As the New York Times reported yesterday,
More than two dozen of the nation’s biggest corporations, including the five major oil companies, are planning their future growth on the expectation that the government will force them to pay a price for carbon pollution as a way to control global warming.
This information comes from a recent report issued by the Carbon Disclosure Project, a nonprofit that specializes in organizing environmental information. The CDP report finds major oil companies, Wells Fargo, Wal-Mart, Walt Disney Company, automotive supplier Delphi, General Electric, energy companies like Duke, and even technology companies such as Google and Microsoft all including a future carbon price in their planning. The internal company projections range across industries, but generally it appears that the oil companies are forecasting the highest carbon prices in their internal planning, with BP pricing $40 per ton of carbon dioxide, Exxon Mobil $60, and Royal Dutch Shell $40.
At least three companies, Disney, Microsoft, and Shell, already implement their own internal carbon taxes. According to the Guardian, these companies have been enforcing the price within their own organizations in order to drive down their carbon footprint and increase efficiency. Shell has the highest price of the three, and so only uses the price for planning purposes; no money actually moves around. Nevertheless, Shell officials told the Guardian that they have declined pursuing carbon-intensive projects that a $40 per ton price makes unattractive. Disney, on the other hand, prices and taxes themselves. The funds raised from the tax deposited in their “climate solutions fund.” Currently, they price approximately $10-20 per ton, and have raised $35 million. Microsoft has the most aggressive goal, of seeking zero net emissions this year, and has the correspondingly lowest price, approximately $6-7 per ton.
While there are a variety of motivations for aggressive carbon pricing, the oil companies, such as Shell, are seeking to be prepared for increasing concern in industrial countries about the effect of carbon emissions on global climate change. As there are a variety of proposals circulating the globe, they are seeking a predictable program that will let them stay in business.
In the September/October issue of The American Conservative, R Street’s Andrew Moylan laid out the conservative case for a carbon tax. He looked at the manner in which conservatives consistently denied any problems in the health care industry, leaving the ball entirely in the Democratic court and allowing Obamacare to be passed in the first place. Moylan then laid out a plan for getting conservatives out ahead of the curve. By making the tax revenue neutral, he proposed being able to pursue other conservative policy goals, such as a more growth-friendly tax code, in exchange for addressing climate change.
Such a strategy learns the best lessons on practicing opposition politics from the Viscount Bolingbroke. By addressing a danger widely acknowledged by those of good faith, but in a manner consistent with their principles, conservatives have the chance to wrong-foot their opponents by pursuing positive policies, rather than political stunts.
In decadent Rome, an aging art critic rides the success of his one, long-ago novel, and wonders if there’s more to life than having the best conga line in the Eternal City. He watches young nuns playing in a hedge maze, drifts into and through relationships with damaged women, and does a lot of eloquent smoking.
The Great Beauty, Paolo Sorrentino’s update of/homage to La Dolce Vita, offers a lot of expected pleasures. Our antihero, Jep Gambarella (Toni Servillo), sometimes seems to be genuinely having fun, and at those points I tended to have fun right along with him. The camera swoons and swoops. The art and landscape of Rome look glorious–the many different, clashing landscapes, nuns scuttling past a satyr, neon lights and ancient stones. The satire of terrible performance art probably goes on too long (I would’ve cut the on-the-nose sequence with the man whose father photographed him every day of his life, and the knife thrower) but it ranges from acidic to surprisingly thought-provoking, disturbing, and nuanced.
Jep is a critic in the worst way: somebody who makes his living off of art. It’s a job which breeds cynicism. And Rome is famously a city of cynics.
But somewhere around the three-quarters point of the movie, something unexpected occurs. “The Saint” comes to Rome from Africa. This tiny old lady is a Mother Teresa caricature, surrounded by sycophants and bandwagoners, sitting propped up at the dinner table practically drooling, looking like humid death.
