Global Science Report is a feature from the Center for the Study of Science, where we highlight one or two important new items in the scientific literature or the popular media. For broader and more technical perspectives, consult our monthly “Current Wisdom.”
In a recent Global Science Report, we posted some good news coming out of California’s Sierra Nevada, where climate change (from whatever cause), has been partially responsible for a greening of the organo state. Technically, the biomass in the montane forests has been on the increase over the past several decades.
Turns out climate change is for the birds, too. Yes, little Eastern Bluebirds (which almost went extinct because of habitat damage)—raising their young in cute houses, awakening us with their melodious songs, providing free cat food, and selectively messing only on my car. What’s not to like? And who wouldn’t like more birds? And if you live in the Eastern United States, there is a climate-related increase in cat purring because global (actually, local/regional) warming is increasing the range of songbirds.
A new study appearing in the journal Global Change Biology, authored by Karine Princé and Benjamin Zuckerberg from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, finds that:
[A] shifting winter climate has provided an opportunity for smaller, southerly distributed species to colonize new regions and promote the formation of unique winter bird assemblages throughout eastern North America.
The operative word here is “colonize.” In other words, they are spreading out from their home range, not moving north in lockstep.
Last May I wrote a blog post about President Obama’s immigration enforcement record. In that post I made some assumptions about the percentage of all “interior removals” (that is, deportations of illegal immigrants who were living in the United States) for the years 2001 — 2007, because of a lack of data.
A recent report from the Migration Policy Institute (MPI) fills in those data gaps, except for the first two years of the Bush administration. Here are the updated data:
The total number of internal removals over the last six years of the Bush administration was about 475,000. From 2009 to 2013, the Obama administration removed just under 848,000 from the interior. Those numbers make for an incomplete comparison of the two administrations’ enforcement policies, but they paint an interesting picture.
Source: MPIRead the rest of this post »
Under the Bush administration, the Labor Department interpreted a piece of the Fair Labor Standards Act as exempting mortgage‐loan officers from eligibility for overtime pay. The Obama Labor Department didn’t see the law the same way, however, and issued a re‐interpretation.
This was a worrying development for the Mortgage Bankers Association, which represents banks that relied on the original interpretation and whose interests were greatly affected by the re‐interpretation, but were given neither notice nor the chance to comment on the change. The MBA thus sued the Labor Department, arguing that the re‐interpretation violated the Administrative Procedure Act, the 1946 law that determined (among other things) the processes that agencies must go through when exercising their “interpretive” and “legislative” powers — that is, when they interpret laws and when they make their own regulations.
Under the APA, agencies have to give affected parties notice and the opportunity for comment when making legislative rules, but do not have to do so when they merely make interpretive rules. The MBA argued that the APA requires an agency to go through the notice‐and‐comment process when it changes its interpretation of a law or regulation to such a degree that it is effectively making a legislative rule.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit agreed with the MBA, and now the Supreme Court has decided to review the case. The government argues that agencies are due deference when they change the application of a law through interpretive rules — so long as they come in the form of an interpretation — and that the courts don’t get a say regarding when this action becomes a legislative rulemaking.
Cato disagrees with the government’s position — if there’s anything our country needs, it’s not fewer checks on the administrative state — and has filed a brief supporting the MBA, joined by the Competitive Enterprise Institute and the Judicial Education Network, and with former White House Counsel Boyden Gray as co‐counsel. In our brief, we examine the APA’s framers’ goal of rebutting the government’s assertion of administrative power. We argue that the boundary between “interpretive” and “legislative” rules is a blurry one that should be policed by the courts. The APA’s architects assumed that the courts would play such a role; they wouldn’t have made interpretive rulemaking so procedurally easy otherwise. Scholarly sources and legislative history agree that judicial review is necessary — for example, determining when “interpretive” flip‐flopping necessitates greater due‐process protection — to protect those whose livelihood depends on relying on and complying with agency interpretations.
