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The Liberty and Energy Connection

Somewhat Reasonable - May 19, 2014, 2:26 PM

Following my appearance on the Daily Show, I’ve received emails and phone calls from people who don’t agree with my views about energy and the advantages America’s energy abundance provides—benefits that drive both progress and prosperity.

Some of the emails can’t be read in polite company, but one that can asked: “Please explain how energy from mountain top removal, fracking, and tar sands makes America great.” The word choices Greg selected tell me that he isn’t truly seeking enlightenment and is instead aiming to antagonize me. The next day, he sent another: “I have yet to hear back on this simple question. Please respond.” It does seem like a simple question. One I should be able to answer in an instant. But I didn’t want to offer platitudes. I felt the question deserved a thoughtful answer. So, Greg, here you are.

I’ve spent the past couple of days at a conference on “Energy, Economics and Liberty.” There discussions took place on the energy debate, government’s role, market solutions, and the geo-politics of energy. About twenty men—all experts in various aspects of energy—attended. I wasn’t just the only female I was the only energy advocate. The topics brought Greg’s request to mind and the conversations helped form the answers.

One of the participants, Jim Clarkson, wrote an article titled: “The Shale Gas Paradigm,” in which he states: “Increased access to energy is a key to economic progress in the undeveloped world.” Similarly, in my book, Energy Freedom, I quote Robert Bryce, author of Power Hungry, who says: “Electricity is the energy commodity that separates the developed countries from the rest. Countries that can provide cheap and reliable electric power to their citizens can grow their economies and create wealth. Those who can’t, can’t.”

Senate Major Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) once said: “Oil and gas are making us sick.” But I contend that they—along with coal—are the very things keeping us well. In Energy Freedom’s introduction, I point out: “Energy saves lives. When fire strikes or hurricanes are bearing down upon a city, it is energy—in this case in the form of gasoline—that allows people to drive away and escape death. … When weather is extreme, it is energy—usually in the form of electricity (most frequently from coal or natural gas)—that keeps people alive. Air conditioning allows people to live in comfort in Arizona in the summer. Heating keeps people from freezing to death in Alaska in the winter. Energy keeps us well. Energy makes us comfortable.”

The Energy, Economics and Liberty conference was hosted by the Liberty Fund. On its website, it offers this definition of liberty: “the beginning and the source of happiness from which all beneficial things flow in return.” Much like liberty, energy is the source from which many beneficial things flow. Energy has been a source of America’s freedom, a big part of what has made America great.

The conflicts in Ukraine have made the importance of energy freedom clear. Because of being on the Daily Show talking about fracking, I’ve been given other opportunities to address the topic. One was with former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura for his show Off the Grid. At the end of the twenty-minute interview, he asked me for closing comments. I said something like: “Because of fracking, OPEC would never be able to use energy as a weapon as it did to America in 1973 and as we see Russia doing to Ukraine today.”

Greg’s email to me used terms that lead to three different energy sources: coal, natural gas, and oil—and each have been big contributors to America’s progress and prosperity. Each has made the personal lives of Americans more pleasant and less painful. Together these energy sources have made America energy secure.

The email used the term “mountain top removal,” which is a method by which coal can be mined. It is safer than underground mines because it removes the risk of mine accidents, the horror of which we’ve recently witnessed in Turkey. (Note: America has far more stringent mining regulations today than does most of the world.) Greg likely selected the term “mountain top removal” because it sounds harsh. In fact, in the mountainous regions of Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia, this surface mining process allows for hospitals, housing developments, shopping centers to be built—all which bring more economic development and much needed jobs.

I’ve toured regions where “mountain top removal” is being done and stood on top of the massive coal seam. The procedure is amazing. Picture the region like lots of upside down ice cream cones next to each other. Hills and valleys—but no place to create a community. In that mountain is a thick layer of coal that goes all the way through the mountain, north to south, east to west. To access it, the dirt, the tip of the ice cream cone, is taken off and the coal is removed.

In the past, when the coal had been extracted, a private landowner could ask the mining company to level out the land—making it economically productive. However, today’s regulations take away that property owner’s rights and require that the mountain be rebuilt and put back to its original condition. If the landowner wants to turn his land into a housing development, he then has to incur the expense of, once again, removing the peak and leveling the land.

The coal provides, and has provided, America with low-cost, base-load electricity—which, as we’ve already addressed, has given us a competitive advantage in the global marketplace and unmatched personal progress. And, therefore, energy from mountain top removal makes America Great.

Fracking—short for hydraulic fracturing—combined with the amazing technology of horizontal drilling, has brought America into a new era of energy abundance. Clarkson states: “Gas using industries are expanding while we enjoy a distinct advantage over the rest of the world.” He explains: “Shale gas lay worthless beneath the earth’s surface for the whole of man’s previous existence until human intelligence made it valuable”—and that was done with fracking.

One of the definitions of liberty found at Dictionary.com is: “freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.” Clarkson points out: “There were no federal programs with subsidies, tax breaks, and mandated markets to favor the shale industry. …The new shale order of things is a triumph of free enterprise over government planning. The shale revolution shows that the good old American know-how and individual initiative that made this country great have survived the burden of big government and can still create economic miracles.” Clarkson closes with: “Some observers are already calling this the century of natural gas. This could also be the century of prosperity, free markets, and optimism as America regains its energy mojo.”

Unlike the pariah Greg presumes fracking to be, it is responsible for the shale gas phenomena.

Last, Greg asked about tar sands and how they make America great. Tar sands, or oil sands, allow America to get oil from our friendly Canadian neighbor and reduce our need to import OPEC’s oil. We then refine that oil into gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel that fuels our transportation fleet—something that wind and solar power cannot do.

I have been to the oil sands of Canada and what they are doing there is, like fracking and horizontal drilling, a technological miracle.

If you have ever walked on a California beach and stepped on a tar ball (created when the oil seeps out of the ground and is washed ashore mixed with sand), you have a clue what the tar sands are like. The naturally occurring tar sands are a layer in the earth (much like coal). This layer has raw crude oil mixed with the dirt/sands. I recall driving to the tar sands from the town where we stayed. As the elevation increased, I noticed that trees reached a certain height and then died. It was explained that as soon as the roots hit the bitumen (or tar) it kills the tree.

At the extraction site, the tar sands are bulldozed and dumped into giant trucks (much like surface coal mining). The tar and sand mixture is processed to separate the oil and the sand. (Think of taking that tar ball from the beach and boiling it. The oil melts and floats while the sand drops to the bottom.) The oil is now available for use and the clean sand is put back into the earth—only now the trees can actually grow. The reclaimed land is teeming with wildlife that lives in the healthy forest the extraction process provides. As a result, when the Keystone pipeline is approved, America would be far less dependent on people who aim to do us harm and OPEC couldn’t cause an instant recession as it did in 1973. Plus, Keystone will be safer and cheaper—not to mention creating more jobs—than shipping the oil via rail as we are currently doing.

And that, Greg, is how tar sands can make America greater.

Yes, mountain top removal—or coal; fracking—or natural gas; and tar sands—or oil, make America great. The use of natural resources are a part of liberty: “freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.”

People like Greg want to interfere, restrict, and hamper North America’s energy abundance—which will take away America’s ability to provide cheap and reliable power to her citizens and take away the ability to grow the economy and create wealth. Why would anyone want to do that?

 The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Time for the States to Take Back Their Land from the Feds

Somewhat Reasonable - May 19, 2014, 11:06 AM

According to a 2012 report by the Federal Research Service, “The federal government owns roughly 635-640 million acres, 28% of the 2.27 billion acres of land in the United States.

Four agencies administer 609 million acres of this land: the Forest Service (USFS) in the Department of Agriculture, and the National Park Service (NPS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), all in the Department of the Interior (DOI). Most of these lands are in the West and Alaska. In addition, the Department of Defense administers 19 million acres in military bases, training ranges, and more. Numerous other agencies administer the remaining federal acreage.”

I suspect it may come as a surprise to many people that the federal government owns just over a quarter of the nation’s landmass and, other than land set aside for military bases and naval ports that may seem excessive. It is.

The drama that ensured when the Bureau of Land Management lay siege to the Nevada Bundy ranch over unpaid grazing fees called into attention the fact that the BLM oversees, according to a recent article in the National Review, “the largest piece of leasable real estate in the American West—245 million acres, an area bigger than the mid-Atlantic states and New England combined. The BLM is its landlord.”

In theory one can apply for a license or lease “to make productive use of this land” noted Travis Kavulla in his article, “Public-Land Colonialism.”  In practice “The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 requires an excruciatingly complex process before even mundane land-use decisions can be made.” It is a regulatory nightmare for anyone who might want to create a mine to access coal or valuable minerals or extract oil or natural gas.

The process is subject to government policies, spoken or unspoken, to restrict access. A current case involves actions by the Environmental Protection Agency to stop the creation of the Pebble Mine project in Alaska even before a permit is requested. A May 12 Wall Street Journal editorial noted that “The EPA’s inspector general’s office last week announced it will investigate the agency’s February decision to commence a preemptive veto of the Pebble Mine project, a job-rich proposal to develop America’s largest U.S. copper and gold mine in southwest Alaska.”

The Obama administration has been devoted to stopping all kinds of projects that might generate jobs and revenue from projects like the Pebble Mine. Its opposition to the building of the Keystone XL pipeline is the best known example, but the EPA’s “war on coal” has closed many mines in addition to coal-fired plants needed to provide electricity.

The EPA is requesting jurisdiction over all public and private streams in the nation and this has been called “the largest land grab in the history of the world.”  So it is not just public lands that are affected, but private lands as well.

In an article on World Net Daily, Alana Cook pointed out that “The proposed rule tinkers with the definition of ‘navigable’ waters which was the central point of litigation in a battle between the Supreme Court and the EPA regarding the Clean Water Act.” The proposal would “allow the EPA in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management, the Department of Energy and the Army (Corps of Engineers) to dictate on a never-before-seen scale everything from grazing rights, food production, animal health and the use of energy on private lands.”

This is, simply stated, Communism in which the government owns all the land.

As Craig Rucker, Executive Director of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) points out, “There is no engine on Earth as powerful at creating prosperity and improving the condition of both man and nature than free markets. There can be no free market without the right to property.” He warns that “Property rights are under siege.”

One of the BLM’s reasons cited for its actions against the Bundy ranch involved “endangered animals” and Rucker said, “Take away a person’s right to choose how to use their land and in effect you’ve seized that land.” The attack on private land ownership is led by the United Nations Agenda 21.

The government’s control over public lands and its grasp for control of the use of all private lands reflects the Marxist agenda of the Obama administration. It is so manifest that, in mid-April, officials from nine states got together in Salt Lake City to discuss ways to retake control of poorly managed federal lands.

There are federal laws that have been on the books a very long time that are intended to protect private property from the actions we have seen by the BLM and the EPA. One is the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976, so this issue has been around awhile, but what is generally unknown is how vast federal control is.

In his National Review article, Kavulla noted that “In Montana, one county that is a traditional center of natural gas production has a whopping 53 percent of its subsurface minerals controlled by the BLM. Proposed resource management plans (RPM) in Montana “more than quadruple the land off-limits to ‘surface occupancy’ which makes oil and gas drilling virtually impossible. Only about one million acres of a ten million acre federal estate would be open to drilling activities under standard leasing conditions.”

America is under attack from within by federal government agencies that are striving to deny access to the greatest energy reserves in the world and to control the lives of ranchers and farmers whose work feed the rest of us.

It is time for the states to take back their land from the federal government and to oversee its use for the development of the economy, the security of the nation, and the protection of private property, the keystone of capitalism.

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Thorner: Kibbe’s key to Liberty – “Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff”

Somewhat Reasonable - May 19, 2014, 10:52 AM

FreedomWorks’ CEO Matt Kibbe’s new book Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff was the topic of discussion Tuesday at Heartland Institute, and due to flight delays and re-direction the author himself had to reschedule his presentation for Wednesday. However, having read Kibbe’s book Joe Bast, CEO of the Heartland Institute, and Jim Lakely, ably filled in for Kibbe’s absence in a discussion about liberty.

Joe Bast described Kibbe as a full-fledged, hard core libertarian, who, as his book reveals, came to his libertarianism through the music of Rush. The title of the first cd Kibbe bought was “2112″ in 1977 when he was only 13.  Thereafter, Kibbe became obsessed with the music of Rush. Two songs that intrigued and inspired Kibbe on “2112″  were, “You don’t get something for nothing” and “You can’t buy freedom for free.”

Bast then went on to describe, as set forth in Chapter 8 of his book, Kibbe’s twelve-step policy agenda to promote positive, innovative ideas that would improve people’s lives by letting them be free, by spending less of your hard-earned money on someone else’s favors, by letting you choose, and by treating us all equally under the laws of the land.  Such ideas might be considered radical stuff to some!  Bast described the twelve steps as “a quick agenda for what conservatives and libertarians want to achieve.”

  1. Comply With The Laws You Pass.
  2. Stop Spending Money We Don’t Have.
  3. Scrap The Tax Code.
  4. Put Patients In Charge.
  5. Choice, Not Conscription. 
  6. End Insider Bailouts.
  7. Let Parents Decide best educational needs for their children.
  8. Respect My Privacy without fear of government snooping.
  9. End The Fed Monopoly with its lack of supervision or oversight. 
  10. Avoid Entangling Alliances.
  11. Don’t Take People’s Stuff.
  12. Defend Your Right To Know.

Joseph Bast thereafter invited Jim Lakely into the discussion by inquiring, “Jim, What do you think?”

Lakely let it be known that Rush didn’t influence his political conservative leanings, although as a drummer in his youth he was familiar with the music of Rush. Jim Lakely rightly chose to speak about Matt Kibbe’s’ six “Rules for Liberty” as set forth in Kibbe’s book, for according to Kibbe, “Everyone should be free to live their lives as they think best, free from meddling by politicians and government bureaucrats, as long as they don’t hurt other people, or take other people’s stuff. . . These rules don’t permit gray-suit middlemen to rearrange things for your special benefit, or against your personal preferences arbitrarily.”

  1. Don’t Hurt People.
  2. Don’t Take People’s Stuff.
  3. Take Responsibility.
  4. Work For It.
  5. Mind Your Own Business.
  6. Fight The Power.  (As Lord Acton warned:  “Power tends to corrupt” and “absolute power corrupts absolutely.”)

How totally different, expressed Jim Lakely, were Kibbs’ “Rules for Liberty” in comparison to community organizer Saul Alinsky’s thirteen “Rules for Radicals” as created for his followers, among them being two of his fellow Chicagoans, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.  Alinsky’s rules are all about destroying anyone who gets in the way of reorganizing society.

Jim Lakely considers Alinsky’s Rule #13 as being the most dangerous.  It is the rule used by Global Warming alarmists against The Heartland Institute, a denier of manmade Global Warming stemming from CO2 emissions, as a means to the end of getting all opposition out of the way.  Demonizing the opposition, said Lakely, also allows “your [global warming alarmists] people to think of themselves as angels.”

 Alinsky’s Rule #13: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.

Following comments by Joe Bast and Jim Lakely, Bast opened up the discussion to those in attendance, but not before acknowledging that there were both conservatives and libertarians in the room, and that there could be many issues concerning liberty about which both groups of individuals would be in strong disagreement with each another. It was then that Bast reminded all how Ronald Reagan described his political philosophy when questioned by Manny Klausner of “Reason” magazine in 1975, the account of which is on pp. 217 – 218 of Matt Kibbe’s book:

If you analyze it. I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.  I think conservatism is really a misnomer just as liberalism is a misnomer for the liberals — if we were back in the days of the Revolution, so-called conservatives today would be the Liberals and the liberals would be the Tories.  The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom and this is a pretty general description also of what libertarianism is.

