Last week two big decisions — one American and one European – accelerated the de-Americanization of the Internet. Edward Snowden’s revelations catalyzed both.
The U.S. government just chose to hand over its master key to the Internet — the “root-zone-file” — to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a multi-stakeholder non-profit organization, in October of 2015.
The “root zone file” is the essential core-addressing database that the Internet depends upon to ensure any Internet addressed device can link to any other Internet-addressed device.
To understand the significance of this real and symbolic transfer of power, one must appreciate America’s history of Internet stewardship.
The U.S. Defense Department invented Internet protocols in the 1960s. Since then the government has been the owner and steward of the Internet’s connectivity architecture.
In the 1990s, the government privatized the Internet backbone. In 1997, the Clinton administration laid the Internet’s current commercial foundation in The Framework for Global Electronic Commerce. In 1998, it transferred responsibility for the administration of many Internet-related tasks to ICANN.
The ceding of control over the “root-zone-file” database is a big deal. With it America will cede ultimate “ownership” of the Internet’s core to the Internet community-at-large via ICANN.
Practically, this means America will no longer effectively control how the Internet changes or evolves.
Anyone who thinks transferring ownership of the Internet’s proverbial rudder won’t alter the Internet’s long-term trajectory does not understand this change.
America’s stewardship of the Internet for the last twenty years fostered its commercial potential. Consequently, it is no surprise America’s Silicon Valley effectively dominates most every commercial and behavioral aspect of the Internet.
The priorities of a multi-stakeholder, not-for-profit organization that’s un-tethered from, and unaccountable to, sovereign or commercial interests will prove to have very different priorities than America’s as it tries to incorporate the rest of the world’s conflicting priorities.
What does this mean?
Over time the Internet will become much less American, much more diverse, and vastly more political, both internally and geopolitically. And expect a less American Internet to naturally become less commercial, less Silicon Valley-centric, and less friendly to property.
This unmooring of the Internet from American sovereign control and dominance comes with one last big stewardship caveat from the U.S. government. To affirm “the United States support for the multistakeholder model of Internet governance, [the U.S. government] will not accept a proposal that replaces the [the U.S. government] role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.”
This is a profound geopolitical change and challenge. It effectively will try to officialize a sovereign-less third global power base separate from national sovereign powers and intergovernmental organizations like the UN.
Thus the Internet’s long-term evolution will now hinge on how much sovereign power the rest of the world is actually willing to cede to, or how much power it tries to take from, this newly empowered sovereign-less polity. Welcome to the Internet realpolitik era.
The second big decision last week that will accelerate the de-Americanization of the Internet was made by the European Parliament.
The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly 621-10 for much stronger data protection (privacy) laws, the first such change since 1995.
It also overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling for the suspension of the U.S.-EU data protection Safe Harbor that lets U.S. firms self-certify as being in compliance with EU privacy law, by a vote of 544-78.
This seminal new data protection law could be a game changer for much of the Internet. While much more remains to be worked out, the EU’s new post-Snowden trajectory is clear.
Essentially, the EU is asserting sovereignty over the European Internet so European data will be subject to EU law and stored in the EU. The law also grants EU citizens the right to demand erasure of their online data for the first time.
To simplify, the EU is calling for a more consumer-centric, opt-in privacy model in stark contrast to America’s ecommerce-centric, opt-out privacy model. This is a frontal assault on Silicon Valley’s privacy-hostile, dominant advertising business model.
So what does this European decision foretell?
A more privacy-friendly Internet is a less American-dominant Internet, a less Silicon-Valley or Big Data driven Internet. Since cloud computing is a euphemism for American-based data centers and data-processing, this new law will likely force a lot more EU-localized data centers.
The real purpose of this new law is not only to protect Europeans’ privacy, but also to create economic opportunity for an indigenous European tech, cloud and Internet sector to succeed.
In sum, the precipitating cause of both of these two decisions is the same – Snowden revelations.
However, the consequential effect of these decisions is the opposite. The U.S. decision cedes its sovereign power to a new sovereign-less power. In contrast, the EU’s decision asserts much more sovereign power over a sovereign-resistant Internet.
As the Internet’s moorings increasingly detach from America, the Internet ship will enter the uncharted waters of Internet realpolitik.The Daily Caller]
In a hard fought election campaign, voters in the city of Tigard appear to have narrowly enacted another barrier to light rail expansion in suburban Portland. The Washington County Elections Division reported that with 100 percent of precincts counted, Charter Amendment 34-210 had obtained 51 percent of the vote, compared to 49 percent opposed.
The Charter Amendment establishes as city policy that no transit high capacity corridor can be developed within the city without first having been approved by a vote of the people. High capacity transit in Portland has virtually always meant light rail.
In a previous ballot issue, Tigard voters had enacted an ordinance requiring voter approval of any funding for light rail. Similar measures were enacted in Clackamas County as well as King City in Washington County. Across the Columbia River in Clark County (county seat: Vancouver), voters rejected funding for connecting to the Portland light rail system. After the Clackamas County Commission rushed through a $20 million loan for light rail (just days before the anti-light rail vote), two county commissioners were defeated by candidates opposed to light rail, with a commission majority now in opposition.
Further, a Columbia River Crossing, which would have included light rail to Vancouver was cancelled after the Washington legislature declined funding. In a surreal aftermath, interests in Oregon seriously proposed virtually forcing the bridge on Washington, fully funding the project itself. A just adjourned session of the Oregon legislature failed to act on the proposal, which now (like Rasputin) appears to be dead.
At the same time, Portland’s transit agency faces financial difficulty and has been seriously criticized in a report by Secretary of State. The agency has more than $1 billion in unfunded liabilities and carries a smaller share of commuters than before the first of its six light rail and commuter rail lines was opened. Moreover, the latest American Community Survey data indicates that 3,000 more people work at home than ride transit (including light rail and commuter rail) to work in the Portland metropolitan area. Before light rail (1980), transit commuters numbered 35,000 more than people working at home. Over the period, transit’s market share has dropped one-quarter.[Originally posted at New Geography]
This hit me a couple of nights ago when I tried to watch five minutes of the “all nighter clim-a-thon” being staged by a select group of senators. After a couple of minutes – and I will not say what I heard or who said it to set me off – I decided it was enough, so I watched something with more substance – Dallas – on TNT.
Oddly enough Bobby Ewing stopped his nephew JR Jr from fracking his part of Southfork by saying there was an endangered species on the property (the lean Prairie Chicken I think it was). Even Dallas has an energy-based debate going on. Interestingly enough Southfork, which in the show is a working cattle ranch, is also in the cross hairs of climate change since, after all, we all know cows cause increases in methane which is one of those dreaded greenhouse gasses that, if left unchecked, will take the Earth to Venetian temperatures (sarcasm).
And besides, eating meat is bad for you. I never have steak for dinner anymore – it’s usually breakfast, when I can afford it (which is getting rarer; then again, that is how I like my steaks: rare).
So when I was writing this week, I decided to have a little fun and pull out an outrageous example of how absurd this is getting. And I am not going to pick on the obvious – some of the leaders of our government pushing all this. Instead I want you to think about this headline:
Will climate change bring back SMALLPOX? Siberian corpses could ooze contagious virus if graveyards thaw out, claim scientists …
• The disease, which causes a painful blistering rash and sometimes blindness and death, was wiped out in 1979
• Some experts fear defrosting bodies in Siberia could potentially begin a cycle of infection, if a person makes contact with remains
• Defrosting bodies are coming to light as a result of global warming, although so far scientists have not found any remains with a virus in them
Now this is fascinating for a couple of reasons. Just how long has Siberia been warm where all these corpses are thawing out? Well over the last 3 years, it hasn’t been warmer than normal except near the Arctic Circle where it’s so cold anyway that a one degree rise isn’t that big a deal. Besides, who is buried in the Arctic Ocean? (Maybe that is where Jimmy Hoffa is…)
And if they were thawing before, they certainly aren’t this winter!
But this is not the real question. Again, think about the extremity of foolishness going on here. They are so foolish that they don’t even stop to think: Just how did they bury the people in the first place if the ground wasn’t thawed out before? It had to be warm enough to dig deep enough to bury these people – or did they have some type of drill none of us know about during the time of small pox to bury people? The whole article supports the notion of natural climate variations, because if it warms to levels to thaw these graveyards out, it is merely warming to where it had to be before. You can’t have it any other way.
But things like this are all too common in this argument. In all my years in weather and climate, which I use and always have as a major piece in the foundation of my forecasts, I have never seen such nonsense and ignorance being spewed with no regard for the facts of what actually happened.
I guess one has to laugh at all this. At least I am trying too. I am on everyone’s mailing list so I get sent countless articles on this. I also get sent the scholarly articles both for and against human influence on the climate. I know and understand the reason this is actually a debatable point and have pointed out several times that two major indicators – stratospheric cooling and the outgoing radiation measurements – support the idea of a slowly warming troposphere. Whether that is natural or man-made is impossible to call, for Earth has warmed before (it had to if you could bury people in Siberia) and has also cooled. How one could possibly know this is CO2-driven given the history of CO2 and temperatures that show there is no correlation, yet alone causation, is beyond me.
