On the Blog

Government Broadband Overbuilds Are Anti-competitive

Somewhat Reasonable - February 17, 2014, 7:22 AM

Governments do not “compete” with companies. Governments tax, limit, police and judge companies.

So when governments try and offer a similar service that private companies have long provided consumers, these governments effectively are opposing and undermining private companies in the marketplace – not “competing” with them.

That’s why some municipalities, which are overbuilding existing wire-line and wireless broadband companies’ services, are acting anti-competitively – not pro-competitively as they try to claim.

So what’s going on here? It’s simply politics.

At the local level, activists of common carrier net neutrality have long pushed municipalities to offer broadband as a government-owned utility service.

It is a key element of a broader political grassroots movement that seeks a government mandate that the Internet be a public information commons – not an e-marketplace.

These utopian activists oppose the “economics of scarcity,” i.e. free market competition and private property of Internet infrastructure or content.

They imagine a new virtual society based on the “economics of abundance,” i.e. no cost use of the Internet because the government owns or subsidizes the cost of broadband infrastructure, and common carrier regulates a zero-price for downstream traffic.

Since these activists politically oppose unregulated broadband competition, it is no surprise that they claim there is insufficient broadband competition to serve or protect consumer interests. Conveniently, they ignore that America enjoys the most facilities-based broadband competition in the world.

Tellingly, this utopian movement’s municipal broadband record to date has been one of mostly waste and failure.

At the federal level, these activists continue to pressure the FCC to force broadband to become a public utility by unilaterally “reclassifying” competitive broadband companies’ businesses from an unregulated Internet information service to a monopoly telephone service.

That would reverse a consistent forty-three years of FCC precedents to not apply monopoly telephone price regulations on the competitive computer data services market to promote innovation.

At the state level, these same activists oppose state legislation geared to prevent municipalities from undermining market-based broadband competition and investment with anti-competitive government entry into the broadband business.

Why is it anti-competitive for municipalities to oppose private broadband companies in their localities?

First, in the 1996 Telecom Act Congress made promoting communications competition the law of the land. To forward that goal the FCC ruled broadband was an interstate service under federal regulatory jurisdiction.

Nowhere in that law did Congress define or conceive a government to be a potential “competitor.”

Second, everyone knows the old adage, “You can’t fight city hall.” A private company certainly cannot compete with the regulator who controls their business’ livelihood – access to public rights of way underground, on poles, or on wireless towers.

Moreover a company can’t compete with their tax assessor, permit-grantor, police force, etc. – no more than a citizen can “compete” with the powers of a policeman, prosecutor, or judge.

Third, a private company cannot compete with a municipality that can compel taxpayers to subsidize the municipality’s overbuild broadband network even if they don’t vote for it, sign up for it, or if they want to use a private company service. That’s not competition – it’s a rigged game.

Fourth, who thinks government can deliver complex technology better than private companies?

Building and operating a broadband network is much more than digging trenches and laying fiber. It is a very complex and difficult systems integration and management endeavor to do competently, economically and responsibly.

Moreover, governments are well known to vastly underestimate the complexity and degree of difficulty in delivering successful systems integration.

Americans learned this lesson only too well last fall when the HealthCare.gov website managers failed to anticipate that one needs to not only test individual systems, but also how all the different subsystems work or don’t work together, under most all circumstances.

Provisioning and operating advanced technology networks is a job for professional technologists and experienced systems integrators who have successfully done it before – not municipalities, which have neither the core competency nor the experience to do it.

Sadly, this is why so many municipalities have run up large broadband infrastructure debts that can’t be repaid. It is why they have failed in creating economically sustainable and operationally proficient broadband networks.

Fifth, municipalities building opposing networks create a predatory and hostile market environment that unnecessarily and unfairly chills much needed private capital investment to best serve consumers.

Lastly, what about all the obvious privacy and surveillance conflicts? Who thinks it is a good idea for the mayor or the police to have access to local voters’ emails and web surfing histories?

In short, municipalities building broadband networks are not “competition,” they are effectively political opposition to the existence of private broadband networks.

In this light, municipal broadband networks are highly anti-competitive, heavy-handed government actions.

[First published at the Daily Caller.]

Categories: On the Blog

Presidents Day and Tevi Troy’s Book a Perfect Match

Somewhat Reasonable - February 17, 2014, 6:03 AM

The Heartland Institute last week hosted a luncheon lecture with author and presidential scholar Tevi Troy, who talked about his new book, What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched and Obama Tweeted: 200 Years of Popular Culture in the White House. [Watch the video of his presentation here, or in the player embedded below.]

Troy, a senior fellow at Hudson Institute, is the rare presidential historian who has also served as a high-level White House aide. Confirmed unanimously by the Senate in 2007 as Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in the George W. Bush administration, Troy is now recognized as an expert on health care policy. Having earned his doctorate in American Civilization at the University of Texas at Austin, Troy is also the author of Intellectuals and the American Presidency.

As an icebreaker, figuratively speaking now that Lake Michigan is mostly frozen over, Troy acknowledged being in Obama’s home town, and spoke about Obama’s Chicago connections — before digressing into Obama’s recent State of the Union address by noting how these annual addresses are continuing to receive less and less attention. While 67 million watched Clinton address the nation, Obama’s recent State of the Union address captured only 30 million listeners.

Further noted was how seldom memorable phases occur in a State of the Union address which linger on to elevate an address above the ordinary run-of-the-mill. Such was the situation with Obama’s recent State of the Union Address. But that didn’t stop Twitter from lighting up with nearly 2 million tweets expressing support of disdain for what they heard Obama say.

Initially as a way to market his book,  Troy considered calling it From Cicero to Snooki: How Culture Shapes Our Presidents. What made Troy believe Snooki and Cicero could exist in the same title? As Troy explained, he recognized Obama’s affinity for pop culture, observed during the time of the Congressional battle over Obama’s health-care bill. President Obama told a joke at the White House Correspondents Dinner that zeroed in on Snooki and Minority Speaker John Boehner, referencing the indoor tanning tax within Obamacare. Not long afterwards, however, Obama denied knowing who Snooki was when appearing on The View.

Perhaps fortunate for Troy is that his submitted title proposal wasn’t a hit with his publisher, who thought it made no sense to link the names of Cicero and Snooki together. The two names just didn’t overlap in any way. Snooki was but a “flash in the pan” pop media sensation (the reality TV show featuring Snooki wasn’t even around during the presidency of George W. Bush) whereas the collected works of Cicero are just as relevant today. Which led Troy to an unanswered question: “Is it better to have a president who knows about Snooki or one who doesn’t?”

Prompted by his publisher’s rejection, Tevi Troy settled on What Jefferson Read, Ike Watched, and Obama Tweeted: 200 year of Popular Culture in the White House as a way to tell the story of how our presidents have been shaped by popular culture. And what a delightful and entertaining story Tevi Troy had to tell as he regaled his attentive Heartland audience with fascinating tidbits of information that only stoked the fire to learn more about how presidents have affected the culture and culture has affected them as set forth in Troy’s book.

