The public eulogies marking the passing of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95 on December 5, 2013 have refocused attention on the long struggle in South Africa to bring about an end to racial discrimination and the Apartheid system.Mandela and His Marxist View of Apartheid
Forgotten or at least certainly downplayed in the international remembrance of Mandela’s nearly three decades of imprisonment and his historical role in becoming the first black president of post-Apartheid South Africa is the fact that through most of the years of his active resistance leading up to his arrest and incarceration he accepted the Marxist interpretation that racism and racial discrimination were part and parcel of the capitalist system.
Mandela was a member of a revolutionary communist cohort who were insistent and convinced that only a socialist reorganization of society could successfully do away with the cruel, humiliating, and exploitive system of racial separateness.
With the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the communist model of socialist transformation was too tarnished and delegitimized to serve a as a guidebook for post-Apartheid South Africa by the time that Mandela assumed office as the first black president in that country in May 1994.
Instead, Mandela’s government followed the alternative collectivist path of a highly “activist” and aggressive interventionist-welfare state, with its usual special interest politicking, group-favoritism, and its inescapable corruption and abuse of power. Its legacy is the sorry and poverty-stricken state of many of those in the black South African community in whose name the anti-Apartheid revolution was fought.The Free Market Criticisms of Apartheid
But this did not have to be the road taken by South Africa. There were other voices that also opposed the racial and Apartheid policies of the white South African government, especially in the decades after the Second World War.
These voices argued that racial policies in that country were not the result of “capitalism,” but instead were precisely the product of anti-capitalist government interventionism to benefit and protect certain whites from the potential competition of black Africans.
One of the most prominent of these voices was economist, William H. Hutt. Hutt had come to South Africa from Great Britain in 1928 and taught at the University of Cape Town until the 1970s, when he moved to the United States where he died in 1988. Born in 1899, he had attended the London School of Economics and studied under Edwin Cannan, the noted historian of economic thought and liberal free trade economist.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Hutt became most widely known in free market and classical liberal circles as an outspoken and tireless critic of Keynesian economics and an advocate of a liberal free market order.
But his notoriety in South Africa was due to his well-reasoned and biting criticisms of government economic policies to “keep blacks in their place.” Indeed, in the mid-1950s, Hutt was threatened with expulsion from the country as a result of his criticisms until the matter was brought up in the South African parliament, and his right of residence and freedom of speech were defended.South Africa’s Racist and Anti-Capitalist Policies
William Hutt’s criticisms culminated in a 1964 book, “The Economics of the Color Bar.” The thesis of the book was that South Africa’s “race problem” was due to the rejection of a liberal, open and competitive market economy. Black poverty and the income inequality between South African whites and blacks was caused by government regulation and prohibitions that bestowed privileges on segments of the white, and especially Afrikaner, population at the expense of unprivileged blacks who were prevented from competing for employment and opening businesses in restricted “white-only” parts of the economy.
These discriminatory laws began to be implemented in the early decades of the 20th century. Under “workplace fairness,” for example, white trade unions had pushed for legislation requiring for “equal pay for equal work.” But, in fact, such laws made it difficult for blacks to offer themselves at more attractive wages than their white competitors. This worked like a minimum wage law that prices lower skilled and less valuable workers out of the market. In the South African case, the burden of exclusion from employment fell almost completely on blacks.Afrikaner Fear of Black African Competition
In his book Hutt traced out the history of how the Afrikaners, who had originally come from Holland and had first settled in South Africa early in the 1600s, were mostly farmers who shunned manufacturing and commercial enterprise. These latter occupations and businesses were mostly formed and developed by later settlers from Great Britain.
But as circumstances changed over time in the 19th and early 20th centuries, with industrial development and the growth in mining, Afrikaners reluctantly found themselves moving into these lines of employment. However, they resented and feared the potential competition from black Africans also looking for employment, and who might be more industrious than themselves or willing to work for lower wages.
The labor market restrictions were exacerbated in the post-World War II period when the Afrikaner-led Nationalist Party came to power in 1948 and instituted the Apartheid policy of keeping the races separate by restricting entire professions and occupations or forms of employment for white workers only.
In addition to occupational segregation, Apartheid attempted to limit black residence and settlement to certain parts of South Africa, which included restrictions on the everyday movement of blacks within white areas.Government Planning to Separate the Races
Hutt called this a form of “totalitarian” control so the government could “centrally plan” the interactions, associations and movements of whites and blacks throughout the country. Contrary to the leftist propaganda of the time, many private businesses in South Africa were interested and willing to employ black workers and invest in their training and acquisition of more highly valued marketable skills.
However, the Afrikaner government used its regulatory and fiscal tools of control and intimidation to “keep in line” white employers who saw economic gain by “crossing the color line” in their businesses and enterprises.
Thus, it was political goals of the South African government and not the market motive of profit that prevented black South Africans from having the opportunities to rise more out of poverty through peaceful competition and cooperative commercial association.Free Markets as the Great Liberator
Hutt forcefully insisted that capitalism was the potential and real force for freedom and prosperity of the blacks in South Africa, if only the government would get out of the way. As Hutt expressed, it in the free market the only “color” that really matters is the color of your money:
“The liberating force is released by what is variously called ‘the free market system,’ ‘the competitive system, ‘the capitalist system’ or ‘the profit system.’ When we buy a product in the free market, we do not ask: What was the color of the person who made it? Nor do we ask about the sex, race, nationality, religion or political opinions of the producer.” “All we are interested in,” Hutt continued, “is whether it is good value for money. Hence it is in the interest of businessmen (who must try to produce at least cost in anticipation of demand) not only to seek out and employ the least privileged classes (excluded by custom and legislation from more remunerative employments) but actually to educate them for these opportunities by investing in them.
“I have tried to show [in his book], Hutt said, “that in South Africa it has been to the advantage of investors as a whole that all color bars should be broken down; and that the managements of commercial and industrial firms (when they have not been intimidated by politicians wielding the planning powers of the state) have striven to find methods of providing more productive and better remunerative opportunities for the non-Whites.”
What, then, was holding back opportunities for black South Africans? Hutt explained it was the political and restrictive power of government:Government Intervention Benefits Some and Hurts Others
“The subjugating force is universally through what we usually call, when writing dispassionately, the interventionist, collectivist, authoritarian or ‘dirisgiste’ system . . . Unchecked state power (or the private use of coercive power tolerated by the state) tends, deliberately or unintendedly, patently or deviously, to repress minorities or politically weak groups. Thus, the effective color bars which have denied economic opportunities and condemned non-Whites to be ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ have all been created in response to demand for state intervention by most [of South Africa’s] political parties.”
Why would businessmen, enterprisers, capitalists have any incentive or motive to overcome what might even be their own racial or ethnic prejudices and hire and train those in the discriminated group?Consumers’ Color-Blindness Open Opportunities
Hutt said that it was due to what he once called “consumers’ sovereignty.” That is, in a competitive, open and free market, there is only one way that a businessman may earn profits and gain market share: Making the better and less expensive product than his rivals who are also attempting to capture some of the consumers’ business. In the free market place, the consumer is the “master” and the producers are the “servants” who must satisfy the consumers’ desires, or end up as failed entrepreneurs.
“The virtues of the free market do not depend upon the virtues of the men at the political top but on the dispersed powers of substitution exercised by men in their role as consumers,” Hutt stated. “In that role, a truly competitive market enables them to exert the energy [through their decisions to buy or not to buy] which enforces the neutrality of business decision-making in respect of race, color, creed, sex, class, accent, school, or income group.”
“In a multi-racial society,” Hutt continued, “it tends, because of the consumers’ color-blindness, to dissolve customs and prejudices which have been restricting the ability of the under-privileged to contribute to, and hence to share in, the common pool of output and income. This is because business decision-makers – ‘entrepreneurs’ – have an immensely powerful incentive to economize for the benefit of their customers, who collectively make up the public. Their success depends upon their acumen and skills in acquiring the resources needed for production at the least cost, especially in discovering under-utilized resources.”
Here was the free market capitalist road not taken by South Africa, both in bringing an end to the racist and Apartheid policies of the past, and in terms of the policies that could have brought about a far more color-blind, free, and prosperous South African society in the nearly twenty years since 1994.
In following the anti-capitalist ideas of Nelson Mandela instead of the classical liberal free market ideas of someone like William H. Hutt, South Africa’s post-Apartheid history has been in many ways as troubled and discriminatory as the corrupt racist regime it replaced.
[Originally published on Epic Times]
Green energy, specifically solar and wind, has been sold to the American public as the answer to a host of crimes against the planet—but green has a big downside.
Hundreds of acres of photovoltaic solar panels confuse migratory water birds, such as the “once-
critically endangered brown pelican whose lifestyle involves fishing by diving into open water,” to veer miles out of their way to dive toward what they perceive are lakes or wetlands—only to die from “blunt force trauma.” At the largest solar thermal plant in the world, Ivanpah, the 170,000 reflecting mirrors—designed to “superheat liquid in boilers”—literally fries feathers. The USA Today reports that the intense radiation—called solar flux—has singed some birds, melted feathers, and denatured the protein in their wings as they fly through the intense heat. Unable to fly, the injured birds drop out of the sky and die.
The birds being lured to their death by solar power plants may get a reprieve.
USA Today references a “solar-industrial corridor” along I-10 in Riverside County, California, which was to have 80 percent of its 148,000 acres covered with solar panels or mirrors. However, it reports: “Today, that seems unlikely. Industry trends are toward smaller solar projects and the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) loan-guarantee program has ended.” Additionally, Friday, December 13, was unlucky for the solar industry—but lucky for the birds. Giving official recognition of the threat solar power tower projects pose to wildlife, the California Energy Commission announced that it is “likely to deny approval to a major Riverside
County solar power project that has been criticized for posing an unacceptable risk to birds and other wildlife.”
The bald and golden eagles aren’t so lucky.
The Friday before, December 6, the Obama Administration announced an extension of the existing five-year eagle take permit. Effective immediately, the new rule issued by the Department of Interior (DOI) will grant 30-year permits allowing wind farms to “accidently kill federally protected eagles.” The “rule” is in direct violation of the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act passed by Congress in 1940.
Wind turbines chop up bald and golden eagles, and other endangered species—like a Cuisinart. If the DOE were to meet its 2030 goal of having 20 percent of the nation’s electricity generated from wind, the authors of a new study on bird collision mortality at wind facilities project: “a mean annual mortality estimate of roughly 1.4 million birds.”
To encourage Interior Secretary Jewell to reverse the DOI decision, the National Audubon Society has set up a direct email option with a customizable letter to Secretary Jewell that states: “The 30-year permit rule is a blank check for the wind industry and provides no comfort or confidence at all that you will be protecting America’s majestic Bald and Golden Eagles and safeguarding their populations.”