Since the release of Evangelii Gaudium there have been countless articles and commentary about the economic portions of Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation. Some of the commentary has been downright bizarre, such as Rush Limbaugh denouncing the Pope as a Marxist, or Stuart Varney accusing Francis of being a neo-socialist. American conservatives grumbled but dutifully denounced a distorting media when Pope Francis seemed to go wobbly on homosexuality, but his criticisms of capitalism have crossed the line, and we now see the Pope being criticized and even denounced from nearly every rightward-leaning media pulpit in the land.
Not far below the surface of many of these critiques one hears the following refrain: why can’t the Pope just go back to talking about abortion? Why can’t we return the good old days of Pope John Paul II or Benedict XVI and talk 24/7/365 about sex? Why doesn’t Francis have the decency to limit himself to talking about Jesus and gays, while avoiding the rudeness of discussing economics in mixed company, an issue about which he has no expertise or competence?
There are subtle and brash versions of this plea. At “The Catholic Thing,” Hadley Arkes has penned a characteristically elegant essay in which he notes that Francis is generally correct on teachings about marriage and abortion, but touches on these subjects too briefly, cursorily and with unwelcome caveats of sorts. At the same time, Francis goes on at length about the inequalities and harm caused by free market economies, which moves Hadley to counsel the Pope to consult next time with Michael Novak. The upshot—be as brief as the Gettysburg Address in matters pertaining to economics, and loquacious as Edward Everett when it comes to erotics.
On the brash side there is Larry Kudlow, who nearly hyperventilates when it comes to his disagreement with Pope Francis, accusing him of harboring sympathies with Communist Russia and not sufficiently appreciating Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II. (R. R. Reno, who is briefly allowed to get a word in edgewise, wisely counseled Kudlow not to fight the last war—or, the one fought three wars ago, for that matter.) Revealingly, Kudlow counsels the Pope to concentrate on “moral and religious reform,” and that he should “harp” instead on “morality, spiritualism and religiosity,” while ceasing to speak about matters economic. Similarly, Judge Napolitano, responding to a challenge from Stuart Varney on why the Pope is talking about economics, responded: “I wish he would stick to faith and morals, on which he is very sound and traditional.”
These commentators all but come and out say: we embrace Catholic teaching when it concerns itself with “faith and morals”—when it denounces abortion, opposes gay marriage, and urges personal charity. This is the Catholicism that has been acceptable in polite conversation. This is a stripped-down Catholicism that doesn’t challenge fundamental articles of economic faith. Read More…
Should computer coding be written into high school curricula? Coding appears to be the latest education trend, according to New York Magazine: while nine out of ten U.S. high schools don’t offer computer programming, professionals are recognizing a need for more computer programmers in the job field. New York quotes Maria M. Klawe, president of Harvey Mudd College: “We have a clear disparity between the needs of industry and the number of computer-science graduates we produce. We simply do not have enough students graduating high school with an interest in pursuing computer science.”
But despite the importance of computer science and programming jobs, Jathan Sadowski believes required coding classes could be detrimental to our high schools. He wrote for Wired on Monday that, while many view coding as an essential skill set in today’s technological world, mandatory classes could actually widen the country’s inequality gap:
We have enough trouble raising English literacy rates, let alone increasing basic computer literacy: the ability to effectively use computers to, say, access programs or log onto the internet. Throwing coding literacy into the mix means further divvying up scarce resources. Teaching code is expensive. It requires more computers and trained teachers, which many cash-strapped schools don’t have the luxury of providing … Focusing on the additional, costly skillset of coding — rather than the other more essential, but still lacking, types of literacy — is the product of myopic technical privilege. There’s a reason such arguments arise primarily from the digerati: In that world, basic access is rarely a problem.
At first glance, adding computer coding to educational curricula seems like a savvy step. Especially considering the difficulty of obtaining jobs in today’s economy. However, as Sadowski points out, there are limited opportunities available to educators and students. This limited time should be focused on the basics, first and foremost. Literacy and math are essential to students’ educational progress. Without that comprehension, they will find it difficult to excel in other areas. But the beauty of educational rudiments like math and English lies in their transcendence: children who understand the beauty of the written word, or delight in solving math equations, will have already cultivated learning habits essential to computer coding.