In Thomas Jefferson’s day, only two “pop culture” options were available: Reading books and attending live performances, and 18th century presidents availed themselves to both. Even though books were very expensive, Thomas Jefferson had a library of 6,000 books. John Adams’ library consisted of 3,000. Books shaped the American Revolution, which shaped our nation. It was the writings of John Locke, Troy said, which formed the basis for our Constitution. Not well known is that the early colonists were literate — likely to have a Bible and Shakespeare in their homes. Thus a concept of governing evolved that called for an enlightened leader to preside over an educated populace.

By the beginning of the 19th century every president had attended at least one live theater performance. Presidents even went on good-will tours to be seen. As theatrical performances could vary as to the actors of stage, and the way the audience reacted to the dialogue, political expression developed.

Such was the situation in the reelection bid of President John Quincy Adams in 1828 — when Andrew Jackson defeated first term incumbent Adams, having first lost to Adams in his bid for president in1824 in an election decided by the House of Representatives. The win of Adams over Jackson in 1824 was known as a “corrupt bargain,” angering Jackson supporters. So it was during a Washington, D.C. theatrical performance with John Quincy Adams present in the audience that ad lib dialogue by actors conveyed comments favorable to Andrew Jackson. This was enough to give Jackson more than the edge he needed to defeat Adams handily in 1828. The unschooled Jackson was seen as a “man of the people,” and it irked Adams that Jackson was awarded an honorary degree from Harvard, Adams’ own alma mater.

Abraham Lincoln was likewise good at conveying the common touch, according to Troy. Lincoln knew how to speak to the people in the language they understood. Lincoln also loved books and was obsessed with reading. In light of how expensive books were, and not being a wealthy man, Lincoln owned only a limited number of books — among them being the Bible, Shakespeare, and Aesop’s Fables, from which Lincoln learned how to tell tales that resonated with voters. Books elevated Lincoln from his humble beginnings and into a self-educated man, proof that America was a land where one could rise up from poverty to become successful and even become president. 

While the railroad was an important technical development in the 19th century, radio emerged as a seismic change in the 20th century. President Warren G. Harding was the first president to use the radio to get his message out, reaching the then amazing total of 125,000 Americans. President Calvin Coolidge was likewise skilled in the use of the radio, using this tool effectively as a savvy radio operator.

FDR was a skilled radio operator, even before being elected president 1932, Troy said. Roosevelt was the first president who shaped his speeches, not for the people in the room, but for the many listening at home. Although Roosevelt is now known for his “fireside chats,” FDR only gave them a few times a year because he didn’t want to over-expose himself to the American people.

Troy noted in his talk taht Roosevelt took his radio speeches very seriously — proven by the fact that he used special paper that didn’t crackle when turning pages, and FDR’s insertion of a false tooth in the front of his mouth to eliminate a whistling sound when he spoke. Roosevelt also crossed out all the “fancy words” his speech-writers gave him, Troy said, so he could better connect with the common folk. FDR was so fixated on appearing as “man of the people,” he served hot dogs to the Queen of England on her visit to the White House. Could it ever happen today that Roosevelt’s bout with polio, leaving him wheel chair bound during his presidency, was unknown to most Americans? The media stuck to publishing photos of Roosevelt minus any hint of a wheelchair.

FDR also exploited the Silver Screen’s ability to distribute political messages. Roosevelt made use of the film industry indirectly to protect him and also gathered celebrities round him for their support — who never depicted him in a wheelchair.

It was with the introduction of TV that presidential politics and the culture were redefined, Troy said. A novelty during the presidency of Harry Truman, it came to be a make-or-break medium in presidential politics.  By 1956 percent 73 percent of American homes were in areas capable of receiving TV programming.

President Eisenhower was the first president to host a televised press conference. What is still considered Ike’s most famous presidential speeches of all time is his televised farewell address in which he warned of the dangers of the “military-industrial complex.”

Ike, the first presidential TV junkie, especially liked I Love Lucy. It just so happened that the birth episode of little Ricky happened during the time of Ike’s Inaugural speech in 1953. To Ike’s chagrin at the time, the I Love Lucy episode received more viewers than did his inaugural ceremony. TV did remain a problem for Ike during his campaign. It made Ike look old and gray and lacking the appearance of a war hero. Hollywood adviser Robert Montgomery was brought in to help perk up Ike’s image, Troy said.

TV certainly played a part in the September 1960 Nixon/Kennedy election, which featured the nation’s first televised debate. Ike, Troy noted, had warned Nixon not to debate Kennedy on TV, realizing Kennedy’s superior ability in projecting himself favorably — and all who watched the Nixon/Kennedy TV debate declared Kennedy the winner. While Kennedy came off as calm and confident, Nixon appeared sickly and sweaty. Radio listeners actually picked Nixon as the winner. Kennedy would never have won the presidency had TV not been so unkind to Nixon.

When elected, Kennedy skillfully used TV and excelled at doing unedited live news conferences. Note from the Troy presentation: Kennedy was warned by his advisors about being too close to Hollywood celebrities. We know now that Kennedy for the most part disregarded this advice.

Skipping ahead, we all now live in the era of generations raised in the 24-hour news cycle on TV — and worse, the era of Twitter and Facebook, of which Obama is a master. The one time Obama’s father came to visit young Obama in Hawaii, Troy said, he tried to get Obama’s grandparents to turn off the “contraption,” upset that his son was watching too much TV.
Obama still likes to watch TV — arguably too much — and favors shows watched by the “1 percent” of Americans, rather than the “99 percent.” Obama’s publicly expressed favorite shows, Troy said, are Homeland, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Entourage, and The Wire — all on premium pay-cable. Once, when told about a sleeper terrorist cell, Obama replied that it sounded like “Homeland,” Troy said.

In the 2012 match-up between Mitt Romney and President Obama, the incumbent president used pop culture to his advantage by appearing on soft media venues like “The View” and Leno — making Obama the first president to go on a late night TV show. Romney, in contrast, appeared dated. When asked about a favorite movie, Romney chose a 1986 movie, Bueller’s Day Off, which didn’t resonate with the younger crowd. Hanging out with celebrities also helped Obama look better and provided him with a platform to amplify his message, thereby contributing to his wins in 2008 and 2012.

Troy said, however, that there was a positive message for Republicans. He believes conservatives are in a better position today than they were thirty years ago to have their message heard, although liberals continue to have the advantage in pop culture, Hollywood, and messaging through film.

Discounting the Republican disadvantage with Hollywood and the mainstream media, conservatives do own the talk media. Troy noted that recently Duck Dynasty has become associated with conservative TV viewing.  Knowing how to engage in the cultural battle is essential to a winning strategy.

Troy’s book contains a wealth of material following its final and eleventh chapter. Featured is a comprehensive “notes” section — which, chapter by chapter, tells the location of the presented material. There is also a helpful index to easily locate the references made throughout the book. (I was most interested in the Appendix with its “Rules for Presidents Engaging in Pop Culture.” It would behoove Republican candidates to read up on these rules.

