On the Blog

A Model for Innovation Protection: Section 1201

Somewhat Reasonable - September 17, 2014, 4:06 PM

Today the House Judiciary Committee is undertaking the next in its series of hearings discussing the Copyright Act. This time the hearing will focus on Title 17, Chapter 12 which discusses copyright protection and management systems, including section 1201 regarding the circumvention of copyright protection systems. The very design of the Chapter was to promote creation and innovation, imbuing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act with flexibility.

By including section 1201, that is, by allowing for secure methods of distribution, artists have been provided some protection against theft of their property. This has resulted in a flood of content for multiple new and traditional platforms that otherwise would have been at high risk of theft. Just as society disallows breaking and entering, or the possession or sale of lock picking tools (except in very narrow circumstances) the section prohibits the circumvention of technological protection measures and disallows the trafficking in tools that are primarily designed for circumvention.

The provision was not without controversy when included in the legislation and remains controversial today. But the section has withstood the test of time. Consumers enjoy massive choice in delivery methods now. New and innovative licensing and distribution models for online content seem to emerge every day. Just in online music the variety of services via abundant business models is amazing including iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, satellite radio, AOL Radio, Slacker, Grooveshark, Jango, Last FM, Songza, Sony Music Unlimited, and many more. For video Ultraviolet, Disney Movies Anywhere, HBO Go, TV Everywhere, Epix HD, Hulu, and Crackle just begin the long list. Means of accessing books are many and highly competitive. Consider Amazon’s Lending Library, which allows Amazon Prime subscribers to borrow titles at no additional cost. This service uses digital rights management technology protected by section 1201. Entertainment software (video gaming) is available in more ways and more places than any boy playing on his Atari could have ever imagined

What does it all mean? It means that once property rights are protected a market will grow, and expand, innovating new products and services to meet the expectations and needs of consumers. The certainty and flexibility of section 1201 provides that property protection and legal certainty, providing a reasonable landscape for artists and creators to make more content available in more ways despite the increased risks of piracy inherent in a digital world.

Of course some have tried to use the law in ways it was never intended. This is not uncommon as lawyers seek to new and creative arguments to benefit their clients, yet the courts have rejected use of the section much beyond protecting copyrighted works which has preserved competition. Often cited as an abuse, is the assertion of section 1201 in an attempt to protect the garage door opener and third-party printer toner cartridge markets. Less often added is that the courts appropriately found that the use of 1201 to leverage sales, instead of merely protecting legitimate copyright interests, was inappropriate and those attempts failed. The system worked.

But no legislation is perfect, particularly as technology and times change. That understanding is an integral part of this law. Anticipating innovation in business models, technology and services the law requires the Library of Congress to update a list of exceptions every three years so that non-infringing uses of copyrighted works could continue even while appropriate safeguards were preserved for creators and distributors. Explicitly protected is free speech by including permanent exemptions, such as for libraries and educational institutions, encryption research, security testing, and reverse engineering.

In all, the law contemplated technological protection measures and made clear that they were allowable. The potential harms were also specifically contemplated with measures included to guarantee that non-infringing uses were allowed. The courts have similarly acted appropriately in constraining the reach of the law to little more than guaranteeing the protection of copy protected works. Erosion of section 1201 to allow the trafficking of tools primarily designed to enable digital theft seems silly on its face given that in the analog world such tools are per se illegal.

Ultimately, Section 1201 encourages self-help, that is, property owners benefit if they take action to protect their own property. This is entirely appropriate, ultimately conserving law enforcement resources for the most challenging issues. The law also encourages innovation by protecting the property of artists, inventors and creators. The result is that all consumers are able to enjoy content in ways not dreamed of even 15 years ago.

Categories: On the Blog

‘Freedom Triumphant’ Defines Heartland’s 30th Anniversary Gala Featuring Joe Walsh and Michelle Malkin

Somewhat Reasonable - September 17, 2014, 1:42 PM

Michelle Malkin speaking at The Heartland Institute’s 30th Anniversary Benefit Dinner on Sept. 12, 2014.

“Freedom Triumphant” was the theme of The Heartland Institute’s 30th Anniversary Benefit Dinner on Friday, Sept. 12, at The Cotillion in Palatine, Illinois. Some 500 people were in attendance.

Most fitting is that the evening began with a video reminding those in attendance of some of the events in politics, popular culture, and freedom that took place in 1984 when Ronald Reagan was reelected in a landslide, the same year Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” album was released. The video ended with what has become a momentous event in history: the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

A featured keynote speaker was Michelle Malkin, a New York Times best-selling author, nationally syndicated columnist, wildly successful digital entrepreneur, and Tea Party champion. Malkin was joined at Heartland’s 30th Anniversary Gala by Master of Ceremonies, former congressman Joe Walsh, the greatest champion the Tea Party ever had in Washington, when representing the 8th District of Illinois from 2011 – 2013. Walsh’s enthusiasm for liberty is shared every weekday from 5 to 8 p.m. in Chicago on his radio talk show on AM 560 The Answer.

The recipient of the 2014 Heartland Liberty Prize was M. Stanton Evans, a founder of the modern conservative movement along with Bill Buckley. As a proponent of “fusionism,” Evans believed that a love of freedom should unite conservatives and libertarians regardless of their disagreements. Because of poor health Evans was unable to attend. In his absence, Joseph A. Morris and Jameson Campaigne presented the tribute to the honoree. Morris and Campaigne told of the gift of wit displayed by Evans, and of his perception of “liberty as an organized outgrowth of civilization.”

Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast set the tone for the evening. In talking about Heartland and its purpose since its inception its founding in 1984 by Dave Padden, Bast stressed how ideas do matter in the history of nations. Regarding freedom, “Freedom wants for defenders who often end up as martyrs.” Moreover, “defenders are outnumbered by their foes.”

Freedom is what The Heartland Institute is all about. With a full time staff of 29 (21 working in the Chicago office), there are approximately 235 academics and professional economists participating in the peer-review process and more than 160 elected officials who serve on its Legislative Forum. The Heartland Institute only rarely lobbies for or against pending legislation, but through Heartland’s government relations staff more than 1.2 million contacts with elected officials were made in 2013. Through this education process, Joe Bast credits Heartland for why there is no carbon tax or cap-and-trade program in the U.S.

Walsh, calling himself a Tea Party conservative, wasted no time, nor did he disappoint his audience, employing his usual enthusiasm and energy when he shouted: WE HAVE A COUNTRY TO SAVE! Admitting that he was just a “warmup act for one of the top warriors we have for freedom in this country,” Walsh also revealed that he had worked at Heartland years ago “at the knees of Joe and Diane Bast.”

Freedom was uppermost in Walsh’s thoughts when he asked a series of three questions, all of which were greeted with a resounding “yes”.

 1. Do you believe the federal government is too big?

2. Do you believe the state and local governments should have more power than the federal government?

3. Do you believe in the benefits of the free market system?

 In explaining what drives Walsh, why he gets so worked up, he said: “We’re losing it.” And he was talking about the country. Walsh takes on both Democrats and Republicans when legislators on either side choose to ignore the type of government our Founding Fathers bequeathed to us. When in Congress, Joe Walsh made lots of promises which he kept, a rarity among politicians. In promising a free and open government, Walsh held 334 town meetings open to the public, far exceeding any other legislator.

Using a dollar bill to address his point that no one can make the case that this is a free country, Walsh removed a dollar bill from his wallet.“When the government takes 40 cents of every dollar, and we no longer get to keep most of it,” he said, “we are no longer free.” When in Congress, most of the calls Walsh received were from small businessmen and -women who said they were done with Illinois.

Walsh’s relationship with House Speaker John Boehner wasn’t the greatest, he said. Boehner always addressed the congressman simply as “Walsh.” Once when Boehner was passing by Walsh’s desk, Boehner placed his hands on his shoulders asking him, “Why did you vote against my debt ceiling bill again?” To which Walsh replied, “I would never vote for anything that increased the size of government.”

Walsh said his role in life is to wake people up, and he implored the audience to make it their mission, too. But even if we start now, Walsh cautioned, we won’t be able to win back what this nation has lost during the course of our lifetime.

In introducing Malkin, Walsh spoke of her as “a hero to many patriot conservatives in Congress,” which, Walsh admitted, was a lonely place to be given his experience as a conservative and Tea Party Republican.

Malkin was greeted warmly and enthusiastically in keeping with her reputation and status as an undisputed hero of freedom. Recalling Walsh’s remark of what drives him, Malkin described her life as an open book, and said he she considered it a pleasure to help The Heartland Institute celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Malkin’s parents came to America from the Philippines in 1976 to pursue the American dream and to provide a better education for their two children. The rule of law was respected. A legal fee had to be paid and learning English was required. Accordingly, Malkin defines herself not as a hyphenated American but as simply an American. For over two decades Malkin has been a proud out-of-the-closet conservative. It was early on that she realized the need to fight back, understanding that freedom cannot be taken for granted. The Heartland Institute was summarily described by Michelle as an important think tank because it represents “a catalyst for action that encourages restoration, not transformation.”

Common Core was at the top of Malkin’s concerns, having two children of her own: a boy now 10, and a girl 14. “Not too many years ago eyes glazed over when Common Core was mentioned,” Malkin said. She went on to praise Heartland Institute Research Fellow Joy Pullmann, who was seated at the same table I was. Pullmann, Malkin said, is “a one-woman warrior against Common Core.” According to Malkin, whether called Common Core, No Child Left Behind, Outcome Ed, or Goals 2000, underlying all is “fed ed” – a way to obtain power and cash. All these programs make children into guinea pigs for the state.

Malkin described the teaching of math as an abomination, naming the University of Chicago Education Department as the center of many education fads. A Texas school board in 2007, she said, decided it would drop the way math was being taught when children were asked these questions on everyday math worksheets:

A. If math were a color, it would be ____, because ____,

B. If it were a food, it would be ____, because ____,

C. If it were weather, it would be ____, because ____.

Indicating that it’s not easy to be a squeaky wheel, Malkin related a situation she faced when her daughter was much younger. Malkin noticed that her daughter, when attending an all-girls school, was being taught the same thing over and over again, even when she advanced to the next grade. Malkin was told by her daughter’s teacher that this strategy was called spiraling, where leaning is spread out over time rather than being concentrated in shorter periods, a strategy devised by the University of Chicago Education Department. The teacher further informed Malkin that this strategy would help girls have more self esteem in math. To which she replied, “This is not a football game where strategy is important. It is math where getting the right answer is the important thing.”

The experience with her daughter prompted Malkin to write a column in 2007, “Everyday Math,” about the ineffectiveness of teaching math, where upon she was called into the office of her daughter’s principal. To Malkin’s surprise, with the principal was a legal counsel representative. Malkin was bluntly told that if she didn’t refrain from writing about the way math was being taught, her daughter would be kicked out of school.

Malkin stated that the common theme in educational policy is that of central planning and self-appointed experts who know better than we do. It is only the progressive Left that gets to decide who counts as an expert. If you are right-minded you are just a “blogger,” as Malkin said Fox News commentator Juan Williams once labeled her to dismiss her arguments in a debate. It is repulsive, Malkin said, that children are but cogs in the machine and some expert is deciding what their goals should be.