Like the expiration of the DOE loan guarantee program has increased the likelihood populations of migratory birds will survive death by renewables, the pending expiration of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy could help the eagles and other raptors that are attracted to the towering turbines.
A December 12 Wall Street Journal (WSJ) editorial, “Powering Down the Wind Subsidy,” points out, as the subtitle states: “How Congress can achieve something by doing nothing.” The WSJ is encouraging Congress to “do nothing” and allow the PTC to expire as scheduled on December 31—which would save taxpayers $18 billion over the next five years. Expire it may, as the current budget deal takes away last minute negotiations that got it extended last year—but that doesn’t mean it is really gone. The PTC has expired several times in its twenty-year history and has been extended retroactively. The WSJ states: “The wind lobby is now trying to get the subsidy included in a January ‘tax extender’ package and made retroactive.”
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, on December 13, for the first time hinted, according to Politico.com, that he may push the Senate to consider a tax extenders package. Wyden said: “If you didn’t have tax reform and you didn’t have extenders, you’d do crushing damage to solar, wind and renewables.” No mention was made of the “crushing damage” to America’s migratory bird population or to the bald and golden eagles.
Wyden will likely have his way. While, Republicans generally oppose government subsidies and support the energy that actually works, and Democrats, like Wyden, tend to favor government giveaways and support the energy that they “hope” will “change” and actually work—there are plenty of Republicans who will help him push the “extenders” package and give the PTC back. Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, where the PTC extension originates, and he recently predicted a PTC extension. With just a handful of Republicans, such as Orin Hatch (UT), Pat Roberts (KS), John Thune (SD), and Mike Crapo (ID)—all of whom voted for the extension in 2012, the PTC could be hailed a “bipartisan victory.”
Think of the millions of birds being killed by renewables. Think of the billions of taxpayer dollars that have gone down the drain in “the quest for the holy grail of cheap renewable power.” Whether you oppose death by renewables for avian or economic reasons isn’t important. But what does matter is making your opposition to continuing wind welfare heard.
Cleland is the president of Precursor, LLC, a Fortune 500 research consultancy specializing in the future of Internet competition, property rights, privacy, cyber-security and cyber-ideology; algorithmic markets; and communications competition and de-regulation. Cleland authors the widely-read PrecursorBlog and serves as Chairman of NetCompetition® a pro-competition e-forum supported by broadband interests.
Cleland’s thesis is that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an outdated and outmoded federal bureaucracy. He explains in the podcast that the FCC’s common carrier laws are largely outdated because they were created in 1934 and pulled from 1880′s regulations for the railroad industry. How do you expect such an outdated law to keep up with modern technology?
The bottom line is that the FCC’s authority is obsolete and needs to recognize today’s facts.
Hear the rest by listening to the podcast in the player above!
Mayor Bloomberg’s going out with one last ban. The City Council, with the administration’s strong backing, is rushing through a law to treat the vapor from e-cigarettes like tobacco smoke under the city’s “Smoke-Free Air Act.” The use of e-cigs, aka “vaping,” would be forbidden in indoor and outdoor locations wherever smoking is banned.
The key idea is that e-cigs somehow facilitate tobacco smoking – but the best evidence suggests the reverse, that they’re mainly useful for (and used by) people trying to quit. So the ban is likely to do harm, not good.
The goal of the Smoke-Free Air Act has always been to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, and allow people to smoke in fewer places, with the hope that it would cause them to quit. Banning e-cigs helps on neither front.
It won’t cut exposure to secondhand smoke, because there is no smoke — not even any first-hand smoke. And early evidence is that they’re a much more popular way to help people quit smoking than forcing them to stand out in the cold.
Here’s the science so far: A randomized controlled trial, published in the Lancet last month, found that e-cigs were about as effective an aid in quitting as FDA approved nicotine patches.
The study, funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand, also found that e-cigs have only a few adverse effects — far fewer than tobacco.
The pro-ban side argues that e-cigarettes “normalize” smoking, because people may be confused and think vaping is smoking. That’s nonsense.
Robin Vitale of the American Heart Association summed up the claim at a council hearing this month: “This mimicry of traditional cigarettes, if used indoors where smoking is banned, can easily lead to confusion and confrontation by New York business owners. The potential for this dynamic to weaken the city’s decade-long ban on smoking in workplaces is quite clear and is the greatest motivating factor to support this proposal.”
Actual business owners beg to differ. Andrew Rigie of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, the trade association for restaurants and bars, testified that e-cigarettes have not become an issue of concern among his members.
It seems that regular folks can tell that the blue LED light on the tip of many e-cigs from the red burning ember at the end of real cigarettes. It helps that vapor doesn’t stink the way tobacco smoke does.
Yes, e-cigs somewhat mimic the old “coffin nails” — that’s why they help you quit. Many smokers prefer kicking the habit with a product that looks and feels like a cigarette.
Spike Babian, co-owner of Vape New York, a city “vape shop,” made the clear point, testifying, “We don’t ban water because it looks like vodka.”
City Health Commissioner Tom Farley presented another red herring at the same hearing, hauling out the “gateway” argument: He claimed, with no data to back up the charge, that e-cigarette use could lead to smoking. In fact, preliminary studies, as well as empirical evidence, show that e-cigarettes are a major gateway away from smoking.
A study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research meeting in November looked at 1,300 college students, average age 19. Only 43 of those told researchers their first nicotine product was an e-cigarette, and only one of the 43 later switched to cigarettes. The vast majority of the 43 who’d tried an e-cigarette weren’t using nicotine or tobacco when researchers followed up.
“It didn’t seem as though it really proved to be a gateway to anything,” said researcher Theodore Wagener, an assistant professor of general and community pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, in Oklahoma City.
As an ultimate fallback, activists suggest e-cig vapor might be dangerous. But in a study this summer, Drexel University’s Dr. Igor Burstyn found “there is no evidence that vaping produces inhalable exposures . . . that would warrant health concerns by the standards that are used to ensure safety of workplaces.”
Grasping at straws, the ban fans suggest it’s just the prudent thing to do until we have more data. No, the prudent thing to do is to help smokers trying to quit.
[Originally published in the New York Post]
Politically, the president’s inequality concern trolling push is just the latest MacGuffin: the distraction of an issue that does not poll as a high priority, but is designed as a sop to the media and his now-shrinking base of support. But it also speaks to real concerns in an era of wage stagnation and squeezed paychecks. There shouldn’t be any debate about the reality of the problem that the costs of basic staples, health care, and higher education are chewing up ever-increasing portions of the median family budget which is, in inflation-adjusted terms, smaller than it’s been since 1995. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over the past five years, the average prices for all goods are 7.7% higher; the average price of bread is 10.4% higher; and the average price of meat/poultry/fish/eggs is 16.2% higher. In the past decade, the average worker has paid 89 percent more toward their health care benefits, while their wages grew 31 percent. The rising costs of the government-fueled higher education bubble makes American parents concerned they can no longer afford to send their kids to college. On top of it all, Americans no longer feel confident about their ability to find a new job which can pay them enough to make up for the costs of these goods and services.
The problem is not that the cost of unskilled labor is too low. The problem is the costs of what workers can buy with the fruits of that labor are too high. And the reason for that is largely due to government and systems which socialize risk and insulate producers from reality, not the realities of a competitive marketplace. Those who favor a free market response to these inequality-related concerns ought to view the minimum wage push as an opportunity to put forward an agenda that speaks to these real concerns with a gas & groceries agenda. This is not going to be solved by more government requirements which raise the cost of labor and will absolutely lead to more low-skilled unemployment: it is with an agenda that would smash the insulated systems which have led to these higher costs.
What does that look like in practice? Well, you can start by ending the massive subsidies and mandates for big conglomerates that drive up food and gas prices; streamlining or eliminate burdensome regulations on food production; ending the government’s management Soviet-style programs of dairy and raisins; streamlining or eliminating burdensome regulations on energy which needlessly drive up prices, inhibit competition, and destabilize the market while eliminating all taxpayer-funded energy subsidies and letting the best product win; and eliminating subsidies and tax incentives for energy companies to turn food like corn into gas, such as the Renewable Fuel Standard. You can propose smashing the federal government’s accreditation cartel, which has had a dramatic and negative impact on innovation within the higher ed space, and take a simple, federalist step of empowering the states to create 50 new accreditation entities. With the ability to accredit all the way down to the level of the individual course, this approach would push market-driven course offerings designed not as hollow imitations of larger liberal arts programs, but to suit the skill demands of the new economy.
These types of approaches, packaged together or pursued separately, should address these concerns head on. But is the Republican Party at all interested in such steps? It’s an open question, given how many of them are still in bed with many of the industries who view these protectionist and subsidy programs as essential supports for their industry.
I’ve repeatedly criticized the government’s sugar program, which kills jobs here in America while driving up prices on sugar and incentivizing the use of high fructose corn syrup – some estimates have put the program at a $1.9 billion annual cost for foodmakers and consumers. But this piece in the Washington Post illustrates how much hypocrisy exists on the right around the program, bringing together Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Marco Rubio to defend a New Deal-era program of market-warping cronyism.
“As a rule, the industry meets with every incoming freshman member of a new Congress. This year the list included Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), elected in 2012 on a tea party platform. Yoho quickly gained national recognition for, among other things, pressing House Republicans to cut deeply into farm bill programs such as food stamps. But on sugar subsidies, the livestock veterinarian said he has grown to support the industry view. He is sponsoring a sugar-backed resolution that favors giving up the sugar program only when other countries end their subsidies. “I ran on limited government, fiscal responsibility and free enterprise,” Yoho said, “but when you’ve got programs that have been in place and it’s the accepted norm, to just go in there and stop it would be detrimental to our sugar growers.”
Mario Loyola does a good job of explaining how execrable Yoho’s position is here.
“Protectionism is always a reverse–Robin Hood proposition. Farm protections force the poor to pay artificially higher food prices in order to pad profits for millionaire farmers. And the poor never even realize that they’re basically being defrauded by a conspiracy of government officials and their favorite special interests. When properly understood in their true economic light, these farm supports (like the abominable Wright Amendment for American Airlines) are tantamount to government collusion in a criminal price-fixing cartel. Contrary to what is an almost biblical tenet of progressivism, government cannot sanitize a price-fixing cartel. Government power can only make the cartel’s injury to the public far worse, both by protecting the cartel from the competition that would bring it down in a truly free market, and by making the cartel permanent. It is no surprise that the New Deal’s agriculture supports were foisted on the American public as emergency measures, but are still with us today.”
