On the Blog

Wind Energy’s Bluster Peters Out

Somewhat Reasonable - January 12, 2015, 1:15 PM

Touted as “America’s first offshore wind project,” Cape Wind became one of America’s most high-profile and most controversial wind-energy projects. Fourteen years in the making, estimated at $2.6 billion for 130 turbines, covering 25 square miles in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts, the Cape Wind project has yet to install one turbine—let alone produce any electricity. Now, it may be “dead in the water.”

On January 6, the two power companies, National Grid and Northeast Utilities, that had agreed to purchase most of the electricity Cape Wind was to generate, terminated their contracts with the developers due to missed milestones. Under the terms of the contracts, Cape Wind had to secure financing and give notices to proceed to its suppliers to start work by December 31, 2014. Neither happened and both companies filed to cancel power purchase agreements. “The project is in cardiac arrest,” according to Amy Grace, a wind-industry analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Cape Wind has faced stiff opposition since it was first proposed in 2001. Senator Edward Kennedy’s efforts, and those of his wealthy friends, to fight Cape Wind have been the most publicized, but Native Americans, fishermen, and local communities have also battled the industrialization of Nantucket Sound. The town of Barnstable has been particularly active in the fight. The Cape Cod Times reports that Charles McLaughlin, Barnstable’s assistant town attorney, said: “The town’s concerns include the possibility that a collision between a boat and the large electric service platform the project requires could spill thousands of gallons of oil into the sound.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) positioned Cape Wind as the centerpiece of his renewable energy goals and invested significant political capital backing the proposal—including tying the NStar power purchase agreement to approval of the NStar and Northeast Utilities merger (given the unfavorable terms of the agreements, the companies may have been looking for any exit ramp). Yet, Ian Bowles, Patrick’s first energy and environment chief who, according to the Boston Globe, “helped shepherd the offshore project,” acknowledges that the loss of the power purchase agreements “may have spelled the end for Cape Wind.”

The announcement came two days before Patrick left office. While he claims: “We’ve done everything as a state government to get them over the regulatory lines,” Patrick concedes it is now “up to the market.” According to the Cape Cod Times, the former governor doesn’t know “if the project could survive without the contracts in place.”

Even the Department of Energy (DOE), which seems to indiscriminately throw money at any politically favored green-energy project, was tepid in its support for Cape Wind. DOE’s loan guarantees generally average about 60 percent of the project’s costs, but the $150 million offered to Cape Wind made up a mere 6 percent—and that, only after the project received commitments for about half of its financing. In most cases, the government guarantee comes before the private financing and signals a go-ahead for investors.

While both supporters and detractors believe the project is in jeopardy, environmentalists and Cape Wind Associates LLC have not yet waved the white flag. According to Kit Kennedy, director of the energy and transportation program at the Natural Resources research : “Cape Wind may be down, but it is not out.” The Boston Globe reports that Cape Wind’s president, James Gordon, believes the perpetual litigation “triggered a clause in the contracts that allows for more latitude in Cape Wind’s ability to meet the deadlines.” However, after the company already spent $50 to $70 million on the project, the fact that Gordon opted not to pay the utilities the mere $2 million needed for a six-month extension signals that he doesn’t have confidence that they can continue.

Additionally, the political winds have shifted. While Governor Patrick championed Cape Wind, Massachusetts’ new governor, Charlie Baker (R) is on record as being staunchly opposed to it—even calling it Patrick’s “personal pet project.” While campaigning, Baker “dropped his opposition to Cape Wind” because he believed it was a “done deal.” Now that the deal may well be undone, Baker says he “will not try to influence the outcome of the legal process surrounding the Cape Wind project.”

The cancellation of the contracts is “a near fatal blow” to Cape Wind according to Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a Cape Cod based group which has led the fight against cape wind.

Wind energy’s future faces problems beyond Massachusetts.

While Massachusetts’ utility companies filed to cancel power purchase agreements, two Minnesota wind farms, operating as Minwind Companies, were filed for bankruptcy because the eleven turbines needed extensive repairs and the 360 farmers and landowners who invested in the projects can’t afford the maintenance. Minwind CEO Mark Willers explained: “Minwind Companies have enjoyed relative prosperity in recent years, but the April ice storm last year took a toll on equipment—and on the budget.” At a December 17 meeting, he told shareholders: “We were 200 to 300 percent over budget to make those repairs.”

Minwind’s nine separate limited-liability companies allowed investors to take advantage of federal wind-energy credits, USDA grants, and the now-discontinued state assistance program for small wind projects. The Star Tribune reports: “The owners stand to lose their investment, and the wind farms eventually may have to shut down.”

On the national level, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has continued to lobby for a retroactive extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy that expired at the end of 2013. Disappointing AWEA, the lame-duck Congress did approve a ninth extension—but just through the end of 2014. AWEA’s CEO Tim Kiernan groused: “Unfortunately, the extension to the end of 2014 will only allow minimal new wind development and it will have expired again by the time the new Congress convenes.” In response to the “bare-minimum extension,” Luke Lewandowsi, Make Consulting research manager, said it “casts doubt on the willingness or ability of Congress to revisit the PTC in 2015.”

Adding insult to industrial wind’s injury, wind turbine installation placed number three in the list of 10 dying U.S. industries—following only computer and recordable media manufacturing.

All of this news doesn’t bode well for the wind energy business, but for ratepayers and those who believe in the free market and who believe that government shouldn’t pick winners and losers, current wind conditions are a breath of fresh air. Governments, both state and federal, have given wind energy every advantage, to quote Governor Patrick: “It’s now up to the market”—and even Warren Buffet admits the tax credits are the only reason to build wind farms.

Categories: On the Blog

Book Review: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

Somewhat Reasonable - January 12, 2015, 11:54 AM

Alex Epstein, author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” at Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change in July 2014.

“Epstein explains in philosophical terms how the public has been duped by the likes of Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Amory Lovins, and Bill McKibben for decades. Their real agenda has never been to save the world but instead to promote an idyllic view of nature untrammeled by humans. They have fooled the public into fearing fossil fuels, by focusing only on the risks of fossil fuel usage to mankind and nature, while ignoring all the benefits.”

In his new book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Alex Epstein makes one of the most compelling arguments for the moral value of fossil fuels and the need to increase their use that we have ever read. Although virtually everyone battling the anthropogenic global warming delusion takes a defensive position with regard to the world’s use of coal, natural gas, and oil, our so-called fossil fuels, Epstein recognizes that, as in sports, the best defense is a good offense.

Written in a conversational style that is easy to read and understand, this book can serve as a layman’s guide, refuting the absurd claims that man controls the climate, while explaining why the current abundance of oil and gas due to hydraulic fracturing will leave all efforts to impose wind and solar energy in our rear-view mirrors.

For Epstein, human life, well-being, and flourishing are the standard of value public policy should maximize. He calls this position ethical humanism, a theory that goes back to the ancient Greeks, if not before, and was virtually unchallenged as a basis for judging right and wrong until recently. He examines fossil fuels strictly in relation to their ability to enhance or constrain human well-being.

Unfortunately, many prominent environmental writers have rejected humanism, instead embracing a bio-centric philosophy that views human changes to the environment as intrinsically bad and takes minimizing human impacts on the environment as the prime moral goal. As such, bio-centrism is a prescription for human poverty, disease, starvation, and premature death—in other words, an endorsement of the world as experienced by all but the wealthiest individuals for the vast majority of human history.