Malkin further expounded upon how radical leftist Bill Ayers, Barack Obama’s partner in education “reform” in the 1990s, traveled to Venezuela to praise the budding system of socialist education in that country. A further revelation by Ms. Malkin was how the National Education Association in 2009 made a glowing assessment of radical socialist community organizer Saul Alinksy, recommending that teachers read Alinsky’s 1971 book, “Rules for Radicals.”

Common Core is in keeping with the cradle-to-grave fantasy expressed in an Obama campaign via a propaganda slideshow called “The Life of Julia.” It was intended to illustrate how the Obama administration’s policies will give government help to a young woman as she is educated, works, starts a family and retires.

So many wealthy individuals and their foundations have been fooled by Common Core and are pushing it – Bill Gates and George Soros are two, but also on board are the National Chamber of Commerce, Jeb Bush, and Mike Huckabee. All should know better and must wake up! Fed ed (Common Core), by design, gives students a liberal interpretation of this nation’s history – stressing that America is bad and doesn’t deserve to be ranked above any other nation. Malkin warned that even if children are sent to a Christian school or home schooled, they may not be immune from Common Core.

Malkin is so thankful she can make a living in America by running off her mouth. This keeps her a happy warrior – even if, she said, “we are living in a culture of corruption.” Whether talking about Democrats or Republicans, like barnacles they become stuck to the side of the U.S. government, where they pander to people who want to destroy the American Dream.

In closing, Malkin recounted how she had had the opportunity to go to Iraq in 2007, traveling with a male colleague to cover the surge in Baghdad. This experience was a jarring one for her. Her final words: “We are so lucky and should not take for granted that we live in the greatest country on the planet. Now we must fight to preserve it. May God Bless America!”

Categories: On the Blog

Why Might There Be No 15th Dalai Lama? Pure Politics

Somewhat Reasonable - September 17, 2014, 9:00 AM

Last week the Dalai Lama, the religious leader of the Tibetan people, announced that he might not reincarnate, a suggestion that has sparked a flurry of commentary and speculation about the future of the Tibetan independence movement.

All of this controversy over whether the Dalai Lama will or won’t reincarnate may seem surprising, given the dubious premise that reincarnation is a genuine possibility for any human being, however enlightened, to achieve. Yet it is a decision that will help shape the future of the Tibetan people for years to come.

According to Tibetan Buddhist theology, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th and current Dalai Lama, is the living incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion. As a Buddha, or enlightened being, the Dalai Lama is meant to have the power to reincarnate with full memory of his past lives in order to provide guidance to other seekers after enlightenment. He is technically free of the perpetual cycle of death and rebirth in which ordinary people are trapped, but he chooses to stay as a teacher rather than ascend permanently to a higher plane of existence.

When the Dalai Lama dies, senior figures within Tibetan Buddhism begin to search for his next incarnation. This process usually takes several years. When prospective candidates are discovered, they are tested with questions that, supposedly, only the Dalai Lama could answer. When a child passes the test, he is inducted into the priesthood and begins a lengthy term of study before being enthroned as the next spiritual leader of Tibet.

As a Buddha, the Dalai Lama can (according to Tibetan beliefs) decide at any time not to be reborn. It is that loophole the Dalai Lama is now seeking to exploit. It is something he has been making room to do for some time. In 2011 the Dalai Lama ceded all political power to an elected leader, ending the theocratic system of government that predominated in Tibet and in the government-in-exile since the Chinese invasion.

Why might there be no 15th Dalai Lama? The move is pure politics. The Dalai Lama rightly fears that the Chinese government will try to exploit the situation in the wake of his death, “discovering” their own candidate for Dalai Lama who will be firmly under the thumb of Beijing. This has happened with other senior lamas, with the exiled Tibetans recognizing a candidate and monks under the authority of Beijing choosing another. The Dalai Lama seems to have surmised that such a split over his own replacement could prove disastrous for the cause of Tibetan rights. By choosing to have no successor, he may be able to prevent China from undermining the future of the Tibetan independence movement.

The Tibetan people remain oppressed. They are denied true religious freedom and are economically exploited by the Han Chinese majority. The Dalai Lama has been instrumental in highlighting the continued abuses and has been a powerful spokesman for the rights of his countrymen and all oppressed people.

China clearly sees the Dalai Lama’s statement as a threat to their plans. The Chinese government responded to the Dalai Lama’s statement by urging him to “respect reincarnation.” That is a truly bizarre statement coming from a government that allegedly promotes an ideology of communistic materialism that is diametrically opposed to religion, faith, and the supernatural. Their dissatisfaction with the Dalai Lama’s suggestion has tipped their hand that they will not respect the process should it be allowed to proceed. Indeed, their attitude may only make the Dalai Lama’s decision not to have a successor easier for him.

Whether there is a 15th Dalai Lama or not, Tibet faces many challenges. The growth of the Chinese economy and Beijing’s increasing willingness to flex its political muscles abroad do not bode well for the future of Tibet as a nation or as a partially self-governing subject of China. The Dalai Lama may see not reincarnating as a final gift to his people for whom he has so longed striven.

[Originally published at IOnTheScene]

Categories: On the Blog

‘Most Transparent Ever?’ Behold the FCC’s Secret, Crony Socialist Meetings

Somewhat Reasonable - September 16, 2014, 8:26 AM

It is yet another Barack Obama Administration pledge now relegated to the ash heap of Mendacious History.

The Most Transparent Administration In History

The Most Transparent Administration in History

This is the Most Transparent Administration in History

This is the Most Transparent Administration in the History of our Country

We’re the Most Transparent and Ethical Administration in U.S. History

Get the trance-inducing mantra? And Administration members have continued to relentlessly chant it – even though it long ago became a patently absurd assertion.

Despite Boasts, Obama Team Shuns Transparency

Oh the Transparency: Obama Administration Officials Meet Lobbyists at Coffee Shop to Evade Disclosure Laws

‘Transparent’ Obama Cracks Down on Whistleblowers

The Obama Administration’s Transparency Website Fails to Report $619 Billion in Federal Spending

Senators Call On Obama For More Transparency in the Intelligence Community

Why Is Obama Only Transparent with Enemies?

So now that we are deep into the Administration’s fifth year, is this at all surprising?

(Federal Communications Commission) FCC Encourages Media Companies to Provide Confidential Complaints on (Comcast’s) Time Warner Cable Purchase

Sounds totally transparent to me.

This ain’t about Comcast’s purchase of Time Warner. It’s about the Obama Administration’s yet again squid ink-like “transparency.”

The FCC reviewing mergers isn’t duplicative – it’s triplicative. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Justice Department also conduct reviews. Any one of the three different arms of the Leviathan can unilaterally block.

However, unlike prospective denials by the FTC and Justice – the FCC’s can not be challenged in court. They say Nay – and it’s all over.

And the FCC has the most nebulous of review standards – does the merger serve the “public interest?”  The FCC their own selves get to define “public interest” on a rolling, a la carte basis. They simply proclaim something is not in the “public interest” – and that’s all she wrote.

Given how murky their standard is – their process should absolutely be crystal clear. Holding secret meetings? Not so crystalline.

Are secret meetings FCC business as usual? Ummm, no.

In my decades-long experience with FCC matters, it is fairly unusual, if not unprecedented, for the FCC to take the initiative in encouraging confidential complaints in the context of an on-the-record merger review proceeding.

Sounds totally transparent to me.

Again – it ain’t (just) about the merger. The FCC has pending before it several huge power grabs of its own taking. Including unilaterally imposing Network Neutrality – and even Title II Reclassification to do it.

And the companies getting Crony Socialist secret meetings – who are opposed to the merger – are in favor of the Title II-Net Neutrality power grab. Because it would allow them to use unlimited bandwidth without having to pay for it.

Will Title II Reclassification and/or Net Neutrality also be discussed? Will any other FCC pending actions? Will any new FCC actions be requested? We won’t know – the meetings are secret.

Meanwhile, the FCC has remained neutral throughout all these power grab processes, right? Not so much.

If you’re participating in #InternetSlowdown pls consider filing your comment via openinternet@FCC.gov. It’s faster & each will be counted

— Gigi Sohn (@GigiBSohnFCC) September 10, 2014

Who is Gigi Sohn? She is FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s “Special Counsel for External Affairs.” “External Affairs” apparently includes requesting more pro-Title II Reclassification power grab Comments – and supporting the absurd “Internet Slowdown” Title II protest. Not so neutral.

Who was Gigi Sohn? She was since 2001 the President and CEO of Public Knowledge. A Media Marxist outfit that is pro-Title II Reclassification and supportive of the absurd “Internet Slowdown” protest. And where is Public Knowledge on the merger? Opposed, natch.

Not a whole lot of neutral going on.

So the FCC is telegraphing its desire to Title II power grab the entire Internet – while still receiving Comments they claim will help them make up their mind.

And have before them a merger they are allegedly neutrally reviewing – while offering up secret meetings with its opponents.

Yet another ongoing, fabulous example of Obama Administration transparency.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

The Business of Business is Business

Somewhat Reasonable - September 15, 2014, 3:00 PM

While captains of industry are seldom poetic, they have occasionally produced profound statements on the subject of their trade. My favorite is Calvin Coolidge’s aphorism, “the man who builds a factory builds a temple”. More than just a beautiful statement of reverence for commerce, it sums up a wonderfully American attitude toward the proper application of business.

Indeed, the business of business is business. But that does not mean a business should unconcerned with outcomes or the world around it. It is evident that business concerns form an integral part of every aspect of human interaction.

And there is almost invariably more than a mere material desire involved in the building of a business. Each time a new business is created it is a laying of foundations for a new temple. While they may not be gilded in the splendor of the titans of Wall Street, they share the same demiurgic significance, the effort to leave a permanent mark upon the world, not through force or imposition of will, but through the creation of a productive enterprise. The conduct of honest business represents the ultimate triumph of human reason and dignity over the barbarism of animal instinct. It demonstrates a respect between individuals, and an adherence to a higher order of justice than that of the sword.

Still, business, particularly big business, is accused of abuses of good faith and of promoting conflict. Activists recount the evils of business, citing examples like Enron and British Petroleum as abusers of privileged positions and of the public trust. The role of business in society is to do business, to provide productive development. The risk is when business is subverted to violence, be it political, economic, or physical. That is not business doing business; that is the adoption of the methods of force and coercion that free commerce decries.

There is a need to reflect on the special place of businessmen. After all, all businessmen are also citizens with the attendant responsibilities of citizenship. There is a need to differentiate between the responsibilities and values of businessmen in their jobs and those of businessmen to society. In truth, business performs its greatest boon to society by going about its own business, contributing both material value and a valuable example of the power of peaceful interaction.

This does not excuse citizens who are also businessmen from their responsibilities. In fact, they must be all the more aware of their competing responsibilities.

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA is More Concerned with What Sounds Good Than What Actually Works

Somewhat Reasonable - September 15, 2014, 2:55 PM

In this hyper-partisan environment, it is good to know that a majority of Senators can still agree on an issue. When such a rare moment happens, the rest of us should pay attention, as it is probably something very important.

On September 11, 53 Senators (43 Republicans and 10 Democrats) signed a letter to Gina McCarthy, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), begging for a 60-day extension of the comment period for the “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Generating Units”—also known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The original 120-day comment period—which is already longer than the traditional 60-day comment period—is coming to a close within the next 30 days (October 16).