But I guess one needs to keep a sense of humor about all this. I believe many of the people putting out things like what you see here are whistling by the graveyard in this sense:
To enter a situation with little or no understanding of the possible consequences.
The consequences are basically the disruption, if not destruction, of our way of life and the hopes of countless people for a better life.
I prefer, when looking at this debate and what its actually about, to use part of a second definition.
To attempt to stay cheerful in a dire situation.
In the meantime, just in case they are right, I have cancelled plans for a tour of Siberian graveyards. Too cold anyway, given the actual weather.
[First posted at The Patriot Post.]
They pass a government-expanding law – which warps, distorts and otherwise damages the private marketplace. They don’t offer to repeal the law – of course not. They instead pass another government-expanding law – to “fix” the mess they made with the last one. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Just wait – soon the Democrats will propose as the “solution” to the disastrous ObamaCare…all-government-all-the-time single payer.
But we already had Huge Government health care – Medicare and Medicaid. Which face tens of trillions of dollars in looming shortfalls. Did the Left proffer less government reform? Of course not. They gave us government-expanding ObamaCare – and stole (at least) $741 billion from already-broke Medicare to do it.
You know why the federal government is the only entity delivering First Class Postage?
The Postal Service has a legal government monopoly on delivering first-class mail…. (Prospective competitors) are required by law to charge a high minimum price and cannot undercut USPS rates.
Nothing like the government gaming the system – to favor the government. And how’s their monopoly working?
And guess who’s screwing up cable and Internet delivery? Why, it’s government.
Game of Kickbacks
Local governments and their public utilities charge ISPs far more (for building rights) than these things actually cost. For example, rights of way and pole attachments fees can double the cost of network construction….
These (government) incumbents – the real monopolists – also have the final say on whether an ISP can build a network. They determine what hoops an ISP must jump through to get approval.
This reduces the number of potential competitors who can profitably deploy service.… The lack of competition makes it easier for local governments and utilities to charge more for rights of way and pole attachments.
It’s a vicious circle…(A) system of forced kickbacks….(also) includ(ing) ISPs…building out service where it isn’t demanded, donating equipment, and delivering free broadband to government buildings.
Video franchises are the revenue-sharing agreements that cable TV companies sign with local governments in return for the exclusive right to offer video services to customers.
Get that? It’s the government creating the monopolies – not the (very un-free) market. The answer? Less government.
Because (private providers) were able to go directly to the state capital for permission to deploy video services anywhere in the state, they were able to accelerate their rollout. Consumers saw quick results.
Amazing what happens when you can bypass all the local governments and their myriad shakedowns.
The Left’s response? More government. They want local government broadband – ObamaCare for the Internet.
Government mandates create private monopolies – government then decries the dearth of competition as justification for government broadband.
Government taxes private broadband companies – and then uses their money to fund competitors to their businesses.
And imagine these private companies trying to set up service – having to ask the permission of the governments that are competing with them.
The people wanting this nonsense are the same ones demanding Network Neutrality imposition to prevent Comcast-NBC from slowing Netflix so as to favor their video service. Which has never happened – and never will. Because their customers would freak – and fire them.
Will government block private companies to favor their service? Of course. See: Medicare. And the U.S. Postal Service. Because no matter how much we “customers” freak – we can’t fire them. Government law says so.
President Barack Obama loves the local government broadband approach. It’s community broadband organizing - building single-payer government-only service from the ground up.
“(T)he ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.”
The 2009 “Stimulus” law contained a $7.2 billion down payment towards it. How’s it all worked? Predictably – terribly.
Google did not assume the thirty nine million dollar debt already hanging over the project. The city is still on the hook for that….
Google will be subsidized in Provo by the citizens, some of whom in delusion think that they are getting ‘free’ internet….
A citizen who opts for a competitor will be paying the fee for the service, and also the elevated taxes and fees the failed municipal broadband project has left behind.
Hard to fathom why Google favors government broadband.
It’s so bad.
Is the Barack Obama Administration thinking less government? And federalism? Of course not.
“The Commission will look for opportunities to enhance Internet access competition,” (FCC Chairman Thomas) Wheeler said in a statement.
“One obvious candidate for close examination was raised in Judge Silberman’s separate opinion, namely legal restrictions on the ability of cities and towns to offer broadband services to consumers in their communities.”
According to this Administration, the “solution” to government-mandated monopolies and disastrous government broadband is…more government broadband.
And if they have to unConstitutionally steamroll the states to do it – so be it.
[First published at Human Events.]
The Ukraine came apart when a protest against its president forced him to flee to Russia. The issue was whether the Ukraine would be allied with Russia or with the European Union. Due to a combination of the obscene corruption of its former president, Viktor Yanukovych, and the mismanagement of the nation in general, the Ukrainian Parliament ousted him in February, a move supported by 328 members of the Parliament. He still claims to be president.
In contrast to the “melting pot” of America where people come from all over and develop strong feelings for our nation, the Ukrainians, divided primarily between the East and West, never quite gelled, the younger generation does not want to be back under the sway of Russia while many of the older ones, recalling the bad old days when it was, want closer ties with Europe. It remains divided and whether it will reunite is anyone’s guess.
If it does reunite, it will be missing the Crimean republic which has been seized by Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin. It had been part of Russia for hundreds of years and represents a critical warm water port. Krushchev relinquished it to Ukraine, but Putin will not. Sending troops into a foreign nation is an act of war, but I doubt that many Crimeans, see themselves as a foreign nation. They were Russian and they are Russian. Let’s move on.
Putin’s bold action brought a lot of other issues into play, not the least of which is Russia’s provision of natural gas to Ukraine and many European nations that depend on it, not the least of which is Germany.
One thing is for sure, NATO will not intervene to restore Crimea to the Ukraine and the European Union has so many financial ties to Russia that there is little reason to do anything than go through the charade of sanctions and criticism. I think the general consensus is that while Putin would like to expand the Russian Federation to the size of the former Russian empire, the cost of similar military actions would be too high.
The response of President Obama has been predictably weak. He is abandoning the Middle East to Islamic fascists. He has failed to provide an umbrella of military protection to Europe. He and Democrat members of Congress continue to tell us that the greatest threat here and worldwide is a global warming that isn’t happening.
The greatest threat to American security is President Obama for two reasons: (1) He has deliberately weakened the U.S. military and (2) his domestic energy policies have failed to take advantage of discoveries of massive amounts of natural gas and oil reserves. Drilling for them on federal lands and offshore has been largely thwarted. As a result the U.S. economy has limped along when it could be booming just from the energy sector alone.
Two reporters for The Wall Street Journal spelled out why the “U.S. Push for Natural-Gas Exports to Ukraine Faces Hurdles” in its March 12the edition.
“Neither the infrastructure nor international markets for natural gas have evolved to the point where the U.S. can step in and provide the kinds of energy supplies that would quickly reduce these nations’ dependency on Russian gas.”
“U.S. energy companies need several more years to build plants to export the gas—and Ukraine doesn’t have the facilities to receive it…The giant machines and cooling towers it takes to make liquefied natural gas, or LNG, take years to construct and cost billions of dollars.” There is at present a LNG terminal in Spain that could take gas shipments that could be added to the extensive European pipeline network, helping many nations there such as Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Suffice to say, U.S. policy and lawmakers have failed to take the actions necessary to respond to the recent surge in natural gas and oil supplies. Many Americans will be surprised to learn that in the 1970s Congress made it illegal to export domestically produced crude oil without a license. Those were the days of the Arab oil embargo.
At this point, the U.S. has more untapped oil than Saudi Arabia, as well as enough natural gas and coal to make us energy independent.
In addition, an odd and idiotic law requires the production of ethanol, a gasoline additive. In 2013, ethanol production was 316,964 thousand barrels. Ethanol not only decreases the mileage of the gasoline we purchase at the pump, it damages auto engines, two very good reasons to end this conversion of corn into energy that in turn drives up the cost of countless food products.
Even moving crude oil around the domestic U.S. poses a challenge despite a network of pipelines. Doing so by train has created many new problems. President Obama has delayed the Keystone XL pipeline that would increase crude oil supplies to our Gulf State’s refineries; thus denying us the jobs its construction would create and other benefits. The good news is that the U.S. has become one of the largest gross exporters of refined oil products such as gasoline and diesel.
If the U.S. government would get out of the way, new refineries and export facilities for natural gas could be built. The U.S. would prosper and energy costs would be reduced, along with our national debt. For now, however, the Ukraine, a longtime financial basket case, and Europe are not going to get a surge of natural gas or crude oil that would help reduce their dependence on Russia.
So long as President Obama remains in office, none of the steps that must be taken to restore the nation’s economy and tap the huge potential of our energy sector will occur.
Despite the growing worldwide recognition that global warming—now called climate change—is a hoax and that the Earth has been in a cooling cycle going on seventeen years, those most responsible for it continue to put forth baseless “science” about it.
