How to travel the world with 2 little kids: Teach them that every step counts

Raj Gill

Raj Gill

Quitting your job and selling your house and all of your possessions to travel the world is something many people find themselves daydreaming about when they feel their lives have fallen into a state of predictable motion. A fair number of rather reasonable arguments typically dissuade most people from pursuing the notion.

But the feeling of being an alien in a foreign land is intoxicating. I often thought of leaving California behind and breaking with my routine to embrace the unknown and in so doing becoming an alien to everything, including myself. The fire continued to rage in my mind, and when I spoke to my partner about it, I learned that the same fire burned inside her as well. Within two months, we sold our house, all of our belongings, quit our jobs and bought four one way tickets to Australia; two adults and two children.

I felt embarrassed telling my friends and family about our decision and worried that it would make me seem irresponsible. The idea of leaving a great job and uprooting our family was met with as much judgmental condemnation as one would get for choosing to drink or gamble with abandon. I avoided speaking of our intentions again until we were just about to board a plane that would take us away from California. I updated my status online that described our exodus, and with 40-liter backpacks strapped on our respective backs, our three-year-old boy gripping tightly to my hand and our five-year-old boy gripping tightly to my partner’s, we boarded the plane and never looked back.

We spent the summer in Australia, surfing Bondi Beach, walking Graffiti Alley in Melbourne and sunbathing along the Sunshine Coast. After three months, we had exhausted the amount of time we were permitted on our Australian visas. With summer transitioning to fall, we set our sights on New Zealand.

Much of our time in our previous life was spent losing ourselves in Yosemite and Lassen National Parks or trail running the Marin Headlands and Point Reyes. We often hiked through the pine forests of Tahoe or the redwood forests nestled behind the Mendocino coastline. We made a pact before the trip that this particular quality of our lives would travel along with us, and we did just what most outdoor adventurers would do upon landing in Nelson airport: salivated at the thought of conquering the great tracks of New Zealand’s South Island.

Our first hike with the boys began with exploring a pocket of nestled beauty called the Abel Tasman, located on the northeast coastline of the South Island. We took a water taxi that dropped us off on a small exposed sandbar in an estuary that existed for only a few hours, expanding as quickly as the tide receded into the Tasman Bay and disappearing upon its return. We ferried the boys across one at a time on our backs, moving slowly through the surprisingly crisp, knee-deep water that bridged the exposed and isolated raft of yellow sand to the thin Tasman coastline.

We approached this tramp with our boys with a sink or swim attitude, wholly accepting our punishment of having to carry them on our backs should they not rise to the challenge. Our parenting style had always differed from those in the community we left a few months prior. We allow them to fall and scrape their knees, to make their own mistakes, to concede defeat in the face of a valiant effort. We pushed them to try before they could accept their own presumed limitations. My partner and I controlled the wind that passed across their boughs in a manner meant to strengthen their branches but not break them. They would, more often than not, surprise themselves upon rising up and working through their own challenges.

We assumed the 22-kilometer hike would be a pretty strong gust, but to our surprise, we found that the adults were trying to keep pace with the boys. We were evidently the weak links in the chain. Was it their center of gravity that made tramping come more easily to them or the efficiencies of their metabolic engine that constantly turns over calories for energy like a Ferrari turns petrol into horsepower? Their enthusiasm and seemingly endless supply of energy that remained, even after concluding the day-long tramp with burgers at The Fat Tui, motivated us to tramp progressively longer and more difficult terrain. Soon we felt confident in our plan of tramping across New Zealand with our sights set on accomplishing an expert-level overnight hike up Mt. Robert to the Angelus Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park.
* * *
I peered across the shifter to my partner and said, “There’s only one direction we can go and that’s forward.” We were all alone on the one-way road that hugged Mount Robert. Just ahead of us, the gravel gave way to mud, stretching a quarter mile ahead of us. I scanned ahead and saw that the first half of the road had a forgiving upward slope, but then a handful of orange traffic cones were scattered in front of a section of road that appeared to go vertical. I slammed the shifter into first gear, revved the engine of the rented Honda Fit and held my breath until we reached the other side. My quads were on fire from riding the clutch while lifting my body above my seat to be able to see the road. When we summited past the cones and fell back onto level and graveled road, I turned to my partner and saw her hands wrapped white knuckled around the “Oh Shit Handle” that had been previously dangling freely just above her head.