Could coding classes perpetuate the inequality gap? Only if we attempted to implement them on any sort of mandatory level. There is nothing wrong with learning computer coding. One could argue it’s like learning a musical instrument: it’s an excellent, interesting, and useful skill. But much like learning an instrument, there is a lot of time and money involved in coding classes. Joining a “code club” would enable students to enjoy programming, without exorbitant cost to schools.
Arguing that code is the “true lingua franca of the future” seems to give it an importance that devalues other beautiful, non-verbal languages. What of the transcendent language of music? What of art? Truly, it would be best if students could be well-versed in all these “languages.” Unfortunately, we haven’t the time or resources to teach all these wonderful subjects. But perhaps some students will seek out coding, music, and art on their own.
Raise your hand if you’re a conservative who has cited Edmund Burke without actually having read him closely.
Really—you’re all scholars of the Irish-born MP and oft-celebrated “father of modern conservatism”?
Okay, what did Burke mean by the phrase “the little platoon”?
Yuval Levin explains in his wonderful new book The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left:
The division of citizens into distinct groups and classes, Burke writes, “composes a strong barrier against the excesses of despotism,” by establishing habits and obligations of restraint in ruler and ruled alike grounded in the relations of groups or classes in society. To remove these traditional restraints, which hold in check both the individual and the state, would mean empowering only the state to restrain the individual, and in turn restraining the state with only principles and rules, or parchment barriers. Neither, Burke thought, could be stronger or more effective than the restraints of habit and custom that grow out of group identity and loyalty. Burke’s famous reference to the little platoon—“To be attached to the subdivision, to love the little platoon we belong to in society, is the first principle (the germ as it were) of public affections”—is often cited as an example of a case for local government or allegiance to place, but in its context in the Reflections, the passage is very clearly a reference to social class.
Still feeling Burkean? Ready to go the pipe-and-slippers, Brideshead cultist route and declare yourself a loyal subject of the queen?
Levin reminds us that the context in which Burke wrote those words was a long-running intellectual dispute with a European-born radical, a man who was cheering on the secular revolution in France—and, oh, by the way, also one of the forefathers of our own revolution, favored by none other than Ronald Reagan himself—the Common Sense and The Crisis pamphleteer Thomas Paine.
That the rivalry between Burke and Paine cuts both ways through our hearts—this is precisely the kind of dialectic, if you will, that Levin hopes to provoke in the reader.
Make no mistake, though; Levin is a Burkean. In fact, the most eloquent exponent of Burkean conservatism, properly understood, since George Will circa 1983’s Statecraft as Soulcraft.
While scholarly and measured in tone, The Great Debate is a readable intellectual history that fairly crackles with contemporary relevance.
Indeed, The Great Debate is the must-read book of the year for conservatives—especially those conservatives who are profoundly and genuinely baffled by the declining popularity of the GOP as a national party. How can America, these conservatives ask, the land of the rugged individual, the conquerors of the frontier, choose statism and collectivism over freedom and liberty?!
Levin’s book provides the answer: You’re looking at the Democratic Party all wrong. It’s just as individualist as you are—maybe more so.
And that is the problem!
In a significant if veiled rebuff to the Netanyahu-Mark Kirk maintain-the-hate line, Henry Kissinger and George Shultz yesterday came out in favor of Obama and the rest of the P5+1′s negotiations with Iran. The two former secretaries of state opened their Wall Street Journal op-ed with piles of hawkish rhetoric, including the moving the goalposts assertion that the United States is “unalterably opposed to an Iranian military nuclear capability”. (The stated American position is that the United States will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon.) Their tone is often somewhat overheated, with intimations that Iran threatens to lead an “Islamist” coalition devoted to an “anti-Western concept of world order.”
