (Ah, maybe how various firms, investors and their political handlers profit while socializing climate change risks?)

“Anyone game for exploring ways to reduce the destructive gaming and rampant cheating in the American system?”

Bob Murphy, the Heritage Foundation and "green jobs" – ignore coal! We only pay attention to rent-seeking from greens/the left

May 8th, 2009 6 comments

Bob Murphy has recently noted that he is busy at work, doing yeoman`s work in fighting the good battle against stupid “green” or “clean” jobs that the Obama administration and some enviros are pushing.

This is fine as far as it goes, but in his struggle to be fair and even-handed, it seems to me that Bob has made a rather significant omission, as I noted in the following comment on his related blog post:

Bob, the comments you made on the Heritage panel were generally fine, but I`m surprised that you didn`t note that the clean/green jobs thing is to a large degree classic pork wrapped up in a nice moral package – and so differs very little from other government pork packages.

Was it because you prefer not to edge to close to the point that, if CO2 and soot really do create serious climate risks, then those who who produce fossil fuels (and their primary customers) have been getting a free ride off the back of the public for years, aided and abetted by both parties (but most noticeably recently by big government Republicans)?

This, of course, is the chief reason why greenies argue that the fossil fuel/auto/power industry has been buying political influence – not industry generally, as you asserted in your talk. Such rent-seeking is in fact undeniable, indeed readily apparent. 

A case in point is your own institution, IER. You should know this, but even Joe Romm has apparently also missed that IER is no longer funded by ExxonMobil, which deliberately cut off funding to IER after 2007, on the grounds that they had decided not to fund “several public-policy research groups whose position on climate change could divert attention from the important discussion about how the world will secure the energy required for economic growth in an environmentally responsible manner.”

ExxonMobil has now decided that climate risks – and the risk of bad policies – merit then public changing their stance to SUPPORT CARBON TAXES, as their CEO Rex Tillerson noted recently:

“It is rare that a business lends its support to new taxes. But in this case, given the risk-management challenges we face and the alternatives under consideration, it is my judgment that a carbon tax is the best course of public policy action. And it is a judgment I hope others in the business community and beyond will come to share.”

So who is left to fund IER, and Rob Bradley`s shiny new blog, Master Resource, which has collected luminary policy wonks like you, Marlo Lewis, and Ken Green? Inquiring minds want to know!

But it`s pretty clear that the only major fossil fuel funding left in the “skeptic” policy camp is coming from coal. 

And while Rob is now very diligently explaining why his Enron connection has nothing to do with the current stance of IER and MR, it`s a puzzling contrast to his unwillingness to acknowledge Exxon`s prominent change in position. 

In fact, in this regard his only dilgence has been expelling me from the blog, for pointing out what Tillerson now has to say, and for criticizing some of the bone-headed, non-libertarian positions some of the bloggers and visitors at Master Resource have taken:

Rot at the Core: Rob Bradley at “free market” MasterResource blog shows his true colors as a rent-seeker for fossil fuels (with links to the quotes above).

How good`s the Big Coal “death train” gravy train?

And when is Joe Romm going to note that Exxon is now his ally?

A note to the American Conservative Union on "Obama’s Political Prosecutions of Opponents"

April 25th, 2009 No comments

Although Pres. Obama had earlier indicated he had no intention or interest in pursuing criminal or other public investigations into possible criminal wrong-doing in connection with acts of torture auuthorized by the Bush administration, Obama is now (as the NYT and GlennGreenwald report), after being forced by a lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act to release four “top secret” torture memos, finding himself under pressure from public opinion and some Congressional Democrats to allow such investigations to proceed.

As I found out in my email Inbox, this is producing conniptions from the so-called American Conservative Union, which, in an unashamedly breathless, hyperbolic and truthless missive, alleges that (1) Obama has condoned show trials against heroes who have safeguarded us from terroism and (2) in the process has undermined our national security by telling the terrorists and the world that America is weak.

