Wendy Davis is a Hypocrite

Texas Sen. Wendy Davis is a hypocrite. She defends a woman’s right to choose an abortion, but she wants to deny other individuals a choice in how their money is spent. She wants to force taxpayers to pay for women’s health care, regardless of their own personal choices.

Last week, the former candidate for governor led a rally in Austin. Because Texas Republicans want to stop funding Planned Parenthood, she believes that women will soon be back in the Stone Age.

Politicians are fixated on blocking access to women’s healthcare at Planned Parenthood knowing that it will deliver a devastating blow not just to our health, but to our progress, and that’s the point. They are hellbent on holding women back.

Davis believes that women’s progress is represented by their ability to force others to pay for their health care. Those who are opposed to socialized medicine are, in her view, “hellbent on holding women back.”

Women have a moral right to choose an abortion. And other individuals have a moral right to refuse to pay for it. Hypocrites demand the right to choose for themselves, but want to deny that right to others.

There are a multitude of health care options available for women, and Planned Parenthood is only one of them. Davis ignores this fact, and wants us to believe that without government involvement, women will be deprived of health care. Of course, hypocrites aren’t concerned with the facts, or else they wouldn’t be hypocrites.

Davis is right to challenge the Neanderthal policies put forth by Texas Republicans in an attempt to criminalize abortion. But the rational alternative to coercion against women isn’t coercion against taxpayers. The rational alternative is freedom of choice for everyone.

Mackie and Kamrath: Big 3 Industries Building

The Prairie School of American architecture, commonly associated with Frank Lloyd Wright, his son Lloyd and other associates had a practitioner locally from the 1940’s through the 1970’s in Karl Kamrath, chief designer of the firm of Mackie and Kamrath, who both officed in a building of Kamrath’s design on Ferndale in River Oaks from the 1940’s. When, during the 1990’s I interviewed the firm’s last remaining partner Lloyd Borget in that office, there was a two-foot-tall model of a building in a display case in the waiting area. It was of the 1974 Big 3 Industries building at 3535 West 12th Street. This chemical company (now generally referred to as Aire Liquide) principally produced liquid oxygen in a plant down the street, with the Kamrath building serving as head office and housing an open control center on the first/second floors. At one time the building and its activities were so crucial to local industry that, by the testimony of workers still at companies on 12th Street, the facility was guarded by local police during the days immediately after the September 11th 2001 attacks. The building is currently for sale and seeking other uses, but shows its age well.

At first glance it would appear to be based on tilt-slab construction (a prefabrication method) but not only do many details appear custom, the building’s completion predates tilt-slab’s popularization by a decade or so and the six stories would be over double the height of that method’s capability to account for it. It is in fact a steel-framed building with external features of reinforced concrete, as with many skyscrapers. The clear homage to Wright comes from the Larkin building in Buffalo, NY (no longer extant) which was one of Wright’s few taller industrial buildings and had the distinction of being the first office building to use air conditioning (with fans forcing air through vanes of cascading water). The Big 3 Industries Building (as Air Liquide was called in the US in the 1950’s and 60’s) used modern methods of ventilation but mimicked details of arrangement used by Wright, such as stylized column capitals, overhanging balconies and integrated wrought iron fences. The overall lines, rather than the horizontal ones used in his one-story Prairie ranch homes, are vertically in sync with the structure’s greater height than width and the fences are terminated with finial columns of the same brick (which resembles the Roman brick of Wright’s Robie House in Chicago and other structures of several of his periods).