That said, it is more significant that Kissinger and Shultz did not denounce last month’s interim agreement at Geneva as a “bad deal,” nor did they condemn Obama’s secret diplomacy which preceded and prepared it, nor did they abhor the very idea of negotiation with the “mad mullahs.” They concluded their piece with the sensible admonition:
The next six months of diplomacy will be decisive in determining whether the Geneva agreement opens the door to a potential diplomatic breakthrough or to ratifying a major strategic setback. We should be open to the possibility of pursing an agenda of long-term cooperation. But not without Iran dismantling or mothballing a strategically significant portion of its nuclear infrastructure.
The course of negotiations will determine whether Iran and the P5+1 can agree on what kind of dismantling Iran needs to do. But I thought it significant that Kissinger and Shultz entertained the possibility of “long term cooperation” with Iran—a concept altogether alien to the John McCain, Mark Kirk, Lindsay Graham universe. Essentially their message is “negotiate a good deal,” which I’m pretty sure Kerry and his aides are trying to do. They precede that advice with the vague but evocative “Some adjustments are inherent in the inevitable process of historic evolution.” One can read this in various ways, and perhaps it’s merely a profound sounding throwaway line. But I don’t think so, and (as someone who has long respected, if not always agreed with, Kissinger) I’d read it as a rather subtle way of saying, “Look Iran is a strategically significant country with a large, educated and fairly pro-American middle class, and it makes no sense to treat it as a permanent enemy just because various so-called “traditional” allies may want you to.”
The test scores are in, and the U.S. is lagging far behind. That’s the headline rippling across America’s newspapers this week as the Programme for International Student Assessment has released its 2012 evaluations of schoolchildren across the world, and Americans are once again finding out that they are far from being #1.
The New York Times noted that “The United States’ underperformance was particularly striking in math, where 29 countries or education systems had higher test scores. In science, students in 22 countries did better than Americans, and in reading, 19 countries.” NBC News anchor Brian Williams opened his PISA segment by describing “the big and sobering news tonight about the state of American education and just how quickly the rest of the world is passing us by.”
The thing is, we’ve always flunked these tests. Since international comparative testing programs began in the 1960s, education reform advocate Diane Ravitch notes “U.S. students have never been top performers on the international tests. We are doing about the same now on PISA as we have done for the past half century.” And for the past half-century, the periodic release of these results have sent American politicians and journalists into a tizzy about the declining competitiveness of the American classroom, a dark phenomenon heralding national decline.
Despite those mediocre test scores, however, one would have to say that the United States has done rather well for itself. We have had our troubles in the intervening years to be sure, but it’s not like the French have overtaken us and are now running away with the world thanks to their superior education. Some scholarly experts warn that even so, we’re in a new era now and decline is once again just around the street corner. The Times quoted Stanford professor Eric A. Hanushek as saying,
Our economy has still been strong because we have a very good economic system that is able to overcome the deficiencies of our education system … But increasingly, we have to rely on the skills of our work force, and if we don’t improve that, we’re going to be slipping.
With due deference to Dr. Hanushek, I rather suspect things may be the other way around. More rigorously organized cultures like Germany, China, South Korea, France, etc. have crafted their educational systems around the primacy of the test, and have driven their students to excel in it. They also often use these tests to sort their students into the tracks determining what further education they will receive. Do well on your eighth grade exams, go to university. Score differently, and get an apprenticeship. The United States has a much more free-wheeling system that industrial employers lament is failing to sufficiently supply them with diesel engine experts.
What we do have, though (and regular readers brace yourselves), is Silicon Valley. The entrepreneur may be overrated in the GOP at the moment, but a creative culture that fosters innovative risks shouldn’t be taken for granted. Moreover, having even the remnant of a liberal arts education circulating in our educational drinking water provides an essential enriching service to our culture. Diesel engine builders may not need to read To Kill a Mockingbird, or Joseph Conrad, or to stare hopelessly at whatever seemingly nonsensical Shakespeare sits in front of them. But we offer every kid the chance to be captured by beauty, and to remember a high school reading when they grow up and realize what Kafkaesque really means.
Ravitch quotes from Keith Baker’s essay “Are International Tests Worth Anything?”: “What has mattered most for the economic, cultural, and technological success of the U.S., he says, is a certain “spirit,” which he defines as “ambition, inquisitiveness, independence, and perhaps most important, the absence of a fixation on testing and test scores.”
