On the Blog

The Expert’s Cloudy Crystal Balls

Somewhat Reasonable - December 13, 2014, 1:12 PM

In late October I wrote a commentary “Is America in Decline?” based on a book by James MacDonald, “When Globalism Fails: The Rise and Fall of Pax Americana”, due for sale in January from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Within days I received “The Accidental Super Power: The Next Generation of American Preeminence and The Coming Global Disorder” by Peter Zeihan. Both authors have good credentials, but the former concludes our position as a super power will recede in the decades ahead and the latter says we will be the only one left as the rest of the world runs into problems that the U.S. will be able to ignore.

Zeihan, a geopolitical analyst, offers the scenario of an America, blessed by its location and ability to provide its own energy and agriculture, that will be largely untouched by a future in which most other nations will suffer various unpleasant levels of decline.

Both Zeihan and MacDonald see the U.S. abandoning its role since the end of World War II in 1945 as the generator and protector of free trade. Our naval capability has kept the world’s sea lanes open and free of predators, a boon to all nations. A system for free trade set up at Breton Woods in 1944 has served the world well, including former enemies, Germany and Japan. Other nations, depending on their location, resources, and population, have had varying degrees of success.

“The conventional wisdom that the United States’ best days are behind it” says Zeihan, “isn’t simply wrong. It’s laughably so. In 2014 we’re not witnessing the beginning of the end of American power, but the end of the beginning. In fact, we’re on the cusp of a shift in the international order just as profound as those delegates back in 1944 experienced.”

While MacDonald sees the role of the U.S. as Pax Americana waning, Zeihan sees a national withdrawal from the international scene based on the wealth the shale oil and natural gas technology is generating and the productivity of our huge agricultural sector to keep us fed while other nations struggle to grow and find food sources.I disagree with Zeihan. Americans don’t like having to be involved in the problems that other nations create, but they also see themselves as the solution whether it is deterring rogue nations that threaten their neighbors or aiding when a natural disaster occurs.Zeihan focuses on the role of maritime power on the oceans that gave rise to Great Britain and other nations that could field a navy that could trade at great distances from their homelands. The history of colonization reflects that power. Internally, he points out how blessed the U.S. has been with a waterway system of numerous navigable rivers that made it possible, for example, to grow wheat in the midland but ship it anywhere. This ability to transport food crops as well as people opened America to fairly rapid expansion and growth.

Unlike other nations, its population came from everywhere and reproduced at rates to meet its need for labor, while its free market system, along with the industrial revolution, stimulated innovation and growth. The oldest constitutional government in the world generated confidence in an “idea” called freedom and liberty instead of relying on blind nationalism.

While I may disagree with some of Zeihan’s predictions about the future, his book provides a wealth of information about the individual advantages and disadvantages of the nations whom we regard as either friendly toward or threatening our nation. Their locations are critical to their future and always have been. Their ability to transport people and goods within and beyond those locations are also critical factors.

Overlaying that is demographics, the statistics of population, identifying which nations whose people are “getting older” and which have enough younger people to generate wealth while the older generation retires and lives off their own savings and/or government programs such as our Social Security and Medicare.

Zeihan points out that “The United States is far and away the world’s largest consumer market and has been since shortly after the Civil War. As of 2014, that consumer base amounts to roughly $1.5 trillion. That’s triple anyone else, larger than the consumer bases of the next six countries—Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, China and Italy—combined, and double that of the combined BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India, and China).”


Zeihan believes that “the free trade era is closing (and) demography tell us that the era of consumption-driven growth that has been the economic norm for seventy years is coming to an unceremonious end.” He believes that the “global financial wave will crest at some point between 2020 and 2024” and predicts that “Poland and Russia will be among the nations whose populations will not keep up with their need for labor.”

“Between 2020 and 2024, thirteen of the world’s top twenty-five economies will be in the ranks of the financially distressed. The new arrivals will include Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, South Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and of course the United States. With 90 percent of the developed world in that unfortunate basket, the availability of capital and credit for all will plummet.”

That Ziehan’s scenario and he blames it on “aging demographies”, but he does not factor in the ability for various elements of the world’s population, the younger ones in particular, to move around the planet and respond to occupational opportunities. A current example is the exodus from Mexico and some Latin American nations to the United States for jobs and better lives. Can we absorb the current numbers of illegal aliens? I think yes and I also believe being able to impose “security” along a two thousand mile southern border is probably a fantasy. If we actually enforced our immigration laws this problem would be reduced.

Mexico is our third largest trading partner. To the north Canada ranks second. Together we make up a continent, as Zeihan predicts, that will not be negatively affected as other nations.

So, while we worry about Russia, Zeihan sees it in rapid decline. While pundits tell us of China’s rise to financial preeminence, he reminds us that we felt the same about Japan not that long ago. And China has massive demographic problems, not the least of which is an aging population. He doesn’t hold out much hope for the European Union. Et cetera.

I do not possess Zeihan’s or MacDonald’s credentials, but my instinct tells me that a sudden, rapid international decline is unlikely to occur. It’s a different world in which we all live and far more connected in many ways. Adjustments and changes will be made as they always have, but we are not likely to see a century like the last one that was dominated by wars. They are just too expensive.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Jeff Anderson – The 2017 Project Plan to Replace Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - December 11, 2014, 3:44 PM

Research Fellow Sean Parnell talks with Jeff Anderson, Executive Director of the 2017 Project. The two discuss Anderson’s organization’s plan for replacing Obamacare with a more market-friendly system. The 2017 project is based on a combination of tax credits, reform of the individual insurance market, and high-risk pools.

Among other topics, Parnell and Anderson talk about the details of the proposed plan and how it could replace Obamacare. How politically feasible is the plan? and how would it address the common concerns of American citizens?

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

The New Congress Must Save the USA from the EPA

Somewhat Reasonable - December 11, 2014, 12:45 PM

When the Republican Party takes over majority control of Congress in January, it will face a number of battles that must be fought with the Obama administration ranging from its amnesty intentions to the repeal of ObamaCare, but high among the battles is the need to rein in the metastasizing power of the Environmental Protection Agency.

In many ways, it is the most essential battle because it involves the provision of sufficient electrical energy to the nation to keep its lights on. EPA “interpretations” of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts have become an outrageous usurpation of power that the Constitution says belongs exclusively to the Congress.

As a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, I recall how in 2012 its president, Joe Bast, submitted 16,000 signed petitions to Congress calling on it to “rein in the EPA.” At the time he noted that “Today’s EPA spends billions of dollars (approximately $9 billion in 2012) imposing senseless regulations. Compliance with its unnecessary rules costs hundreds of billions of dollars more.”

Heartland’s Science Director, Dr. Jay Lehr, said “EPA’s budget could safely be cut by 80 percent or more without endangering the environment or human health. Most of what EPA does today could be done better by state government agencies, many of which didn’t exist or had much less expertise back in 1970 when EPA was created.”

The EPA has declared virtually everything a pollutant including the carbon dioxide (CO2) that 320 million Americans exhale with every breath. It has pursued President Obama’s “war on coal” for six years with a disastrous effect on coal miners, those who work for coal-fired plants that produce electricity, and on consumers who are seeing their energy bills soar.

As Edwin D. Hill, the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, noted in August, “The EPA’s plan, according to its own estimates, will require closing coal-fired plants over the next five years that generate between 41 and 49 gigawatts (49,000 megawatts) of electricity” and its plan would “result in the loss of some 52,000 permanent direct jobs in utilities, mining and rail, and at least another 100,000 jobs in related industries. High skill, middle-class jobs would be lost, falling heavily in rural communities that have few comparable employment opportunities.”

“The United States cannot lose more than 100 gigawatts of power in five years without severely compromising the reliability and safety of the electrical grid,” warned Hill.

In October the Institute for Energy Research criticized the EPA’s war on coal based on its Mercury and Air Toxics Rule and its Cross State Air Pollution Rule, noting that 72.7 gigawatts of electrical generating capacity have already, or are scheduled to retire. “That’s enough to reliably power 44.7 million homes, or every home in every state west of the Mississippi river, excluding Texas.” How widespread are the closures? There are now 37 states with projected power plant closures, up from 30 in 2011. The five hardest hit states are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Kentucky, and Georgia.

If a foreign nation had attacked the U.S. in this fashion, we would be at war with it.

The EPA is engaged in a full-scale war on the U.S. economy as it ruthlessly forces coal-fired plants out of operation. This form of electricity production has been around since the industry began to serve the public in 1882 when Edison installed the world’s first generating plants on Pearl Street in New York City’s financial district. Moreover, the U.S. has huge reserves of coal making it an extremely affordable source of energy, available for centuries to come.

The EPA’s actions have been criticized by one of the nation’s leading liberal attorneys, Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, who has joined with Peabody Energy, the world’s largest private coal company, to criticize the “executive overreach” of the EPA’s proposed rule to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants. He accused the agency of abusing statutory law, violating the Constitution’s Article I, Article II, the separations of powers, the Tenth and Fifth Amendments, and the agency’s general contempt for the law.

It is this contempt that can be found in virtually all of its efforts to exert power over every aspect of life in America from the air we breathe, the water we use, property rights, all forms of manufacturing, and, in general, everything that contributes to the economic security and strength of the nation.

That contempt is also revealed in the way the EPA spends its taxpayer funding. Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ) released a report, “The Science of Splurging”, on December 2 in which he pointed to the $1,100,000 spent to pay the salaries of eight employees who were not working due to being placed on administrative leave, the $3,500,000 spent to fund “Planning for Economic and Fiscal Health” workshops around the nation, $1,500,000 annually to store out-of-date and unwanted publicans at an Ohio warehouse, and $700,000 to attempt to reduce methane emitted from pig flatulence in Thailand! “After years of handing out blank checks in the form of omnibus appropriations bills and continuing resolutions,” said Sen. Flake, “it’s time for Congress to return to regular order and restore accountability at the EPA.”

Whether it is its alleged protection of the air or water, the only limits that have been placed on the EPA have been by the courts. Time and again the EPA has been admonished for over-stating or deliberately falsifying its justification to control every aspect of life in the nation, often in league with the Army Corps of Engineers.

If the Republican controlled Congress does not launch legislative action to control the EPA the consequences for Americans will continue to mount, putting them at risk of losing electricity, being deprived of implicit property rights, and driving up the cost of transportation by demanding auto manufacturers increase miles-per-gallon requirements at a time when there is now a worldwide glut of oil and the price of gasoline is dropping.

The United States has plenty of enemies in the world that want it to fail. It is insane that we harbor one as a federal agency.

Categories: On the Blog

Government Pummels Farmers Into Oblivion – Then Subsidizes the Wreckage

Somewhat Reasonable - December 11, 2014, 9:07 AM

The late, inordinately great Ronald Reagan provided expert analysis of the ridiculous Push-Pull damage wrought by government.