The hoax has its base in the United Nations which is hosme to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and got its start with the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 that went into force in 2005. It limits “greenhouse gas” emissions, primarily carbon dioxide (CO2). It purports that the gases are warming the Earth and many nations signed on to reduce them. The U.S. did not and in 2011 Canada withdrew from it. Europe is suffering economically from the billions it invested in “alternative energy” sources, wind and solar power.
Five years ago, emails between a group of the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia scientists and others who were generating computer models that “proved” global warming were revealed. It was quickly dubbed “climategate” for the way the emails demonstrated the manipulation of data claiming that global warming was real. They had good reason to be worried, given the natural cooling cycle the Earth has entered, but of even greater concern was the potential loss of enormous amounts of money they were receiving for their deception.
To date, not one of theirs and other computer models “proving” global warming have been accurate.
On Wednesday, March 10, The Wall Street Journal published an article, “Scientists Say Four New Gases Threaten the Ozone.” It reported on the latest effort of “scientists” at the United Kingdom’s University of East Anglia and it is no coincidence that the university was the center for the original IPCC data created to introduce and maintain the global warming hoax.
“Traces of four previously undetected man-made gases have been discovered in the atmosphere, where they are endangering Earth’s protective ozone layer, a team of scientists from six countries reported Sunday.”
Trace gases are those that represent less than 1% in the Earth’s atmosphere. CO2, for example, represents a meager 0.038% of the atmosphere and represents no impact whatever on the Earth’s climate. It is, however, vital to all life on Earth as it is the “food” for all of its vegetation.
“The gases are of the sort that are banned or being phased out under a global treaty to safeguard the high altitude blanket of ozone that protects the planet from dangerous ultraviolet radiation, experts said.” These “experts” failed to mention that everywhere above the Earth’s active volcanoes the ozone is naturally affected by their massive natural discharge of various gases. The oceans routinely absorb and discharge CO2 to maintain a balance. The bans included the gas used primarily in air conditioners and for refrigeration. It has since been replaced.
Another gas that was banned is a byproduct of chemicals called pyrethroids that “are often used in household insecticides.” Banning insecticides is a great way of reducing the Earth’s population as insects spread diseases and destroy property. Ironically, termites produce massive amounts of carbon dioxide.
The means used to detect the gases included comparing “the atmosphere today to old air trapped in annual layers of Greenland snow” and they also studied “air collected by high altitude research aircraft and by sensors aboard routine passenger jet flights around the world.” Not mentioned is the fact that the Earth has had higher amounts of CO2 in earlier times which posed no threat to it, so a few trace gases hardly represent a “threat.”
This kind of questionable “science” was practiced by one of the most well-known of the East Anglia scientists, an American scientist named Michael Mann, who used tree ring data to prove a massive, sudden increase in CO2 in his “hockey stick” graph that has since been debunked by skeptical scientists.
Mann has brought a libel law suit against columnist Mark Steyn, the National Review and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, charging defamation. Such suits cost a lot of money and Robert Tracinski, writing in Real Clear Politics in February noted that “it’s interesting that no one asks who is going to go bankrupt funding Mann’s lawsuit. Who is insuring Mann against this loss?”
Tracinski pointed out that “It is libel to maliciously fabricate facts about someone” but that it is “legal for me, for example, to say that Michael Mann is a liar, if I don’t believe his erroneous scientific conclusions are the product of honest error. It is also legal for me to say that he is a coward and a liar, for hiding behind libel laws in an attempt to suppress criticism.” The East Anglia emails revealed that they were doing whatever they could to suppress the publication of studies that disputed global warming in various science journals.
How specious is this latest announcement about trace gases that they assert are a threat to the ozone layer? An atmospheric chemist, Johannes Laube of the East Anglia group making the announcement, was quoted as saying “We are not able to pinpoint any sources” for the trace gases. “We are not able to point a finger.”
The objective of the announcement is the same as the creation of the entire global warming hoax. It provides the basis for the transfer of funds between developed and undeveloped nations and would grant greater power to the United Nations to reduce the world’s manufacturing base while endangering and controlling the lives of everyone on Earth.
Is the latest “research” a lie? The data it cites has some basis in fact, but those facts are an excuse, like those cited about greenhouse gases, to frighten nations into wasting billions on climate threats that do not exist. The real threats remain climate events over which mankind never has and never will have any control.
[First posted at Warning Signs.]
And in 2004, the FCC initiated what it called the “IP-Enabled Services” proceeding to consider a proper regulatory model for the rapidly growing Internet services. The agency pointed out that the greater bandwidth of broadband networks encourages the introduction of services “which may integrate voice, video, and data capabilities while maintaining high quality of service.” Then, in a prediction that came to pass shortly thereafter, the FCC added: “It may become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, to distinguish ‘voice’ service from ‘data’ service, and users may increasingly rely on integrated services using broadband facilities delivered using IP rather than the traditional PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).” In the decade since 2004, the Commission never took any further meaningful action in the IP-Enabled Servicesproceeding. Finally, earlier this year, in response to a petition filed by AT&T in 2012, the agency authorized trials as part of its IP-Transition project.
I could go on with the timeline but you get the point. The communications marketplace environment has been and continues to change rapidly – and the laws and regulations governing the marketplace have not kept pace.
Which brings me to the Free State Foundation’s Sixth Annual Telecom Policy Conference next Tuesday, March 18, at the National Press Club. The conference theme is: “A New FCC and a New Communications Act: Aligning Communications Policy with Marketplace Realities.”
A “New FCC” refers to the fact that the agency has a new Chairman and a new Commissioner. Whenever the agency is reconstituted, especially with a new Chairman, there is an opportunity for a fresh start, for changing course. A “New Communications Act” refers to the House Commerce Committee’s recently-initiated effort to review and update the Communications Act. And “Aligning Communications Policy with Marketplace Realities” refers to…well, just go back to the timeline sketched out above.
So, at Tuesday’s conference, we will be discussing what a new FCC and a new Communications Act may mean for communications law and policy – and not just what they maymean, but also what they ought to mean. After all, for a think tank that proclaims “Because Ideas Matter” in its logo – and which has confidence this is true – the “ought” is most important of all.
Take a quick look at the agenda. I’m sure you will be convinced that the conference promises to be interesting, informative, and lively. In addition to the keynote sessions with FCC Commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael O’Rielly and FTC Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen, the two panels are packed with nationally-prominent law and policy experts of all stripes. Both panels will be conducted in a lively Q&A conversational format, with no initial presentations…and no filibustering!
In order to attend the conference, please register here. You must register to attend. Because there is no charge to register, I cannot offer a money-back guarantee. But I pledge that if you do attend, when you leave you will know a lot more about what a new FCC and a new Communications Act may mean – and what they ought to mean – than when you arrived.
I hope to see you on Tuesday. And, as always, we appreciate your support for the Free State Foundation’s programs.[Originally published at Free State Foundation]
Tucked within Christie’s budget plan for 2015 is a brand new “sin tax” on the sale of electronic cigarettes, a smoke-free, tobacco-free alternative that many smokers and ex-smokers use to quit smoking. Christie apparently disapproves of this behavior, as he seeks to apply a tax on e-cigarette sales that would supposedly be equivalent to the excise tax paid by smokers who buy real cigarettes.
If Christie and supporters in the Legislature are looking for a catchy nickname for this portion of the budget, they may want to go with the Combustible Cigarette Protection Act of 2014. Such a title would accurately summarize the consequences of this poorly constructed plan.
Practically all e-cigarette users are or once were smokers, and a sudden price hike could send some back to smoking.
Additionally, with the most commonly available e-cigarettes — single-use disposables sold in convenience stores and general stores — already priced similarly to or even more than a pack of cigarettes, enactment of this brand-new tax would serve as a barrier preventing smokers from switching to a far less hazardous alternative.
Contrary to activists’ claims, nicotine at the levels used in e-cigarettes is no more harmful than regular caffeine use. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has recognized the low-risk nature of smoke-free nicotine use; it recently approved labeling changes to nicotine replacement therapy products to allow for long-term use by smokers looking to quit.
Independent studies of the water-like vapor produced by e-cigarettes have shown the levels of toxicants and chemicals are far lower than in cigarette smoke and comparable to the trace amounts present in traditional nicotine-replacement therapy products such as the nicotine inhaler, patch or gum. Moreover, smokers are increasingly using e-cigarettes in attempting to quit. A randomized clinical trial published last September in the medical journal The Lancet found e-cigarettes helped just as many smokers quit as the nicotine patch did, and e-cigarette users were much more likely to recommend friends use e-cigarettes to try to quit.
So why tax e-cigarettes at a rate that will make them less attractive to smokers?
Supporters of these taxes in other states have argued taxes on e-cigarettes will keep them out of the hands of children. This is a bogus argument because the sale of e-cigarettes to minors has already been banned in New Jersey, as it should be.
According to Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Mercer), there is another reason to tax e-cigarettes the same as cigarettes: “If e-cigarettes are taxed less than regular cigarettes ,we’re sending a message out there that they’re somehow safer, and I think the jury is out on that,” he told NJ 101.5.
In other words, Benson wants you to believe the vapor produced by an electronic cigarette may be just as hazardous as inhaling the burning smoke from a cigarette. The idea of using taxes as a propaganda tool exemplifies the intellectual heft of those trying to pretend cigarettes and e-cigarettes are the same product.
In reality, with each month that passes, more public health and tobacco-control professionals are realizing the great harm-reduction potential of smoke-free products such as e-cigarettes. The only state that currently applies excise taxes to electronic cigarettes (over and above the sales tax), Minnesota, imposed the tax in 2010 when the product was in its infancy.
Given the potential health benefits of e-cigarettes compared with smoking, it’s no wonder attempts to apply excise taxes have failed in a diverse group of states, including Delaware, Iowa, Maine, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon and Utah.
For the sake of smokers desperately trying to quit, New Jersey legislators should reject this irrational cash grab.
[First published at the Newark Star-Ledger.]
This weekly podcast features the second half of a conversation between Jim Lakely, Heartland’s communications director, and Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute. In this half of the interview, Jim and Dr. Brook discuss President Obama’s treatment of capitalism, corporate cronyism, and the morality of libertarianism.
Dr. Brook describes Obama’s rhetoric as “the language of taking”, in which greedy executive take an unfair share of “our income”. It is a dangerous road the President wants to lead America down, one that invalidates hard work and innovation. Dr. Brook emphatically: “We do build it. We do make it”.
On the subject of corporate cronyism, Jim and Dr. Brook discuss how it is the people who have taken federal bailouts, and who have colluded with the government against the capitalist system, who might not “deserve” what they earn. But they are not real proponents of the free market at all, are they?
The morality of libertarianism takes up the latter part of the discussion. In the question of moral goodness, the only answer can be what the individual considers to be valuable. Dr. Brook says that he believes a political system that acknowledges human reason will respect people’s autonomy. Yet today we have a system in which both Left and Right try to undermine individuals. Politicians have forgotten that government is a means, not an end.
The conversation is brilliant, ranging across many of the issues facing the free market and the causes of reason and independence. While things may seem bleak in political circles at the moment, Dr. Brook seems confident in people’s ability to resist the oppression of the state in the end.
Listen to the podcast in the player above.
The national media this morning are calling Democrat Alex Sink’s surprise defeat in a bellwether special Congressional election yesterday a foreboding referendum on Obamacare. Perhaps this is so, but only slightly less noteworthy is Sink supporters’ failed attempt to turn victorious Republican David Jolly’s global warming skepticism into a political albatross.
Having just moved into Florida’s U.S. House District 13, I was shocked these past two weeks to discover how global warming became the central issue dominating television’s political commercials. Granted, I haven’t been watching much television, as moving from one house to another has been nearly a full-time job. Nevertheless, it seemed I couldn’t go 15 minutes into my limited viewing schedule without seeing the same Sierra Club/League of Conservation Voters commercial excoriating Jolly for being a global warming skeptic. I honestly can’t recall seeing any other political commercials these past two weeks, either pro-Sink or pro-Jolly. However, I must have seen the global warming commercial at least a dozen times.
Most campaign analysts and all pre-election polls named Sink the favorite in the race. Sink held statewide office as Florida Chief Financial Officer from 2007-2010. In 2010, one of the bloodiest political years for Democrats ever, Sink came within a hair of winning Florida’s gubernatorial election. Sink had a tremendous name recognition advantage over Jolly, a former lobbyist who nobody had even heard of six months ago. Sink’s campaign outspent Jolly. And Sink decided to counter anti-Obamacare sentiment by defining Jolly as a scientifically dangerous climate change skeptic.
If there is any congressional district in America where Democrats should theoretically get the most bang for their buck selling global warming alarmism, Florida District 13 should be it. The district is urban and decidedly moderate. The Tea Party barely exists here. Northeastern and Rust Belt snowbirds dominate the demographics. President Obama carried the district in 2008 and 2012. And global warming alarmists’ constant (and erroneous) harping about sea level rise and hurricanes should prove especially scary to voters in District 13, which hugs the Gulf of Mexico.
Jolly didn’t even fight back against the constant global warming political onslaught. He never answered the Sierra Club/League of Conservation Voters attacks with a defense of his views on global warming, energy and the environment. He simply let Sink’s supporters sink their political war chest on what turned out to be a loser political strategy. Maybe Sink, despite all her advantages, was unavoidably going to suffer the political upset, anyway. Then again, maybe not. What we do know is a well-known Democrat who had recently served in statewide office lost to a lobbyist running his first political campaign after global warming became the most visible campaign advertising issue in the weeks leading up to the election.
Interestingly enough, the Florida District 13 election occurred just as the Senate Democratic Climate Action Task Force wrapped up an all-night session in which 30 Democratic senators filibustered to protest the Democratic-controlled Senate’s failure to pass a carbon tax. Democratic U.S. Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Kay Hagan (D-NC), all of whom face difficult reelection contests in the upcoming November elections, stayed conspicuously away from the high-profile hijinks.
Maybe they know something Alex Sink’s supporters should have, but didn’t.
[First published at Forbes.]
While this week’s Senate Climate Action Task Force all-night marathon may seem like the ultimate comedy, real climate scientists are crying over the event. It’s not just because of the numerous basic science mistakes made by the senators.
Scientists are also concerned that most of the media and public will fail to realize that many of the senators’ absolute assertions are simply science fiction.
The senators repeatedly argued that the science of climate change is “settled.” Scientists supposedly know with certainty that our carbon-dioxide emissions are causing a climate crisis.
There is no further need to investigate the validity of the theory or to consider alternative evidence, the senators asserted. Rather, we must take action to stop the unfolding human-caused climate catastrophe.
Like children frightening each other with ghost stories, senators seemed to be competing for the most alarming forecasts of eco-disaster.
Sen. Edward J. Markey, Massachusetts Democrat, easily took first place with his warning: “The science proves there is a danger . The planet is running a fever, but there are no emergency rooms for planets.”
Professors Chris Essex of the University of Western Ontario and Ross McKitrick of the University of Guelph classify this sort of remark as part of the “Doctrine of Certainty” that has ruined the climate debate.
In their book “Taken by Storm,” they explain, “The Doctrine is a collection of now-familiar assertions made about climate, all of which must be accepted without question.”
If one dares question the Doctrine, the reaction from true believers is immediate: You are a denier, an enemy of nature, a pawn of big oil — and you must be silenced.
Following Mr. Obama’s assertion in January’s State of the Union address that “the debate is settled,” Mr. Kerry told Indonesians last month that the science backing what he called “the greatest threat that the planet has ever seen” is “something that we understand with absolute assurance of the veracity of that science.”
In reality, trying to unravel the causes and consequences of climate change is arguably the most complex science ever tackled. Mr. Essex and Mr. McKitrick explain: “Climate is one of the most challenging open problems in modern science. Some knowledgeable scientists believe that the climate problem can never be solved.”
One of the reasons the Senate Climate Action Task Force can get away with their exaggerations is that the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the United Kingdom’s Royal Society and other national science bodies are not doing their jobs.
Rather than working to help to defeat the anti-science “Doctrine of Certainty” distorting the climate debate, these scientific bodies and others who should know better engage in propaganda, making absolute assertions concerning topics about which we have little knowledge
The National Academy of Sciences-Royal Society report, “Climate Change: Evidence and Causes,” released on Feb. 27, is a prime example. In it, there appear numerous unfounded assertions that cannot be supported by science.
For example, it says, “If the rise in [carbon dioxide] continues unchecked, warming of the same magnitude as the increase out of the ice age [i.e., 7 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit] can be expected by the end of this century or soon after.”
Not only does such a confident prediction undermine the careful approach scientists normally take when addressing difficult fields of study, it is irresponsible, since it encourages governments to prepare only for warming while ignoring the possibility that far more dangerous cooling is on the way as the sun weakens into a “grand minimum” over the coming decades.
Reports such as that from the National Academy of Sciences and the Royal Society provide political cover for politicians of developed country to bring in draconian and unnecessary carbon-dioxide regulations that are destroying their most important source of electric power — coal.
Ontario has already closed most of its coal stations because of the government’s blind adherence to climate-change doctrine. This has led to soaring electricity prices, a major cause of the province’s decline from “have” to “have not” status.
With the Senate Climate Action Task Force’s help, the Obama administration appears determined to do the same in the United States, ending America’s use of coal, the least expensive and most reliable electricity source.
The president and his allies promote wind and solar power, the least reliable and most expensive options available, in the vain belief that this will stop the climate from changing.
No one knows whether spending billions of dollars revamping the U.S. energy infrastructure will finally break America’s back. Still, there are limits to how many blunders even a great nation can commit and still survive.
Let’s not find out if bowing to the climate-change “Doctrine of Certainty” will be America’s final, fatal mistake.[Originally posted at The Washington Times]
Left unspoken in Obama’s assertion of knowing what a minimum “fair” or “just” wage should be in America is the ghost of a thinker long thought to have been relegated to the dustbin of history: Karl Marx (1818-1883).Marx’s Labor Theory of a Worker’s Value
Marx’s conception of the unjust “wage slavery” that businessmen imposed on their workers became the premise and the rallying cry that resulted in the communist revolutions of the twentieth century, with all their destruction and terror.
Marx insisted that the “real value” of anything produced was by determined by the quantity of labor that had gone into its manufacture. If it takes four hours of labor time to produce a pair of shoes and two hours of labor time to prepare and bake a cake, then the just ratio of exchange between the two commodities should be one pair of shoes in trade for two cakes. Thus the quantities of the two goods would exchange at a ratio representing comparable amounts of labor time to produce them.
If a worker’s labor produced, say, three pairs of shoes during a twelve-hour workday, then the worker had a just right to the ownership of the three pairs of shoes his labor had produced, so he might exchange it for the productions of other workers from whom he wanted to buy.
But, Marx insisted, the businessman who hired the worker did not pay him a wage equal to the value of the three pairs of shoes the laborer had produced. Simply because the businessman owned the factory and machines as private property with which the worker produced those shoes, and without access to which the worker would be left out in the cold to starve, the employer demanded a portion of the worker’s output.
The employer paid him a wage only equal to, say, two of the pairs of shoes, thus “stealing” a part of the worker’s labor. Hence, in Marx’s mind, the market value of the third pair of shoes that the businessman kept for himself out of the worker’s work was the source of his profit, or the net gain over the costs of hiring the worker.
Here is the origin of the notion of “unearned income,” the idea of income not from working and producing, but from, well, simply owning a private business in which the workers who really did all the work were employed.
The businessman, you see, does nothing. He lives off the labor of others, while sitting up in his office, with his feet on the desk, smoking a cigar (when it was still “politically correct” to do so). It is not surprising that given this reasoning about work, wages and profit that a president of the United States then says to businessmen “You really did not make it.”Carl Menger and the Personal Value of Things
Karl Marx died in 1883, at the age of sixty-four. A decade before his death, in the early 1870s, his labor theory of value had been overturned by a number of economists. The most important of them was the Austrian economist, Carl Menger (1840-1921), in his 1871 book, “Principles of Economics.”
Menger explained that the value of something was not derived from the quantity of labor that had been devoted to its manufacture. A man might spend hundreds of hours making mud pies on the seashore, but if no one has any use for mud pies, and therefore does not value them enough to pay anything for them, then those mud pies are worthless.
Value like beauty, as the old adage says, is in the eyes of the beholder. It is based on the personal, or “subjective,” use and degree of importance that someone has for a commodity or service to serve some end or purpose that he would like to satisfy.
Goods do not have value because of the amount of labor devoted to their production. Rather, a certain type of labor skill and ability may have value because it is considered useful as a productive means to achieve a goal that someone has in mind.
And furthermore, the value of things decreases as our supply of them increases, because we apply each additional quantity of a good at our disposal to a purpose less important than the purpose for which previously acquired units of that good were used.
As I am adding shirts to my wardrobe, each extra shirt generally serves a use for that type of clothing less important to me than the shirts I had purchased earlier. Economists call this the “diminishing marginal utility of goods.”Nobody Pays More for Anything Than They Think its Worth
So there is no “objective” minimum value that labor is inherently worth. An employer hires workers because they have value to him in assisting to produce a product that he thinks he can sell to potential buyers. As he hires workers of a particular type and skill, each of these workers is assigned to a task less important than the one the previous worker was hired to do.
As a result, no employer can or does pay more for any worker than he thinks his labor services are worth in contributing value to his production activities. The value of the worker to the employer is an assigned reflection of what that employer thinks the product is worth to the buying public who may purchase what the worker helps to produce.
Suppose that he thinks that some of the people in his work force contribute no more than, say, $6.00 an hour to the making of a product he hopes to sell to consumers. It should not be surprising that when the government tells him that he is legally obligated to pay each one of them a minimum wage no less than $7.40 an hour or $10.10 an hour, he lets go those that he considers now to be more costly to employ than they are worth. In addition, other jobs that he might have made available at that $6.00 an hour will never come into existence.
All that a government-mandated minimum wage succeeds in doing is pricing out of the labor market those workers whose valued contribution in the eyes of the employer in making a product is less than what the government dictates must be paid to them.
But what, exactly, does the employer do? What does he contribute to the production process, over and above the work down by the hired employees? Marx, as we saw, argued that the businessman’s “profit” was the value of that portion of the worker’s output that he appropriated for himself simply because he owned the business in which the worker was employed.Böhm-Bawerk and the Importance of Savings for Job Creation
Another Austrian economist, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (1851-1914), who developed many of the ideas that originated with Carl Menger, gave the answer to Marx. In an important three-volume work on “Capital and Interest” (1914), and in several essays, the most important of which were, “Unresolved Contraction in the Marxian Economic System” (1896) and “Control or Economic Law” (1914) Böhm-Bawerk asked: Where does the business come from in which the worker is employed? And from where comes the funds with which the worker is paid his salary?
How has the factory been built? From where comes the capital – the machinery, tools, equipment – in the factory with which the hired workers do their work to produce the products that eventually are available for consumers to buy?
Böhm-Bawerk’s answer was that someone had to do the necessary savings out of income earned in the past so resources could be devoted to building the enterprise and housing it with the capital equipment without which any worker’s labor would be far less productive, far smaller in output, and far more crude in its quality.
The businessman who undertakes an enterprise must either have saved the necessary funds to cover his own investment expenses to do all of this, or he must have borrowed if from others who had done the necessary savings. Someone had to sacrifice, forego, the desirable consumption uses in the present that that savings could have been used for if it had not been invested in starting up and maintaining the operations of the business that may generate a financial payoff in the future when a product has been produced and can be sold at some point in that future.
No one sacrifices the uses and enjoyments that their income could provide them with today unless they are sufficiently compensated with a gain in the future that makes it worthwhile to forego those consumption uses and pleasures of the present.
That is why interest is paid, as the price for trading the use of resources across time, between the present and the future. It is the price that savers receive in the future for sacrificing satisfactions closer to the present until the borrowed sums are paid back. And the borrower pays that interest because he values more highly the uses he has for the money and resources he borrows today than the interest premium that he pays over the principle on the loan when it is repaid in the future.Businessmen Save the Workers from Having to Wait for Their Wages
The fact that the businessman has such savings at his disposal, either from his own savings out of income earned in the past or from the borrowed savings of others, means that those that he employs do not have to wait until the product is finished and actually sold to receive their wages for the work they perform over the period of production.
The employer, in other words, “advances” to the workers the discounted value of what their labor services are worth while the production process is ongoing, precisely to relieve those whom he is employing from having to wait until revenues are received in the future from the sale of the product to consumers.
Indeed, this is why it is correct to say that the businessman really did “make it,” because without his willingness and ability to organize, fund, and direct the enterprise those whom he employs would have no jobs and would have no wages to live on before a marketable product was made and successfully sold.
This last point is also crucially important to appreciate. The businessman is not only the organizer of the enterprise and the investor of savings to “make it” happen, he is also the entrepreneur, the one who may or may not earn a profit from his enterprising efforts.Businessmen Bear the Uncertainty of Planning for the Future
The workers and all others who supply businessman with the useful services and resources to undertake a production process receive their pay while the work is on going and being done. But the entrepreneur bears the uncertainty of whether or not he will earn enough from selling the product to cover all the expenses he has incurred when the product is finally ready for sale and actually offered on the market.
By paying those he employs the agreed upon and contracted for wages, he relieves his employees from the uncertainty as to whether or not, at the end of the day, a profit is earned, a loss is suffered, or the enterprise barely breaks even.
It is the businessman who has to make the creative speculative judgments about what to produce and at what price his product might sell. The correctness of that entrepreneurial judgment, in better anticipating than his competitors what it is consumers may want to buy in the future and the price they might pay for it, is what determines the success or failure of his enterprise.
Thus, Karl Marx had it all wrong in misunderstanding what determined the value of goods, the worth of workers in the production process, and the vital and essential role of the enterprising entrepreneurial businessman who really does “make it” all happen.The Harm That Comes from Marxian-Based Polices
It matters little whether the president of the United States and others who share his views about work, wages and businessmen are consciously aware of how much their conception of capitalism and the labor market is implicitly derived from and influenced by the obsolete ruminations of a long-dead socialist revolutionary from the middle of the nineteenth century.
What does matter is that economic policies based on such Marxian misconceptions of the nature and workings of the free market economy can only lead to harm and disaster for multitudes of the very people it is claimed they wish to help.
And such misplaced policies will further undermine the essential foundations of the free market system that over the last two hundred years has given man more personal freedom and material prosperity than has ever known in all of human history. They are policies that erode away at people’s liberty to work and freely associate in the ways they find most advantageous, and therefore move society down a road that leads to potential ruin.