That sounds about right.
John Hannah here argues that Saudi fear and loathing of Iran destroys the case for negotiating with Tehran. He proposes that we walk the Saudis “back from the ledge” by promising to bomb Iran if Tehran doesn’t surrender virtually entirely its nuclear enrichment program. Inadvertently, he provides a textbook example of a superpower being led around by its “allies”—if we don’t do what they want, they will destabilize the region, find other partners, acquire their own nuclear weapons, etc.
Perhaps here one should recall a salient part of Hannah’s biography: he is one of several low profile but highly placed Bush and Cheney aides who worked to set the stage for the Iraq invasion. Hannah was instrumental in channeling (“stovepiping” is the term of art) false information from an anti-Saddam Iraqi exile group into the White House, circumventing regular US intelligence vetting. He wrote the original draft of Colin Powell’s famous pre-invasion U.N. speech, in which Powell made a false but tragically effective presentation about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction. So we aren’t speaking here of a random neocon bloviating about Neville Chamberlin; Hannah is a man with an actual track record in making wars happen, one who understands that facts, or “false facts,” can acquire a life of their own within a complex government bureaucracy if you know how to insert them and get them repeated in the right places. It is a process somewhat analogous to money laundering, a sort of information laundering: if you get a lie reported as fact in New York Times, you can then uses it as source, and perhaps get Colin Powell to repeat it before a global audience. And the lie (Saddam’s nuclear weapons program) assumes a life of its own.
You might think that a record like this would be detrimental to one’s career. Not really. In Washington, a neoconservative hawk never has to say he’s sorry. After his “government service” as a Cheney aide, Hannah was snapped up by the Sheldon Adelson-financed Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, where he now works to set the stage for a war with Iran. (It should be pointed out that the Saudis vociferously opposed the Iraq invasion. What did Hannah think about Saudi concerns back then?)
The Beltway worry used to be that Iran would get a nuclear bomb, which would would set off a “cascade of proliferation” throughout the Middle East. But any successful diplomacy with Iran will ensure that Iran not have a nuclear bomb, but a scaled down and tightly monitored uranium enrichment program. Nevertheless, Hannah deploys the same overheated language, as if it makes no difference whether five Security Council members (plus Germany) had just reached agreement to allow Iran a bomb program, or, as is actually the case, not. Hannah rails against Iran’s “march to the bomb”; he refers to John Kerry’s “stab in the back” diplomacy (a trope oft-used in early Nazi propaganda against the Weimar government; one wonders if Hannah is aware of that).
In all candor, we don’t know what the Saudi reaction to an eventual American rapprochement with Iran might be. Serious people who study the matter doubt that even if Iran acquired a nuclear weapon the Saudis would try to do the same. It’s not clear how they would acquire one, even if they wanted to. It’s not as if Saudi Arabia produces a lot of nuclear physicists.
Reduced to its essence, Hannah’s argument is that American diplomacy should be tied, apparently forever, to the fears and ambitions of a reactionary medieval monarchy. But why on earth should it? Hannah invites us to share Saudi remorse that the United States didn’t “strike” Syria, as the Saudis hoped, in order to overthrow Syria’s tyrant and replace him with some Saudi-favored jihadists. Why is that an American interest? When one reads counsel like this, from someone who was once, and may be again, highly placed in Republican foreign policy circles, one can only note how far America has strayed from George Washington’s admonition about “entangling alliances. ”
The Foreign Policy comments following Hannah’s article are caustic and often illuminating. There is clearly an informed public that won’t get fooled again. One wishes one could say the same for elected Republicans.
