What is ‘sustainability’?

A couple of weeks ago the University of Dayton made a very exciting announcement–the largest gift in the history of the school.


The University of Dayton is announcing today a $12.5 million gift from the George and Amanda Hanley Foundation to create the Hanley Sustainability Institute, which will focus on creating innovations in sustainability education across the University. The work of the Institute will build on our already-strong foundation of academic excellence, co-curricular activities, research and campus operations.

But what does the term ‘sustainability’ mean exactly? We’ve never seen a definition that makes logical sense. For instance, the EPA defines sustainability as follows.

Sustainability creates and maintains the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony, that permit fulfilling the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations.

What does this mean? If we drill for oil in Alaska, will that, or will that not, disrupt the ‘productive harmony’ of humans and nature? How do we determine if ‘productive harmony’ prevails or not? For example, is the current Alaska oil pipeline, elevated to allow migrating caribou to pass beneath, an example of productive harmony, or of harmony lost?

Also, how much oil should the present generation use and how much should be preserved for the use of future generations? What’s the proper allocation of oil sharing among generations?

This definition of sustainability raises more questions than it answers.

Will Eschenbach makes a similar point and, as an example, asks whether digging in his garden with an iron spade would be sustainable.

Every kilo of iron ore that is mined to make my shovel is a kilo of iron ore that is forever unavailable to “future generations to meet their own needs”. It’s unavoidable. Which means that we will run out of iron, and thus any use of iron is ultimately unsustainable. My shovel use is depriving my great-grandchildren of shovels.

Oh, sure, I can recycle my shovel. But some of the metal will inevitably be lost in the process. All that does is make the inevitable iron-death move further away in time … but recycling doesn’t magically make iron extraction sustainable.

And if me using a steel shovel to dig in my own garden is not sustainable … then what is sustainable? I mean, where are the “peak iron” zealots when we need them?

Most people would argue that wind turbines and solar panels are sustainable. But manufacturing wind turbines requires mining neodymium, a “rare earth” metal. And solar panels pose a similar issue involving a different metal.

Thin, cheap solar panels need tellurium, which makes up a scant 0.0000001 percent of the earth’s crust, making it three times rarer than gold.

Is mining rare earth metals sustainable?

What is sustainable? If anyone could provide us with a sensible definition of sustainability we would really appreciate it.

Maybe the check really is in the mail?

Here is the story from the New York Post:

This guy makes Newman look like a hero.

A troubled Brooklyn mailman took his depression and booze addiction out on his postal customers by failing to deliver some 40,000 pieces of mail and hoarding the massive stash in his home, car and post office locker.

Joseph Brucato, a Vietnam War vet, admitted hiding a ton of mail meant for customers in Flatbush since 2005, according to a Brooklyn federal court complaint.

It took five postal agents five hours to remove the massive stash of purloined letters from the 67-year-old’s Flatlands apartment, which he shares with his wife and child, his landlord told The Post.

“It really shocked me,” said Bruno Honovic, 72. “Our neighbor thought maybe he was moving and the post office was helping him out by lending him a truck.”

A postal supervisor became suspicious that Brucato was up to something weird when he noticed his personal car was stuffed with undelivered letters, the complaint said.

Investigators pressed Brucato about the letter cache, and he copped to hoarding more than a ton of mail — a total of 2,500 pounds — over the past decade.

It goes on to explain that the 67 year old Mr. Brucato is currently suspended WITH PAY pending the outcome of the investigation. If the investigation takes long enough he should be able collect maximum social security benefits while also collecting his federal pension.  Oh, and the finances of the Postal Service, as well as the overall Federal Government, are in a long term death spiral.  Our young readers will, of course, realize the cost of all this soon enough.  At least you were warned here.

More Great Moments in Government

You really can’t make this stuff up:

TRENTON, N.J. – (AP) — The issue has stymied New Jersey politicians for decades. It’s taken more than 50 years of intense lobbying, sweat and tears. It has pitted lawmaker against lawmaker, governor against Legislature, North Jersey against South Jersey.

But a three lawmakers from different corners of the state have hammered out a bipartisan deal that they hope will solve this longtime problem facing New Jersey:

Its lack of a state song.

State Sens. Michael Doherty (R-Warren), Richard Codey (D-Essex) and Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May) — who have not always been in sync on the state song — came together last Monday to propose a bill (S2438) that would create not one, but five different tunes New Jerseyans could officially call their own.

