Friday, September 29, 2017

NFL Players Should Protest Injustice, Not Americanism—the Cure for Injustice

In an editorial, Trump, out for himself, inflames racial tensions. Again, the New Jersey Star-Ledger wrote about the controversy surrounding Trump’s comments regarding NFL players kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem, rather than saluting the American Flag:

But when African-American players in the NFL silently take a knee during the national anthem to peacefully protest the undeniable racism in our criminal justice system, he [Trump] fumes, he rants, and he whips up hatred against them to fire up his base.

Maybe. But what about the purpose of the actual protest? The Star-Ledger seems to support the substance of the players’ protest that triggered Trump’s rants. The Star-Ledger goes on to say:

Sports teams began playing the anthem before games in 1918, during World War I. To many Americans, it remains a solemn moment, a time to offer gratitude to veterans, and to celebrate the freedoms we enjoy today.

But others see it as a political expression, one that suggests support for America's conduct, like the pledge of allegiance. Jackie Robinson, a genuine hero who was booed and spit on by racist fans, never saluted the flag or sang the anthem. "I am a black man in a white world," he said.

I left these comments, edited for clarity:

There’s no question the NFL players have a right to kneel in protest during the National Anthem, so long as it doesn’t violate their contracts.

But they’ve got their principles exactly backward. The flag and National Anthem stand for the principles that are the cure for racial injustice, such as equality before the law crystallized in the 14th Amendment.

The flag is these players’ best ally. They should take a page from the book of Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave-turned-leading abolitionist intellectual who embraced America’s Founding documents as the best weapon against slavery; from Martin Luther King, who cited “the magnificent words” of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as proof that it was not American ideals that failed black Americans, but the failure to live up to those ideals; from Sarah Grimke, who emulated the Abolitionist Movement and drew on the Declaration to lead the fight for women's suffrage; from Harvey Milk, an early leader of the “gay pride” movement that led to marriage equality, who said at a 1978 rally:

In the Declaration of Independence it is written “All men are created equal and they are endowed with certain inalienable rights . . . .” That’s what America is. No matter how hard you try, you cannot erase those words from the Declaration of Independence.

That! Not “racism in our criminal justice system,” is what America is, even if we still haven’t fully lived up to it. Jackie Robinson is a hero of mine. But he was wrong if he said America is “a white world.” The cultural racists tried to make it one, and succeeded for a while. But it couldn’t last—and didn’t in baseball. Why? Because two courageous men, one a black player and the other a white owner (Branch Rickey), were able to break the color barrier despite massive cultural resistance. Only in America. Only because of what the flag and the Anthem represent—individual rights, protected equally for all people at all times. America was never established to be a white world. It was established based on the Declaration of Independence, the philosophical blueprint of the Constitution.

To the NFL kneelers and their supporters I say, “You’re protesting the solution, not the cause.”

I want to stress that I do not endorse the players’ contention that “racism in our criminal justice system” is “undeniable.” It may exist. But to what extent, I don’t know. My personal view is that it probably does exist. But so does injustice toward the police, who appear often to be accused (falsely) of racism for doing their jobs.

Related Reading:

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Who is the Real ‘Science Denier’?

Another New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial (This man hopes you'd vote for a candidate who believes climate change is fake), plus an article by Andrew Bernstein published in Capitalism Magazine (The Truth About Climate Change) got me thinking in a new direction.

In a section of his excellent article, Bernstein addresses “The Necessity to Affirm, Not Deny Climate Change.” Bernstein documents the dynamic history of Earth’s climate, including several episodes of catastrophic climate change, and contrasts this history with the current warming period, which is mild and much less disruptive than past episodes. After documenting Earth’s climate history, Bernstein writes:

It is precisely this context, an appropriate timescale, that many (if not all) AGW [anthropogenic, or man-made, global warming) theorists ignore. A stockbroker, who tried to convince investors to buy a stock based on its performance in the last sixty seconds, while blanking out decades of data, would be ignoring vastly less relevant information than do the majority of today’s supporters of man-made global warming.

The accusation of “climate change denier” is, consequently, egregiously inaccurate when hurled at persons who examine this context and recognize the reality of natural, cyclical, and likely incessant climate change.