Regarding the EPA’s new plan, the letter calls the coordination needed between multiple state agencies, public utility commissions, regional transmission organizations, and transmission and reliability experts: “Unprecedented, extraordinary, and extremely time consuming.” The Senators ask for more time so that states and stakeholders can “fully analyze and assess the sweeping impacts that the proposal will have on our nation’s energy system.” It also points out: “The EPA proposal provides no mechanism for adjusting the state emission rate targets once they are adopted”—which makes it imperative that the states can fully “digest” the rule, review the 600 supporting documents, and collect the data and justification for the states’ responses.

It is not just the majority of Senators who have concerns about the EPA’s proposed rule, a diverse and growing coalition, including the Exotic Wildlife Association, the Foundry Association of Michigan, California Cotton Growers Association, Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association, The Fertilizer Institute, Georgia Railroad Association, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, electric utilities and co-ops, and city and state Chambers of Commerce from coast-to-coast, has sprung up in opposition to the plan. Yet most people are unaware of the potential impacts or of the pending deadline for public comment.

I have written on the CPP twice in the past few months—originally when it was first announced onJune 2 and then after I gave testimony in Atlanta at one of the EPA’s four scheduled “listening sessions.” Upon release, we didn’t really know much—after all, it is, as the Senators’ letter explains, complex and sweeping. But as more and more information is coming out, we see that the impact to the economy and U.S. energy security will be devastating.

Despite my efforts to spread the word—with my second column on the topic being one of my most popular ever, I find that the CPP isn’t even on the radar of the politically engaged (let alone the average person). Because this is an issue of utmost importance, I am, once again, bringing it to the attention of my readers with the hope that you will share it with everyone you know. At this point, we don’t know if the EPA will extend the comment period, so please take time now to get your comments in. The Hillreports: “Adding 60 days to the comment period could make it harder for the EPA to finalize the rule by June 2015, as President Obama has ordered.”

I’ve written this week’s column with the specific intent of giving you verbiage that you can simply cut and paste into the comment form.

The CPP will radically alter the way electricity is generated, transmitted, distributed and used in America—all with dramatic cost impacts to the consumer. It is based on the discredited theory that climate change is a crisis caused by the use of fossil fuels emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It aims to reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The combination of the CPP and previous regulation will shut down more than 40 percent of coal-fueled generation—representing 10 percent of all electricity-generation capacity—within the next 6 years.

What will this forced, premature elimination of America’s electric capacity do?

The proposed EPA plan will seriously threaten America’s electric reliability

Unless the EPA backs down on its harsh regulations and coal-fueled power plants get a reprieve, blackouts are almost guaranteed—especially in light of the projected cold winter. About the 2014 “polar vortex” that crippled the U.S., Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, at an April Senate hearing on grid reliability, stated: “Eighty-nine percent of the coal electricity capacity that is due to go offline was utilized as that backup to meet the demand this winter.” Murkowski’s comments were referencing coal-fueled power plants that are already due to be shut down based on regulations from five years ago, before the proposed CPP additionally reduces supply. Affirming Murkowski’s comments, Nicholas Akins, president and CEO of Ohio-based American Electric Power Company Inc., sees the 2014 near crisis as a warning sign. At that same hearing he said: “The weather events experienced this winter provided an early warning about serious issues with electric supply and reliability. This country did not just dodge a bullet—we dodged a cannonball.” And, Federal Energy Regulatory Commissioner Philip Moeller said: “the country is undergoing an unprecedented energy shift in a very short time frame.” And added: “grid operators in the Midwest are struggling to gauge whether they will have sufficient capacity to handle peak weather during the next five years.” While these comments are about the 2014 severe cold, Texas experienced a similar scare in 2011, when a protracted heat wave resulted in razor-thin reserve electric capacity margins. A Reuters report titled: “Heat waves pushes Texas power grid into red zone,” stated: “Texas has the most wind power in the country, but the wind does not blow during the summer.” Just a few months earlier, Texas ice storms forced rolling blackouts for hours because electric supplies dropped below demand.” All of these reports are before the projected closure of an additional 75 megawatts of coal-fueled electricity generation due to the new regulations. If McCarthy was serious when, prior to the release of the proposed regulations, she stated: “Nothing we do can threaten reliability,” she’d withdraw this plan, as it will do just that.

The proposed EPA plan will chase away more American industry

While the CPP appears to be about forcing the power sector into reducing carbon-dioxide emissions, there are spillover impacts of higher electricity rates on overall economic activity—especially energy-intensive industries such as steel, manufacturing, and chemicals. America’s abundance of affordable, reliable energy provides businesses with a critical operating advantage in today’s intensely competitive global economy. The EPA’s proposal will reduce America’s advantage, as it’s acknowledged that the proposed regulations will raise electricity rates in the contiguous U.S. by 5.9% to 6.5% in 2020. Europe, and especially Germany, is threatened by an industry exodus due to its higher energy costs that have been created by its move to increase green energy. Germany’s pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer is already making significant investment in its Chinese manufacturing operations, with expansion also taking place in Brazil and India. If industry continues to leave the U.S., the CPP will have the opposite effect. Emissions will increase as companies move to countries with lower labor costs, cheaper energy, and lax environmental policies. An additional unintended consequence will be more jobs lost in manufacturing.

The proposed EPA plan will kill hundreds of thousands of jobs

In late July, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) International President Edwin D. Hill said: “If these rules are implemented as written, dozens of coal plants will shut down and with no plans to replace them, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost and global carbon emissions will rise anyway.” Investor’s Business Daily reports: “The IBEW has now joined the United Mine Workers of America, the Boilermakers and several other unions opposed to the new anti-carbon rules.” The United Mine Workers of America has estimated that the rule will result in 187,000 direct and indirect job losses in the utility, rail, and coal industries in 2020 and cumulative wage and benefit losses from these sectors of $208 billion between 2015 and 2035. The EPA rules hitting industry in rapid succession createuncertainty—and, as we’ve seen with Obamacare—uncertainty thwarts investment and hiring. The same industries that will be taking the regulatory hit from the CPP, are expecting additional impacts from the follow-on rules that are yet to be promulgated. No wonder the economy is sluggish and the jobs picture is bleak.

The proposed EPA plan will cause harsh economic consequences while having virtually no impact on the reported goal of stopping global climate change

From increased energy costs to job losses, the CPP will damage the economy. A statement from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers on the EPA proposal, points out: “estimates regarding the damage to jobs and the economy created by poorly planned climate regulations have consistently been shown to be true in comparison to the overly optimistic predictions made by the EPA.” Perhaps these economic consequences would be worth it, if they actually did anything to really reduce carbon-dioxide emissions—assuming what humans breathe out and plants breathe in is actually the cause of global warming. But even the EPA acknowledges that the CPP is less about reductions and more about being a global leader to “prompt and leverage international decisions and action.” In Hillary Clinton’s September 4 speech at Senator Harry Reid’s National Clean Energy Summit, she stated that the U.S. needs to lead other countries in green energy and that we need to show the world we are committed. Yet, the U.S., which did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, is the first country to actually reduce carbon dioxide emissions and meet the Kyoto requirements. We are already a leader, but the other countries aren’t following—instead they are abandoning the sinking green ship and Germany, which claims to still be committed to the green ideology, is actually increasing its number of coal-fueled power plants and CO2 emissions. Carbon dioxide emissions from non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries—such as China and India—are projected to grow by nine billion tons per year. The Partnership for a Better Energy Future reports: “for every ton of CO2 reduced in 2030 as a result of EPA’s rule, the rest of the world will have increased emissions by more than 16 tons.” Our reduction in 2030 would offset the equivalent of just 13.5 days of carbon-dioxide emissions from China. The CPP will become the definition of “all pain and no gain.” Or, as economist Thomas Sowell calls it: “replacing what worked with what sounded good.”

The EPA’s October 16 deadline will be upon us before you know it. Take a few minutes now to send them your comments. Pick any of the above suggestions, customize them as you please, and send them on to the EPA. For America to grow, we need energy that is effective, efficient, and economical, rather than that which is threatened by the EPA’s flood of excessive and burdensome regulations.

Categories: On the Blog

Decompetition Decompetition Decompetition

Somewhat Reasonable - September 15, 2014, 2:47 PM

The FCC’s new professed mantra is “competition competition competition.”

However, the FCC appears to be pursuing a de facto policy of decompetition rather than competition.

Decompetition is regulation that undermines competition in order to justify more regulation.

How could this perverse outcome happen?

It’s what one gets when one combines an obsolete communications law and regulators nostalgic for the regulatory power of a bygone era.

The FCC is increasingly acting like a 20th century regulator searching for relevance in a 21st century marketplace.

The 1934 Communications Act created the FCC. The 1996 Telecom Act changed national communications policy from monopoly utility regulation to competition policy.

Communications competition policy has been wildly successful in the U.S., resulting in the most robust facilities-based broadband competition in the world and $1.2 trillion in private Internet infrastructure investment.

Earlier this year, an appeals court ruled that the FCC did not have the authority to regulate broadband “information services” like a monopoly, common-carrier utility. However the court did recognize that the FCC does have some general regulatory authority under Section 706 of the 1996 Telecom Act to promote advanced telecommunications capability.

Ironically, for many years the FCC legally assumed that this same Section 706 provision did not confer the regulatory authority that they have now been granted by the appeals court.

The perverse problem with the FCC’s current complete dependency on the 1996 Telecom Act’s Section 706 provision for its broadband authority is that it now always must find broadband deployment and competition insufficient in order for the authority to remain usable by the FCC to regulate.

The FCC now needs competition to fail for the FCC to succeed.

This outcome also directly contravenes Congress’ stated purpose of the 1996 Act: “To promote competition and reduce regulation in order to secure lower prices and higher quality services for American telecommunications consumers and encourage the rapid deployment of new telecommunications technologies.”

Consider the evidence of this perverse outcome.

To effectively extend its regulatory authority for years, the FCC is proposing to redefine broadband from a baseline speed threshold of 4 Mbps to 10 Mbps and potentially as much as 25 Mbps, which would have the result of ruling that there is dramatically less broadband competition than today, simply by deeming it so by unilaterally “moving the goalpost.”

This is the regulatory equivalent of changing the rules of a football game so that after competitors have marched 97 yards down the field quickly without any penalties, the referee mid-game moves the goal-line 150 yards further, or even potentially 525 yards further, before the referee may rule it a touchdown.

The FCC also has signaled that as competition referee it will not recognize America’s four national LTE wireless broadband providers — Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile — as real broadband competitors, because the FCC believes wireless broadband is not a “full substitute” to fixed broadband service.

To reach this self-serving and almost comical conclusion, the FCC has to ignore how 200 million Americans routinely use smartphones and tablets on the move to do essentially most every function that they can do on their fixed broadband at home.

This is the regulatory equivalent of the FCC referee of a football game arbitrarily ruling mid-game that the team that has fielded a smaller more mobile team doesn’t belong on the field competing with a larger less mobile team — even when 200 million consumer fans have long paid to watch this game.

What a perverse definition of competition when the FCC expects competitors to field the exact same type of players and strategy as their opponents. Isn’t the essence of being a competitor finding a different way, strategy or team with which to compete?