“I’ve been told from all the players involved that there seems to be a mutual agreement that these are going to move forward, so it’s positive,” Doherty told NJ.com.

Wow, they “came together” to get the job done! These clowns should just resign if they think a state song is important right now. Guess in their world everything is fine, all their relatives have state jobs, they will get a fat pension, and will likely get re-elected without doing much. Thank goodness nonsense issues like road, property taxes, the state budget, and the dysfunctional education system can wait. And anyhow, all five of the options mentioned in the story sound lame.  If they want some free advice….

GOP Caves on Export-Import Bank

Here’s a proposition for you. Want to lend some of your money to an enterprise overseas that is too risky for banks and markets to lend to, at least at the terms on which the enterprise would like to borrow? No? Too late, the Export-Import bank has already done it–with your money!

The Export-Import bank is a New Deal institution that subsidizes loans to foreign entities for big-ticket purchases from major American corporations like Boeing and Caterpillar. The corporation receives a benefit because the Ex-Im Bank’s credit insures that the corporate seller can not only make the sale, but probably also get a better price than they would otherwise. But this gain comes at the expense of the American taxpayer, who is effectively forced to make a loan on terms that banks and other lenders will not accept due to the risk. Thus the Ex-Im bank effectively enables crony capitalism–big corporations win, taxpayers lose.

Of course, the Ex-Im Bank uses faulty accounting to claim that it actually makes money. But a study by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated that the Bank would lose $2 billion over 10 years, or about $200 million per year. A similar but somewhat higher figure was computed independently by economists at the Manhattan Institute.

This simple approach – which is based on a method outlined in a National Bureau of Economic Research paper by Debbie Lucas of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology – suggests that the Ex-Im bank’s long-term loan guarantee program actually provides guarantees at a loss for taxpayers, not a profit. Moreover, this analysis reveals that the Ex-Im bank’s loan guarantees are made at sufficiently generous terms that borrowers receive subsidies of about 1% of the amount borrowed. That translates into a $200 million cost for taxpayers on the $21 billion in loans that the bank will make in 2012. Because the bank’s smaller loan programs already carry positive subsides under FCRA, the total subsidy level for the entire Ex-Im bank business is even higher than $200 million using fair-value estimates.

No wonder a Senator back in 2008 called the Bank “little more than a fund for corporate welfare.” That was Senator Barack Obama.

And of course, whenever taxpayer money is being handed out, corruption is inevitable.

In June, it was reported that the bank had dismissed three officials and placed a fourth on leave in response to accusations of impropriety. Few details have been disclosed and only one of the employees has been named – Gutierrez, who appeared before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee and refused to answer any questions. Gutierrez lost his position at the Bank after it was revealed that he took money from a Florida company which was angling for Ex-Im funding.

The hearing did yield some further interesting tidbits, all damaging to the Export-Import Bank. Hochberg, the bank’s president, stated that the accusations against Gutierrez and his three colleagues stem from three different incidents. Moreover, the subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) noted that the bank’s own inspector general was looking into at least 40 potential fraud cases.

Even the makeup of the bank’s own advisory committee raises questions. The Daily Caller found that “fully half” of the committee members headed entities “that directly benefitted from Ex-Im financing during their term.” Furthermore, five additional members saw Ex-Im funding reach their organizations before joining the committee. And the questions for the advisory committee start right at the top. It’s probably not a coincidence that the current chair is former Democratic Gov. Christine Gregoire of Washington State – the home of Boeing and, according to one study, recipient of 43.6 percent of Ex-Im funding, far and away the most of any state.

The Export-Import Bank’s charter was set to expire at the end of September, and for the last several months, a number of Congressional Republicans have been making noise about putting an end to the Bank by not renewing the charter. Of course, it’s exceedingly rare that wasteful government programs are eliminated or the size of government scaled back. All the talk this summer about killing the bank, however, heightened expectations that it might actually happen. But in the end, Republicans caved and agreed to extend the charter for nine months.

House Republicans moved Tuesday to extend the authority of the Export-Import Bank this month as part of a government-wide funding bill needed to prevent a shutdown at month’s end.