Epstein explains in philosophical terms how the public has been duped by the likes of Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Amory Lovins, and Bill McKibben for decades. Their real agenda has never been to save the world but instead to promote an idyllic view of nature untrammeled by humans. They have fooled the public into fearing fossil fuels, by focusing only on the risks of fossil fuel usage to mankind and nature, while ignoring all the benefits. Epstein makes short shrift of the fear-mongering that focuses on catastrophic depletion of our fossil fuels rather than on the human ingenuity that always finds replacements for all our resources before they run out.

Fossil Fuels Power Progress and Well-being

Fossil fuel use has dramatically increased human life expectancy and reduced infant mortality in the developed world. Thanks to fossil fuels, “millions of individuals in industrializing countries have gotten their first light bulb, their first refrigerator, their first decent paying job, their first year with clean drinking water or a full stomach,” Epstein writes. Ultimately, the moral case for fossil fuels is not about fossil fuels; it is the moral case for using cheap, plentiful, reliable energy to amplify our abilities to make the world a better place for human beings.

The development and use of fossil fuels has benefitted the poor far more than the rich, making available to the person of average means, food, goods, and services that even the rulers of old could hardly dream of. Fossil fuels grant freedom and free up time.

Epstein builds on Milton Friedman’s explanations in his Free to Choose TV series where he explains that the rich do not benefit so much as others do from advances in energy, as they have always had servants to fetch, entertain, make clothes and the like. The achievement of inexpensive energy, Friedman remarks, “has made available to the masses conveniences and amenities that were previously the exclusive prerogative of the rich and powerful.”

Problems with Other Energy Sources

The book also briefly but effectively skewers all standard forms of renewable energy, including wind, solar, and biofuels (but not hydropower), explaining they are useful for niche applications but utterly unable to supplement fossil fuels in the electric grid or for transportation.

And yet our political leaders propose massive restrictions on fossil fuels with the promise that these inferior technologies will replace them. This reflects either an ignorance of (perhaps willful) or indifference to the need for efficient, cheap, reliable energy for 1.3 billion people without electricity and more than 3 billion who do not have adequate electricity. For everyone “to have as much access to energy as the average American, the world’s energy production would have to quadruple,” Epstein writes.

Seeing the Big Picture

Epstein’s assumption that human welfare and flourishing are the primary moral standard leads to a couple of important conclusions. One, we should look at the big picture when determining the value of using fossil fuels. That means we must examine not just the costs or potential harms to humans from fossil fuel use but also all the virtues and benefits it provides and the harms that would occur if fossil fuels are abandoned as a source of energy. If one has an open mind, it is apparent fossil fuels provide unique and tremendous benefits to humankind, unmatched by any other fuel source at current prices with current technology, benefits far outweighing the harmful by-products resulting from their use, even if one believes their use contributes to global warming.

Second, Epstein writes:

Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels.… Not only are we ignoring the big picture by making the fight against climate danger the fixation of our culture, we are ‘fighting’ climate change by opposing the weapon that has made it dozens of times less dangerous. The popular climate discussion has the issue backward. It looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe. High-energy civilization, not climate, is the driver of climate livability.

Restricting or ending fossil fuel use, not climate change, is the real recipe for disaster, Epstein argues. It would set human civilization back centuries, ringing a true death knell for present and future generations.

Epstein sums up much of his moral argument in his final chapter, “Winning the Future,” with this excellent statement: “We don’t want to save the planet from human beings; we want to improve the planet for human beings. We need to say this loudly and proudly. We need to say that human life is our one and only standard of value. And we need to say that the transformation of our environment, the essence of our survival, is a supreme virtue. We need to recognize that to the extent we deny either, we are willing to harm real, flesh and blood human beings for some antihuman dogma.”

This is a great book for all your open-minded friends willing to spend a few hours expanding their understanding beyond the myopic delusion purveyed by the contemporary mainstream media.


Jay Lehr, Ph.D. is science director, and H. Sterling Burnett is a research fellow, at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center based in Chicago, Illinois.

Categories: On the Blog

The FCC Is Unnecessarily Undermining its Legitimacy

Somewhat Reasonable - January 12, 2015, 10:27 AM

In directing the Wireless bureau to make two substantial, Commission-level decisions today, without the full Commission vote that was requested by Commissioners Pai and O’Rielly, (concerning the release of the annual wireless competition report and regulating cellular data roaming rates), the FCC Chairman unnecessarily undermined the legitimacy of the FCC at a critical time the FCC needs all the actual and perceived legitimacy it can get.

The FCC’s legitimacy comes from the authority of law written by a duly-elected Congress under the U.S. Constitution, and from the official votes from duly-appointed FCC commissioners, who in turn abide by: the powers vested in the Commission by the Communications Act; due process; and the Administrative Procedures Act.

Process matters.

Making rate regulation without an official vote of the Commission can create the public perception that a majority of the Commission may not support some, or all of the new rate regulation.

At this particular time in the FCC’s history, when the FCC is potentially poised to reclassify the Internet as a Title II telecommunications service to impose rate regulation for downstream Internet traffic, (which also could involve some forbearance from other rate regulations via the official forbearance process), the perception of the reliability of the FCC in respecting its own processes and procedures is especially important.

If FCC commissioners cannot predict or count on being included in rate regulation decisions by the FCC under normal expected processes and procedures, what confidence can affected parties have that the FCC will follow the law and the FCC’s process and procedures on other matters that affect their interests?

What confidence could affected parties have that the process and procedures of the Administrative Procedures Act will be legally respected in building the necessary record for the pending Open Internet Order, or for its complex implementation?

It does not advance the current or long-term legitimacy of the FCC, if Congress and the public have a perception that the FCC may be operating in an arbitrary or capricious manner, by unnecessarily bypassing normal expected process and procedures.

If the FCC wants affected parties to respect their rules, processes and procedures, shouldn’t the FCC lead by example and be extra careful to respect their own rules, processes, and procedures?

Simply, legitimate authority and process beget legitimate outcomes.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – H. Leighton Steward

Somewhat Reasonable - January 12, 2015, 10:00 AM

Geologists H. Leighton Steward is chairman of Plants Need CO2.  He is a New York Times best-selling author and  Chairman of the Board of The Institute for the Study of Earth and Man at SMU, most recently Steward worked with a team of former NASA scientists known as “The Right Climate Stuff.” The NASA team includes scientists with expertise in physics, chemistry, geology, climatology, engineering, biology, and other fields.

After carefully analyzing the evidence for global warming they concluded that there is no evidence of catastrophic global warming.  They determined that current models are unvalidated and clearly deficient for climate forecasting, Earth’s sensitivity to CO2 is much less than commonly claimed, empirical evidence does not support a catastrophic warming scenario, calling CO2 a “pollutant” is scientifically embarrassing and we should not be spending huge sums to reduce CO2 in light of the above.

In fact, the team leader projects a maximum of one degree Celsius of warming by the end of this century based on a look back at empirical evidence.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Dr. Death: Ezekiel Emanuel

Somewhat Reasonable - January 12, 2015, 2:06 AM

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, an architect of Obamacare, suggests skipping your annual check ups.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel is the brother of the current mayor of Chicago and, like MIT’s Johnathan Gruber, an architect of Obamacare, which proponents prefer to call “the Affordable Care Act.”  It turns out one of the ways the good Dr. Emanuel wants to help make health care affordable is to dissuade patients from using it.

