Monday, May 04, 2015

Mister We Could Use A Man Like Calvin Coolidge Again

The latest course offering from Prager University trumpets the virtues of Calvin Coolidge, an underrated president who accomplished much by doing less:

These days, many voters want the president to "do something" -- often, it seems, anything. But what would happen if a president decided to do...nothing? Nothing, that is, except actively shrink the size of government. In this week's video, award-winning author Amity Shlaes tells you about just such a president: Calvin Coolidge. Under his administration, Americans earned higher wages, experienced fewer strikes, and were introduced to new, affordable technology in the form of cars, phones, and radios.

I recently finished reading Shlaes’ recent biography on Coolidge. While I found her writing to be uneven and at times unorganized, the story of Coolidge is a fascinating one that most Americans are woefully unfamiliar with (I know I was until I read the book).

It’s probably too much to hope for a leader with the temperament and economy of Coolidge today, but Republicans vying for the chance to run in 2016 would do well to understand the approach he took to governing as previous GOP leaders have. Ronald Reagan was said to be a big fan of Silent Cal and it’s hard to imagine a better endorsement than that.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

HWX: Hillary, the Musical

It’s a special midweek edition of HWX, with Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas and Paul Happe of the Nihilist in Golf Pants reconvening to discuss the critical issues of our times. Topics addressed include:

  • Spring has finally sprung in Minnesota, info on pre-emergent crabgrass herbicide, a poetry reading, and questions about where the new leaves on the trees come from.
  • Positive evidence of global warming (and we feel fine about it).
  • Hillary Clinton officially announces her presidential run, and we offer our advice and demos for campaign theme song (with strategic appearances by Tammy Wynette, the Smiths, and Nine Inch Nails).
  • This Week in Gate Keeping – featuring PBS and the cover up of Ben Affleck’s notorious relatives — plus the New York Times blows an obituary.
  • A celebrity salute to Earth Day, with Mike Nelson.

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Kudos to Keith

Over the years it’s been a rare occasion where I find an opportunity to agree with sentiments voiced by the man who represents me in the United States House of Representatives. So I almost feel obligated to recognize such an occurrence when I can find some common cause with Representative Keith Ellison.

The topic that Representative Ellison was addressing was the recent arrest of six local youths who were attempting to find their way to Syria and/or to join in jihad.

Rep. Ellison: Terror recruits are in the dark, hard to reach:

“I don’t know how we talk to them. I don’t know how we get through to them,” he said. “People like me need to be communicating a message that there is a good life to be lived. There is nothing about U.S. foreign policy that you don’t like that you could not more effectively change by active citizenship. Nobody is going to be complaining if you don’t like Guantanamo. I don’t like it either.”

Firstly, I like the fact that Ellison is admitting that he doesn’t have all the answers. Too often politicians and government officials pretend that they have the solution to any and every problem if only we’re willing to give them the right amount of money or power to implement it. Ellison doesn't offer more government as the answer here which is refreshing.

Secondly, he doesn’t make excuses for the actions taken by these young men. Instead he expresses the obvious, which is that they have an opportunity for a life here which is almost certainly far better than they would have in the place they came from or the places they may want to go to.

Thirdly, he states another obvious fact that they are far more likely to have a positive impact on changing policies they don’t like through peaceful politics instead of violent actions.

Ellison also commented on the person who helped alert authorities to the plot:

”That’s a snitch,” Ellison said. “That’s not what this guy did. He gave information that he thought would probably save their lives. Being in jail is better than being dead in Syria. … Once they got over to Syria and found out that ISIS is nothing but a bunch of bloodthirsty murderers, they’re not fighting for Islam, they’re not standing up for the Muslim community, they’re just a bunch of murderers, then they might try to leave, but it may be too late. They kill people like that.”

Ever since 9/11 there has been a call for Muslim leaders to speak out against terrorism, not offer excuses for it, and to call it what it is. As the first Muslim to be elected to Congress, it’s encouraging to see Keith Ellison doing exactly that. More please.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Fueling the Fire

The latest offering from Prager University is a reflection on the reality that fossil fuels have been a boon to mankind and will continue to provide for most of our energy needs for the foreseeable future:

In honor of Earth Day, this week's video course features Alex Epstein, author of The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. Rather than condemn our impact on the planet and the environment, Epstein celebrates the fact that human progress has helped the earth. He demonstrates how technology -- and fossil fuels in particular -- have made the planet safer, cleaner, and more habitable.

Friday, April 10, 2015

HWX: Spring Fever

It’s a special midweek edition of HWX, with Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas and Paul Happe of the Nihilist in Golf Pants reconvening to discuss the critical issues of the day.  Topics addressed include:

* the looming tax deadline and the odds that  we got our returns correct

*  the looming announcement of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy and our attempt to play by the Hillary rules of appropriate discourse

*  the Indiana religious freedom imbroglio and the rapidly changing, and quickening pace of societal change

*  the return of This Week in Gate Keeping with the Rolling Stone correction and lack of contrition

We also talked some baseball with Minnesota’s grand man of the game, former Twins co-owner Clark Griffith. He opines on the current state of the game and reminisces about the old days with the Washington Senators and stealing items from Harry Truman’s desk.