Republicans unveiled the measure, which would extend the bank’s charter through June 30, 2015, late Tuesday. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had telegraphed the move earlier in the day when he told reporters that even a powerful foe of the bank, Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, believed a temporary extension was in order.

The Export-Import Bank is actually a fairly tiny component of the federal government’s overall massive assault on taxpayers. It is also one of the few wasteful programs that reformers have managed to subject to considerable public scrutiny. But despite the scrutiny and the relatively small size, reform was not achieved. The result is not encouraging. If reformers can’t defeat the Export-Import Bank, what hope for much larger programs like farm subsidies, welfare programs, and entitlements? Things are going to have to get much worse before they get better.

And finally, a word on politics. For what it’s worth, a considerable portion of the GOP’s Congressional caucus has spoken out against the Bank. But among Democrats, the Bank enjoys “widespread support.”

Democrats failed in an attempt to pressure GOP leaders into passing a long-term, five-year extension of the bank.

Among those Democrat supporters is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, a noted populist firebrand who pretends to “fight” for the middle class and against greedy corporations.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) may market herself as a progressive populist, but when forced to choose between everyday Americans and billion dollar international corporations, Warren sides with the corporations.

“Senator Warren believes that the Export-Import Bank helps create American jobs and spur economic growth,” Warren spokeswoman Lacey Rose wrote in an e-mail to Bloomnberg News, “She looks forward to reviewing re-authorization legislation if and when it is introduced.”

“Progressive” voters hate big corporations and support politicians like Warren who pretend to ‘fight’ for the ‘little guy.’

Guess Lincoln was right. You really can “fool some of the people all of the time.”


A Feminist Fallacy

In the video below, Christina Hoff Summers does a fine job unraveling one of the more pervasive propaganda points of modern feminism; specifically, the assertion that for every dollar that men earn, women on average earn only 77 cents as a result of widespread discrimination in the labor market.

The key to debunking the ’77 cents’ myth is the fact that men and women, on average, do not do the same amount or type of work.

The myth is so pervasive that we suspect that students sometimes hear it from their professors at UD. If so, the students could get a better, and much cheaper, education from Prager University videos–and from reading Yet, Freedom!

In any event, the myth has been around so long that way back when we were in school we knew it as the ’69 cent’ myth. Does today’s addition of 8 cents imply that there’s now less sexism than there used to be? Or does it merely reflect the ongoing increase in female achievement and earned success?

If labor market trends continue, we might eventually find ourselves debunking an 80+ cent myth or even a 90+ cent myth. At that point, the myth might start to lose its power as propaganda, and feminists will have to come up with a new talking point.


Climate March in NYC

Here is the story via the WSJ:

Hundreds of thousands of people from across the city and around the world marched through the streets of Manhattan on Sunday to raise awareness of global warming.

The People’s Climate March, billed by its organizers as the largest event of its kind, drew former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Al Gore, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and performing artists Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo and Sting.

Organizers estimated attendance at nearly 400,000 people, with demonstrators coming from as far away as Brazil, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Nicaragua and Panama.

We wonder if anybody has calculated the carbon emissions caused by “hundreds of thousands” traveling to New York City from afar, whether by train, car or, for the more famous dignitaries, private jet?  Guess not since they are too enraptured in the idea that they are saving the world, simply by walking down a street no less! There must be some people in places like Haiti or Liberia (i.e. people with real problems and limited options) who read about this.  We can only imagine what they must think of this spectacle.

Department of Defense owns more properties than it can keep track of

Anyone who doubts that the federal government is monstrously bloated and unwieldy should consider that the DOD can’t even keep track of its enormous property holdings.

Department of Defense officials operate an estimated 500,000 properties around the world that are worth in excess of $828 billion.

But don’t ask the Pentagon how those properties are being used at any given time because DOD “lacks accurate and complete data regarding the utilization of its facilities,” according to the Government Accountability Office.

As a result, Pentagon officials can’t be sure when asked if a specific DOD facility is being actively used, only partially used or not used at all.

For example, DOD’s “Real Property Assets Database — a compilation of the military departments’ real property assets inventory — showed facility utilization data for less than half of DOD’s total inventory, and these data often were incomplete or did not reflect the true usage rate of the facilities,” GAO said in a report made public Friday.

500,000 properties? Next time somebody proposes raising taxes, maybe instead we should try to see if DOD can somehow get by with only, say, 400,000 properties.