Questions addressed to Joe Bast and Jim Lakely:

  • Of the internet and how the very concept of the Internet is libertarian? Joe Bast had some negative views of the Internet such as 1) the infiltration by Wikipedia by radical groups and 2) how Google is becoming more influential behind the scenes (When googling “Global Warming,” there are many pages to go through before the work of the Heartland Institute is ever mentioned.).  Jim Lakely, however, pronounced the Internet as a way to gather information quickly and easily in a process that before the Internet took a long time to do by using the library and the encyclopedia for research.  Agreed upon was that although the Internet is a useful way to exchange ideas, it has also made easy the dissemination of hate mail.
  • Of the lack of respect for the institution of marriage that has endured from the beginning of time, how those believing in marriage are now labeled homophobic, and how the conversation has become so much more course in the public debate?  Also noted was how Kibbe’s book didn’t discuss the sanctity of marriage.   In reflecting Joe Bast reasoned: Conservatives and Libertarians felt for a long time that not having much of a stake in elections, they didn’t need to come out in force to vote, resulting in a loss of ground to the other side.
  • Of the tendency among conservatives and libertarians not to fight back? Jim Lakely pointed out how tolerance isn’t tolerated the way it used to be.  Lakely then inquired as to when the determination was made that debate was no longer possible? Now all is a matter of life and death and when political views offensive to the other side can cost you your job.  A word to Republicans:  We are not in a debate, we are in a war!  The Left is attempting to stamp down counter opinions that defy what it believes and that which it wishes the public to believe. 

Download here a free chapter of Matt Kibbe’s bookDon’t Hurt People And Don’t Take Their stuff (A Libertarian Manifesto), as well as how to place an order and to listen to video interviews of Senators Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Mike Lee and others. Matt Kibbe’s “New York Times” Bestseller was in stores on April 1, 2014, and can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and Books-A-Million.

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

The Millennial Vote

Somewhat Reasonable - May 19, 2014, 10:14 AM

There is good news for the Republican Party about millennial voters: they won’t be voting. A survey done by Harstad Strategic Research for the Youth Engagement Fund and Project New America on millennial voters provides important insight into voting preferences for 18-31 year olds. Although the survey was done by a Democratic polling firm, the results still send an important message to the Republican Party.

Lucky for the red team, millennial voters will likely be staying home in 2014. Only 28% of the survey’s respondents stated they will definitely vote in 2014. This should be worrisome to the Democratic Party. Obama’s ability to mobilize and woo young voters in 2008 and 2012 significantly helped his prospects at the polls. Without this bloc, the already existent Republican edge in midterm elections grows stronger.

The good news ends there. This survey (along with others) shows that once these voters mobilize, especially for the 2016 election, they will vote progressive, liberal, and Democratic. Rather than counting on low turnout, the Republican Party will be better off taking lessons from this survey and altering their message to young voters.

To be clear, the party does not need to change its views or stances on issues, it just needs to change the way it communicates with millennials. Words like ‘patriotism’ and ‘competition’ will no longer work. The party can emphasize its free market policies and limited government, but it has to appeal to the ethos of the voter by proving to him or her that our policies bring about ‘opportunity’ and equality’.

As of now, young people are convinced the government needs to be involved in their lives. The Republican Party can and must convince them otherwise, but to do so, they have to appeal to the right emotions and values. The party is better off limiting talk on Obamacare and focusing on affordable college and job openings. More so, it is important to spend time emphasizing that conservative policies help the poor and marginalized. By connecting conservative policies to the values young people find most important, the Republican Party can begin to make gains with the millennial generation.

The survey by Harstad Strategic Research is filled with liberal bias, but that does not mean conservatives should immediately write it off. The party should be relieved young people are staying home in 2014 because they have not done enough to earn their vote. By appealing to values that matter to millennials, Republicans can shape their message in a better way. Our policies create the results that young people want to see; it’s time to work harder to tell them that.

Categories: On the Blog

Light at the End of the Tunnel: The Passing of the Age of Obama

Somewhat Reasonable - May 19, 2014, 12:09 AM

Conservatives need to wake up and start thinking past the rapidly passing age of Obama. Increasingly likely every day is that voters this November will remove Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. By electing a new Republican Senate majority, the voters will also render Barack Obama a lame duck, one of the lamest in history, as he will have no prayer of getting any of his legislative proposals — increasingly recognized as hard left — through Congress. (Despite his early national rhetoric, Obama doesn’t do bipartisanship.)

That new Republican Senate majority will also be a new check and balance on Obama’s appointment of federal judges, reversing the effect of the Reid rule change eliminating Republican judicial filibusters. That is especially crucial given that the five remaining Reagan/Bush appointees on the Court constitute the slimmest of majorities, with a couple of occasionally weak sisters among them. If just one of these five is replaced by another Elena Kagan or Sonia Sotomayor, the resulting shift from a Reagan majority on the Court to an Obama one would mean a longer-term Obama transformation of America.

Given the long-term cycles of American political history, Obama’s second midterm this year should be even worse for Democrats than the disastrous Obama first midterm in 2010. And the polls are bearing out that possibility.

The latest is a Pew/USA Today poll finding that 47 percent favor the Republican candidate for Congress in their district or state, while 43 percent favor the Democrat. That is a sharp turnaround from last October, when Democrats held a 6 point lead in the same generic midterm preference poll, 49 percent to 43 percent. The new Pew poll also finds a 16 point GOP lead among independent voters.

Moreover, the Pew poll finds that “65% would like to see the next President offer different policies and programs from the Obama Administration while 30 percent want Obama’s successor to offer similar policies,” as reported by Jason Riley in the May 5 Wall Street Journal.

In an April 27 Washington Post/ABC News poll, President Obama’s approval rating was down to an all-time low of 41 percent. That poll featured an 11 point Democratic advantage in the sample, which indicates further weakness in that Obama support, especially as compared to the 2010 midterm turnout rather than the 2012 turnout.

For context, in April 2010, President Obama’s job approval in that Washington Post/ABC News poll was 54 percent. In October 2010, just before the voters administered their first midterm beating to Democrats, Obama’s job approval was still 50 percent.

Similarly, the April Gallup poll showed an Obama approval rating of 43 percent, compared to an April 2010 Obama approval rating in that poll of 49 percent, and an early November 2010 approval rating of 44 percent. The latest Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found Obama’s job approval at 44 percent, compared to a May 11, 2010 approval of 50 percent, and an October 30, 2010 approval of 45 percent. So consistently in all these polls, Obama was doing better in 2010 just before that year’s Democrat blowout than he is doing this year.

The Washington Post/ABC News poll also found only 42 percent approval of Obama’s handling of the economy, lower than the 44 percent in the October 2010 poll. Most damning of all, 53 percent in the 2014 poll say it is more important to have Republican congressional majorities to check Obama’s policies, compared to 39 percent who believe it is more important to have Democratic congressional majorities to support those policies.

Bottom line in that poll, 45 percent say they plan to vote for Democratic candidates for Congress this fall, compared to 44 percent who say they plan to vote for Republican congressional candidates. But in October 2010, the Washington Post/ABC News poll showed Democrats with a 5-point advantage on that question, just before voters granted Republicans a 63-seat gain in the House, and a 6 to 7 seat gain in the Senate (depending on how you count the November 2010 affirmation of Scott Brown’s special election pickup of Senator Ted Kennedy’s seat).

These polls above, and state by state polls, are consistent with a Republican pickup in this fall’s midterm of as many as 10 Senate seats, establishing a new 55 to 45 Republican Senate majority, and 20 more House seats. To maximize that victory, Republicans need to campaign on a pro-growth platform of specific reforms to get America booming again as under Reagan. But in designing those proposals, conservative and Republican candidates, think tanks, publications, and policy intellectuals need to think past what can possibly be compromised with President Obama, and take their case for populist, pro-growth reforms directly to the people.

That should begin with pro-growth tax reform. Directly contrary to the Thomas Piketty/MSNBC socialists celebrating around massive, far left, anti-growth increases in tax rates on the most productive, Republican tax reform should involve sharp reductions in tax rates for everyone, in return for eliminating tax loopholes for special interest, crony capitalists.

A good model for that are the tax reform proposals developed by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, already included in his budget proposals approved by the full House. For personal, individual income taxes, those proposals involve a 10 percent tax rate for annual incomes below $100,000, and a 25 percent tax rate for incomes above that. For corporate taxes, the top federal tax rate would be reduced to 25 percent as well.

Republicans should avoid the trap of promising that such reform would be revenue neutral, shifting the debate to that rather than the impact on growth. Their proposals should involve a net tax cut on a static revenue estimating basis (not taking into account the pro-growth effects), and a net revenue gain on a dynamic basis, considering the pro-growth effects.

Another pro-growth measure would be to repeal and replace Obamacare with the Patient Power health policy reforms proposed by free market health policy expert John Goodman, president of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas. Those reforms would assure universal health care for all, with no individual mandate, no employer mandate, and a sharp net cut in taxes, spending, and cost-increasing regulatory burdens.

Those reforms would be based on a universal health insurance tax credit of roughly $2,500 per person, $8,000 per family, that every citizen could use to help purchase the private health insurance of their choice. For those who nevertheless still don’t choose to buy coverage with the credit, the unused funds would be sent in federal block grants to clinics and hospitals that serve the indigent. For those who get too sick while uninsured, perhaps with cancer or heart disease, to then buy private health insurance for the first time, the tax credit can be used to buy coverage from a state-based uninsurable risk pool, or from Medicaid, which would assure coverage for pre-existing conditions in any event. Medicaid should also be turned over to the states for further reform, with block grants as in the enormously successful, 1996 welfare reforms. That has also been endorsed by Ryan’s Republican budgets, and by the 2012 Romney/Ryan ticket. CBO estimates that would save $1 to $2 trillion in the first 10 years alone.

Some conservative analysts, and Republican health policy staffers, have been too pessimistic about the prospects for such reforms. They have succumbed to the fundamental mistake that under any market repeal-and-replace plan like the Goodman Patient Power plan, tens of millions of Americans will necessarily lose the health insurance plan they now have under Obamacare, doing to them what Obamacare just did to millions of Americans who were falsely told by President Obama that under Obamacare, if they liked their health plan, they could keep it.

The egregious error here is that since there is no mandate at all in the Patient Power market alternative to Obamacare, not a single health policy insurance plan in the entire country would be invalidated by repeal and replacement of Obamacare by the Patient Power market plan. Under that market plan, each individual chooses the health plan he will buy with the universal health insurance tax credit. The federal government does not specify what health plan anyone has to buy. So the Patient Power market reforms would not require the cancellation or invalidation, of any health insurance plans. Anyone who likes the health plan he has under Obamacare can simply use the tax credit to help pay for that one. The exact number of health insurance plans in the entire country invalidated if Obamacare is repealed and replaced by Goodman’s Patient Power market plan would be precisely 0.00, not 35 million as some analysts have misled their more credulous readers to believe.

With no employer mandate in the Patient Power plan, the effects of Obamacare in destroying jobs and full time employment are eliminated. With no individual mandate and no guaranteed issue or community rating regulation, the primary effects of Obamacare in increasing health costs are eliminated as well. The elimination of increased taxes and spending under Obamacare would be powerfully pro-growth as well.

Other important pro-growth reforms for Republicans to support would include a federal balanced budget amendment, fundamental reform of the Fed and monetary policy, possibly including a restored link to gold and other precious metals to at least guide monetary policy, comprehensive welfare reform based on work for the able bodied instead of guaranteed handouts, and personal savings, investment. and insurance accounts for Social Security and Medicare (instead of suicidal cuts in those highly sensitive programs).

Such reforms would involve a dramatic reduction in government spending and taxes over a generation, and restore booming, world leading, traditional American economic growth and prosperity, meaning millions of more jobs, higher wages and incomes for working families, and more real equality as a result.

[First published at The American Spectator.]

Categories: On the Blog

FCC Tries (Again) to be Lord of the Internet

Somewhat Reasonable - May 18, 2014, 6:59 AM

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the Lord of the Internet Pretend

The Federal Communications Commission this week voted 3-2 to establish new net neutrality rules that would prevent broadband networks from selectively blocking traffic, but allowing those companies to enter into deals with content providers for preferred access to their networks in “commercially reasonable” ways.

Scott Cleland, policy advisor for The Heartland Institute and chairman of NetCompetition, says this development indicates the FCC is moving ever closer to regulating broadband under “Title II” — as if it was a utility, such as telephone service.

“The primary problem of Title II regulation is it would abruptly decelerate the fast-speed of Internet business to the slow-speed of government,” Cleland said. “At core, Title II is a ‘Mother may I?’ regulatory regime that is as slow as its slowest part. What could take hours or days to accomplish in business time could take several months or even years in FCC Title II time.

“Practically, Title II regulation would require every business decision of consequence to be approved by the FCC – i.e., changes in services, prices, terms, conditions, or infrastructure,” he added. “Ironically, the obvious unintended consequence here would be to put the American part of the Internet in the slowest lane filled with interminable speed bumps, potholes, stop lights, and inspection stations.”

Matthew Glans, Senior Policy Analyst for The Heartland Institute, agreed, noting that putting broadband under Title II would “stifle” the growth of the digital economy.

“The Internet has thrived due to its open and market-based nature. Imposing a vast new array of government regulations under Title II would stifle what has made the Internet one of the biggest growth sectors of the economy,” Glans said. “Title II regulations are a throwback to a system which no longer exists and is ill suited to regulate the dynamic internet and broadband markets of today.

“To ensure the growth of our nation’s broadband infrastructure and the growth of the digital economy, any changes to how the Internet and broadband is regulated need to look away from outdated regulatory models and instead focus on policies that do not hinder innovation and growth,” Glans said.

Jim Lakely, co-director of the Center of the Digital Economy for The Heartland Institute, noted that the FCC doesn’t have the authority to impose rules on broadband networks.

“Watching the FCC attempt to construct net neutrality regulations to lord over the Internet is a bit like watching a child build a sand castle and declare himself king of the beach,” Lakely said. “Neither has really created a kingdom, but at least the latter is cute.

“Despite what he thinks, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler does not have the power to regulate broadband networks as if they are telephony systems because Congress has not granted that power,” Lakely said. “Several federal court decisions have upheld that fact, yet every few months a partisan majority on the FCC persists in playing micromanager of the Internet. If broadband providers want to start charging Netflix and Google for hogging all the bandwidth, that is their right as the owners of those networks.

“Market forces are moving the digital economy in that direction, and rightly so – without arbitrary ‘reasonable pricing’ guidelines from bureaucrats who can’t possibly know what a ‘reasonable price’ is,” Lakely said.

“The push to enforce net neutrality via the FCC is, and has long been, a solution in search of a problem. Free markets have brought the world the wonders of the modern digital age, solving privately the inevitable conflicts and problems that have arisen,” Lakely said. “It is incumbent upon federal regulators to at least wait until there is an actual problem before moving in to ‘fix’ it. A failure of humility on the part of the FCC will only end up creating problems – and possibly crises – where none currently exist.”

Bruce Edward Walker, a policy advisor on telecom and technology policy for Heartland, compared the FCC’s decision to the Biblical Solomon.

“Whereas Solomon employed characteristic wisdom when he suggested splitting the baby, the Federal Communications Commission employs its equally characteristic dithering with its latest net neutrality plan,” Walker said. “Yes, the plan stops (just) short of Title II reclassification and allows fast lanes for delivery of high-bandwidth Web sites, which angers progressives. Conversely, it angers conservatives and free-market proponents by granting near complete control of the Internet on a case-by-case basis.

“Furthermore, such broad rule-making smacks of the last two failed FCC attempts to implement net neutrality,” Walker said. “A modern-day Solomon would recognize only Congress possesses the constitutional ability to pass such laws, not a regulatory agency prone to arbitrariness, inconsistency, and favoritism.”