[UPDATE: On February 13th Troy wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal titled, “The Presidential Bible Class,” which features information presented in his book.]


Watch the video of his presentation below:


Categories: On the Blog

Want A Government Official To Change His Mind? Hire Him!

Somewhat Reasonable - February 17, 2014, 12:52 AM

As President Obama’s Interior Secretary, Ken Salazar was charged with being one of the biggest defenders of the Obama agenda on energy and environmental issues – among them, running interference on the potential construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. But now that he’s out of government, Salazar feels free to change his tune:

Former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in an interview Thursday that his endorsement of construction of the Keystone oil sands pipeline comes after learning new information, including that the pipeline would not greatly increase carbon emissions.

Speaking at an energy conference in Texas earlier this week, Salazar said he supported the project. He said he believed construction could “be done in a way that creates a win-win for energy and the environment.”

This is the first time Salazar, now a lawyer in the private sector, has endorsed the pipeline, which would carry crude from tar sands in Canada to refineries along the Gulf Coast.”

Of course, this wasn’t Salazar’s tune less than two years ago, when he was releasing statements like this:

As Secretary of the Interior my job is to help protect America’s natural resources, our cultures and tribal communities, and supply energy for the long term. My concerns about the Keystone Pipeline are in line with the Obama Administration’s position on the issue. I feel that the President acted responsibly in rejecting the initial proposal on the grounds of environmental issues.

The rushed decision to give the President a 60 day 
period to review the Keystone pipeline, which goes through six states, 
hindered any probability of it being passed. If the reformed version of the proposal poses no threats to our nation’s resources and does not endanger communities along the pipeline, then I am in support of it’s approval. Until the guidelines for this project are significantly altered, the pipeline should not be constructed because of the potential risks it poses to the well being of US citizens. Of course the main concern is the possibility that the pipeline could rupture near the Ogallala aquifer, the main
source of drinking water in the Midwest.

We trust that the Administration and the EPA will exercise prudent judgement and will not approve a proposal that poses such threats. While the southernmost portion is being built, we will wait for an acceptable and detailed plan before constructing the rest of the pipeline. We strongly urge TransCanada to present a more pragmatic and nonpartisan approach that
 will serve the best interests of the American people.

Now, it may be that Salazar has had a legitimate change of heart on this matter, or that new evidence altered his perception of the matter… or it could be that his employer just changed. About that lawyer in private practice job the Denver Post mentioned: Salazar is now a partner at WilmerHale, charged with building business for the Washington, DC-based firm’s new Denver office. And what is he working on there?

WilmerHale’s energy and environmental practice is nationally known for advising companies in the technology, life sciences, energy and manufacturing sectors, and for shaping regulatory and policy developments on both a federal and state level. The firm’s strategic response practice handles multifaceted, high-profile challenges with legal, public policy and media dimensions.

Our investigations and litigation practices draw on the collective experience of our many lawyers who have served in senior government positions, handling matters across the nation and abroad. The firm’s Native American law practice has a long track record of handling high-stakes litigation and complex regulatory matters on a range of issues—including energy and natural resource development, land acquisition, water rights, and gaming matters of particular importance in the western United States.

In other words, Salazar was happy to be part of an administration that’s done everything it can to block energy development and particularly the Keystone pipeline… but now that he’s employed by those with different priorities, he is happy to flip flop.

I wonder whatever that “new information” could be that made Salazar change his mind. Was it “you’re hired”?

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Do We Really Need Nuclear Fusion For Power, or Might its Quest Be Another Government Spending Boondoggle?

Somewhat Reasonable - February 16, 2014, 10:16 PM

[Editor's Note: Ed Ingold is the co-author of this post.]

According to a February 12 article in USA Today by Wendy Kock titled “Quest for pollution-free fusion energy takes major step”:

The decades-long quest to develop a pollution-free energy source via nuclear fusion — the power source of the sun and other stars — has taken what scientists say is a major step forward.

The article cites a study by the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the government funded U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in which a lab experiment produced more energy out of fusion than was put into the fuel that sparked the reaction. What followed in the article was an admission that the lab results fell short of what is considered the “holygrail of fusion: ignition — the point at which more energy is produced than was used throughout the process.”

A day later, February 13, the quest to develop nuclear fusion was questioned by James Conca, a Forbes.com contributor, in his article, “Do We Really Need Nuclear Fusion for Power”:

Why build a fission reactor to make tritium via neutron capture on deuterium to make the fuel for a fusion reactor, when you could just use the fission reactor to make the energy ion the first place?

Ed Ingold remembers his father-in-law saying there is enough uranium above ground, much of it stored in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where he worked, to power 1,000 reactors of 1,000 MW each. To put that in perspective, each of those reactors would have twice the output of all the windmills in the US.

So-called “fast” reactors refer to the harnessing of high energy (fast) neutrons to “burn” naturally occurring uranium 238. Unfortunately, the Fast Breeder Reactor Project at Oak Ridge National Laboratories (ORNL) was halted by the renowned “nucular [sic] engineer,” President Jimmy Carter, and the scientists involved were re-tasked to harnessing the limitless power of coal. The other “nuclear” problem, spent fuel disposal, can be credited to another famous Navy veteran, President Richard Nixon, who halted development of fuel reprocessing. We aren’t burying nuclear ashes. To the contrary, only about 5 percent of nuclear fuel is consumed before fission products accumulate, absorbing neutrons, until the fission reaction cannot be sustained.

Fusion reactors don’t burn “limitless” fuel, vis-à-vis hydrogen, like the sun. They burn relatively rare isotopes of hydrogen – deuterium and tritium. Deuterium constitutes only 0.016 percent of naturally occurring hydrogen, as found in water. The separation process consumes huge amounts of electricity and a vast supply of water. A 200 MW power station, dedicated to producing deuterium, would yield about twelve liters of “heavy water” (D2O) a year. Tritium does not occur naturally (12 year half-life), but is made in fission reactors. As the good professor points out in the linked article, you can make tritium on the fly by irradiating lithium with fast neutrons. Incidentally, that’s how it works in a hydrogen bomb, packed with (among other things) solid lithium deuteride. One downside is that 99 percent of the world’s lithium is found in the mountains of Peru and China, and most of what we import goes into batteries.

There also some questions about the “limitless” energy available from fusion reactions. The project hailed in the Forbes article uses a D+T reaction, which yields helium and a fast neutron. About 80 percent of the energy of this reaction is imparted to the neutron. The tritium (T) comes from neutron bombardment of lithium, which is endothermic (consumes energy).

The net result is 99 percent of the energy is in the form of fast neutrons. Since neutrons don’t interact well with materials, only about 30 percent of this energy can be converted into heat for turbines, and replacing the heat needed to sustain the fusion reaction. The by-products of the fusion reactions are not radioactive (other than tritium, which is difficult to contain), but the neutrons render everything they contact radioactive. In short, instead of burying spent fuel, you bury the reactor, once the materials of its construction are transmuted until they are not structurally sound.