America: Too Many Laws, Too Many Cops

A story that caught our attention recently involves a Florida mother who was arrested and spent a night in jail for letting her 7-year-old son taste a sip of whiskey.

According to police, Patricia Denault poured herself a shot of Fireball cinnamon whiskey and took a picture of her son taking a sip. She posted that picture on Facebook, but someone saw that picture and called the police.

“Me taking a picture and putting it on Facebook, I thought it was funny,” Denault said.

Denault was arrested on Wednesday, charged with child neglect after she said three uniformed officers and Child Protective Services came to her house and interviewed her kids.

The mother reportedly told police officers that she wanted her children, including the seven-year-old son featured in the Facebook photos, to “experience alcohol in a controlled setting.”

Readers who, like us, experienced an ethnic-Catholic upbringing, might share our surprise that providing a bit of alcohol under parental supervision is illegal. In our experience, serving children a bit of (often diluted) wine with dinner is perfectly unobjectionable, and the practice is widespread and uncontroversial in most of Europe, particularly in southern Europe. But in Puritan America, a parentally-supervised serving of alcohol is apparently legal in only 29 states, and Florida isn’t one of them.

Folks in Italy would no doubt be gobsmacked to hear that serving a bit of wine with their drinking_2635938bchildren’s dinner would be a crime in 21 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia. And yet, Italy somehow still maintains a civilization of sorts, and does not have a particularly high rate of alcoholism. Unlike Americans, Italian university students do not engage in binge drinking.

And by the way, isn’t it true that many over-the-counter cough syrups and cold remedies contain alcohol? Over-the-counter Nyquil is 25 percent alcohol, or 50 proof. If we switch out the whiskey for cold medicine, would the cops still arrest the Florida mom?

America sure has a lot of laws. Too many.

Although we think that what the Florida mom did should not be illegal, we hasten to point out that she nonetheless made a lot of foolish decisions.

First, she never should have posted evidence of her criminal act to Facebook for all the world to see. At the time, she was probably caught up in status whoring and trying to get attention. She got more attention than she bargained for.

Second, she apparently admitted to the police that she gave her son alcohol. She should have kept her mouth shut and told the police to direct all questions to her lawyer. Remember: Talking to the police is never the smart move. Even if you have nothing to hide, you should never talk to the police.

Third, the Florida mom not only spoke to the police, she allowed three uniformed officers plus at least one agent from Child Protective Services to enter her home and to interview her children. Big mistake. One never knows how the state might misconstrue innocent statements by the children into evidence of abuse. More generally, one should never let agents of the state into one’s home without a warrant signed by a judge.

Also significant was the fact that the local authorities had the resources to dispatch at least four agents of the state in response to this dire threat to public order. See, the agents of the state know that, when they’re harassing the public, they might get blowback. So, taking no chances with the Florida mom, the first cop was there to back up the CPS bureaucrats. And presumably, the second cop was needed to back up the first cop. And the third cop to back up the second cop.

All to deal with this mom. Good to know there are no hardened and violent criminals on the loose in Florida.



A Little More on Scotland

P.J. O’Rourke discusses the humor value of an independent Scotland which he predicts would be a “hilarious disaster”. But the money still favors a “no” vote:

Polls suggest that Scotland’s independence movement could win a Sept. 18 referendum. British bookies aren’t buying it.

The country’s two biggest bookmakers, Ladbrokes (LAD:LN) and William Hill(WMH:LN), are laying 7-to-4 odds against a “yes” vote—even as Britain’s political elite is in a panic over polls showing the race is neck-and-neck. A poll released Sept. 9 by survey group TNS Scotland, showed pro-independence forces with 38 percent support, just one point behind the opposition, while a YouGov survey over the weekend showed the “yes” campaign with a narrow lead.

If those findings are right, you’d expect odds close to 50-50. Yet most of the British bookmakers surveyed here are offering roughly 7-4 odds against independence, meaning that someone who bet 4 pounds on a “yes” vote would win 7 pounds plus the return of her stake if the “yes” campaign won. The payoff for a “no” bet would be much smaller, only 2 pounds on a bet of 5 pounds.

So the markets are wagering that the Scots will decide to stay.  The assumption is that rational interests will ultimately trump nationalist passions.  It usually is pretty safe to follow the money.  Usually, but we are dealing with a pretty contentious electorate: