Deep Sea Rare Earths

China began cutting its export quotas for rare earth metals last year, driving up prices for the raw materials and the high tech products that depend on them. Congressman Mike Coffman of Colorado introduced legislation to encourage U.S. production of rare earths, and Molycorp plans to restart production at a rare earth mine in the Mojave Desert, the largest such mine outside China. Now Japanese geologists claim they’ve discovered high concentrations of rare earth metals in mud deposits in deep water areas of the Pacific Ocean. If the discovery is confirmed and it’s technically feasible to recover and process the material, it could have a huge impact on the rare earth market, where prices doubled in a two week period last month.

This isn’t the first time Japan has contemplated deep sea mining. They discovered deposits of methane hydrate (methane trapped in frozen water) off their coasts in the 1990s, and in 2008 signed an agreement with the U.S. to develop commercial technology for recovering it. The first test wells are scheduled to be drilled this year.

Economic Freedom in the U.S.

I like this YouTube video produced by the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation (yes, he’s one of the Koch brothers that liberals have been treating as boogeymen):

According to Caleb Brown at the Cato Institute, this video draws on the Economic Freedom of the World: 2010 Annual Report from Canada’s Fraser Institute. The Heritage Foundation conducts research on economic freedom, too, and arrives at the same conclusion as the video: economic freedom in the U.S. has been on a steep decline since the 2008 financial market meltdown and the laws and policies that were enacted in its aftermath—TARP, the un-stimulating stimulus, the GM and Chrysler bail-outs, the Frank-Dodd bill, etc. Piling on the regulatory burdens and costs associated with Obamacare didn’t help.

We in the private sector can’t regain our economic freedom (and the quality of life and other freedoms derived from it) until the federal government relaxes its regulatory grip and reduces spending to a meaningful degree. Barack Obama and Harry Reid show no signs of taking action here—in fact, according to Chuck Schumer, the administration is exploring how to justify ignoring the debt limit (they’re even studying the Constitution!). It’s crucial that the Congressional Republicans stand tall on the debt limit issue—it’s the only lever they have that can force reductions in federal spending before the 2012 election.

Lesser Known Founding Fathers

Quin Hillyer wrote an article for the American Spectator that describes two of our lesser known founding fathers, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston. I remember reading Sherman’s name, but I didn’t appreciate his accomplishments. He signed the Articles of Association of the Congress of 1774, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution—he’s the only person to sign all four. He ran a store, worked as a county surveyor, served as a judge on Connecticut’s highest court, and was elected mayor of New Haven—the first person to hold that office. He designed the Connecticut Compromise, which called for the states to be represented proportional to their population in the House of Representatives but equally in the Senate. To top it off, he was elected to the House and the Senate, although he passed away (at age 72) before he took office as a senator. His Wikipedia entry says he died of typhoid fever. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was exhaustion that did him in—he accomplished extraordinary things.

Texas Businesses Opposed to the “Sanctuary Cities” Bill

Reuters reports that Texas business interests lobbied against “sanctuary cities” legislation, specifically naming homebuilder Bob Perry and grocery store magnate Charles E. Butt. Unnamed Texas lawmakers told the reporter that these business interests were “worried that the law would allow police to harass their workers.” The sanctuary cities legislation died in the Texas Senate during this year’s regular legislative session and died in the House during the special session.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports that on June 9, Alabama’s governor signed an immigration law that’s more strict than Arizona’s law, and is much more strict than Texas’ failed sanctuary cities bill. Illegal immigrants are reacting by leaving Alabama in droves, including many who would otherwise be rebuilding Tuscaloosa after its April 27 tornado.

So if the Texas businesses who lobbied against the sanctuary cities bill are trying to avoid the outcome that Alabama is experiencing, who are those businesses employing?

Thank You for Your Service, Now Please Go

Empower Texans released its Fiscal Responsibility Index for the 82nd session of the state legislature, and my state senator, Jeff Wentworth, scored an “F.” Last year Wentworth was bucking for a job as a chancellor of the Texas State University System, but he didn’t get it. I hope he’s planning to spend part of his summer polishing his resume and taking another run at that job, because after five years as a member of the House and eighteen years as a member of the Senate, it’s time to move aside for a more fiscally conservative Republican.

Not With a Bang But a Whimper

The Texas anti-TSA groping bill died in the House of Representatives today, the last day of the special legislative session. The bill’s champion, State Representative David Simpson, gave a personal privilege speech after the bill failed:

The text of Rep. Simpson’s speech is available on his web site [PDF]. He directed much of his criticism at House Speaker Joe Straus, who is serving his second term. He was elected to his first term by a coalition of the House Democrats and a few RINOs. Tea Partiers and conservatives voiced opposition to re-electing Straus as Speaker, but the Republican super-majority in the 82nd legislature elected him to a second term anyway. That was a mistake. Not only did Straus work against Rep. Simpson’s anti-TSA groping bill and resort to revenue gimmicks to close the budget shortfall, but there was no attempt, as Empower Texans points out, to enact spending limits, prune state agencies, or reform taxes.