Emanuel has already made news by saying that he doesn’t see much use in living past age 75.  That’s when, for many people, the body and the mind begin breaking down in ways that are essentially irreversible.  Beside, says Dr. Zeke, most people past the age of 75 don’t accomplish much of anything worthwhile, and so are of little use to society.  (To be brutal, most of us of any age don’t accomplish much that’s truly transformative.)   And if life’s not worth living past 75, don’t expect the administrators of Obamacare to see that you get much health care after that age.

Exceptions abound, of course, from Supreme Court Justices to active centenarians.  But they are exceptions, and Dr. Zeke does not bet on exceptions.

That’s why, for example, Dr. Zeke recently announced on The New York Times op-ed page that he’s given up his annual physical and that you should, too.  (“Skip Your Annual Physical,” January 9, 2015.)  For an estimated 45 million of us, according to Dr. Zeke, the annual physical has been a part of our well-being check:  a reminder that we are another year older, to watch our weight, to get enough sleep and exercise, and to cut back on our bad health habits like excesssive drinking, smoking, or sniffing glue.  (Sorry, you had to watch Lloyd Bridges in “Airplane.”)

An annual physical also serves as a way to stay in touch with medical care-givers; to monitor year-to-year changes in blood pressure, weight, cholesterol level, and blood sugar on a systematic basis; and to notice unusual changes like precancerous moles or emerging cataracts.  A clean bill of health following an annual physical also puts most of us in a better psychological state, which indisputably enhances our happiness, productivity, and overall well-being.

But what are such well-known practical and intangible benefits in the face of hard scientific evidence, especially as wielded by experts like Dr. Zeke and Mr. Gruber?

For according to the impressively and alliteratively named “Cochrane Collaboration,” which sounds like the next Bourne Identity novel but which Dr. Zeke redundantly informs us is an “international group of medical researchers who systematically review the world’s biomedical research,” annual physicals are “unlikely to be beneficial.”  And that must be true; after all, these are medical researchers who review medical research.

According to Dr. Zeke, the Cochrane Collaboration’s fourteen “randomized controlled trials with over 182,000 people followed for a median of nine years” –very scientific-sounding – showed that annual physicals from 1963 to 1999 “did not reduce mortality overall or for specific causes of death from cancer or heart disease.”  Well, duh!

One reason, Dr. Zeke concedes, has nothing to do with annual physicals:  unintentional injuries and suicides are the fourth and tenth leading causes of death among Americans.  Physicals do nothing to detect or relieve the former, although they may actually help reduce chances of the latter; perhaps that’s partly why suicides come in tenth instead of fifth or sixth.

But a second, more obvious, reason that physicals may not reduce “overall mortality” is – get this – just like in most operas, everybody dies in the end.  Or as Bob Dylan put it many years ago, “he not busy being born is busy dying.”

Of course an annual physical is not going to keep people from dying, nor can it prevent cancer or heart disease.  But for all the reasons cited above, it can help people lead longer, healthier, more productive, more satisfying lives.

Dr. Emanuel’s real reason for discouraging annual physicals seems to be his expert-driven insistence on making Obamacare work despite the odds.  In essence, the Affordable Care Act is yet another wealth transfer scheme, from the healthy to the sickly, from the middle class to the lower class.  In systems of government-rationed care like Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid, and the VA health system, some people must be denied care in order to provide it to others.

“Not having my annual physical,” admits Dr. Emanuel, “is one small way I can help reduce health care costs … ” If others will but follow his example, then “[t]hat will free up countless hours of doctors’ time for patients who really do have a medical problem, helping to ensure there is no doctor shortage as more Americans get health insurance.”

Or we could let Americans voluntarily pick their own health care plans and decide for themselves if an annual physical is worth their own time and money.

Categories: On the Blog

On Climate Change, the Pope Could Use a Lesson in Science

Somewhat Reasonable - January 11, 2015, 10:30 AM

Pope Francis recently made headlines engaging in non-theological matters such as the thawing of relations between the United States and Cuba and income inequality. Taking positions on these controversial topics has made Francis both a hero and a villain (depending on whom you ask), but few of his past positions inspired the sort of ire Francis is sure to receive should he decide to engage in the hotly contested global warming debate.

It doesn’t appear as though the pope is worried about making friends.

According to the Guardian, in 2015 Francis will deliver a message condemning man-made climate change to the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics and will address the General Assembly of the United Nations, where he is expected to call upon world leaders to reduce carbon dioxide production to halt the deadly and immediate effects of global warming.

Bishop Marcelo Sorondo, chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, says Francis hopes his efforts to combat climate change will directly contribute to action by governments at the global climate meeting to be held in Paris in December 2015.

The pope should be commended for actively working to make the world a better place and for promoting the long-term sustainability of Earth, but his big climate-change push fails to recognize the overwhelming evidence suggesting immediate catastrophic global warming is not occurring.

For more than 18 consecutive years, global temperature data show no warming. Roughly 95 percent of all climate models predicting the course of global warming have been proven wrong.

There has been no long-term trend of rising global sea levels.

The Palmer Drought Severity Index, which attempts to measure the duration and intensity of long-term drought-inducing circulation patterns, shows no trend since 1895.

According to Heartland Institute policy analyst Taylor Smith, the so-called extreme weather of the past two decades is nonexistent. For instance, the number of wildfires has been in decline since at least the 1960s, when wildfires occurred twice as often as they did in 2013. Similarly, the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season witnessed the fewest hurricanes since 1982, and no major hurricanes — Category 3 or higher — have made landfall in the continental United States in nine years.

Even claims that sea ice is vanishing are overblown. The Southern Hemisphere’s polar ice cap “surpassed its greatest April extent in recorded history” in 2014.

The reality is that man-made climate change is simply not the immediate threat Francis seems to believe it is. Before choosing to hitch himself to this horseless wagon, he should consider the detrimental effects climate policies have on poor and developing nations — those whom the pope has consistently tried to help and defend.

Pope Francis is right to be concerned about protecting the environment, and there is solid evidence to suggest that man-made global climate change could present some challenges in the distant future. But the sort of policies the United Nations and like-minded alarmist nations and organizations have proposed will cause far more harm than good, and they almost always ignore evidence that clearly shows imminent catastrophic man-made climate change is not happening.

[Originally published at the Washington Examiner]


Categories: On the Blog

Netflix More Valuable Than Cable and Broadcast Among Millennials, Study Finds

Somewhat Reasonable - January 10, 2015, 12:53 PM

In an observation that should surprise no one except a few cave-dwellers, a new study from NATPE/Content First and the Consumer Electronics Association has found that millennials find Netflix subscriptions more valuable than broadcast and cable subscriptions. There are, however, some useful insights to be gleaned if we look a little deeper.

The study found that “51 percent of millennials consider Netflix subscriptions very valuable, compared to 42 percent for broadcast channels and 36 percent for cable subscriptions. Young people are also more likely to stream a full-length TV program than watch it live on TV during its original air time or time-delayed on a DVR,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

The story goes on to note that not many millennials (people of ages 13 through 34) have given up on TV—in fact, the proportion is only five percentage points higher than among other age groups:

The study also found that 90 percent of viewers say they watch television programming on a TV set compared to 85 percent of millennials who count a TV as their preferred screen for viewing that content. That’s still a relatively high figure but is likely to shrink given that the study also found that only 55 percent of millennials prefer to watch television on a TV set.