The government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.

Government Pushes you into arrest – and then Pulls you in with money.  From enemy of the state – to serf thereof.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is an all-encompassing part of the Push portion of the program.  The EPA is an activity-seeking missile – that aims to end all activity.  It was created to be a weapon against any and all private sector endeavor.

As you can probably guess, government assaulting the private sector isn’t a great idea.

EPA Costs (2012) US Economy $353 Billion Per Year

Complying with EPA regulations costs the U.S. economy $353 billion per year – more than 30 times its budget – according to the best available estimate. By way of comparison, that is more than the entire 2011 national GDPs of Denmark ($332 billion) and Thailand ($345 billion).

The EPA is far too busy pummeling us for self-reflection – the last time it analyzed the exorbitant costs it inflicts was 1990.  Transparency.

American farmers are absolutely amongst the EPAs victims.

A Wake-Up Call For U.S. Farmers: The EPA Is Trying To Put You Out of Business

Strong signals from regulators suggest they are about to severely restrict or completely eliminate some of the most important tools in the farmers toolkit….

EPAs Biological and Economic Analysis Division recently issued a report proclaiming that seed-coating applications of neonicotinoid pesticides–the most popular and widely used insecticide in the world today–“provide negligible overall benefits” in growing soy crops….

Government uber-regulates farmers – and the price of food skyward.  Government then sets a price for food – and subsidizes farmers when the crops government made way too expensive to produce don’t meet the government-set price.

The EPA is here soy-specific – but the assault on farmers is all-encompassing and worldwide.  They are proactively targeting “the most popular and widely used insecticide in the world today”  – that’s fairly far-ranging.  I would imagine that if it’s the most popular and widely used – it’s probably a little more effective than the EPA is letting on.

The EPA issued this “report”…

…without talking to a single farmer–and after conducting a rushed review of a small, cherry-picked sampling of efficacy studies, a few articles, and 21 responses to a questionnaire.…

Why would the EPA talk to farmers about farming?  With whom was it speaking?

(I)t makes EPA an active accomplice in a years-long campaign by radical environmentalists to ban neonicotinoids.…

Because environmentalists – and the EPA – have the farmers’ best interests at heart.

Ranchers, Farmers Fear Eco-Terrorists After EPA Releases Private Info

The Environmental Protection Agency has told farmers and ranchers it is sorry for handing private information about them over to environmental groups….

(T)he federal agency released information on up to 100,000 agriculture industry workers, including their home address and phone numbers, GPS coordinates and even personal medical histories.  The agency later acknowledged much of the information should never have been provided, and even asked the recipients to give it back.

The EPA specifically – and government generally – exponentially increase the cost of our food.  And they constantly continue to look for new ways to crank the ratchet upward.

You’ve heard of the war on coal? Get ready for the war on farming….

The issue is the EPA’s proposed changes to the Waters of the United States regulation….

“The EPA and Corps of Engineers do not need to be coming on to our farmers’ private property unless there is a specific grievance that would harm other citizens,” (Kentucky Democrat Jean-Marie Lawson) Spann said.

“The agencies could essentially expand oversight to isolated ponds, puddles, or ditches, areas that may hold water only for a short time following rain events.”

Simultaneous with this incessant governmental assault on farmers – is the government subsidization of farmers.  Behold the Farm Bill.  Government regulates farmers beyond any hope of crop profit – then give them money predicated upon their not turning a crop profit.

2014 Farm Bill – Price Loss Coverage (PLC) Program

Under the PLC program, payments are issued when prices for covered commodities fall below the reference prices. This is similar to the old Counter Cyclical payments that were in effect during the last Farm Bill….These prices are set for the life of the Farm Bill.

Government uber-regulates farmers – and the price of food skyward.  Government then sets a price for food – and subsidizes farmers when the crops government made way too expensive to produce don’t meet the government-set price.

This is absolutely insane.  It certainly isn’t anywhere close to a free market.

[This first appeared at Human Events]
Categories: On the Blog

Exposed: The Merchants of Smear, Climate Edition

Somewhat Reasonable - December 11, 2014, 1:01 AM

YOU can surrender more of your liberty for my enrichment in service to a phony man-caused climate crisis.

For about two decades we’ve been told the science behind human-caused global warming is settled, and to ignore skeptic scientists because they’ve been paid by industry to manufacture doubt about the issue. The truth, however, has every appearance of being exactly the opposite: A clumsy effort to manufacture doubt about the credibility of skeptical climate scientists arose in 1991 with roots in Al Gore’s Senate office.

The Merchants of Smear, such as Al Gore, gained effectiveness and media traction after Ozone Action took over the effort and drew attention to the “reposition global warming as theory rather than fact” memo phrase (which they never showed in its full context). The effort achieved its highest success after being heavily promoted by the “Pulitzer-winning investigative reporter” Ross Gelbspan, who never won a Pulitzer, never displayed any investigative prowess in this matter, and never proved that any skeptic climate scientist had ever knowingly lied as a result of being paid illicit money.

These efforts to portray skeptic scientists as corrupt are swamped with additional credibility problems, far more than can be described in this Policy Brief. Plain presentations of science studies contradicting reports from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have no chance of vindicating skeptic scientists in the face of such viral anti-skeptic rhetoric, as long as the mainstream media and majority of Internet sites remain gatekeepers preventing the release of accurate science information.

This gatekeeping indicates a much larger problem concerning the issue: The evidence presented in this Policy Brief is something any unqualified, disinterested bystander could find and ask about. Indeed, believers in the theory of human-caused global warming could have explored the problems presented in my brief with each other in order to find out whether their accusation about industry corruption of skeptics survives serious scrutiny.

Instead, this accusation has been unquestioningly accepted since 1991 by the mainstream news media and by officials who want to implement greenhouse gas mitigation regulations. During this time, skeptic scientists and other well-informed experts have revealed devastating problems with IPCC climate assessments. It has been shown time and again that the corruption accusation was riddled with obvious holes from the start. No matter.

The main pillar of support for the notion that humans are causing a dangerous warming of the climate has been the notion of “settled science.” That notion has long been questioned by skeptic scientists. The secondary pillar of support for the alarmist global warming theory has been the notion that industry-corrupted skeptics are unworthy of public consideration. This accusation could easily have been investigated and refuted long ago. That never happened, because of the third pillar: Journalists should not give equal time to skeptic scientists.

We are overdue for the biggest ideology collapse in history, begging for an investigation into why the mainstream media and influential politicians apparently never checked the veracity of claims about “settled science” and “corrupt skeptics.”

Read and share my Heartland Institute Policy Brief as widely as you can. And learm more about the myth that man-caused climate skeptics are funded by “Big Oil” at Gelbspanfiles.com.

Categories: On the Blog

How Dangerous Is Snus? Don’t Ask New York Times Editors

Somewhat Reasonable - December 10, 2014, 2:51 PM

The New York Times has added more fuel to the anti-tobacco-harm-reduction fire with a December 4 editorial (here) rehashing the somewhat slanted reporting that appeared in the paper’s news pages on November 30.  In two stories that day, the Times explored issues surrounding Swedish Match’s FDA application to change the warnings on its snus products.  As I noted (here), “The Times and their quoted experts did a major disservice to their audience; they failed to report the simple truth, that mouth cancer risk for Swedish snus is next to nil.”

The original warning labels that Congress ordered for tobacco product packages in 1986 were factually wrong and fatally misleading to smokers, chewers and dippers.  Congress didn’t make the warnings more accurate when  it ordered the FDA to regulate tobacco in 2009, it just made them cover more of the package – an action it didn’t take with cigarettes.

The Times editorial acknowledged that snus is “is less harmful than smoking tobacco,” but it painted Swedish Match’s application as a marketing ploy.  That ignores the critical need to terminate government’s lie about products’ health risks.

The editors echoed tobacco prohibitionists in denying that snus played a role in the Swedish experience.  Said the Times, “reduced smoking rates and lower rates of tobacco-related diseases such as lung and oral cancer” in Sweden since the 1970s “is debatable,” attributing the successes to “various bans, restrictions and public health campaigns.”  The editors failed to consider that the reductions are exclusively seen in men – who use snus and have the lowest lung cancer rate in Europe – not in women, who rank fifth in Europe for lung cancer.

The Times acknowledged that their reporters had “cited independent experts who found that snus is not nearly as lethal as cigarettes,” but it added the qualifier “[snus] is not risk-free either, especially for users who also smoke.”  It is patently obvious that smoking is risky for anyone, including snus users.  It should also be obvious that a smokeless tobacco can labeled “this product is not a safe alternative to cigarettes” encourages smokers to stick with their habit.

The Times editors revisit the discredited gateway theory (“the danger is that snus might lead some nonsmokers and former smokers to…progress on to cigarette smoking”), but they ignore substantial evidence that this has not happened in Sweden (here) or in the U.S. (here).

Summing up, the Times observes: “abstention would be the safest approach.”  That might work in Neverland, but in the U.S., abstention was impossible for the 8 million smokers who died in the 20 years since I first described our government’s warnings as bogus.  That is no one’s definition of safe.

[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]

Categories: On the Blog

Confiscation Without Representation: Government Seizes First, Asks Questions Never

Somewhat Reasonable - December 10, 2014, 12:39 PM

Yet another ongoing government authoritarian problem is the rampant abuse of civil forfeiture.  Which is where federal, state and local Leviathans seize personal property of all sorts.  Often when someone is merely suspected of – not charged with – a crime.  Often when the tie between the property and any criminal activity is at best tangential.

These people often never get their property back – even if charges are never filed.  Because the laws are written by government to rig the system – for government.  In a criminal case, you are innocent until proven guilty.  In a civil forfeiture case, this fundamental freedom tenet is turned on its head.  The burden of proof is on the property owner – they must convince the government that they obtained the government-seized property lawfully.  And often even that isn’t enough.  From 1998:

 Police stopped 49-year-old Ethel Hylton at Houstons Hobby Airport and told her she was under arrest because a drug dog had scratched at her luggage. Agents searched her bags and strip-searched her, but they found no drugs.

 They did find $39,110 in cash, money she had received from an insurance settlement and her life savings; accumulated through over 20 years of work as a hotel housekeeper and hospital janitor.

 Ethel Hylton completely documented where she got the money and was never charged with a crime. But the police kept her money anyway. Nearly four years later, she is still trying to get her money back.

Trying to get your property back often costs a lot of money – going to court ain’t cheap.  And you’re handicapped – because a lot of what you have is being held by government.  And you’re going up against an over-funded entity that doesn’t care about the cost of defending its seizure.  Because it isn’t spending its money – it’s spending ours.  If it loses, no big deal.  If it wins – it profits off your property. Heads it wins – tails we lose.