Some fortunate circumstances of the siting work to the building’s advantage. On the west side are one-story facilities that do not compete much with the view of the higher Big 3 building from down the street, and to the east is Big 3’s own parking lot, offering no obstruction. Unlike the Larkin building, this one has no internal atrium-like space, but a large two-story space in the center of the first floor suggests it. One can get a sense of its scale at night when the lights are on. I understand that the first/second story space was used for an operations center with large mainframe computers at one time, probably scaled generously to allow for the raised floors that computer centers used extensively then. The structure is as massive as any I’ve seen and would serve well in a second life not only as an office facility but could be converted into luxury apartments with a lobby on the high-ceiling first floor. I suggest that you drive through this industrial edge of the Heights and experience this admiring and substantial shadow of the Wright Larkin building. Several more studies of Kamrath structures will follow from me here on this site.

False Alternatives

Last week, the Chronicle lamented the death of the Democratic Caucus of the Texas Senate. Because Democrats accepted the budget put forth by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the paper believes that Democrats have become irrelevant.

The editorial notes that Texas has fallen from the state with the nation’s lowest unemployment to 26th earlier this year. Claiming that Gov. Gregg Abbott is more concerned about a constitutional convention and Patrick is busy pushing his bathroom bill, the paper thinks that Democrats are squandering an opportunity.

Democrats should be working to fill this void left by Republicans. Iron sharpens iron, and Texas would benefit from an alternative vision beyond budget cuts and ending local control. But the once-proud Yellow Dog Democrats have neutered themselves. They can’t even imagine what our state would look like with a different party in charge, and how that would make life better for Texas families.

To the Chronicle, the alternative to the Republicans’ theocratic inclinations is the Democrats’ socialism. But this is a false alternative.

Republicans want to control what we do in the bedroom; Democrats want to control what we do in the boardroom. Both want to control our lives, and they simply differ on which aspects they want to control–for today. Control over one area of our lives will eventually expand, no matter who dominates Austin.

The choice we face isn’t the destruction of liberty in the name of God or the destruction of liberty in the name of society. Our choice is liberty or statism. Our choice is freedom or servitude to government.

Both conservatives and Regressives embrace altruism. Conservatives believe that we have a moral duty to serve God. Regressives believe that we have a moral duty to serve the poor and needy. They agree that we have a moral duty to serve others.

Conservatism and Regressivism are not alternatives. They are flip sides of the same statist coin. Heads they win, and tails we lose.

Cronyism vs. Competition

The Texas Legislature is considering a bill that will allow auto makers to sell directly to consumers. Currently, new automobiles must be purchased through a franchised dealership. Not surprisingly, the bill is opposed by dealership owners. Wyatt Wainwright, president of the Houston Automobile Dealers Association, recently met with lawmakers to explain why auto dealers oppose the bill.

According to the Chronicle,

Dealerships, he [Wainwright] said, battle for consumers with low prices and deals and provide access to services such as maintenance and financing.

“The franchise system creates competition, and that’s what saves consumers money,” he said.

If Wainwright and his colleagues are in favor of competition, why do they want to prohibit others from entering the market? Clearly, the auto dealers fear true competition–a market place in which individuals are not barred from producing and trading goods and services.

The proposed bill will allow consumers to bypass the middle man–the auto dealers. The dealers see this as a threat to their business, and rather than actually compete in the market, they are busy competing in Austin. They are competing to influence legislators.

Auto dealers contribute millions of dollars to the campaigns of legislators. In return for this political support, they expect lawmakers to protect them from competition. Both legislators and auto dealers benefit from this cronyism, while consumers are stuck with fewer choices and higher prices.

Similar bills have been proposed in past legislative sessions, but auto dealers have managed to bribe influence enough legislators to defeat the bills. The bill appears to be gaining some traction, largely because of the efforts of Tesla. The electric car maker has increased its lobbying efforts in support of direct sales to consumers.

Interestingly, this isn’t the only regulation that curtails freedom in the automobile market. Auto dealers are prohibited by law from being open on a consecutive Saturday and Sunday. Efforts to repeal this remnant of the state’s Blue Laws have been opposed by auto dealers, who claim that they will not see increased sales but will incur higher costs being open seven days a week.