The FCC’s proposed rule can be viewed here. Comments from the public are welcome through July 15, 2014. Leave yours here.

Watch me talk about net neutrality in the video below:

Categories: On the Blog

Cruz Bill Promotes Energy Liberation, Job Creation, Prosperity

Somewhat Reasonable - May 17, 2014, 10:41 PM

The Obama administration has repeatedly threatened private and state land oil and gas exploration.

On March 27, Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced the American Energy Renaissance Act, providing for comprehensive liberation of energy producers to maximize energy production, job creation and prosperity for America. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK).

Despite the war-like hostility of the Obama administration to the traditional carbon based energy that fueled the industrial revolution, the entrepreneurship and modern technology of America’s private economy is producing a boom in oil and gas production that is overwhelming President Obama. America has already surged to become the world’s number one natural gas producer. It is also now the world’s fastest growing oil producer, already third in the world. And America has the resources to be the world’s number one coal producer as well.

Not that President Obama did not try to stop this American success story, contrary to the grossly misleading rhetoric in his speeches taking credit for it. The Congressional Research Service recently reported that the portion of total natural gas production from federally controlled lands and offshore declined by 40% from Fiscal Year 2009 to Fiscal Year 2013. The portion of total oil production from such federally controlled areas declined by 32% over that period.

That was achieved by slowing permits for exploration and development of oil and gas in federally controlled areas, imposing moratoria on already granted permits (held to be contrary to federal law in federal court), and even withdrawing already granted permits. These policies have hurt federal revenues from oil and gas royalties, and taxes that would have been paid by oil and gas producers.

But the explosion of oil and gas production on private and state owned lands, so far outside of federal reach, has more than made up for the losses of possible production in federally controlled areas. That explosion of private oil and gas production has been due to the advances and development of the process of hydraulic fracking.

The practice of “fracking” has been in use in oil and gas production for almost 70 years. It involves high speed water injection underground, combined with less than 10% sand in volume, and 0.5% salts and other solvents, often commonly used by the general public. Though the practice more recently has excited the religious quality hysteria that might be expected from a demon sighting, no other negative effect of the practice has been documented in all these decades.

The more recent advances that have made the practice so much more effective have combined it with the 360 degree drilling techniques originally developed for deep water production of oil and gas, and modern computer technology that helps identify promising drilling targets. The resulting burgeoning supply of natural gas in the U.S. has produced sharp declines in natural gas prices in America, which has promoted a revival of American manufacturing, for which President Obama has also tried to take credit.

But the Obama administration has repeatedly threatened private and state land oil and gas exploration and production with potentially crippling new federal regulation that could shut this blossoming boom down. State governments have regulated fracking effectively to protect the public all these years. The Cruz-Bridenstine bill would continue that state regulation, removing any federal authority to interfere and regulate fracking.

The bill would also immediately approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, freeing the private sector to build it entirely with its own funds. That would directly create 42,000 good paying, private sector jobs, according to Obama’s own State Department, and support many times that through the reliable, low cost energy it would provide to the American economy. The Obama administration itself has already conducted five environmental reviews of the pipeline, all concluding it would have no significant, negative environmental effects.

President Obama repeatedly calls for more taxpayer funding of infrastructure to create jobs. But the private sector would be paying for the Keystone Pipeline infrastructure entirely with its own money, without taxpayer funds. So it should be a no brainer. Does the Democrat Party represent working people at all anymore?

The Cruz-Bridenstine bill would also remove any authority for EPA to regulate greenhouse gases to address supposed global warming concerns, until Congress acts to expressly authorize such regulation. Such proposed regulation under development by the EPA would be prohibitively expensive for the economy, causing skyrocketing energy costs for everybody, which would threaten the loss of millions of jobs. Such costly regulation should not be adopted by bureaucrats hiding from democratic accountability, unless expressly authorized by Congress to do so.

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) documents in the thousands of pages of the multi-volume, peer-reviewed, Climate Change Reconsidered II, that the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), followed religiously by Obama’s EPA, leaves out consideration of hundreds of published, peer-reviewed, studies indicating that human emissions of greenhouse gases do not threaten catastrophic results. Indeed, those emissions have probably only benefitted plant and animal life on the planet so far, as increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere promotes greater plant and agricultural growth, creating an actual greening of the Earth.

In fact, there has been no global warming for more than 17 years now, which even the IPCC concedes, and that period will soon be longer than the period of actual global warming (which may not have been global) lasting only 20 years or so, from the late 1970s to the late 1990s, as I have shown in a previous column. So there is no real world justification for the imposition of such regulatory costs.

The U.N.’s IPCC and Obama’s EPA only represent the government’s interests in expanded governmental tax and regulatory powers. Indeed, the U.N. is an organization of governments, many if not most not democratically elected. So it is not representative of the interests of working people in jobs and improved standards of living.

President Obama campaigning in 2008 famously said he would bankrupt the coal industry. He is already well down that road, with 288 coal fired power plants in 32 states already closed or closing as of June, 2013 due to newly adopted EPA regulatory costs and burdens. Those closures are already eliminating 50,000 good paying jobs in the coal, utility and rail industries alone, with indirect effects eliminating another quarter million jobs.

You see why I say President Obama is at war with America’s own energy industries, and that the Democrat Party no longer represents working people? Senator Cruz’s bill would terminate the EPA regulations already shutting down the coal industry, and destroying good paying jobs for working people.

Moreover, prospectively, the Cruz-Bridenstine bill would require that before any EPA regulations eliminating any jobs could take effect, the regulations would have to be expressly approved by Congress and signed by the president. EPA regulations currently under development are estimated to eliminate 2 to 3 million jobs in the next decade. Again, today’s Democrats are not representing working people.

Senator Cruz’s bill would also grant states the power to lease, approve permits for, and regulate oil and gas exploration and development on federal lands within their borders, and adjacent offshore areas. Federally controlled onshore and offshore areas hold 43% of America’s proven oil reserves, and 28% of natural gas reserves. Reversing Obama’s perverse policies and leasing and producing oil and gas in these federally controlled areas could create more than 1 million additional good-paying jobs. The states would then gain their share of those lease royalties and payments. States can best represent the interests of their own people in balancing jobs and environmental protections.

The bill would also authorize further exploration and development of oil and gas production in the National Petroleum Reserve, by Indian tribes on tribal lands, on the coastal plain of Alaska (ANWR), and offshore on the Outer Continental Shelf. The National Petroleum Reserve is estimated to hold close to a trillion barrels of oil, and 53 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This reserve is set aside for oil and gas production, yet President Obama is not allowing further exploration and development even there.

West of the Mississippi river alone, Indian reservations hold 30 percent of the nation’s coal reserves, 50 percent of potential uranium reserves, and 20 percent of known oil and gas reserves. Cruz’s bill would empower the tribes to develop and gain the revenues from these energy riches.

While President Obama has held press conferences announcing expanded offshore drilling, in reality he has effectively prohibited exploration and development off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Welcome to the world of Orwellian Progressivism. Senator Cruz’s bill would streamline the regulatory process for offshore oil and gas exploration and development by requiring lease auctions of federally controlled offshore areas within 6 months of enactment of the legislation, and every 9 months after that, and drilling permit applications to be approved or disapproved within 20 days after they are submitted. The bill would similarly streamline regulatory approvals for new refineries, with not one new one built in the past 30 years.

Finally, the Cruz-Bridenstine bill would phase out the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requirements over 5 years. The RFS, a federal folly adopted during the Bush years by a Democrat Congress, requires increasing percentages of so-called “renewable” biofuels to be blended into gasoline and diesel every year. The law now requires more such biofuels to be blended than are produced, which has left refiners forced to pay fines for failing to comply with impossible requirements. That has only arbitrarily increased gas prices, which harms the poor most of all, who often lack the money even to fuel essential drives to school, the grocery store, the pharmacy, or even mandatory court appearances. For these costs, the RFS provides essentially no actual benefits.

This comprehensive American energy liberation is a very Reagan-like policy that shows presidential vision and leadership. It shows that Cruz understands how to create jobs and rising wages and incomes, while Obama has shown he does not. Those Progressives out there who think they can laugh off Cruz should learn that in the late 1970s, Reagan was not socially acceptable among the elite Washington establishment. Within a few years, he had won two landslide national elections, including one over an incumbent Democrat president.

[First published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Bitter Harvest of Obama’s Transformation

Somewhat Reasonable - May 17, 2014, 11:02 AM

In campaigning for the presidency, Barrack Obama inspired popular support of millions of voters by eloquently promising to “transform” America with “fundamental” change. Now his popularity is at its all-time low, his signature legislation, Obamacare, has been a disaster, his highly touted—and extremely expensive—stimulus program has failed. He has done nothing to lower the federal debt or tackle the future insolvency of Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.And the economy continues to stumble 58 months after the recession officially ended.

In the first quarter 2014, home loan demand plunged 58% from the same period a year ago and 23% percent from fourth quarter 2013. Ever since the Fed began its “quantitative easing”— printing money—in late 2008, it was hoped that driving down interest rates would stimulate home buying and lead to growth in other segments of the economy. Many people were able to refinance their homes with lower mortgage rates, but the hoped-for follow through for the rest of the economy has been very weak. Moreover, the low interest rates have a sizable downside: they lowered the purchasing power of millions of retirees struggling to supplement fixed incomes with decent returns from low-risk investments.

Since the recession ended 58 months ago in 2009, the gross domestic product (GDP) has grown only 1.8% a year on average, half the rate of the past three recessions. The unemployment rate remains stubbornly high at 6.7%, and the standard of living for most people has declined. Median household income declined 1.65% in 2008 and 2.6% in 2009—but it continued to fall after the end of the recession: by 2.3% in 2010 and 2.5% in 2011. In 2013 median household income was 6.2% lower than in 2007, the official beginning of the recession. And it was 4.7% lower than in June 2009, the official end of the recession. Obama’s policies have put the country on the wrong track. This is emphasized by the fact that since the end of the recession, employment has risen from 140 million to 145.7 million—but the number of Americans who are neither working nor seeking to work soared from 80.9 million to 91.4 million!

The labor participation rate includes workers and those looking for work but not those who have quit looking for work. This rate now stands at 62.8%, the lowest in 36 years. The employment rate (employment-to-population ratio) stands at 58.9%, compared to 59.4% in 2009. Pathetic as those numbers are, the situation is much worse than they indicate. As we pointed out in a previous posting, 60% of the jobs lost during the recession were in the middle pay range and only 21% in lower paying jobs, but almost the exact opposite occurred during the so-called recovery: 58% of the new jobs were low-paying while only 22% were in the middle range. In short, workforce income has downshifted. Far from showing an economic recovery, the numbers collectively show the economy has been going downhill since Obama became president.

Obama got elected by promising a fantasy he cannot deliver because it is disconnected from economic realities. The “transformational change” he promised has burdened the economy with wasteful government spending, mounting debt, tax increases and costly regulations that dissuaded business from investing and hiring. Evidence throughout the world shows the path to prosperity lies in reducing government spending and government’s role, not in increasing them as Obama has done. The International Monetary Fund data show that nations which restrained government spending enjoyed above-average economic growth. Daniel Mitchell of the Cato Institute provides some examples:

In Sweden, government budgets grew an average of only 1.9% annually from 1992 to 2001, and government spending as a percent of GDP dropped 15%.

In Germany, government spending grew an average of less than 0.2% annually 2003 to 2007, and government spending dropped to 5.4% of GDP. A significant budget deficit became a surplus.

In Canada, government spending grew an average of only 0.8% annually 1992 to 1997, and government spending as a percent of GDP dropped 9.4%. A large deficit turned into a surplus.

Latvia has cut government spending by an average of more than 4% annually since 2008 and reduced government spending as a percent of GDP by more than 7%.

Other nations with similar results include: Ireland (1985-89), Slovakia (2000-04), Singapore (1998-08), Italy (1996-2000), Lithuania (2008-present), Taiwan (2001-06), Israel (2002-05), Estonia (2008-11), Iceland (2008-present) and the Netherlands (1995-2000).

Regulations slow economic growth and impose costs on business and consumers. They make business less competitive and leave consumers less money for saving or spending—including spending for necessities. The overall cost of federal regulatory compliance is estimated at $1.9 trillion annually in a new study, based largely on government documents, by Wayne Crews of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. This amounts to $14,974 per U.S. household, because the added cost of regulatory compliance is embedded in the prices of all goods and services. Regulation is not a free service provided by a benevolent government for its citizens; it is a service that costs them much more than they realize. But by far the greatest and most tragic cost is the slower economic growth that has meant fewer jobs, lower incomes and vanishing economic possibilities that tens of millions of Americans will never see.

The 2013 Federal Register contains 3,659 final rules, which means they must be obeyed now, and 2,594 proposed rules that will have to be obeyed when their final publication appears. Mr. Crews reports that there are another 3,305 regulations moving through the pipeline. Of these, 191 are defined as “economically significant” (having annual costs over $100 million each). This means we are likely to see even more of these expensive regulations from Obama’s remainder in office than in his first 3 years as president, when 106 new regulations in this cost category were adopted. That compares to 28 during the eight years of the George W. Bush administration.

The Federal Register in 2013 contained 79,311 pages. The all-time record was 81,405 pages in 2010. Four of the five largest occurred during Obama’s presidency.

Regulations also impose costs by delaying or denying permits for enterprises that would provide employment. Obama has stated his goal of income equality affects everything he does, even why he ran for president. He speaks out against the rich with the class warfare rhetoric of Saul Alinsky and Karl Marx. This makes him popular with middle and lower income voters and unwilling to approve permits or regulations that would favor business or the wealthy—even when they would provide jobs and good wages for the very people he professes to be most concerned about. A case in point is the oil and gas industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, new jobs in the oil and gas industry increased 92% between 2003 and 2012, compared to a 3% increase in all jobs during this period. The BLS says the average annual wage in the oil and gas industry was $107,200 in 2012, the latest full year available. At the other end of the scale, waiters and waitresses earned about $16,200 a year, workers in the accommodations industry averaged $27,300, and those in retail trade averaged $27,700. But in oil boom regions, energy development lifted wages for low-income workers, too.

Williston, North Dakota, and Sidney, Montana, are oil boom towns on the western edge of the Bakken geologic formation. Drs. Polzin and Whitsett report:

“Before the Bakken boom in 2003, BLS data showed that average wages in all jobs in Richland County [Sidney] and Williams County [Williston] were roughly equal to their state averages. In Richland County, wages averaged $30,000, or 91% of the Montana average. In Williams County, wages averaged $32,700, or 97% of the North Dakota average.

“The data show that these counties now have average wages that have risen to 133% (Montana) and 170% (North Dakota) of their state averages. And wages in lower-paying jobs have also increased in inflation adjusted terms and relative to the region. In Richland County, food service wages have risen 109% (from 80%) of the Montana average. In Williams County, wage growth has been even more dramatic—to 146% from 97% before.”

The authors point out that these two counties are not atypical but characteristic of oil and gas development throughout the U.S. They conclude: “Lower-paid workers in retail trade, food services and accommodations jobs experienced much faster than expected increases in wages per worker. The data don’t lie.”

The reality of lower-wage, less-skilled workers benefiting from higher-wage, more skilled workers does not jibe with collectivist ideology to which Obama clings. That ideology holds that people becoming rich under capitalism do so at the expense of the poorer classes. That is the essence of the class warfare attacks against the rich and demands that they pay higher taxes— their “fair share”—and that government redistribute this wealth. The more some people increase their wealth, the more virulent become the diatribes against the inequality of wealth. The clamor increases for extending unemployment benefits, other transfer payments, food stamps, subsidies for Obamacare, and other welfare measures, all disincentives to work.