The NAPTE representative also noted more than 70 percent of viewers in households with broadband have streamed full-length TV programs in the past six months. That seems to mark a significant movement, but this too is a trend we have been seeing for some time.

The study pointed out that millennials like streaming because it is more mobile than watching on a TV set (again, obviously), and that 28 percent of the age group watch television on a tablet. The announcement, given on Thursday at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, did not specify precisely how much television millennials watch on tablets, or what proportion of their television they watch on them, but presumably that information will be made available when the full study is released at the end of this month.

The essence appears to be that the younger the person, the more likely he or she is to watch TV on a mobile device. I suspect that there are a couple of factors at play here in addition to the belief that young people are more open to new technologies than their elders.

One, my personal observation has been that young people are doing much more of their viewing on smartphones than ever before, which is something older people with less visual acuity will have difficulty adopting in any great numbers. This should accelerate as phone screens increase in size. Two, although TVs are relatively cheap, rental of cable and satellite set-top boxes is not, meaning that young people are surely less likely than their elders to have regular control over a full-size TV set than a phone or tablet.

Hence it seems clear that young people’s migration to broadband is a matter of both convenience and necessity.

The Hollywood Reporter story observes that TV providers must and will adapt to this mobile revolution, quoting CEA chief executive Gary Shapiro as saying, “This has profound implications for the way CE manufacturers market their products as they try to reach diverse markets.”

The article then notes some of these efforts: “Dish announced during CES that it would go after that audience with Sling TV, an over-the-top streaming service that it wants to be the third subscription for a millennial alongside Netflix and Hulu. Meanwhile, CBS recently launched OTT offering CBS All Access and HBO has announced plans for a standalone streaming service.”

I’ve reported on the CBS and HBO services earlier, and the Sling TV announcement is certainly the next step in the process. For $20 a month, the individual will receive, over the internet, 25 to 30 channels, including ESPN, ESPN2, TNT, TBS, CNN, Food Network, HGTV, Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and the Disney Channel. Additional bundles, such as news and children’s programming, will be made available for an extra $5 per month apiece.

You may have noticed that I wrote “an individual” above, and that’s the catch: the service can’t be viewed on multiple TVs or devices simultaneously. Hence it’s not for families but for individuals who probably would not be able to afford cable or satellite TV anyway. Although some people may use it to “cut the cord” (by substituting another, ironically), it’s unlikely to replace cable and satellite subscriptions altogether. Everybody wins.

Thus, as I’ve noted earlier, even though market forces and new technology are changing the nation’s viewing habits, the only thing that can cause a serious and unnecessary dislocation of the nation’s television distribution system is government, and the Obama administration is on a quest to do just that.

While providers are busy creating cheaper and more convenient ways to get video-based news and entertainment, and consumers are eagerly taking advantage of every opportunity, the national government is doing all it can to suppress this salutary revolution while claiming it is doing so in order to promote competition. Here’s a great way to do that, Mr. President: get out of the damn way.

[Originally published at Liberty21]


Categories: On the Blog

The Founders Wanted a Laser-Targeted Article V Convention (Part 1 in a Series of 8)

Somewhat Reasonable - January 10, 2015, 12:33 PM

This is part 1 of the 8 part series establishing that the laser-focus of the Compact for America approach to organizing an Article V convention with the specific job advancing and ratifying a pre-drafted, specific federal Balanced Budget Amendment is clearly, unequivocally, and overwhelmingly what the Founders expected from the state-originated amendment process.

Exhibit A-The Drafting History

Original text of Article V:

“The Congress… on the Application of two thirds of the Legislatures of the several States shall propose amendments…”

-The Application Would Specify The Amendment(s) To Be Proposed

Final Text of Article V:

“The Congress… on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments…”

-Nothing Indicates “Application” Changed Meaning.

Just as Congress was expected to propose the amendments specified by the states in their Article V Application in the first draft of Article V, so was it expected that the Convention would propose the amendments specified by the states in their Article V Application in the final draft of Article V.

That’s what the Compact for America approach does.

Please support the “Balance the Budget Now” campaign.

[Originally published at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

Je Suis Charlie, Nous Sommes Tous Charlie

Somewhat Reasonable - January 09, 2015, 10:47 PM

Parisians rally in support of free speech in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre.

The vile scum who murdered 13 people on the staff of the satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo on Wednesday, and four others in a Paris grocery store today, are now rotting in Hell. If their death at the hands of French police was quick, it was too merciful.

Do not let anyone call the horror in Paris a “tragedy.” It was cold-blooded murder — and the latest of a string of attacks on the liberal civilization of the West that has been raging for ages, most acutely in our time beginning on September 11, 2001. The violence in France appears to be at an end, for now. But the enemies of liberty will be back with more guns, more bombs, and more shouts of “Allahu Akbar!”

The Wall Street Journal today published an op-ed by French intellectual and author Bernard-Henri Lévy titled “A France United Against Radical Islam: It’s time to break, finally, from Leninist reasoning about the sociology of poverty and frustration behind terrorism.” We can only hope he is right. An excerpt:

Twelve faces. Twelve names, some of which the killers specifically called out, as the name of a condemned prisoner is called out before his execution. Twelve symbols mourned around the globe, symbols of the assassination of freedom of laughter and of thought. The least that we owe to these dozen dead is to rise to their level of commitment and courage—and, today, to prove worthy of their legacy.

It is incumbent upon the leaders of France, of the West, and of the world to take the measure of a war they did not want to see, one in which the journalists of Charlie Hebdo, its writers and caricaturists, long ago put themselves on the front line. They were war reporters of a sort, as we now know, Robert Capas with a sketch pad and pencil.

This is the Churchillian moment of France’s Fifth Republic, the moment to face the implacable truth about a test that promises to be long and trying.

It is time for us to break, once and for all, with the Leninist reasoning that has been served up for so long by the useful idiots of a radical Islam immersed in the sociology of poverty and frustration. And most of all it is the moment, now or never, for a calm resolve among all believers in democracy to look evil in the face without losing ourselves in the catastrophic measures of a state of emergency. France can and must erect dikes—but not the walls of a besieged fortress.

Do read the whole thing (subscription may be required).

Charlie Hebdo is not everyone’s idea of smart satire. The magazine has long gone far out of its way to be as offensive as possible, especially towards religion and religious figures. Enlightened Westerners must tolerate such “low” and “offensive” exercises of free speech as a trivial cost of living in liberty. But as we saw this week, the unenlightened can enter our sphere and collect a terrible price for such “offenses.”

Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier stands defiantly before the ruins of the Charlie Hebdo office in 2011.

Stéphane “Charb” Charbonnier, the publisher of Charlie Hebdo, said in 2012 about the paper’s office being firebombed by Islamic fascists the previous year: “I’d rather die standing than live on my knees.”

He meant it, and he lived it, courageously. He and his colleagues died for it. They are all heroes of liberty.

For the enemies of the modern world – those who hate the very notion that one is free to ignore, or even insult, Islam – this is just the beginning. The slaughter at Charlie Hebdo is meant to frighten you and to silence you – to get you to surrender your liberty at the threat of death.

But if freedom of thought, of speech, and of the press are surrendered — even quietly, passively — there is little left at all of our liberty. We let the tyrants become our masters. That is why it was so heartening to hear millions shouting to the world this week “Je suis Charlie! Nous Sommes Tous Charlie!” (I am Charlie!). The title of this post adds “Nous Sommes Tous Charlie!” (We are all Charlie!) It will take courage to mean it, to live it, and we must. We cannot be afraid.