“It wasn’t that bad,” I said as her dilated pupils relaxed and her eyes rolled in that special way that lets me know I have no idea what I am talking about.

After we parked, we collected our gear and tried to focus on the moment instead of on what lay ahead of us: 24 kilometers over 36 hours. We moved quickly through the small section of beech forest that separated the car park and the start of the aptly named Pinchgut Track. A thick canopy of beech trees retained the water in the air, humidifying the organic plumes of earthy aromatics emanating from the detritus scattered across the forest floor. Microbeads of water sat atop green carpets of moss blanketing the decaying stumps and fallen branches lining the trail.

Exposed tree roots snagged the boys’ boots more times than I could count. My shoulder ached from having to reach my arm out quickly and grip whatever fabric I could to prevent the boys from falling flat on their faces several times, so I called an impromptu family meeting. My partner and I established a rule that we have repeated on every hike since and have now woven into the philosophy we teach the boys: Every step matters, every step is important, every step counts, and how you take that step directly affects the outcome of how you move forward towards the next one. A rock is a rock, whether it’s in the car park, on the trail, in a river crossing or on top of a mountain, but the consequences of tripping over it can vary depending on the circumstance, from insignificant to deadly.

The mid-morning sun began to penetrate the canopy ahead of us, revealing the exposed path leading us to the start of the serial switchbacks that would carry us up 800 meters over 90 minutes. Under our boots, soft earth turned into coarse and dry gravel. The flora transitioned from green ferns to mountain wildflowers and the clear blue sky stretched out towards infinity overhead. Purple and red foxgloves began to fill the empty spaces along the trail.

As we made our ascent, Lake Rotoiti’s blue expanse beckoned us, offering up its cold and crisp waters to rinse the sweat off our skin and resolve the dryness in our throats. My muscles began to burn again. The day hikers that had passed us expanded their distance, while the ones we had previously passed were reducing it. This expansion and contraction between the groups persisted, and in this way, we all accordioned our way up the mountain.

We reached the start of the Robert Ridge Track with another shift in climate and terrain. The wind gusts were strong atop the ridge, and with our guts pinched from the switchbacks, the cold and crisp alpine air cooled us down while also taking some of the weight off our tired legs as it pushed against our backs. We reached the Relax Shelter and exchanged pleasantries with day hikers taking a break before heading back down Paddy’s Track on the opposite side of the ridge. Children on the ridge, we grew to learn, were an unusual sight, given the reactions we received. Responses were split between admiring the boys’ courage (and our patience) and skeptical optimism.

We split from the group and continued along the ridge, not knowing that that would be the last time we would see another hiker while on the ridge. After a few hours, the trail grew narrow and slowly began to recede into the mountain beneath us. The sky continued to reflect the blue from Lake Rotoiti; however, quickly shifting light grey clouds could be seen swirling further up the ridge, waiting for our arrival. We were approaching the Julius Summit, nearly 1,800 meters above sea level, when a drop in pressure and temperature caused the water in the air to suddenly condense all around us. We stopped and became mesmerized at witnessing the birth of a cloud. A wisp of white candy floss suddenly materialized from nothing, swirling in a funnel created by two disparate pressures colliding in a moment. The nascent tuft of white air released and drifted like a leaf trapped in a whirlpool, fixed in constant motion, until its mass grew large enough to be ejected from the turbulent air.

After stopping for lunch to let rain pass ahead, we pressed on. The clouds gathered and dispersed for several kilometers, occasionally releasing their contents upon us but never enough to hinder our momentum. We summited the mountain and found being positioned above everything around us, including the clouds, allowed the trail markers to be easily visible as we scanned ahead. The ridge began to slope downward and our legs felt the relief of not having to work as hard; however, the recent rains made our descent more difficult than previously presumed.

Over the next kilometer, I realized the risk my partner and I took in bringing the boys on the tramp. I accepted my punishment by moving a few meters ahead, releasing my pack from my back, then returning back to the boys in order to ferry them one at a time across the difficult and dangerous terrain, only to collect my pack and start all over again at the next sign of apparent risk. We moved in this way until we reached an expansive scree field that buried several trail markers in its path. I turned to my partner and we discussed the risks of moving forward or turning back. Having already experienced the difficult terrain as I ferried the boys down the wet cliffside, I was worried how much more difficult it would be to repeat it while working against gravity. On the other hand, the terrain ahead of us was unknown, offering a variety of unknown possibilities. “A rock is a rock,” we reminded ourselves.