It’s also puzzling why it’s claimed that this experiment produced more energy than it consumed. The brief (7 billionths of a second) reaction released about 9,400 joules of energy due to the fusion reaction, above that used to heat the reactants. To achieve this, approximately 1.8 trillion joules of energy was imparted by a bank of X-Ray lasers, which occupy a 10 story building with a footprint of over an acre. It’s like an inveterate gambler who brags about $500 of winnings, after laying down $5,000 on the ponies during the season — or Congress, where spending less than you wished is called savings.

There’s nothing wrong with the science, and it’s important to continue. For the foreseeable future, we should recognize that the most important gains are in the form of knowledge and technology, rather than a viable source of electricity. How few men stepped on the moon, but who doesn’t benefit from the technology which came out of the Apollo project? Who hasn’t worn or used something made of Teflon, used a computer, watched a program broadcast by satellites, or handled a cell phone? Someday there will be a Scottie who knows just what to do with a dilithium crystal or two.

Categories: On the Blog

On Fox: Debate Over Climate Change Heats Up

Somewhat Reasonable - February 16, 2014, 12:48 PM

On Valentine’s Day evening, “Special Report with Bret Baier” took President Obama’s desire for a $1 billion climate change “resililence fund” to discuss the science and politics of the issue.

Charles Krauthamer rightly calls the left’s adherence to climate change as the cause of all calamities a “religion.” And Steve Hayes counters the typical “97 percent” line put out by Juan Williams, and most climate alarmists. (What Steve lacked was something to cite showing why it’s bunk; Heartland’s James M. Taylor does so in his Forbes column.)

You’ll want to watch it below.

Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Categories: On the Blog

There is No Global Warming and Will Be None for Decades

Somewhat Reasonable - February 15, 2014, 7:59 AM

I recently received an unsigned email about my Sierra Club commentary in which I pointed out that it opposes traditional forms of energy and made a passing reference to Obama’s lie that “climate change,” the new name for global warming, was now  “settled science.”

Global warming was never based on real science. It was conjured up using dubious computer models and we were supposed to believe that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could actually predict what the climate would be 20, 50, or 100 years from now.

The writer of the email disagreed with me:

lol you are a f**king idiot. you don’t believe there is global warming going on? you need to let your prejudices go and stop basing your views on what your political stance is. . . . do you research you f**king f**got.

Now, not everyone who believes in global warming is as rude as this individual and certainly not as ignorant, but his message suggests that those who do not believe in it do so as the result of “a political stance” when, in fact, our views are based on science.

Anyone familiar with my writings knows that a lot of research is involved. In my case, it dates back to the late 1980s when the global warming hoax began to be embraced by politicians like Al Gore who made millions selling worthless “carbon credits” while warning that “Earth has a fever.”

A small army of scientists lined their pockets with government grants to produce data that supported the utterly baseless charge that carbon dioxide was causing the Earth to warm. They castigated other scientists or people like myself as “deniers” while we proffered to call ourselves skeptics. They were joined by most of the media that ignored the real science. And the curricula in our schools were likewise corrupted with the hoax.

Then, about 17 years ago the Earth began to cool. It had nothing to do with carbon dioxide — which the Environmental Protection Agency deems a “pollutant” despite the fact that all life on Earth would die without it — and everything to do with the sun.

A few days after the email arrived, two-thirds of the contiguous U.S.A. was covered by snow. As this is being written, Lake Superior is 92 percent frozen, setting a new record. As of February 5, the entire Great Lakes system was, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, 77 percent covered with ice.

On February 1, NOAA and NASA held a joint press conference in which they released data about 2013’s global surface temperature. They made reference to a “pause” in the temperature that began in 1997. Dr. David Whitehouse, science editor for the BBC, noted:

When asked for an explanation for the ‘pause’ by reporters, Dr. Gavin Schmidt of NASA and Dr. Thomas Karl of NOAA spoke of contributions from volcanoes, pollution, a quiet Sun, and natural variability. In other words, they don’t know.

Both of these government agencies, along with others like the EPA and the Department of the Interior, are staffed by people who understand that their employers are deeply committed to the global warming hoax. One should assume that almost anything they have to say about the “pause” is based entirely on politics, not science.

Then, too, despite the many measuring stations from which data is extracted to determine the Earth’s climate, there is a paucity of such stations in cold places like Siberia. Stations here in the U.S. are often placed in “heat islands” otherwise known as cities. If you put enough of them close to sources of heat, you get thermometer readings that produce, well, heat.

People in the U.S., England, Europe and other areas of the world who do not possess Ph.Ds in meteorology, climatology, geology, astronomy, and chemistry have begun to suspect that everything they have been told about global warming is false. Between 1300 and 1850 the northern hemisphere went through a mini-ice age. After that it began to warm up again. So, yes, there was global warming, but it was a natural cycle, not something caused by human beings. Nature doesn’t care what we do. It is far more powerful than most of us can comprehend.

This brings us back to the sun. which determines, depending on where you are on planet Earth, how warm or cold you feel. The sun, too, goes through cycles, generally about eleven years long. When it is generating a lot of heat, its surface is filled with sunspots, magnetic storms.

When there are few sunspots, solar radiation diminishes and we get cold. Scientists who study the sun believe it may encounter another “Maunder minimum,” named after astronomer Edward Maunder, in which the last “Little Ice Age,” between 1645 and 1715, occurred. The Thames in England froze over as did the canals of Holland froze solid.

There is no global warming and scientists like Henrik Svensmark, the director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at Denmark’s National Space Institute, believes that “world temperatures may end up a lot cooler than now for 50 years or more.”

I agree.

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

‘Alex’ Tokeville Has Some Choice Words For President Obama

Somewhat Reasonable - February 14, 2014, 4:28 PM

In his remarks at the White House the other day during the state visit of French President François Hollande, President Obama curiously referenced “Alex” De Tocqueville. Here’s the video (click the speaker in the upper left-hand corner of the video for sound):

It’s an interesting choice, given how much Tocqueville has to tell us about the world – and the Obamacare economy – we inhabit today. His critique of socialism during the Second Republic, in context, transitions beautifully to the modern day debate over Keynesian projects and the entitlement state. As the introduction notes, “The new republic believed that the unemployment problem which was plaguing Paris could be solved by setting up government work-projects, guaranteeing employment at a certain wage rate for all who desired it”. Tocqueville even makes reference to why the American democracy he wrote about would never consider socialism. He even argued against a false understanding of inequality which led to socialist calls for more redistribution:

“Democracy extends the sphere of personal independence; socialism confines it. Democracy values each man at his highest; socialism makes of each man an agent, an instrument, a number. Democracy and socialism have but one thing in common—equality. But note well the difference. Democracy aims at equality in liberty. Socialism desires equality in constraint and in servitude.”