Mark Steyn, who knows a thing or two about standing up for freedom of speech, has a lot of important things to say about this. I recommend this, and this, and this and this. In fact, you should just go ahead and bookmark his excellent website for regular reading.

Over at National Review, there is the usual excellent thought and writing from Jonah Goldberg, Rich Lowry, Michelle Malkin, Charles C.W. Cooke, and a video of Charles Krauthammer suggesting this is the beginning of the “Third Stage of Jihadist War” on the West. I highly recommend you read it all.

Our friends over at PJMedia have been so kind as to post a clearinghouse of “offensive” images and cartoons of Mohammed. Please give it a look, share with friends, and bookmark for future reference. I have a feeling it will come in handy again before too long.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Heather Kays: Common Core and Parent Trigger Pilot Program

Somewhat Reasonable - January 09, 2015, 12:27 PM

Paul Molloy host of Freedom Works, The Paul Molloy Show on Tantalk1340 in Florida interviewed School Reform News Managing Editor Heather Kays. Molloy and Kays discuss possible presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s defense of Common Core and the many problems related to the Common Core standards. Kays addresses criticism against politicians who have changed their minds regarding the standards.

Molloy and Kays also discuss a pilot program for a parent trigger law in Columbus, Ohio. Kays said according to Greg Harris of StudentsFirst that the state and school district have done very little to inform parents that they have the opportunity to petition the state to make changes to their children’s low-performing schools.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Isaac Orr Discusses NY Fracking Ban on Pennsylvania Farm Country Radio

Somewhat Reasonable - January 08, 2015, 3:05 PM

On January 2, Heartland Institute Research Fellow Isaac Orr was on Pennsylvania Farm Country Radio with Dave Williams to discuss the New York Fracking ban. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo initiated the ban on hydraulic fracturing in December. While the ban is considered to be a political success for Governor Cuomo, Orr explains how the state is going to miss out on economic opportunities and tax revenue.

During the interview, Orr states that the decision was based on bad data. He says the studies on health effects have been widely discredited. Supporting the ban is the state health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. Dr. Zucker was concerned about potential “significant public health and environmental risks.” However, it has been show in other states that fracking can be done safely with little or no harm to public health or the environment.

Host Dave Williams frequently covers topics relating to agriculture, farming, food and nutrition; he also discusses subjects that have a local impact. Listen in as he talks to Isaac Orr about the latest news regarding the New York Fracking ban.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Darcie Johnston: The Collapse of Vermont Single-Payer Healthcare

Somewhat Reasonable - January 08, 2015, 2:01 PM

Darcie Johnston of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom discusses Governor Peter Shumlin’s recent announcement he would abandon plans to implement single-payer health care in Vermont. Shumlin has based his last three campaigns in large part on his single-payer advocacy, and he managed to get Vermont closer than probably any state has ever come to embracing fully government-run health care.

As Johnston explains, Shumlin had to abandon his plans once the details of the financing package became clear. Vermont would have needed a massive tax hike to pay for single-payer, including an 11.5 percent payroll tax and an income tax that would reach 9.5 percent for middle-income and up individuals and families.

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

Categories: On the Blog

How Many Of World’s Poor Will Climate Alarmists Let Die?

Somewhat Reasonable - January 08, 2015, 10:05 AM

‘How many people do you want to kill or let die?” That’s how I’m going to respond from now on to anyone who argues we should end or sharply restrict fossil fuel use to prevent global warming.

Arguing the science has no effect on global warming alarmists. They are immune to facts and stick to models and fallacious arguments from biased, unscientific authorities.

Climate models say temperatures should climb right along with the rise in CO2 emissions, yet emissions rose from the 1940s through the 1970s, when scientists were warning of a coming ice age. And for the past two decades, CO2 emissions have continued to rise while temperatures have been in a holding pattern for the past 18 years.

Models say we should see more intense hurricanes, yet for nearly a decade the U.S. has experienced below-average hurricanes making landfall, and they have been no more powerful than previously experienced.

Sea-level rise has slowed, polar bear numbers have increased, the Antarctic ice sheet has set new records for expansion month after month and even the Arctic is back to average ice levels for the decade.

None of these trends is consistent with models’ predictions, yet alarmists ignore the facts because controlling human lives is their underlying goal, and their failed models are the only thing that enables them to claim disaster is in the offing if humans don’t change their ways.

Arguing economics is equally ineffective. Multiple analyses show the best economic response to the challenges posed by global warming is to use fossil fuels to grow peoples’ wealth globally and adapt to climate changes as they come — basically doing what humans have done throughout history.

In “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” author Alex Epstein makes a key point:

“Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels. … The popular climate discussion .. . looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe.”

Humans have long fought a war with climate, and where we’ve won it has been through the use of technology, most recently including the use of fossil fuels.

Although there are many distinctions between developed economies and developing ones, a critical difference is the widespread availability and use of fossil fuels to improve living conditions.

People in countries using abundant fossil fuels live longer, have fewer infant deaths, are healthier, are more educated and are much wealthier on average than people who live without coal, oil and natural gas.

This is not a mere coincidence, as wealth, health, education and other living conditions remained virtually stagnant for most of human history until our discovery of the ability to transform coal, oil and gas into fuels that powered the Industrial Revolution.

In the West, fossil fuels light homes, making work and an active home life possible after dark without the use of dung, wood and tallow, thus preventing millions of unnecessary deaths from respiratory disease.

Conversely, lack of fossil fuels condemns millions to early deaths from diseases like those that they experience in underdeveloped parts of Africa and Asia. Children die in Africa from malnutrition or starvation because they lack access to the quality and quantities of food made available to the West through fossil-fuel-dependent industrial agriculture and transportation.

Lives are saved in modern hospitals thanks to fossil fuels, from the gasoline fueling emergency vehicles to the electricity keeping the lights, computers, climate controls and refrigeration on.

Electricity runs incubators that save premature babies’ lives and respirators that keep people breathing until they can breathe on their own. Electricity runs the machines sterilizing instruments and conducting MRIs, X-rays, CT scans, and all the other tests and technologies that allow medical professionals to predict, diagnose, and treat the countless diseases and injuries humans suffer each year.

Electricity delivers safe drinking water and fossil fuels make the plastics that are used in hospital blood and medicine bags, tubes, wiring and even furniture.

Would you want to be treated at a hospital without these lifesaving technologies? If not, why should the billions of poor people around the world live without these modern wonders so you can pursue some ideal vision of the perfect climate?

That’s the real question about fossil fuels: How many people are climate alarmists willing to let die prematurely to satisfy their perverse desire to end the use of fossil fuels?

[Originally published at Investor’s Business Daily]

Categories: On the Blog

Reevaluating Eminent Domain’s Benefits Necessary for Economic Success

Somewhat Reasonable - January 08, 2015, 9:08 AM

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires government to provide “just compensation” to private individuals in return for taking private property for public use. This doesn’t address whether it is it right to take private property for private benefit, however, or whether the economic benefits of eminent domain are all they’re cracked up to be.

A recent study of eminent domain takings and their associated state and local government tax revenues suggests buying grandma’s farmhouse to make room for a strip mall isn’t the automatic economic boon it’s claimed to be, leaving some wondering if the use of eminent domain as an economic booster is ethical.

In 2005, the Supreme Court determined the phrase “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation”—the final clause in the Fifth Amendment—allows the transfer of private property to private individuals and corporations, such as land dealers.