The accusation is accurate, however, when leveled against some leading supporters of the AGW hypothesis. Dr. Michael Mann, for example,  a respected climate scientist and lead author for the IPCC, developed the infamous “hockey stick” graph, purporting to show that, for roughly 1,000 years prior to the 20th century, Northern Hemisphere temperatures had been relatively stable, perhaps even declining slightly, then sharply rising after 1900 (hence the hockey stick shape of the graph). In effect, Mann’s methodology “air-brushed” out of existence the Medieval Warm Period; if accurate, Mann’s findings would show a strong and unique correlation between human emissions of carbon dioxide and rising temperatures. However, Mann’s methodology was seriously flawed and exposed as such by Dr. Edward Wegman, a leading statistician. The hockey stick graph, a featured aspect of the IPCC’s 2001 report, was subsequently dropped by the IPCC. The Medieval Warm Period had to be acknowledged as real.[37]

But Mann, some of his IPCC colleagues, and the environmentalist movement more broadly continue to support the hockey stick hypothesis.

According to Mann and his supporters, Northern Hemisphere temperatures were relatively flat for roughly 1,000 years, and the natural climate cycles from the Dark Age Cold Period to the Medieval Warm Period to the Little Ice Age were non-existent (or, at most, greatly over-exaggerated).

Who, then, is actually guilty of denying climate change?[38] [my emphasis]

Keeping Bernstein’s perspective in mind, the Star-Ledger Editorial Board opens its editorial hit piece on a NJ Republican politician:

Hurricane Harvey is another wake-up call, a reminder that we can no longer ignore man's contribution to the warming of the planet and how it increases our vulnerability to devastating weather events. To deny that only that invites more catastrophes like the one that has ravaged our nation's fourth largest city.

It is also a reminder that we need leaders who tell the truth, not people whose careers were advanced on fossil fuel money and climate denialism - yet right on cue, here comes Steve Lonegan, pursuing another office that should make New Jersey's collective gut seize.

The former Bogota mayor is running for the 5th District congressional seat currently held by Rep. Josh Gottheimer. Lonegan has the intellect, geniality and name recognition he'll need to compete, not to mention the money: For six years, he was the New Jersey director for Americans for Prosperity, which means his depraved indifference toward climate change echoes that of fossil fuel barons Charles and David Koch, who have given $100 million to 84 groups that deny climate science since 1997.

And in the wake of Harvey, it needs to be asked:

Would New Jerseyans vote for a candidate who believes that "the science stating that humans are responsible for climate change is highly questionable - there's also a massive amount of science that refutes that," and that this will all be followed by a cooling trend?

I left these comments:

The Star-Ledger states that Lonegan is in with “84 groups that deny climate science.” There's that simple-minded smear again; “science denier”. But in the very next paragraph, the S-L quotes Lonegan as stating that “there’s also a massive amount of science that refutes” anthropogenic climate change. What are these 84 groups saying? What science is Lonegan citing? A lot of important work regarding climate change history by a lot of knowledgable people has been done by people outside the alleged “consensus.” This well-documented work considers natural causes like the overlapping long-term, medium-term, and short-term climate trends, and multiple interlocking causes. The weight of the evidence indicates mild and manageable climate change. Much of this work tackles head-on the case for climate catastrophe. Do the climate catastrophists meet the dissenters head-on? No. The Star-Ledger brushes this science off. Who is the real science denier? Who is the real climate denier?

The Star-Ledger accuses Lonegan of “depraved indifference toward climate change.” But the “practical” solutions proposed to “combat climate change” could have devastating consequences for human well-being in the U.S. and globally. Reliable energy drives industrial and agricultural progress, and effects the cost of everything. Drastically raising the cost of energy, not to mention making energy unreliable through “renewables,” would drastically lower our standard of living, especially for the lower income folks. Given the vital importance of reliable energy to human well-being and survival, the vital importance of economic freedom, and the depraved indifference to human well-being of climate catastrophists’, shouldn’t we at least give a hearing to the other side of the climate debate?