Some Republicans have taken up more populist anti-corporatist and anti-cronyist arguments in recent months, because they can read the same polls we do. But will they stand up to cronyism, or are they just interested in demagoguery on the issue until they hold the reins of power again? I’m skeptical they’ll change unless political reality forces the issue and makes this route the most expedient, and make the obvious lure of Big Sugar less appealing.
[Originally published on The Federalist]
“Pray that the market for the national debt remains open so that the United States can keep borrowing to repay the money is previously borrowed and then will have to re-borrow to repay the money it just borrowed. There is no chance the market will not change its demeanor over the next 100 years.”
That’s Murray Holland’s conclusion in his book, “A Nation in the Red: The Government Debt Crisis and What We Can Do About it” ($28.00, McGraw Hill). As a longtime book reviewer, I have read a growing stack of books warning about a financial collapse, but Holland’s book is not only based in the actual debt, but is written in a manner that even a person who has no knowledge of this issue can understand.
The “market” Holland refers to is the market for America’s treasury notes and bonds, issued to cover our on-going budget and the interest needed to pay prior borrowing. In sum, the nation is spending more and borrowing more than it can afford. It has been doing this for a long time and the warning signs are places like Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and other European nations that, following World War Two, embraced socialism. America did so even earlier during The Great Depression and the decades since the 1930s.
Holland calls it a Debt Trap and conservatives know instinctively that the U.S. government is too large and too based in socialism to survive. “There are over 500 agencies and departments on the list and it does not even include all the agencies and departments created in the states under grant programs from the federal government.” One can find the list here.
“The list of social programs is long,” writes Holland, “but the four major categories driving America into the Debt Trap are income security (Social Security, welfare, and other related programs), healthcare (Medicaid, Obamacare, and Medicare), education, and housing,” noting that “These programs did not exist until after the Great Depression.” They came about as the result of a Keynesian view that government spending would lift the economy out of its doldrums, but government spending does nothing to improve the economy. It sucks money out of the economy and, more specifically, out of the pockets of individual citizens and the business community.
Americans born during and after the Great Depression have had eighty years living in a nation whose economic system is capitalism, but whose governance is socialism.Despite nearly fifty years of a Cold War with the former Soviet Union (1945-1991), Americans have been blissfully ignored its intention of the communist intention to destroy capitalism and have accepted a vast matrix of social programs that now represent $70 trillion in unfunded financial liabilities. Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, their plan “to overwhelm America with debt, welfare, and entitlements—in other words, to bankrupt America has continued unabated.
“This will cause the collapse of America and the government could then turn to pure socialism,” says Holland, noting that “Their scheme has been so well researched it has its own name: the Cloward-Piven strategy,”
It’s worth noting that, in addition to the socialist nations of the European Union, communism is still alive and well in Russia, China, North Korea, Venezuela, and Cuba to name just a few nations. And yet, even Russia and China have adopted some capitalistic measures, while ensuring strong, totalitarian central governments.The level of danger has increased exponentially with the election and reelection of President Barack Obama whose namesake legislation, Obamacare, is already having a catastrophic effect on the economy while putting all Americans at risk for the loss of healthcare from individual physicians and hospitals. The legislation was passed by a party-line vote by Democrats and opposed by every Republican in Congress. Obama spent the years since signing it lying about it. That’s what Communists do.
It is what the vast bulk of the nation’s print and broadcast media is doing are doing as well. They are little more than echo chambers for the torrent of lies that Obama administration is telling Americans about the economy.
“During the first few years of the Great Depression, almost 2,300 banks were closed, manufacturing fell 46 percent, and wholesale prices fell 32 percent. Today, the United States has a reported unemployment rate of around 8 percent. During the Great Depression, the unemployment rate hit 25 percent.” With ninety million Americans unemployed, the figures cited by the federal government are a fiction.
The only thing that can save America is an increase in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP), selling more goods and services, enabling an increase in employment, coupled with a vast reduction in the enormous governmental regulation of business. The vast taxation of Americans needs to be reduced in order to permit them to retain and spend their earnings, make investments, start new businesses. The annual GDP is now less than what the nation earns.
The “redistribution of wealth” is a totally communist concept and it is the intent of the Obama administration.
The future of the nation depends on the outcome of the 2014 midterm elections and control of Congress by as many conservative candidates and office-holders is essential. The RINOs, Republicans in name only, must be replaced.
In the meantime, I recommend you purchase and read “A Nation in the Red.”
Thirteen of Fisker Automotive executives made more than six figures in the past year, despite manufacturing zero cars.
The news was first reported Wednesday afternoon on the automotive Web site Jalopnik.com, and later in the evening by theDelaware Journal. Jalopnik often gets the scoops when electric cars catch fire. For those unaware of the ugly saga, Fisker declared bankruptcy at the end of last month after squandering more than $1.4 billion in private investment and losing $139 million of taxpayers’ money.
According to news reports, including one from the Journal a year ago, not a single Fisker Karma – the $102,000 (base price) luxury electric plug-in embraced by the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio and Al Gore – has been produced since July 2012. Hopeful workers in Wilmington, Del. –where company officials and local politicians loudly announced the revival of a former General Motors plant for the manufacture of a second model, the Atlantic – were laid off in April 2012. Most of the rest of Fisker’s employees, in California, were abruptly dismissed a year later. They promptly sued the company, citing state and federal labor laws that they said required advanced notice before layoffs – and hired the same law firm that Solyndra’s former employees used to successfully recover lost wages.
While the rank-and-file got screwed, the executives took care of themselves. Based upon information gleaned from Fisker’s bankruptcy filing, the Journal reported that nine of the officials were paid more than $100,000 during the twelve months from November 2012 to November 2014. Four of them made in excess of $200,000. Payments consisted of salary, automobile use, health benefits, vacation payouts and expense reimbursements.
The top recipient was co-founder Bernhard “Barny” Koehler, who was paid $687,691. Ironically Koehler was the one who in August 2009pleaded to Department of Energy officials, “We are oversubscribed in this equity round with the Energy Department support — and nowhere without it.” Three to four years later the situation was far worse, but that didn’t stop him from drawing a handsome salary and perks out of failing Fisker. At the same time U.S. taxpayers were out precious millions, and Delaware taxpayers were still stuck paying the utility bills for the empty plant that Fisker never used.
The next top earner during the period was the former GM executive who helped develop the Chevy Volt, Tony Posawatz, who joined Fisker as CEO in August 2012 and left in August this year. He took in $534,213, according to the Journal’s review of the bankruptcy filing. Posawatz spent much of his time with investment bank Evercore Partners, Inc. – which has a reputation of helping businesses plan their bankruptcies – denying that Fisker was contemplating bankruptcy and instead claiming Evercore was helping find a “strategic business partner” for Fisker. Posawatz was reimbursed for trips to Asia, fruitlessly trying to find such a “partner.”
Fisker CFO James Yost was the next highest earner during the lengthy dormant production period. The Journal said he took in $430,375. That’s a lot for someone who was supposed to be in the position of fiscal responsibility for the company. For example, in June this year Reuters – based upon documents it had obtained and insider sources who were willing to talk about the sinking ship – revealed several reasons whyFisker was tanking, despite $1.4 billion in investment.
“Fundamentally, say suppliers and some insiders, executives simply couldn’t orchestrate the complex dance that leads from a design sketch to the production and sale of a profitable car,” Reuters reported. “Spending was lavish; engineering blunders rife.”
Among the issues that can be pegged to financial unaccountability were last-minute design changes, engineering fixes, delayed delivery of components, over-ordering, stockpiling of parts, and vehicle flaws – all cited as contributions to cost overruns. An anonymous Reuters source knowledgeable about Fisker’s financial details “estimated that last-minute tweaks rendered between $50 million and $100 million of Fisker’s parts inventory obsolete.”
And then there were what might be called “excesses.” Several knowledgeable sources said the company’s iconic head Henrik Fisker and Koehler were paid $600,000-$700,000 annually, even after the company started reducing payroll the last couple years. And in May 2011, only weeks before the Department of Energy severed its loan, Fisker hosted a grand prix-themed party aboard a 146-foot yacht on Monte Carlo harbor. The price tag was estimated at $80,000-$100,000.
“Guests drank glasses of champagne served with flecks of gold,” Reuters reported. “Clad in a dark pinstripe suit and open-neck white shirt, Henrik Fisker navigated a crowd that included Prince Albert of Monaco, whom he described as the inspiration for the Karma.”
If the nicely compensated CFO Yost spoke up about such overindulgence, it was unheeded.
Then there’s the man himself, Henrik Fisker, who bailed out on the company named for himself after disagreements with the direction that Posawatz and others were taking. The Journal reported that he received $330,024 in salary and perks up until his departure in March 2013. A former designer for automakers like BMW and Aston Martin, Mr. Fisker had the ingenuity and know-how to actually create a vehicle, but apparently not the management chops or discipline to build one (and a company) from scratch. Illustrative of the dysfunction was the fact that in less than a single year, the Anaheim, Calif.-based company went through three CEOs, replacing Mr. Fisker with former Chrysler CEO Tom LaSorda, who after five months was replaced with Posawatz. Nevertheless Mr. Fisker still drew his six-figure salary.
According to the bankruptcy filing reported by the Journal, nine other executives collectively received more than $2.3 million during the 12-month period. The situation is similar to that of Fisker’s former battery supplier, A123 Systems, which received a $249 million Department of Energy grant (plus other government contracts and giveaways) but now also has gone bankrupt. As that company’s situation grew increasingly dire early in 2012, top officials moved suddenly to increase the compensation, stock holdings and severance terms for its corporate leadership.
Similarly, Fisker’s management apparently didn’t recognize that they were supposed to give their employees 60-days’ notice before they were cut loose. Nor did they realize, apparently, that paying themselves nicely while Delaware taxpayers paid for gas and electricity at its empty plant would look bad. Neither did they understand, evidently, that taking millions of dollars while failing to produce a single car – even one built as a toy for rich California celebrities and Silicon Valley liberals – would look even worse.
A principled presidential administration might consider seeking to recover some money on behalf of taxpayers, but that’s getting way too hypothetical.
[Originally published on the National Legal and Policy Center]
Common Core sounds innocent enough, but what it represents and how it is applied in teaching children from K – 12 can’t be ignored. If we do so at a local, state, and national level we are ourselves to blame for what looms ahead as to the final outcome of an experimental educational system that has been put in place lock, stock and barrel without any trial runs to test the credibility of the system.
This nation already ranks below other nation in math, reading and science, while we spend more money per child than any other nation but Sweden. It defies logic to expect that Common Core standards will succeed in advancing educational standards to duplicate those of other nations who spend far less but who get better results. And how long will it take teachers to get up to speed in learning how to teach the “Common Core way“?