The FCC may be professing a mantra of “competition, competition, competition,” but their signaled decisions suggest a de facto FCC policy of “decompetition, decompetition, decompetition” — regulation that undermines competition in order to justify more regulation.

The best evidence that the Communications Act is obsolete, and in urgent need of modernization, is that the FCC has lost sight of Congress’ competition purpose in the 1996 Telecom Act — “to promote competition and reduce regulation” — and effectively reversed it to promote regulation and reduce competition.

American consumers deserve a competition policy aligned with their interests, not the FCC’s.

[Originally published at DailyCaller]

Categories: On the Blog

America’s Accessible Cities

Somewhat Reasonable - September 12, 2014, 11:03 AM

Cities have been pivotal role to improved living standards, because of the opportunities they facilitate. This is particularly evident over the past two centuries, as world urbanization has risen from 3 percent to over 50 percent, and to more than 80 percent in the United States.

The prosperity of urban residents depends in large measure on their ability to reach the best available jobs in the city in a reasonable period of time. This requires access. University of Paris economists Remy Prud’homme and Chang Woon Lee and othershave shown that cities tend to perform better economically if the transport system permits more jobs to be reached in a fixed time, such as 30 minutes. Cities are defined as metropolitan areas, which include core municipalities and suburbs. As former World Bank planner Alain Bertaud has indicated, “large labor markets are the raison d’être of large cities.”

With frequent press attention on traffic congestion and “gridlock,” it may be surprising that work trip travel times in US cities are better than those of high income competitors in other nations (See Table). Indeed, the University of Minnesota’s David Levinson, found that the typical employee can reach two-thirds of jobs in major US metropolitan areas within 30 minutes.

Census Bureau data indicates that the average work trip travel time in US cities of more than 5 million population was approximately 29 minutes each way. Western European cities of more than 5 million population have an average travel time of 32 minutes. Toronto, Canada’s only city of this size, has a travel time of 33 minutes. East Asian cities with more than 5 million residents (Tokyo, Osaka-Kobe-Kyoto, Nagoya, Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore) have far longer average travel times — at 42 minutes. Australia’s two largest cities (Sydney and Melbourne), which are yet to reach 5 million, have an average travel times of 35 minutes.

A number of examples can be cited. For all its well known traffic congestion, Los Angeles has the shortest travel time of any high income world megacity (cities over 10 million population), at just 27 minutes. Paris and New York are the strongest competitors, at 34 minutes, while Tokyo’s 50 minutes is nearly double that of Los Angeles (estimated from travel time distributions reported by the Japan Statistics Bureau).

Dallas-Fort Worth is the best performing US city between 5 million and 10 million population, at 26 minutes. Travel time in Houston, Miami and Philadelphia is almost as short, at 27 minutes. Only the Germany’s Ruhr Valley (Essen-Duisburg-Dortmund) does better than these cities, at 24 minutes. Hong Kong’s travel time is the longest in this population category, at 46 minutes. This may be surprising, since in many ways Hong Kong conforms to current urban planning ideals. It is the densest urban area in the high income world and the largest transit work trip market share.

The US travel time advantage extends to metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population. The average work trip travel time was 25 minutes in the US, compared to 27 minutes in Western Europe and 28 minutes in Canada. No data was found for the smaller metropolitan areas of East Asia or Australia.

Why are US cities so accessible? Despite the hostility of planners toward the automobile, the secret lies in automobile access. Generally, automobiles are faster than other modes, such as transit, walking and cycling for trips of the lengths required in modern metropolitan areas. The US also has more dispersed (decentralized) employment, which increases access and shortens travel times. Only 8 percent of major metropolitan area employment is in the downtown areas (central business districts) in US cities. Similar factors account for the Ruhr Valley’s quick travel times in Germany, with unusual employment dispersion and comprehensive freeway coverage (for Europe).

By contrast, nearly half the population and half of the jobs are in pre-1980 suburban areas (not the urban core), according to my analysis of zip code data. This makes more employment closer to people throughout the metropolitan area, on generally less congested roads.

Meanwhile, cars are getting cleaner. The Department of Energy forecasts the new US (and Canadian) fuel economy standards will reduce gross greenhouse gas emissions a quarter by 2040, despite a strong increase in driving and a conservative assumption of no progress in new car emissions after 2025. Yet things are likely to get much better, with groundbreaking advances by manufacturers, automated vehicle developers and government agencies. The California Air Resources Board is aiming for a statewide fleet that emits zero emissions by 2050, on the way to 100 percent.

Superior access is one reason that US cities dominate international income rankings. Access to greater employment choices is good for metropolitan economies. The result is a higher standard of living and less poverty than would otherwise be the case.

 

[Originally published at Huffington Post]

Categories: On the Blog

Never Forget 9/11: The Enemies of Liberty are Deadly Serious

Somewhat Reasonable - September 11, 2014, 6:46 AM

It is sobering to think that most high school kids today have no living memory of the 9/11 attacks. Even if they are seniors this year, those kids were only about 4- or 5-years old — an age when the memories they will keep are few and fleeting.

Every reader of this blog remembers where they were and what they were doing on that terrible morning — a day that started so crisp and happy after a long hot summer on the East Coast, where I was living at the time.

What is important to remember and teach to those children — especially these days, due to the rise of ISIS — is that 9/11 was not a “tragedy.” It was an act of war by barbarians armed with modern technology and determined to strike a blow against what the West had built since the Enlightenment — a society that protects the liberty of an individual human being to live his or her own life in the way they desire.

I had not thought of this before writing this post, but imagine a world in 2001 in which the Cold War was still raging. Imagine a world in which Soviet Communism was on equal global footing with the United States. Would Osama bin Laden have directed his soldiers to fly planes into the Kremlin? The question answers itself.

The aim of al-Qaida — and it’s latest manifestation, ISIS — was and remains subjugation. Legions of increasingly well-armed and sophisticated Islamofascists still consider it a religious mandate to destroy liberty. They will happily and violently sacrifice their lives to force the sons and daughters of the Enlightenment to surrender to their 7th-century version of Islam or die, which they see as the will of Allah. We will be fighting these barbarians for generations. And a long view of history teaches us that the forces of goodness and light do not always prevail.

It matters not your position on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It matters not your position on whether Gitmo should be closed. It doesn’t even matter whether your political hero is Ron Paul or Barack Obama. What matters is that the West never forgets what it is the enemies of liberty are willing to do to defeat liberty — and that we do everything we can to preserve it. The alternative is too miserable to contemplate.

Categories: On the Blog

Islam Relevant to Obama … But Only When it Comes to Real Threats, Like Global Warming

Somewhat Reasonable - September 10, 2014, 10:48 PM

President Obama on Wednesday night — the eve of the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — said Islamic religious instruction is wholly irrelevant to the cause of ISIS … which stands for the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. ISIS, I suspect, considers Islam relevant to its cause of creating a 7th century caliphate.

But that is not to say that there aren’t some elements of foreign policy in which the Obama administration thinks religion — even Islam — is a key component. Secretary of State John Kerry stated on Sept. 3 that “religion matters,” and he’s made it “a mantra” in his State Department and his foreign policy stance.

Of course, Kerry didn’t say that in context of the stuff Obama talked about Wednesday night — the struggle for freedom and human rights against the Islamo-fascists of ISIS. No, no, no, no, no. “Religion matters” only when it comes to the fight against man-caused global warming — which has paused for nearly 18 years, and which scientists say is not primarily caused by human activity.

Kerry also said in February that man-caused global warming (which isn’t happening) is as “big a threat to the world as terrorism, poverty, and weapons of mass destruction.” And, in a pander to his audience, Kerry said global warming (which also isn’t a crisis) will hurt Muslim countries worst of all.

Top. Men.

HT: Our friend Anthony Watts, who has more here. Watch Kerry’s statement below:

Categories: On the Blog

These People Think the Way to Keep Things Fast is to Bring in the Government?

Somewhat Reasonable - September 10, 2014, 10:42 AM
The Left consists of two groups of people running on two parallel yet very different paths to Oblivion.

The Left’s leadership knows their Huge Government ideas are absurd and don’t work – but they’ll be in charge after the collapse they induce so they’re fine with it.

The Left’s rank and file actually thinks more government equals better – despite centuries of evidence to the contrary.

Then there’s the Tech World – by and large a subset of the Left.  These people should certainly know better about government sloth and general incompetence damaging their industry – likely the nation’s and the world’s fastest moving and best.

But the Tech World has thus far remained steadfastly impervious to facts.  Or they – like the Left’s leadership – have an agenda all their own.

How else to explain this?

Large US Tech Firms Plan ‘Go Slow’ Day in Protest over Net Neutrality Rules

On Wednesday, these Internet companies will protest the federal government not unilaterally power grabbing “enough” authority over the Internet.  And to demonstrate their upset with this lack of government control – they are mock slowing down their sites.

Get that?  To protest the Internet staying exactly the same as it’s always been – basically government-free – they will dramatically alter the Internet.

And get this – they are slowing the Web to demand more government Web imposition.  Which if they get their wish will inexorably lead to a dramatically slower Web.

What’s the government track record on fast?  Department of Motor Vehicles, anyone?

A Fatal Wait: Veterans Languish and Die on a VA Hospital’s Secret List

Government ‘Falls Behind Building Targets’

Government Falls Behind in Prompt Payments to Suppliers

Government Falls Behind on Repayment Schedule for Foreign Oil Companies

Government is Slow to Invest In Cybersecurity

Speaking again of Tech – how does the government do with technology?

Cost of ObamaCare Website Tops $1 Billion

A slew of management failures led to the site’s disastrous launch, according to a new GAO report.

How’s it working now?

With ObamaCare Systems Still Slow, Backlog Builds Among the Uninsured

Shocker – it isn’t.

Why Government Tech Is So Poor

Government Tech Problems: Blame The People Or The Process?

Sadly, it’s “C” – All of the Above.

How does the FCC itself do on Tech?

Government Agency That Wants To Commandeer The Internet Just Had Their Website Crash — Twice

Comforting.

So why are these Tech World denizens demanding greater government Internet involvement?  Perhaps they do indeed have an agenda of their own.

Like having the government mandate that they not have to pay for the unbelievable amounts of bandwidth they use.  Crony Socialism, anyone?

(Companies like) Netflix (are) looking to get Big Govs the world over to impose a whole new, ridiculously expansive definition of Network Neutrality.

“Netflix CEO Reed Hastings says that ‘net neutrality must be defended and strengthened,’ calling out giants like Comcast and Verizon for bad behavior.

Charging Netflix for their exorbitant bandwidth use isn’t “bad behavior it’s basic economics.  Imagine the government mandating that gas stations charge the same to fill up Escorts and Escalades.

If Netflix doesn’t pay for what it uses, all the rest of us do  in the form of higher prices for our Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Why should a grandmother who only emails her grandkids pay substantially more to subsidize Netflix Ned and his twenty-movie-a-day download habit?

Bandwidth hogs?

Netflix Now More Than 1/3 of Internet Traffic

So it turns out the Tech World Left is also part of the Crony Socialist “I’ve Got Mine” Coalition.  They’ve built their market share – on the backs of others.  And they want the government to mandate that their free ride remains free.

While the rest of us pick up their tab.  And suffer the ever-slowing, economy-crushing dullness of a government-controlled Internet.