New London, Conn. wanted Susette Kelo’s property to be part of a “comprehensive redevelopment plan” to help boost the local economy. Evicting homeowners and investing millions of dollars was predicted to lure pharmaceutical giant Pfizer to relocate its research campus to the scenic waterfront property.

Nearly a decade later, the real property taken from Susette Kelo in the name of community revitalization and job growth sits empty. Prior to the takings, the homeowners benefited from their private property, but now no one benefits from Kelo’s lot. So much for “the greater good.”

Florida Gulf Coast University economists Carrie Kerekes and Dean Stansel used data collected from multiple states to quantify the empirical effect of eminent domain on local economies. If, as it is often claimed, taking private property for public use is economically beneficial, tax revenue would correlate positively with increased eminent domain takings.

Kerekes and Stansel, however, found “virtually no evidence” of eminent domain’s economic benefit. The pair of professors also found “no statistically significant relationship between eminent domain activity and the level of government revenue.”

The search for empirical evidence regarding government takings and tax revenue did turn up something surprising: There appears to be “a negative relationship between eminent domain and revenue growth.” The researchers wrote, “a one standard deviation change in eminent domain activity is associated with” a 0.75 percent decline in the local economic rate of growth.

If taking private property in the name of the common good actually serves to retard economic growth, as the Kerekes and Stansel study suggests, the wisdom of using eminent domain as an economic stimulus becomes questionable.

Private property is a fundamental tenet of the free market system. When individuals are allowed to use their property in the manner they see fit, the most efficient use of property becomes a rational behavior. In turn, tax revenues are maximized as individuals benefit from the value of their property.

It may be too late for Susette Kelo and other homeowners displaced by New London’s “comprehensive redevelopment plan,” but it’s never too late for city councils and states to reevaluate ineffective policies like eminent domain takings in light of new data.

[Originally published at Inside Sources]


Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Isaac Orr and Nathan Makla: Energy and Environment Road-trip

Somewhat Reasonable - January 07, 2015, 3:50 PM

While on an Energy policy road-trip, Research Fellow Isaac Orr and Nathan Makla take some time to discuss environmental issues in today’s podcast. Orr and Makla talk about some of the stops they have made so far during the tour and tackle a few of the most frequently asked questions regarding global warming.

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

Categories: On the Blog

In D.C., ‘Bipartisanship’ Has Become a Bad Thing – When It Isn’t, We Should Seize the Opportunity

Somewhat Reasonable - January 07, 2015, 3:01 PM

Bipartisanship in Washington, D.C. has for the most part devolved into a pipe dream, a dirty word – or both.

A pipe dream because after decades of gerrymandering – partisanship is what you get.  Gerrymandering is elected officials choosing voters rather than the other way round.  Those already elected carve Congressional districts into bizarre shapes to – at the grainiest of micro-levels – decide which voters go where.  You can’t create a plethora of 60+% partisan districts – and then act surprised when the resulting elected officials are partisan.

Bipartisanship is now rightly a dirty word for conservatives – because in DC Speak it means “Capitulate in as many ways as possible to Leftists.”  The examples of this unbelievable double standard are without end.

From the just deceased Lame Duck Session – here is how two Senators were treated for their opposition to the absurd and awful, rushed and harried, bipartisan $1.1 trillion “Cromnibus.”

(Republican) Ted Cruz Just Did a Huge Favor for Democrats

Ted Cruz Gave Obama An Early Christmas Gift Over The Weekend

“Speaker Ted Cruz” is Back, Right on Schedule, to Make John Boehner’s Life a Nightmare


(Democrat) Elizabeth Warren’s Quiet (But Huge) Win: Why Wall Street Lobbyists Really Hated Her “Cromnibus” Fight

Elizabeth Warren Is Right: The Cromnibus Aids Crony Capitalism

Elizabeth Warren is Catching Fire

Conservatives can thus certainly be forgiven for recoiling whenever they receive demands for “bipartisanship.”

But it ain’t always and forever terrible.  When the opportunity for positive-policy-bipartisanship presents itself – we should grab on with both hands.

“Bipartisanship” doesn’t have to be bad.  And we do not have to let the DC Speak Enforcers define it.

McConnell Says He and Obama Discussed Working on Trade, Taxes

Republican Mitch McConnell, in line to become U.S. Senate majority leader, said hell try to end Washington gridlock and that he and President Barack Obama spoke about working on a tax-law revision and trade agreements….

“I said send us trade agreements. Were anxious to take a look at them,” the senator said. “Well see whether we can work with the president. We hope so.”

Obama Sketches 2015 Agenda of Taxes, Trade; Meets McConnell

…Obama told the Business Roundtable, a group of chief executives of top U.S. businesses, that he would like to pursue corporate tax reform (and) free-trade deals….

“The good news, despite the fact that obviously the midterm elections did not turn out exactly as I had hoped, is that there remains enormous areas of potential bipartisan action and progress,” Obama said.

Of course, the DC Speak Enforcers don’t like bipartisanship unless it results in ever-larger government.

McConnell And Obama Are Already Planning To Undercut Liberal Democrats In Congress

President Obama’s Push for Trade Deal Angers Fellow Democrats

The outreach to Republicans, combined with Obama’s changed rhetoric on international trade, has frustrated Democrats such as Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio….

Wait – this Senator Brown?

Brown Says Bipartisanship Needed to Advance Economy

Removing government impediments to commerce certainly advances the economy.  Less government = more economic activity.  Precisely because of this government shrinkage – Senator Brown opposes the bipartisanship.

Then of course there’s….

Bernie Sanders’ Brutal Letter On Obama’s Trade Pact

Bernie Sanders Blows the Lid Off the Bipartisan Plan To Cut Taxes

Wait – that’s a whole lot of Socialist Senator Sanders opposition to bipartisanship.  Why?  Because these efforts make government smaller.  What kind of bipartisanship does he love?

Bernie Sanders: Scott Brown KILLED Bipartisan Energy Bill for Petty Politics

That “energy” bill was yet another government-money, Solyndra-stuffed, Crony Socialist nightmare mess.  It greatly grew government – so Senator Sanders was suddenly again bipartisan.

“Bipartisanship” doesn’t have to be bad.  And we do not have to let the DC Speak Enforcers define it.

Free trade and tax reform are bipartisan.  And they’re good.  Let us thus go forward – together.


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

Three Unelected Democrat Bureaucrats Are About to Overrule and Override November’s Election

Somewhat Reasonable - January 07, 2015, 2:48 PM

The American people in November overwhelmingly, historically rebuked President Barack Obama, his policies and his unilateral practices.

The President his own self primed the pump for the election as a referendum – on him.

Obama: My ‘Policies Are On the Ballot. Every Single One of Them.’

President Obama has for years benefitted greatly from then-Senate Majority Leader (Democrat) Harry Reid serving as a preemptive veto of most things legislation.

Senate Sitting on 290 Bills Already Passed by House; Tension Mounts (2010)

Democrat Senate Blocks 340 House Bills (2014)

This Do-Nothing-Democrat-Senate allowed Democrats and the media (please pardon the redundancy) to foster a phony “Do Nothing Congress” storyline. Which the President gladly, disingenuously exploited:

Obama: ‘If Congress Won’t Act, I Will’

The President has acted unilaterally throughout – well beyond the Executive Branch bounds proscribed by the Constitution.