It is our children who will suffer in a educational system where one size fits all in an agenda-driven system that is laced with political bias that advances liberalism and where so-called critical thinking is considered superior to memorization in Common Core classrooms.
Any one of the 10 riveting facts listed below about Common Core should set alarm bells ringing with enough intensity for concerned citizens and parents to become involved by insisting on a full accountability of what is happening in their school districts. Children should not be used as guinea pigs.
This nation’s future is in the hands of those who are not willing to sit back and see the country we love become a nation that has gone far astray from the principles set forth by our Founding Fathers. Our Founding Fathers would be appalled at the way federal government is now taking control of so many aspects of our lives by dictating what is best for us. This is Socialism.
1. Common Core rests on the faulty premise that a single, centralized entity knows what education is best for all 55 million students nationwide. Although Common Core was approved in 2010 by 45 states, Common Core standards had yet to be written at the time states agreed to adopt Common Core. All of the 45 states initially signing on to Common Core took stimulus money from the Obama administration. Illinois signed on without hesitation.
(It does hurt that Arnie Duncan is U.S. Education Secretary. Duncan was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in January of 2009 following his nomination by President Barack Obama. But before becoming secretary of education, Duncan was the chief executive officer of the Chicago Public Schools until December of 2008. As a firm supporter of Common Core, Arnie Duncan recently created quite a furor when in speaking to a group of state schools superintendents he made this controversial statement: “White suburban moms” are upset that Common core shows their kids aren’t “brilliant.”)
2. Common Core State Standards are academic benchmarks that outline the skills a student should have at each grade level. For example: Third graders should know how to find the perimeter of a figure A fifth-grader should be able to compare and contrast two characters from a story.
(I obtained copies of Parents’ Guide to Student Success at a meeting devoted to explaining Common Core to parents in Lake Forest Districts 67 (K-8) and 115 (high school). The two page guides provide an overview for each grade (Kindergarten through 8th) of what your child will learn by the end of the year in mathematics and English languages arts/literary, with additional guides providing an overview of what you child will learn during high school in Mathematics and English. These guides are a must to download, especially for those whose children attend public schools. Download the guides in color here. You will be amazed, as I was, at what the guides suggest!)
3. Common Core standards K-12, as applied to the classroom, place less emphasis on memorization such as rote memorization of multiplication tables, or of dates, or of historical facts, but instead critical thinking has become the hallmark of the Common Core class. Is giving up on educating students in factual history, civics, and other social studies content a good idea, despite high school and college graduates of today knowing little about the mechanics of government or knowledge of this nation’s amazing historical narrative? Instead critical thinking (what Common Core experts are calling higher-order thinking) is to serve as the preparation for life after high school?
4. Common Core basically removes away parental and local control of education. Regarding teachers, they lose their ability to be creative in the classroom, with teaching to the test becoming more important than ever.
5. Common Core tests are being developed by the same people who worked on the Core standards and who are now writing the textbooks. This is federal control of education and also of IDEAS. (Houghton Mifflin is a huge textbook publisher. It’s company website promises to be a partner who will share the responsibilities” of the Common Core. As such Houghton Mifflin has created a wide range of content, curricula, and services to support school leaders, teachers and educators, parents, and especially students with the transition.)
6. The Gates Foundation, a supporter of liberal progressive politics, is heavily involved in promoting Common Core through its generous funding. One organization funded by Gates is the ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), a membership-based nonprofit organization founded in 1943. Recently signing up a an endorser of Common Core, ASCD continues to receive funding from the Gates Foundation “to provide teachers and school leaders with supports to implement the Common Core State Standards at the district, school, and classroom levels.”
7. Common Core standards in Math and Language Arts were written first and are now being integrated into the curriculum of school districts throughout Illinois to some degrees and are at various stages of development. So 3 times 4 can now equal 11 so long as a student can effectively explain how they reached that answer.
8. Common Core’s “Guidance for Enhancing the Rigor of K-12 Civics, economics, Geography, and History” was released in September. Althoughthe 110-page “C3 Framework” took three years to develop, it is confusing, overly complicated and fails to include any content whatsoever. The Framework has “written by a committee” stamped all over it.
9. Common Core videos on Scientology spew United Nations ideas that demonize the United States and its wealth and pits the rich against the poor. Videos teach students they have the right to food, housing, clothing, medicine, even a job, five of the 30 universal human rights declared by the Unite Nations in 1945.
10. Common Core Science curriculum teaches the U.N-approved man-made global warming hypothesis, which is in sync with this nation’s political agenda of promoting green energy sources as a way to curtail global warming by reducing CO2 emissions emitted by coal and oil.
For over 100 years an educational system was in place that served this nation well. Those of us who can relate back to the 1950′s and before remember a time when the curriculum was left to individual teachers, or to department personnel in larger school systems, and where textbooks were likewise selected by individual teachers or department committees from a state-approved list of school textbooks.
It was an era when if teachers weren’t doing their jobs, they were usually let go after having a chance to improve. This same accountability existed from grades K through graduate school until the 60′s when teacher unions were organized and took hold in states. The Illinois Education Association (IEA) is one of the strongest in the nation. Its influence is far reaching in setting teacher salaries and in determining rules and regulations under which teachers work in local school districts.
Young men, having been educated under an educational system that some now view as haphazard, were prepared for work and for college. They further acquitted themselves well on the battle field when serving in World War I and II. After the wars these same ordinary men and women built businesses and proved to be productive in many ways.
What happened in the interim, despite all the money this nation has plowed into education, when fast forwarding to 2010 a new education program, Common Core, was conceived and created by the National Governors Association? President Obama and his administration wasted no time in embracing the new Common Core program.
Concluded by the NGA and the SCSSO was that for children to be properly educated there must be national standards, or a national curriculum, with lock-step performance testing curriculum to enable this nation to catch up with the rest of the world in science, math, and engineering. This despite that during much of the last hundred years this nation led the world in the disciplines of science, math and engineering and produced a large number of competent and brilliant scientists, doctors, engineers, architects, etc.
According to an article published on December 4th at Breitbart.com, Barack Obama didn’t simply embrace a concept that others had developed. Rather, the very roots of Common Core are in the early ideas generated by Obama and his fellow radical community organizer, Bill Ayers. It was Obama who headed the Chicago Annenberg Challenge from 1995 to 1999, a school “reform” organization founded by Bill Ayers, which funneled more than $100 million into community organizations and radical education activists.
Regarding the National Governors Association and the Council to Chief State School Officers, who are often cited and given credit for being the originators of Common Core standards, the real architect behind Common Core was David Coleman. As such, Coleman is responsible for bringing change to the entire American education system, even in the absence of any teaching experience.
In applying for a high school teaching job Coleman was turned down, after which he worked for a consulting firm where he advised public schools and became a fixture at NYC Department of Education meetings.
Transforming the American education system to fit his lofty ideas of what “real” education is. And it has nothing to do with learning useful skills to help you say, write a cohesive and grammatically correct resume or long division.
Of great concern is that Coleman was hired this past summer to lead the College Board organization. He is now redesigning the SAT’sand AP Program. In this position Coleman has the opportunity to tie what kids are learning to what colleges are expecting.
[This is the first of a three-part series. First posted at Illinois Review.]
The EPA has put out a proposal to reduce the amount of ethanol mixed with gasoline to be reduced in 2014 by 3 billion gallons from the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) mandate of 18 billion gallons. The renewable fuel industry is asking their members to write to the EPA asking the original mandate be kept. This lobbying will be very intense.
Ethanol from corn reminds me of the sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning: ”How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” The re-write for ethanol from corn is: “How bad is ethanol from corn? Let me count the ways.”
One could write a book about negative features of ethanol from corn. It take more energy to produce it than contained in the product. Ethanol has two-thirds the energy content of gasoline; so you get two-thirds the mileage using ethanol as a fuel.
Ethanol absorbs water which makes it a corrosive material for storage in metal containers. For this reason ethanol or ethanol-gasoline blends are not transported in pipelines. Ethanol is transported in tankers or rail tank cars. Now there is concern about ethanol blends causing corrosion in underground storage tanks (UTS) with environmental problems from leaks. Organizations demanding EPA concerns are discussed in this paper.
Because diesel fuel is involved in all aspects of ethanol from corn production and transportation is a big reason it requires more energy to make ethanol than the product contains. The energy balance has to go from the corn field to the gas tank. Diesel fuel is involved with tilling, planting, harvesting, and transporting corn to a refinery. A lot of energy is expended in converting corn to ethanol. Pipelines are the most energy efficient means of transporting fuels; however, ethanol has to be transported by diesel-fueled tankers.
Corn is a debilitating crop that requires much water and fertilizer for its growth. A Purdue University study claimed 18 inches of rainfall is necessary for a thriving corn crop. With a corn yield of 150 bushels per acre and 2.4 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn, this requires 1,360 gallons of water for plant growth per gallon of ethanol. Add in 200 gallons of water to process corn into ethanol yields a water requirement of 1,560 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol. The 2014 EPA proposed 13 billion gallons of ethanol from corn mandate requires 20 trillion gallons of water annually. This is more water than 320 million Americans use for all activities. The 20-40 billion gallons of water used annually by the oil and gas industry for hydraulic fracturing (fracking) pale in comparison to ethanol requirements.
Proponents of ethanol say water requirements are unimportant because most of it is rainfall. This argument is specious because the water could be used for something more important like growing food for consumption. Another factor is irrigation is widely used in corn production–especially in times of drought like the summer of 2012. Withdrawals from the Ogallala Aquifer are seriously depleting this major water resource in the Great Plains.
Due to political maneuvers in corn states, the country is saddled with an industry that produces 13 billion gallons of ethanol annually. This requires over 5 billion bushels of corn grown on more than 36 million acres. The vast land requirement led to a devastating article on environmental problems producing ethanol from corn. “The secret, dirty cost of Obama’s green power push” by AP writers Dina Capiello and Matt Apuzzo on November 12, 2013. Millions of acres of wet and grass lands were cleared for corn crops and runoff of fertilizer from corn fields has helped create 6000 square miles of a dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico at the Mississippi River mouth.
Vehicles running on ethanol generate higher concentrations of ozone than those using gasoline, especially in the winter, Stanford researchers have found. That could create new health concerns in areas where ozone hasn’t been a significant problem before. A report by the National Academy of Sciences also confirmed ozone producing problems using ethanol as a fuel.