And property seizure is big money for government.  Let’s look at just the federal Justice Department – and its Audit of the Assets Forfeiture Fund and Seized  Asset Deposit Fund Annual  Financial Statements Fiscal Year 2013.

Total assets, which present as of a specific time the amounts of future economic benefits owned or managed by the AFF/SADF, increased in FY 2013 to $6,388.0 million from $5,970.3 million in FY 2012, an increase of 7.0 percent. If seized assets, which are not yet owned by the government, are not included, the adjusted assets of the Fund increased to $4,952.7 million FY 2013 from $4,433.8 million in FY 2012, an increase of 11.7 percent.

 This is attributable to realizing a stable level of forfeited assets in FY 2013 from FY 2012, thus indicating a strong current and future potential stream of assets flowing into the AFF.

“$6,388.0 million” is $6.388 billion.  That’s a lot of coin.  And did you get that last sentence?  Seized property has become a budget line item.  Revenue on which the government is counting going forward – regardless of what actual future crimes will actually yield in future takings.  That’s a dangerous prescription – for more and more at-best-questionable seizures.

Like the one which Texas’ Jerry Shults is currently suffering.  Shults is a Vietnam veteran – and a very successful entrepreneur.  With interests in real estate management, rental hunting-fishing lodges, a Fort Worth theater – and ownership of thirteen Gas Pipe smoke shops.

In a complaint filed in federal court… prosecutors say employees of ShultsGas Pipe on Maple Avenue in Dallas began manufacturing substances known as K2 and Spice in a room there by early 2014….

K2 and Spice were legal.  Gas Pipe sold them as “herbal incense.”  But in 2012, President Barack Obama signed a law designating them synthetic cannabis – and outlawing them.  Shults’ store was allegedly breaking this new federal law.

Want real weed?  Which has been breaking federal law for decades?  Head to Colorado.  Or Washington state.  Or Washington, D.C.  Or….  These states (and the District) recently legalized it – and the Feds aren’t bothering them.

Shults opened his first Gas Pipe in 1970.  Gas Pipe has for for forty-four years sold LOTS of stuff – most of which has absolutely nothing to do with any of this.  Shults has spent the last half century earning and accruing assets and capital – much of it with other businesses that have nothing to do with Gas Pipe.

So how is this cavalcade of property seizures even remotely justified?  Shults is out around $16 million – including about $3 million in pension funds for Gas Pipe employees, millions more in decades-old corporate investments, personal savings and retirement accounts and personal automobiles.

The Feds even took four commercial aircraft and a fishing boat Shults has for his rental hunting-fishing lodges – in Alaska.  Taking the fruit-from-an-allegedly-poison-tree argument to absurd geographical lengths. And the Feds have placed liens on all eleven Texas Gas Pipes (the two in New Mexico were spared).

Taking a half century’s worth of stuff – because one part of a broad portfolio was allegedly doing something the government just two years ago deemed illegal – is overkill on stilts.  Even taller stilts – this massive government grab took place in June, and as of this writing the government hasn’t yet actually charged Shults with anything.  They just still have all his stuff.

Look, I’m a retired musician – but I’ve never done any drugs.  I actually don’t think pot should be legalized (decriminalized, perhaps).

This isn’t about my thoughts on fake weed.  Or real weed.  Or incense.  This is about the egregious property seizure overreaches we’ve seen – with Shults, and for decades prior.

In defense of free speech – ensconced in our First Amendment – Voltaire said:

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

I may not be overly fond of some items Mr. Shults sells (I really don’t like incense) – but I will certainly stand up against the incredible government abuses he is currently having to endure.

We all should.

Categories: On the Blog

Welcome to the O-Zone—Where Economic Development is a Zero-sum Game

Somewhat Reasonable - December 09, 2014, 1:33 PM

Late on Thanksgiving eve, when no one was paying attention, the Obama administration released its regulatory roadmap of thousands of regulations being finalized in 2015. Within the bundle of more than 3000 regulations lies a rule on ozone that President Obama himself, in 2011, “put on ice” in effort to reduce “regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.” Regarding the 2011 decision that shocked environmental groups, the New York Times (NYT) recently stated: “At the time, Mr. Obama said the regulation would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments at a time of economic distress.”

So why is the rule back? First, Obama isn’t facing an election—which, while the White House denied it, most believe to be the reason for the 2011 about-face. More importantly, however, is that, following the 2011 decision that struck down the proposed ozone rule, environmental groups sued the Obama administration. The resulting court order required the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to release the proposed rule by December 1, with finalization by October 2015.

Once again, environmental groups—who, on September 21, came out of the closet and revealed that their true intention is system change (“capitalism is the disease, socialism is the cure”)—are in charge of America’s energy, and, therefore, economic policy. They have systematically chipped away America’s sources of economic strength: cost-effective energy. And we’ve let them.

What they are doing is reminiscent of this classic poem

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

First, they came after coal at a time when natural gas was cheap and touted as the “bridge fuel” to the future. No one much spoke out. Some in the natural gas business even encouraged the war on coal, as it benefitted them. When I first heard that then-Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McLendon gave the Sierra Club $25 million to fight coal (it is reported that the Sierra Club turned down an additional $30 million), I remember yelling at the TV. “You fool!” I shouted. “You will be next!”

Within months, the Sierra Club launched its “Beyond Natural Gas” campaign that claims: “Increasing reliance on natural gas displaces the market for clean energy and harms human health and the environment in places where production occurs.” A headline on the Beyond Natural Gas webpage states that natural gas is: “Dirty, dangerous, and run amok.” Shortly thereafter, McLendon “agreed to retire.”

The oil industry didn’t make much noise about the Sierra Club campaign—after all natural gas prices were low and oil, high. While environmental groups generally oppose all fossil fuels, the oil industry has been hurt the least. Jobs in the oil sector of the energy industry have been the lone bright spot in the economy and increased U.S. production has cut our reliance on Middle Eastern crude to the lowest levels in three decades. Even as recently as November 5, President Obama bragged about decreased dependence on imported oil.

Now, they are coming for oil-and-gas development and manufacturing through the just-announced 626-page ozone regulation that will require states to dramatically reduce ozone emissions from the current 75 parts per billion (ppb) to a range of 65 to 70ppb—though environmental groups want a 60ppb standard, which may be the final rule. While a 5-15ppb reduction doesn’t sound like much, it is important to realize that many areas of the U.S. are already out of compliance—including most of California—with the 75ppb level. The new regulations will mean that, depending on the final rule, 76-96 percent of the country—including some national parks where the natural background levels are 65-67ppb—will be out of compliance.

Despite the negative economic impact of the expensive rule—with figures ranging from $19 billion to $270 billion—environmental groups believe Obama will follow through this time because, as National Journal states: “the rule fits with the rest of Obama’s climate change agenda and they’d expect it to move forward even on the tighter end.” The Sierra Club’s Washington representative on smog pollution, Terry McGuire, believes: “The administration is emboldened to do that.”

While environmental groups and the Obama administration maybe feel, “emboldened,” more regulation—especially that which “would impose too severe a burden on industry and local governments”—is not what the American people want or need.

“The president said his policies were on the ballot, and the American people spoke up against them,” said incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “It’s time for more listening, and less job-destroying red tape. Easing the burden already created by EPA regulations will continue to be a priority for me in the new Congress.”

It is time for capitalist, free-marketers to speak out.

It is time for trade unionists to speak out.

It is time for families, workers, and businesses to speak out.

It is time for the all of the energy producers—coal, natural gas, and oil—to speak out with one voice.

Because, if we don’t, there will be no one left to speak for us.

Categories: On the Blog

Why Are Our Colleges and Universities Dominated by Liberals?

Somewhat Reasonable - December 09, 2014, 11:42 AM

Obviously, Liberals have a very different philosophy than Conservatives. That is why a growing number of people are concerned about the unusual and disproportionate inequality that exists between Liberal professors and Conservative professors within America’s colleges and universities today. When there is an inequality as great as nine liberal professors to one Conservative professor in a college, it is impossible to believe the students are receiving a fair and balanced education. Parents and the public are seeking answers as to why the imbalance exists and calling upon universities to examine how to create a more balanced environment and learning experience for their children.

Numerous questions are being discussed in the public arena, such as reasons for the severe inequality, and how it has or potentially might affect students and ultimately society in general. Parents are asking why they should pay outrageous sums of money for high tuition, only to discover their children are being indoctrinated by professors who criticize any and all of their conservative viewpoints, and thus create family controversies.

Parents state they expect colleges to teach facts and methods, but not specific philosophical ideals that are known to be controversial. Complaints are mounting that classes have become places for indoctrination to a specific liberal viewpoint, and conservative students are ridiculed for making any comments that disagree with the professors’ opinions.   Parents believe it is most important for professors to explain both sides of controversial issues equally to give students the opportunity to discern for themselves what they believe.  Success beyond college is often determined by more than just knowledge, but by students who have been given the advantage of hearing and knowing both sides of the political debate, and thus able to better understand others’  opinions and their frame of reference, while comfortably committed to their own belief system.

In a provocative article, Why Are So Many College Professors Politically Liberal, the author claims students seeking professorships are those whose views are already liberal in nature. Furthermore, professors who wish to indoctrinate, rather than educate, are not nearly as common as some people would indicate.  That may be true, but evidence also indicates there is a definite bias in hiring practices by most universities, especially Ivy League schools.

The most unreasonable falsehood by liberals is to claim that modern conservatism is so shot through with anti-intellectualism that it should not be surprising when intellectuals (liberals) want nothing to do with conservatism and certainly aren’t attracted to it. This narrow, rather supercilious viewpoint is witnessed in a liberal’s response to Conservative thinker William F. Buckley, who was noted for representing the best of serious conservative thought.  Liberals, rather than respect or provide information that factually contradicted Buckley’s viewpoints, instead chose to personally attack Buckley’s character rather than his ideas, in order to defend their liberal positions.  They even had the audacity to claim Buckley’s viewpoints were “preening, self-righteous, borderline bigoted nonsense.”

The explanation presented by Chris Mooney in his article — Yes, Liberals Rule the Ivory Tower — But Why? — acclaims academia is more liberal than America because these are the individuals who prefer academia, just like other professions attract a larger proportion of conservatives, i.e., the clergy and the military.  As to the reason: The ivory tower’s well-known political reputation has encouraged a kind of self-selection effect. Conservatives gravitate away from it and liberals towards it.  Thus, people who are godless and liberal tend to seek university and college positions and are comfortable there.

Dr. Wood, a political conservative and a former professor of anthropology and associate provost at Boston University, believes that the claim Conservatives are self-selecting other careers is but part of the story.  It is the reason behind the self-selecting claim that is most important. Conservative know they will be shunned, ignored, minimized, and/or not able to advance.  Dr. Wood made this logical statement that is hard to dispute:

“The most effective way to keep out a whole class of people who are unwelcome isn’t to bar entry, but to make sure that very few in that class will want to enter.”