Whether this is true or not, it is irrelevant. Repealing the law will allow them to be open seven days a week, but won’t force them do so. But the existing law does force dealerships to close one day per weekend, whether they want to or not. The owner, not legislators, should make that decision.

The Enemies of Choice

Last Thursday, the Texas Senate passed a school voucher bill that would allow parents to use government school funds for private and parochial schools. The Chronicle called the bill a “version of so-called ‘school choice’ legislation,” implying that the issue isn’t really about choice. But it is about choice, and defenders of government schools are opposed to giving parents and students choices.

Opponents of the bill claim that private schools won’t be held accountable because they don’t have to release standardized test scores like government schools do. Such claims ignore the fact that parents can hold schools accountable by moving their children to another school. But few parents can afford to do that today.

Government officials and educational bureaucrats don’t want parents having choices. Government schools have a captive clientele, and school choice will likely result in a large number of parents abandoning the failing government schools.

Sen. Jose Menendez of San Antonio said,

On the surface, this sounds wonderful, but I don’t think in practice this works as well as it sounds. I don’t believe that this system, when we’re far from perfecting our public school system – I don’t think this is the answer.

Menendez doesn’t think school choice will work. But that conclusion depends upon one’s goal. School choice will certainly work for those fortunate enough to get into the program–they will have a freedom that they don’t currently enjoy.

School choice is ultimately about freedom–the freedom to choose which school will be best for one’s children. Government schools deny that freedom to most Texans, and opponents of school choice want to keep it that way.

Interestingly, many conservatives support school choice, but oppose a woman’s right to choose an abortion. Conversely, most Leftists support a woman’s right to choose, but oppose a parent’s right to choose his children’s education. Both groups are hypocrites.

Every individual has a moral right to act on his own judgment, so long as he respects the rights of others to do the same. Each of us has a moral right to choose our values and the means by which we will attain them. Contrary to what Leftists and conservatives believe, our right to choose is not limited to select issues. It applies to all issues.

The March for Science

A grim reminder of how far science has descended in our anti-reason culture can be seen in protests against the Trump administrations plans for the Environmental Protection Agency. On Earth Day, April 22, 2017 a “March for Science” will take place in Houston, as well as other cities in the US and around the world.

First of all, for scientists to hold a “March for Science” on Earth Day reveals that mainstream scientists have sabotaged science, not promoted science. Earth Day is a celebration of the environmental movement, which claims that technology is man’s enemy and should be abolished or severely restricted. Technology is applied science, and if mainstream science is not for technology, then what is it for? I will examine that shortly.

The environmental movement has all but destroyed nuclear power, and it has succeeded in stopping the development of oil fields, pipelines, mineral deposits, and forests, among other pro-human activities. Results have been higher costs for energy, construction materials, and housing, just to name a few. And to justify this attack on technology, they make wild claims of global disaster should man continue to encroach on the environment – the latest claim being “climate change” or manmade global warming.

Now let’s examine the “March for Science” to see what avant-garde science is really for. The March for Science Mission statement  calls for “robustly funded and publicly communicated science . . .” and claims this is “a pillar of human freedom. . . .” It also calls for “science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.” The movement also claims fidelity to “objective evidence” and it wants a “free exchange of scientific research. . . ” and policy makers that don’t “reject overwhelming evidence. . . .” The website states that “Gag rules on scientists in government and environmental organizations impede access to information . . . . “  In short, they are saying don’t deny manmade global warming (a mantra of all environmental organizations), don’t muzzle scientists, and don’t deregulate environmental protection.

“Don’t deny manmade global warming” and “don’t muzzle scientists” is blatantly contradictory. The Climategate scandal revealed mainstream scientists purposely trying to muzzle scientists that did not jump on the global warming bandwagon. The claim for “evidence based policy” is a ruse. The “climate change” crowd has denied the existence of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, evidence that points to the earth’s temperature going through naturally occurring cycles, with the warming trend of the last 150 years being a new warming cycle.