While many Americans give during the holiday season, the religious are most likely to feel charitable: according to a new book by David E. Campbell, American Grace, U.S. giving has always been heavily tied to religion. Those affiliated with a religion are most likely to contribute time and money to various philanthropic causes. But Campbell proposes that the actual motivator behind charitable giving is not God or a specific doctrine of charity. It’s actually the religious community, as he explained in a Thursday TIME article:
Rather than religious beliefs, we found that the “secret ingredient” for charitable giving among religious Americans is the social networks formed within religious congregations. The more friends someone has within a religious congregation, the more likely that person is to give time, money, or both, to charitable causes. In fact, even non-religious people who have friends within a religious congregation (typically, because their spouse is a believer) are highly charitable—more so than strong believers who have few social ties within a congregation.
Campbell goes on to propose secular, tight-knit organizations (such as atheistic churches) to help encourage charity amongst non-religious people.
But what is it about community, specifically, that encourages giving? Campbell doesn’t elaborate on this. Perhaps it is the love fostered through relationship. It could also be a sense of accountability derived from close community: if your best friend sponsors a child overseas, you may be prompted to do so as well. Community may also lend a feeling of immediacy to various issues: we may not be next-door to those fighting poverty, but we’re next-door to those fighting it.
This sense of immediacy may be one of the most important factors in charitable giving: The Atlantic shared thoughts Monday from bioethics professor Peter Singer’s “practical ethics” class at Princeton. He believes a feeling of remoteness can significantly affect giving:
It’s human nature to feel compelled to save those who are close to us—our immediate kin, our friends, the little boy we stumble upon whose desperate movements in the water tug at our hearts. It’s much harder to feel that sympathy for faceless children somewhere else (whether in another neighborhood in our town, or halfway across the world). Studies have shown that people tend to give more generously when they are shown a photo and told a story about one, identifiable, specific child.
How do we combat this geographical apathy? Interestingly, Singer points to research as an antidote: he instructs students to research four organizations, and determine which is the most meritorious. Through this exercise, the students “learn that their money will always go much further overseas: that a very small amount of money for an American can be life-saving to someone who is desperately poor. In other words, they learn about the tenets of effective altruism: how to evaluate organizations for transparency and benefits, and figure out which forms of aid are the most cost-effective. This is information that tends to inspire more giving.”
But Singer’s research-based tactic takes the human face away from charity—and according to Campbell’s research, this human face is an essential facet to long-term giving. Additionally, while it makes most logical sense to put your dollar where it will have the greatest practical benefit, Singer’s “effective altruism” distances the giver from the need. If community and immediacy are key ingredients to philanthropic giving, then this method—while useful in a utilitarian sense—may falter faster than community-fostered giving.
When Montecore, one of two white tigers in the Las Vegas act of Siegfried and Roy, turned and almost killed Roy on stage, the reaction was that the tame and complacent beast had gone berserk.
Comedian Chris Rock was nearer the mark: ”That tiger ain’t go crazy; that tiger went tiger.”
Seems our Asian tiger is going tiger as well.
Sharply escalating its clash with Japan over ownership of the Senkaku Islands, Beijing has established an air defense identification zone over the islands and a huge stretch of the East China Sea. Before entering its ADIZ, says Beijing, all planes must now notify China.
The United States responded by flying two B-52s through the zone. Japan and South Korea sent fighter jets through, also without permission. China then sent a squadron of fighters over the islands.
Now, in a move that has startled Tokyo, the United States has advised U.S. airliners entering China’s new ADIZ to alert China. Japan considers this tacit U.S. recognition of China’s territorial claim.
While America is not a party to the dispute over who owns the islands, under our security treaty, we are obligated to come to Japan’s defense if islands administered by Tokyo are attacked.
And since Richard Nixon returned Okinawa in 1972, Tokyo has administered the uninhabited Senkakus, which were first claimed by the Japanese Empire in the late 19th century.
China’s contends that all territories acquired by the Japanese Empire were forfeit and should have been vacated with the Japanese surrender in 1945. Before Japan’s seizure of the islands, says Beijing, they had been Chinese territory.
Yet, now, with naval vessels of both nations plying the waters around the islands and fighter jets overflying these rocks, it is hard see either the China of Xi Jinping or the Japan of Shinzo Abe backing down before a clash occurs.
And should that happen, we are in it.