In sum, our brief looks to history to make clear a few important points that only the government would dispute. In a time when more people’s lives are staked on administrative rulings than ever before, we shouldn’t weaken the APA’s due‐process protections. This case boils down to the government’s desire for agencies to more easily exercise power and for the subjects of regulations to have a harder time challenging that awesome authority. We, with the APA’s framers, think it should be the other way around.
The Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Perez v. Mortgage Bankers Association on December 1.
This blogpost was coauthored by Cato legal associate Julio Colomba.
In Thursday's Wall Street Journal, former Energy Secretary (and Stanford professor) Steven Chu and his colleague Thomas R. Cech penned an opinion piece entitled How to Stop Winning Nobel Prizes in Science, in which they argue for better long-term planning and consistency in the public funding of science. Cato adjunct scholar Dr. Terence Kealey agrees, suggesting the right amount would be consistently $0.
In August, 2013, Kealey wrote precisely about this in that month’s edition of Cato Unbound. Since then, he has stepped down after a long and successful tenure as vice-chancellor (the equivalent of college president in the U.S.) of the University of Buckingham in the United Kingdom.
First, Kealey considers the notion that science is a “public good,” i.e., something that should rightly be funded by government because scientific developments would otherwise be underprovided from the perspective of society as a whole.
The myth [that Science is a public good] may be the longest-surviving intellectual error in western academic thought, having started in 1605 when a corrupt English lawyer and politician, Sir Francis Bacon, published his Advancement of Learning.
Kealey went on to document that there is no evidence the public good model (as opposed to laissez faire) is more efficient at providing for the betterment of the public:
In recent days, I’ve received messages from several groups on WeChat (a popular social media network in China) reporting on the arrest of more than 40 Chinese activists who support the protests in Hong Kong, as well as on an official order to ban the publication or sale of books written by authors considered to be supporters of the Hong Kong protests, human rights and the rule of law. The crackdown was also reported this week in the Washington Post.
Among the authors now banned is economist Mao Yushi, the 2012 recipient of the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty.
This is not the first time Mr. Mao has suffered unfair and illegal treatment (an official, public written notice is often not even issued to carry out censorship; sometimes an “anonymous” phone call understood to be from an authority or from an official agency to the publisher will suffice). Mr. Mao’s books were also banned, although not for the first time, in 2003 when he signed a petition at a conference in Qingtao appealing to the government to exonerate the students’ protests and democratic movement which was ended with the June 4th massacre on 1989.
In my own experience, a couple of articles in one of my books were deleted without an official explanation, while the deletion of phrases, sentences and even paragraphs from my columns and commentaries in journals and newspapers were quite common.
Another very respected author is Mr. Yu Ying‐shih, an 84‐year‐old emeritus professor of history at Princeton who has taught at Ivy League universities since the 1950s. Mr. Yu supports the Hong Kong protests and has criticized the tyranny of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) for more than five decades. In his books he develops analytical critiques of traditional culture and classical philosophy in China, and advances universal values based on Western scholarly traditions. The books have sold well and contain no direct reference to contemporary political issues, yet his books were officially considered critical of CCP rule and deemed damaging to social stability.
Another banned scholar is Prof. Zhang Qianfan, one of my former colleagues at Peking University (a professor at the School of Government as well as the School of Law). He is a very cautious and prudent scholar (we have disagreements on several issues in which he suggests my opinions are too radical and aggressive against the current regime) who focuses on constitutional studies, and serves as vice president for the China Society for Constitutional Studies. He opposes the Hong Kong protests – in what seems to me to be a contradiction of his own views – for fear that the June 4th Massacre might happen again if the students and civilians in Hong Kong do not withdraw.
Therefore I presume that the banning of Prof Zhang’s books is not a result of his views on the Hong Kong protests, but is rather aimed at his research in Constitutional Studies.
The arrest of famous activist and human rights advocate Guo Yushan is not a surprise to most of us since he has been involved in so many so‐called sensitive issues in the past decade, with the most politically irritating one being his role in the escape of the world‐famous blind activist Chen Guangcheng. Yet the timing of his arrest is troubling since the 4th plenary session of the CCP’s 18th National Congress will be held next week while the plenary session will purportedly focus on the Rule of Law or “Governing the State with Law” even if the majority of Chinese is suspicious about the possibility of implementing that agenda.