The neck the Tech World Left has grabbed – and wants to hand to the government for wringing – is their Golden Goose.  They have to know this, right?

[Originally published at Human Events]

 

Categories: On the Blog

What would Hillary Clinton’s Energy Policy Look Like?

Somewhat Reasonable - September 09, 2014, 1:13 PM

At Senator Harry Reid’s seventh National Clean Energy Summit held in Las Vegas on Thursday, September 4, Hillary Clinton said: “This is the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face as a nation and a world.” She wasn’t talking about ISIS or the growing terrorist threat, but about climate change.

Her spot on the program has been referenced as: “her first energy and climate speech of a publicity tour that many believe is the springboard to a presidential campaign.”

In addition to the obvious misperception about “the challenges we face as a nation and a world,” her speech had several subtle, but instructive, misperceptions to explore.

For example, when addressing “unpredictable” subsidies for green energy projects, she claimed that $500 billion is spent every year subsidizing fossil fuels. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2012, global fossil fuel subsidies did, in fact, total $544 billion, however, citing that figure in the same breath as U.S. tax incentives and subsidies for renewable energy is deceptive at best.

Most global subsidies for fossil fuels are from oil rich countries that use low cost to keep the kingdom happy. A study from The Institute for Energy Research on global energy subsidies concludes: “Many Americans are confused by the large amount of global fossil fuel consumption subsidies that the IEA calculates, not realizing that these subsidies have nothing to do with tax policy, research and development or loan guarantees, where most U.S. programs are directed.”

Let’s look at those “incentives” for renewables and why they are “unpredictable.” Germany and Spain led the world in green energy subsidies but have since considerably dialed back on them.

In Germany, after more than a decade of green-energy subsidies, its electricity rates and carbon-dioxide emissions have gone up. According to a September 4 Reuter’s report, Germany’s reliance on coal has gone up each of the past four years. Germany is looking at levies for residential photo-voltaic system owners—something also being considered (and, in some cases, implemented) in the U.S.

After nearly100 billion U.S. taxpayer dollars have gone to green-energy projects, the stimulus-funded program has been plagued with failure, corruption, and illegal activity. Meanwhile—as has happened in Germany—utility bills have gone up and public support for subsidies has declined. After more than twenty years of taxpayer funding, theProduction Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy finally expired on December 31, 2013—though forces that benefit from it are still hoping to extend it retroactively. The PTC is “unpredictable” at best.

In her Q & A session, Clinton said: “One day last summer, Germany got 74 percent of its energy from renewables.” Like the comment about $500 billion in global subsidies for fossil fuels, her speech writers did their homework—but they plucked data without looking deeper and as a result made her look foolish. The 74 percent figure is fact. But it represents a fraction of only one day, not recent history, or even a pattern. One month later, Germany got 50 percent of its electricity demand from solar—but six months earlier, in the January cold, it got only 0.1 percent. In his post in the Energy Collective, Robert Wilson, a PhD Student in Mathematical Ecology at the University of Strathclyde, calls Germany’s situation: “more of a coal lock-in than a solar revolution,” as the need for electricity, especially in the cold, grey days of January, requires the steady supply of coal-fueled electricity.

One other item to question: Clinton clearly collaborates with her former boss on his Clean Power Plan—which has a growing coalition of opponents.

The Clean Power Plan is about reducing carbon-dioxide emissions from existing power plants. In her speech, Clinton repeated a falsehood Obama likes to reference: reducing CO2 emissions will improve children’s’ respiratory health.

“Hillary apparently doesn’t know the difference between soot and CO2,” quipped Jane Orient, MD, and president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. She continued: “And the American Lung Association pretends it doesn’t. No one can claim that the tiny increase in CO2 from coal-fueled generating stations increases asthma—just being indoors with other breathing humans increases CO2 much more and doesn’t cause asthma.”

Clinton took a couple risks for which she deserves some credit. She strayed from the safe turf, when she admitted that Obama’s trajectory on climate change policy hit “a brick wall of opposition” at the 2009 United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen.

She also acknowledged: “Energy is a major part of our foreign policy.” As such, she supports development of American natural gas and oil, calling it an example “of American innovation changing the game.”

Addressing the benefits of producing and exporting natural gas and oil, she said: “Assuming that our production stays at the levels, or even as some predict, goes higher, I do think there’s a play there.” Noting it could help Europe and Asia, she added: “This is a great economic advantage, a competitive advantage, for us. …We don’t want to give that up.”

America does have an energy advantage—and Clinton is correct: “We don’t want to give that up.” Why then, does she (and President Obama) support policies that would take that away—or at least, not encourage our energy growth?

That fact that Clinton chose to start her publicity tour, the perceived springboard to her presidential campaign, with a speech on energy should signal to all of America how important the topic truly is.

Categories: On the Blog

Don’t give up America’s Economic and Competitive Advantage

Somewhat Reasonable - September 09, 2014, 10:09 AM

“This is the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face as a nation and a world.”

With 9-11 nearly upon us, ISIS is brazenly beheading American journalists—with a promise of more to come; Christian congregations have been bombed during worship, churches have been destroyed, monasteries attacked, entire cities purged, hundreds of thousands have fled, while others have been slaughtered; and cities, weapons, banks, and key infrastructures are being captured. Surely, with all of these horrors playing out before our eyes, the crisis in Syria and Iraq is the “most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face.” No, the quote above was made about climate change by Hillary Clinton—the heavy favorite for the Democratic 2016 presidential nomination—before a standing-room-only crowd at Senator Harry Reid’s seventhNational Clean Energy Summit (NCES 7.0) held in Las Vegas on Thursday, September 4.

We could almost forgive Secretary of State John Kerry for his similar statement made in Jakarta, Indonesia, on February 16, when he referred to climate change as: “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” ISIS hadn’t yet erupted onto the international stage. But now we know better. We know that the world isn’t less violent than it has ever been. We know that it isn’t more tolerant than it has ever been.

Apparently, Clinton hasn’t been following the news. Or, as Senator Rand Paul pointed out: she’s “battling climate change instead of terrorism.”

Clinton’s speech on Thursday was presented to a “friendly crowd,” who cheered her on. In his introduction, Reid declared that Clinton is: “able to explain things in a way we all understand” and said that she was: “the first to identify the fact that there is something called climate change.” Her spot on the program has been referenced as: “her first energy and climate speech of a publicity tour that many believe is the springboard to a presidential campaign.”

While no one in the Mandalay Bay ballroom questioned the validity of her statements—and the Q & A session led by White House Senior Advisor John Podesta resembled a lovefest—there was more than her misperception about “the challenges we face as a nation and a world” to question.

For example, when addressing “unpredictable” subsidies for green energy projects, she claimed that $500 billion is spent every year subsidizing fossil fuels. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2012, global fossil fuel subsidies did, in fact, total $544 billion, however, citing that figure in the same breath as U.S. tax incentives for renewable energy is deceptive at best.

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) did a study on global energy subsidies that revealed: “Fossil fuel consumption subsidies are most prevalent in the Middle East and in North Africa.” The IER report states: “On a per-person basis, fossil fuel consumption subsidies are highest for the United Arab Emirates at $4,172 per person, Kuwait at $3,729 per person and Saudi Arabia at $2,291 per person.” It concludes: “Many Americans are confused by the large amount of global fossil fuel consumption subsidies that the IEA calculates, not realizing that these subsidies have nothing to do with tax policy, research and development or loan guarantees, where most U.S. programs are directed.”

white paper from the Independent Petroleum Association of America offered the following insights culled from a Congressional Research Service Memo titled Energy Production by Source and Energy Tax Incentives. “While fossil fuels (including oil, natural gas, and coal) accounted for 78 percent of domestic energy production, they received just 13 percent of energy related ‘tax incentives’ in 2009. Meanwhile, renewables accounted for more than 77 percent of the roughly $20 billion in ‘tax incentives’ that went to energy, but generated less than 11 percent of domestic energy production. Renewables have received additional boosts as part of Federal spending packages enacted under the banner of economic recovery.”

Let’s look at those “incentives” for renewables and why they are “unpredictable.” Germany and Spain led the world in green energy subsidies but have since considerably dialed back on them.

In Germany, after more than a decade of green-energy subsidies, its electricity rates and carbon-dioxide emissions have gone up. According to a September 4 Reuter’s report, Germany’s reliance on coal has gone up each of the past four years. Germany is looking at levies for residential photo-voltaic system owners—something also being considered (and, in some cases, implemented) in the U.S.

After nearly 100 billion of U.S. taxpayer dollars have gone to green-energy projects, the stimulus-funded program has been plagued with failure, corruption, and illegal activity—though the Department of Energy recently announced a new round of loan guarantees for green-energy projects. Meanwhile—as has happened in Germany—utility bills have gone up and public support for subsidies has declined. After more than twenty years, the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy finally expired on December 31, 2013—though forces that benefit from it are still hoping to extend it retroactively. (Clinton did point out that wind energy is a very big part of farmers’ income in New York.) The PTC is “unpredictable” at best.

In her Q & A session, Clinton said: “One day last summer, Germany got 74 percent of its energy from renewables.” Like the comment about $500 billion in global subsidies for fossil fuels, her speech writers did their homework—but they plucked data without looking deeper and as a result made her look foolish. The 74 percent figure is fact. But it represents a fraction of only one day, not recent history, or even a pattern. One month later, Germany got 50 percent of its electricity demand from solar—but six months earlier, in the January cold, it got only 0.1 percent. In his postin the Energy Collective, Robert Wilson, a PhD Student in Mathematical Ecology at the University of Strathclyde, calls Germany’s situation: “more of a coal lock-in than a solar revolution,” as the need for electricity, especially in the cold, grey days of January, requires the steady supply of coal-fueled electricity.

One other item to question: Clinton clearly collaborates with her former boss on his Clean Power Plan, which has a growing coalition of opponents as diverse as the Exotic Wildlife Association, the Foundry Association of Michigan, California Cotton Growers Association, Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association, The Fertilizer Institute, Georgia Railroad Association, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, electric utilities and co-ops, and city and state Chambers of Commerce from coast-to-coast.

The Clean Power Plan is about reducing carbon-dioxide emission from existing power plants. In her speech, Clinton repeated a falsehood Obama likes to reference: reducing CO2 emissions will improve children’s’ respiratory health.

“Hillary apparently doesn’t know the difference between soot and CO2,” quipped Jane Orient, MD, and president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. She continued: “And the American Lung Association pretends it doesn’t. No one can claim that the tiny increase in CO2 from coal-fueled generating stations increases asthma—just being indoors with other breathing humans increases CO2 much more and doesn’t cause asthma.”

Orient went on to explain: “Some very bad studies of associations between high air pollution days and ‘premature’ deaths are used to extrapolate as with the liner no-threshold radiation hypothesis—lots of diesel exhaust may provoke an asthma attack, therefore a vanishingly small increase in soot affecting many people will cause some asthma. Some dust is soot, which is carbon, quod erat demonstratum.” She added: “Unemployment, poverty, high electricity bills don’t figure into the calculation.”