There is also strong evidence that temperature data is being manipulated to make the earth’s temperature appear warmer than it actually is. Are the scientists who disagree with man-made climate change allowed to participate in the “free exchange of scientific research” that the March for Science claims to promote? No they are not – they are subjected to intimidation tactics such as being labeled “deniers” by their critics. And are their claims being “publically communicated?” No they are not – their claims are being ignored as evidenced by the Climategate scandal.

The “March for Science” is nothing more than an attempt to maintain the decade’s long goal of the political left to control man’s productive activities. Their method is to claim that man is destroying the planet with his productive activities. Their platform is an expression of the modern philosophical viewpoint that truth is not objectively determined, but is a matter of public opinion. Their goal is to shape that public opinion and hence government policy.

In summary the “March for Science” is actually anti-science. Their call for government funding of science, far from achieving fidelity to objectivity, will achieve the opposite. Government funding of science means government control of science, and that means control of scientific opinions that are communicated to the public. For science to be objective, it must be free of government coercion, and therefore privately funded.

The Affordable Porsche Crisis

Earlier this week, Mayor Turner announced a new program to address the affordable Porsche crisis. Citing the inability of most Houstonians to afford a Porsche, Turner’s plan will provide subsidies to any family making less than $250,000 per year. “Herbert Hoover talked about putting a chicken in every pot,” Turner said smugly. “I’m going to put a Porsche in every driveway.”

Turner said that Houston is a city of inclusion, and the inability to afford an expensive automobile makes many Houstonians feel isolated and “less than.” He said that the program would spur economic development and create jobs, and he offered a report from his sixth-grade granddaughter to support that claim.

Turner acknowledged that the four existing Porsche dealerships in Houston wouldn’t be able to handle the increased demand. However, he said that he was in secret negotiations with “some pretty powerful dudes” and was confident more dealerships would be opening soon.

An activist group that has been noisily working behind the scenes cautiously applauded Turner’s plan. “It’s a good start,” said a spokesman. “But the maintenance costs of Porsches are notoriously high. The mayor will need to address that issue somewhere down the road.”

Critics were quick to point out that the estimated cost of the program–$2.3 billion over three years—is equal to the city’s annual budget. “It would be far less expensive to subsidize BMWs,” said one member of City Council. “Just because people want to drive a Porsche doesn’t mean the city should subsidize it. If someone really wants to drive a Porsche, maybe he should improve his job skills.”

Current Porsche owners weren’t happy with Turner’s announcement. “I have worked hard to be able to afford a luxury automobile,” said one owner. “And now the mayor wants to tax me so that others can enjoy what they haven’t earned. That’s a gross injustice.”

The mayor was undeterred by the criticisms. “As Mayor,” he said, “my job is to ensure that every Houstonian gets everything he wants whether he deserves it or not.” He added that he expected that City Council would support his plan as soon as they see their new 911 Turbo Cabriolet in the driveway.

Stay Out of Their Way

Everywhere we turn, someone is demanding that government do something. Often, that something is allegedly intended to correct some perceived injustice. Almost as often, the exhortations pertain to creating jobs, stimulating the economy, or something similar.

As one example, the Chronicle asks if City Hall should do more to encourage startup businesses. The paper discusses a number of ideas, such as allowing startups to use city office space. But it doesn’t discuss getting the city out of the way of entrepreneurs.

Consider an individual who has lost his job but wants to be responsible. If he has a decent car, he has the means to start a business as a taxi service. Except, the city won’t allow him to do so unless he obtains the proper permits and licenses. As further evidence of the city’s meddling in business affairs, consider what city officials did to Uber.

An entrepreneur has better things to do than grovel at the feet of government officials for permission to start and operate a business. Yet, far too often, that is what must occur if he wishes to operate legally.

Interestingly, the article seems to understand that government can impede startups:

Some things city and state government could do are free, like making business taxes as simple as possible so startups don’t have to hire accountants to get through them.