This passage is apt as well, on the danger of a government which provides too much, and in the name of the best interests of a people, seizes away our liberty. But this passage of his represents perhaps the best response you’ll ever read to Obama’s approach to governance:

What good does it do me, after all, if an ever-watchful authority keeps an eye out to ensure that my pleasures will be tranquil and races ahead of me to ward off all danger, sparing me the need even to think about such things, if that authority, even as it removes the smallest thorns from my path, is also absolute master of my liberty and my life; if it monopolizes vitality and existence to such a degree that when it languishes, everything around it must also languish; when it sleeps, everything must also sleep; and when it dies, everything must also perish? There are some nations in Europe whose inhabitants think of themselves in a sense as colonists, indifferent to the fate of the place they live in. The greatest changes occur in their country without their cooperation. They are not even aware of precisely what has taken place. They suspect it; they have heard of the event by chance. More than that, they are unconcerned with the fortunes of their village, the safety of their streets, the fate of their church and its vestry. They think that such things have nothing to do with them, that they belong to a powerful stranger called “the government.” They enjoy these goods as tenants, without a sense of ownership, and never give a thought to how they might be improved. They are so divorced from their own interests that even when their own security and that of their children is finally compromised, they do not seek to avert the danger themselves but cross their arms and wait for the nation as a whole to come to their aid. Yet as utterly as they sacrifice their own free will, they are no fonder of obedience than anyone else. They submit, it is true, to the whims of a clerk, but no sooner is force removed than they are glad to defy the law with the spirit of a defeated enemy. Thus one finds them ever wavering between servitude and license. When a nation has reached this point, it must either change its laws and mores or perish, for the well of public virtue has run dry: in such a place one no longer finds citizens but only subjects.

That’s from Democracy in America, Vol. 1, Part 1, Chapter 5, translated by Arthur Goldhammer.

Of course, Tocqueville’s views were not without controversy at the time. They still are in some corners.

Given @bdomenech‘s tweeting over the last 10 minutes, he seems to think we live under a 19th century monarchy.

— Jeff Spross (@jeffspross) February 11, 2014


@jeffspross No, we’ve got the phone to go with the pen now.

— Ben Domenech (@bdomenech) February 11, 2014

 [First posted at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

What The Washington Post’s Factchecker Gets Wrong About Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - February 14, 2014, 9:00 AM

If you set yourself up as the arbiter of all that is factual in the nation, you’d better keep your own facts straight.

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler is just such an arbiter, tossing out “Pinocchios” like Mardi Gras beads to all who offend his sense of rectitude. But from time to time, his rush to play “Gotcha” gets ahead of reason.

The most recent example was his pronouncement that Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) earned “Four Pinocchios” (the worst possible rating) for stating on Meet The Press, “Many employers are not hiring people because of Obamacare, 70 percent in some of the surveys of small businesses are saying that Obamacare is already harming their ability to hire people.”

Kessler objects to this statement because he doesn’t think the survey Portman referred to — a survey conducted by the Chamber of Commerce — is a very good one. That may very well be true, but it is still a survey, so Mr. Portman’s statement is factual as far as that goes.

More importantly, Kessler writes:

The Chamber failed to disclose that 83 percent of small businesses surveyed said they would not be affected by the employer mandate, meaning any results that were reported were based on a subsample of just 17 percent.

Once the possibility of multiple answers are accounted for, it turned out just 4.5 to 8.5 percent of small business executives surveyed said they will reduce hours or full-time staff in response to the employer mandate.

In other words, the 74-percent claim was at least an eight-fold exaggeration.

Notice that Kessler is now focused exclusively on the employer mandate, but Portman didn’t say anything about the employer mandate. Portman was talking about the overall effect of Obamacare on small business hiring. Small businesses (those under 50 employees) are not affected by the mandate, but they sure are affected by all the other provisions of the law. Because of the new benefits that are required in every insurance policy (things like coverage of pediatric dental services, 100 percent coverage of preventive care, allowing adult “children’ to stay on their parents’ policies, and so on), premiums have skyrocketed. For a moving example of this, see this video of the employees of a Pennsylvania company finding out what their new costs will be.

These new costs definitely “harm (small employers’) ability to hire people.” They also harm small employers ability to retain workers already hired. Portman is right and Kessler is wrong.

[Originally published on The Federalist]

Categories: On the Blog

A Broadband System Upgrade

Somewhat Reasonable - February 13, 2014, 6:04 PM

As has been widely reported today, Comcast has proposed a $45.2 billion takeover of Time Warner Cable Inc., a merger of the number one and number four video service providers (DirecTV and Dish are numbers two and three). The consumer benefits are abundant, which the business proposal will demonstrate even under regulatory review, so that consumers can start enjoying the benefits as quickly as possible.

Faster broadband service will more quickly roll out to the eight million consumers that Comcast will be earning. Comcast has increased its broadband speeds essentially annually for well more than a decade, including being an industry leader in introducing DOCSIS 3.0, a significant boost to broadband speed. The FCC has noted that Comcast’s broadband speeds are consistently higher than those at Time Warner Cable.

How is it that a “cable” company is advancing so rapidly? Cable companies are increasingly “tech” companies and Comcast more so than any. Most of the work of cable companies is now being done in the cloud, not in trenches through the earth. Comcast’s Brian Roberts has remarked, “That’s how you build a software company. In fact I think we would describe ourselves more as a technology and innovation company . . . ”

The new product offerings by Comcast, and those in the pipeline, make clear that his assertion is more than just wishful thinking, it is the truth. A truism of the technology industry is that anything that can be expressed in hardware can be expressed in software and vice versa. Comcast is now demonstrating that in the cloud. The X1 Entertainment Operating System and Comcast’s video on demand offerings provide 50,000 choices on TV. Comcast also offers 300,000 plus streaming choices on XfinityTV.com, and Xfinity TV mobile apps that offer 35 live streaming channels plus the ability to download to watch offline later. The innovations continue with the integration of Web video into the traditional stream of video content, an improved user interface focused on ease of use and customization, and a voice driven interface for the visually impaired.

As for hardware, Comcast’s newly launched X1 DVR, which enables customers to watch their entire TV channel lineup and DVR recordings on mobile devices in the home, and download recorded content to take on-the-go are leading the industry.

And it is not just products, but services too. Comcast offers a program designed to get more students and families online by offering broadband and a home computer at drastically reduced prices for those who could least afford broadband. The program has signed up more than one million Americans, rapidly adding to the number of people with broadband at home. The low income families who qualify for the service have been using the online connection to try to better their situation. Fifty eight percent of the customers report that they have been using the broadband service to search and apply for employment.

All of these benefits-speed, products, services — will now be available to new customers, as Comcast’s multi-billion dollar upgrade to its system now spreads.

With the number of cable subscribers declining in the last eight years bringing advanced technology and services to consumers is an industry imperative just to be able to stay in the game. During those same years satellite subscribers have grown by seven million subscribers and traditional telecommunications companies have scooped up another 11 million. The competition is real and fierce, and not about to lessen.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable serve completely different markets without overlap. So consumer choice is absolutely maintained even while consumers gain better technology and greater services. As for Comcast’s competitors, which are growing in number, they will still face the same amount of competition

Further proof of the rabid competition siphoning off “cable” customers is that, in the end, Comcast really will end up with around 30 million subscribers, less than 30 percent of all the video subscribers in the U.S., approximately the size it was in 2006.