Intolerance of Conservatives

It is not a secret within the halls of higher learning that Conservatives are generally not invited to the parties, not awarded grants, nor usually promoted within the university. Conservatives are left to wonder how they might respond to negative jokes about issues or people they respect.  Obviously, it would be a difficult decision for a graduate student to apply for any job that places him in a daily uncomfortable position among his peers, who smugly brag about their disdain for conservative thought.

Should the public care whether Liberals discriminate against Conservatives and thus create a serious imbalance of political, social, and spiritual opinions in the classrooms?   Yes, everyone, including liberals, should be very concerned about prejudice wherever it is found.  Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Dr. Wood criticized liberal social scientists for failing to heed their own extensive research into the harm of bias.  They violate their own principles, blinded as they are to how bias has a negative impact on the students they teach and society in general.

A lack of political and religious diversity among college teachers robs students of passionate discussions from both a liberal and conservative perspective.  Students who enter the workplace will be unprepared to understand the full extent of controversial issues which will confront them at some point.  Students benefit from a diversity of thought, especially when presented by teachers who can passionately address the class with their own well-thought-out opinions.  Diversity in professors, subjects, styles of teaching, and especially differences about controversial issues, tend to benefit students.  It promotes creative thinking and provides an opportunity and advantage for the student to hear both viewpoints, thus helping them arrive at their own conclusion.

The question is not whether the imbalance should remain.  It must not, because all schools should equally represent the diversity that exists within the public domain.  The problem is how to correct the injustice of schools already dominated by liberals and liberal thought..  Change is difficult, especially when those guilty of causing the imbalance are unwilling to give up the dominance they currently enjoy.

One question often asked is how did this highly liberal imbalance occur in the first place.  Some claim it began with the debate and/or opposition to the Viet Nam War. That war became a catalyst for radicals to create chaos right here in America, and ended up with radicals bombing facilities in the United States, causing deaths. Some of those activists who failed in their revolt and thus goal to fundamentally change America ended up in our colleges.   Their battle plan failed, but their zeal to reinvent America lived on.  They went into the field of academia, where they waged a quieter war in classrooms by practicing indoctrination tactics on young, vulnerable students.   Changing America’s direction was much easier and more effective being a professor than a radical fighter who bombed American entities.

Examples of former left-wing radicals who became professors in America’s Schools  

Kathy Boudin was convicted in 1984 of felony murder for her participation in the Brink’s robbery of 1981 which resulted in the killings of two police officers and a security guard.  A law partner of Kathy Boudin’s father arranged for a plea bargain. Boudin pled guilty to one count of felony murder and robbery in exchange for one 20-years to life sentence.  Boudin’s companion wasn’t so lucky.  David Gilbert received 70-years-to-life and is still incarcerated.  With their jail sentence looming, the couple allowed their son to be adopted by William Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohm, both former terrorists who by this time were already respected university professors. Released from prison in 2003 (her partner is still in jail) Boudin landed a coveted teaching position at Columbia University.  As a professor at Columbia in 2013, Boudin was named the 2013 Sheinberg Scholar-in-Residence at NYU Law School.

Perhaps the most famous example of a radical who became a professor is Bill Ayers.  Ayers was a leader of the Weather Underground bombers in the 1960’s.  Bill Ayers (now retired from the University of Chicago) and his wife, Bernadine Dohrn (also a former Sheinberg Scholar-in-Residence at NYU), both became professors.  Dohrn’s tenure on the FBI’s Most Wanted List never dented the confidence of the University of Illinois or Northwestern University to hire her.  Ayers and Dohrn have long maintained that their bombing campaigns never deliberately targeted people.  Ayers, Dohrn and Howard Machtniger, also a Weather Underground bomber, spent most of the 1970’s “underground” attempting to avoid prosecution on a variety of charges, including a foiled attempt to bomb the Detroit Police Officers Association Building.  Nevertheless, before retiring, Machtinger also became a professor at North Carolina Central University and Teaching Fellows Director of North Carolina, Chapel Hill’s School of Education.

Former Black Panther party grandee, Ericka Huggins, although acquitted, was brought to trial on charges of “aiding and abetting” the murder of Aex Rackley, a fellow Panther they wrongly believed to be a police informant.  Huggins later became a professor of women’s studies at California State University and a professor of sociology at Laney and Berkley City College.

Susan Rosenberg a Weather Underground member, spent 16 years in prison for her involvement in the Brinks robbery.  Not long after Bill Clinton commuted her sentence, Rosenberg took a position teaching at John Jay College in the Criminal Justice Interdisciplinary Studies Program.

Another Weather Underground member, Eleanor Raskin, fled after being indicted for bomb making in the 1970’s, but later the charge were dropped.  Raskin became an associate professor at Albany Law School.  Her husband, Mark Rudd, a Weather leader who fled and went underground, was eventually convicted in 1977, and sentenced to a two years’ probation. Raskin later taught at Central New Mexico Community College.

Most readers will remember the lefty college professor, Ward Churchill.  He’s the former University of Colorado ethnic studies professor who claimed that the United States deserved the September 11, 2001 attacks because of “ongoing genocidal American imperialism”. Although administrators at CU-Boulder concluded that Churchill’s obscure 2001 essay, “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens,” was protected under the First Amendment and the university would have to keep tenured professor Ward Churchill employed, Churchill was eventually fired in 2007 for (unrelated) plagiarism and fabricated research.

Fairness only a pipe dream?

As stated by Michael Moynihan in “How 1960’s Radicals Ended up Teaching Your Kids”:

“So go ahead and commit a crime, “expropriate” a bank. Just make sure you leave an incoherent manifesto at the scene, claiming that you are shooting your guns and filling your pockets with loot ‘for the people.”, because when caught, you won’t be a convicted murderer, but a “political prisoner.”  And when released, you too can be a college professor.”

This isn’t how it should be.  The high cost of education has caused many students to end up with huge college-related debts. Shouldn’t both parents and students be receiving the biggest bang for all the bucks they spend on higher education?  Certainly all objective people can agree there needs to be more fairness in hiring practices for professors.  We must begin demanding fairness in presenting students a fair version of all controversial issues.   Parents and all citizens should demand our schools  provide not only a  quality education, but one that promotes  equality as well.

How can the biased liberal agenda in colleges be curtained and/or stopped?  

Public awareness is an important ingredient to stop the biased hiring practices. Facts are our friends, but the media tends to protect the liberal agenda and those who promote it.  It will take concerned citizens everywhere to voice their strong objections before we can expect change to happen.

One recent story emerged that is both discouraging and encouraging.  Before becoming a Professor at the University of Illinois, James Kilgore had been a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army in the 1970s. He spent five years in prison for his part in a bank robbery in which a victim was murdered.   When the story emerged, the University fired him.  However, the University Trustees found a way to rehire him.  They determined individual campus units are free to hire adjunct, part time instructors.  Thus we discover the lengths liberals will go to hire their own.   However, the action of one man might be an answer to how the public can force colleges to rethink their policy of hiring extreme liberals, especially those with criminal pasts.   The Chicago Tribune reports that at least one major donor plans to withdraw his $4.5 million in donations to the school, if Kilgore is allowed to teach.  Hill, who has been a major donor to the school, explained that he “no longer wished to be associated with the University of Illinois after the board’s decision to rehire a former radical and criminal, but would make the money available only if the university “does the right thing”, and not rehire Kilgore.

Mr. Hills’ statement is what we all must demand from our colleges and universities: “Do the right thing”.   Let’s all hold liberals within our colleges to their alleged commitment to diversity, which they prefer to apply to every subject other than the diversity which allows Conservative political thought to be on an equal footing to their own.

When the people demand equality and fairness in universities’ hiring practices, we can expect a positive change in the right direction.    Certainly society deserves our graduates to be open minded, with a complete education that includes knowing both sides of each controversial issue.


[This article first appeared on Illinois Review]
Categories: On the Blog

Three New Ways Government Threatens to Tax the Internet – As Soon As Thursday

Somewhat Reasonable - December 09, 2014, 11:26 AM

Perhaps the only thing government loves more than spending our oney – is taking it.

 The spending has long since passed absurdly astronomical levels.  The Feds alone spend about $4 TRILLION a year.  Governments in total are spending about 36% of our Gross Domest

ic Product (GDP) – everything everyone in the nation combined creates. 

 As we know, government is absolutely loathe to reduce spending.

 Nancy Pelosi: There is Nothing Left to Cut in the Budget

 That’s perversely easy to say when Washington operates under the bizarre assumption that it spends every current penny wisely and well – using “incremental budgeting.”

 In traditional incremental budgeting (Historic Budgeting), departmental managers justify only variances versus past years, based on the assumption that the “baseline” is automatically approved.

 Rather than behaving like just about every private sector entity on the planet – which uses zero-based budgeting.

 (I)n zero-based budgeting, every line item of the budget must be approved, rather than only changes.

 The Feds keep breaking records for taking our money – yet have racked up an $18+ TRILLION (and counting) debt.  Government doesn’t have a revenue problem – it has a spending one.  It needs to find ways to stop being so ridiculously profligate – rather than looking for new ways to take our money.

 But was we know, that ain’t happening.  Government views our money like Jello – there’s always room for more.  Whenever it can raise taxes – or create new ones – it all but leaps at the opportunity. 

 The Internet is currently threatened with multiple brand new taxes levied by multiple levels of government. 

 One tax tidal wave can happen by Washington simply doing nothing.  On Thursday, the federal moratorium on Internet access taxes expires.  The House of Representatives long ago passed – by mega-bipartisan voice vote acclimation – the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act (PITFA).  Which will once and for all stop this particular government blood-letting. 


The lame duck Senate must now pass PITFA and get it to the President’s desk.   Except:

 Harry Reid Remains Obstinately, Perversely Insistent on Taxing the Internet

 …Instead of putting the same (PITFA) bill to the Senate, …Reid has decided to attach it to a proposed law called the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA). That bill…would require online retailers to collect tax on sales they make to out-of-state consumers (subjecting these retailers to 9,998 different tax jurisdictions).

 Get that?  Under the MFA, uber-tax-happy states like California would no longer be confined to taxing into oblivion just Californians.  Theyd have access to the wallets of every business – every person – in all fifty states.

 Turning Huge Government states into additional Huge Government federals.  And tempting Less-Huge-Government states to grow – with the siren song of new coin taken from people in forty-nine states that cant vote them out of office.

 And as huge as these new taxes are – they aren’t the hugest prospective new tax. 

 If President Barack Obama and the leftist of the Left (like the aforementioned Pelosi) get their way, the Feds will soon begin slamming the ridiculous, bloated, wasteful, utterly unnecessary Universal Service Fund (USF)’s gi-normous phone tax – onto the Internet. 

 These uber-Leftists want President Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to unilaterally rewrite existing law – to seize sweeping new authority over the Internet.  They call it Title II “Reclassification” – we call it authoritarianism. 

 The FCC would then apply 1930s landline phone law to the Web.  Which is untenable from a regulatory standpoint – and a taxation one

 Under Title II, President Obama can…begin to tax the Internet – just as the Feds tax landlines, just as they already tax the living daylights out of your wireless Internet….

 That’s the USF tax – which is currently 16.1%.  And it goes up every quarter – automatically

 Unless the FCC bureaucrats don’t want to wait for the automatic increase – and unilaterally raise it themselves.  Also on Thursday:

 FCC Poised to Bust the USF Budget

 At its forthcoming (December 11) meeting…, the FCC almost certainly will scrap the

current $8+ billion ceiling on the Universal Service Fund (USF) and increase program

expenditures to nearly $10 billion annually…. 

 (Republican FCC) Commissioner (Ajit) Pai…has opposed the enlarged program as an unjustified “17.2% tax increase”….

 Get that?  Three unelected Democrat FCC bureaucrats can any time they want unilaterally raise taxes on phones. 

 Which means post-Title II Reclassification – three unelected Democrat FCC bureaucrats will be able any time they want to unilaterally raise taxes on the Internet.

 Which of course they will.  Over, and over, and over again.  It’s their Jello.  Seton Motley is the founder and president of Less Government.  Please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@SetonMotley) and Facebook.  It’s his kind of stalking.

Categories: On the Blog

Weather Bulletin 2: Records Keep Falling: Cold, Snow and Ice

Somewhat Reasonable - December 09, 2014, 10:17 AM

Record setting cold and snow, not global warming, became the norm in November 2014. According to Ice Age Now: Four Thousand eight hundred fifty six locations in the U.S. set daily record low-high temperatures in November and another 4,121 saw record lows at least one day in November. For the month as a whole, 94 locations set a new monthly record low and 1435 locations set an average record low-high temperature for the month as a whole. Indeed, for the year-to-date, nearly 28,000 locations saw record lows during 2014, and another 19,500, locations set record low-daily-highs.

The Weather Channel reported cities across the U.S. experiencing record daily low temperatures for November, including: Casper, Wyoming: -27 (Nov. 12) and -26 (Nov. 13); Redmond, Oregon: 17 (Nov. 15) and -19 (Nov. 16) each was colder than previous record of -14 (Nov. 15, 1955); Joplin, Missouri: 6 (Nov. 18) bested

previous record of 7 (Nov. 29, 1976)

And some cities had record low November streaks: Dallas/Ft. Worth: Six straight days of highs of 45 degrees or colder (Nov. 12-17); and Chicago: 180 straight hours below freezing (late on Nov. 11 until late morning Nov. 19)

The record cold brought with it record breaking ice and snow for many locations in the U.S. For instance, ice brought the earliest end to navigation on the Upper Mississippi River near the Twin Cities according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Blairsville, Georgia received its earliest snow on record on Nov. 1; 0.5 to 2 inches. The previous earliest snow was Nov. 10, 1968 and St. Cloud, Minnesota, received its record heaviest November calendar day snow (13.2 inches on Nov. 10). Gile, Wisconsin got hit with 50.1 inches of snow over a four-day period from Nov. 10-14. This awaits certification as a Wisconsin state snowstorm record.

Areas along the great lakes were especially hard hit by snow with Buffalo Niagara International Airport reporting 88 inches of snow (over 7 feet) from Nov. 17-21. Cities chalking up their snowiest Novembers on record in 2014 include: Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan: 65.4 inches (old record was 46.8 inches in 1989); Rhinelander, Wisconsin: 32.4 inches (old record was 21.5 inches in 1957) and Bangor, Maine: 25.9 inches (old record was 24.6 inches in 1962)

For the U.S. as a whole, Rutgers University Global Snow Lab reports, North America snow cover reached a record extent for mid-November (15.35 million square kilometers), crushing the old record from 1985 by over 2 million square kilometers.

Categories: On the Blog

Top Ten Deficiencies in FCC’s Title II Record

Somewhat Reasonable - December 09, 2014, 9:53 AM

Will this FCC legal team learn from the legal mistakes of their predecessors and ensure the FCC has a thorough and a sufficient legal record to justify their legal theories, given that the FCC already has failed twice in crafting legal net neutrality regulations in Comcast v. FCC in 2010 and again in Verizon v. FCC in 2014?

Kindly, the U.S. Court of Appeals has provided the FCC a roadmap to follow to legally justify their net neutrality rules under Section 706.

It is telling that the court provided no similar legal “roadmap” for Title II reclassification. That’s because Title II reclassification would require successfully backtracking decades of opposing FCC and court precedents and remixing FCC authorities in new and imaginative ways to traverse uncharted legal territory.

Simply the court implicitly recognizes there is no roadmap for uncharted territory.

The last outcome the FCC should want, is for their third attempt to craft legal net neutrality rules-of-the-road to fail, because the FCC failed to control what the FCC can and should control, building a predictably thorough and sufficient record, and abiding by required, well-known, administrative and comment procedures.

Simply, the FCC does not want to fail such a high-profile legal test, a third time, because in an unnecessary rush, the FCC did not do all their homework or follow all the test’s basic administrative rules.

There are at least ten predictable, potential major deficiencies in the FCC’s record, anyone of which could doom the legality of the FCC’s rulemaking, if not appropriately addressed and justified in the record.

Top Ten Deficiencies in the FCC’s Title II Record


  1. New June 2014 SCOTUS Precedent? The FCC has not asked for comment on the legal implications of a highly-relevant, June 2014, Supreme Court precedent: (Util. Air Reg. Grp v. EPA) — that effectively limits Chevron Deference by establishing precedent that agency rules “must be “ground[ed] … in the statute,” rather than on “reasoning divorced from the statutory text.” Simply, where in the Communications Act does it authorize the FCC to act in a way that it enables the FCC to evade another statutory provision that explicitly restricts FCC authority?
  2. New Presidential Title II Push? President Obama’s unusual high-profile call for Title II utility regulation of the Internet, after the FCC NPRM proposed a different Section 706 course, creates a new increased need for a robust record to withstand charges of arbitrariness and capriciousness, especially given Judge Silberman’s Verizon v. FCC final warning to the FCC. “This regulation essentially provides an economic preference to a politically powerful constituency that, as is true of typical rent-seekers, wishes protection against market forces. The Commission does not have authority to grant such a favor.”
  3. Forbearance Contradiction? How does the FCC justify Title II reclassification based on the existence of insufficient competition to protect consumers, while at the same time forbearing from most all Title II consumer protections because there is the existence of enough competition to protect consumers?
  4. Non-Forbearance Forbearance? The FCC already did the ultimate Title II forbearance, in previously, and repeatedly, classifying the Internet as an information service. Thus reclassifying the Internet as Title II telecommunications is actually un-forbearance (an increase in regulation with partial forbearing). How can a big net-increase in regulation, be legitimately called “forbearance” at all, and justified under the 1996 Communications Act’s purpose to “promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices… for consumers” when it actually directly and indirectly would substantially increase consumers’ prices, taxes and fees?
  5. Unprecedented Forbearance? When all FCC forbearance precedents to date have been narrow and protracted, what evidence or precedent supports the notion that sweeping FCC Title II forbearance can be accomplished legally and expeditiously to not slow broadband deployment or reduce broadband competition?
  6. Forbearance Limits? How can the FCC forbear from regulating Title II telecommunications of non-facilities based, “edge” information service providers, when the Supreme Court already ruled differently in its Brand X decision: If the Communications Act classified “as telecommunications carriers all entities that use telecommunications inputs to provide an information service,”… the Act “would subject to mandatory common carrier regulation all information service providers that use telecommunications as an input to provide information service to the public.” … “The relevant definitions do not distinguish facilities-based and non-facilities-based carriers”… so reclassifying would “subject to common carrier regulation non-facilities-based ISPs that own no transmission facilities.”
  7. Innovation Contradiction? For decades, the FCC, Courts and Congress have proactively not applied Title II common carrier regulation (which is inherently government-permission-based for most every significant business action) to data or Internet services, in order to promote innovation. Given that one of the FCC’s explicit purposes in the NPRM is to promote “innovation without permission,” what evidence in the record shows that past anti-Title II policies did not promote innovation, and reversing course to impose Title II would promote more innovation?
  8. Sending-Party-Pays Contradiction? What evidence in the record justifies using Title II — an eighty-year-old, sending-party-pays economic model that ensured the system was economically-self-sustaining and cohesive — to impose the opposite receiving-party-pays economic model that undermines economic sustainability and forces consumers to subsidize businesses?
  9. Commercially Reasonable? What evidence justifies the FCC notion that a de facto ban on a two-sided market via a permanent zero-price for Internet downstream traffic is “commercially reasonable” under Title II Section 202’s “just and reasonable” pricing standard?
  10. Congressional Legitimacy? Given that the FCC is attempting to impose a permanent ban on Internet downstream traffic, something not allowed under Section 706 or Title II’s “just and reasonable” pricing standard, why did the FCC decide to not ask Congress for the Internet price regulation authority the FCC believes may be necessary for the 21st century?

In short, the court provided the FCC no legal roadmap to justify applying Title II to impose net neutrality. This legal uncharted territory obviously demands the best possible FCC record, if the FCC hopes to avoid a very-likely legal “strike three!”

Categories: On the Blog

Congress Pays For Entitlement Expansion With Cut To Penis Pumps

Somewhat Reasonable - December 08, 2014, 9:37 AM

“I don’t even know what this is! This sort of thing ain’t my bag, baby.”

The House and Senate are preparing to vote on the “Achieving a Better Life Experience” (ABLE) Act, a bipartisan bill that establishes tax-favored savings accounts for those with disabilities.

While the idea of these accounts (which would function similar to Roth IRAs) isn’t a bad one, the bill does expand the welfare state, as The Heritage Foundation’s Robert Rector and Romina Boccia note, by eliminating asset tests for “all means-tested welfare programs for families with a child who is eligible for SSI”, the disability program which is run through Social Security, as well as the asset test for “all welfare when disabled children become adults.” It also exacerbates the marriage penalty, which disincentivizes single mothers from marrying. Taken as a whole, in a system already throbbing with fraud, Congress is about to incentivize a lot more families to try and qualify for disability.

So how to pay for this expanded entitlement? A look at the offsets for the ABLE Act is where things get interesting. You may be surprised to learn that one of the many things taxpayers waste millions on every year arepenis pumps purchased through the Medicare program. This sort of thing should get a rise out of taxpayers, but the government has continued to stroke that credit card, spending over a quarter of a billion dollars over the past decade on these pumps, many of them purchased fraudulently.

The major thrust of the savings lies in a turgid provision buried deep inside the legislative text. The ABLE Act is primarily funded by money taken from prohibiting penis pump purchases until such time as Medicare Part D covers erectile dysfunction drugs to the tune of $444 million dollars. From the description of the act:

Sec. 203. Consistent treatment of vacuum erection systems in Medicare Parts B and D. This provision would prohibit Medicare coverage of vacuum erection systems (VES) until such time that Medicare covers erectile dysfunction drugs under Medicare Part D. When the Part D program was created in 2003, it established a statutory prohibition on erectile dysfunction drugs. CBO estimates that this provision will reduce spending by $444 million.

You got it: of all the items budgeteers could pump for savings, they went straight for the penis pumps. The problem is that they’re going to jack up entitlement spending with this funding, amounting to a humorous but ultimately pretty flaccid attempt to cut government spending.

But look on the bright side: even if the Congress is about to expand access to entitlements, GOP lawmakers deserve credit for reaching around the aisle to erect bipartisan support for penis pump reduction efforts. They did a handy job of finding savings to pay for new government programs, but taxpayers deserve better than spending cuts that resemble a one-night stand. They need a more longstanding commitment.

Everyone knows government sucks, but it will at least suck a little less with these cuts to the vacuum-based erection program. It’s just too bad they’re blowing all the savings on a new spending splurge. That sort of thing is very much their bag, baby.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Take Your Pick of Lies About Ozone, Methane or Mercury

Somewhat Reasonable - December 08, 2014, 9:23 AM

Is it surprising that the Environmental Protection Agency continues to tell big fat lies about anything it wants to ban, but is reluctant to show the “science” on which the bans are based?

There is currently a piece of legislation under consideration by Congress, the Secret Science Reform Act, to force the EPA to disclose its scientific and technical information before proposing or finalizing any regulation.

 This is what Nicolas Loris of The Heritage Foundation had to say regarding the mercury air and toxics rule that the EPA claims would produce $53 billion to $140 billion in annual health and environmental benefits. “The two studies that represent the scientific foundation for 1997 ozone and PM2.5 National Ambient Air Quality Standards are highly questionable and the data concealed, even though the studies were paid for by federal taxpayers and thus should be public property.”

 In addition to claims about carbon dioxide as a dreaded “greenhouse” gas, methane is also getting the attention of those opposed to “fracking”, a technique that has provided access to both natural gas and oil. James M. Taylor, a Senior Fellow with The Heartland Institute, a free market think tank, noted in January that “Natural gas has high methane content, but the methane is converted to energy when natural gas is burnt.” Citing U.S. Energy Information Administration data, Taylor noted “The ongoing decline in methane emissions supplements ongoing declines in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions.” Since 2000 both are down between 6% AND 9%. 

 The EPA is forever claiming billions in “health benefits” that result from their regulations. The public never gets to see the data on which such claims are based. The regulations, however, cost billions.

 The day before Thanksgiving, the EPA announced that it intends to propose an updated national standard for ground-level ozone, otherwise known as smog, based in part on the enforcement of rules concerning mercury. The previous day, the Supreme Court said it would review the agency’s standards requiring reductions of mercury emissions and other elements the EPA regards as toxic air pollution.

 To put all this in perspective, in August CNS News’ Penny Starr reported on a study by the National Association of Manufacturers regarding the EPA’s proposed regulation of ozone. It found that “it could be the costliest federal rule by reducing the Gross National Product by $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 20140, and adds $3.3 trillion in compliance costs for the same period.”  NAM president, Jay Timmons, said “The regulation has the capacity to stop the manufacturing comeback in its tracks.”

 Concurrently with NAM, the American Petroleum Institute released an analysis of the NAM study that said “The nation’s air quality has improved over the past several years, and ozone emissions will continue to decline without new regulations.” NAM’s vice president of energy and resources policy, Ross Eisenberg, said, “We are rapidly approaching a point where we are requiring manufacturers to do the impossible.” 

 That, however, is exactly what the ozone regulation is intended to do. This has nothing to do with health and everything to do with destroying the nation’s power producers and manufacturers, reducing vital electrical energy, and forcing factories of every description to close.

 At the upper levels of the atmosphere, the stratosphere, ozone is essential to the survival of life on Earth because ozone filters harmful ultraviolent (UV) radiation from sunlight. Otherwise the radiation would damage both plant and animal life. The reason you get sunburned is that too much UV radiation has caused it. Like everything else in nature, too much or too little determines the harm or benefit it provides, but that too is largely determined by nature.

 Ozone is a form of elemental oxygen, but it’s not something you want to breathe. As Wikipedia notes, “It is not emitted directly by car engines or by industrial operations, but formed by the reaction of sunlight on air containing hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides that react to form ozone directly at the source of the pollution or many kilometers down wind.” The initial mandate of the EPA to clean the air and water has been achieved. That is why smog is relatively rare nationwide. Further regulation is regressive.

 As for mercury, in 2011 the EPA issued 946 pages of new rules requiring U.S. power plants to sharply reduce their emissions of mercury even though they were already quite low. As with the proposed ozone rules, the EPA claimed that they would cost $10.9 billion annually to implement, but would save 17,000 lives while generating $140 billion in health benefits. This is all just hogwash. Such figures are just plucked out of the air or, worse, based on “science” the public paid for but is not allowed to see!

 Does anybody find it bizarre that, while the EPA is trying to remove the tiniest amounts of mercury in the environment, in 2011 Congress passed a law eliminate the incandescent light bulb and required their replacement by fluorescent lights that contain mercury?

 As Willie Soon and Paul Driessen wrote in a 2011 Wall Street Journal commentary, “Mercury has always existed naturally in Earth’s environment. Mercury is found in air, water, rocks, soil and trees, which absorb it from the environment.” They noted that “Since our power plants account for less than 0.5% of all the mercury in the air we breathe, eliminating every milligram of it will do nothing about the other 99.5% in our atmosphere.”

 The fundamental EPA lies about ozone and mercury involve the issue of toxicity. Since both are a natural part of the Earth, and since the Earth is 4.5 billion years old, and since life expectancy has been increasing dramatically in recent decades, the likelihood that either represents a threat requiring the expenditure of billions to reduce tiny amounts of their emissions is based on environmental ideology, not on science.

 Even if it was based on alleged science we would, as noted, not be allowed to see the data. If this reminds you of the way ObamaCare was foisted on “the stupid voters”, you’re right. The EPA hopes you are stupid enough not to realize that it is engaged in the destruction of the economy.

Categories: On the Blog

The Great Renewable Energy Rip-Off

Somewhat Reasonable - December 08, 2014, 8:23 AM

One of the lesser known attempts to prove that renewable energy, wind and solar power, can replace traditional energy sources–coal, oil, and natural gas–went belly up in much the same way current wind and solar companies depend on tapping the taxpayer for government subsidies in order to stay in business. Google’s Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal initiative begun in 2007 and shut down four years later.
Two members of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Ross Koningstein and David Fork, worked on the project. Both men have excellent credentials in aerospace engineering and applied physicals, respectively, but neither had a clue about climatology. Expertise in one field rarely translates to another unless it is closely allied.
At the start of the project “we shared the attitude of many stalward environmentalists. We felt that with steady improvements to today’s renewable energy technologies, our society could stave off catastrophic climate change. We now know that to be a false hope, but that doesn’t mean the planet is doomed.”

 Environmentalists start off with several thoroughly incorrect beliefs that are not supported by science. The first is that climate change has anything to do with human activity such as carbon dioxide and other so-called “greenhouse gases.”

 The Earth is not a greenhouse. It is always in the process of absorbing and discharging heat via the atmosphere and the oceans. If it retained heat all life on Earth would die. Even on a hot summer’s day, it will cool at night. Deserts, too, are often cooler at night.  As for carbon dioxide, it is a trace gas in the atmosphere at barely 0.04%, but it is also the gas which all vegetation requires. In turn, vegetation gives off oxygen while we humans and other animals exhale carbon dioxide.

 Secondly, environmentalists mistakenly believe that carbon dioxide emissions from the use of energy, particularly coal and oil, are so great that it affects the weather defined as what is happening now and the climate whose trends can only be determined decades and centuries from now. The constant claims about carbon dioxide emissions are blatantly false.

 There is no basis in science for nations to reduce so-called greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, more carbon dioxide would be a good thing for the planet’s vegetation, yielding healthier forests and greater crop yields on farms.

 Thirdly, environmentalists believe that we shall run out of coal, oil, and natural gas at some point. The current estimates put that point very far in the future and, since new reserves are being found, they show no indication of not being available for a very long time to come.
 “Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today’s renewable energy technologies simply won’t work,” said the two IEEE engineers. They’re right. Of all the forms of energy available wind and solar are so expensive and so unpredictable that they make no sense based on the false notion that humans can impact the Earth’s climate now or ever.

 The public is never told that wind turbines and solar farms all require a traditional electrical energy producer—coal, oil, or natural gas-based—because they don’t function if the sun is not shining or the wind is not blowing. These days, we can add nuclear plants to those deemed traditional. Hydroelectrical plants are also traditional.

 It is the American taxpayer who is paying the price for renewable energy that is more costly to produce than traditional coal-fired plants or those now benefitting from the reduced cost of natural gas thanks to fracking technology that Is securing more of it, as well as oil. 

A Fox News headline recently reported that the “World’s largest solar plant applying for federal grant to pay off federal loan.” The wealthy investors in a California solar plant, the Ivanpah solar plant, owned by Google and the renewable energy giant, NRG, not only received a $1.6 billion construction loan from U.S. taxpayers, but they are now requesting a $539 million grant to pay off their loan! 

 William La Jeunesse of Fox News reported that “In 2013, the Obama administration handed out $18.5 billion in renewable energy grants, with $4.4 billion going to solar projects.” Now one of those projects wants the government to give them money to help pay off their construction loan.

La Jeunesse reported, “the plant produced only about a quarter of the power it’s supposed to, a disappointing 254,263 magawatt-hours of electricity from January through August, not the million megawatt-hours it promised.”

Renewable energy is a huge taxpayer and consumer rip-off. 

Where solar leaves off, wind energy has been tapping taxpayers by means of the wind energy Production Tax Credit, (PTC) a form of welfare for wind energy companies. The Institute for Energy Research released a white paper in November noting that “A two-year extension will cost $13.35 billion, which is enough to pay 124 million Americans’ monthly electricity bills.”

 The PTC “allows wind producers to pay the grid to take their power and still profit.” This “negative pricing” forced two nuclear plants to close their doors because they could not compete against the practice. This would be a good time to let your congressman know that you don’t want to have the PTC extended any further.