Ethanol is damaging to fuel lines, carburetors, and other parts of older engines. Increasing ethanol use above the 10 percent mixture of ethanol and gasoline (E-10) is expected to ruin cars older than 2001 and all two-cycle engines used in lawnmowers, chain saws, weed eaters, leaf blowers, and a host of other small motor applications. With 13 billion gallons of ethanol being used at this time, the “blend wall” is reached in which all gasoline produced in the United States is mixed with 13 billion gallons of ethanol results in E-10 mixtures.
The renewable fuel industry frequently claims ethanol from corn lowers the price of transportation fuels. This claim is patently false. The Department of Energy recently published the “2012 Renewable Energy Data Book” which gives the average 2012 ethanol price of $4.48 per gallon of gasoline equivalent and the average 2012 price of gasoline of $3.29. The 35 percent higher price for ethanol also existed for prices from 2000 to 2011.
Due to the great corn demand for producing ethanol, the price of corn has escalated from about $2 a bushel in 2005 to as high as $8 a bushel in 2012. Corn is a mainstay food crop for the world. It is not only food for humans, but a major source of feed for poultry, pigs, and cattle. Higher food prices in poor nations has produced life threatening problems for the poor living in those countries.
The Arab Spring that swept across North Africa in 2011 is reported to be partially due to higher corn prices. “U.S. biofuel expansion has cost developing countries $6.6 billion in higher food costs,” estimates Tufts University economist Timothy A. Wise in Fueling the Food Crisis, a report published by ActionAid. A 10-minute video interview with Wise about his research is available here.
This is a short list of reasons to encourage the EPA to stay with the proposed 2014 ethanol mandate of 13 billion gallons. Much pressure from the renewable fuels industry will be exerted to stay with the EISA mandate of 14.5 billion gallons. Lawsuits are being proposed.
Fortunately, Energy Citizens provides an easy way to write to the EPA and demand they follow their proposed guideline for 2014 ethanol use via the notice that follows. After making this contact, forward this notice to associates and ask them to send similar letters. The renewable fuels industry and environmental movement supporters will generate hundred of thousands of letters asking to abandon this reduction.
Thursday, the FCC considered issuing a proposal that seeks comment on the Commission’s rules regarding the use of mobile wireless services on board aircraft. In my view, the proposal to seek public comment should be adopted.
As reported in today’s Washington Post, the announcement by the FCC’s new Chairman a couple of weeks ago that the agency would issue the notice seeking comment on a rule change that might lead to in-flight cellphone use has drawn a lot of public attention, both positive and negative. This is not surprising given the strong feelings of consumers concerning the use of cellphones in flight. Some consumers reacted positively to the prospect of allowing in-flight calls and wireless services, while others criticized the idea.
Those who interpreted the FCC’s announcement as permitting passengers to make voice calls in-flight should relax. The so-called Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will not itself allow in-flight calls. The NPRM will merely seek public comment on proposed revisions to the Commission’s rules to begin the process of considering whether any changes in the on-board wireless device use policies are warranted. The NPRM likely will also announce the Commission’s tentative decision to give airlines discretion to determine whether and how to provide and manage on-board wireless services, given the FCC’s determination that “there is no technical reason” to prohibit on-board use of mobile devices.
If it is true, and I await public comment on the issue, that there is no technical reason from a spectrum management or spectrum interference point of view for the FCC to prohibit on-board wireless use, then, from my free market-oriented perspective, giving airlines discretion to determine policies governing in-flight wireless services is an appropriate way to approach the issue. The FCC has technical expertise regarding resolving concerns about spectrum interference issues, and it is appropriate for the agency to address those concerns utilizing its expertise. But, at the same time, absent any concerns that on-board wireless use poses spectrum interference issues that compromise airline safety, I don’t see it as the FCC’s role to dictate how the airlines run their operations with respect to passenger conduct.
If the FAA believes that the in-flight use of cellphones may compromise the safety of airline operations because cellphone use is likely to cause disruptions due to unruly passenger fights, the FAA may well have a role to play. Perhaps other federal agencies may have a role to play as well. And, most importantly, as I understand it, nothing in the FCC’s proposed rule would require airlines to allow in-flight cellphone use. That decision would be left to the airlines themselves based on their own perceptions concerning the demands of consumers in the air travel marketplace.
When the FCC’s new Chairman, Tom Wheeler, announced a few weeks ago that the FCC would be considering this change, he said: “I do not want the person in the seat next to me yapping…But we are not the Federal Courtesy Commission.” I agree with Mr. Wheeler on both counts.At the end of the day, I personally hope the airlines don’t allow in-flight cellphone use, or at least certainly not in an unrestricted way that is likely to cause widespread passenger irritation. But, at the same time, as someone who has argued for a very long time that the FCC over-regulates and meddles in matters that ought to be left to the judgment of those businesses it regulates, sometimes to the point of counterproductive micro-management, I am with Mr. Wheeler on this one. There will be time enough to be critical when the new Chairman proposes new regulatory measures that shouldn’t be adopted. This is a deregulatory one that at least should be considered. [Originally published on The Free State Foundation]
FCC staff just muffed an easy opportunity to advance the IP transition on the FCC’s timetable in the National Broadband Plan.
Apparently FCC staff missed the big picture here.
1. On November 25th, AT&T proposed a baby step forward in the IP Transition.
AT&T did not propose any change in special access rates. AT&T simply proposed that its special access contract term-lengths, synch up with the FCC’s own goals for when the IP transition should be complete.
Instead of promoting investment certainty — by respecting its own IP transition timetable that the private sector has come to rely on for infrastructure investment planning — FCC staff announced an unnecessary five-month investigative delay.
With the effective consumer-driven transition to IP three-quarters complete, the FCC ironically could become a drag on, and impediment to, the IP transition, if it muffs more easy IP transition decisions like this one.
2. This is about leasing 1960’s telephone technology in 2020.
Companies like Sprint, Level 3, and Cbeyond, are pleading to FCC staff that it would be anti-competitive in 2020 for them not to continue to get 1990s resale subsidies, as if somehow the world has not changed, as if somehow broadband, smart-phones, tablets, and video-conferencing were not the new normal in the broadband marketplace.
Special access is about reseller businesses that serve the business market insisting on continued subsidized access to obsolescing technology that: is no longer being built; has parts that are increasingly no longer available; and has a rapidly-declining pool of engineers available to repair it.
It’s about reselling DS1 and DS3 telephone trunks that transmit at 1.5 MBPS and 44.7 MBPS respectively — to business customers. Has the FCC forgotten how it publicly supports gigabit speeds to consumers and schools today? Why can’t FCC staff let go of subsidizing 1.5 MBPS and 44.7 MBPS copper wire technology from the 1960’s by 2020?
The FCC has long encouraged the IP transition understanding the exponentially-growing cost savings generated from repetitive Moore’s Law cycles. Since special access started with the 1996 Telecom Act, digital technology has gotten ~2,000 times more efficient than 1996 analog special access telephone technology, and by 2020 it will be ~16,000 times more efficient than that copper telephone technology!
With all of the more efficient and faster infrastructure technologies than analog copper wire technology – i.e. coax, fiber, microwave, satellite, fixed wireless, cellular wireless, cantenna wireless, WiFi, WiMax, 4G wireless, LTE, etc. — the pleading companies still must have 1960’s technology, at 1990s rates, to “compete” in the 2020 business market? Where is the FCC staff’s big picture perspective here?
3. Real competition is not one-way.
In 2020, it will be 25 years after passage of the 1996 Telecom Act and most all American consumers will have abandoned the rapidly-obsolescing PSTN. Nevertheless, these special pleaders and FCC staff apparently still contemplate that the 2020 business market somehow should still need business subsidies? How does that make big picture sense?
If competition policy is to have any meaning, all competitors eventually must be expected to compete on their own two feet. Technology advances offer equal opportunity to incumbents and competitors alike. Permanent price subsidies are not competition policy, they are more akin to a permanent corporate welfare program.
When the FCC staff is investigating this market, they should ask the pleading companies why other competitors have been able to use other technologies and other means to provide their services to the lucrative business market and they can’t. With interest rates low and with large domestic and foreign investment in the pleading companies, why are they not investing in alternatives to special access, individually or as part of a consortium?
In addition, they should ask the pleaders, if 25 years is not long enough to build a viable, sustainable business model without government subsidies, how much longer will it be before they can compete on their own like other competitors do? Simply, does the FCC staff see special access subsidies as transitional or permanent, and why?
Lastly, FCC staff should ask themselves whether or not their continuous generous subsidies have distorted the market and/or discouraged competitors from investing in competitive broadband facilities to achieve more market competition. Furthermore, they should self-examine whether the FCC’s current approach is more about preserving an FCC regulatory role than promoting sustainable market competition that could require less FCC involvement.
In sum, FCC staff appears to be missing the proverbial forest for the trees. For the reasons above, it’s particularly important to have a big picture perspective on the special access issue.
25 years is a long time. It is a veritable eternity in the age of broadband Internet and the mobile revolution. Real competitors don’t need 25 years to find a sustainable business model independent of government subsidies.
As we recently learned from a wise network historian and big picture thinker, network innovation has facilitated “the end of the tyranny of place,” and also often causes “resistance to network change.”
In the case of special access and the IP transition, the pleading companies and FCC staff appear resistant to acknowledging the network change that the Internet and wireless technology have wrought for special access. There are other opportunities for the pleading companies to gain access to the Internet than just the “special” places where access to DS1 and DS3 copper wires are subsidized by the FCC.
[Originally published on Precursor Blog]
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the Nobel Prize-winning former political prisoner who became the first president of post-apartheid South Africa and that republic’s first black president, passed away Dec. 5 at the age of 95.
The young Mandela, an African nationalist and leftist, became active in politics in the mid-1940s, opposing the Nationalist Party of white Afrikaners (South Africans primarily of Dutch descent) and their imposition of racial segregationist policies known as apartheid.
Under apartheid, South Africans were classified into racial groups which, according to the Nelson Mandela Foundation website, “determined where someone could be born, where they could live, where they could go to school, where they could work, where they could be treated if they were sick and where they could be buried when they died. Only white people could vote and they had the best opportunities and the most money spent on their facilities.”
Over the next decade and a half, while in various elected positions within the African National Congress — the key black anti-apartheid movement and eventually the nation’s dominant political party — Mandela opposed the segregationist regime, going through multiple arrests and four trials. Mandela is also thought to have been a member of the Communist Party for some time, beginning in the early 1960s, though Mandela denied membership at his 1964 trial.
In 1962, Mandela was sentenced to five years of hard labor; he was sent to Robben Island in May 1963. However, in June 1964, following what is known as the Rivonia Trial, Mandela and eight others were sentenced to life in prison for sabotage. Mandela remained in prison until February 11, 1990.
In 1994, working with then-President F.W. de Klerk, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize with Mandela, South Africa had its first elections in which all races could vote, and Mandela was elected president.