[Originally posted at EpicTimes]
Heartland friend John Coleman is among the many courageous meteorologists who are speaking out against the fake science of man-caused global warming. He’s brave, influential, and has the backing of his TV station in San Diego, KUSI, to produce videos such as the one below titled “How the Global Warming Scare Began.”
Coleman is the founder of The Weather Channel, was the first weatherman on “Good Morning America,” and was named “Broadcast Meteorologist of the Year” by the American Meteorological Society. (NOTE: Coleman quit the AMS when, he says, it was clear “the politics had gotten in the way of the science.”)
In the video below, Coleman says something all global warming “skeptics” could agree upon: If the science actually backed up the notion that humans were endangering the earth’s climate, he’d be on the front lines to save the planet. “But it’s just not happening,” he said.
The little warming we have now is well within (and even below) natural variations over the centuries. But the fruitless “fight” against man-caused global warming is wasting enormous sums of money — seen in government outlays, and in the unduly rising energy bills of every American.
In his video, Coleman gives us many “Cold Hard Facts.” Here are some of them:
- Arctic ice levels are well within the average measured by satellites since first recorded about 35 years ago.
- Polar bear populations are up, not down.
- The “global warming” superstorms the alarmists predicted have not materialized. No hurricanes hit the US in 2013. Superstorm Sandy was nothing compared to the Galveston Hurricane in 1900, before man supposedly had influence on the climate. Strong tornadoes have been diminishing, too.
- We haven’t had a “killer heat wave” since the 1950s.
- Al Gore got a “D” in the only science course he took at Harvard, taught by the godfather of climate alarmism, Roger Revelle … and the rest is history (including Revelle apologizing for his previous alarmism and Gore responding by calling him “senile.”)
There is so much more. This is the primer you must show your alarmist friends:
For more information on what’s really happening to the earth’s climate, visit The Heartland Institute’s archive of its eight international conferences on climate change — featuring more than 300 presentations by 187 scientists, economists, and policy experts (including Coleman).
For the very latest observable climate science, as opposed to political climate science, visit the Climate Change Reconsidered site. Stay tuned to that site, and The Heartland Institute, for news about yet another report from the Nongovernmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) that will be released later this month.
A close relative of mine has been spending months job-seeking and the news from the White House in the first week of March was that the President was playing golf in Key Largo while Joe Biden was in the Virgin Islands soaking up the sun. It’s not that they don’t deserve some down time, but down time for the unemployed is full time. The U.S. has 866,000 fewer people employed today than when the recession began in the wake of the 2008 recession.
Since Obama became President in 2009, there has been a 3.5 million increase in jobs, but 12 million new working age people. This is supposed to be a “recovery” according to the White House but the job numbers are not keeping pace with the job-seekers.
It’s not widely reported, but the labor force participation rate of 63% remains stuck at or near its lowest point since the late 1970s. There are two million fewer Americans in the labor force today than a year ago. The number of long-term unemployed, six months or more, rose by 203,000.
While Obama keeps bloviating about income inequality, too many Americans have no income at all.
At the same time, thanks to Obama, the U.S. debt, according to the U.S. Treasury’s Bureau of Public Debt, has increased $6.666 trillion since he took office on January 20, 2009. As of January 31, 2014, the total debt stood at $17,293,019,654,983.61. While he has been President, the U.S. has accumulated as much new debt as it did in the first 227 years.
This is a President who has been pushing to raise the minimum wage, but according to the Congressional Budget Office, raising it to $10.10 an hour would cost the U.S. economy a half-million new jobs by 2016.
In an article by Michael D. Tanner that was published by the New York Post in August of last year, he noted that “The federal government funds 126 separate programs targeted towards low-income people, 72 of which provide either cash or in-kind benefits to individuals.” In addition, state and local governments have welfare programs as well. Who funds these programs? Those with jobs. Welfare benefits are not taxed.
“There is no evidence that people on welfare are lazy,” wrote Tanner. “Indeed, surveys of them consistently show their desire for a job. But they are not stupid. If you pay them more not to work than they can earn by working, many choose not to work.”
Former Presidents have encountered recessions when they entered office and those such as Kennedy and Reagan put an end to them. When taxes are lowered it puts more money into the economy and that stimulates it. There is no such talk from Obama and, indeed, his 2014 budget adds billions more that he wants to add to government revenue and spending.
A March 10th Rasmussen survey found that the President’s proposed new $3.9 trillion federal budget that includes $55 billion in new spending for fiscal 2015, is regarded by one-out-of-two voters (50%) who think the Obama administration has already raised spending too much.
Spending is controlled by the House of Representatives, but legislation to address the present economy has been consistently blocked in the Democrat controlled Senate. It’s the same one that enacted the Affordable Care Act, Obamacare, which is playing havoc with the nation’s health system and impacting its economy by forcing businesses to either cut the number of people employed or reducing full-time workers to part-time status.
Other actions of the Obama administration are contributing to the unemployment roles as its “war on coal” has shut down more than 150 coal-fired plants that generate electricity and its loans to “green” industries have cost billions as many have declared bankruptcy.
Meanwhile, the Secretary of State, John Kerry, is telling everyone that “climate change” is the greatest threat to the planet and urging U.S. ambassadors to make it a priority. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency is engaged in an orgy of regulation based on zero proof that carbon dioxide warms the Earth.
Obama and his administration is so detached from reality that it is afflicting millions of Americans who want to work while at the same time its policies are reducing the number of new jobs being created.
If this is a deliberate policy—as I believe it is—the only conclusion is that the President is intentionally inflicting a huge debt and impediments to our economy that are reducing the greatest nation on Earth to a third world nation status. He opposed the view of American exceptionalism and is doing everything he can to kill it.[Originally posted at Warning Signs]
With due credit to “Ripley’s Believe it or Not!®,” so much odd and bizarre is happening in Washington in the “name” of “U.S. wireless competition criticism” that the topic calls for its own collection of: “Believe it or Not!®” oddities.
Softbank’s CEO Masayoshi Son, who bought Sprint for $21b in 2013 with public plans “to become the #1 company in the world,” tells U.S. regulators just eight months after he bought Sprint, that Softbank-Sprint cannot compete with either of America’s #1 and #2 wireless providers, Verizon and AT&T, unless Softbank can buy America’s #4 wireless provider — T-Mobile!
T-Mobile and Sprint, which each voluntarily chose not to bid in the last auction for spectrum available under 1GHz, now complain to the DOJ and FCC that it is unfair that they do not have more spectrum under 1 GHz to compete!
When wireless users use 50% more data than they did last year because they spend more time accessing the Internet for more things anywhere they go, are streaming more video than ever, and getting more value from their wireless services than ever before, pressure groups complain that users overall wireless bills are going up!
Sprint is urging regulators to allow Sprint to buy T-Mobile because T-Mobile can’t compete with Verizon or AT&T when T-Mobile’s maverick “uncarrier strategy” has been successful in enabling T-Mobile to add 4.4 million customers in 2013 and in building a 4G LTE network covering 200m Americans faster than Sprint!
The U.S. wireless industry, with more national facilities-based providers than any nation in the world (4), with four times more wireless investment per subscriber than anywhere else in the world, and with more cutting-edge 4G LTE wireless broadband service available than anywhere else in the world, still has critics trying to claim that the U.S. wireless market is not competitive!
Sprint’s Chairman argues Sprint and T-Mobile are not big enough individually to compete in the U.S. market when Sprint’s customer base is equivalent to the populations of California and New York combined, and T-Mobile’s customer base is the equivalent to the populations of Texas and Florida combined!
The FCC, in its last annual wireless competition report to Congress did not declare that effective wireless competition exists, when the FCC’s own analysis shows the U.S. market is the most competitive it has ever been and more competitive than most any other nation!
The FCC is considering tightening the spectrum screen limits for Verizon and AT&T for the upcoming 600 MHz incentive auction at Sprint’s urging when Sprint commands 57% more spectrum than AT&T and 95% more spectrum than Verizon and when the FCC’s current spectrum screen does not even include 59% of Sprint’s industry-leading spectrum hoard!
The DOJ Antitrust Division claims both Verizon and AT&T are “the dominant firms” in wireless, when DOJ guidelines define “dominant” as only one player with 50+% share and when two thirds of U.S. wireless consumers do not use Verizon, and when two thirds of U.S. wireless consumers do not use AT&T!
Despite the Government centrally managing Federal lands since 1849, personnel since 1883, buildings since 1949, telecom services since 1960 and budget resources since 1970, the Federal Government has no central management or accountability system for radio spectrum in 2014!
Radio spectrum, a trillion dollar federal asset essential to the mobile revolution of smart phones and tablets still has no inventory, budget, valuation, utilization audits, or accountability, and no group in Congress calling for modern sound fiscal management of this critical natural resource!
Despite the U.S military being considered the most technologically advanced military in the world, the DOD did not have a framework to begin the process of rationalizing and optimizing their radio spectrum resources for the 21st century for the first time — until five months ago!
Strange but true.
“Believe it or Not!®”
[Originally posted at Precursor Blog]
Wednesday brings us a House Communications Subcommittee hearing on the reauthorization of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA).