This fractured landscape wouldn’t let me move ahead and ferry the boys across it as I had before. We had to move slowly, as a unit, across the scree field, lifting the boys to rocks they couldn’t climb onto and holding their hands as they jumped down from ones they could. To the boys, it was fun to rock climb. But we had not come across another human since we started on the ridge. The boys didn’t realize that if something happened, a response would not be immediate, but we did. To compound our worry, the sun seemed to drop faster across the horizon than our descent on the cliff, and should another scree field lie further ahead on our path, we would have to cross it in the dark.

The mantra that we established at the start of our tramp carried us across without incident. We breathed a sigh of relief and silently hoped that we wouldn’t need to cross another scree field on our path to the hut. The boys, on the other hand, were excited at the prospect of scrambling across another. In the end, we ended up going past several more, and fortunately they were only a few meters across. We didn’t hesitate when we scanned ahead to find boulders had collapsed the trail ahead of us; we were still riding off the adrenaline from having successfully traversed what ended up to be the longest and most difficult scree field on the ridge. We discovered that this irregular trail — solid ground with sections of scree intermixed — carried a rhythm in its terrain. We glided swiftly across the wet rock and loose gravel as our steps harmonized to it, moving back up the ridge and arriving at the top of the valley as twilight fell across our shoulders.

When the boys asked how much further until we arrived to the hut, I lied. “It’s just passed the next trail marker,” I replied, buying us a few hundred meters of silence before they asked again. “I meant to say past the next trail marker . . . or the one after that,” I said, all the while, secretly wishing that my non-answer was true. My stalling wouldn’t last, and their motivation could dissipate when they realized I had no idea how much further until we arrived at the hut.

We tramped with the clouds above our heads and below our feet, and fortunately, everything at eye level was clear, albeit damp. We stopped as a gust of wind pushed us off the trail, and after allowing it to pass, we stepped back onto the ridge and saw that the wind pushed the clouds away from the valley to the east, exposing a series of ponds spread across the mountain. It was getting darker. Although it was becoming more difficult to see the worry on my partner’s face, I could feel it radiate off of her body. What was even more troubling was the sudden awareness of the boys’ silence; there were no more questions about when we would arrive, no brotherly banter, just silence and their pace had slowed.

The boys were tired and needed to take a break. The weight on my shoulders grew heavier. The air was transitioning from dark blue to purple, and I knew that taking a break would all but ensure we would be tramping in the dark. I sprinted into the fog to scout ahead, leaving my pack behind.

I returned in a few short minutes with a smile from ear to ear. I threw my pack over one shoulder and instructed the boys to get up and muster as much courage and energy as they could because the hut was in the valley just below us. A hundred or so meters ahead of us was the trail that led down into the valley. As we sprinted towards the branch, the sky opened up, basking us in a light that had previously fallen beneath the top of the alpine ridge. The air quickly transitioned from purple to blue carried by strands of yellow that shimmered off Lake Angelus and poured over the edges of the hills that bordered the valley. We ran to the edge of the ridge and peered down over the valley below; the momentary silence was broken by laughter coming from the boys.

“Every step counts,” I said, as we broke from the ridge and moved down the loose gravel trail that would lead us to shelter.

Tired, hungry and cold, but filled with relief, we slowed our pace, knowing there was nothing more to worry about beyond securing a bunk space. I looked up and saw the yellow lights growing bigger and brighter the closer we got to the hut. The light began to leak from the windows and illuminate the porch, then the wire boot brush on the ground next to the steps to the deck, then the last few meters of the trail. The dark receded to reveal a dozen smiling faces watching our every step as we drew closer to them. I heard the people clapping as the yellow light illuminated the face of my youngest and then his brother. The boys stopped, unsure of what was happening, and looked back at us with both confusion and surprise in their smiles.
* * *
The next morning, we joined a table of fellow hikers for breakfast. The boys spoke of their courage across the wet scree and informed the table of our mantra, “Every step counts.” Over the course of the next half hour, the hut began to empty. Our brief respite needed to come to an end.