With de Klerk, Mandela oversaw the writing of a new constitution and worked tirelessly to overcome the nation’s deep-seated divisions – hatreds would not be too strong a term – through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Mandela was self-term-limited, and did not run for re-election after his presidential term ended in 1999.
But the usual dates and titles don’t do justice to one of the truly great figures of modern history and his nearly miraculous successes in unifying what was perhaps the world’s most divided nation at the time.
To give some context, I’d like to share a story: In 1989, during apartheid, I went to South Africa to visit a friend who was serving in the Peace Corps in Lesotho (a small mountainous country located wholly within the borders of South Africa).
My friend and I went to a small town called Alldays in the northern area of the former Transvaal province (now Limpopo) to do some hunting. In the evening, we went to the local bar to have a cold beer and meet some locals. Our hunting guide, a most interesting local named Dirk Uys (pronounced something like “ice”), came along with us.
We sat down with a few locals, white men in their 60s, who were interested in talking politics with the Americans. We learned that they were affiliated with a political party called the AWB. I asked Dirk if they were Nazis and Dirk said, in a moment I will never forget, “No, they’re much more conservative than the Nazis.”
These men spent much of the next hour talking about their military experience, specifically how proud they were to have fought in Angola. By fighting, they meant, and said explicitly, “killing kaffirs,” a highly defamatory term which is the South African equivalent of what we commonly call “the n-word” in the United States today.
They asked us what guns we had brought to hunt with. We said we had borrowed rifles from Dirk. They were disappointed and asked us to bring guns from America next time, saying they thought they would really need good guns in the not too distant future.
As these men were slightly drunk and not shy even when sober, I asked a very direct question: “Do you mean you want guns to kill black people when the revolution comes?” The answer was equally direct, and shocking: “Of course.”
As with all nationalist racist lunatics, the men went on to opine, and I quote, “blacks are bad but our real problems are all caused by the Jews.” Needless to say, I declined when they asked me if I wanted to hunt with them the next day. I presume these men had never met a Jew and other than that frightening hour at the bar, I didn’t want to be their first.
These people, while somewhat a fringe minority, nevertheless represented a real part of the nation that the new black president had to pacify when he took office.
And then there was the majority:
South Africa is well-described as a Second World country, with an incredible range of urban and industrial wealth, with factories and communities not just “gated” but surrounded by fences covered with razor wire and patrolled by armed guards with Rottweilers, often within shouting distance of large ghettos, called townships, such as Soweto (actually a collection of townships in the greater Johannesburg area), which is home to approximately 1.3 million poor blacks.
South Africa has some of the most beautiful wine country you’ll ever see (about an hour from Capetown) and hundreds of dusty hovel-filled villages where blacks eke out an existence farming and weaving baskets which tourists buy from shops in larger towns and cities.
Matching its extremes of topography, from beach to mountains to jungle to desert, South Africa also has social and economic extremes you will rarely find elsewhere. It would not be hard to imagine it as a powder keg; indeed it would be hard to avoid it.
Imagine the man needed to keep that large, recently and brutally oppressed, uneducated, socialist black majority representing about 80 percent of the population (the country’s total population was about 40 million at the time apartheid ended, and is about 52 million today) from exacting bloody revenge on the country’s white minority, under 10 percent of the population, many of whom they did not even share a language with. The fact that the black population is made up of various different tribes and clans was surely a double-edged sword in Mandela’s pleading for peace and tolerance.
While a comparison of post-apartheid South Africa to the Reconstruction period following the American Civil War initially seems apt, the fact that blacks represent the vast majority of South Africa’s population is an important differentiator.
Neither George “I’m a Uniter” Bush nor Barack “Post-Partisan” Obama can even get relatively similar Democrats and Republicans to get along, but Nelson Mandela, largely through sheer force of personality, prevented what could have been bloody vengeful separatist insurrection among people with deep and serious grievances.
With all this in mind, it is impossible to visit South Africa (as I have three more times since the end of apartheid) and the notorious Robben Island prison, South Africa’s own Alcatraz, without gaining a sense of the true greatness of Madiba, as Mr. Mandela was known within his Xhosa clan.
The country still has substantial problems and yawning racial economic divides: 28 percent unemployment among blacks, under 7 percent for whites; a massive black underclass with little opportunity to make better lives for their children; and an estimated 13 percent of blacks being HIV-positive (compared to under 1 percent of whites.)
Yet while crime rates in some cities are high, in day-to-day life people of all races treat each other (at least superficially) with friendship and courtesy. In my experience, South Africans, regardless of race, are the friendliest people on Earth.
One more short story: About a decade after the end of apartheid, I was in a taxi in Capetown, speaking with the cab driver about South African politics. He said that things were OK, basically stable, but not great. I asked what would make his life better. He said he had an idea to start a business but couldn’t get a loan of even a few hundred dollars to start, and then said: “I think it would be better if there were more white people in government; they understand economics better.” My gut reaction was that this black cab driver showed why there was real hope for his country. He was interested in results, not revenge.
The fact that South Africa did not have years of blood running through the streets, or the theft and thuggery and impoverishing anti-white policies of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, the fact that they have a functioning democracy, the fact that the nation has a real, if not easy, path toward a successful future, is largely due to Nelson Mandela — a man who withstood more than a quarter century of hard labor, sleeping on a straw mat in a prison cell barely a foot wider than he was tall.
The question for the Republic of South Africa now is whether its people have the will, and its politicians the skill, to live up to the dream and the potential which Nelson Mandela saw, created, and embodied.
No man is perfect, and Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly not a saint. But when history needed a man of the strongest character to defeat, without bloodshed, an aggressive, evil political system which had survived years of international opposition and outrage, Madiba achieved what few others could even have conceived.
[First published at the American Spectator.]
Back in August, Czech Physicist Luboš Motl posted a blog that discussed the IPCC’s 95 percent “certainty” that global warming is mostly man-made and the subsequent runaway usage of that figure from the media to imply large amounts of money should immediately be spent to stop global warming. Motl, a highly-trained physicist, then contrasted that with how “95% certain” findings are more sensibly applied in particle physics.
I just came across his post now, and was struck most to learn how, in the world of particle physics, a 95% confidence level is “incredibly low,” Motl writes:
As I said, the 95% confidence level is known as the 2-sigma confidence in hard sciences such as particle physics. Particle physics experiments have brought us hundreds of 2-sigma excesses – and lots of much larger (more confident) excesses – and a vast majority of them turned out to be flukes. When more data were accumulated, these excesses just went away. Such things inevitably occur all the time.
Because people keep on looking for new effects, they inevitably encounter flukes that look like a new effect but the effect actually doesn’t exist. A priori, a new effect is always a pretty unlikely thing so if you look at the history of particle physics, most of the 2-sigma deviations were really flukes – results of coincidences that shouldn’t have been paid any attention to.
One important distinction Motl identifies before making this analogy is that 95% confidence levels in particle physics are calculated differently than how the IPCC calculates their confidence level, namely, the IPCC does no calculating at all, in fact they come up with their percentage level through a voting process.
Of course, failure to calculate a credible percentage figure is not entirely the IPCC’s fault, the enormous complexity of climate science stands in the way of allowing any person or group of persons to simply collect concrete data and then plug them into a clearly-defined calculation to be done by a computer. So they have a pretty good excuse one could say, but it’s still just an excuse, and science doesn’t recognize excuses, even if politics might.
(Photo credit: Oregon State University)
The Obama administration announced last Friday that it will grant industrial wind farm operators 30-year permits to kill legally protected bald eagles and golden eagles without fear of legal repercussions. U.S. wind turbines already kill 1.4 million birds and bats each year, including many endangered, threatened and protected species such as California condors, bald eagles and Indiana bats.
The Obama administration claims this annual bird and bat slaughter is necessary to fight global warming. Sources very close to the President have leaked to me the text of the following presidential speech on the topic, which President Obama will deliver later this week in a parallel universe that I will reconstruct (satire) for readers.
“My fellow Americans, hard times demand dramatic action.
Our human-caused global climate disruption has reached crisis levels. Not a single hurricane struck the United States this year. It has been eight full years – the longest period on record – since a Category 3 or higher hurricane struck the United States. This record lack of hurricane activity is depriving the southeastern United States of much needed rainfall.
Earlier this year, the United States underwent the longest period in history without a single tornado death, which has exacerbated human overpopulation concerns. This lack of tornado deaths means more people are using up more natural resources, especially in the American heartland. This is especially problematic as more people in the American heartland means there is an increasing strain on water resources in the heart of our nation.
This year marked the fewest number of U.S. wildfires in 30 years, depriving the western United States of the regular wildfires that have always been a part of nature and are crucial to wilderness regeneration cycles.
U.S. and global farmers this year produced their largest corn crops in history. Soybean productionthis year was the third-highest ever, with the all-time record occurring as recently as 2011. Just within the past five years, U.S. farmers produced all-time record crops of corn, wheat, soybeans, peanuts, flaxseed, hops, rice, sorghum, soybeans, sugarcane, sunflowers, alfalfa, cotton, beans, sugar beets, sweet potatoes, and tobacco. Similar records are being set on a global scale, as well. It is irrefutable that such record crop production is contributing to our national obesity crisis and is harming our anti-smoking efforts.
Earlier this year, satellite data proved beyond doubt that a greening of the Earth is occurring, as foliage is becoming more prevalent throughout the world, and especially in arid regions bordering deserts. The arid American West is seeing some of the most rapid greening in the world. This sudden, disruptive development is putting immense pressure on shrinking deserts and their ecological systems. Unless we act now, our grandchildren will someday ask, ‘Grandpa, what were scorpions and sidewinder rattlesnakes, and why did humans chase them into extinction?’
In the year 2000, just before my Republican predecessor took office, the United States produced 24 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. We now produce 16 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. The pace at which we are reducing our carbon dioxide emissions is appallingly slow. We can no longer shirk our responsibility for all the global climate disruption that I have just outlined. We must act quickly, and we must act decisively.
Climate change deniers will try to divert your attention from the global climate disruption that I have just described. They will point out that wind turbines directly kill 1.4 million birds and bats each year in the United States, while indirectly killing many others by taking over large swaths of natural habitat. They will say that encouraging still more industrial wind farms by giving wind turbines a free pass to kill bald eagles, golden eagles and other legally protected species will merely encourage more wind turbines that will increase the millions of bird and bat kills.
Well, hard times demand dramatic action. Unless we act now, major hurricanes will soon become a thing of the past. So will large-scale tornado outbreaks. Wildfires will become mere folklore. Farmers will grow so much food and tobacco that obesity and chain smoking will reach epidemic proportions. Deserts will be unable to fend off the onslaught of global greening.