North Dakota has an unemployment rate of 2.6%, the lowest in the nation. You’d think Obama would want to emulate North Dakota in order achieve jobs and lower the unemployment rate elsewhere. He has spoken repeatedly about his concern for “jobs, jobs, jobs,” which he claims to be concerned about and trying to create. But he has so far refused to approve the Keystone XL pipeline to bring oil from Alberta to refineries on the Gulf Coast, which would create thousands of jobs just like happened in North Dakota. Last year North Dakota added 18,000 jobs; the Keystone XL pipeline would add 20,000 jobs over several states. The Keystone XL pipeline has been waiting for approval since 2008. (It appears the White House doesn’t want to reject the pipeline until after the November elections because billionaire Tom Steyer, who is pleased by the delay, has promised $100 million to help the Democrats retain the Senate. Obama doesn’t want to nix the pipeline until after November elections because several Democratic office holders are in favor of the pipeline and might lose re-election if the pipeline is vetoed.)

Another illustrative example in the oil and gas industry is Oregon’s Jordan Cove terminal for exporting liquefied natural gas. It will provide Rocky Mountain drilling states with easier access to international markets; however, it took two years to obtain federal approval, which happened just last month. The regulatory delay was tantamount to a 100% tax on the profits that would have been made during those two years. The costly delay would no doubt have been even longer if Putin’s invasion of Crimea had not led Congress to push for more exports to ease Russia’s control over Europe’s energy needs. Significantly, there are 24 other liquefied natural gas terminal projects waiting for approval.

Before wealth can be “redistributed,,” it must first be created. Obama’s policies act against the creation of wealth. Food stamps do not create jobs. Extending unemployment benefits does not create jobs. Waiters and waitresses and others in low-paying employment do not create jobs; they benefit from jobs created by others.

How do people become wealthy? By providing goods, services and jobs that other people accept to better themselves. Consumers and workers choose new or more economical products, more efficient service or a better paying job because those things are in their self-interest. Other people provide these things through innovation, capital investment and hard work. Some get rich from this process. So much the better, for now they have the know-how and capital to do more of the same. Buyers and sellers enter transactions for their own benefit, but each side must benefit the other in order to succeed. Transactions are “win-win.” In this system those who accumulate the most wealth are those who most enrich others through the freedom of the marketplace. These are the people Obama targets for higher taxes in order to make them pay their “fair share.”

When Obama castigates the wealthy for not paying their “fair share,” his accusation is devoid of any respect for their natural rights. Under a system of natural rights, every individual has a natural right—by the cause-and-effect principle—to whatever wealth he accumulates by the exercise of his rights through labor and trade with others. That is the only “fair” system for the distribution of wealth. It is also the most efficient way of utilizing financial, human, and material resources and raising the standard of living in society.

Aristotle was the first to introduce the cause-and-effect principle in human thought, more than 2,000 years ago, but it has been at the root of knowledge far longer. At least as far back as primitive man learned to hunt or grow food, he has employed the cause-and-effect principle to learn about the world around him and advance his condition. The same cause-and-effect principle is applied so often today we take it for granted in our daily routines, our work, providing for our families and their futures, in medical research and countless other scientific pursuits that extend our knowledge of nature. It is this same principle that identifies property as an effect of action stemming from the right to life, which is the cause. The right to property was seen by our Founding Fathers as the principle means of exercising their right to the “pursuit of happiness,” which is a moral statement of an individual’s natural right to act for his own self interest. It means his own happiness is a moral purpose of his life, in the context of his own rights and respecting the same rights of others. The only political system for this is free-market capitalism.

Natural rights are “unalienable,” as the Declaration of independence states. That means they are “not transferable to another person or capable of being repudiated.” You cannot repudiate natural rights; you can only honor them or violate them—as Obama has done by trying to “fundamentally transform” America. It is appropriate to recall Étienne Gilson’s observation, “The natural law always buries its undertakers.”

When government attempts to redistribute wealth, it necessarily violates the property rights of some for the unearned benefit of others. Some people gain, others lose. Unlike free-market transactions, which are win-win, government-forced economic transactions are win-lose. The more win-lose transactions proliferate, the more the economy underperforms what would be achieved by the win-win transactions of a free market. Obamacare is a perfect example: tens of millions of people lose by being forced to pay more for their health insurance, and the money is redistributed to others in the form of unearned health benefits and salaries to administrators.

Obamacare is not an exception. All government economic interventions are win-lose transactions. They are wasteful, distort price signals, misallocate funds, and foster inefficient use of natural resources. In a future posting we shall discuss these issues and include examples. For now, we conclude with further evidence against demands for economic equality and show that the disparity is NOT increasing, as is frequently claimed. Those claims are simply phony propaganda for advancing socialist schemes.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, inheritance and gifts account for 16% of household wealth of the top quintile. For the hated top one percent, inheritance is about 15%. Those numbers have declined by almost half in recent decades. Meanwhile, inheritance comprises 43% of the lowest quintile of household wealth and 31% of the second-lowest quintile.

Kevin D. Williamson writes: “The wealthiest Americans work for their money, and the poor could learn from them. Wealthy households contain on average more than four times as many full-time workers as do poor households….They live modestly relative to their means and for the most part do not work on Wall Street or as corporate executives….

“The country would in fact be far better off if more people lived the way the top 20 percent do: married, working their butts off, saving and investing their money, and living within their means. …as a practical matter we are running out of ways to spend money on the needy: We already pay for education, food, housing, job training, health care, heating, etc.”

[Originally published at American Liberty]

Categories: On the Blog

Net Neutrality Rhetoric: ‘Believe it or not!’

Somewhat Reasonable - May 16, 2014, 12:11 PM

With due credit to Ripley’s Believe it or Not!®,” so much odd and bizarre is happening in Washington in the “name” of “net neutrality” that the topic calls for its own collection of: “Believe it or Not!®” oddities.


Net Neutrality activists who have long condemned the FCC for not making the Internet fast enough now condemn the FCC for proposing to make the Internet faster!

Google and Amazon oppose the FCC enabling them to pay for fast-lane delivery of their online services when they both are launching very-costly, same-day, home delivery services!

The U.S. Post Office, Fedex, UPS, and DHL, which all allow faster, paid-prioritized delivery of letters and packages, the airlines and the TSA, which allow faster paid-prioritized plane-boarding and airport-security-clearance, and consumers, which have long paid more for faster-lanes to the Internet, apparently “didn’t get the Free Press memo” that “paid-prioritization” and faster service is a bad thing!

Net neutrality activists think they can get Gigabit-speed broadband by imposing kilobit-speed Title II regulations!

Net neutrality activists’ latest claim that we currently have an equal speed Internet with no slow or fast lanes, ignores what all consumers know, that they can get free access to slower Internet or pay more for whatever faster Internet speed they want or need!

Sloganeers’ serial and opportunistic rebrandings of “net neutrality” have so confused it’s meaning that the latest “No Internet fast lanes” rallying cry implies opposition to most everyone’s desire for a speediest Internet!

By opposing Internet fast lanes as unfair, net neutrality proponents are arguing for everyone to have equally slower Internet service!


While advocating the use of 706 authority to accelerate broadband deployment and “remove barriers to infrastructure investment,” the FCC also is toying with imposing Title II utility regulation, which would enshrine the FCC as the single biggest barrier to infrastructure investment ever!

In seriously considering Title II utility regulation of broadband, the FCC considers protecting edge providers freedom to innovate without permission by taking away broadband providers freedom to innovate without the permission of the FCC!

America’s aristechractic Internet companies, which enjoy the least regulation, taxation, and law enforcement from government of any sector, are aggressively pushing the FCC for the most draconian type of regulation possible on the broadband industry!

Internet Association members imagine that playing with the launch of a Title II reclassification “nuke” would present no risk of “fallout” for them or the Internet ecosystem!

Internet Association President Michael Beckerman strongly opposed Net Neutrality regulation and Title II reclassification when he was on the Hill, butnow is among its most ardent proponents!

Net neutrality coiner Tim Wu has proposed a novel Title II corporate welfare scheme to the FCC that would apply Title II regulation only to Silicon Valley’s downstreaming “telecommunications,” that combined with his recommendation for zero-pricing of downstream traffic, would then force users to shoulder the entire cost burden of upgrading the Internet’s infrastructure!

Net Neutrality professors Tim Wu and Susan Crawford think broadband should be regulated as a utility like monopoly electricity, water and gas utilities are, but electricity, water and gas cannot be delivered via copper, coax, fiber, wireless and satellite like broadband can!


The Internet Association threatens to “go SOPA” on the FCC if they have to pay “commercially reasonable” prices for special delivery of their high-volume video streaming rather than their non-negotiable demand of a zero price for downstream traffic – forever!

Silicon Valley interests and net neutrality activists are making a federal case over the difference between a “commercially reasonable” and a “just and reasonable” pricing standard!

Silicon Valley companies and investors suggest that the Internet start-ups they fund can’t afford a “commercially reasonable” price for bandwidth!

Strange but true.

“Believe it or Not!®”

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

Storms of My Father

Somewhat Reasonable - May 16, 2014, 10:58 AM

James Hansen has a fantasy book out called “Storms of my Grandchildren.” I say fantasy because it seems that if you are climate scientist, or pretend to be (Dr. Hansen is actually a trained astronomer and a darn good one from what I have heard), you are allowed to make forecasts that no one now will be around to verify, and the ones you do make short term are allowed to bust and then be claimed as correct anyway. I think a lot of people in my business, who pre-date the rise of the climate science hero, are wondering if we chose the wrong profession.

However, I have a real story. It ties in with the major worry we have about what on paper in the large term is a less than spectacular hurricane season. And now I see forecasts coming out that look and sound much like what WeatherBell Analytics has had out for quite some time now.

Read about it here. It has been out since the start of April!

I thought I would recount a story that my dad would tell me. We were still living in Rhode Island at the time, before my father went to Texas A&M to get his degree in meteorology, and it may have been around the time of Donna in 1960. But he always knew I would get fired up when he told me as a little kid (I was not normal – the 3 bears never hacked it for me). Of course my “nonna” knew she could fire me up with Oreo cookies, but that shows you how much I loved the hurricane stories too.

Side note: The senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse (interesting name if you have presidential ambitions using global warming as an agenda to get attention, eh?), either does not know what happened to his home state between1954-1960, even after being devastated in 1938 and hammered to a lesser degree in 1944 by hurricanes, or he is trying to purposely use the fact that less and less of the population that remembers is around so he can distort the current hurricane conditions. This is par for the course given what is obviously a politically-driven agenda now. But how do you try to say things are worse now than they were then? We have a radar fence on the East Coast partly because former Rhode Island Senator T.F. Greene (the airport is named after him) thought it was important for the state to get prepared for hurricanes slamming them in alarmingly frequent fashion. He was probably tired of thinking storms would pass to the east and then dealing with hurricane blasts knocking over trees left and right.

In any case the story of my father involved the New England hurricanes of 1954, Carol and Edna. My father’s story: “Joe I came home from work at 8 am (he was working the graveyard shift at United Wire in Cranston) and turned on the Today Show. And the announcer (I believe at the time David Garroway) was saying Hurricane Carol was passing east of Cape Hatteras and would ‘break up east of Cape Cod’ that afternoon.” Then, with a pause to enhance the drama, dad would say, “20 minutes later, the power went out at Westerly (RI).”

No wonder; look at this picture of Westerly from Carol.

His description of the passage of Carol was interesting. At the height of the highest winds, which were at a constant roar, there was a cirrus overcast that one could see the sun through. As in so many storms that recurve, there is less rain east of the center relative to the west of the center. This is because of the storms’ structure changing as the cool upper troughs that catch these systems start to interact with the storm. However, there is no doubting the severity of the surge up Narragansett Bay, second only to 1938.

Here is the Edgewood Yacht Club in Cranston, RI, not more than five miles from where I lived the first five years of my life:

What is amazing is this picture. Remember what my dad said about the overcast being high and thin? Look at this guy fighting the wind, but notice you can see the cumulus clouds against a backdrop of high, or few clouds.

I can’t do justice to this, but a good description of Carol is in Wikipedia.

But it wasn’t over; not yet.

While Carol’s little sister Dolly recurved southeast of New England, dad’s story picked up with Carol’s ferocious sister, Edna. “11 days later, the power had just come back on and here comes Edna, being forecasted to travel the same track as Carol! At the last minute, Edna veered enough so the wind shifted from hurricane force gusts from the east and northeast to the north and northwest, not south like Carol. The center passed to the east of Rhode Island, over Cape Cod, resulting in a huge blowout tide in Narragansett Bay, and the exposure of ships not seen since the revolutionary war! But if Edna had stayed the course, then Rhode Island would have been devastated twice within two weeks! Nothing has come close to this since.”

Which says a lot about people that are trying to say things are worse now than ever, especially a U.S. senator from the state of Rhode Island, or any East Coast state for that matter given what happened between 1954 and 1960. (Remember, we had Hazel too in 1954, another story which I have linked with Sandy many times). And finally there was Donna in 1960 along the entire East Coast, which my dad wrote about at Texas A& M. With hurricane force winds from Maine to Florida, no other storm has come close to that since!

Now these storms of my father are not some fantasy about the future, but verified fact that less and less people alive today remember. But they were told and retold to me, which why I scoff so much at the hysteria whipped up by people today that look from afar, and may I add down the noses of people that actually experienced this.

My dad would always end the story, and he will tell it many times through the years: “Joe, do you realize what would happen today if this repeated itself?”

You know, it’s a scary thought for several reasons. 1.) The population and property now on the East Coast. 2.) The amazing politicization of the weather. 3.) The lack of what appears to me to be a media that will do its job to make sure the public understands that something like this has happened and can happen again, and that man does not have a darn thing to do with it!

Now let’s look at that 1954 season. You can easily see the tracks of the three sisters up the East Coast, the strongest by the way was Hazel, a category four hurricane in mid-October.

Notice there was only one big storm, Hazel, that came out of the deep tropics. Most of the action was to the north. The 11th storm was a fluke so to speak – it developed at the end of December in the northeast Caribbean. Again, can you imagine with the propaganda and the agenda today how this would be twisted as something less than natural? By the way, look at storm number four, Dolly. Suppose that was 200 miles further west, a stones throw in terms of the global circulation.

Let’s get to the water temps. around this time of the year back in 1954. There was plenty of warmth off the East Coast.

Now look at 2014.

Very similar with warm water in very close to the coast. Why? We are in the same decadol cycle in the climate overall; it’s why anyone that has studied hurricanes understands that we have been fortunate compared to the 1950s. Now again I want you to look at our forecast, which came out to clients first at the end of March, and went public on April 8th. Notice our worry and where it’s targeted.

The “Storms of My Father” were real. Perhaps I am guilty, because of a love for the weather and the way the weather has worked in its patterns throughout time (that’s called climate), of being a bit overdramatic here. But the fact that you see something before, and understand the cause, and then see it again and warn people you are in a similar set up, is far different from those who perhaps know what should happen, then try to attribute a different reason to it for their own gain. I don’t know. But there was a great senator years ago that grew up in New England like his brother before him who was struck down by an assassin’s bullet in the prime of his life. As perhaps a too idealistic and yes, a bit naive, teenager at that time, I was a big fan of RFK, and even today I wonder what would have happened if he and his brother lived. In any case, there was something he used to say that applies in a way to the hurricane threat today. While any storm that comes along, or multiple storms for instance like the “storms of my father,” may have some men asking, “Why?” I see the weather and climate for what it is and wonder, “Why not?”

Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.

© Copyright 2014 The Patriot Post

[Originally published at The Patriot Post]

Categories: On the Blog

It’s a Very Complex World

Somewhat Reasonable - May 16, 2014, 10:37 AM

In the 1980s I devoted a lot of effort to debunking a torrent of Green lies about pesticides and herbicides. This was before the Greens latched onto “global warming” which has since become “climate change” and the subject of a recent White House report filled with dire predictions of planetary doom and disaster.