Regulators and legislators should tread carefully to not disrupt the ever accelerating innovation marketplace. Others may try to invent storylines about this business proposal but the facts make clear that consumers and innovation will win again.

Categories: On the Blog

How the Google-EC Competition Deal Harms Europe

Somewhat Reasonable - February 13, 2014, 6:00 PM

Europe is the big loser in the Google-EC competition settlement.

Rather than enforcing European competition law against systemic abuses of dominance by the single most dominant company in Europe, this political deal surrenders inexplicable concessions, including defining Google’s 90 percent share as not dominant, claiming its multiple abuses of dominance are legal and implying Google did nothing wrong.

Simply put, this expedient settlement imagines Europeans are better off captive to an unfettered dominant Google than holding Europe’s leading corporate scofflaw to account.

This deal’s tagline should be, “Europe Online Powered by Google.”

Rather than prohibiting abuses of dominance under EU law, this settlement ensures that Google will become much more dominant over the next five years. No company, including Google, really thinks this deal’s labeling of search results will result in any material difference in marketplace outcomes.

The worst part of this deal is it throws Europeans under the bus.

The fountainhead of all of Google’s market and political power in Europe flows from its 90 percent dominance of Internet search and search advertising, and its unfettered ability to discriminate and self-deal to dominate more and more online markets like mobile, mapping, etc.

This Google-driven deal wholly evades accountability to EU competition law.

If Googleopoly can negotiate a “get out of jail free” card for systematically abusing its exceptional dominance, what political message does that send to the rest of the European Commission that is trying to hold Google accountable for gross violations of data protection, tax, and copyright law?

The privacy authorities of Germany, France, U.K., Italy, Spain, and the Netherlands are all furiously trying to get dominant, data-voracious, Google to obey European privacy law and respect EU data protection sovereignty. This sweetheart settlement suggests that Google’s lobbyists have more political influence with the EC than these countries do as members.

Europeans are very upset about pervasive NSA spying. They hoped potential revocation of the US-EU data protection safe harbor could be a lever to get privacy disrespecting U.S. firms like Google to better protect EU data. Now they must worry the EC-Google privacy-evasion fix is in here as well.

European tax officials are indignant with dominant Google’s aggressive tax stance that the company does not owe any taxes on Google’s advertising profits from tracking Europeans’ private behavior.

Google’s shameless position is they should owe no EU taxes, not even on profits made from its now-sanctioned abuses of dominance.

In a nutshell, Google takes Europeans private data without authorization, profits from it handsomely, but should owe no European taxes for this partially ill-gotten gain in Europe. Game, set, match to Google’s EC lobbyists.

Last but not least, many European content creators have long accused Google of profiting from the use of their copyrighted material without permission or compensation.

Tellingly, after several years of refusing to compensate Belgian media for profiting off the theft of their content, Google conveniently agreed to a multi-million Euro payment to the EC Brussels-based media at the exact time it knew that the Brussels-based EC antitrust investigation was coming to a head.

At a minimum, Google’s self-serving timing created the public perception of trying to buy favorable coverage and political support for a Google-favorable, settlement deal – which is what they got.

True or not, Google’s Belgian content settlement creates the perception of a quid pro quo that Google’s vast EC lobbying operation helps those that help them.

In the short term, this expedient deal most meets the political needs and schedule of the Directorate General for Competition.

However, it does so at the expense of what’s best in the long term for Europeans. That’s because it makes the jobs harder for all the other directorates and countries that still have the difficult responsibility of getting Google to respect EU rule of law and European sovereignty going forward.

When Google predictably ignores Europeans’ legal concerns in the future, they can thank the Directorate General for Competition for throwing them under the bus.

In sum, the biggest problem with this expedient Google-EU settlement, which allows Google’s leadership to boast they have done nothing wrong, is that it affirms the view that Google is so politically well-connected that it is largely untouchable, and effectively above the law in the EU.

Getting away with a 90 percent share in dominance, an abuse of dominance, and no admission of wrongdoing will only embolden Google to thumb their nose at competition, privacy, tax, and copyright law enforcement going forward.

The old adage is true, “One gets the behavior one tolerates.”

[Originally posted at Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Undercover Environmentalists Invade Science Conference

Somewhat Reasonable - February 13, 2014, 5:27 PM

The annual convention of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) started today in Chicago and runs through February 17.

In addition to reinforcing the public’s widely held belief that scientists are unable to obtain dates for Valentine’s Day, a more insidious aspect of the conference is the presence of the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an environmental activist group masquerading as a legitimate (if loveless) scientific organization.

With all due apologies for the good-natured joke directed at the scientists attending the event, the presence of the UCS is no laughing matter.

A natural reaction upon seeing this group is a sponsor for the event may be “so what?”—but there are serious, negative implications to having a group at the conference whose agenda is more focused on soundbites than sound science.

Attending the conference lends them credibility by being seen at an event where real science is occurring. The phrase “guilt by association” can be turned on its head, and having this organization present at a legitimate scientific conference is akin to reputation-laundering.

Here are just a few examples where the UCS has failed to live up to its self-proclaimed “rigorous and independent” scientific standards, resulting in misleading and mischaracterized “science” better suited for fundraisers than fact sheets:

Hydraulic fracturing, aka “fracking”: The UCS knows fracking can be done in an environmentally responsible manner, which is why President Obama implicitly endorsed the game-changing technology in his State of the Union address, much to the ire of environmental groups. The problem is, the UCS donor base is so adamantly opposed to fossil fuels they refuse to endorse any use of them, even though natural gas—not wind and not solar—is a key reason the United States has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions to their lowest levels since 1994.

One UCS smear tactic against fracking is to imply fracking is unregulated and is dangerous to water supplies because it is exempt from provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act. UCS doesn’t acknowledge the reason why fracking is exempt. The Clean Drinking Water Act was created to protect the water we drink, but fracking occurs thousands of feet below the surface (the average fracked well is 7,500 feet deep) and thousands of feet below the deepest sources of fresh water. A U.S. Department of Energy study confirms the chemical additives used in hydraulic fracturing stay thousands of feet underground and pose no threat at all to drinking water.

Global warming: Even though most of the country is in the clutches of the second “Arctic Vortex” of this winter season and there has not been any significant warming of the Earth for the past 16 years, the UCS continues to claim there is a “scientific consensus” a manmade global warming catastrophe is happening. The claim of a scientific consensus is blatantly untrue. A new report by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change Reconsidered 2- Physical Science (published by The Heartland Institute, where I work), shows current temperatures are well within the range of natural variation. Unlike reports by the global warming alarmists, CCR-2 bases its findings on observed evidence, not flawed computer models.