In truth, there’s a lot more to climate change than is simplistically indicated here, or that can be addressed in a comment. There are pros and cons over federal flood insurance, sea level rise, storm intensity, the effects of climate change, economics, energy science, the actual greenhouse effect of co2, and political science, to name a few. But let me say this: It does not follow that, because humans may be contributing to climate change, drastic life-altering political (i.e., coercive) steps, like outlawing fossil fuels, must be immediately implemented to curb it. In truth, the climate catastrophists like the Star-Ledger are objectivity deniers. Their views and conclusions are biased and one-sided in favor of the Left’s agenda to increase government control of private life and industry in the name of fighting climate change. But the alternative view calls for adaptation to climate change coupled with continued freedom and human progress, a much less disruptive “solution” and fundamentally better for human flourishing.

I think Lonegan deserves to be respected and taken seriously, not smeared and dismissed out-of-hand by fear-mongering statists. He has something important to contribute to the debate. In any event, I wish he were running in my district. He’d have my vote.


Maybe the Star-Ledger is an energy denier, freedom denier, and industrial progress denier.

What about the federal flood insurance program? The S-L states that “there is little evidence that the private market has the capacity to underwrite the growing risk[.]” That’s the point! No private insurer would be stupid enough to provide broad flood insurance coverage for areas that are certain to flood. Federal underwriting with tax dollars overrode the private market, leading to decades of massive development that wouldn’t have taken place, massively inflating damage from readily predictable storms like Sandy and Harvey. Maybe we should label the Star-Ledger and “basic economics denier”.

The Star-Ledger labels Harvey “another wake-up call.” To what? To the fact that devastating storms have always occurred? To climate change, which has always occurred on our meteorologically dynamic planet? It’s pretty certain that humans are contributing also. Climate catastrophists argue that consequences for humans of not eliminating those contributions will be devastating. But what are the costs to human well-being of eliminating the human contributions, such as by outlawing fossil fuels? Where’s the cost-benefit analysis of the “practical solutions” advocated by the political Left. Should we trade human well-being for marginally less severe Harveys and Sandys (both of which had more to do with unusual weather patterns than slightly warmer oceans)? Maybe we should label the Star-Ledger a “consequence denier”.

The Star-Ledger cites a prediction by the Union of Concerned Scientists, “which states that sea level rise over the next two decades will bring ‘chronic disruptive inundation to Seaside Park and 14 more towns along the Jersey Shore that today rarely feel the effects of tidal flooding’." Well, what about the long line of failed environmentalist catastrophe predictions going back decades? Shouldn’t the UCS prediction be at least taken with a grain of salt, given the uniformly exaggerated historical record of such predictions. And what about the fact that sea level rise has been going on all throughout the current interglacial period of about 15,000 or so years, to the tune of about 400 feet? Why panic over the two inches hypothesized to have been caused by AGW? Maybe the Star-Ledger should be labeled a “history denier”.

Denier, denier, denier. I’ve been ridiculing that childish, false smear for years. Maybe, though, there’s some validity to the charge—but the opposite of how the climate catastrophists mean it.

Monday, September 25, 2017

PennEast Pipeline and Arsenic

The PennEast Pipeline poses arsenic risk to N.J. water supplies, writes T.C. Onstott and Julia L. Barringer in a guest column for the New Jersey Star-Ledger. The proposed pipeline will bring natural gas from Pennsylvania’s hydraulic fracturing fields into NJ. It is one of the front line battles in the environmentalists’ war against oil and gas pipelines.

I left these comments, edited for clarity:

Much of this article is devoted to telling us that arsenic is toxic to humans and animals, which is already well-known (although only above certain thresholds). And then we see the word “potential” mentioned several times. But what are the risks of not having reliable energy—you know, the kind that well owners need to bring that water into our homes on demand? Such energy is delivered to millions of Americans through millions of miles of existing pipelines in service today in the U.S.

It’s easy to find risks everywhere. But big picture thinking is vital. Negative side effects could be mitigated. But the vastly greater benefits of pipelines like PennEast dwarf the environmental risks involved. After all, where would we be without this energy? At the mercy of environmental dangers.

The issue is really moral. It pits environmentalists against human well-being. Environmentalists value untouched nature, which runs counter to what human beings need to survive and thrive—reshape nature to satisfy human needs. Pipeline builders and their supporters, including the future buyers of their energy, value human life.