The treatment of dissidents outside and inside China is abhorrent. Many dissidents have not been able to visit their parents, brothers, sisters or relatives for two or three decades. Even many scholars, researchers and even businessmen who sympathize with human rights ideas in China or have expressed different views than those of the CCP have been denied visas or have had them cancelled. Among those who are still not allowed into China, for example, are former Princeton professor Perry Link and Andrew Nathan of Columbia University.
Chinese citizens should be free to exit and enter their homeland no matter what political positions or beliefs they maintain. The refusal to allow the exit or entry of a dissident without a legal justification is an obvious violation of modern law and international norms, and is inhumane.
I hereby wish to call the attention of the international community to this new round of crackdowns and violations of freedoms of speech, publication, assembly, association and movement unfolding in China.
As the price of crude oil continues its downward tumble towards $80 per barrel, I am reminded of a similar scenario from near the end of the Cold War in the 1980s. When Saudi Arabia announced in 1985 that protecting oil prices was no longer its main priority, oil production surged and prices fell off a cliff, briefly plunging below $10 per barrel, as I had correctly predicted.
Lower prices delivered a fatal blow to the Soviet economy, which ended up seeing $20 billion per year in oil revenues evaporate. The resulting fiscal shortfalls proved to be a dagger in the heart of the U.S.S.R.
On October 1st of this year, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company announced that it had abandoned a policy of price protection and would start to focus on protecting its market share. Combined with falling global demand and rising supplies elsewhere, oil prices have fallen accordingly. This has put a squeeze on eight of the world’s top oil producers. States like Iran, Venezuela, and Iraq can only balance their current budgets at oil prices ranging from $110 to $135 per barrel (so‐called break‐even prices).
If oil prices stay below $90 per barrel for any length of time, we will witness massive fiscal squeezes and regime changes in one or more of the following countries: Iran, Bahrain, Ecuador, Venezuela, Algeria, Nigeria, Iraq, or Libya. It will be a movie we have seen before.
Mexican Economy Secretary Ildefonso Guajardo was in Washington this week arguing on behalf of an agreement to suspend the U.S. antidumping/countervailing duty (AD/CVD) investigation against imports of sugar from Mexico. The case will soon enter its final phase, with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) expected to determine early next year whether the U.S. sugar industry has been injured by imports from Mexico.
In the context of North American sugar politics, an agreement to suspend the AD/CVD process and implement a managed-trade arrangement makes some sense. Both U.S. and Mexican sugar industries already are more or less wards of the state, or at least are very heavily guided and controlled by their respective governments. Both governments have given indications that they are interested in settling this dispute. The history of bilateral sugar trade has been dominated by government intervention rather than by free-market economics. It seems almost natural to take the next obvious step by allowing Mexican sugar to enter the United States only under terms of a suspension agreement (i.e., with the quantity limited or the price set high).
It’s worth mentioning that Mexican sugar growers are the only ones in the world currently allowed to sell as much sugar as they wish in the U.S. marketplace. Even U.S. growers are not permitted to do so. Years ago they gave up that right in exchange for retaining an almost embarrassingly high level of price support. That strong price incentive was inducing them to grow more sugar than the market could absorb. Under the provisions of the U.S. sugar program, that excess sugar could end up being owned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture at considerable expense to taxpayers. So U.S. sugar growers made the decision to sell less sugar, but keep the price high.
Mexican growers, on the other hand, obtained unfettered access to the U.S. market in 2008. That followed a contentious period of bilateral trade in sugar and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) dating to 1994, which was when the North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA) began to be implemented. In a nutshell, the United States adopted a much more restrictive approach to imports of Mexican sugar than Mexico thought had been negotiated, and the Mexicans reciprocated regarding imports of HFCS.
Given that historic context, the open access to the U.S. market enjoyed by the Mexicans since 2008 seems to be rather an anomaly. Why not go back to the good old days of closely managed trade?