Who knew that considering whether the people serving within U.S. government are subject to the rule of law could itself threaten our national security?

The email from the ACU is quoted further below; here is a copy of my direct reply [caution: obvious snark ahead]:

from TokyoTom <[email protected]>
to Dennis Whitfield <[email protected]>
date Sat, Apr 25, 2009 at 1:45 PM
subject Re: Tokyo Obama’s Political Prosecutions of Opponents
Dennis, I’m with you in insisting that we are a country of men, not laws.

Heaven forbid Congress should ever review the legality of actions by the executive branch, much prosecutors seek to try to get a jury to convict for actual violations.
At least, that`s what “conservatives” these days think, right?  Have you gotten Bob Barr and Bruce Fein to sign on?
Tom“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself – and you are the easiest person to fool.”
Richard Feynman

For those who can stomach it, here`s the actual email I received from the ACU (emphasis in original):
from Dennis Whitfield <[email protected]>
reply-to Dennis Whitfield <[email protected]>
to Tokyo Tom <[email protected]>
date Sat, Apr 25, 2009 at 12:31 AM
subject Tokyo Obama’s Political Prosecutions of Opponents
Dear Tokyo,

President Obama wants to prosecute the Bush administration… or at least leave the door open to prosecuting Bush White House attorneys.This is what we have come to: an elected President of the United States hinting that he will criminally prosecute the previous occupants of the White House for working to protect the United States from terrorists.

You would think we were in a third-world country.

However, this is the United States of America and we now have a President who believes he can spread his ideas of weakness and appeasement toward America’s enemies back into a political prosecution of a previous administration to further increase his standing among liberals in the United States and in the world.

President Obama wants to prosecute the Bush administration for prosecuting the fight against terrorism.

We need to stand up and say it is wrong.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

Obama bowed in front of a Saudi King.  Obama stood on French soil and called United States actions arrogant.  He has smiled while shaking hands with Hugo Chavez.

Now Obama wants to send another message to liberals around the world by opening up to the political prosecution of Bush administration officials.

The prosecution would be based on his administration re-defining the terms of terrorist interrogations.  He wants to re-define the questioning of terrorists who come from a tradition of blowing up buildings, suicide bombings and unbridled attacks on civilians.

Obama wants to re-define the interrogations of terrorists whose goal is to eliminate our society and replace it with one like the Taliban where “honor killings” are conducted against women who do not ascribe to pre-arranged marriages, where public expression is banned, television is outlawed and we told what clothing to wear.

The Obama administration would re-define the interrogations that took place of terrorists who wanted us to die just because of our basic traditions and beliefs so they can politically prosecute their predecessors.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

When did Obama decide to open up to prosecutions of the Bush – Cheney administration?

As ABC News reported, “President Barack Obama has opened the possibility of prosecuting Bush-era lawyers who authorized torturing terror suspects and suggested Congress might order a full investigation. Less than a week after declaring it was time to move on, the President is now describing what might be done next to investigate.”

But did Obama plan to prosecute Bush officials all along?

During the campaign Newsweek noted in an article last November that Obama advisor Eric Holder who is now our Attorney General called the Bush policies “unlawful.”

Holder said in testimony just this week that he will provide more “transparency” in releasing more previously held military top secret documents on interrogations… building a liberal public cause toward prosecution.

So when the President’s Press Secretary and his Chief of Staff told the press that the President was looking forward and not looking back – that he wasn’t looking to prosecute – one has to wonder if it was a ploy to get members of the liberal media and the far left to call on him to prosecute – to raise their voices to call for the prosecutions.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

Obama said as early as October 2007, during the campaign that, “We won’t work in secret to avoid honoring our laws and Constitution.” … hinting at his political prosecutions to come.

It was then-Senator Barack Obama who was one of the first to start the effort toward defining violent terrorist’s interrogations as so-called torture.  