Nobody died from using pesticides or herbicides in the 1980s or since unless they drank it straight from the bottle. When I talked with farmers they would frequently say “Do you think I would put this stuff on the crops my family eats if I thought it would harm them?” The Greens have always attacked anything that would increase crop growth by limiting the real harm of weeds or the predation of insect species. These days genetically modified seeds are a target for environmentalists though studies have amply demonstrated their crops are safe to eat.

Less food means less people and that has always been a major goal of the people leading the nation’s and the world’s major environmental organizations. The same formula applies to denying energy to people worldwide.

As for pesticides, we all use them to keep our homes and workplaces free of insects that are the key vectors for all manner of diseases. In a world before their invention, millions died from mosquito-borne diseases such as Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Encephalitis, West Nile virus and Malaria. Millions still die from malaria and these diseases because one of the most effective pesticides ever invented was DDT and it was banned because of the lies Rachel Carson told in her iconic, environmental book, “Silent Spring.”

The world is a very complex place and it is essential to have a fundamental understanding of how it works. One of the best new books on this subject is Robert Bryce’s “Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper” ($27.99, Public Affairs). What Bryce doesn’t know about energy is probably not worth knowing and, happily, he has authored several books on the subject. His latest provides wonderful and useful insights to the world we share today with seven billion other human beings.

Bryce quotes Edward Abbey, “one of the patron saints of American environmentalism” who, in 1971, said, “We humans swarm over the planet like a plague of locusts, multiplying and devouring. There is no justice, sense or decency in this mindless global breeding spree, this obscene anthropoid fecundity, this industrialized mass production of babies and bodies, ever more bodies and babies.”

This is the kind of thinking that is the hidden justification for genocides. Not surprisingly the leaders of the Nazi regime were all dedicated environmentalists. At the heart of much that passes for environmentalism is an attack on the energy sources that enhance or lives and agricultural practices that feed us.

It’s not by accident that environmental groups all trumpet the same doomsday lies at the same time. Their leaders get together to coordinate their efforts and the current one is aimed at what they call “de-growth”, the reduction of economic growth by any means.

With President Obama blathering about “climate change” threats, it should not surprise anyone to conclude that the horrible economic conditions he has imposed on our nation was not an accident, nor that he focuses on thwarting the provision of energy, the most vital component of economic growth.

“The prescriptions put forward by the degrowth crowd,” says Bryce, “are familiar. Nuclear energy is bad. Genetically modified foods are bad. Coal isn’t just bad, it’s awful. Oil is bad. Natural gas—and the process often used to produce it, hydraulic fracturing is bad.”  And it is no surprise that the Environmental Protection Agency—the most anti-growth governmental agency—has just announced steps to require the disclosure of chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, a technology that has been in use for more than a half century and one that has unlocked access to vast reserves of natural gas and oil.

It is essential to understand who the enemy is and it is groups like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and the Worldwatch Institute, to name just a few.

The next time some environmental spokesman is busy spreading fear, Bryce says it is necessary to keep in mind that “Their outlook rejects innovation and modern forms of energy. It rejects business and capitalism. We must move past the climate of fear to one of optimism. We must move past fear of technology to an understanding that technology isn’t the problem; it’s the solution.”

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Why Michael Sam’s Draft Position Makes Sense

Somewhat Reasonable - May 16, 2014, 12:26 AM

St. Louis Rams fans will soon be applauding Michael Sam … if he makes the team.

Cato’s David Boaz writes on what he views as the biased way the NFL Draft treated Michael Sam and the “cost of discrimination”:

“Lately some people have proclaimed victory in the battle for equal treatment of gays and lesbians. Last month a group of gay marriage supporters urged their allies to be magnanimous in the final period of the “hard-won victory over a social order in which LGBT people were fired, harassed, and socially marginalized” and not to seek to punish remaining dissenters from the new perspective.”

“But this past weekend has reminded us that we haven’t quite achieved “opportunity to the talented.” Michael Sam was the Co-Defensive Player of the Year in the country’s strongest football conference, yet many people wondered if any NFL team would draft the league’s first openly gay player. Turns out they were right to wonder. Here’s a revealing chart published in yesterday’s Washington Post… Every other SEC Defensive Player of the Year in the past decade, including the athlete who shared the award this year with Michael Sam, was among the top 33 picks in the draft, and only one was below number 17. Does that mean that being gay cost Michael Sam 232 places in the draft, compared to his Co-Defensive Player of the Year? Maybe not. There are doubts about Sam’s abilities at the professional level. But there are doubts about many of the players who were drafted ahead of him, in the first 248 picks this year. Looking at this chart, I think it’s hard to escape the conclusion that Sam paid a price for being openly gay.”

Well, not exactly. Grantland does a good job of explaining why this isn’t a good metric of comparison:

“Before Sam came off the board, the writers and analysts who make up the broader NFL community on Twitter were becoming more and more furious. I got texts from friends who barely care about football, seriously concerned that Sam was going to go undrafted. A narrative was emerging: The league was avoiding Sam because of his sexuality. It’s unknowable what motivated individual teams, but the possibility is absolutely worthy of consideration. However, the most frequently cited evidence is, if I’m being honest, a little disingenuous. If you were following the story, you’ve probably heard it: Sam was named SEC Defensive Player of the Year (co–Defensive Player of the Year with C.J. Mosley, actually). Mosley went off the board 17th, continuing an eight-year run of SEC Defensive Players of the Year coming off the board in the first round. If the SEC Defensive Player of the Year always comes off the board in the first round, then why not Sam — if not in the first round, then at least in the middle of the draft?”

“Well, because that’s not a very substantial sample, nor one that means much in terms of predictive value — that award has been around only since 2003. There are actually plenty of examples of players who found themselves in similar situations. For a seven-year stretch from 2002 to 2008, the six players1 who won the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award were all drafted in the first round. The 2009 award winner, Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones, was drafted in the sixth round, 185th overall. The Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year award went to players who would be taken within the top 37 selections five years in a row, from 2000 to 2004. The 2005 DPOY was Nick Reid, and he went undrafted. An even more appropriate comparison might be one of the co–Big 12 Defensive Players of the Year this season, Texas lineman Jackson Jeffcoat. Jeffcoat, who had 13 sacks, was one of the two Associated Press All-Americans at defensive end this year. The other was Michael Sam. Despite that strong résumé, Jeffcoat went unselected in New York.”

And Pro Football Talk echoes the comparison: “Maybe Jeffcoat, who signed as an undrafted free agent with the Seahawks, will prove the teams that passed on him wrong and play like a guy who should have gone in the first three rounds. And maybe Sam will prove everyone wrong, too. But I believe Sam was a seventh-round pick because he’s a seventh-round talent.” Indeed, in a sense, it was a good thing Sam even got drafted, given how poorly he performed at the NFL Combine.

“The silent story in Indianapolis was the horrific performance by Michael Sam. He finished with the sixth-lowest grade of all 268 players, only besting three quarterbacks, an FCS offensive lineman, and a linebacker on one of the worst defenses in the Big Ten. Sam’s story is a polarizing one even though it shouldn’t be — your author is rooting for him — but the combine is the ultimate objective test, and Sam clearly failed this one. Everyone knows that the combine bears only tangential reality to playing football, but a miserable showing in Indianapolis won’t do anything to dissuade fears that Sam doesn’t have the physical ability to be a starting defensive end or outside linebacker in the pros.”

As I noted to Joe Weisenthal on Twitter during the draft, you typically draft guys like Sam in the sixth and seventh round: players who have good college numbers, or had a good year, but don’t project to have the physically freakish capability needed to succeed in the pro league. A good college performance may suggest that the player has a little more upside than his physical tools would project — but especially with players outside the skill positions, NFL scouts are overwhelmingly more concerned with physical tools than college performance, because the pro game is a different game.

Sam’s likely career as a seventh round pick projects as that of a journeyman backup and a player on special teams and in DL rotation, not as a longterm starter or Pro Bowler (like Patrick Peterson, Eric Berry, Patrick Willis, or Demeco Ryans — all compared to Sam as  prior SEC Defensive Players of the Year in Boaz’s chart). This isn’t to say that’s a bad thing: an example of a very successful NFL career for a seventh round defensive end of similar size and speed to Sam is that of Tully Banta-Cain, a pass-rushing specialist who rarely started over the course of his NFL tenure but was a key playmaking component of two Patriots Super Bowl teams. That’s an exceptional career for a guy with Tully Banta-Cain’s size, strength, and professional resume — but no one would compare Tully Banta-Cain to Patrick Willis, or be surprised that the former went in the seventh round and the latter in the first (though even Willis had to have an awesome combine to get there).

But stepping back from all this football talk: Boaz comes to the conclusion that the NFL was likely biased against Michael Sam for being openly gay not by looking at Sam’s individual performance, but by comparing him to one class he inhabits — the media award of SEC Defensive Player of the Year. There’s something telling about this little nod toward collectivism in Boaz’s critique. Sam’s being a member of that class of college football award winners doesn’t say anything here or there about the quality of that award, any more than C.J. Mosley’s (or any more than the Heisman told us about the ability of Troy Smith compared to Cam Newton). Nor does it say anything either here or there about the ability of someone who is gay or not gay to play football well. Boaz writes: “Let’s continue to look forward to a society in which it’s not news that a Jewish, Catholic, African-American, Mormon, redneck, or gay person achieves a personal goal.” I agree! That’s why viewing Sam as an individual, who should be evaluated as an individual based on his performance in his chosen field, is so important.

That’s what teams are uncertain about. While there would certainly be higher media attention and the potential for locker-room tension over Sam, that hardly seems to be a widespread phenomenon. This is a “just win, baby” league still, where NFL owners and General Managers care a lot more about rings, ticket sales, TV contracts and apparel deals than anything else. This is a league that tolerates all sorts of personalities and media firestorms of all stripes in order to pursue that aim. Maybe you could make the case that one or two owners could have such motivations, but it makes absolutely no sense for 31 owners and GMs to have passed up on Sam if he was such an obvious winner, missing out on drafting a superstar in the making because they are motivated by discrimination? The profit motive, the power of the marketplace, and the pressure to win all go against that idea.

Of course, I have no inside knowledge of whether any teams were scared off of picking Sam because of homophobia. But there was at least one team that was reportedly hesitant to pick him because they feared a backlash should they have to cut himBack to Grantland (emphasis mine):

“I spoke to one NFL team that suggested it was interested in drafting Sam and had no concerns about him fitting into its locker room or creating any distractions. The team was instead worried what the public perception would be if it drafted and then cut him — and this team had projected Sam as an extremely late pick, likely to be on its roster bubble — even if it made the move solely for football-related reasons.”

This is the real thing the NFL is concerned about: as a seventh round tweener DE/LB, the odds don’t favor a long career for Sam. Maybe he’ll beat those odds, and the league would love it if he does. If he has a long and productive career, the league office would be overjoyed as will most fans. But this unnamed team is acknowledging that this cuts both ways, and they fear that whether he succeeds or fails, Sam will not be viewed as an individual player, and instead as a representative of a class, and that the team that cuts him will be accused of bias or homophobia or worse.

For the 31 NFL teams that passed on Sam, that’s no longer a concern; for the Rams, it could suddenly become a big one. And if Sam eventually gets cut and there is such a backlash, the next openly gay player could face a harder road, not an easier one… not because of their own abilities, but because of the perceived inability of teams to treat them equally, as just another player.

I agree with Boaz that we want a marketplace open to talent wherever it is, but that marketplace also has to allow you to say someone isn’t talented enough to succeed in it without being accused of crippling bias. After all, what could be more ludicrous than viewing a football player through the reductive analytical lens of whom he has sex with? And yet people will do it, just like David Boaz.

Follow Ben on Twitter. Subscribe to his daily newsletter, The Transom

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Matt Kibbe at Heartland: Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff

Somewhat Reasonable - May 15, 2014, 9:20 AM

Matt Kibbe at Heartland practicing to lead a parade for liberty … if Americans ever embrace it again.

At a luncheon at The Heartland Institute yesterday, FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe, talked about this latest book, Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff: A Libertarian Manifesto. In his book, Kibbe attempts to define libertarianism to people who are ignorant of it and asking about it.

“I wanted to translate the ideas of liberty to connect to the people,” Kibbe said. “To the people that look at the Democratic Party and think I’m not one of them and look at the Republican Party and think I sometimes agree with them but I’m not one of them either.”

According to Kibbe, modern efforts to self-educate on liberty increases the need for publishing works like his latest book and much of what Heartland produces. However, finding a comprehensive work on libertarianism is not always that easy — or at least, easy to read.

Before delving into his book, Kibbe explained his own journey with liberty beginning at age 13. From searching through used bookstores for books of Ayn Rand and Adam Smith — then finding the Rand-inspired rock band Rush — Kibbe found his way to the economics department at Grove City College in Pennsylvania where he discovered he was not the only one who had been inspired by these thinkers. “Today, it’s so easy to find those books and ideas … you just Google it,” Kibbe said.

In Don’t Hurt People and Don’t Take Their Stuff, Kibbe condenses the ideas of Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, and Ludwig von Mises to efficiently explain the libertarian movement to the public. Kibbe specifically summarized Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments into two basic ideas, which became the title of his book: Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff. Aside from serving as a catchy title, these ideas are also the first two of the six rules of liberty Kibbe further outlines.

Kibbe discussed how today, people do not directly steal from one another, but elect politicians as means to outsource stealing through a third party. “The government is transferring wealth form the politically unconnected to the politically connected in Washington,” Kibbe said. This not only serves as an example of government encroachment but also a violation of the basic rule of man, treat everybody like everybody else.

According to Kibbe, the rules of liberty stem from this basic rule, and that the freedoms enumerated by the Constitution apply to everyone, no matter their race, religion or socio-economic status. An individual has to protect their liberty by taking responsibility and working to stand up to the government.

“The government goes to those who show up. If we don’t show up, the power goes to those who do, who may corrupt the power. We have to show up.”

(Kibbe is also the author of Hostile Takeover: Resisting Centralized Government’s Stranglehold on America and co-author of Give Us Liberty: A Tea-Party Manifesto.)

Categories: On the Blog

Misdirection Increasing in Size, Intensity & Coverage

Somewhat Reasonable - May 14, 2014, 9:06 AM

Once upon a time, oh, say 20 years ago, the talk was that the Pacific would be in a constant state of El Nino. Though this was an admission that the antics of the tropical Pacific control a large part of the global temperature, the idea of the El Nino and a forever warming planet was a global warming proponent’s dream come true. Because they ignored climate cycles and did not understand what Weatherbell.com meteorologist Joe D’Aleo, who also runs the climate blog “ICECAP,” showed plainly – that in the colder cycles of the Pacific, the La Ninas outdo El Ninos and vice versa – they assumed this would continue forever.

As the earth adjusted to the warmth supplied by this natural cycle, the warmth that was occurring, combined with the change of the Atlantic cycle to warmer, lead to a marked decrease in Arctic sea ice. It reached a crescendo in 2007, the year of the death spiral along with forecasts of no summer ice in 2014. Through it all, our side of the AGW argument said this is a natural phenomena, and once the AMO flipped, the summer sea ice, which is the most obvious talking point for those advocating the Arctic death spiral, would come back. As always, the Southern Hemisphere ice, because it was above normal, was ignored.

So here we are, with the summer of 2014 approaching. Much is being made of the coming El Nino, including for the fifth time since 1997, the dream of many of a “Super Nino” to get the badly busting global temp forecast back on track. We believe strongly this a classic Multivariate ENSO (MEI) bounce back event that spikes quickly then retreats, as we are back in the period that favors this. We can plainly see this cycle by looking at the MEI chart below.