Slaughtering millions of this country’s birds and bats each year is a small price to pay to reverse this documented climate mayhem. If wind turbines slice up more and more bald eagles, California condors and whooping cranes in mid-flight, that is the price we will gladly pay to put an end to this global climate disruption. To make an eagle omelet, you have to kill a few eagles.
America’s dramatic reduction in carbon dioxide emissions this century does not absolve us of our obligation to cut our emissions even faster than ever before. I thank you for supporting me in this effort.”
OK- nobody leaked the speech to me. It would, however, be the most forthright environmental speech our current president ever made. Who knows? – Maybe he will embrace honesty and give this speech before the week is up.
[Originally published on Forbes]
Rupert Darwall’s The Age of Global Warming: A History is a wonderful book, the best account of the politics of global warming to date — and the best likely to be written.
It is engaging and doesn’t over-reach to become over-worked and tedious. As someone who has served as a foot soldier in the solar-science trench of the global warming battle for less than a decade, this book filled in a lot of the missing details. It also offers some new insights.
Environmentalism had a big run up from the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1962 to the first environmental conference in Stockholm ten years later. During that time, Ronald Reagan, as governor of California, blocked the building of some dams and highways for environmental reasons, and Richard Nixon established the Environmental Protection Agency in 1970. Then the Yom Kippur began on October 6, 1973. Interest in environmental matters as a popular issue was sidelined for some time by wars and oil-supply shocks. Nevertheless, notions of wealth redistribution from OECD countries to the Third World continued to be generated, their rationale based on the novel concept of “environmental justice.” The movement thrashed around until it lit upon the issue that would take it mainstream. Initially, the health of the oceans was promoted as the big concern, but then global warming emerged as the issue able to get the best traction.
One of the missing details that this book fills in is the lack of economic modelling on global warming policies. The first governmental review of the costs and benefits of mitigation measures was that of the George Bush administration in 1990. No other government bothered, being quite happy to sign up to commitments to deep cuts in emissions without knowing or caring about the economic consequences. That is what I found strange when I got involved in this issue. Do you remember when Kevin Rudd said that fighting global warming would cost a family just $1 per day, as if they were signing up to a World Vision child sponsorship plan or the like? Of course the economic consequences have been much more burdensome than that, underwritten by the indisputble fact that environmentalism needs prosperity to flourish.
The first people to lose their jobs in Australia due to the global warming scare were cement workers in Rockhampton. One of the more recent victims was a restaurant in inner Sydney, where the owners could not afford to re-gas their fridges – collateral damage in the war on Western civilisation. A warehouse burnt down in New Zealand because the owners tried to save money by switching to a hydrocarbon refrigerant. The economic consequences are now coming faster and harder. The Europeans have suddenly become much more aware of what will happen to their power prices under the global-warming legislation they have enacted. Seemingly none of them did any economic modelling of what would happen. They were so very happy to sign up to the cause and equally eager to coerce others into committing economic suicide as well. Now the consequences are becoming grimly apparent.
Malcolm Turnbull, a climate change true believer, once said that for global warming not to be true, it would have to be the largest conspiracy the world has ever seen. Darwall details the first stirrings of that conspiracy in the 1920s, and he tracks its progress over the near-hundred years since. Did the scientists actually believe the theory they were advocating? It seems they did and simply cooked the books to show that it was happening, fervently believing reality would eventually catch up with their projections. Gaia had other ideas, however. The planet has refused to warm for very nearly two decades, and there is a growing body of evidence and observations that suggest we may actually on the brink of global cooling.
For those thoroughly bored with global warming, Darwall’s book still represents a very good read because it shows how public opinion is shaped and prepared for concerted and calculated multi-year campaigns at the international level. I have heard speculation that “global warming” is to be replaced as a poster issue for the environmentalist cause by the notion of “sustainability.” One of the first indications that such a switch in emphasis is in progress was a recent campaign by the NSW EPA against food wastage. Seemingly, the state agency is reading the cues and reacting to them.
The vast majority of our polity here in Australia are still afflicted by global warming, either as believers or in paying lip service to it. The country at this juncture is still destined for one pointless burden or the other – be it the carbon tax or “direct action”. Tellingly, while the new Liberal Government was elected on a pledge to abolish the carbon tax, it has kept the National Greenhouse & Energy Reporting Act (NGER) — the last dark deed of the Howard Government in 2007. Howard pronounced himself as agnostic on global warming, but for some reason was very efficient at bringing in legislation that paved the way for the carbon tax. He later rewrote his autobiography to explain that he was panicked by a tidal wave of environmentalism. It seems Howard thought he would use global warming as an issue to push Australia towards nuclear power. Instead, he cast himself as another of Lenin’s “useful fools.”
Belief in global warming has been a litmus test for our politicians. If they have ever believed in it, or uttered the inane “we have decided to give the planet the benefit of the doubt,” they are fools for being so easily deluded. Repeal of the NGER is now the litmus test. If that act is not repealed, then it will be self-evident our current crop of leaders is not serious about Australia’s economic health, national security, liquid fuel supplies and similar grave matters of state. Our country will continue to suffer until the issue of global warming is entirely behind us. Reading Darwall’s book will bring forward that frabjous day.
[First published at The New Quadrant.]
I’m in a tough spot. Paul Ryan is one of the brightest stars in the Republican Party. He is a true fiscal (and social) conservative, and I cheered when Mitt Romney selected him as his running mate (although I wished Ryan rather than Romney were the presidential candidate, and I still hope he will be in the future). Ryan towers, literally and figuratively, over his Democratic opposition-turned-collaborators.
But the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 announced Tuesday, negotiated almost entirely between Mr. Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-WA), is so disappointing — so far from what I’m sure Ryan himself would really want — that it’s difficult to support.
However, after due consideration, despite the opposition of organizations such as FreedomWorks which I support and respect (and which John Boehner excoriated on Wednesday), skeptical that it will lower the deficit, and with at least as much consideration to the politics as to the economics, I find myself grudgingly in favor of the deal, again as I suspect Paul Ryan feels.
The deal partially undoes the sequester which, even if stumbled into unwillingly by all involved, represents the most successful federal spending restraint in recent memory. The restored cuts will go, for Republicans and appropriators, to defense spending and, for Democrats and appropriators, to redistribution and pork that politicians euphemistically call “investments,” which they will hide behind human shields of sick children by repeatedly claiming how much they’re funneling into medical research.
Undoing the sequester, even if just for two years (and who really believes they won’t undo more of it in subsequent years as well, especially if the GOP doesn’t take back the Senate next year?), is a high price to pay for a deal.
It is also unwise, though not unexpected, to try to offset spending increases with higher fees on airline tickets, as if those who are traveling are responsible for out-of-control entitlements and even-more-out-of-control congressional appropriators who never met a vote they didn’t want to buy with someone else’s money.
The deal also uses a couple of gimmicks: It counts as savings canceling “a portion of the unobligated balances” in two large federal Forfeiture Funds (belonging to the DoJ and Treasury), as if money that likely would never have been spent should now magically count as deficit reduction.
Also, there are fraud-reduction provisions that should already have been in place simply in the interest of good government rather than being used to lessen the apparent cost of spending increases.
There are positive aspects to the deal:
- Newly-hired federal employees will be required to contribute slightly more to their own pensions.
- Private companies will contribute slightly more to have their retirement plans backed by the federal Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
- Despite Nancy Pelosi’s original threats to oppose any deal that does not include extension of unemployment benefits, the deal does not include them. Some conservative House members may tell Speaker of the House John Boehner that the price of their support is his promise not to bring up a separate bill to extend the already overgenerous 99 weeks of unemployment “compensation,” as politicians these days like to term that particular form of redistribution.
- There are no increases in income tax rates. This, despite the deal’s other imperfections, allowed anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist to say that the current deal is acceptable, if not optimal.
The deal does nothing about longer-term structural problems such as entitlement spending, an uncompetitive and overly complex tax code, and the fast-approaching debt limit. Addressing such thorny and divisive issues would likely have made any current deal impossible.
And in a perfect world, or at least a world in which Republicans had more power than they have now, I would agree. But we’re not in that world.
Paul Ryan, however, lives in reality. Rep. Ryan, responding for this article, says, “I fully agree with my colleagues that we need to do more. And I think this agreement is a good first step: It reduces the deficit by $23 billion—without raising taxes—and it cuts spending in a smarter way.”
We might debate whether the deficit reduction will actually be realized, or whether that’s even the proper measure of wise fiscal policy. (It isn’t.) But what is beyond debate is that we have a Senate run by Harry Reid and a White House occupied by the most committed and radical leftist in American presidential history. Our options are limited despite declining Democrat popularity.
So with a view toward increasing Republican power (or, more precisely, lessening Democratic power since I am not a registered Republican), I suggest that the economics of this underwhelming two-year budget deal are less important than the politics.
And on the politics, Republicans and Paul Ryan have achieved a considerable victory.
This deal makes it far more difficult for President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Reid, and House Democratic Leader Pelosi to characterize Republicans as nothing more than “obstructionists.”
Indeed, it should escape nobody (but will go unmentioned by the usual media suspects) that this deal happened while — and perhaps because — President Obama was out of the country; he was narcissistically busy taking selfies at the memorial ceremony for Nelson Mandela.
In a world of asymmetrical political warfare, the benefits to the GOP of participating in a high-profile (even if not highly significant) piece of legislation with the word “Bipartisan” in its title far exceeds any such benefit to Democrats.
Similarly, it defangs Obama’s venomous attacks on Republicans as “hijacking” the country “if they don’t get 100 percent of what they want.”
In short, this goes a long way toward making the GOP look reasonable in the minds of the independent, moderate, and swing voters who truly decide our elections. It is an important accomplishment with less than a year until elections in which Republicans have a chance to regain control of the US Senate.
Finally, the most likely alternative to this deal was not a better deal but either a worse deal or no deal, the latter greasing the skids for another government shutdown, the very briar patch that Democrats are hoping rebellious Tea Party-affiliated Republicans now throw Congress into.
Yes, this budget deal does very little, for a very short time. And yes, if I were in charge, it would look very different. Indeed, if Paul Ryan were in charge, it would look very different. But I’m not, and he’s not.
So for those of you who are saying “this deal is too terrible to support” I would ask you: “compared to what?”
What better deal for Republicans do you think would have any chance of passing both houses of Congress and being signed by our Alinskyite president whose first thought is never “what is best for America?” but rather “how can I destroy my enemies?”
Many Republicans, especially in the Senate, will object to this deal. It’s hard to blame them. It’s also politically useful, reminding voters of the fundamental differences between our two major political parties and how much better a budget could be if Harry Reid didn’t rule the Senate.