Environmentalists use the so-called “precautionary principle” to fight industrial progress wherever projects are proposed. The principle holds that no project should be undertaken until all possible environmental risks have been neutralized. Of course, that would require omniscience, which is impossible to human beings. If the precautionary principle were in effect at the dawn of human progress, the discovery of fire would have been abandoned, and humans would never have risen from the cave. And, of course, the precautionary principle never considers the risks to humans of not having natural gas pipelines. Environmentalists and their allies in academia and government can concoct an endless stream of potential risks and use them, no matter how minute, to stop progress by imposing more studies paid for by someone else.

I’m not an expert on this subject. So I can’t state unequivocally that the authors don’t have a legitimate point. But I am observant and a thinker. Three natural gas pipelines pass right through Readington, passing about a mile from my house, which is supplied by well water. This gas provides thousands of people with their vital energy. There are 320,000 miles of natgas transmission lines around the USA. Yet people are flourishing thanks to the natgas, not dying all over the place from arsenic.

Excuse me for my skepticism when nothing but negatives, but no positives, are listed by pipeline opponents. Pipeline proponents are always willing to acknowledge, and rightly made to address, the risks. If human well-being is the moral standard, then big picture thinking is vital. I hope someone with the appropriate expertise posts an opposing opinion on these pages.

[NOTES: PennEast posted “Arsenic Myths” on its website to counter pipeline opponents’ arsenic threat theory. Patricia Kornick, spokesperson for the PennEast Pipeline Company, posted this letter, PennEast Pipeline no threat to drinking water. Also, this letter titled Proposed pipeline won’t create an arsenic issue in drinking water, unfortunately behind a paywall, appeared in the Burlington County Times.]

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Thoughts on Trump’s U.N. Speech and North Korea

Following President Donald Trump’s much-anticipated speech to the United Nations in September 2017, the New Jersey Star-Ledger weighed in with The Trump policy toward North Korea is largely irrational.

Let me start by saying Trump’s speech contained some refreshing perspectives, such as defending America’s right to its own self-interest, and calling out socialism for what it is. On socialism, Trump said:

The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.

Of course, identifying the philosophical roots of socialism—that is, altruism and collectivism—is paramount to backing up that statement. But Trump’s statement is true, nonetheless, and good to hear.

That said, Trump’s vow to “completely destroy North Korea” (as opposed to destroying its military capability or its regime) was bizarre. That rhetoric is what the Star-Ledger focussed on. I zeroed in on this segment of the editorial:

Richard Haass, the president of the Council on Foreign Relations and former Bush administration stalwart, called his book "The Reluctant Sheriff" to describe America's best role in the world a one that leads a posse of states that can help police the globe, making our expansive power easier to support in the international community in circumstances such as these.

And its conclusion:

To fully understand where this is headed, consult your worst nightmare.

I left these comments, edited for clarity:

I largely agree with the logic expressed here. Who actually believes that, short of an initial strike against the United States, Trump would “totally destroy” North Korea? Uncredible threats are hollow, and worse than saying nothing.

But let’s be honest. Trump has been following Richard Haass’s “posse of states” strategy, even urging the U.N to step up. He’s even gotten sanctions through the Security Council. The difference between Trump’s approach and previous approaches is that he at least understands that diplomacy with war-mongering regimes must be backed up by a credible potential of military strength.

Which leads to the most glaring omission in this editorial. “To fully understand where this is headed, consult your worst nightmare,” the Star-Ledger concludes. According to that link, the “Nuclear threat [is] at [the] highest level since [the] Cold War.” Fair enough. But we must therefore ask, how did we get here? The answer: Since the fall of the Soviet Union that ended the Cold War, we have seen a quarter Century of failed diplomacy by three successive Administrations to buy off North Korea in exchange for it giving up its nuclear program. Each time, the North Koreans took the economic goodies and went right ahead with its program. It may be true that “The need to consistently use military deterrence without diplomacy only leads to escalation.” But when dealing with war-mongering dictatorships, diplomacy without credible military deterrence—which means the willingness to use it—only appeases aggressive tyrants and leads to the brink of war.