 Still think wind energy is a good thing? Fully 65% of voters think that two decades of tax credits is enough! Wind energy, like solar, tends to produce more electricity when it is needed least. To top off reasons to stop throwing money at it, the Institute for Energy Research has found that “wind energy costs $109 per megawatt hour, which is twice as much as this year’s average wholesale electricity price of $54 per MWh.”

 To wrap up this look at renewable energy the Obama administration’s “war on coal” is going to cause utility bills to surge. As reported on Bloomberg News, according to the Brattle Group, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based consulting company, “the loss of the cheaper coal units will boast power prices by as much as 25% on grids that serve about a third of the nation’s population. The biggest impact may be in the Midwest and Northeast, where demand for gas for heating jumps during the cold-weather months.”

 The Environmental Protection Agency has come up with more ways to shut down the provision of electrical power as its proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards go into effect, requiring coal-fired plants to install scrubbers or close their doors.

 The EPA is not protecting anyone’s health. It is forcing them to pay more for what should be the most traditional and affordable sources of electricity in the world. It is putting people’s lives at stake if the power is not available.



Categories: On the Blog

The People of the World Continue to Yawn in the Face of Global Warming Alarmism

Somewhat Reasonable - December 07, 2014, 10:48 PM

We don’t believe the global warming hype anymore.

Maybe the people of the world are on to something when it comes to the bogus man-caused climate change meme pushed by the United Nations. And maybe the UN, which says it represents the voice of the world, should take notice. After all, the UN’s own poll shows that the people don’t care about “climate change,” and for good reasons that don’t comport with the UN’s  aims.

Via a Watts Up With That post by Willis Eschenbach comes word of a recent poll released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) gauging what the people of the world are most concerned about.

The poll — answered by millions — asked the world about its most vital concerns. Among the choices were “a good eduction,” “better healthcare,” “access to clean water,” and “protection against crime and violence.” The survey’s 16 questions even asked how important “freedom from discrimination and persecution” was to their lives, as well as “political freedoms.” Those last two are pretty vital to anyone in the world who yearns for a tolerable quality of life.

The survey also asked how important “action taken on climate change” was to their lives and outlook on the world. That last bit came in dead last.

As Willis writes at WUWT:

The revealed truth is that of the sixteen choices given to people regarding what they think are the important issues in their lives, climate change is dead last. Not only that, but in every sub-category, by age, by sex, by education, by country grouping, it’s right down at the bottom of the list. NOBODY thinks it’s important.

Now, people are always saying how the US is some kind of outlier in this regard, because polls in the US always put climate change down at the bottom, whereas polls in Europe generally rate it somewhat higher. But this is a global poll, with people chiming in from all over the planet. The top fifteen countries, in order of the number of people voting, were Mexico, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Yemen, Philippines, Thailand, Cameroon, United States, Ghana, Rwanda, Brazil, Jordan, and Morocco … so this appears to be truly representative of the world, which is mostly non-industrialized nations.

So the next time someone tries to claim that climate change is “the most important challenge facing the world” … point them to the website of the study, and gently inform them that the rest of the world doesn’t buy that kind of alarmist hogwash for one minute. People are not as stupid as their leaders think, folks know what’s important and what’s trivial in their lives, and trying to control the climate is definitely in the latter group.

This raises the question of “why”? Why, if global warming is the least-important factor in the lives of the people of the world, do the leaders of the world put curing “climate change” at the top of their priority list? Maybe it’s because the United Nations has proven it can’t organize the world to competently address healthcare, or equality between men and women, or better transport and roads, or better job opportunities. You know, the kind of stuff that industrialized societies handle pretty well.

Here’s the truth: The reason why the United Nations and the world’s governments focus on fighting climate change is because that mission gives them license to control everything about the economy of every state in the world. When you control the economy of a state, you better control its people — and state control is the inverse of individual liberty. In short, the world’s leaders focus on what no actual people care about — climate change — as a pretense to usurp your freedom.

Everyone who cherishes his or her liberty cannot continue to be passive about the question of “man-caused climate change.” That notion is a myth, and you must say so a publicly and often as possible. Humans are not causing a climate crisis that warrants our economy and our lives managed by our “betters.”

Share with your friends the videos from The Heartland Institute’s nine International Conferences on Climate Change. Share the work of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change. Or, as an introduction, share the video below.


Categories: On the Blog

Shimer: Great Books, Horrible College

Somewhat Reasonable - December 07, 2014, 8:44 PM

Shimer College went downhill once the inmates were allowed to run the asylum.

A few years ago, I was one of a dozen brave souls who tried to save Shimer College — a small “great books” college in Chicago — from falling enrollment, bankruptcy, and a dysfunctional cultural atmosphere.

We recruited a great new president (Tom Lindsay, now with the Texas Public Policy Foundation), raised money, got a clean audit for the first time in decades, and thought we were making real progress.

Then an anti-reform faction of the board of trustees conspired with disgruntled staff and fired the president, purged reform-minded board members, and generally behaved very badly. You can read about it in my 2010 resignation letter from Shimer’s Board of Trustees.

So how has Shimer done since the inmates took it over? A ranking of colleges published by Washington Monthly in October — based on cost of tuition, student indebtedness, and graduation rates, and adjusted for the percentage of students who are minority or low-income — ranked Shimer the worst college in America.

That’s not a typo. Shimer College isn’t just bad, or near the bottom. It’s the absolute worst college in the country.

How does a college get to be that bad? A reporter for the British newspaper, The Guardian, was curious and visited the school to find out. His report, in which he noted Shimer is “the very zenith of terrible,” makes for entertaining reading, at least for those unfamiliar with the history of the institution. The Guardian’s Jon Ronson writes:

According to the Huffington Post, Shimer was the second smallest college in America in 2012, after the Alaska Bible College. In its 1960s heyday it had 400 students. In 2011 there were 126, which slipped to 112 in 2012, then down again to 97 in 2013. And now they have 74.

Seventy-four students? That’s not a college, it’s a book club —which has long been the rap on Shimer College, and something we reformers set out to change.

Nearly all the reformers were kicked off the board of trustees or had resigned by the end of 2010. How different would the college be today if the anti-reformers had put the interests of college ahead of their self-interest and ideological agendas? We’ll never know.

Categories: On the Blog

Dear Bill Bennett: Get A Little More Reaganesque On Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - December 07, 2014, 7:26 PM

I’m too young to know if Ronald Reagan’s former Education Secretary Bill Bennett has always been a squish. He did preside over an unconstitutional and aggressively statist department Reagan had promised to close, so that seems like a good indicator of Bennett’s commitment to smaller government and bigger individual liberty and community self-determination.

So the gentleman has been getting paid by the well-heeled Common Core squad (Bill Gates has more money than God, and he’s paying everyone to back Common Core) to tack his name and reputation onto op-eds praising their burgeoning education fiasco. Earlier this year, it was in the pages of the Wall Street Journal. This week again, he was on CNN.com insisting that “Common Core has no better alternative.” Right, so the only road to our destination goes off a cliff, so we’d better rev up and ride off it. What?

And that’s the best the multimillion-dollar consultants Gates is hiring can come up with as a slogan? It’s almost as bad as their recent video, in which they insisted “Common Core is better than you’ve heard,” and quickly pulled after it became a laughingstock. There’s a vision to go to the barricades for: “Well, we have nothing better.” “It’s not as bad as they’re making it out to be.” If that’s the best its promoters can come up with, youknow it’s rotten.

Same Bat Story, Same Bat Channel

Bennett tells the same story conservatives have been telling since the Reagan administration. He even begins there, with the 1983 “A Nation at Risk” report. Synopsis: American schools are at best mediocre, and we keep lying to parents and children that achievement is higher than it really is. This is all true, or at least I find the evidence for it compelling, and so do most folks on the Right. But then Bennett does the same thing Republicans did after Reagan’s blockbuster “Risk” report: Acknowledge the problem, and then prescribe big-government solutions. Then call it bipartisan and pat each other’s back until the next decade reveals nothing improved, and repeat your announcement of the crisis and prescription of the exact same solution.

Bennett’s solution is the same as that of the Common Core-niks: Centralize education under a quasi-government monopoly uncontrolled by taxpayers or voters, which so far has led to academic mediocrity and chaos. Further, notice he cites no evidence that centrally planned curriculum mandates and tests can raise student achievement. He just assumes this crucial link. Unfortunately for America’s kids, research actually indicates that curriculum mandates have no effect on student achievement, both inside the United States and internationally. Let me repeat: The research shows Bennett’s big-government solution is not a solution. The “research” on other questions Common Core supporters will cite is basically advocacy research funded by the Gates Foundation, which consists of unscientific panels of experts paid by Gates who agree that Gates’ big project is a good idea. Not even joking here. 

Even if we didn’t have genuine studies indicating Common Core or any other curriculum mandates cannot benefit children and society, we have the past thirty years of trying this approach to look at. Bennett must surely be as cognizant of this as anyone else, given that he’s been in the game for at least those 30 years. I mean, following Common Core logic, this suggests that Bennett is the reason U.S. education has not improved. Seriously, though: States have been doing the “education standards” dance at federal behest ever since the Bill Clinton administration. In fact, Clinton led the first national standards movement back in the early nineties before he became president and got it into federal law. Remember Goals 2000 and America 2000? Yeah, those were the establishment’s answer to academic mediocrity: “I know! If we just give states their own tax money back to them in exchange for adopting the curriculum mandates we want, schools will improve!” Weird how that sounds just like Common Core. In fact, those initiatives were led by the very same people and organizations who gave us Common Core. Whoda thunkit. To a hammer, everything looks like a nail. To a bureaucrat, everything seems to need bureaucracy. The basic ideas of “education reform” haven’t changed since the 1980s. And our schools have not improved. Maybe someone should start connecting those two realities.

Bill Bennett Needs to Read a Little More, or at Least Do a Google Search

Bennett’s conclusion, as his title, basically says, “Anyway, no one has any better ideas.” This just proves that he’s either not paying attention and has some cheap staffer ghostwrite his op-eds or has stuffed his ears with cotton balls. Every single hearing on state bills to repeal and replace Common Core has included testimony recommending a different route. I know, because I’ve been to about half of these hearings, testified at about a third (it’d be more, but I’ve been pregnant and mothering a new baby for the past year and a half), and have watched the livefeed of the rest. My recommendation is to get the federal government out of curriculum completely, which statute requires anyway. Because the feds don’t give rat’s tail about laws that restrain their power, the U.S. Department of Ed should have its knees (aka funding) cut off.