Antibiotics in agriculture: UCS caught the attention of the nation when it released its report Hogging It, a supposed exposé on the “overuse” of antibiotics in agriculture. The report was not based on “rigorous scientific analysis” but instead was an estimate, and not a very good one at that. A study by Kansas State University, using U.S. Department of Agriculture data, stated as little as 1.6 million pounds of antibiotics are used to produce pork, starkly less than the 10.3 million pounds the UCS claimed are used to put food on our tables.

A closer look at the UCS shows its claims of dedication to “rigorous and independent” science are false boasts. UCS is seemingly willing to put funds before facts whenever it’s convenient. The American Association for the Advancement of Science should disassociate itself from UCS lest it undermine its own credibility.

[Listen to Heartland's Issac Orr and Jim Lakely discuss this topic in a recent edition of the Heartland Daily Podcast in the player above. Subscribe to the podcast at iTunes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Too Much Snow and Ice

Somewhat Reasonable - February 13, 2014, 4:38 PM

From 1955 until I graduated in 1959, I was a student at the University of Miami. Those were halcyon years for me, enhanced by Florida’s famed bounty of sunshine and warmth. Born and raised in New Jersey, it was a respite from the Garden State’s winters, shoveling snow, and enduring the chill.

The last time I was in Florida was in 2004 to visit my older brother in Boynton Beach and when the wall of heat hit me as I exited the West Palm Beach airport, I knew I would remain in Jersey.

I am no fan of winter. I don’t ski or ice skate. When it’s cold I stay inside where it’s warm. I venture outside once a day to turn over the car engine while picking up a lottery ticket in hopes of winning enough money to live somewhere warm during the winters here.

I don’t know how many blizzards or just big snowstorms I have lived through at this point in my life. In my experience, most people tend to forget them when springtime arrives. Winter, which often seems to have no end, is still only four months, a quarter of the year.

After decades of “global warming” lies from Al Gore, environmental organizations, and government agencies, I knew well that, while the northern hemisphere had begun to warm around 1850 after a long cold cycle and the amount of warmth was sufficient to provide comfort, it was too small for anyone to effectively measure.

One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Richard Lindzen, a professor of atmospheric science at MIT: “Future generations will wonder in bemused amazement that the early 21st century’s developed world went into hysterical panic over a globally averaged temperature increase of a few tenths of a degree, and, on the basis of gross exaggerations of highly uncertain computer projections combined into implausible chains of inference, proceeded to contemplate a roll-back of the industrial age.”

I am pretty sure that those who lived through earlier blizzards and snowstorms did not consider them as anything other than normal. Some, though, made history. History.com even has a list of major U.S. blizzards. Perhaps the most famed was the Great Blizzard of 1888. It dumped 40 to 50 inches of snow in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey. More than 400 people died; the worst toll of a winter storm. A year later in 1889, a blizzard started in Florida and then moved up the coast dumping 20 inches of snow on Washington, D.C. and 34 inches on New Jersey.

The Great Blizzard of 1888 led legislatures in Boston and New York to break ground on the country’s first underground subway systems.

Those of us on the East Coast would wait a century until 1993 for a combination blizzard and cyclone “wreaked havoc from Cuba to Canada” killing 310 people in its wake. In February 2010, snowstorms were raging from northern California to North Carolina, but typically it was the Mid-Atlantic and New England States that were hardest hit.

In January, record freezing temperatures gripped the entire nation. Energy consumption set some new records as well. Icy conditions in storms since then have left some areas without any energy and yet the environmental organizations keep fighting the development of any new sources of coal, oil and natural gas to provide needed energy. The White House has done everything in its power to accommodate this idiocy.

On February 7, The New York Times published an article by Porter Fox, the features editor at Powder Magazine—as in snow powder—and author of “Deep: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow.” Fox may know about skiing, but his knowledge of snow consists of his belief that, all over the world, “snow is melting.” This is straight out of the global warming belief that the small amount of warming since the mid-1880s was a threat to the planet. “The planet is getting hotter.” As Dr. Lindzen points out, a few tenths of a degree is meaningless.

A few years ago, The New York Times shut down its environmental reporting unit, laying off some and reassigning others. Now, apparently, it is content to publish utter nonsense about how all the snow is melting everywhere.

In recent weeks and days there has been heavy snow in Tokyo, Japan, that took some lives. Heavy snow has fallen in Austria and Italy, as well as northern Iran. People around the world are looking out their window and seeing snow.

Blizzards are a seasonal reminder that humans do not control the Earth’s climate. The Sun does that along with the oceans, volcanic activity and other natural factors. They only thing humans can and must do is endure them.

[Originally posted at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Congress Must Wake Up Soon to Out-of-Control Spending

Somewhat Reasonable - February 13, 2014, 6:36 AM

Romina Broccia of the Washington Times suggested that for lawmakers battling over the debt ceiling they should stop to watch “Groundhog Day.”

In the movie Phil Connors asks, “What would you do if you were stuck in on place and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?” Connors was able to break out of his Groundhog Day cycle after reexamining his life and changing his approach to problems. Lawmakers could also do the same if they were willing to break out of the spending and debt cycle by putting the budget on a path to balance through cuts in mandatory as well as discretionary spending.

House Republicans have once again come face to face with this nation’s debt limit. A letter sent to House lawmakers on Friday, February 7, by Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, warned Congress that unless the debt ceiling is raised by Thursday, February 27, the treasury Department will all but completely exhaust its abilities to pay the nation’s bills (The borrowing cap was to be addressed back in October of last year, but it was suspended as part of the deal to end the government shutdown).

Predictably House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi hammered home Lew’s stated deadline to House Republicans by demanding that Republicans enact a clean increase to the debt ceiling without any policy riders, further reminding Republicans that only a limited numbers of days remain when both chambers are in session before the deadline.

Do House Republicans dare not to heed this warning from Nancy Pelosi?

With only five days left in session before the deadline, we must act now.  Democrats are ready to work with our Republican colleagues to enact a clean increase in the debt ceiling.  Democrats hope the Republican leadership makes the right choice and brings this up for a vote, so our country can pay our bills.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich made his view known on the issue when on Thursday, January 24 he seemingly reinforced the wish of Nancy Pelosi and fellow Democrats that it would be unwise for House Republicans to use the issue of increasing the borrowing limit to challenge President Obama on raising the federal debt limit.   Although at the time Gingrich did accuse Obama of trying to “bully House Republicans,” he further said that the GOP shouldn’t “pick fights” that they cannot ultimately win.

Newt Gingrich’s advice is getting to be rather stale. Time and again Republicans are told to keep their powder dry and wait for another occasion down the road to challenge the Obama administration on its massive spending and debt accrued since Obama was election in 2008 – $7 trillion dollars.  When is the right time for House Republicans to stand up and fight on behalf of the American people and future generations of Americans for a bit of sanity against raising the nation’s debt ceiling for the purpose of allowing the Obama administration to borrow more money and further erode the financial stability and health of this nation?