But they must also be careful not to generate so much Republican opposition that Reid can intentionally cause the defeat of the bill, living as he does in the same swamp of scorched-earth political hatred that our president inhabits and believing that yet another government shutdown would yet again benefit Democrats.
On the left, Democrats have initially been strangely silent, unsure of a political winning angle. However, in developments late Wednesday, Republicans proposed (and voted in committee for) adding a short-term “doc fix,” part of a ridiculous Washington tradition in which they prevent legislated cuts to physicians’ Medicare payments from taking place. Democrats have reacted by saying that if Republicans want to reopen the deal to add the doc fix, then they want to include an extension of unemployment benefits.
This is, as usual, the Stupid Party finding a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Republicans have as good a deal as possible, and threaten its success by taking on an unnecessary additional issue. (After all, what better way to increase public antipathy toward Obamacare and government control of health care than to leave the SGR along with Obamacare’s additional cuts to doctors in place?)
I submit to you that there was, and is, no substantially better deal to be had in the current situation than that worked out by Paul Ryan. While the economics of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 leave much to be desired, they could have been worse. Much worse.
More importantly, this deal is a significant political win for a Republican Party desperately in need of one, especially as repeated Democratic lies and failures and scandals open enormous electoral opportunities in 2014.
So when a well-meaning Tea Party activist or politician tells you that this deal is simply too bad to support, I encourage you to ask him “compared to what?”
[First published at the American Spectator.]
On Monday, the Treasury Department announced that the federal government had, no doubt to great the relief of General Motors management, sold its remaining shares of GM stock.
According to a 2009 CNN Money story on the GM bailout, “The Obama administration will commit another $30 billion on top of the $19.4 billion it has already given GM to cover its losses and fund its operations.”
The Treasury press release says that “Treasury has recouped a total of $39 billion from the original GM investment.”
In other words, this “investment” cost taxpayers just over $10 billion which represents, for purposes of comparison, the current annual budget of the FDA, the SEC, and the Border Patrol combined. (Alternatively, it represents the current annual budget of the US Coast Guard.)
After repeated violations of the spirit and letter of bankruptcy law in order to enrich the Obama administration’s union supporters, taxpayers have finally been left holding the bag (a bag, as Ben Stein points out, filled with the governmental equivalent of dog excrement.)
So here’s the question for you, dear conservative and libertarian readers: Would you now consider buying a GM vehicle if its prior government ownership was a negative factor for you in the past?
[First published at the American Spectator.]
Democrats make a lot of silly statements. The trick isn’t finding a pronouncement by a liberal politician which — in a way nearly unique to politics — simultaneously brings a grimace, a giggle, and a groan, but figuring out whether the speaker is an outright liar or just living in a liberal echo chamber reminiscent of Pauline Kael (or at least the political mythology surrounding her).
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, is a reliable representative of the outright liar camp: No echo is loud enough to make her actually believe that Democratic candidates will run (and win) on the issue of Obamacare, but she says it repeatedly, hoping that the Big Lie strategy will work just one more time.
Other irrepressible dissemblers in Congress include Jim McDermott (D-WA), Alan Grayson (D-FL), and House Democratic Leader Nancy “I wasn’t lying when I said you could keep your plan” Pelosi (D-CA).
But I’ve long wondered about the second-ranking Democrat in the House, Steny Hoyer. Hoyer has carefully crafted a public image as a pragmatic moderate, itself a remarkable achievement given that the rest of his party’s House leadership includes Pelosi along with James “if you disapprove of Obama, you’re probably racist” Clyburn (SC) and the rabidly leftist and economically ignorant Xavier “a government bond is the same as cash” Becerra(CA).
According to two vote-rating projects (one by the non-partisan National Journal and one by the liberal Americans for Democratic Action), Hoyer’s voting record is, in partisan terms, average for a Democrat. He doesn’t scream. He doesn’t whine (much). He looks and speaks vaguely like a statesman.
So was Mr. Hoyer misguided, or just lying, in a Tuesday morning appearance on CNBCwhen he asserted that there are no extremists in the Democratic Party?
More precisely, Home Depot co-founder and self-identified Republican Ken Langone pressed Hoyer, “There are extremists in the Republican Party and if you want me to throw out a name, I will. How about you throwing out a name of an extremist in your party?”
Hoyer responded, “I don’t think there are any extremists in my party.”
Langone, disgusted, said “What more can I say? The other guys are the bad guys, and we’re the good…”
For someone who isn’t a partisan Democrat, it is easy to believe that Hoyer is simply lying.
After all, who could look at Alan Grayson saying that the Republican health care plan is for people to “die quickly” and conclude that he’s not an extremist? (It’s with no small amount of schadenfreude that we learned Tuesday about Rep. Grayson, one of the richest members of Congress, losing $18 million to investment fraud.)
What about Jim McDermott? The leftist from Seattle (but I repeat myself) told conservatives who had been targeted by the IRS that theydeserved just what they got because they were involved in controversial issues.
What about the 69 Democratic congressmen named in 2009 as members of the Democratic Socialists of America? There’s not one “extremist” among them?
But Steny Hoyer, like his colleagues, lives in a world of exclusion and intolerance, a world where Democrats liken Republicans to the Taliban, where seldom is heard a discouraging word even if reality would seem to demand it.
And in such a world, where Barack Obama could at least for a time convince people that he was an open-minded center-left post-partisan, any sort of delusional Democrat group-think is possible.
After all, if Obama is a moderate, nobody on the left is extreme.
It is a world in which the tone is set at the top, by a president trained all too well by Saul Alinsky to “pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Some recent examples of tone-setting by the president of the United States:
- November 2013: “You’ve seen an extreme faction of the Republican Party that has shown again and again and again that they’re willing to hijack the entire party and the country and the economy and grind progress to an absolute halt if they don’t get 100 percent of what they want.”
- October 2013: “Republicans…don’t get to hold the entire economy hostage over ideological demands.”
- October 2013: Republicans “have been unwilling to say no to the most extreme parts of their caucus.”
- September 2013: Republicans are trying “to save face after making some impossible promises to the extreme right wing of their party.”
- August 2012: Mitt Romney has “signed up for positions, extreme positions that are very consistent with positions that a number of House Republicans have taken.”
So let’s get this straight: Republicans and libertarians who adhere to the plain writing of the Constitution (at least adhere somewhat more than Democrats do), who believe that an expanding public sector results in a diminishing private sector, who believe that people’s lives are better and more fulfilling when adults make their own decisions (though the GOP is sometimes hypocritical on this score when it comes to our personal lives), and who believe that pointy-headed ivory-tower bureaucrats should not be given more power over how and where we can get our health care, insurance, financial services, and other important, highly personal aspects of our daily lives — we are the extremists.
But radical leftists who believe the opposite of all of the above, who want to turn America away from freedom and capitalism, away from the economic and military strength that has made us the most admired nation on earth, who hate rich people except those who at least implicitly hate themselves for being rich, and who think that Americans are too stupid to make important decisions for ourselves — these rabid ideologues are well-meaning principled public servants and the very definition of moderation?
Fortunately, despite ever-present echoing of the myth of Republican-only “extremism” in the dominant liberal media outlets, the public isn’t buying it.
In a 2010 midterm election poll conducted by The Hill, “44 percent of likely voters say the Democratic Party is more dominated by its extreme elements, whereas 37 percent say it’s the Republican Party that is more dominated by extremists.” Democrats were at least slightly honest about their own party: “More than one in every five Democrats (22 percent) in The Hill’s survey said their party was more dominated than the GOP by extreme views. The equivalent figure among Republicans is 11 percent.”
It can’t be getting any better for Democrats in recent months.
Whether Steny Hoyer is deluded, or, like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, just lying, it is in the GOP’s interest to allow Democrats, dare I say urge them, to continue with their “only Republicans are extremists” talking points.
Nobody whose vote is potentially available to the GOP believes such obvious falsehoods anymore.
The disastrous rollout of Obamacare (the impact on the entire health insurance and health care systems, not just the web site’s epic fail), the many broken promises, and the plummeting belief in Barack Obama’s trustworthiness will cause independent voters to be skeptical of everything uttered by a Democrat candidate in 2014. It also damages one of the key perceptions underlying recent Democrat success: that the party understands and cares about the average American more than Republicans do. (It is remarkable how long a party can successfully campaign on good intentions despite providing useless or harmful outcomes.)
Republicans should reinforce voter skepticism of Democrats by rebroadcasting Hoyer, Wasserman, Pelosi, and Obama in their own obviously false words, and encouraging the echo chamber to keep on echoing their siren song of self-delusion, with nary a Ulysses to tie them to the mast as they sail into the perilous seas of 2014.
[First published at the American Spectator.]
In an article titled, “Santa Claus Should Not Be a White Man Anymore,” Slate claimed the traditional incarnation of Santa Claus as “an old white male” brings “insecurity and shame” to nonwhite kids. To solve the asserted problem, Slate argued Santa Claus should hereafter take the form of a penguin, which Slate asserted is a mammal.
According to Slate, it is time to let the “universally beloved waddling mammal” take over from the old white man the chore of handing out Christmas presents.
Responding to an army of outraged readers – presumably Kindergartners – Slate thereafter discovered penguins are actually birds rather than mammals and corrected its article.
Slate’s equal part appalling, equal part comical belief that penguins are mammals calls to mind a Christmas Eve moment in my household several years ago. My wife and I spread out a map of the world and asked our two daughters where they thought Santa might be.
“I think Santa is in Turkey,” said my older daughter, then five years old.
“I think Santa is in Ham,” said my younger daughter, then four years old.
“Ham?!! Ham isn’t a country!” exclaimed my outraged five-year-old daughter.
My four-year-old daughter may not have known at the time that Ham is not a country, but even she would have been able to tell you that penguins are birds.
Which brings us back to Slate. On the very same day that Slate scientifically soiled itself by proclaiming penguins are mammals, Slate published an article criticizing the Heartland Institute on scientific matters.
Last month I published an article at Forbes.com noting that a recent survey showed only 52 percent of American Meteorological Society members believe global warming is occurring and humans are the primary cause. Scientists have verified that my article was accurate. Nevertheless, upset that I did not make all sorts of caveats and excuses to hide the lack of scientific consensus, Slate – on the very same day that it claimed penguins are mammals – published a lengthy article attempting to smear the Heartland Institute on matters of science.
Well, we can all have our different scientific opinions, but we can’t all have our different scientific facts.
Only 52 percent of American Meteorological Society members believe global warming is occurring and humans are the primary cause.
And at least the Heartland Institute knows that penguins are birds.