HWX is sponsored by Swon Tax Preparation.   Need help with your taxes before April 15?  Fear not, its' not too late, and you are not alone.  The fine folks at Swon Tax Prep will make time for you.  Be it an individual return, a business return, whatever it may be, our friend Jon Swon can help.   He offers a full suite of tax services, customized to meet your goals.  He's based here in MN, but has clients around the country.  If you need help, check him out at

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Going Your Way

I’m not one to typically wax enviously on the glories of the way that things are done in the People’s Republic of China. No Thomas Freidman I. However, there are some areas where one has to admit that they've got ideas that we would be wise to emulate.

One is the traffic signals that indicate the time the light will maintain its current status.

This lets drivers know how much longer they have before the green is gone and how longer they have to wait for the red to turn. At busier intersection, the pedestrian crossings also have status timers letting you know how much longer you have to wait and how much time you have to get to the other side once it's deemed "safe" to cross. 

Traffic in Chinese cities can be a nightmare and just walking about can make for a stressful stroll. Providing the status on traffic signals helps make the experiences at least a bit more manageable. 

Another advance that I've come to appreciate, especially as a foreign visitor, is the usually easy to locate street signs that are not only in Mandarin and English, but also indicate where you're at from a compass point perspective. 

While I have a fairly decent sense of direction for the most part, it does help on occasion to be reassured that you're actually headed in the direction you think you are. Especially when you're in a city where the usual landmarks and signs that help determine direction aren't always available. 

It would seem that both transportation advances are ones that would be rather easy to implement (at least for new signals and signs) and would bring clear benefits. Why can't we be more like China? 

Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Only Words

Things you see in the People's Republic of China often come as a surprise. This sign near a building site for example:

Democracy? Freedom? Rule of Law? Those particular words seem a bit out of place. But then you remember that it's not the words themselves that matter it's what they mean or don't mean in a particular place at a particular time.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I Will Choose a Path That's Clear

The latest installment of Prager University addresses the question of free will and is presented by the late Frank Pastore.

Just over two years ago, a remarkable man, Frank Pastore, unexpectedly passed away at 55. He began his career as a professional baseball player for the Cincinnati Reds and eventually became one of the leading popular Christian thinkers and theologians in America. Today, we release a new edition of his PragerU classic, "Do We Have Free Will?"

Do humans have free will or are our decisions entirely products of chemistry, physics, and genetics? Is there a difference between the brain and the mind? Could a neuroscientist with enough knowledge of our brains know every decision that we'll make? The answers to these questions cut to the heart of what it means to be human. Frank Pastore explains.

Monday, March 16, 2015

No Alternative

We can divest from fossil fuel companies.

We can refuse to build pipelines to transport oil and gas.

We can buy all the electric and hybrid cars we want.

We can encourage people to conserve energy and use alternative sources as much as possible.

But the reality is that we will continue to rely on fossil fuels to provide most of our energy needs for the foreseeable future.

Matt Ridley lays out the reasons why in an article that appeared in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal. Fossil Fuels Will Save the World (Really):

The environmental movement has advanced three arguments in recent years for giving up fossil fuels: (1) that we will soon run out of them anyway; (2) that alternative sources of energy will price them out of the marketplace; and (3) that we cannot afford the climate consequences of burning them.

These days, not one of the three arguments is looking very healthy. In fact, a more realistic assessment of our energy and environmental situation suggests that, for decades to come, we will continue to rely overwhelmingly on the fossil fuels that have contributed so dramatically to the world’s prosperity and progress.

In 2013, about 87% of the energy that the world consumed came from fossil fuels, a figure that—remarkably—was unchanged from 10 years before. This roughly divides into three categories of fuel and three categories of use: oil used mainly for transport, gas used mainly for heating, and coal used mainly for electricity.

Ridley takes on and refutes each of the arguments against fossil fuel.

The argument that fossil fuels will soon run out is dead, at least for a while. The collapse of the price of oil over the past six months is the result of abundance: an inevitable consequence of the high oil prices of recent years, which stimulated innovation in hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling, seismology and information technology. The U.S.—the country with the oldest and most developed hydrocarbon fields—has found itself once again, surprisingly, at the top of the energy-producing league, rivaling Saudi Arabia in oil and Russia in gas.

The shale genie is now out of the bottle. Even if the current low price drives out some high-cost oil producers—in the North Sea, Canada, Russia, Iran and offshore, as well as in America—shale drillers can step back in whenever the price rebounds. As Mark Hill of Allegro Development Corporation argued last week, the frackers are currently experiencing their own version of Moore’s law: a rapid fall in the cost and time it takes to drill a well, along with a rapid rise in the volume of hydrocarbons they are able to extract.