You hear STELA, you think Marlon Brando. But this mandatory renewal – the old law expires December 31 – is crucial to keeping satellite television subscribers connected to the shows they like.
And is a skirmish in a broader Crony Socialism war. STELA in part addresses what is called Retransmission Consent.
“Retransmission consent is a provision of the 1992 United States Cable Television Protection and Competition Act.
“(It) requires cable operators and other…distributors (like satellite) to obtain permission from broadcasters before carrying their programming.
“In exchange, a broadcaster may propose that the operator pay cash to carry the station or ask for any other form of consideration.”
As written, Retransmission Consent is hopelessly tilted in favor of the Broadcasters.
This go round, STELA’s renewal includes a provision to remove but one of these many advantages – the mandate that Providers cannot during Sweeps Weeks pull shows as a last-ditch part of Retransmission negotiations.
Don’t know when Sweeps Weeks are? Neither do I. Meanwhile, look what the Broadcasters can do:
“The feud between Cablevision and the News Corporation has already resulted in an extraordinarily long blackout of programming. Now it threatens to shut Cablevision customers out of the World Series.”
Get that? Providers can’t block Sweeps Weeks – whenever they are – but Broadcasters can block things like the World Series and the Super Bowl. They can – and they do.
At whom do customers get angry when they can’t watch what they want? Hint: it ain’t the Broadcasters. The Broadcasters know this – and they use it in negotiations to fleece the Providers.
And when the Broadcasters fleece the Providers – they fleece us. The more the Providers pay for shows – the more we pay for shows.
So a little more balance would be helpful for everyone – except the Broadcasters, who want to keep every Crony Socialist break they have:
“House Republicans are working on a rewrite of the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act that would not be as “clean” as broadcasters would like.”
You mean “clean” – like this?
Policy to emulate, to be sure. But how “clean” is this?
“After fierce lobbying by broadcasters, lawmakers abandoned the most controversial provision, which would have allowed cable providers to drop broadcast channels from their “basic tier” of programming.
“Allowing cable providers to move broadcast channels into pricier tiers would give them more leverage in programming fights.”
Only in Washington, D.C. is it “controversial” to not have the government mandate which channels go where. Only in DC are all these one-sided government mandates considered capitalism – as the Broadcasters claim.
The Broadcasters are actually the beneficiaries of decades of government good grace – well beyond the uber-tilted Retransmission laws.
They received free from government charge their spectrum – the airwaves they use to broadcast. Surely something the cellular phone companies have eyed as they’ve paid the government tens of billions of dollars for their spectrum.
And now we have the looming spectrum incentive auction. Where Broadcasters get to sell their spectrum – that they, again, received for free – to the cell phone companies (via the government middle man).
I’m sure a company like Verizon - a cell phone company who with Fios is also a television Provider – is thrilled to pay Broadcasters for the spectrum the latter received for free, while also having the government tilt the Retransmission rules against them, in the Broadcasters’ favor.
The Broadcasters have a pretty sweet omni-directional Crony Socialist deal going. Little wonder they are fighting so hard against even the tiniest of changes to it.[Originally posted at Redstate.com]
This weekly podcast features the first half of a conversation between Jim Lakely, Heartland’s communications director, and Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute. In this half of the interview, Jim and Dr. Brook discuss the need to inspire young people to take up the cause of freedom and the issue of income inequality.
Dr. Brook explains the desperate need of conservative leaders and the political Right to “present and ideal” that will encourage developing thinkers to question the statist message they are fed daily in schools. he explains that the Right has not been doing that enough, that ”it has nothing to offer” children and young adults at present. Yet, as young people have not yet ossified in their political and moral beliefs, they are the people who champions of liberty must strive to persuade. Dr. Brook persuasively outlines the problems of government spending, particularly on Medicare, which robs young people of their livelihood and condemns them to an ever growing burden of debt.
The conversation then turns to the subject of equality. Dr. Brook argues that there is, “no such thing as equality of anything”, nor should there be. Equality can only really be achieved by hobbling the strong and the talented. Jim and Dr. Brook then discuss the issues surrounding the moral authority of the Left’s claims about income inequality, and Dr. Brook argues that because the political Right fails to challenge the statist moral language, the Left wins the moral case by default in the public sphere.
The conversation is a stimulating one, ranging across many of the issues facing the youth of America today. Nothing can be more important than ensuring the development of a new generation of fighters for liberty.
Listen to the podcast in the player above.
The Federal Communications Commission has been much in the news recently — and deservedly so — owing to its ill-conceived “Critical Information Needs” study. Thankfully, after a public outcry, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler recently canceled this study.
Before it was jettisoned, this project would have had the FCC assessing ways in which broadcasters and newspapers make decisions about what issues of public importance to cover and to what extent.
By design, the study necessarily would have allowed the agency to intrude into matters of journalistic endeavor at the core of the media’s exercise of editorial judgment. This, of course, is offensive to the First Amendment.
Let’s hope the now-canceled study, which calls to mind the Fairness Doctrine abandoned a quarter-century ago, is not revived.
Still, the fact that the study was conceived at all indicates that the agency’s current leadership, in important respects, is still under the influence of an outdated pro-regulatory mindset that is no longer appropriate in today’s age of media abundance and competitive alternatives.
Take this current example: In mid-January, a federal appeals court in Washington tossed out, as beyond the agency’s statutory authority, the FCC’s “Net neutrality” mandates regulating the practices of broadband Internet-service providers such as Verizon or the cable operators.
In the wake of this setback, on Feb. 19, Mr. Wheeler issued a statement outlining his proposals for what the agency should do next.
A couple of the proposals may be reasonable, such as enforcing a transparency rule that requires broadband providers to disclose practices that affect subscribers’ service. Others are quite problematic, including an ill-conceived idea nurtured by an activist regulatory mindset.
Under the heading “Enhance Competition,” Mr. Wheeler says he wants the FCC to focus on “legal restrictions for the ability of cities and towns to offer broadband services to consumers in their communities.” What he means by this is he wants the commission to consider pre-empting bans that have been adopted by about 20 states that prohibit cities within those states from constructing and operating communications networks.
This is a bad idea. To suggest that getting governments into the communications business is somehow enhancing “competition” reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from Abraham Lincoln. In April 1864, in his “Address at a Sanitary Fair,” Lincoln said: “We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word, we do not all mean the same thing.”
If Mr. Wheeler thinks the way to enhance “competition” is to encourage government-run communications networks, then his use of the word is quite different from mine. While there are significant legal problems with Mr. Wheeler’s proposal, it is more important to explain why encouraging proliferation of Solyndra-like government-run communications networks is not a proper way to “enhance competition.” Indeed, this approach thwarts competition.
Government systems pose inherent conflicts of interest with private-sector companies attempting to compete by investing tens of millions of dollars in building out new broadband networks.
Government networks generally are subsidized directly by the taxpayers or are backed by government bonds carrying below-market interest rates. They are granted special privileges, such as favored rights-of-way treatment, which are unavailable to their private-sector competitors.
Of course, they are excused from running the bureaucratic gantlet of permitting and licensing processes through which private firms must pass. There have been many examples across the country of high-profile local government communications networks going belly up or losing money, with taxpayers and government bondholders often left holding the bag.
These troubled systems can be found in places that range from Burlington, Vt., to Provo, Utah, with many in between. Of course, these financial flops inevitably affect the government’s ability to deliver other services, from providing police and fire protection to repairing potholes, which actually are within its traditional bailiwick and presumed competence.
It’s no wonder, then, that so many states have adopted bans to prohibit their localities — which, after all, are solely creatures of the state — from competing with private-sector companies providing broadband services in the same locales.
The wonder is that the FCC chairman would suggest that the way to enhance “competition” in the broadband marketplace is for the agency affirmatively to act to encourage governments to compete with private-sector companies.
The proper way to encourage competition is to remove existing, costly regulations that no longer are necessary in today’s competitive communications environment and to refrain from adopting or threatening to adopt new ones.
Mr. Wheeler’s decision to keep “on the table” the threat of imposing the panoply of traditional public utility-style regulation on private-sector broadband providers is improper.
To paraphrase Lincoln, while Mr. Wheeler and I may both declare we are for enhancing “competition,” in using the same word, we do not mean the same thing.
[Originally published at The Washington Times]
Tomorrow the House Judiciary Committee will hold the hearing “Exploring Alternative Solutions on the Internet Sales Tax Issue.” Taking some time to explore the Constitutional challenges of current proposals which mandate the collection of taxes by businesses across state lines and an examining the potential for the radical expansion of government would be a good place to focus.