We took the track down the mountainside, winding back and forth across several arteries flowing with water; our socks that had dried overnight were drenched within the first kilometer. We followed the water through mud and marshland, ferrying the boys across rushing streams and carrying them over my head across waist deep rivers until the path brought us to the edge of the beech forest that we started from. The forest canopy brought respite from an unrelenting midday sun but blanketed the remainder of the trail in a persistent twilight.

As we passed another kilometer deeper into the forest, the temperature began to drop and the boys began asking how much longer again. Our youngest was becoming more vocal with his narrative of the status of his body and mind. We encouraged them to keep moving by distracting them with topics in mammalian and plant biology, zoology, philosophy and English. This worked for a spell, until the discussion began to grow exponentially more complex with every “but why?”

I could hear whimpers from our youngest. I stopped to lean down and asked him if he was OK, if he needed to be picked up. He said he did, that his legs hurt, but he thought he would be able to continue on if he only had his “Buggies” — two ladybug snuggle toys he has slept with every night of his life. We carried our sleeping bags, food and water on our backs; “Buggies” had been deemed nonessential and remained behind in the car.

Before starting the hike, my partner and I agreed that if the boys could no longer go on of their own free will, we would accommodate their needs, either by picking them up or ending the tramp and turning back around. We wanted them to hit their wall, feel their boughs creak and bend, and let them decide for themselves. My son brought something different to the table: a quid pro quo. I wondered how far he would be willing to take it. We decided that my eldest and I would sprint ahead until we reach the car, drop our gear off and retrieve the Buggies to motivate him to finish the tramp.

I reminded my eldest son of our mantra: “Every step counts.” We took a deep breath and started sprinting up the trail while my partner kept a walking pace with our youngest. We ran two kilometers up through the forest, jumping over rocks and exposed roots that crossed our path, until reaching the car park and finding leaf litter blanketing our rental car. I threw my pack in the trunk and opened the back door, finding Buggies next to a half-eaten leftover carrot cake in the rear cup holder. I grabbed Buggies, stole a bite of cake and handed the rest to my son. “Don’t tell your brother we ate his cake.”

We ran down the path, two plush ladybugs in hand, and I trusted my eldest to keep his own pace as I began to sprint back to meet the others. Only a kilometer away from the car park, my youngest son dropped my partner’s hand and began screaming and crying with joy while running towards his long lost friends. After he settled down, he kept repeating, “I can do this now, I can do this now.” He squeezed one bug in each hand and picked up his pace as he started to move up the path. The three of us continued, collecting our eldest son along the way. The boys fell silent; they were focused on finishing now. My partner and I were silent too, astonished at the resolve our boys displayed. We reached the car park and turned back towards the forest, sharing a collective sigh of relief and pride. With little fanfare, we returned to the car, dropped it in gear and slowly drove past the head of the trail we had conquered, the momentary silence broken by a voice from the backseat: “Hey, where’s my cake?”

Read more from Salon.com…

Palestinian Islamic Jihad Prompts Dangerous Escalation in Southern Israel

Islamic Jihad militants guard outside the funeral of Islamic Jihad militant Hussein al-Amour, who was killed during an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza on May 27, 2018 Gaza’s second-largest terrorist faction, Palestinian Islamic Jihad , is leading the current dangerous escalation of the security situation, which may yet escalate further, and which represents the most serious flare-up of violence since the 2014 armed conflict between Israel and Hamas. Col. Shay Shaul, former deputy head of the National Security Council of Israel, told JNS that PIJ could be motivated by one of two things.

Read more from Palestinian Leader…

Is the FBI Trying to Bolster Its War on Cryptography?

Christopher WrayIf you were to take law enforcement at its word, you would believe that the encryption techniques that secure our data actually end up serving criminals who would do us harm. For the past few years, the FBI and other authorities have revived the “War on Crypto” because they say it prevents them from accessing devices that they need to bring killers and terrorists to justice.

FBI director Christopher Wray has been fond of claiming that the Bureau was locked out of some 7,775 devices last year. In January, he argued that “being unable to access nearly 7,800 devices in a single year is a major public safety issue.”

It turns out that the FBI wildly inflated those figures, according to the Washington Post. The Bureau still doesn’t know the exact number of devices that have apparently been so central in the miscarriage of justice. If previous numbers are to be believed—which have hovered around 700 to 800 devices—the true number is probably closer to 1,000.