In that same October 2007 campaign statement Obama alternated between the terms, “interrogation techniques,” “brutal interrogations,” and then “torture.”  He said, “No more … methods like simulated drowning.”

Simulated actions – i.e. fake actions – became torture to the media and the far left under the tutelage of Barack Obama.

Fake activities that Vice President Cheney said gave us valuable intelligence to protect American lives.

These fake tactics were allegedly used against Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the mastermind behind the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that produced the killings of thousands of United States citizens.  The killings were real.


We have seen the real torture of American citizens – beatings and even beheading.  In 1993 Americans saw images of U.S. Soldiers bodies being dragged through the streets of Somalia after a fight with militants.  A British government document, PBS reported, said that Al Qaeda trained militants there.  Osama Bin Laden later praised the fighters.The Obama administration is seeking to find a legal justification to prosecute Bush administration officials by making the case that fake drowning is equal to real torture.

If they succeed they might even seek to prosecute Vice President Cheney himself, a political prosecution like those seen in third-world countries.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

Obama’s supposed push toward prosecutions is coming from liberals like Senator Diane Feinstein.

You may have seen Senator Feinstein on TV this week calling for the possibility of prosecutions. This is the same Diane Feinstein who served as a leader in bringing Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton together after the Democrat primary last year.

This is the same Senator Feinstein who found herself at the center of an ethics controversy this week when it was disclosed her husband’s real estate firm received a lucrative federal government contract to sell foreclosed properties – after she asked for $25 billion in federal money for the agency that gave him the contract.

So while Feinstein was deflecting questions on her ethical problems, she was promoting the torture debate.

Feinstein led the call to urge Obama to “reserve judgment” about prosecutions.

She was joined by other liberals including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who is trying to deflect criticism from the left that she knew about and approved the techniques before she started calling them torture.  In fact she was even given a personal tour of the interrogation facilities when she was briefed before the questioning took place.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

This is a dangerous precedent for the President of the United States.

Even in the days following Watergate, where an illegal break-in became the impetus for bringing down a Presidency, then President Ford took the politically painful step of pardoning the former President.  This new President seems to be tearing out that page from history and trashing it to look for a justification to prosecute the previous staff and potentially the Vice President or President themselves.

These actions might leave the door open to prosecutions against those who were working to keep our nation safe from brutal terrorists.

We need to stand up against Mr. Obama’s actions.  They are not only dangerous in the political precedent but dangerous in sending the message to our enemies that we are weakening in our efforts to protect our homeland.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

Just today we awoke to stories that another suicide bomber killed scores of people in Iraq.  These terrorists know no bounds.  They are brutal and vicious in killing innocent people.

The men and women who went to work at the World Trade Center on September 1, 2001 and the men and women who put on their fire, police or EMS uniforms were not suiting up for war; they were going to work to feed their families.

The terrorists are brutal.  They know no bounds and they will do whatever it takes to promote their warped ideology and end our freedoms and way of life.

Let’s not send a message that our nation is weak or that our leaders will criminally prosecute their predecessors for political disagreements.  That is not democracy… and it is allowing the terrorists to win in destroying our democracy and therefore our way of life.

Sign the new ACU petition against Obama’s political prosecutions here.

Thank you for all you do for ACU and for America.

Dennis Whitfield
Executive Vice President

P.S.  We should not allow only the voices of the left to be heard in the White House or in the media.  We must speak up and fight back.  Thank you for signing the petition and supporting ACU’s efforts here.

The American Conservative Union

Who are the misanthropes – "Malthusians" or those who hate them? Rob Bradley and others resist good faith engagement despite obvious institutional failures/absence of property rights

March 2nd, 2009 4 comments

In a series of posts at the self-declared “free market” blog of the fossil-fuel energy industry funded Institute for Energy Research, energy expert  Rob Bradley (former Ken Lay speechwriter and Enron policy wonk) explores his dark forebodings that the “Malthusian wing” of the Obama administration and the environmentalist Left are actually enjoying and welcoming the present economic predicament.  Says Bradley, putting words in the mouth of his Malthusian stalking strawman:

“The economic recession/depression is good, not bad. It lowers our carbon footprint in countless ways. It saves resources. It throttles back industrial society to sustainable levels that were exceeded long ago. Let the downturn continue to get us out of the growth mentality. Let rising expectations fall! Less is more!”