Reportedly, Congressman Chaffetz is taking a harder look at the current Marketplace Fairness Act and working on language for new online sales tax legislation. Politico has reported that his “new measure would give more authority to states to decide how they implement sales tax collection from out-of-state online retailers…”
What would drive the Congressman to be this deeply involved in this issue? No doubt it is a laudable desire to make sure that government is not in growth mode by ignoring rights reserved to the states. “I believe it’s a states’ rights issue. I want to give them flexibility,” he said. “We haven’t hammered out actually what it would be, but there is a concern about small sellers and will they have to go through 34 different audits. There’s got to be a way to craft it so it is more reasonable and workable.” Unfortunately for the Congressman, there is no reasonable and workable scheme along these lines, particularly for a true conservative or constitutionalist, because neither the U.S. Constitution, nor the Bill of Rights, gave the states the right to trample their neighbors.
The heart of the problem is seeing the federal government act, the states being involved and reflexively concluding a state’s rights issue is in play when in fact it is not. In this case, the law that prevents states from taxing and auditing citizens of other states was an intentional limitation placed on the power of the states, a check on expansionist government.
There is little argument that the federal government has often been doing things that should never have been crammed into the Commerce Clause. But by no means is the Commerce Clause completely invalid. In fact, the very action of looting across state lines, taxing without representation, led to the need for something better than the Articles of Confederation. As a result, the U.S. Constitution was written to include the Commerce Clause exactly as a means to stop the overly aggressive states from interfering with interstate commerce, but did imbue states with the power to protect their citizens from other governments.
Since then, states have never had the power to tax out-of-state residents. The states have been specifically denied that power for good reason. What would happen if states had the power to tax out of jurisdiction residents as is being proposed?
The proposed legislation does more than just increase collected taxes on consumers, and even more than placing a significant compliance burden on online business, by its very nature it greatly expands government. It would mean the end of physical presence (the physical presence test is the test to determine the treatment of a person for taxation purposes and may rely on having a place of business in the jurisdiction) as a limitation on the ability to levy tax on a person, organization or corporation. In other words, such action leads to the end of any limitation on government power.
The issue of physical presence is perhaps the most important issue of the Internet age–does the power of government now spread beyond the physical borders of a government entity, such as a tax authority, or is the power of government now as limitless as the Internet so that any government anywhere can bring any person under its reach at any time? The question is fundamental. Under this scheme there is simply no remuneration against an overzealous taxing authority, or an overzealous authority pursuing any issue. Those who believe that government is a creation of the people, and hence should be limited must say yes to the requirement of a physical presence.
All other questions and “fixes” are irrelevant so long as this bedrock of the Constitution and fundamental tenant of conservatism is at risk. Thresholds for audits, software costs and ease of compliance, third party liability for reliance on software, burdens on small sellers and Main Street businesses, and a statute of limitations on state audits of remote sellers are all irrelevant if constitutional protections are forfeit. Once government is allowed to grow past the limitations of physical presence it will never again be limited.
Arguments over appropriate tax rates, and whether taxes are applied in the first place, are legitimate and worthwhile. A debate about whether constitutional limitations on the breadth of government, about whether an individual should be subject to governmental authority by those with whom they have no representation must always result in a firm “never!”
Are we going to have limited government in the 21st Century? What does the concept of limited government mean in an age where government is easy via the Internet and technology?
To their credit, Mr. Chaffetz and certainly Mr. Goodlatte have proven time and again that they are champions of the technology industry. Now they face a daunting challenge working within the Constitution and not creating a painfully effective vehicle for the radical growth of government power.[Originally posted at Madery Bridge]
On February 12, the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS) issued a news release inviting the public to a joint meeting with the UK Royal Society that follows:
Join NAS and The Royal Society for the Launch of a Joint Publication on Climate Change Science. On Thursday, February 27th, the US National Academy of Sciences and The UK’s Royal Society cordially invite the public to the release of Climate Change: Evidence & Causes, a new publication produced jointly by the two institutions. Host Miles O’Brien from the PBS Newshour will guide a discussion about the publication with authors Dr. Eric Wolff of the University of Cambridge (UK lead), Dr. Inez Fung of the University of California, Berkeley (US lead), Sir Brian Hoskins* of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, and Dr. Benjamin Santer* of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone, President of the National Academy of Sciences, and Professor Sir Paul Nurse,* President of the Royal Society, will kick off the event.
The publication, which is written by a UK-US team of leading climate scientists and reviewed by climate scientists and others, is intended as a brief, readable reference document for decision makers, policy makers, educators, and other individuals seeking authoritative information on some of the questions that continue to be asked. The publication makes clear what is well-established and where understanding is still developing. It echoes and builds upon the long history of climate-related work from both national academies, as well as on the newest climate-change assessment from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The event will be held on February 27 from 10:00-11:30 EST at the National Academy of Sciences building at 2100 Constitution Ave., NW, Washington DC or via webcast. For more information, and to register to attend, go to our website.
As Captain Renault said in the classic 1942 movie Casablanca “Round up the usual suspects”, the usual crew of advocates for promoting abandoning fossil fuel use due to global warming fears are cited as authors of the report “Climate Change: Evidence & Causes”.
Following this announcement is reference to a video by NAS on “The Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change“.
The video features Prof. Jim White, of the University of Colorado (Boulder), as the speaker. Prof. White states as fact a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change (UNIPCC )chart of a 3 foot rise in sea level predicted by 2100. This is followed by statements of possible greater than 3 foot sea level rise by the end of the century. A 3 foot rise in sea level in 30 years is given as an example of abrupt climate change. Prof. White points out a sea level rise of 6 inches may have caused subway flooding in New York City by the October 2012 Hurricane Sandy.
Perhaps Prof. White was influenced by the May 15, 1932 New York Times article that predicted a huge rise in sea level during the 1910-1940 increase in global temperatures:“The earth is steadily growing warmer. As all the ice at the two poles melts a stupendous volume of water will be released. Professor David conservatively estimates that the sea level will rise fifty feet. Professor Meinardus doubles that estimate. Dr. Humphreys, with the studies of Byrd and Wegener before him, believes that the rise will be 151 feet. Such floods are nothing new, as we see by the marine fossils found on the tops of the Rockies, Andes and other mountain ranges.”
Hurricane Sandy took place on a day of a full moon. The height of the storm surge was reported to have been increased by six inches due to the moon’s additional gravitational pull. Are events happening on days of a full moon considered by NAS as abrupt climate change impacts? Experimental data shows a sea level rise of seven inches the past century with a reduced rate the past decade. Is this another example of NAS abrupt climate change impact?
All UNIPCC statements about climate change are based on computer models that predict increased global temperatures as time progresses. None of these computer models have shown the pause in global warming that has taken place the past 15 years(1998-to present) with atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increasing 8 percent. In addition, computer models can not explain global warming from 1910-1940 when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were not increasing and the slight decline in global temperatures from 1945 to 1975 followed by increasing global temperatures from 1975-1998 at the same rate as the 1910-1940 increases when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased about 16 percent. Another problem with computer models is they predict a hot spot in the upper atmosphere from latitudes 30 degrees South to 30 degrees North that have shown to be non-existent by decades of radiosonde and satellite temperature measurements. Slavish loyalty to the veracity of computer models shows a lack of common sense.
A thorough coverage of global temperatures, failures of climate models, and errors in IPCC Reports is contained in the recent document Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Sciences published by the Nongovernmental International Panel On Climate Change October 17, 2013. This more than 1000-page report with over 4000 references is available on-line. Another excellent source of information is the Internet report by Popular Technology that lists 1350 + peer-reviewed papers challenging catastrophic global warming by categories such as Arctic, sea level rise, temperatures, etc.
The fallacy of the U. S. National Academy of Sciences joining the movement to stop fossil fuel use from global warming fears is outlined by Prof. Garth Paltridge in his essay “Climate Change’s Inherent Uncertainties“ in the February 1, 2014 Quadrant magazine. Prof. Paltridge wrote the following:“The trap was fully sprung when many of the world’s major national academies of science (such as the Royal Society in the UK, the National Academy of Sciences in the USA and the Australian Academy of Science) persuaded themselves to issue reports giving support to the conclusions of the IPCC [the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change]. The reports were touted as national assessments that were supposedly independent of the IPCC and of each other, but of necessity were compiled with the assistance of, and in some cases at the behest of, many of the scientists involved in the IPCC international machinations. In effect, the academies, which are the most prestigious of the institutions of science, formally nailed their colours to the mast of the politically correct. Since that time three or four years ago, there has been no comfortable way for the scientific community to raise the spectre of serious uncertainty about the forecasts of climatic disaster. It can no longer use the environmental movement as a scapegoat if it should turn out that the threat of global warming has no real substance. It can no longer escape prime responsibility if it should turn out in the end that doing something in the name of mitigation of global warming is the costliest scientific mistake ever visited on humanity. The current redirection of global funds in the name of climate change is of the order of a billion dollars a day. And in the future, to quote US Senator Everett Dirksen, “a billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon we’ll be talking about real money”.
The NAS shows the lack of judgment written by Prof. Paltridge. It should have been an organization that promotes careful examination of all factors involving climate change and not taking sides on areas of controversy. Global temperature history and lack of climate model validation demonstrates lack of objectivity.Possibly in the future this video by NAS on climate change impacts will be laughed at in the way we treat Charley Chaplin movies today. Professor White may need to grow a small, black mustache.