Dr. Charles Battig, a board certified anesthesiologist, told me: “asthma sufferers, just like individuals without any respiratory disease, have 4 to 5 percent CO2 in their lungs as a normal component of their exhaled air. The CO2 levels will vary during an asthma attack. The presence of CO2 in expired air is normal for all humans, and ambient CO2 is not a trigger for an asthmatic attack.  CO2 is not a pathological pollutant per se at levels 100 times that of ambient (inspired air); 400ppm ambient vs. 40,000 ppm in expired air.”

As Reid announced, Clinton may be able to “able to explain things in a way we all understand,” but she is creative with the data—using it to make the points she needed to curry favor with the NCES 7.0 audience.

In its review of her speech, the National Journal pointed out: “As expected, Clinton’s keynote address at the National Clean Energy Summit didn’t wade into much controversial territory.” She never touched on the Keystone pipeline that the State Department positively reviewed under her watch and which, in 2010, she stated that she was “inclined to approve.”

Clinton did, however, take a couple risks for which she deserves some credit. She strayed from the safe turf, when she admitted that Obama’s trajectory on climate change policy hit “a brick wall of opposition” at the 2009 United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen.

She also acknowledged: “Energy is a major part of our foreign policy.” As such, she supports development of American natural gas and oil, calling it an example “of American innovation changing the game.”

Addressing the benefits of producing and exporting natural gas and oil, she said: “Assuming that our production stays at the levels, or even as some predict, goes higher, I do think there’s a play there.” Noting it could help Europe and Asia, she added: “This is a great economic advantage, a competitive advantage, for us. …We don’t want to give that up.”

America does have an energy advantage—and Clinton is correct: “We don’t want to give that up.” Why then, does she (and President Obama) support policies that would take that away—or at least, not encourage our energy growth?

That fact that Clinton chose to start her publicity tour, the perceived springboard to her presidential campaign, with a speech on energy should signal to all of America how important the topic truly is. Energy makes America great!

Categories: On the Blog

Why Academic Achievement Matters

Somewhat Reasonable - September 08, 2014, 2:29 PM

[NOTE: The following is excerpted from a chapter of the next Heartland Institute book titled Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn — and why teachers don’t use them well.]

 Socrates famously said “the unexamined life is not worth living.” He was reflecting on the private benefits of learning about ourselves and the world around us. The more we learn about our own thoughts and desires, abilities, limitations, and surroundings, the better able we are to make informed choices about our health, family, occupation, recreation, and myriad other parts of our lives. The non-monetary benefits of learning may be difficult to measure, but they shape and determine what we recognize to be the quality of our life.1

Academic achievement produces public as well as private benefits. Eric Hanushek of the Hoover Institution and his colleagues have shown the strong relationship between school achievement and economic growth.2Hanushek and former secretary of state George P. Shultz estimate that if our school mathematics scores were comparable to Canada’s over the next 20 years, U.S. gross domestic product (the value of goods and services produced in the country) would improve by $70 billion over the next 80 years, a figure equivalent to an income boost of 20 percent for each U.S. worker.3 That would be a considerable social benefit.

Academic achievement also benefits democratic institutions. When compared to other nations, those with higher levels of education and ability show stronger democracy, less crime, and greater political liberty.4 Corruption is less common in countries where citizens are well educated.5

Within societies, academic abilities increase in step with levels of education, and a nation’s relative wealth increases along with both.6 Cities also tend to grow more quickly when this kind of human capital creates a capable workforce that remains economically productive over time.7

Nations tend to benefit to the degree their citizens fulfill their potential. When citizens develop their abilities, liberty tends to expand and moral behavior tends to be higher.8Following Hanushek’s work, Heiner Rindermann of Germany’s Chemnitz University of Technology and James Thompson of University College London found a nation’s overall abilities and knowledge are deciding factors in a nation’s wealth, scientific progress, and economic freedom.9 The world’s wealthiest nations have sustained strong intellectual traditions that result in notable accomplishments in engineering, mathematics, technology, and basic and applied science.10 Cross-national studies emphasize the importance of encouraging exemplary learners to achieve as much as they are able. Societies that support top performers and seek to maximize their abilities appear most likely to benefit all their citizens.11

Finally, the quick early learners become ever more knowledgeable and skilled as time goes on, the result of what is called the “Matthew Effect” after this passage in the Bible’s Book of Matthew: “For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.” Their work becomes increasingly better than others’ and easier for them, which can reinforce their desire and ability to persevere through ever-more-difficult challenges.12 Academic achievement in elementary and secondary school can foster higher levels of achievement in college and beyond.

Effective primary and secondary schools offer learning opportunities and rewards for acquiring the knowledge and developing the thinking skills students need to succeed in college and workplaces and to participate as citizens in free societies.13 If more students can achieve at high levels, they, their compatriots, and their society stand to benefit.

Herbert J. Walberg and Joseph L. Bast are chairman and president, respectively, of The Heartland Institute and authors of Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn – and why teachers don’t use them well (October 1, 2014; ISBN 978-1-934791-38-7), from which this article is excerpted.

Notes

1. Luis E. Vila, “The Non-Monetary Benefits of Education,” European Journal of Education 35, no. 1 (March, 2000): 21–32, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1503615.

2. Eric A. Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann, “The Role of School Improvement in Economic Development,” PEPG 07/01, Program on Education Policy and Governance, Harvard University, January 9, 2007, http://www.hks.harvard.edu/pepg/PDF/Papers/PEPG07-01-Hanushek-Woessmann.pdf.

3. Eric Hanushek and George P. Shultz, “Education Is the Key to a Healthy Economy,”The Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2012, http://online.wsj.com/article/ SB1000142405270230351340 4577356422025164482.html.

4. Heiner Rindermann, “Relevance of Education and Intelligence for the Political Development of Nations: Democracy, Rule of Law, and Political Liberty,” Intelligence 36, no. 4 (July–August 2008): 306–22.

5. Edward L. Glaeser and Raven Saks, “Corruption in America,” Discussion Paper Number 2043, Harvard Institute of Economic Research (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2004).

6. Heiner Rindermann, “Relevance of Education and Intelligence at the National Level for the Economic Welfare of People,” Intelligence 36, no. 2 (March–April 2008): 127–42.

7. Edward L. Glaeser and Albert Saiz, “The Rise of the Skilled City,” Discussion Paper Number 2025, Harvard Institute of Economic Research (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University, 2003).

8. Heiner Rindermann, supra note 6.

9. Heiner Rindermann and James Thompson, “Cognitive Capitalism: The Effect of Cognitive Ability on Wealth, as Mediated Through Scientific Achievement and Economic Freedom,” Psychological Science 22, no. 6 (June 2011): 754–63.

10. Heiner Rindermann, Michael Sailer, and James Thompson, “The Impact of Smart Fractions, Cognitive Ability of Politicians and Average Competence of Peoples on Social Development,” Talent Development and Excellence 1 (July 2009): 3–25. Knowledge in the humanities, social sciences, and literature may also promote aspects of national well-being, but fair and objective measures in these fields are nearly impossible to develop.

11. Nancy Ewald Jackson and Earl C. Butterfield, “A Conception of Giftedness Designed to Promote Research,” in Robert J. Sternberg and Janet E. Davidson, eds., Conceptions of Giftedness (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 151–82.

12. Herbert J. Walberg and Shiow-Ling Tsai, “Matthew Effects in Education,” American Educational Research Journal 20, no. 3 (Fall 1983): 359–74; Marian J. Bakermans-Krannenburg, Marinus H. van Ijzendoorn, and Robert H. Bradley, “Those Who Have, Receive: The Matthew Effect in Early Childhood Intervention in the Home Environment,” Review of Educational Research 75, no. 1 (Spring 2005): 1–26.

13. Edward L. Glaeser, Giacomo A. Ponzetto, and Andrei Shleifer, “Why Does Democracy Need Education?” Journal of Economic Growth 12, no. 2 (June 2007): 77–99.

[First published at Human Events.]

Categories: On the Blog

Proud to be an American: What Should It Mean?

Somewhat Reasonable - September 08, 2014, 10:38 AM

America! For more than two hundred years the word has represented hope, opportunity, a second chance, and freedom. In America the accident of a man’s birth did not serve as an inescapable weight that dictated a person’s fate or that of his family. The individual owned his own life and was free to shape it as his own mind guided him.

Once a newcomer stepped on American soil he left the political tyrannies and economic barriers of the “old world” behind. A willingness to work hard and to bear the risks of one’s own decisions, the possession of a spirit of enterprise, and a little bit of luck were the keys to the doors of success in their “new world” home.

American Spirit of Independence, Innovation and Benevolence

Visitors from Europe traveling to America in the 19th century, Frenchmen like Alexis de Tocqueville and Michel Chevalier, marveled at the energy and adaptability of the ordinary American. An American paid his own way, took responsibility for his actions, and showed versatility in the face of change, often switching his occupation, profession, or trade several times during his life, and frequently moving about from one part of the country to another.

What’s more, individual Americans demonstrated a generous spirit of benevolence and voluntary effort to assist those who had fallen upon hard times, as well as to deal with a wide variety of common community services in their cities, towns, and villages.

Those foreign observers of American life noted that no man bowed to another because of the hereditary accident of birth. Each man viewed himself as good as any other, to be judged on the basis of his talents and abilities as well as his character and conduct as an individual human being.

Even the scar of slavery that blemished the American landscape through more than half of the 19th century stood out as something inherently inconsistent and untrue to the vision and conception of a society of free men laid down by the Founding Fathers. The logic of liberty meant that slavery would eventually have to end, in one way or another, if the claim of freedom for all was not to remain confronted with a cruel hypocrisy to the ideal.

A Land of Free, Self-Made Citizens

What a glorious country this America was. Here was a land of free men who were able to pursue their dreams and fulfill their peaceful desires. They were free men who could put their own labor to work, acquire property, accumulate wealth, and fashion their own lives. They associated on the basis of freedom of exchange, and benefited each other by trading their talents through a network of division of labor that was kept in order through the competitive processes of market-guided supply and demand.

In this competitive marketplace, the creative entrepreneurial spirit was set free. Every American was at liberty to try his hand, if he chose, to start his own business and devise innovative ways to offer new and better products to others in the market, through which he hoped to earn his living. No man was bond to the soil upon which he was born or tied to an occupation or profession inherited from his ancestors. Every individual had an opportunity to be the master of his own fate, with the freedom to move where inclination led him and choose the work that seemed most profitable and attractive.

The Turn Toward Collectivism

Then something began to happen in America. The socialist and collectivist ideas that were growing in influence in Europe during the last decades of the 19th century began to spread over to the United States. Two generations of young American scholars went off to study in Europe, particularly in Imperial Germany, in the 1880s, 1890s, and early 1900s. They became imbued with socialist and state paternalistic conceptions, especially the interventionist and welfare statist ideas that were being taught at the universities in Bismarck’s Germany.

These scholars came back to the United States enthusiastic about their newly learned ideas, convinced that the “negative” idea of freedom dominant in America – an idea of freedom that argued that government’s role was only to secure each person in his individual right to life, liberty, and property – needed to be replaced by a more “positive” notion of freedom.

Government should not merely protect citizens from violence and fraud. It should guarantee their health care and retirement pensions; it should regulate their industry and trade, including their wages and conditions of work. The government needed to secure the members of society from all the uncertainties of life, “from cradle to grave” – a phrase that was first popularized during this time.