[From: The Malthusian Wing of the Party in Power: When Will They Speak Up?; see also Beware of the New “Limits to Growth” (and looking for ReaganVision to CarterVision).]  Bradley will apparently be transported by paroxyms of self-satisfied delight/misery if a lefty, particularly one inside the Administration, ventures to say something like this.

Bradley may very well prove to be right that someone on the left may assert that an end to the “growth is good” mentality may be a silver lining in our recession.  But in his focus on prognosticating what plots the “Malthusians” may be hatching, Bradley simply refuses to actually engage the “Malthusians” on either their premises or their proposed solutions – namely, that there are real and serious problems that our societies must address and that more government is needed.  Indeed, Bradley doesn’t even venture to explain why he considers the Malthusians to be wrong, apparently assuming that this is self-evident. 

But as I have noted any number of times, there is indeed a wide range of very real and serious issues to be discussed, both as to problems AND to proposed “solutions”, such as I have noted in these two posts:

Too Many or Too Few People? Does the market provide an answer?

Food shortages: Ron Bailey takes up the cry, are Malthus and “Green fascism” on the march?

As a result, Bradley does not appear to be interested in the slightest in engaging productively with the Obama administration or the Left, and so in effect uses the term “Malthusian” as a type of shibboleth (or even an article of faith?) among supposedly “right-minded” people, and as an ad hom against the left.  In this, Bradley echoes others such as George Will who, in a recent editorial about climate change, warned of “dark green doomsayers”.

While I do not agree with the Left that more government is always the right solution, those on the right cannot win these arguments simply by name-calling or by trotting out – as George Will did in his editorial – the 1980 bet that Paul Ehrlich and others lost to Julian Simon over the future prices of minerals and commodities.   But the Ehrich-Simon bet was well-known; why not use it?   Because those who do so have ignored the reason why the Simon triumphed and Ehrlich lost, which was that because people own mineral resources, markets functioned to both to change demand and to provide incentives for future supply (and Ehrlich was no economist).  But none of this logic holds true for unowned or “public”, open-access resources – like the acidifying oceans, tropical forests and the global atmosphere and the climate it modulates – for which there simply are no effective property rights or functioning markets.  Instead, we continue to see see destructive exploitation (and kleptocracy in the countries where powerful elites elevate their interests over those of citizens). 

So, in the context of the issues that the “Malthusians” are now raising – in this case, the atmosphere – the Simon-Ehrlich bet stands for a propositions whose conditions clearly at present are not fulfilled, and which will not be fulfilled without hard work.  Until that hard work of establishing property rights or other effective governance institutionsis completed, people with legitimate preferences as to such resources and who are concerned about the effects of modern market demands on them have little ways of expressing those preferences other than through pressure on policy makers and attempts at moral suasion.

As an aside, let me note that nowhere does Bradley acknowledge that the Obama administration and Left inherited our economic shambles from freedom- and market-loving Greenspan/Bush/Bernanke/Paulson and the Right.  In this, Bradley resembles NRO commentator Henry Payne, who recently was so quick to lay all of the woes of the US automakers at the foot of the Obama administration and Washington Dems.  It’s sad that what may otherwise be legitimate commentary is so skewed by such transparent partisan bias and inconsistency.  Such reflexive partisanship also ignores not merely the responsibility of the Right, but also ignores what appear to be fairly significantly weaknesses in the structure of Western capitalism, which have been commented on by Michael Lewis, Joe Nocera and James Glassman and William Nolan at the WSJ; viz., weaknesses stemming from the weak governance and moral hazard (and strong rent-seeking) that is encouraged by the state grant of limited liaibility to corporate shareholders.