The theory is not rocket science. It simply says the strongest events are after prolonged warm run ups, which happen when the Pacific in the overall sense is cool. You can plainly see the cyclical nature of the overall MEI and the spikes that occur, both when it’s been warm and cold. As I have said a thousand times, the explanation for the behavior of the oceans lies with Dr. William Gray’s ideas.

But here we are with the talk of a Super Nino, yet the far bigger event climate-wise is the increasingly positive summer sea ice anomaly being forecast that’s getting more impressive by the week. When combined with the major positive anomaly in the Southern Hemisphere, this offers a chance, in the summer of Al Gore’s no Arctic ice cap, for a record high global ice anomaly.

Heck of a way to run a global warm up, eh? There’s a chance of a record high global ice anomaly because of an above average summer sea ice anomaly in the north and what appears to be a a Southern Hemispheric sea ice that is heading for a record high itself. As of this writing, the Southern Hemisphere looks like this:

The north, as you can see, is below average, and you see the two summer sea ice minimums that lead to the hysteria. But while they were happening there was robust sea ice in the south (and I am all for thinking globally).

Average all this out, and here’s what you get.

Again, this is not rocket science. Given where we are globally now with the Arctic still below average, a forecast for the winter around Antarctica as depicted on the graph below would mean it’s likely each anomaly in their winter would remain well above average.

Should the northern ice cap expand to above average, the global average would have to go up, perhaps breaking the record. And you have to love all this, as it would occur in the summer touted by Al Gore to perhaps see the Arctic ice cap disappear. Ouch, that is going to leave a mark. If only someone would actually watch it!

The reason for the increase in the Arctic ice is because the north Atlantic, at least for the time being, has cooled. Most of the reason for the decrease in ice is not because of the warmth of the winters but because the warm cycle in the north Atlantic attacks the ice cap at the warm time of the year – both with warmer air temperatures and the warmer current below! But what happens when that changes for good? There were times in the 1950s when Arctic sea ice was very low, and though I have no satellite measurements, we do have panic reports like this from 1957.

20 years ago the idea of a constant El Nino warming the planet was a big deal, which is why we see the current fervor about the threat of a Super Nino. But the other, greater story is this canary in the coal mine; that the AMO will flip to cold for good by 2020, as Dr. Gray has opined, because of the cyclical nature of the oceans. This means that the darling of the warming crowd a few years ago – sea ice – will be the lipstick on a pig it always has been.

Think about it.

Super Ninos galore – NOT.

Ice caps decreasing. How did that work out given the Southern Hemisphere?

And now this?

Yet what are we hearing about? A likely overhyped event to get attention and whip up fervor, while the event that actually means something is ignored.

Now let me ask you this question. If we have a world with less than average global sea ice meaning all this warmth, what should be the natural progression of thought to the same person that pushed this missive as to what two above normal caps mean?

A question they probably do not want to answer.

Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.

© Copyright 2014 The Patriot Post

[Originally published at The Patriot Post]

Categories: On the Blog

Media Marxists Persuading the Government to Execute its Hugest Internet Power Grab Yet

Somewhat Reasonable - May 13, 2014, 1:24 PM

Allow me to (re)introduce you to the hardcore Leftists rabble rousing for a full-on government takeover of the World Wide Web.

Theirs is now an all-out push to have the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “Reclassify” the Internet – so as to then impose the utterly unpopular Network Neutrality.


All 95 Pro-Net-Neutrality-Pledge Democrats Lost On Tuesday - and Pledge Group Raised Less Than $300 On It (in 2010)


Net Neutrality: The Kid Sitting By Himself in the High School Cafeteria

“Reclassification” means unilaterally shoving the Web out from under the existing light-touch Title I rules the 1996 Telecommunications Act placed upon it – which have allowed it to blossom into the free speech-free market Xanadu we all know and love.

And then slamming it into the Title II heavy-regulatory uber-structure that has for the last seventy-plus years crushed with regs and taxes landline telephones – that well-known bastion of technological and economic innovation.

Does the FCC have the authority to Reclassify?  Of course not.  But this is the Barack Obama Administration - when has that ever stopped them?

The 1996 Act gave the Web the freedom every person and entity needs to thrive – and it has thrived beyond any and everyone’s wildest dreams.

Because it left the Left bereft of a regulatory hook – by which they can reel it in sport-fish-style – they now want the government to seize the Web, enmeshing it in a landline regulatory nightmare mess.

So they now want the government to seize the Web – enmeshing it in a landline regulatory nightmare mess.

The people calling for this are ridiculously Leftist.  They bear a striking resemblance to – and the heinous patchouli aroma of – the Occupy Wall Street radicals who in 2012 illegally befouled public places all across our nation.

Only these people are far more organized – and thus far more dangerous.

Call this iteration #OccupyTheInternet.  Led by the tiny band of Merry Media Marxists known as Free Press.


Activists Set Up Protest Camp Outside FCC Headquarters


FCC Protestors Vow To Remain Until Vote


Say nothing short of Title II classification for Internet access will do.

This is not Free Press’ first attempt at ridiculous Government Internet Power Grab Street Theatre.  The last time involved spatulas.


Waffle Breakfast at the FCC

Which was even more absurd than it sounds.


Who is Free Press?  For what do they stand?  Meet Free Press co-founder and current Board member Robert McChesney.

In addition to teaching college (Heaven help us) and having co-founded Free Press, he was the editor (2000-2004) and is a current board member of Monthly Review, which he himself describes as “one of the most important Marxist publications in the world, let alone the United States.”


McChesney describes their Internet objective thus:


“(T)he ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”


How very Hugo Chavez of them.

These clowns are of course getting support from the Congressional Communist Progressive Caucus.


Progressive Caucus Leaders Call for Reclassification


The leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus are drafting a letter asking the FCC to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service, a move that would give the agency more flexibility on net neutrality but may be legally or politically difficult.

Reps. Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison plan to send the letter to the agency next week, and plan to send a dear colleague letter to fellow lawmakers in hopes of garnering more signatories. Their backing of reclassification is significant, since it endorses an alternative to Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal in addition to just criticizing the plan.


Good old Representative Grijalva.

Raul Grijalvas first documented ties to the Communist Party USA date from 1993, when then-Pima County Board of Supervisors member Grijalva penned an article on NAFTA for the Partys Peoples Weekly World (now People’s World)’s November 13 issue.

These Marxists and their publications.

How do those of us over here in Reality view this government takeover of the Internet?  Not quite as highly.  Back in 2010 the following Democrat-festooned assemblage united against the same FCC power grab:


299 members of Congress - a large bipartisan majority - have asked you to not reclassify the Internet, and wait for Congress to first write law.  (And that was BEFORE the 2010 Republican wave election.)


More than 150 organizations, state legislators and bloggers have asked you to not reclassify the Internet, and wait for Congress to first write law.


Seventeen minority groups – that are almost always in Democrat lockstep – have asked you to not reclassify the Internet, and wait for Congress to first write law.


And many additional normally Democrat paragons have also asked you to not reclassify the Internet, and wait for Congress to first write law.  Including:


  • Large unions: AFL-CIO, Communications Workers of America (CWA), International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).


  • Racial grievance groups: League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Minority Media and Telecom Council (MMTC), National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Urban League.


  • Anti-free market environmentalist group the Sierra Club….


Even (former) Massachusetts Democrat Senator (and now Secretary of State) John Kerry…at one point said you do not have the authority.

I would imagine very little has changed for these folks – since nothing about the Left’s Internet assault has.

So the question now is: To whom will President Barack Obama’s FCC Democrat appointees - Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn - listen?

A massive, overwhelming bipartisan swath of Washington and the nation – or a tiny, uber-radical, Communist-riddled cadre of government expansionists?

Our first glimpse at an answer is Thursday’s Net Neutrality vote.


Seton Motley is the founder and president of Less Government.  Please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@SetonMotley) and Facebook.  It’s his kind of stalking.

[Originally published at Human Events]

Categories: On the Blog

Manmade Climate Disruption – the Hype and Reality

Somewhat Reasonable - May 13, 2014, 11:25 AM

The White House has released its latest National Climate Assessment. An 829-page report and 127-page “summary” were quickly followed by press releases, television appearances, interviews and photo ops with tornado victims – all to underscore President Obama’s central claims:

Human-induced climate change, “once considered an issue for the distant future, has moved firmly into the present.” It is “affecting Americans right now,” disrupting their lives. The effects of “are already being felt in every corner of the United States.” Corn producers in Iowa, oyster growers in Washington, maple syrup producers in Vermont, crop-growth cycles in Great Plains states “are all observing climate-related changes that are outside of recent experience.” Extreme weather events “have become more frequent and/or intense.”

It’s pretty scary sounding. It has to be. First, it is designed to distract us from topics that the President and Democrats do not want to talk about: ObamaCare, the IRS scandals, Benghazi, a host of foreign policy failures, still horrid jobless and workforce participation rates, and an abysmal 0.1% first quarter GDP growth rate that hearkens back to the Great Depression.

Second, fear-inducing “climate disruption” claims are needed to justify job-killing, economy-choking policies like the endless delays on the Keystone XL pipeline; still more wind, solar and ethanol mandates, tax breaks and subsidies; and regulatory compliance costs that have reached $1.9 trillion per year – nearly one-eighth of the entire US economy.

Third, scary hyperventilating serves to obscure important realities about Earth’s weather and climate, and even in the NCA report itself. Although atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have been rising steadily for decades, contrary to White House claims average planetary temperatures have not budged for 17 years.

No Category 3-5 hurricane has made landfall in the United States since 2005, the longest such period since at least 1900. Even with the recent Midwestern twisters, US tornado frequency remains very low, and property damage and loss of life from tornadoes have decreased over the past six decades.

Sea levels are rising at a mere seven inches per century. Antarctic sea ice recently reached a new record high. A new report says natural forces could account for as much ashalf of Arctic warming, and warming and cooling periods have alternated for centuries in the Arctic. Even in early May this year, some 30% of Lake Superior was still ice-covered, which appears to be unprecedented in historical records. Topping it off, a warmer planet and rising CO2 levels improve forest, grassland and crop growth, greening the planet.

Press releases on the NCA report say global temperatures, heat waves, sea levels, storms, droughts and other events are “forecast” or “projected” to increase dangerously over the next century. However, the palm reading was done by computer models – which are based on the false assumption that carbon dioxide now drives climate change, and that powerful natural forces no longer play a role. The models have never been able to predict global temperatures accurately, and the divergence between model predictions and actual measured temperatures gets worse with every passing year. The models cannot even “hindcast” temperatures over the past quarter century, without using fudge factors and other clever tricks.

Moreover, much of the White House and media spin contradicts what the NCA report actually says. For example, it concludes that “there has been no universal trend in the overall extent of drought across the continental U.S. since 1900.” Other trends in severe storms, it states, “are uncertain.”

Climate change, Johnstown Floods, Dust Bowls, extreme weather events and forest fires have been part of Earth and human history forever – and no amount of White House spin can alter that fact. To suggest that any changes in weather or climate – or any temporary increases in extreme weather events – are due to humans is patently absurd. To ignore positive trends and the 17-year absence of warming is abominable.

Fourth, sticking to the “manmade climate disaster” script is essential to protect the turf, reputations, funding and power of climate alarmists and government bureaucrats. The federal government doles out some $2.6 billion annually in grants for climate research – but only for work that reflects White House perspectives. Billions more support subsidies and loans for renewable energy programs that represent major revenue streams for companies large and small, and part of that money ends up in campaign war chests for (mostly Democrat) legislators who support the climate regulatory-industrial complex.

None of them is likely to admit any doubts, alter any claims or policies, or reduce their increasingly vitriolic attacks on skeptics of “dangerous manmade global warming.” They do not want to risk being exposed as false prophets and charlatans, or worse. Follow the money.

Last, and most important, climate disruption claims drive a regulatory agenda that few Americans support. Presidential candidate Obama said his goal was “fundamentally transforming” the United States and ensuring that electricity rates “necessarily skyrocket.” On climate change, President Obama has made it clear that he “can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won’t act, I will.” His Environmental Protection Agency, Department of the Interior, Department of Energy and other officials have steadfastly implemented his anti-hydrocarbon policies.

Chief Obama science advisor John Holdren famously said: “A massive campaign must be launched to … de-develop the United States … bringing our economic system (especially patterns of consumption) into line with the realities of ecology and the global resource situation.… [Economists] must design a stable, low-consumption economy in which there is a much more equitable [re]distribution of wealth.”

(The President also wants to ensure that neither a Keystone pipeline approval nor a toned-down climate agenda scuttles billionaire Tom Steyer’s $100-million contribution to Democrat congressional candidates.)

This agenda translates into greater government control over energy production and use, job creation and economic growth, and people’s lives, livelihoods, living standards, liberties, health and welfare. It means fewer opportunities and lower standards of living for poor and middle class working Americans. It means greater power and control for politicians, bureaucrats, activists and judges – but with little or no accountability for mistakes made, damage done or penalties deliberately exacted on innocent people.

A strong economy, modern technologies, and abundant, reliable, affordable energy are absolutely essential if we are to adapt to future climate changes, whatever their cause – and survive the heat waves, cold winters, floods, droughts and vicious weather events that will most certainly continue coming.

The Obama agenda will reduce our capacity to adapt, survive and thrive. It will leave more millions jobless, and reduce the ability of families to heat and cool their homes properly, assure nutritious meals, pay their rent or mortgage, and pursue their American dreams.

America’s minority and blue collar families will suffer – while Washington, DC power brokers and lobbyists will continue to enjoy standards of living, housing booms and luxury cars unknown in the nation’s heartland. Think Hunger Games or the Politburo and nomenklatura of Soviet Russia.

Worst, it will all be for nothing, even if carbon dioxide does exert a stronger influence on Earth’s climate than actual evidence suggests. While the United States slashes its hydrocarbon use, job creation, economic growth and international competitiveness, China, India, Brazil, Indonesia – and Spain, Germany, France and Great Britain – are all increasing their coal use … and CO2 emissions.

President Obama and White House advisor John Podesta are convinced that Congress and the American people have no power or ability to derail the Administration’s determination to unilaterally impose costly policies to combat “dangerous manmade climate disruption” – and that the courts will do nothing to curb their executive orders, regulatory fiats and economic disruption.

If they are right, we are in for some very rough times – and it becomes even more critical that voters learn the facts and eject Harry Reid and his Senate majority, to restore some semblance of checks and balances.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

[Originally published at Canada Free Press]

Categories: On the Blog

Urban Core Jurisdictions: Similar In Label Only

Somewhat Reasonable - May 13, 2014, 11:05 AM

The fortunes of U.S. core cities (municipalities) have varied greatly in the period of automobile domination that accelerated strongly at the end of World War II. This is illustrated by examining trends between the three categories of “historical core municipalities” (Figure 1). Since that time, nearly all metropolitan area (the functional or economic definition of the city) growth has been suburban, outside core municipality limits, or in the outer rings of existing, core municipalities.

Approximately 26 percent of major metropolitan area population is located in the core municipalities. Yet, many of these municipalities include large areas of automobile orientation that are anything but urban core in their urban form. Most housing is single-detached, as opposed to the much higher share of multi-family in the urban cores, and transit use is just a fraction of in the urban cores.

Even counting their essentially suburban populations, today’s core municipalities represent, with a few exceptions, a minority of their metropolitan area population. The exceptions (San Antonio, Jacksonville, Louisville, and San Jose) are all highly suburbanized and have annexed land area at a substantially greater rate than they have increased their population.

According to the 2010 census, using the 2013 geographic definitions, core cities accounted for from five percent of the metropolitan area population in Riverside-San Bernardino to 62 percent in San Antonio (Figure 2).