Trump may be a loose cannon. He may not be the most thoughtful or polished leader. Those are not good qualities. But give him his due: He inherited the North Korean problem.

Related Reading:

DIPLOMACY ONLY ENCOURAGES NORTH KOREA’S BELLIGERENCE—Elan Journo for ARI Blog [This article was written in 2006.]


My Favorite (and Least Favorite) Lines from President Trump’s U.N. Address—Dr. Michael Hurd

Thursday, September 21, 2017

To Start With, Single Payer is Immoral

We are about to enter into the next chapter of what I have called “the mother-of-all healthcare battles—the battle between total government control of healthcare versus individual control in a free market. Medicare-for-All, or national single-payer healthcare, has been kicking around Congress for perhaps two decades now. Recently, Senator Bernie Sanders reintroduced the bill, with numerous, mostly far-Left co-signers.

But not all. One co-signer, the otherwise “moderate” Democrat New Jersey senator Cory Booker, just signed on. Booker’s decision was the subject of a NJ Star-Ledger column by Tom Moran. Moran is a single-payer supporter, but considers it politically impractical. On that basis, he wrote “Booker's bromance with Bernie Sanders. Let's hope it's just a fling” criticizing Booker's move to Sanders:

It didn't surprise me that Sen. Bernie Sanders chose this moment to press for a single-payer health system.

He's a good man, and he's dead right that a single-payer system like Canada's makes a lot of sense, delivering better care at lower cost. But he is as nutty as Ralph Nader when it comes to practical politics.

Sanders is handing Republicans a club they can use to beat Democrats over the head. Because a single-payer system would require a huge tax hike, and force wrenching change for everyone at a time when 70 percent of Americans are happy with their current arrangements.

Sanders has never been impressed by cold political calculations like that. That's why he ignored warnings that his endless personal attacks on Hillary Clinton might help Donald Trump win by depressing the Democratic vote in the general election.

Sanders, like Nader, is a romantic. Which is great, if you're a poet.

The surprise to me is that our own Sen. Cory Booker has joined this hapless parade.

Moran goes on to quote Booker:

"We have to stop thinking about political calculation," he told me on Friday morning. "And focus more on 'Morally what's the right thing to do?'"

Moran acknowledges that Booker’s move is itself a political calculation designed to curry favor with the hard Left to pave the way for a 2020 run for Democratic presidential nomination. “Booker is not an orthodox Democrat,” Moran writes,” and “the left is skeptical about [him].” Nonetheless, he’s critical of Booker’s move.

On Sanders’ new Medicare-for All bill, which I have dubbed SandersCare to distinguish it from previous bills, I’m not so sure Booker is on the wrong track, politically. At this time, he’s probably on the right side of the long-term political momentum in this country when it comes to healthcare.

I left these comments:

"We have to stop thinking about political calculation," he told me on Friday morning. "And focus more on 'Morally what's the right thing to do?'"

If Booker were really concerned with what’s morally right, he wouldn’t be joining Sanders in his crusade to put government dictators in charge of deciding who gets what healthcare, and when—and that effectively enslaves the doctors. He would be a huge champion of rolling back government involvement in medicine, and expanding individuals’ freedom to make their own choices about their own healthcare.

How is it morally justified to strip the remaining half of the American population that still has health insurance and force them into a one-size-fits-all government monopsony? In a word, altruism. Altruism holds a person has no moral right to his own life, because being moral consists of living for others. The opposite morality, rational self-interest, upholds the individual’s moral right to her own life and liberty; to spend the money she earns, her property, as she, not some government bureaucrat, sees fit; to make her own healthcare choices—all as sanctioned by the guarantee to all men of the equal unalienable right to the pursuit of personal happiness stated in America’s philosophic blueprint, the Declaration of Independence.

And the moral is the practical. Consequently, SandersCare is economically unworkable, and will lead to severe restrictions on healthcare, especially for seniors and the elderly, as costs explode when SandersCare clashes with the laws of economics. On the other hand, all of the incentives in a free market—consumers seeking the best value for their money from profit-motivated providers seeking to expand sales and grow—are aligned toward better care at lower prices supplemented by continuous innovation. The laws of economics compliment this freedom. That’s why free markets, by allowing all people to self-interestedly think and act freely, work to the benefit of all economic levels of society, not in some miraculous instantaneous fashion, but over time.