These European-trained students and academics soon filled the teaching positions in the colleges and universities around the country; they occupied a growing number of jobs in the federal and state bureaucracies; they became the fashionable and “progressive” forward- looking authors of books and magazine articles; they came to dominate the culture of ideas in America.

The Rationale of Relativist Change

How did they sway an increasing number of Americans? They asked people to look around them and observe the radical changes in technologies and styles of life. They pointed to the rapid shift from the countryside to growing urban areas. And they asked, how could such a transformed and transforming society remain wedded to the ideas of men who had lived so long ago, in the 18th century? How could a great and growing country be tied down to a Constitution written for a bygone era?

The Constitution, these “progressives” argued, had to reflect the changing times – it had to be a “living” and “evolving” document. Progress, for these proselytizers of Prussian paternalism, required a new political elite who would guide and lead the nation into a more collectivist future.

The Fruits of Collectivism in America

The fruits of their work are, now, after well over a century, all around us. At the beginning of the 20th century all levels of government in the United States took in taxes around 8 percent of the people’s wealth and income. Now all levels of government extract in many cases over fifty percent of our earnings, in one way or another.

One hundred years ago, government hardly regulated and controlled any of the personal and commercial affairs of the American citizenry. Now, government’s hand intrudes into every corner of our private, business, and social affairs. Indeed, it is hard to find one area of our daily lives that does not pass through the interventionist sieve of state management, oversight, restriction, and command.

Perhaps worst of all, too many of our fellow Americans have become accustomed to and, indeed, demanding of government protection or subsidy of their personal and economic affairs. We are increasingly no longer free, self-supporting individuals who solely make our own ways through the peaceful transactions and exchanges of the marketplace.

We have become collective “interest groups” who lobby and pressure those in political office for favors and privileges at the expense of our neighbors. And the political officeholders are only too happy to grant these political gifts to those who supply campaign contributions and votes as the avenue to their own desires for power and control over those whom they claim to serve.

It is sometimes said, “But we are still the freest country in the world. Our wealth and standard of living are the envy of tens of millions all around the globe. We should be proud of what and who we are.”

The Standard for Judging America

Our present greatness in terms of these things, however, is only relative to how much farther other countries have gone down the path of government paternalism and regulation during these past one hundred years.

The benchmark of comparison should not be America in relation to other countries in the contemporary world. The standard by which we should judge our freedom should be how much freer the American people were from the stranglehold of government more than one hundred years ago, before those proselytizers of paternalism began to change the political and cultural character of the United States.

By this standard, today’s American people are extremely unfree in many aspects of their life. Of course, there have been important, valuable and even essential economic, social and cultural improvements for many individuals and groups in American society, who one hundred years ago still suffered from various degrees of racial, social or ethic bigotry and politically enforced discrimination. Many of these wrongs are now gone, or at least far less than in that earlier time.

But the fact remains that over many areas of our personal, social and especially economic activities we have all become increasingly wards of the state. And like the convict who has spent so many years in prison that he is afraid of being released and no longer having his jail keepers to tell him what to do and how to live, we are fearful of even the thought of a life without government caring for us, protecting us, subsidizing us, guiding us, and educating us.

Loss of Understanding Liberty

Too many in the older generation in America have lost their understanding of what freedom means and why constitutionally limited government is both necessary and desirable. And the vast majority of the young have never been taught in our government-run schools the ideas, ideals, and political institutional foundations upon which this country of ours was created. They have been taught to think that there are no absolute truths or any important insights from long human experience concerning why individual freedom is a valuable and precious thing.

What those earlier German-trained political and cultural relativists set out to do in America at the beginning of the 20th century has been to a great extent accomplished. We are threatened with becoming a people who have no sense of an invariant nature of man, and who possess no idea of those values and attitudes in the human character so necessary for preserving freedom and prosperity.

Most especially, there has been lost among too many any understanding or appreciation of the concept of individual rights, without which a free society is not sustainable in the long run. The collectivist mind-sets of our time have weakened the most fundamental concept underlying the idea of individual rights:

That the individual has a right to live for himself, guided by his own reasoning and judgment, and that he should not be considered and treated as a physical or financial beast of burden expected to sacrifice his life and its potentials for a tribe, whether it is called “the nation,” the “social class,” the “race,” the “democratic majority,” or “mankind.”

Individual Rights are Changeless in a Changing World

The Founding Fathers were not unaware that “times change.” But in the whirlwind of life they saw that reason and experience could and had demonstrated that there were unchanging qualities to the human condition, grounded in the fundamental political idea of individual rights.

They understood the various mantles that tyranny could take on – including the cloak of false benevolence in the form of compulsory redistribution of wealth. They established a constitutional order that was meant to guard us from the plunder of violent and greedy men, while leaving each of us that wide latitude of personal and economic freedom in which we could find our own meanings for life, and adapt to new circumstances consistent with our conscience and concerns.

This is what made America great. This is what made a country in which individuals could say without embarrassment or conceit that they were “proud to be Americans.”

The task for those of us who have not yet lost that true sense of the meaning of freedom is to dedicate ourselves to restoring and refining that noble American ideal of individual rights and liberty. Let us work together to be the stewards of liberty so that freedom may, once again, rekindle its consistent and bright torch in the America of the 21st century.

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

EPA’s Phony “Environmental Justice” Caper

Somewhat Reasonable - September 08, 2014, 10:06 AM

The agency’s real agenda: empire, control, and inverted justice for poor and minority families

When it comes to energy, climate change, justice and transparency, the Obama Administration and its Environmental Protection Agency want it every possible way. Their only consistency is their double standards and their determination to slash hydrocarbon use, ensure that electricity prices “necessarily skyrocket,” expand federal government command and control, and “fundamentally transform” America.

The president was thus eager to give away Seal Team secrets in bragging about “he” got Osama bin Laden. But in sharp contrast, there has been no transparency on Benghazi, Fast and Furious, the IRS scandal – or the data and analyses that supposedly support Environmental Protection Agency claims that “dangerous manmade climate change” is “not just a future threat; it is happening right now.”

That rhetoric made it sound like EPA’s Clean Power Plan was designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, in July EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy made it clear that her initiative “is not about pollution control.” Rather, it is an “investment strategy” designed to spur renewable energy.

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) opined that the agency does not have “explicit statutory authority” to steer investments toward “green” energy. Perhaps so, McCarthy replied, but her actions are legal under the Clean Air Act and within the agency’s ever broadening purview – as are EPA’s attempts to expand its mission and oversight authority by emphasizing “sustainable development” and “environmental justice.”

The ironies abound. Wind, solar and ethanol power were intended to address “imminent oil and gas depletion” that ended with the hydraulic fracturing revolution, and prevent “global warming” that ended some 18 years ago. Now “investment” in these “alternative” energy technologies primarily involves greenback dollars taken from hard-working taxpayers and delivered to crony corporatists and campaign contributors who want to earn fat profits from climate scares, renewable energy mandates and subsidies.

A 2010 report suggested that EPA should begin to examine how it might “encourage the development of sustainable communities, biodiversity protection, clean energy, environmentally sustainable economic development and climate change.” Talk about an open-ended invitation to control our lives. A few weeks ago, EPA proclaimed “environmental justice” as yet another newcause celebre. The agency claims low-income groups are “disproportionately affected” by airborne pollution, and therefore it must tighten air quality standards yet again. The results will likely be a perverse opposite of true justice.

The agency’s own Urban Air Toxics report chronicles a 66% reduction in benzene levels, 84% in outdoor airborne lead, 84% in mercury from coal-fueled power plants, and huge reductions in particulates (soot). “But we know our work is not done yet,” McCarthy said. “At the core of EPA’s mission is the pursuit of environmental justice – striving for clean air, water and healthy land for every American; and we are committed to reducing remaining pollution, especially in low-income neighborhoods.”

Most air quality and health experts say America’s air is completely safe. That’s why EPA pays its Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee and the American Lung Association millions of dollars a year to say otherwise. It’s why the EPA, CASAC and ALA refuse to discuss the $353 billion in annual regulatory compliance costs that EPA alone imposes on U.S. businesses and families (out of a total federal regulatory bill of $1.9 trillion), according to Competitive Enterprise Institute studies.

Those costs mean too many people lose their jobs. Their hopes, dreams, pride and work ethic are replaced by despair and dependency. If they can find new work, they are forced to work multiple jobs, commute longer distances, and spend greater portions of their incomes on gasoline and electricity. They suffer greater sleep deprivation, stress, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, spousal and child abuse, and poorer nutrition and medical care. More people have strokes and heart attacks; more die prematurely.

EPA’s new 54.5-mile-per-gallon standards mean cars are lighter and less safe in accidents. That means more people suffer severe injuries or get killed. Minority and other poor families are especially at risk.

Every one of these impacts is also a matter of environmental justice. But EPA chooses to ignore them.

Moreover, nothing in the law says EPA has a right to declare that it intends to seek “justice” by drawing a line between poor people and other Americans, all of whom have a stake in clean air. McCarthy’s language is more befitting a rabble-rouser than an agency administrator who is supposed make decisions based on science – not on emotions, politics, or racial and class divisiveness.

EPA’s climate and environmental policies appear destined to become even more insane. Just two months after calling climate change “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction” – and amid radical Islamist chaos and conflagrations across the Arab world – on September 3, Secretary of State John Kerry actually said “Muslim-majority countries are among the most vulnerable” to climate change. “Scriptures,” he claimed, make it clear that Americans have a “responsibility” to prevent this calamity.

McCarthy’s environmental justice claims also appear to be based on an ugly premise that undergirds many Obama Administration policies: that low-income people are victims and businesspeople are guilty of doing irreparable harm to their health and communities. (At least business people who are not aligned with Obama and don’t support liberal/Democrat agendas and candidates are guilty.)

Such sentiments pit low-income and working-class Americans against businesses. They are a divisive throwback to the 99% versus 1% protests. They ignore the fact that Mr. Kerry, climate politics bankroller Tom Steyer, and President Obama and his fundraiser dinner companions are all part of the 0.1 percent.

These sentiments also ignore the fact that businesspeople create jobs, give workers opportunities to earn a living for themselves and their families, and develop the employment and life skills to successfully climb the socio-economic ladder. Any company that violates environmental, health, safety, tax and other laws is penalized civilly or criminally – whereas all too often the regulators themselves escape any accountability or liability for accidental, incompetent and even deliberate actions that hurt their fellow citizens.

Ms. McCarthy’s statements also reflect the lengths to which EPA will go to continue expanding its reach and grow its bureaucracy. The agency cannot admit that it has nearly won the battle against dirty air, because thousands of government regulators could lose their jobs. (Never mind the millions of Americans who lose their jobs because of EPA regulators and regulations.) To protect its legions of workers, justify its massive taxpayer-provided budget, and expand it many times over, EPA continues to move the goal posts, by invoking environmental justice, climate change and sustainability – for which there can never be objective goals and achievements, but only political considerations and subjective “feelings.”

Apparently Ms. McCarthy embraces the ideology that ignores the benefits of affordable energy and of a robust economy that creates jobs and opportunities. In her view, government controls are paramount, even when they stifle self-reliance, creativity and entrepreneurship, destroy jobs, harm human health and welfare, and cast low-income Americans as perpetual victims.