International Parallels

These kinds of differences are not limited to the United States. For example, the city (municipality) of Melbourne, Australia has little more than two percent of the Melbourne metropolitan area population. Indeed, the city of Melbourne is only the 23rd largest municipality in the Melbourne metropolitan area and has a population smaller than a single city council district in Columbus, Ohio.

These virtually random variations in core city sizes lead to misleading characterizations. For example, locals sometimes point out that San Antonio is the 6th largest city in the United States. True, San Antonio is the 6th largest municipality in the United States, but the genuine, classically defined city – the broader metropolitan area that is the urban organism – ranked only 26th in size in 2010. The suburbs and exurbs, as defined by municipal jurisdictions, are smaller than average in San Antonio, but the city itself stretches in a suburban landscape up to more than 15 miles (24 kilometers) beyond its 1950 borders.

Core municipality mayors have been known to travel around the as representatives of their metropolitan areas. In some cases core municipality mayors represent constituencies encompassing the entire metropolitan area (such as Auckland or soon to be major metropolitan Honolulu). Others have comparatively small constituencies. For example, the mayor of Paris presides over only 18 percent of the metropolitan area population, the mayor of Atlanta 8 percent, the mayor of Manila 6 percent, Melbourne 2 percent and Perth, Australia just 0.5 percent (Figure 3).

Core Municipalities in the United States

A remnant of U.S. core urbanization is evident within the city limits of municipalities that were already largely developed in 1940 and have not materially expanded their boundaries. These are the Pre-World War II Core & Non Suburban category of core municipalities. Between 1950 and 2010 these core municipalities lost a quarter of their population, dropping from 24.5 million residents to 19.3 million (Figure 4). All but Miami lost population. Despite improved downtown population fortunes, the last decade saw a small further decline of 0.2 percent overall. Only two legacy cities, New York and San Francisco, now exceed their peak populations of the mid-20th Century.

Again, this is the typical pattern internationally. Throughout the high-income world, the urban cores that have not expanded their boundaries and had little greenfield space for suburban development have had declining in population for years. My review of 74 high income world core municipalities that were fully developed in the 1950s and have not annexed materially showed that only one had increased in population by 2000 (Vancouver). Since that time, a few that had experienced more modest declines have recovered to record levels, such as Munich and Stockholm. Most others, such as London, Paris, Milan, Copenhagen and Zurich remain below their peak populations.

In the United States, most of the strong growth has taken place in the “Pre-World War II & Suburban” classification, doubling from 10.1 million residents to 20.4 million since 1950. These include core cities with strong pre-war cores, but which have either annexed large areas or already contained large swaths of rural territory at that time (like Los Angeles, with its San Fernando Valley, which was largely agricultural) that later became heavily populated.

Many of these core cities experienced population declines within their 1950 boundaries (such as Portland, Seattle and Nashville between 1950 and 1990). Los Angeles, however, has been the exception. The more highly developed central area (as defined by the city Planning Department) within the city limits has increased in population by one-third since 1950. The continuing suburbanization of the city of Los Angeles, however, is indicated by the fact that the central area’s share of city population has fallen from 68 percent to 47 percent.

The “Post-World War II & Suburban” core cities are much smaller and their metropolitan areas are nearly all suburban. These include metropolitan areas like Phoenix and San Jose. The population of these metropolitan areas has increased more than seven fold, from 700,000 to 5.2 million.

Land Area: The differences between the three historical core municipality classifications are most evident in land area. Among the “Pre-World War II & Non-Suburban” cores, land areas were almost unchanged from 1950, with much of the difference reflected in Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport annexation. In contrast, the “Pre-World War II & Suburban” cores more than tripled in size, adding an area larger than Connecticut to their city limits. The percentage increase was even larger in the “Post-World War II & Suburban” cores which covered 10 times as much land in 2010 as in 1950 (Figure 5).

Population Density: Over the 60 year period, the population density of the “Pre-World War II & Non-Suburban” cores dropped from 15,300 per square mile to 11,400 (5,900 per square kilometer to 4,400). The “Pre-World War II & Suburban” and “post-World War II & Suburban” cores started with much lower densities and then fell farther. The core city densities in these municipalities are approximately one-half the population densities of Los Angeles suburbs (Figure 6).

The Need for Caution

All of this indicates the importance of caution with respect to core versus suburban and exurban comparisons. For example, Atlanta, which represents only 8 percent of the urban organism (metropolitan area) in which it is located is not comparable to San Antonio, with its 62 percent of the metropolitan population. These distinctions are important when we talk about different regions.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He was appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council to fill the unexpired term of Governor Christine Todd Whitman and has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Chicago photo by Bigstock.

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

The Legally Problematic Nature of a Title II Reclassification of Internet Services

Somewhat Reasonable - May 13, 2014, 9:58 AM

I confess that I am more than a bit mystified at the way FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and his Democrat colleagues, seemingly, are moving ever closer in the direction of embracing a Title II reclassification of Internet access services. No matter how loud the banging of pots and pans outside the FCC’s headquarters, it would be terribly unsound as a matter of policy to subject Internet services to the same Title II public utility regulatory regime that applied to last century’s POTS (“plain old telephone”) service.

The irony of the Free Press organization urging protesters to bring pots to the FCC to make noise in the cause of imposing on today’s Internet providers the same public utility regulation that applied to Ma Bell’s POTS-era service seems to have escaped the protesters.

But put aside my mystification as to why Chairman Wheeler and his Democrat colleagues would want to align themselves with such a backwards-looking policy.

What also mystifies me is how little discussion there has been concerning the likelihood of success, or not, that a Title II reclassification would be sustained. As a said in my May 9 blog, “Pots and Pans and the Neutrality Mess,” the “FCC’s legal case would be fairly problematic.”

Here is the way I explained why this is so:

“While it is true enough that, under established administrative law principles, an agency may change its mind, it nevertheless must provide a well-reasoned explanation for such a change. Pointing to the number of protesters banging on pots and pans outside the FCC’s doors is not likely to suffice. Neither is pointing to the agency’s disappointment at already having been twice rebuffed by the DC Circuit under alternative theories.

The main reason the FCC’s case for sustaining a Title II challenge would be problematic is this: In defending its decision to classify Internet service providers as information service providers – thereby removing them from the ambit of Title II regulation – the Commission argued that, from a consumer’s perspective, the transmission component of an information service is integral to, and inseparable from, the overall service offering. This functional analysis of ISPs’ service offerings was the principal basis upon which the Supreme Court upheld the FCC classification determination in 2005 in its landmark Brand X decision.

I don’t think the integrated, inseparable nature of ISPs’ service offerings, from a functional standpoint, and from a consumer’s perspective, has changed since the Brand X decision, so it won’t be easy for the Commission to argue that it is changing its mind about the proper classification based on changed consumer perceptions of the service offerings’ functionality. And to the extent that the Brand X Court cited favorably to the FCC’s claims concerning the then-emerging marketplace competition and the dynamism in the broadband marketplace, those factors, if anything, today argue even more strongly for a non-Title II common carrier classification.

I understand the role that so-called Chevron deference can play in upholding agency decisions. Indeed, it played an important role in the Court’s decision in Brand X. But invoking Chevron deference won’t relieve the FCC of the need to provide persuasive reasoning in support of an abrupt about-face on a point the agency litigated – successfully – all the way up to the Supreme Court.”

As I’ve been puzzling over the lack of comment concerning the lawfulness of a potential FCC switcheroo regarding Title II, I reviewed once again the FCC General Counsel’s Memorandum dated May 6, 2010, in which Austin Schlick, the then-GC, set out to bolster the case for a Title II reclassification of Internet services should the Commission choose to adopt that course. Of course, the then-commissioners did not choose the Title II route.

Nevertheless, given its clear intent to bolster the legal justification for a Title II reclassification, the General Counsel’s memorandum is instructive. As I acknowledged in my blog last Friday, Mr. Schlick rightly observes that the FCC may well receive substantial Chevron deference for a reclassification determination and that an agency is entitled to change its mind if it offers persuasive reasoning for doing so.

I agree with these points of administrative law. But I think if Mr. Schlick’s memo is read closely, it indicates that it will not be so easy for the Commission to supply such persuasive reasoning. This is because, as Mr. Schlick readily acknowledges, in his opinion for the Supreme Court in Brand X, Justice Thomas declared: “The entire question is whether the products here are functionally integrated (like the components of a car) or functionally separate (like pets and leashes).  That question turns not on the language of the Act, but on the factual particulars of how Internet technology works and how it is provided, questions Chevron leaves to the Commission to resolve in the first instance….”

Having already resolved in the first instance the question of “the factual particulars of how Internet technology works and how it is provided,” it won’t necessarily be so easy for the Commission now to do an about-face. For as Mr. Schlick went on to say, an agency reassessment of the classification issue would have to include:

“[A] fresh look at the technical characteristics and market factors that led Justice Scalia to believe there is a divisible telecommunications service within broadband Internet access.  The factual inquiry would include, for instance, examination of how broadband access providers market their services, how consumers perceive those services, and whether component features of broadband Internet access such as email and security functions are today inextricably intertwined with the transmission component.  If, after studying such issues, the Commission reasonably identified a separate transmission component within broadband Internet access service, which is (or should be) offered to the public, then the consensus policy framework for broadband access would rest on both the Commission’s direct authority under Title II and its ancillary authority arising from the newly recognized direct authority.”

In other words, as Mr. Schlick understood, it won’t suffice for the Commission simply to bemoan the fact that the D.C. Circuit twice has held that the agency lacked authority for its earlier forays into net neutrality regulation. Instead, the Commission will need to show, as a factual matter, from a functional standpoint and from the consumer’s perspective, why its earlier technical analysis concerning the integrated nature of Internet service – that is, the inseparability of the transmission and information services components – is no longer “operative.”

Mr. Schlick quotes heavily from Justice Scalia’s dissenting analysis to bolster his case. But Justice Scalia’s analysis was accepted by only two other Justices. He was on the losing side of a 6-3 decision.

I am not saying that the Commission could not prevail if it ever decides to go the Title II route – as unwise as such a decision would be. But I am not aware that the functional nature of Internet access services has changed since the Commission initially classified Internet access as an information services. Nor am I aware that consumers perceive the way these services are offered, from a functional standpoint, any differently today than they did at the time of the agency’s initial classification determination.

That being so, I remain mystified at how little discussion there has been concerning the lawfulness, or not, of a potential Title II reclassification.

[Originally published at The Free State Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

Lessons from the Great Austrian Inflation

Somewhat Reasonable - May 13, 2014, 9:29 AM

This year marks one hundred years since the beginning of the First World War in the summer of 1914. The Great War, as it used to be called, brought great devastation in its wake. Millions of human lives were lost on the battlefields of Europe; vast amounts of accumulated wealth were consumed to cover the costs of combat; and battles and bombs left a large amount of physical capital in ruins. But the “war to end war,” as it was called, also resulted in another weapon of economic mass destruction – an orgy of paper-money inflations.

One of these tragic episodes that is worth recalling and learning from was the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the accompanying Great Austrian Inflation in the immediate postwar period in the early 1920s.

The Habsburg Monarchy and the Coming of World War I

In the summer of 1914, as clouds of war were forming, Franz Joseph (1830–1916) was completing the 66th year of his reign on the Habsburg throne. During most of his rule Austria-Hungary had basked in the nineteenth-century glow of the classical-liberal epoch. The constitution of 1867, which formally created the Austro-Hungarian “Dual Monarchy,” ensured that every subject in Franz Joseph’s domain had all the essential personal, political, and economic liberties of a free society.

The Empire encompassed a territory of 415,000 square miles and a total population of over 50 million. The largest linguistic groups in the Empire were the German-speaking and Hungarian populations, each numbering about 10 million. The remaining 30 million were Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Romanians, Ruthenians, Croats, Serbs, Slovenes, Italians, and a variety of smaller groups of the Balkan region.

Austria-Hungary’s Wartime Inflation and Postwar Political Disintegration

Like all the other European belligerent nations, the Austro-Hungarian government immediately turned to the printing press to cover the rising costs of its military expenditures in the First World War. At the end of July 1914, just after the war had formally broken out, currency in circulation totaled 3.4 billion Austrian crowns. By the end of 1916 it had increased to over 11 billion crowns. And at the end of October 1918, shortly before the end of the war in early November 1918, the currency had expanded to a total of 33.5 billion crowns. From the beginning to the close of the war the Austro-Hungarian money supply in circulation had expanded by 977 percent. A cost-of-living index that had stood at 100 in July 1914 had risen to 1,640 by November 1918.

But the worst of the inflationary and economic disaster was about to begin. Various national groups began breaking away from the Empire, with declarations of independence by Czechoslovakia and Hungary, and the Balkan territories of Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia being absorbed into a new Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. The Romanians annexed Transylvania; the region of Galicia became part of a newly independent Poland; and the Italians laid claim to the southern Tyrol.

The last of the Habsburg emperors, Karl, abdicated on November 11, 1918, and a provisional government of the Social Democrats and the Christian Socials declared German-Austria a republic on November 12. Reduced to 32,370 square miles and 6.5 million people—one-third of whom resided in the city of Vienna—the new, smaller Republic of Austria now found itself cut off from the other regions of the former empire as the surrounding successor states (as they were called) imposed high tariff barriers and other trade restrictions on the Austrian Republic. In addition border wars broke out between the Austrians and the neighboring Czech and Yugoslavian armies.

Postwar Austria and Socialist Redistributive Policies

Within Austria the various regions imposed internal trade and tariff barriers on other parts of the country, including Vienna. The rural regions hoarded food and fuel supplies, with black marketeers the primary providers of many of the essentials for the citizens of Vienna. Thousands of Viennese would regularly trudge out to the Vienna Woods, chop down the trees, and carry cords of firewood back into the city to keep their homes and apartments warm in the winters of 1919, 1920, and 1921. Hundreds of starving children were seen every day begging for food at the entrances of Vienna’s hotels and restaurants.

The primary reason for the regional protectionism and economic hardship was the policies of the new Austrian government. The Social Democrats imposed artificially low price controls on agricultural products and tried to forcibly requisition food for the cities from the countryside. The rural population resisted the food-requisitioning police units sent from Vienna, sometimes opposing the confiscation of their harvests with armaments.

The only thing that saved even more starvation was the effectiveness of a huge black market that got around the network of price controls and the provincial government restrictions that attempted to prevent the exporting of food to Vienna. Housewives in the Vienna would refer to, “My smugger,” meaning the regular black market provider of the essentials of life, and of course at prices far above the artificial prices set by the socialist government in the capital.

The Costs of Austrian Socialism and Hyperinflation

By 1921 over half the Austrian government’s budget deficit was attributable to food subsidies for city residents and the salaries of a bloated bureaucracy to manage an expanding welfare state. The Social Democrats also regulated industry and commerce, and imposed higher and higher taxes on the business sector and the shrinking middle class. One newspaper in the early 1920s called Social Democratic fiscal policy in Vienna the “success of the tax vampires.”

The Austrian government paid for its welfare state subsidies and expenditures through the monetary printing press. Between March and December 1919 the supply of new Austrian crowns increased from 831.6 million to 12.1 billion. By December 1920 it increased to 30.6 billion; by December 1921, 174.1 billion; by December 1922, it was 4 trillion; and by the end of 1923, it had increased to 7.1 trillion crowns. Between 1919 and 1923, Austria’s money supply had increased by 14,250 percent.

Prices rose dramatically during this period. The cost-of-living index, which had risen to 1,640 by November 1918, had gone up to 4,922 by January 1920; by January 1921 it had increased to 9,956; in January 1922 it stood at 83,000; and by January 1923 it had shot up to 1,183,600. The hypothetical consumer basket of goods that had cost 100 crowns in 1914 cost over one million crowns less than nine years later.