President Obama’s Unilateral Action on Immigration Has No Precedent

Obama’s Unilateral ObamaCare Changes

Obama Continues to Push Unilateral Action to Fight Climate Change

Castro on Obama’s Cuba Deal: ‘Now We’ve Really Won the War’

These Presidential fiats beget regulations. Lots and lots and LOTS of regulations.

21,000 Regulations So Far Under Obama – 2,375 Set for 2015

Obama Imposed 75,000 Pages of New Regulations in 2014

11,588,500 Words: Obamacare Regs 30x as Long as Law

New EPA Regs Issued Under Obama Are 43 Times as Long as Bible

All elections matter, but some matter more than others. A national election of historic proportions is about to be trumped by an obscure vote by three Democrat regulators. For whom none of us ever voted – and of whom most of us have never heard.
These regulations cost us money. Lots and lots and LOTS of money.

The Cost of Federal Regulation: $2.028 Trillion

This brings us to the Internet. Per law passed by Congress – the Telecommunications Act of 1996 – the Internet is a relatively regulation-free zone. Which is why it is a free speech-free market Xanadu – dynamically, constantly evolving into an ever more-perfect organism.

The 1996 Act classifies the Internet as a Title I thing – Title I being the light-touch portion of the law. Landline phones, on the other hand, are uber-over-regulated under Title II – which is why hardlines have for decades been basically innovation-free zones.

Which brings us to the Left’s fetish – and their current push for – Network Neutrality.

The Executive Branch’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has already twice tried to impose Net Neutrality within the confines of law-proscribed Title I. And twice been unanimously rebuked by the D.C. Circuit Court – for lacking the authority to do so under Title I.

Does pro-Net Neutrality President Obama seek to have Congress rewrite the law to give the FCC the additional authority necessary to impose Net Neutrality? Of course not.

President Obama to FCC: Reclassify Broadband Service as Title II to Protect Net Neutrality

Behold – another Obama fiat. He wants his FCC to impersonate Congress and rewrite the law themselves.

Surely pro-Net Neutrality Democrats in Congress will protect their purview as legislators, right? Of course not.

(Democrat) Senators Urge Congress to Preserve Strong Net Neutrality Protections

“The FCC can and should take strong action… We would forcefully oppose any reforms that would undermine the FCC’s authority to act to adopt meaningful net neutrality rules to protect consumers.”

Get that? Democrats say Congress shouldn’t do Congress’ job – because that would prohibit the FCC from illegally doing Congress’ job.

As recently as 2010, there were Democrats who were a little more appreciative of the gigs for which they ran. Oh – and the Constitution.

73 Democrats Tell FCC: Drop Net Neutrality Rules

A slew of House Democrats have sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission warning the agency not to go forward with its plan to partially reclassify ISPs as common carriers, a move needed to impose net neutrality rules.

Meanwhile, when the FCC contemplates new regulations it is supposed to have a public Comment Period. To allow us to register our discontent – before they go ahead and power grab anyway.

Democrat FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler last year proposed a third attempt at Net Neutrality imposition under Title I – and had two Comment Periods therefore.

The first was an ObamaCare-website-esque technological disaster.

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

During which the FCC played favorites – helping the Left file their Comments when the website repeatedly went down.

MediaFreedom Asks FCC Inspector General to Look into ‘Unusual Collaboration’ of FCC Staff and Title II Activists

And the second Comment Period was overwhelmingly won by the proponents of Less Government.

Those Opposed to Internet Regulation Won FCC Comment Period by Landslide

During which the government’s alleged Web experts yet again couldn’t manage their website.

FCC Somehow ‘Lost’ Hundreds of Thousands of Net Neutrality Comments

That’s ok – Amazon loses hundreds of thousands of orders per month, right?

Since then, best guesses have Chairman Wheeler fundamentally altering the proposal on which we twice Commented. Dramatically expanding the power grab to a Title II reclassification unilateral law-rewrite – and scheduling a February internal FCC vote without any Comment Period on the new regulations.

The timing indicates Wheeler does not see the need for more public input on the benefits and drawbacks of using Title II, as earlier reports suggested.

So during Comment Period Round One the FCC aided and abetted the Left – because the government’s alleged technical experts repeatedly failed to keep their website up and running.

The Free Marketeers won Round Two going away – without any government assistance whatsoever. And it may have been an even bigger blowout – we don’t know because the government’s “experts” misplaced nearly a million Comments.

So while it’s obnoxious and maybe illegal to now blow us off without Comment, we can see why Chairman Wheeler doesn’t want to again open that can of worms. Because – transparency.

Oh – and the FCC’s unelected bureaucrat voting composition looks absolutely nothing like the newly minted Congress We the People just ensconced. There are five voting FCC Commissioners (one of whom also serves as Chairman). Three are of the President’s Party – two of the opposing Party. So right now the FCC is 3-2 Democrat.

I wonder how this Internet power grab vote is going to go?

All elections matter, but some matter more than others. A national election of historic proportions is about to be trumped by an obscure vote by three Democrat regulators. For whom none of us ever voted – and of whom most of us have never heard.

Yet another part of the President’s ongoing effort to fundamentally transform our once-representative republic.


[This first appeared on Red State]
Categories: On the Blog

Islam Kills Again

Somewhat Reasonable - January 07, 2015, 1:16 PM

A victim of the shooting by Musilms seeking vengeance at Charlie Hebdo in Paris.

The news from Paris about the killing of twelve journalists highlights Islam’s war on the West that represents a fundamental truth about this cult of Mohammad.

Most are familiar with the Islamic schism between the majority Sunnis and the minority Shiites. It dates back to the very earliest days of Islam when the two groups disagreed over who should be the successor to Mohammad.

There is a new schism in Islam these days and it is between a moderate interpretation of Islam and fundamentalism. We have all seen what fundamentalism produces.

The past year had dramatic and tragic slaughters by the Islamic State (ISIS) in the Syrian-Iraqi area they control, the murder of more than 140 school children in Pakistan by the Taliban, and the kidnapping of 276 girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria. These acts represent a strict interpretation of Shia law based on the Koran.

That is why an address by Egyptian President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, on New Year’s Day to clerics at Al-Azhar and the Awqaf Ministry is particularly significant. As reported by Raymond Ibrahim of the Middle East Forum, Sisi “a vocal supporter for a renewed vision of Islam, made what must be his most forceful and impassioned plea to date.”

His speech was a warning that “the corpus of (Islamic) texts and ideas that we have made sacred over the years” are “antagonizing the entire world.”

Referring to the 1.6 billion Muslims, Sisi said it is not possible that they “should want to kill the rest of the world’s inhabitants—that is 7 billion—so that they themselves may live.” Islam, said Sisi “is being torn, it is being destroyed, it is being lost—and it is being lost by our own hands.”

I cannot recall any other Islamic leader saying anything this bold and this true. Directly addressing the clerics, Sisi said “It’s inconceivable that the thinking that we hold most sacred should cause the entire umma (Islamic world) to be a source of anxiety, danger, killing and destruction for the rest of the world.” That is, of course, exactly what has been occurring.

Sisi called for “a religious revolution”, what Christians would call a reformation. “You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting for your next move…”

Based on negotiations led by the U.S., the world is waiting to see what Iran, the home of the Islamic Revolution—the name given to the ayatollah’s movement that overthrew the Shah in 1979—will do in the face of demands that it cease its quest to produce its own nuclear weapons.