The FBI told the Post that “programming errors” were responsible for the over-counting, since they were apparently pulling their numbers from three separate databases. But that excuse seems awfully convenient, given the agency’s recent antagonism towards security technologies.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued a scathing letter to the FBI in response to their admission of error, chiding that because the FBI is “struggling with basic arithmetic” it should “not be in the business of dictating the design of advanced cryptographic algorithms.” He pointedly noted that such a major miscalculation could either be the product of “sloppy work” or something more nefarious: “pushing a legislative agenda.”

Could this “accidental miscounting” have been a purposeful ploy to undermine strong encryption? A review of the FBI’s recent public and behind-the-scenes activities certainly makes it look that way. The agency has been engaged in an all-out public war on encryption using emotional rhetoric to push for the access into our devices they have long sought.

Encryption technologies have been a chief bugaboo of America’s top feds for about as long as these security technologies have been available to the public, which is to say for most of you and I’s experiences on the internet. In the 90’s, authorities argued that strong encryption techniques were a kind of munition, and tried to prevent computer scientists from deploying security measures. Thankfully, the computer scientists won the previous battles over public-key encryption.

But the question of device encryption has taken on a new political urgency following the high-profile attacks in San Bernardino in December of 2015. With the so-called “Going Dark” problem, authorities argue that the measures that keep our phones secure can prevent them from accessing critical data in an investigation. Thus, they want technology companies to build special government access into our phones, called a “backdoor.”

It is easy to sympathize with investigators who work to bring criminals to justice. But unfortunately, with the San Bernardino incident, it looks like FBI leadership was more motivated by a general antipathy to encryption than a specific need to access particular data.

Consider the specifics of the case. Authorities could have discreetly and respectfully approached engineers for solutions to access suspected terrorist Syed Rizwan Farook’s locked iPhone. After all, the FBI was eventually able to access the phone through a technical tool purchased by a private vendor. No across-the-board security-limiting technology changes needed.

But that’s not what the FBI did. Instead, it engaged in a public-relations blitz against Apple to argue that government operatives needed a backdoor into all of our devices so that they could access data at their leisure. The feds pushed this issue all the way through the courts, attempting to litigate a backdoor, until it eventually turned tail when it was able to access the data without it.

An inspector general’s report from March finds that the FBI “may not have been interested in researching all possible solutions” and “[delayed seeking] and obtaining vendor assistance that ultimately proved fruitful.” One Bureau employee told the IG that the San Bernardino case was viewed as a “poster child” for the Going Dark crusade. As Sen. Wyden’s letter points out, the report suggests that “the FBI was more interested in establishing a powerful legal precedent than gaining access to the terrorist’s iPhone.”

Other evidence corroborates the theory that the intelligence community used Apple as a convenient foil to promote their crusade against encryption as well. In August of 2015, a top lawyer for US intelligence urged authorities to wait for “a terrorist attack of criminal event where strong encryption can be shown to have hindered law enforcement.” Officials could then take advantage of that tragedy to pull on America’s heart strings and put pressure on legislators to finally mandate the backdoors for which they have long salivated. Just a few months later, San Bernardino presented a perfect opportunity.

Thankfully, there has not been another “San Bernardino” that authorities could exploit to promote their political ends. Perhaps this is why the FBI turned to numbers, instead. Without a newsworthy event to point to, FBI director Wray may have found the sky-high number of reported locked phones to be a convenient rhetorical fallback.

But even the lower figure deserves our scrutiny. The mere presence of a locked device in some investigation on its own is not very compelling. Perhaps there is no relevant information on the device. Maybe the device belonged to some suspect who was later cleared. And how many devices are associated with a single case? The lower figure that the FBI provided likely contains many such instances.

What we need to know is how many investigations were significantly hindered because authorities could not access specific data on a specific device. It’s relatively rare for people to solely store data on their phone, given the rise of cloud computing. Much inference can be gleaned from metadata, which is often unencrypted. And perhaps the evidence on any particular device is redundant with other evidence, anyway.

Wyden demanded answers to these and related questions in his blistering rebuke to the FBI. Until we have more information on how many cases fall into this narrower and relevant bucket, we should take the FBI’s figures with a grain a salt.