The foreign-exchange value of the Austrian crown also reflected the catastrophic depreciation. In January 1919 one dollar could buy 16.1 crowns on the Vienna foreign-exchange market; by May 1923, one dollar traded for 70,800 crowns.

At first the black marketeers in Vienna would accept the depreciating Austrian crown as payment for smuggled goods from the rural areas. But by the autumn of 1923, they would only sell for other commodities considered of higher and more tradable value that increasingly worthless paper money. A gold watch bought four sacks of potatoes; fifty cigars of a superior quality purchased four pounds of pork or ten pounds of lard.

During the worst of the inflation, the Austrian central bank printing presses were working night and day churning out the vast quantities of the currency. At the 1925 meeting of the German “Verein für Sozialpolitik” (the Society for Social Policy), Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises told the audience:

“Three years ago a colleague from Germany, who is in this hall today, visited Vienna and participated in a discussion with some Viennese economists . . . Later, as we went home through the still of the night, we heard in the Herrengasse [a main street in the center of Vienna] the heavy drone of the Austro-Hungarian Bank’s printing presses that were running incessantly, day and night, to produce new banknotes. Throughout the land, a large number of industrial enterprises were idle; others were working part-time; only the printing presses stamping out banknotes were operating at full speed.”

Ludwig von Mises and Ending the Austrian Inflation

Finally in late 1922 and early 1923 the Great Austrian Inflation was brought to a halt. This was due to a great extent to the efforts of Ludwig von Mises. Mises was a senior economic analyst at the Vienna Chamber of Commerce. He worked tirelessly to persuade those in political power that the food subsidies had to end. Finally, in 1922, he was able to arrange for several prominent business associations and the association of labor unions in Vienna to call for the elimination the government’s costly food subsidies at the controlled prices.

To ameliorate the differential effects that inflation was having on often raising the prices of goods before any rise in money wages, Mises proposed and had accepted a price indexation scheme linked to the value of gold, so that money wages on average would rise at the same rate as the general level of prices was going up. This would take pressure off the government to have to compensate with expensive food subsidies in the face of the rising cost of living, and which could be funded with no means other than further and further increases in the paper money supply.

Then Mises succeeded in persuading the Austrian Chancellor, Ignaz Seipel, that continuation of the inflation would lead to the economic and political ruin of the country. Mises warned Seipel that with an end to the inflation there would be a “stabilization crisis” during which the Austrian economy would have to go with an adjustment period. The market would have to rebalance itself due to the distortions and misdirection of labor, capital and resources that the inflation had brought about.

Seipel accepted that fact that the readjustment consequences were necessary if a worse disaster was to be avoided from a total collapse of the Austrian monetary system. The Austrian government appealed for help to the League of Nations, which arranged a loan to cover a part of the state’s expenditures. But the strings attached to the loan required an end to food subsidies and a 70,000-man cut in the Austrian bureaucracy to reduce government spending.

At the same time, the Austrian National Bank was reorganized, with the bylaws partly written by Ludwig von Mises. A gold standard was reestablished in 1925; a new Austrian shilling was issued in place of the depreciated crown; and restrictions were placed on the government’s ability to resort to the printing press again.

Austria’s Short-Lived Stability before Depression and Nazi Annexation

Unfortunately, Austria’s economic recovery was short-lived. In the second half of the 1920s, the Austrian government again increased expenditures, borrowed money to cover its deficits and raised taxes on the business sector and higher income individuals. This resulted in economic stagnation.

In 1931, Ludwig von Mises co-authored a report for the Austrian government that showed that fiscal policy had resulted in capital consumption. Business taxes, social insurance taxes and workers’ wages had increased so much between 1925 and 1929 relative to the rise in selling prices for manufactured goods that many enterprises had not had enough after-tax revenues to replace physical capital used up in production. Misguided Austrian fiscal policy had resulted in a partial “eating of the seed corn.”

With the coming of the Great Depression in the early 1930s Austria suffered a new financial crisis due to banking mismanagement. An attempted “bailout” to save some of Vienna’s leading banks created even more fiscal havoc with the Austrian government’s budget and a partial moratorium on payment of Austria’s international debt. Loans arranged through the League of Nations provided temporary stopgap remedies to the fiscal crisis.

But overshadowing even all of the economic chaos was a political crisis in 1933. A procedural voting dispute in the Austrian Parliament lead the Austrian Chancellor, Engelbert Dollfuss, to suspend the country’s constitution and impose a one-party fascist-type dictatorship. In 1934, Austrian Nazis inspired by Hitler’s coming to power in Germany a year earlier murdered Dollfuss in a failed coup attempt.

Four years later, in March 1938, Hitler ordered the invasion of Austria, and the country was annexed into Nazi Germany. Austria’s previous monetary and fiscal mismanagement soon paled in comparison to its fall into the abyss of Nazi totalitarianism and then the destruction of World War II.

For those who say that such things as a hyperinflation, economic chaos, capital consumption, and political tyranny “can’t happen here,” it is worth remembering that a hundred years go, in 1914, few in prewar Vienna could have imaged that it would happen there.

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

Environmental Shakedown

Somewhat Reasonable - May 12, 2014, 2:34 PM

Over a three-year period, 2009-2012, Department of Justice data shows American taxpayers footed the bill for more than $53 million in so-called environmental groups’ legal fees—and the actual number could be much higher. The real motivation behind the Endangered Species Act (ESA) litigation, perhaps, could have more to do with vengeance and penance than with a real desire to protect flora and fauna.

On May 7, I spoke at the Four Corners Oil and Gas Conference in Farmington, New Mexico. During the two-day event, I sat in on many of the other sessions and had conversations with dozens of attendees. I left the event with the distinct impression that the current implementation of the ESA is a major impediment to the economic growth, tax revenue, and job creation that comes with oil-and-gas development. I have written on ESA issues many times, most recently I wrote about the lesser prairie chicken’s proposed “threatened” listing (which the Fish and Wildlife Service [FWS] listed on March 27) and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s lawsuit against the federal government over the “sue and settle” tactics of FWS and the Department of the Interior.

 While at the conference, I received an email announcing that FWS has asked a federal court for a six-month delay in making a final determination on whether to list the Gunnison sage grouse as an endangered species—moving the decision past the November elections. Up for re-election, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) “cheered” the extension request. The E & E report states: Colorado elected leaders “fear the listing could have significant economic impacts.”

Kent Holsinger, a Colorado attorney specializing in lands, wildlife and water, posited: “Senator Udall is among those lauding the move—perhaps because a listing decision would affect his fate in the U.S. Senate. Gunnison sage grouse populations are stable, if not on the increase. In addition, myriad state, local and private conservation efforts have been put into place over the last decade. Those efforts, and the Gunnison sage grouse, are at risk if the FWS pursues listing.”

The report continues: “WildEarth Guardians is not opposing the latest extension after Fish and Wildlife agreed to some extensive new mitigation measures that will be made in the interim, including increasing buffer zones around sage grouse breeding grounds, called leks, and deferring coal, oil and gas leasing, said Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with WildEarth Guardians.” It goes on to say: “But the Center for Biological Diversity, which is a party to the settlement agreements with WildEarth Guardians, said the latest extension is a bad move for the grouse, which it says has needed ESA protections for years.”

Two important items to notice in the Gunnison sage grouse story. One, the power the environmental groups wield. Two, part of appeasing the environmental groups involves “deferring coal, oil and gas leasing.”

It is widely known that these groups despise fossil fuels. The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD)brags about its use of lawsuits to block development—but it is not just oil and gas they block, it is virtually all human activity.

In researching for this week’s column, I have talked to people from a variety of industry and conservation efforts. The conversations started because I read something they’d written about CBD. Whether I was talking to someone interested in protecting big horn sheep, a fishing enthusiast, or an attorney representing ranching or extractive industries, CBD seems to be a thorn in their side. All made comments similar to what Amos Eno, who has been involved in conservation for more than forty years, told me: “CBD doesn’t care about the critters. They are creating a listing pipeline and then making money off of it.” Environmental writer Ted Williams, in a piece on wolves, called CBD: “perennial plaintiffs.”

New Mexico rancher Stephen Wilmeth directed me to a CBD profile he’d written. In it he addressed how the CBD’s efforts targeted livestock grazing and sought “the removal of cattle from hundreds of miles of streams.” Wilmeth states: “CBD has elevated sue and settle tactics, injunctions, new species listings, and bad press surrounding legal action to a modern art form. Consent decrees more often than not result in closed door sessions with concessions or demands made on agency policy formulation.”

In a posting on the Society for Bighorn Sheep website titled: Legal tactics directly from the Center for Biological Diversity, board member Gary Thomas states: “The Center ranks people second. By their accounting, all human endeavors, agriculture, clean water, energy, development, recreation, materials extraction, and all human access to any space, are subordinate to the habitat requirements of all the world’s obscure animals and plants. But these selfish people don’t care about any person, plant, or animal. The Center collects obscure and unstudied species for a single purpose, specifically for use in their own genre of lawsuits. They measure their successes not by quality of life for man nor beast, but by counting wins in court like notches in the handle of a gun.”

You’d expect someone like me, an energy advocate, to dis the CBD—and I have (CBD is not too fond of me)—but how’d it get such a broad-based collection of negativity from within the environmental community?

Ted Williams told me: “environmentalists who are paying attention are not happy with CBD.” He has written the most comprehensive exposé on CBD that can be found—for which he was threatened with a lawsuit. Without Williams’ work, one has to resort to bits and pieces off the internet to put together CBD’s modus operandi—but there is plenty to choose from!

One of the most interesting ones to catch my eye was a part of the post on SheepSociety.com. There, Thomas points out the fact that the three founders of CBD are ex-forest service workers. He states: “To donors, their motives appear altruistic. To the informed, they look more like a 20-year quest for revenge for their firing.”

I am fairly well acquainted with CBD, but Thomas’ accusation was new to me—though it fit what I knew. (One of the very first pieces I ever wrote, when I originally got into this work seven plus years ago, was on the one and only legal victory ever won against CBD. Arizona rancher Jim Chilton won a defamation suit against CBD with a $600,000 dollar settlement. Nearly everyone I talked to as a part of my research for this story mentioned Chilton’s name with reverence.)

I dug around and found an interesting story from Backpacker Magazine that gave credence to Thomas’ claim. The February 2003 issue features a multi-page profile on Kieran Suckling, co-founder and executive director. Addressing the three founders, who were working for the Forest Service, Backpacker reports: “All three of them were frustrated by their agencies’ inaction.” The story goes on to explain how the threesome “hatched a plan” to petition the Forest Service and force it to list the spotted owl.

Then, I found a 2009 profile on Suckling in High Country News (HCN). It quotes Suckling describing how the roots of his full-time activism started while working for the Forest Service doing spotted owl surveys: “We had signed contracts saying we wouldn’t divulge owl locations, but we went the next day to the Silver City Daily Press, with a map that told our story. We were fired within seconds. That was the start of us becoming full-time activists.”

These snippets help explain Suckling’s animosity toward the Forest Service and other government agencies. CBD is gleeful over its results. It has sued government agencies hundreds of times and has won the majority of the cases—though many never go to court and are settled in a backroom deal (hence the term: “sue and settle”). Thomas writes: “They are extremely proud to report that single-handedly they deplete the U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s entire annual budget, approximately $5 million, for endangered species listings year after year by forcing them to use their limited funds defending lawsuits instead of their intended purpose.”

The HCN piece describes Suckling’s approach to getting what he wants—which he explains in the New Yorker, as “a new order in which plants and animals are part of the polity”: “The Forest Service needs our agreement to get back to work, and we are in the position of being able to powerfully negotiate the terms of releasing the injunction. … They [federal employees] feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed—and they are. So they become much more willing to play by our rules and at least get something done. Psychological warfare is a very underappreciated aspect of environmental campaigning.”

“In CBD speak,” adds Wilmeth, “the suggestion of playing by the rules equates to its rules of manipulating positive outcomes for its mission.”

Putting the pieces together, it does appear, as Thomas asserts, that Suckling is on a 20+ year “quest for revenge” for being fired—vengeance that American taxpayers are funding.

Suckling is an interesting character. The Backpacker story cites his ex-wife, who said the following: “He’s not tethered on a daily basis to the same things you and I are tethered to.”

Tierra Curry is another name that comes up frequently in CBD coverage. CBD’s staff section of the website lists her as “senior scientist” and says she “focuses on the listing and recovery of endangered species.” As Warner Todd Huston reports: “Curry has an odd profile for an activist. She once claimed to have enjoyed dynamiting creek beds in rural Kentucky and taking perverse pleasure at sending fish and aquatic animals flying onto dry land and certain death. Now Curry spends her time filing petitions to ‘save’ some of the same animals she once enjoyed killing.”

Perhaps Curry’s frenetic listing efforts are her way of doing penance for her childhood penchant of killing critters.

The role vengeance and penance may play in CBD’s shakedown of the American public is just a hypothesis based on facts. But the dollars paid out are very real.

In an April 8, 2014 hearing before the House Committee on Natural Resources, fifth-generation rancher and attorney specializing in environmental litigation, Karen Budd-Falen talked about the need for ESA reform, as four different House bills propose: “Public information regarding payment of attorney’s fees for ESA litigation is equally difficult to access.” Addressing HR 4316—which requires a report on attorney’s fees and costs for ESA related litigation—she says: “It should not be a radical notion for the public to know how much is being paid by the federal government and to whom the check is written.” As she reports in her testimony, Budd-Falen’s staff did an analysis of the 276-page spreadsheet run released by the Department of Justice (DOJ) listing litigation summaries in cases defended by the Environment and Natural Resources Division, Wildlife Section. She explains: “The spreadsheets are titled ‘Endangered Species Defensive Cases Active at some point during FY09-FY12 (through April 2012).’ Although the DOJ release itself contained no analysis, my legal staff calculated the following statistics.” Budd-Falen then shows how she came up with the nearly $53 million figure of taxpayer money paid out over an approximate three-year period. However, she then shows how her own Freedom of Information Act requests have proven “that the DOJ does not keep an accurate account of the cases it defends”—making the actual dollar figure much higher.

Budd-Falen has stated: “We believe when the curtain is raised we’ll be talking about radical environmental groups bilking the taxpayer for hundreds of millions of dollars, allegedly for ‘reimbursement for attorney fees.’”

Budd-Falen’s research shows that for groups like CBD—who sue on process not on substance—it really is about the money.

Eno believes that for the CBD, it isn’t about the critters: “CBD endangers the endangered species program on multiple fronts. First, their petitions and listing suits use up significant financial and personnel resources of both Office of Endangered Species and solicitors office in DOI. This means less funding and personnel devoted to species recovery. Second, CBD suits antagonize and jeopardize recovery programs of cooperating federal land management agencies, particularly USFS and BLM. Third, their suits have hampered forest and grassland management thereby inviting forest fires which endanger both human and wildlife (sage grouse) communities throughout the west. Fourth, CBD suits antagonize, alienate and create financial hardship for affected private land owners, thereby reducing both public support and initiatives and active assistance for listed species recovery.”

Despite numerous attempts, the ESA has not had any major revisions in more than 25 years. The Wall Street Journal states: “The ESA’s mixed record on wildlife restoration and its impact on business have made the law vulnerable to critics.” Groups like CBD have twisted the intent of the law. Reform is now essential—not just to save taxpayer dollars, but to put the focus back on actually saving the species rather than, as Wilmeth calls it: “the bastardized application of science, policy and education.”

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). Together they work to educate the public and influence policy makers regarding energy, its role in freedom, and the American way of life. Combining energy, news, politics, and, the environment through public events, speaking engagements, and media, the organizations’ combined efforts serve as America’s voice for energy.

[Originally published at Red State]

Categories: On the Blog
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