You don’t have to be a U.S. diplomat to know the answer to that. As Behnam Ben Taleblu of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies recently wrote, for decades the Iranian leadership has referred to “American Islam”, a term that describes what Iran “perceives to be a depoliticized perversion of the true faith, devoid of the revolutionary sentiment that guides the Islamic Republic.” Calling it “American” demonstrates their contempt for everything American.

The Iranians even apply the term to Muslim nations “deemed pliant before the will of superpowers like the United States.” In their view, they are the champions of “the pure Islam of Mohammad.” The Iranians are Shiites. As such, they are a minority sect within Islam, though a large one by any standard.

Those U.S. diplomats negotiating to get Iran to agree to cease pursuing the ability to construct their own nuclear weapons should read the memoirs of Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator. As Taleblu notes, Zarif has a PhD from an American university, but he still wrote “We have a fundamental problem with the West and especially with America. This is because we are claimants of a mission, which has a global dimension.”

That mission is to impose Islam—their fundamental brand of it—on the entire world. That would get easier if they can threaten the world with nuclear weapons. Iran has been the leading sponsor of Islamic terror since its revolution in 1979.

The gap between Egyptian President Sisi’s concerns about the state of Islam today and the intention of fundamentalists like Zarif are a capsule version of what is occurring among Muslims throughout the world.

Islam is not inclined toward any form of modernity and most certainly not toward any form of personal freedom so the world has to remain watchful and, at this point, far less inclined to give its terrorists a pass with the claim they do not represent Islam.

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

Challenging Obama’s Alleged Powers

Somewhat Reasonable - January 07, 2015, 1:07 PM

The good news as 2015 debuts is that President Obama has managed to very nearly decimate the Democratic Party, leaving it weaker in Congress and throughout the nation than it has been in memory. The bad news is that he has weakened the nation in the eyes of the world. He is not trusted by world leaders and his next two years in office will only encourage our enemies.

 “Checking Obama’s misuse of his foreign-affairs powers should be a top priority for the new Republican majorities in Congress,” urged John R. Bolton and John Yoo in the final issue of the National Review for 2014. Together they authored “Advice on ‘Advice and Consent.’” Bolton is a former U.S. ambassador and Yoo a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Both are affiliated with the American Enterprise Institute.

 At home Obama’s popularity, generally remaining between 45% and 50%, has got to be one of the great polling mysteries, but in all polls 30% of those responding are unregenerate liberals so the reality of his job approval ratings is likely far lower than reported. At the same time, though, Congress has even lower approval ratings and the huge shift in power that occurred in the midterm elections suggests that the voters want to see some real action taken to curb Obama.

 As Bolton and Yoo point out “These assertions of unilateral executive power raise constitutional conflicts of the first order. Congress must first ask whether any of Obama’s agreements include obligations sufficiently grave to amount to a treaty under the Constitution—or, alternatively, whether these potential deals flow from the President’s legitimate constitutional authority in foreign affairs, and thus need not be embodied in treaties.’

 This is not the kind of thing the average person thinks about, let alone has the knowledge of Constitutional issues to understand. What we do know, however, is that Obama has little regard for the Congress and even less for the Constitution. That’s why the issues Bolton and Yoo address are important.

 For example, “there are some reports…the administration has pledged not to use military force against Iran in exchange for a halt to its nuclear-weapons program.”  The negotiations with Iran have met with such resistance from Iran that the U.S. and others participating in them have twice agreed to extend them. Iran has never demonstrated any other objective than to have its own nuclear weapons.

 Bolton and Yoo say “Republicans and Democrats should agree on one thing when it comes to military force: An international agreement’s renunciation of the use of American force manifestly limits U.S. sovereignty, with enormous effects on national security. Obama’s move on Iran may well violate Article II of the Constitution.” Senate approval by a two-thirds supermajority would be needed for any such agreement with Iran. “White House claims that an Iran deal does not amount to a treaty ring false.”

 The claims by the White House are universally false. That is something that Americans have learned the hard way over the past six years. While Presidents have long made ‘sole executive agreements’, treaties require the Senate’s advice and consent and Obama knows he’s not likely to get that.

 It’s one thing for Obama to make a “climate change” deal with China—and a bad one at that—agreeing to cut U.S. “greenhouse gas” emissions, the fact remains that “The President cannot commit the nation to environmental standards on his own, because only Congress has the constitutional power to control interstate and international commerce (under which heading the federal government regulations the environment.)”

 The new Congress is not going to go along with Obama’s deal with China because Obama lacks the authority to enact it. “At the very least”, say Bolton and Yoo, “the China climate deal should be approved by majorities in both houses of Congress, if not by two-thirds of the Senate.”

 “Congress should use the tools that the Constitution provides to protect its political influence in foreign affairs,” say Bolton and Yoo, adding that “Congress can make clear that any agreement made by Obama alone binds only him.”

 Other than his power as President to veto legislation sent to him, Obama lacks any real power to effect his foreign affairs initiatives and, domestically, he is not going to achieve anything other than by mean of executive orders and the use of federal government agencies to produce regulations. Congress has oversight and it can restrain and overturn the actions of agencies if they are particularly egregious and it is beginning at least to use it more frequently.

 We are hoping that the new Congress is going to act on the voter’s expectation that it will restrain Obama’s efforts to push through programs that harm the best interests of the nation. In the long history of the nation, Congress has never encountered a President whose agenda is to do as much harm as possible.

 The next two years will likely see many Democratic members of Congress voting with Republicans. They will do so because Obama has wreaked so much damage to the Party and because they are looking at the national elections coming in 2016 and positioning themselves for them if they must run for office.

 Obama is not just the enemy of the Democrats and Republicans in Congress. He is the enemy of the people.


Categories: On the Blog

E-Cigarette Denial: It Just Doesn’t Work Anymore

Somewhat Reasonable - January 07, 2015, 10:38 AM

Recently I attended a forum on e-cigarettes, sponsored by a political organization that wanted to educate its attendees about the devices.  During the discussion my opponent [from the prohibitionist American Legacy Foundation] repeated the baseless claim that there is no evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit.

I responded that there is clear evidence: several clinical studies demonstrate that e-cigs work – previously discussed in my blog (hereherehere and here).

The clinical trial evidence has reached a sufficient size that a meta-analysis has been conducted.  Circulation, the flagship journal of the American Heart Association, contained the abstract of such a review presented (here) by University of Melbourne (Australia) investigators at a recent meeting.  They found that “Use of…e-cigarettes was positively associated with smoking cessation …Nicotine filled e-cigarettes were more effective in achieving cessation compared to those without nicotine (pooled Risk Ratio 2.29, 95%CI 1.05-4.97). Use of e-cigarettes was also effective in reducing smokers’ daily cigarette consumption…In conclusion, available literature suggests that the use of e-cigarettes may be an effective alternate smoking cessation method.”

After my response one of the attendees at our forum stated that he had quit smoking using e-cigs, and he had also convinced two of his relatives to quit.  As he noted, “it may not be a clinical trial, but it is real evidence.”

This doesn’t happen just at every event I attend.  It happens at virtually every conversation I have.  Almost everybody now knows former smokers who credit e-cigarettes with life- and breath-saving benefits.  The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-Free Alternatives Association maintains a webpage linking to over 2,000 testimonials from successful switchers (here).

Cartoonist Bill Watterson said: “It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.”  Anti-tobacco zealots who refuse to acknowledge the new reality of e-cigarettes also qualify for membership in The Flat Earth Society (join here).

[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]

Categories: On the Blog
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