As Congress of Racial Equality national chairman Roy Innis emphasizes in his book, Energy Keepers / Energy Killers: The new civil rights battle: access to abundant, reliable, affordable energy is essential for individuals, families and communities that want to improve their lives and living standards.

Jason Riley puts it just as forcefully in his new book, Please Stop Helping Us: How liberals make it harder for blacks to succeed. Blacks must “develop the habits and attitudes that other groups had to develop” to improve their lives, he writes. The real secret to rolling back black unemployment and poverty is to change a culture that has allowed too many black children to grow up without the benefit of a father in the home, and that scorns black intellectual achievement as “acting white.”

Environmental protection should never be an “us vs. them” mentality. Such attitudes divide us, rather than bringing us together to improve our nation and world for everyone’s benefit. Ms. McCarthy should base environmental policy on sound science – and check her phony justice rhetoric at the door.

Categories: On the Blog

Time to Stop Worrying About GMOs

Somewhat Reasonable - September 07, 2014, 2:36 PM

The organic food movement grows every year. Many people are attracted to its acclaimed health benefits and superior produce compared to more ordinary foods. Organically grown food is particularly favored over genetically modified foods (GMOs). Indeed, it is hard to find an upscale restaurant or grocery store that does not loudly proclaim its non-GMO status.

Yet, is there any real health benefit to organic and non-GMO foods? The answer (perhaps shockingly to foodies,) is no. The media and internet have been alive for years with the supposed horrific side effects of eating GMOs, with so-called experts claiming that they cause all kinds of disease, including cancer. But these “experts” rarely, if ever, have any data to back up their claims. In fact, the one major study that offered some credible evidence of negative health effects from GMOs was ultimately discreditedand has since been retracted.

If there is so little serious evidence of the negative side effects of GMOs, why is there so much news about it? The answer is simple: there is profit to be made. The individuals marketing organic and non-GMO items have a real financial incentive to keep the fear alive. Without it, their whole business collapses. Not many people would pay extra for food that offers no meaningful health benefits. A study by the Food Standards Agency of the United Kingdom has demonstrated this fact, showing that there is no meaningful health benefit accrued from the additional cost of organically grown food.

This is not to say that organic food promoters are charlatans, or in any way dishonest. No doubt the vast majority of them believe in what they are selling as much as consumers believe in what they are buying: better, healthier food. But good intentions are wasted when the actions rising from them do no good.

The problem really isn’t that people like to eat organic or non-GMO products. In the developed world, many people can easily afford such luxuries. The real problem is when unjustified prejudices toward GMOs spread into the public sphere and cause real harm in places where they are needed. In Africa and parts of Asia, food is a scarce resource. We have seven billion people on this planet, most of whom live in poverty. For many, GMOs are not a matter of choice, but of necessity. In India, a genetically modified strain of wheat called dwarf wheat, (which allowed for much higher crop yields) prevented a massive food crisis that would have killed millions of people. Another grain, golden wheat, has been enriched with nutrients that have reduced child mortality and improved public health in numerous countries.

When people in America start scares about GMOs, it does more than change what people buy. It can cost lives. A few African countries, responding to hysterical claims by faux experts, have banned GMOs. The result has been needless death and deprivation.

A court ruling this month in Hawaii has overturned a ban on GMO research passed earlier this year. This is a positive step, but it has done little to alter public perceptions about GMOs. That will require a much more concentrated push on the part of the agriculture industry and public health officials. More must be done to dispel irrational and erroneous beliefs.

It is easy to understand why people are susceptible to scares about GMOs. It is strange and Frankensteinesque for scientists to manipulate the genetic code of the things we eat. Of course we should be mindful of what we put in our bodies. But we should also be aware of (and act in accord with) the evidence, and the evidence continuously shows no meaningful harm from GMOs.

So don’t be too concerned about buying organic. It’s no better for the health of your body and whole lot worse for the health of your bank account!

 

[Originally published at IOnTheScene]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Joan Rivers, R.I.P.

Somewhat Reasonable - September 06, 2014, 11:52 PM

Comedienne Joan Rivers has passed away last week at the age of 81, shortly after going into cardiac and respiratory arrest during a procedure on her throat. The evening before the terrible event, Ms. Rivers joked about her age and that she could die “at any second.” State health officials are investigating the clinic at which the procedure took place.

Joan Rivers was basically “discovered” by Johnny Carson and was a frequent guest and guest-host of the Tonight Show in the early 1980s.

Recently, Ms. Rivers, never a stranger to controversy, made a bit of news when suggesting that Barack Obama was America’s first gay president and calling Michelle Obama a “tranny.” In typical Rivers style, no apology was forthcoming for the not-particularly-humorous comment.

OK, not every joke hits its target, but for decades of sometimes-shocking entertainment and breaking the glass ceiling for female comedians, Joan Rivers deserves our appreciation.

Our thoughts are with her family and friends.

[First published at the American Spectator.]

[Editor: Here's a bit of Joan from Jimmy Fallon's first day hosting the Tonight Show. Let's just say that having Joan on that night was no accident]:

 

Categories: On the Blog

Quoth the Reagan, Nevermore

Somewhat Reasonable - September 04, 2014, 2:41 PM

Newt Gingrich’s recent article on CNN asks “What Would Reagan Do About ISIS?” Writing a “speech” from the perspective of Ronald Reagan as if he was still president, Gingrich seeks to show a more assertive, commanding response to the massive unrest in Iraq and Syria. The relative merits of Gingrich’s Reagan’s speech are not worth all that much consideration (In a nutshell, it calls for swift action against the militants, and generally damns the present policy). What is of interest is the strange phenomenon the article reveals about a large section of the American right wing today: dogmatic Ronald Reagan worship.

Don’t get me wrong; I am a big fan of Reagan and I believe he led America as well as anyone could from a time of fearful uncertainty into one of triumphal prosperity. But he was not a god and he did not have the right answer every time on every issue in his own time. It is really strange that conservative commentators trot out the “What would Reagan do?” line so regularly. Sure, we can reflect on the qualities of a president and the character they reveal through their actions. We can express our desires for more forceful and decisive leadership in the mold of Reagan. But to ask his opinion on how to address ISIS? That is a bit of a stretch.

Reagan left the White House in 1989, 25 years. That is a long time for things to change. The world is a radically different place from the one in which Reagan lived and governed. His whole political career was spent as a Cold Warrior. No doubt a man of his skills and leadership quality could make a mark on any era, but to try to envision his exact strategy, or even his general feelings, on specific issues facing us now is not particularly nourishing to intellect or beneficial to the formulation of policy.

This tendency to call up the ghost of Ronald Reagan at the drop of a hat has become a running joke in the liberal media. And if you think about it, it is rather funny. It is, after all, tough to make the case to the public that you have new solutions when you keep dredging up the image of a man who has not governed in two and half decades (and been dead for ten of those years). And that is a really serious problem facing the political right.

When Reagan rose to prominence and won the presidency, he did so by looking forward. He inspired people to believe in a future for America that was bright. He called on many of the timeless words and principles of the American political canon, but he was at his heart an independent animal. He never tried to be a mouthpiece for a preceding generation’s standard-bearer. Reagan’s message was his own, and that is why it resonated so thoroughly with the public.

Trying to be the heir to Reagan’s political legacy, as so many Republican contenders seem to be doing, misses the whole point of what made Reagan special. If the timeless message of individual liberty, of which Reagan was a true champion, is to be carried to another generation, it needs a new voice, not just an echo of an old one.

Categories: On the Blog

Shut Down MITFA and Demand ITFA Before November 1st, 2014

Somewhat Reasonable - September 03, 2014, 10:10 AM

public domain

Most of Congress agrees that the Internet access tax ban should continue, at least for now; even the House passed the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) with merely a voice vote. It seems like it would be almost unanimous in the Senate, too, but one hot topic attached to access taxes is causing controversy: the Internet sales tax. The four-page ITFA bill also contains a provision that protects against discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. While brick-and-mortar stores have a definitive sales tax they pay based on where they’re located, e-retailers do not. Without sales tax protection, e-retailers could have to pay up to 9,600 different state and local taxing bodies, an administrative expense that the average small business owner could not handle (24 million Americans, where 29% make less than $10,000/year in sales). On top of that, if a taxing body charges the wrong tax or makes a mistake and an e-retailer needs to take legal action, they would incur further costs for lawyers and litigation that would diminish the incentive to sell anything online in the first place.

A group of senators is planning to hold Internet access taxes hostage (the ban expires November 1st, 2014) in an attempt to force the Internet sales tax question. They created their own version of an Internet tax freedom act, but with many perversions that cater to the retail industry giants who could easily soak up the administrative costs and send their armies of lawyers to court for them. This new fourteen-page bill, the Marketplace and Internet Tax Freedom Act (MITFA), only extends the Internet access tax ban by 10 years instead of permanently, and it would open up the 9,600 different state and local tax collecting agencies—many of whom are in debt—to enforcing burdensome regulation and taxation on e-retailers.

Imagine someone who makes homemade trinkets and sells them online, perhaps something they started doing while on unemployment or just as a hobby. If they get orders from many people across the country, they would have to calculate each tax rate in each location of each customer. What if they fail to do so? Many state and local authorities charge high fines if a seller does not pay sales taxes, and you can even go to jail. Suppose they find a charge that shouldn’t be there, but the taxing body disputes it. Where would this person find the money to fight the legal battle this would cause? They might just settle, even if they were never in the wrong. This is what the legal language of the current law banning Internet sales tax means by discrimination.

There is even legal precedent set by the SCOTUS in the case Quill Corp. vs. North Dakota. In this case, North Dakota was trying to make Quill Corp., an office supplier based out of Delaware, pay taxes for advertising and selling its products in the state. The Supreme Court ruled that a business has to have a physical presence in a state in order to be subjected to its sales taxes. In 1992, Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court in which he said “…because the State had not shown that it had spent tax revenues for the benefit of the mail order business, there was no ‘nexus to allow the state to define retailer in the manner it chose.’”

Quill has three warehouses in three separate states, so it is paying sales taxes in those states that it runs its operations out of. States that foster poor business conditions should not be allowed to tax businesses in other states just because customers order items from them online. This would defeat basic competition between states and would be unfair to states that are responsible. States that have ruined their economies can’t be allowed to suck out money from successful companies in other states whose business conditions are better. Some states don’t even have general sales taxes, and their companies would be forced to pay an extra expense that they never needed to before.

E-retailers are not dodging taxes because they do have a physical location somewhere. If anything, banning Internet sales taxes would force states to rethink their economic policy. Challenges and tough times can often spark amazing motivation for real growth and change. Opening another source of revenue for states that have proven time and again mismanagement of funds would be a disaster for everyone involved. Successful companies that have harnessed the equalizing powers of technology would be penalized, and American consumers would be left with less choice and less in their wallets.

The ITFA bill that has passed the House is now in the Senate’s hands; the bill is concise at only four pages, and most people would be able to easily understand it. It would permanently ban Internet access taxes and multiple and discriminatory taxes on electronic commerce. The proposed MIFTA bill, masquerading as a better alternative, would only ban access taxes for 10 years, but allow almost 10,000 tax collecting agencies a chance at a massive money grab, convoluting competition and reducing economic freedom. Contact your senators today and tell them to take up a vote on IFTA, not MIFTA, before November 1st. We only have 59 days left.

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