In other words, there are lots of real issues to discuss, from difficult resource issues that require collective action to address to public choice problems inherent in the use of government.

Those who profess a love of reason should turn to it, and not hobble themselves by a reliance on facile assumption and shallow ad homs.  Unless, of course, the aim is not to resolve underlying issues of appropriate institutions, but either to “win” the argument by wresting control of policy (and of related rents) from perceived competitors or, if winning is not likely, to at least satisfy emotional needs by railing at foes while surrendering the field (and the selection of policies) to them.

Let me close with a note of one small irony:  while Bradley is expecting that the Left will embrace the recession as a way to deliberately slow growth, Bradley’s own associate at IER, Austrian economist Bob Murphy has just put up on his personal blog a “wonderful clip” by comedian Loius C.K., who comments:

“Those were simpler times, I think; I just feel that we may be going back to that, by the way.  In a way, good; because when I read things like, “the foundations of capitalism are shattering,” I’m like, maybe we need that; maybe we need some time where we are walking around with a donkey with pots clanging on the sides.  … Yeah, because everything is amazing right now, and nobody’s happy.”

Seems like even Malthusian-haters will only be happy if we’re all more miserable!

Empowering power consumers: Google beta tests software to give consumers real-time info

February 17th, 2009 No comments

“If you cannot measure it;

You cannot improve it.”

— Lord Kelvin

Consistent with its mission to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” Google, whose climate change-related efforts I’ve blogged about previously, is trying to help consumers to measure and track their real-time electric usage, thereby allowing them to make better choices as to when and how they use electricity.

Google is now beta testing new “PowerMeter” software – a secure iGoogle Gadget that it plans to give away free (though no doubt there will be a buck or two for Google in advertising and data services later) – that will provide near real-time power usage information to consumers who have advanced “Smart Meters”.  This information will make it easy for consumers to figure out when and how they are using electricity, to manage such use by device and to better match such use to the pricing programs of their utilities.  So far, Google testers have found that the software allows them to relatively easily cut use (by an average of 15%), and to save on their electricity bills by an even greater percentage.

The availability of such software will motivate consumers everywhere to push their utilizing to establish Smart Meter programs, for access to the information generated by such meters, and for an array of services and pricing programs.  There should be a boom smart meters, as the Obama Administration’s proposed stimulus package targets supporting their installation in over 40 million U.S. homes
over the next three years.

While Smart Meter / Smart Grid programs have been growing, there is still considerable market fragmentation and rights of consumers have not been clearly spelled out. According to Google, while some state regulators have ordered utilities to deploy smart
meters, their focus has been on their use by utilities and grid
managers, and not on consumer rights to the information they generate.  As a result, Google is engaged in policy advocacy as well; says Google:

“deploying smart meters alone isn’t enough. This needs to be coupled
with a strategy to provide customers with easy access to energy
information. That’s why we believe that open protocols and standards
should serve as the cornerstone of smart grid projects, to spur
innovation, drive competition, and bring more information to consumers
as the smart grid evolves. We believe that detailed data on your
personal energy use belongs to you, and should be available in an open
standard, non-proprietary format. You should control who gets to see
your data, and you should be free to choose from a wide range of
services to help you understand it and benefit from it. For more
details on our policy suggestions, check out the comments we filed yesterday with the California Public Utility Commission.”

While it’s not clear yet how significant a role Google will end up playing in this market, Google is to be commended, as both its PowerMeter software and its advocay efforts will help pave the way to greater consumer choice and freer markets.

What we need in addition is for the Obama Administration and Congress to give a kick in the pants to electric power market reform and deregulation along the lines of proposals that I have noted elsewhere.  Consumers need not only better information, but greater competition in who is providing them electricity and in the sources that are used to generate it.

Christian Science Monitor summary here:

New York Times


The Google Blog

Google’s PowerMeter website


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