Certainly, dealing with taxes can be time consuming and expensive. But what about dealing with the regulations, licenses, and permits that both city and state government force upon businesses? Wading through that morass can be even more expensive and time consuming.

If the Chronicle really wanted City Hall to encourage startups, it would advocate for city government to get out of the way of entrepreneurs. And then stay out of their way.

Choice and Affordability

For months, Regressives, including Mayor Turner and the Chronicle, have been on the affordable housing bandwagon. They have been telling us that Houston lacks affordable housing. But just last Friday, the Chronicle reported that “Affordable homes help Houston attract millennials.” Interestingly, both of these claims are true, but for reasons that Regressives won’t acknowledge.

To understand this, it would be good to define affordable housing. The Department of Housing and Urban development defines it as:

In general, housing for which the occupant(s) is/are paying no more than 30 percent of his or her income for gross housing costs, including utilities.

This simply means that housing that costs more than $1,500 a month isn’t affordable for someone making $50,000 a year. And housing that costs $15,000 a month isn’t affordable for someone making $500,000 a year. So? For most Houstonians, lots of things aren’t affordable.

More significantly, affordability is a matter of choice. Some individuals choose to pay more than 30 percent for housing and do without other things, such as a new automobile or vacations. Each of us can choose to spend more than we can afford on some things but less on others.

The affordable housing movement wants us to ignore the role that choice—volition—plays in an individual’s life, including where he lives. An individual’s choices impact his education, his job skills, his earning ability, and what housing is affordable. An individual’s choices determine whether he becomes a gang-banger or a productive employee or entrepreneur. An individual’s choices determine whether he languishes in poverty or continually improves himself and his earning ability.

Low-income families can’t afford to live in nice neighborhoods, and that is the only fact that affordable housing advocates want us to consider. The reasons—the choices that those individuals have made—are considered irrelevant.

They want us to ignore volition because they don’t want us to hold individuals responsible. If we don’t have a choice in our actions, then the consequences aren’t our responsibility. This applies not only to the lazy and degenerate, but also to the ambitious and productive. If our actions are not of our own choosing, then we should be neither scorned nor applauded for the results. If we don’t possess volition, we deserve neither punishment nor rewards.

It is true that some Houstonians can’t find affordable housing. And it is also true that millenials are attracted to Houston by the city’s affordable housing. For each, what is affordable is a consequence of the choices that those individuals have made.

Letting the Market Respond

Jerry Nickelsburg, an economist at UCLA, writes that cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles have a shortage of affordable housing because of supply and demand. The demand for housing exceeds the supply, and so prices have risen. This is true, as far as it goes.

Just last week, the Chronicle reported that Harris county added only 56,600 new residents last year, the second most in the nation. This is noteworthy because it is the first time in eight years that the county hasn’t led the nation in population growth.

This means that, for nearly a decade, the demand for housing in Harris County has increased more than anywhere else in the country. Yet, Houston remains one of the most affordable major cities in America. Developers and builders in Houston have been able to keep up with the demand, while those in cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles apparently haven’t. Why?

Nickelsburg implies that the affordable housing crisis in California is simply an operation of the market. He fails to address why the supply has failed to keep up with demand.

It is not a coincidence that the cities with an affordability housing crisis are also the cities with some of the nation’s most draconian land-use regulations. Zoning and similar regulations limit the use of land to that prescribed by government officials, rather than that determined by the market. When the availability of land for housing is limited, the cost of housing will necessarily increase.

When we factor in the costs of other controls and restrictions, such as building codes and environmental regulations, it is little wonder that housing costs have skyrocketed in California.

Sadly, city officials seem to be oblivious to the reasons housing costs in Houston have not followed the same track as other major cities. Instead, they want to emulate the policies of those cities. They talk about the need for more affordable housing, but the exact opposite will be the result.

Despite their pretentious talk, government officials can’t make housing more affordable. Letting the market respond can and will.