The FBI should not have inflated the number of devices that they say they cannot access. This egregious error would be especially contemptible if it was a naked lie in pursuit of a policy goal. But even if those figures were true, it wouldn’t really change the Going Dark debate. Undermining encryption would make us all less secure, no matter what the justification for doing this. The FBI’s recent “miscalculations” and behind-the-scenes antagonism toward security technologies suggest that the agency is unfortunately far from internalizing these truths.

Read more from Reason.com…

The Russia investigation has exhausted the public

Not that it’s going to influence Bub Mueller one way or the other but it sounds like the public is quickly reaching the burnout phase when it comes to the Russia, Russia, Russia investigation. The LA Times reports on the results of a new CBS poll showing that a slim majority of Americans now view the investigation as being politically motivated.

Read more from Justice Department…

MS-Sen.: GOP challenger calls for closing of all VA hospitals

A Republican candidate for one of Mississippi’s U.S. Senate seats called for all Veterans Affairs hospitals to be closed down, citing a poor quality of service and the chance to benefit private hospitals, WLOX-TV reported.

“The VA is not motivated for customer service like a private hospital,” Republican Senate candidate Richard Boyanton said. “Eliminating the VA would make private hospitals more viable.”

What’s the story?

Boyanton is also a veteran, having served in the Vietnam War, where he earned a Purple Heart.

He believes veterans can get better care at private hospitals than they can at VA hospitals, which he said don’t have a customer service focus and often have long waiting lists for treatments.

The candidate also believes the government could save significant amounts of money by closing VA hospitals. If elected, Boyanton said the issue would be a priority for him.

Who is Richard Boyanton?

Boyanton is a 68-year-old businessman who owns Scott Fence Company and Boyanton Industries.

He joined the Army at age 17, and served as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division and in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne.

According to his website, he decided to run for Senate because American values are under attack, and he got tired of “watching congressmen sit on their hands and do nothing about this, or even worse fan the flames for their own personal benefit.”

“I decided to run for Senate in order to bring power back into the hands of ordinary citizens that love their country and are concerned about its future,” he wrote.

His platform includes:

  • Supporting freedom of religion
  • Preventing infringement upon the U.S. Constitution
  • Deportation of illegal immigrants and accountability for those who employ or support them
  • Free market economy
  • Civil rights
  • 12-year term limits in Congress

When is the Republican primary?

Boyanton is running against Republican incumbent Sen. Roger Wicker. The primary election is June 5.

There will also be a nonpartisan special election in November to fill the seat vacated by former Republican Sen. Thad Cochran, who resigned in April due to health issues.

Republican Cindy Hyde-Smith is currently filling that seat, and is running in the special election against Republican state Sen. Chris McDaniel, Democrat Mike Espy (former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture), and Democrat Toby Bartee.

Read more from The Blaze…

Center of the American Experiment Takes On Traffic Congestion in the Twin Cities

GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. – The Center of the American Experiment (CAE) has launched a campaign highlighting the high level of traffic congestion in the Twin Cities metro area.

The Twin Cities think tank is making transportation policy a focus of their initiatives this summer. The public information campaign features billboards, radio ads, and bumper stickers aimed at calling attention to the increasing traffic congestion problem in the Twin Cities metro area.

Last year, CAE released a report last year titled Twin Cities Road Congestion: It’s No Accident, highlighting the flawed policies that has led to increasing traffic congestion in the metro area.

According to CAE’s traffic congestion fact sheet, the number of hours the average Twin Cities driver sits in traffic has quadrupled from 1982 to 2014. In 2016, the Twin Cities was rated 21st in the nation for the most congested roadways. This increase in traffic congestion has been largely driven by “poor, politically-motivated decisions by unelected bureaucracies.” The report focuses on the Metropolitan Council in particular.

“In fact, it appears that the rapid growth in congestion is partly, if not mainly, due to government policies aimed at promoting alternatives to driving, rather than at relieving congestion,” CAE’s report reads.

As the body responsible for planning transportation within the Metro area, the Met Council is expected to provide solutions for easing the traffic congestion. However, in their 2030 transportation plan, the Met Council admits that “congestion will not be eliminated or significantly reduced” in the Twin Cities area. Instead of focusing on measures that would increase the capacities of the roadways in the Metro area, the Met Council has directed their attention towards providing alternative modes of travel. This includes a heavy emphasis on public transportation like transit lines and buses, as well as advocating for the use of bicycles for travel.