What Sanders understands that most of his opponents don’t is that the healthcare fight is fundamentally a moral fight. Morality is not pie-in-the-sky. Morality, not political or economic calculation, is where this will be decided. Politics reflects the dominant morality of the culture. And while Americans still have a decent amount of respect for a person’s right to act in his own self-interest, altruism is generally considered—wrongly, in my view—the essence of morality. Sanders, like all statists who want power over people’s lives, cashes in on altruism. If you have no moral right to your own life, then you have no moral right to oppose SandersCare. How will you oppose it? By standing for your political rights? A right to what? The very thing altruism says you have no moral right to, your life? To stop SandersCare, the final step in the half century long trek to end America’s role as the last bastion of freedom in healthcare, the individual’s moral right to her own life must be upheld.

Self-interest is not just a practical necessity. It is right—morally right—to work to make your own life better and more fulfilling, not by exploiting others, but by your own effort. Only on the basis of rational self-interest can SandersCare be stopped—and reforms begun toward a truly moral path, a fully free market where providers, medical products makers, health insurers, and consumers/patients can contract freely and voluntarily with each other, to mutual advantage—and the government protects those contracts against force and fraud.

So SandersCare is not just politically impractical. It is economically impractical. It is, most importantly, immoral. Freedom is moral and practical, because it leaves people free to pursue their own self-interest unmolested by the lakes of Bernie Sanders. Never mind the usual rationalizations about the needy who can’t afford this or that healthcare service. That’s the job of private charity to fulfil according to the value judgments of individuals. The needy are not a justification to coral the vast majority of Americans into a chain gang of government dependence financed by their own money. Totalitarian control or freedom and individual rights—not helping or not helping the needy—is the ultimate choice that lies at the end of the healthcare debate.

The current disfunction of American healthcare is the result of decades of ever-growing government involvement. Sanders offers up Medicare-for-All as a “fix” for what ails America’s heavily regulated, part-socialist, part-fascist, part-free healthcare industry. But that’s just doubling down on the cause of the problems. The government has had its chance at micro-managing our healthcare, and SandersCare is the final proof that it has failed. The moral high road belongs to defenders of individual rights and its corollary, free market healthcare. The “right thing to do” now is defend every individual’s right to act on his own judgement, for his own benefit. It’s time for more freedom and individual rights in medicine.


For the Left, the issue of single payer is not philosophical. It is a matter of political practicality. Moran himself says at the outset that “a single-payer system like Canada's makes a lot of sense.” Moran explains:

The idea that answering moral demands should force us to set aside political calculation is insane. Without political calculation, Abraham Lincoln could not have won the Civil War and freed the slaves. Franklin Roosevelt couldn't have enacted Social Security. Nelson Mandela might have died in his cell on Robben Island.

None of them charged straight at their goals. They maneuvered towards them, step by step, over years. They calculated.

In a nutshell, this is how the socialists moved America from an almost fully free market in healthcare to the verge of total socialistic government control.

Philosophically, they believe they’ve already won. As Sanders now says openly and with few challengers, “health care is a right.” That’s an unequivocal altruist moral statement. There’s no way to counter that assertion without properly upholding individual rights, and there’s no way to properly uphold individual rights without denying altruism and upholding self-interest.

But while they’ve been content to take one small bite out of our freedom at a time, the one thing they didn’t do is compromise on the basic, altruist/collectivist convictions that underpin those steps. “Step by step,” as Moran, one of the Left’s ranking members, readily acknowledges, they road the altruist “ideal” to a steady growth in government programs like Medicaid and Medicare and SCHIP and a steady growth of strangling government regulations on the private insurance market to the point where it now “makes sense” to engineer a full government takeover of healthcare.

There’s a lesson for the Right here. We’ll not fully reinstate Americans’ individual healthcare liberty in one swoop. But we’ll never get there if we can’t go beyond the economic case and properly defend free markets morally. Moran may be right that the “Sanders virus” is politically premature. But single payer is inevitable, barring a proper moral strategy from the free market Right.

Related Reading:

Moral Health Care vs. Universal Health Care, by Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh for The Objective Standard