So we aren't running out of fossil fuels anytime soon. What about those wonderful alternative sources we hear so much about?

The second argument for giving up fossil fuels is that new rivals will shortly price them out of the market. But it is not happening. The great hope has long been nuclear energy, but even if there is a rush to build new nuclear power stations over the next few years, most will simply replace old ones due to close. The world’s nuclear output is down from 6% of world energy consumption in 2003 to 4% today. It is forecast to inch back up to just 6.7% by 2035, according the Energy Information Administration.

Nuclear’s problem is cost. In meeting the safety concerns of environmentalists, politicians and regulators added requirements for extra concrete, steel and pipework, and even more for extra lawyers, paperwork and time. The effect was to make nuclear plants into huge and lengthy boondoggles with no competition or experimentation to drive down costs. Nuclear is now able to compete with fossil fuels only when it is subsidized.

As for renewable energy, hydroelectric is the biggest and cheapest supplier, but it has the least capacity for expansion. Technologies that tap the energy of waves and tides remain unaffordable and impractical, and most experts think that this won’t change in a hurry. Geothermal is a minor player for now. And bioenergy—that is, wood, ethanol made from corn or sugar cane, or diesel made from palm oil—is proving an ecological disaster: It encourages deforestation and food-price hikes that cause devastation among the world’s poor, and per unit of energy produced, it creates even more carbon dioxide than coal.

Wind power, for all the public money spent on its expansion, has inched up to—wait for it—1% of world energy consumption in 2013. Solar, for all the hype, has not even managed that: If we round to the nearest whole number, it accounts for 0% of world energy consumption.

So they're not ready for prime time and no one can predict when they would be.

And when it comes to climate change, Ridley advises that we carefully weigh the benefits that fossil fuels provide against the potential threat of a warming planet.

If these conclusions are right, they would explain the failure of the Earth’s surface to warm nearly as fast as predicted over the past 35 years, a time when—despite carbon-dioxide levels rising faster than expected—the warming rate has never reached even two-tenths of a degree per decade and has slowed down to virtually nothing in the past 15 to 20 years. This is one reason the latest IPCC report did not give a “best estimate” of sensitivity and why it lowered its estimate of near-term warming.

Most climate scientists remain reluctant to abandon the models and take the view that the current “hiatus” has merely delayed rapid warming. A turning point to dangerously rapid warming could be around the corner, even though it should have shown up by now. So it would be wise to do something to cut our emissions, so long as that something does not hurt the poor and those struggling to reach a modern standard of living.

So in conclusion:

We should encourage the switch from coal to gas in the generation of electricity, provide incentives for energy efficiency, get nuclear power back on track and keep developing solar power and electricity storage. We should also invest in research on ways to absorb carbon dioxide from the air, by fertilizing the ocean or fixing it through carbon capture and storage. Those measures all make sense. And there is every reason to promote open-ended research to find some unexpected new energy technology.

The one thing that will not work is the one thing that the environmental movement insists upon: subsidizing wealthy crony capitalists to build low-density, low-output, capital-intensive, land-hungry renewable energy schemes, while telling the poor to give up the dream of getting richer through fossil fuels.

We make not like fossil fuels and wish that we didn't have to depend on them. But they have provided the energy that has allowed our civilization to make remarkable advances in the last couple of hundred years and they will continue to do so in the future.

Saturday, March 07, 2015

HWX: The Paranoid Style, wih Jesse Walker

It's a Saturday morning special edition of HWX, with Brian Ward of Fraters Libertas and Paul Happe of the Nihilist in Golfpants reconvening to discuss the vital issues of the day. Topics included:

*  Analysis of the entrance music for Republican Presidential candidates at the recent CPAC conference

*  Tryout of some sound effects to be used for future HWX shows during the election season

*  Another Earth Day tip from Mike Nelson of Rifftrax

They were also joined by guest named Jesse who’s obsessed with conspiracy theories.  And it’s NOT Jesse Ventura.  Instead it’s the great Jesse Walker, he’s the books editor at Reason magazine and author of the book, The United States of Paranoia:  A Conspiracy Theory.  We have a rollicking discussion about the undercurrent of the “paranoid style” throughout American history, the archetypes conspiracies tend to follow, and why this type of thinking is more of a feature than a bug of human psychology.

We're brought to you by Swon Tax Preparation.  Need help with your taxes? Be it an individual return, a business return, whatever it may be, our friend Jon Swon can help.   He offers a full suite of tax services, customized to meet your goals.  He's based here in MN, but has clients around the country.  If you need help, check him out at

There are many ways to hear the podcast, including over on the mother ship at Ricochet.  You can be sure to never miss an episode by subscribing via iTunes.  Or you can just use the player embedded in the upper right hand corner of this website.  If all of these fail, send me an email and I'll come to your house and read from a written transcript.  Hope you enjoy.