Other people typically recommend that states adopt Massachusetts’ world-class curriculum mandates—which Bennett himself nods at in his article—or introduce a system of multiple test possibilities to stop flattening the curriculum and pointing schools at mere compliance. Some even suggest going with ACT’s tests, which I am not keen on because I don’t favor replacing one monopoly with another. But at least ACT has a good track record. Common Core has none. I mean, how many times can I bold and italicize and highlight that no one anywhere has tried Common Core but now we’re all supposed to believe that five people who have never taught K-12 in their livessomehow received revelation from the academia gods explaining what every child should learn in every grade. It’s utter insanity. But that’s what happens when you live in DC. You start to believe that fantasies with other people’s money can be real and morally upstanding. Not just that, they must be done, dammit! for the children! Anyone who says otherwise is a slavering barbarian who only wishes to rip apart what has taken so many people so many years to build with others’ time, sweat, and children.

Look, I was raised to be polite to my elders. It’s extremely clear Bennett has accomplished more in his lifetime than I can ever hope to. He has written some good books about education, several of which reside on my bookshelf and are informing how I raise my children. I’m not trying to be some shock jock jerk. But I had much higher expectations for a man of his caliber than this. It’s really disappointing to see a giant like Bill Bennett side with the establishment and the system that he acknowledges has failed for decades over the parents and genuine experts who have been screaming that Common Core robs us of our God-given right to bring up our children, perpetuates and enhances centralized government, provides a degraded system of mealy-mouthed academics, and gives the establishment a license to cover their own asses with smiling posters of happy children for the next decade while real children pass through the halls of our nation’s schools and continue to learn jack squat.

Reagan may have not rescued us this debate by eliminating USDOE, which definitely bullied states into Common Core at its creators’ request, but he had his first principles right. In 1982, he spoke some words everyone needs to hear again: “This freedom to choose what type of education is best for each child has contributed much to America’s reputation for excellence in education. Unfortunately, the high plane of literacy and the diversity of education we have achieved is threatened by policymakers who seem to prefer uniform mediocrity to the rich variety that has been our heritage.”

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Wake Up Australia

Somewhat Reasonable - December 06, 2014, 12:05 PM

As Australia’s industrial capacity declines, Australia is becoming green and defenseless.

History holds lessons.

Back in Dec 1941, Japan suddenly attacked the huge US Naval base at Pearl Harbour. Three days later, two “invincible” British warships, “Repulse” and “Prince of Wales” were sunk by Japanese planes off Malaya. Soon Japanese armies were rampaging through Asia towards Australia. By Feb 1942, the British fortress of Singapore surrendered and Japanese bombs were falling on Darwin. By Sept 1942 the Japanese army had slashed their way down the Kokoda Track and could see the lights of Port Moresby. They were looking across Torres Strait to Australia. At that time, most of our trained soldiers were fighting Rommel in North Africa or in Japanese prison camps.

Suddenly Australia was on its own and needed to defend itself with what we had here.

Armies need soldiers, weapons, bullets, vehicles, fuel, food (and cigarettes).

Soldiers volunteered and were conscripted. Australian conscripts formed part of the force that met the Japanese on the Kokoda Track.

Enfield Rifles, Bren Guns and Vickers Machine Guns were produced in large numbers at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow supported by feeder factories in the area.

Motor oil was produced in limited quantities from oil shale at Glen Davis, but petrol was in serious short supply, and had been rationed since 1940. With the fall of Singapore, this shortage became severe, and charcoal burners suddenly appeared to keep cars and trucks moving. Kerosene was short so carbide lights were widely used. The demand for charcoal was so great that firewood became scarce so it was rationed.

To conserve supplies for soldiers, rationing was introduced for tea, clothing, butter, sugar, meat and cigarettes

An immediate critical shortage was copper for cartridge cases – we had mines producing lead, zinc, silver, gold and iron, but there was a critical shortage of copper.

Fortuitously, just before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, an exploration drill hole at Mount Isa had struck rich copper ore.

Mount Isa was called on to avert a calamitous shortage of copper in Australia. With government encouragement, Mount Isa Mines made the brave decision to suspend the profitable silver/lead/zinc operations and convert all mining and treatment facilities to extracting copper.

The lead concentrator could be converted to treat copper ore, but the biggest problem was how to smelt the copper concentrates. Luckily the company had skilled engineers and metallurgists in the lead smelter. In a miracle of improvisation, scrap steel and spare parts were purchased and scavenged from old mines and smelters from Cloncurry, Mt Elliott, Mt Cuthbert and Kuridala and cobbled into a workable copper smelter. In 1943 the first Mount Isa blister copper was produced. Production continued after the war when Mount Isa returned to extracting the then more profitable silver/lead/zinc. Later new plant was built enabling both lead and copper to be produced from this fabulous mine.

This story of the importance of self-reliance has lessons for today.

The war on carbon energy, the carbon tax, the renewable energy targets, escalating electricity costs and the voices in Parliament calling for Emissions Trading Schemes have all unnerved our big users of carbon fuels and electricity. Smelting and refining have become threatened industries in Australia, and closure of the Mount Isa copper smelter and the Townsville copper refinery has been foreshadowed. Already six major metal smelting/refining operations have closed in Australia this century and more are likely. The closures have affected copper, lead, zinc, steel and aluminium – the sinews of modern industry. And the car industry, with all its skills and tools, is closing

Local production and refining of oil is also declining, while “lock-the-gate” vandals are trying to prevent domestic exploration and production of gas. More and more land and offshore waters are closed to exploration and mining, and heavy industry is scorned. It was estimated recently that by next year, half of Australia’s oil refining capacity will have closed. In the event of a disruption to tanker routes, Australia has just 12 days of diesel supplies before city fuel and food supplies start to dry up.

We are losing the resources, skills and machinery needed for our own security, while we fritter precious resources on green energy, direct action, carbon capture and storage and other pointless anti-carbon chimeras.

Our foolish green energy policies and the suicidal war on carbon fuels are killing real industry leaving us unskilled and defenceless – like a fat toothless walrus basking on a sunny beach.

Wake up Australia.

Categories: On the Blog

The World’s Climate Change Mafia Meet in Peru

Somewhat Reasonable - December 05, 2014, 1:32 PM

To understand all the talk of “climate change” you must understand that everything and everyone involved—except for those of us who debunk the lies—are engaged in a criminal enterprise to transfer billions from industrialized nations to those who have failed to provide a thriving economy, often because they are run by dictators or corrupt governments who skim the money for themselves.

 The lies being inflicted on Americans include Obama’s “war on coal” that is shutting down coal-fired plants that affordably and efficiently produce the electricity the nation needs, along with the six-year delay of the Keystone XL pipeline. Add in the thousands of Environmental Protection Agency regulations affecting our manufacturing, business and agricultural sectors and the price we are paying is huge.

 At its heart, environmentalism hates capitalism.

 One of the worst parts of this scam to take from the rich and give to the poor—otherwise known as “redistribution”—is the way the world’s media have played along since 1992 when the first Earth Summit was held in Rio. The perpetrators are headquartered in the United Nations, home to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that sets the agenda.

 While the 20th session of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Conference of Parties meets in Lima, Peru this week, perhaps the most egregious and outrageous example of journalism was the December 2nd Associated Press article, “Hotter, Weirder: How Climate Change and Changed the Earth.” It is not attributed to a specific reporter; perhaps because it is filled with lies from start to finish.

 It starts with the biggest lie of all:  “WASHINGTON (AP) — In the more than two decades since world leaders first got together to try to solve global warming, life on Earth has changed, not just the climate. It’s gotten hotter, more polluted with heat-trapping gases, more crowded and just downright wilder.”

The Earth is in the 19th year of a natural cooling cycle, the result of a comparable cycle on the Sun which is producing less radiation to warm the planet. What astounds anyone who knows this is the article’s assertion that “It’s almost a sure thing that 2014 will go down as the hottest year in 135 years of record keeping, meteorologists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center say. If so, this will be the sixth time since 1992 that the world set or tied a new annual record for the warmest year.”

Would government agencies that are beholden to the existing administration for their budgets lie to the public? Yes, they would. While all fifty states experienced freezing weather within the past month, we are still being told that 2014 set new records for warmth. To borrow a phrase from Jonathan Gruber, the architect of ObamaCare, the government can tell “stupid” voters and others anything it wants in order to achieve its goals.

For the record, in 2013 and much of 2014, there have been record low numbers of tornadoes and hurricanes. There was a record gain in Arctic and Antarctic ice. There was no change in the rate of sea level rise; something measured in millimeters.  The weather is the weather and that includes dramatic events such as blizzards or droughts, but it is hardly uniform. Depending on where you live on planet Earth, you will experience it differently on any given day.

As representatives of 190 climate mafia meet in Peru, you will be given data about carbon dioxide (CO2). The AP article cites increases of  “60 percent.” If that were true, it would be good news. All vegetation on Earth depends on CO2, just as humans and other living creatures depend on oxygen. More CO2 means healthier forests and greater crop yields, an agricultural bonus in a world that needs to feed seven billion people. But it’s not true. Nor is the claim that the mere 0.04% of CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere traps so much heat we’re all going to die. It doesn’t and most of us will die of old age.

As Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research reported in June, “The U.S. already leads the world in CO2 reductions and is a great role model. U.S. energy-related CO2 emissions fell 12.6 percent between 2005 and 2012, thanks to technology and conservation. Worldwide, CO2 emissions increased by 17.7 percent during the same period.”  That’s a far cry from the AP claim of 60 percent.

The Peru conference is another effort to impose a global tax on “carbon” and to increase the UN’s “Climate Fund” to which some nations have pledged $9.3 billion. To put this in perspective, the United States just set a new record of $18 TRILLION in debt and cannot afford to be pledging money to that fund or any other fund. Most of that debt has been incurred during the one and a half terms of Barack Obama who just happens to be telling everyone that “climate change” is the greatest threat to all life on Earth.

“Climate change” is what the 4.5 billion-year-old Earth has been doing during all that time and will continue to do. Humans experience it as the “weather” which is measured in days and weeks while climate is measured in units not less than thirty years and more often in centuries. Today’s weather prediction is good for, at best, five days and is subject to change at any time.

As for all those claims about “global warming” it’s worth keeping in mind that not one of the computer models cited to prove it has been accurate. There isn’t a model or a computer big enough to take in all the many elements that compose the weather anywhere and everywhere on Earth. The weather is always in a state of flux and change, just as the temperatures during any hour of the day are in a stage of change.

Here’s a bit of advice. Do not believe anything that comes out of the UN conference because, scientifically speaking, it will be a lie. And don’t believe anything the Associated Press reports on “climate change” because that too must automatically be regarded as a lie as well.

Whatever Barack Obama has to say about “climate change” (formerly known as “global warming”) is a lie. It would be nice to have a President and a government we could trust.


Categories: On the Blog
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