According to CAE President John Hinderaker, the solution for Twin Cities traffic congestion lies not in increasing public transportation, but expanding on the “inadequate system of highways and roads” in order to provide adequate lanes for the amount of traffic.

“The message is simple but powerful: the problem with traffic in the Twin Cities, which is much more congested than in other comparable U.S. cities, is an inadequate system of highways and roads,” Hinderaker wrote in a post regarding the new campaign. “Minnesotans need to use their vehicles to get where they need to go, and the only way to ease bottlenecks is by providing adequate traffic lanes. Bicycles and exorbitantly expensive fixed rail lines are never going to do the trick!

To read more about CAE’s traffic congestion campaign, click here.

The post Center of the American Experiment Takes On Traffic Congestion in the Twin Cities appeared first on Alpha News.

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California’s Boneheaded Solar Remedy for Climate Change

In the world of government policy, two chief dangers always loom. The first is people with bad intentions using every available means to achieve their malignant goals. The second, more common but no less destructive, is people with the purest of hearts and the most boneheaded of methods.

For an example of the latter, look west, where the California Energy Commission just decreed that starting in 2020, new homes must be equipped with solar panels. Commissioner Andrew McAllister boasted that the rule “will propel the state even further down the road to a low emissions future.”

He has the right idea. With environmental vandals in charge of the federal government, the state’s leaders are justifiably motivated to do what they can to combat climate change.

“We don’t want to do nothing and just sit there and let the climate get worse,” Gov. Jerry Brown said last year. California is at particular risk from global warming, which will inundate low-lying areas of its 840-mile coastline with rising salt water while fostering more droughts and wildfires inland.

Its utilities are already on track to get half their energy from solar and other renewable sources as soon as 2020. The state is also fighting the Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to gut controls on vehicle tailpipe emissions. The energy commission says the solar panels and other requirements will cut a typical new home’s energy consumption by 53 percent—”equivalent to taking 115,000 fossil fuel cars off the road.”

But there are three major flaws in this approach. The first is that it’s a highly inefficient way to expand solar energy. University of California, Berkeley economist Severin Borenstein told the commission that he and the vast majority of energy economists “believe that residential rooftop solar is a much more expensive way to move towards renewable energy than larger solar and wind installations.”

No kidding. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory figures that on a kilowatt-hour basis, electricity from home solar panels costs 2 1/2 times more than electricity from large solar facilities operated by utilities.

The California approach brings to mind Mao Zedong’s call in the 1950s for Chinese peasants to build steel furnaces in their backyards. Many vital tasks are done best on a huge scale, and generating electricity is one of them.

Another drawback is that it will aggravate the state’s most notorious problem—astronomical housing costs. The median home price is now $524,000, in large part because of regulations that make every attempt to put up new housing only slightly less challenging than the Normandy invasion. California has fewer residential units per person than 48 other states. It’s a major reason more people are leaving the state than coming.

The new mandate will be another burden on new home construction and purchase because it is expected to add $10,000 or more to the cost. Not a big bump, percentage wise, but enough to make a difference—particularly at the lower end of the market, where the people least able to cope are found. And the claim that the solar gear will more than pay for itself over the life of a mortgage will be cold comfort to those who can’t qualify for the mortgage.

It’s another bundle of straw on a camel that is already staggering under its load. The state government might as well ask developers and contractors, “What part of ‘get lost’ do you not understand?”

Niskanen Center analyst David Bookbinder says, “The big problem in California is transportation emissions.” Last year, the California Air Resources Board noted that in 2015, emissions from producing electricity fell by more than 5 percent. But those from vehicles rose by 3 percent. Focusing on home solar power is akin to attacking obesity by putting marathon runners on a diet.

A steep gasoline tax would be the simplest way to get motorists to drive less and buy cars that burn less gasoline—or electric vehicles. The current excise taxes on gas amount to just 58 cents a gallon, which is not enough to take many gas guzzlers off the road. If anything, the solar mandate will stimulate more driving as higher home prices induce Californians to move farther from their jobs and endure longer commutes.

Environmentalists in California and beyond have good cause to fear and resist the powerful enemies now in charge of federal policy. But they should also guard against the folly of their friends.

Read more from Reason.com…