Initially Republican House Speaker John Boehner reassured the American people that he would request President Obama to give up a key provision of ObamaCare in exchange for his consent to raise the debt ceiling.  According to a Hill report, Speaker Boehner and his lieutenants on Wednesday, February 5, abandoned plans to tie an increase in the nation’s debt limit either to the repeal of a provision in ObamaCare or to the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, a decision made only hours after the Congressional Budget Office said ObamaCare will eradicate 2.5 million jobs and add a trillion dollars to this nation’s debt!   Some patriots in the U.S.House, like Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, feel that agreeing to a clean debt ceiling is capitulation, and that he didn’t get elected by the District of Texas to come here to Washington and capitulate.

Only a few years ago, Obama spoke vehemently against putting America in debt as then Senator Barack March 16, 2006.

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure.  It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills.  It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.

But this is now.  Obama as president likes the power and control the office bestows on him, and uses it at will to enact policies that are consistent with his extreme leftist political philosophy.  Now Obama seemingly wants the power to raise the debt limit by himself, anytime.  Abandoned by Obama is any notion that members of Congress should get permission from the people they represent to borrow and spend more money.

Is it really necessary to borrow more money to pay our nation’s debt obligations?  The United States collects more than enough tax revenue each and every day to easily satisfy the repayment of our debt.  Without a limit increase on the use of the nation’s credit cards, our government officials would actually have to prioritize debt repayment and make modest cuts to out-of-control government spending now, instead of pretending that cuts are in the offing somewhere down the road. The interest on the debt is around $30 billion per month and the Feds are taking in $250 billion.  The only reason the U.S. would default is if Obama and Jack Lew, Secretary of the Treasury, refused to service the debt.

Will the decision be made in the House to betray the American people without consulting the American people about mortgaging the hopes and dreams of future generations of Americans? Figures cited in a report of Wednesday, September 25, 2013, place the national debt at nearly $17 trillion or $140,000 per American household.  Since Obama has been president the debt has been raised seven time, causing the per-household tab for the debt to soar by $43,000 in just the last four years.

A last minute meeting was called by House Republicans leaders and its conference last night (2/10) to try to come up with a legislative strategy on the debt ceiling regarding what they might attach to an increase in the nation’s borrowing limit.

Don’t hold your breath in hoping that House Republicans will do anything of substance in reducing spending other than to allow a clean debt ceiling increase to reach the floor. The latest is that the House did move toward a vote Wednesday on legislation that would lift the debt ceiling and reverse recent changes to military retirement benefits.  Even so this plan is a gamble, as it’s uncertain whether the package will pass the House without the support of a fair number of Democrats.

Is it too much to ask that Congress wakes up to a new day, and soon?  It’s time for Republicans to grow a backbone and stand up to Obama.  Most Republicans are scared stiff to challenge the media, fellow Republicans pundits and elitists, and President Obama and his operatives, ending up instead cowering in fear over their own political fortunes, while neglecting those they represent and indirectly the generations of Americans who will follow in their wake.

[First published at Illinois Review.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Paradox of America’s Energy Renaissance

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2014, 5:05 PM

Today’s unconventional crude oil and natural gas basins such as the Marcellus, the Bakken, and the Eagle Ford teem with activity, having already injected multiple benefits of a resurgent U.S. energy industry into the broad fabric of the country’s economy.

Yet in spite of this historic rebirth, there remains the broader picture of 2014 global demand, now forecast at 92.5 million barrels a day, implying a slim surplus production capacity of 2-3 million barrels per day.  Thus, despite America’s jubilant cries of energy independence, the global nature of the crude oil commodity and the continued vulnerability of the world’s supply network to regional political discord are not to be dismissed.

The most important region where high oil production intersects with political turmoil is the Mideast. It is here and in North Africa where the Arab Spring, originally embraced by a naive Western press as a movement toward political moderation by the area’s regimes, has instead birthed a chaotic paradigm, and in many respects, a U.S. foreign policy nightmare.

Egypt, for example, is a nation currently producing 680,000 barrels per day, but the nation remains in turmoil as today’s military-led government remains under siege by the long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood.  Heading west to Libya, one sees another country wracked with internal strife. Production volumes here have dropped sharply from the Gaddafi era’s 1.6 million barrel per day levels to today’s 600,000 barrels per day with the current anarchic situation suggesting little visibility for improvement.

Meanwhile, in Saudi Arabia, the royal family has clearly become more anxious with the Arab Spring’s unleashing of destabilizing forces. The leadership’s recent announcement of the deportation of up to two million foreign workers and their close monitoring of the Shiite demographic in the country’s eastern oil-rich region demonstrates its wariness of the influence of dangerous elements within the population.

Saudi Arabia produces ten million barrels a day of crude oil, and holds the bulk of the world’s spare oil production capacity. Directly across the Persian Gulf to its north lies Iran, now viewed as an increasingly threatening neighbor given the Chamberlainesque Geneva Agreement and the theocracy’s presumptive belief that it has won the right to continue uranium enrichment.

A second prong of Iran’s overtly belligerent regional strategy, its fomenting of internal unrest in various Mideast countries such as Lebanon, is pursued through the targeted use of al Quds and Hezbollah forces. Iranian oil volumes are down to 2.75 million barrels per day, and even if economic sanctions are lifted, the country is unlikely to see a quick restoration of pre-sanction production volumes given the lack of well maintenance and a high base decline rate.

In Syria, the butcher Assad continues his stand, a U.S. red line having been drawn then quickly erased.  Syria’s pre-civil war oil production rate was only 85,000 barrels a day, but on the margin, the loss of those barrels matter. More pernicious, however, is the unfettered flow of rogue militant groups across Syria’s eastern border into Iraq’s Anbar Province. Thus has Iraq’s three million barrels per day of oil production become less secure as Sunni-based al Qaeda forces look to reconstitute the animus that precipitated the level of sectarian violence existing several years ago. The recent fall of Fallujah and Ramadi are a signpost telling Shiite Prime Minister Maliki that his grip on the country, now without backing from U.S. forces, could be as ephemeral as a mirage in the western Iraqi desert.

The least reported on area of civil unrest is sub-Saharan Africa. In the west, Nigerian production of 1.9 million barrels per day remains under constant threat by MEND rebels, while to the east in South Sudan, a new civil war places the country’s 360,000 barrels per day of oil production capacity at risk. The entire sub-Saharan region is frankly a transit route for various terrorist groups, from the refugee camps in the Tindouf Province of western Algeria to the Horn of Africa region that lies just across the Sea of Aden from Yemen and their Saudi neighbors to the north.

In considering the mercurial and volatile nature of many Mideast, North African and sub-Sahara African regimes, one should not be surprised by continued interruptions in global oil supplies and the continued presence of a substantial geopolitical premium in global oil prices. Moreover, given a feckless and often misguided regional U.S. foreign policy, we risk exacerbating an already tenuous oil balance situation.

Categories: On the Blog

Zack Hill Comic Strip Rips Global Warming Cultists

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2014, 4:50 PM

Call your local paper and get the Zack Hill comic strip in the line-up! Creators John Deering and John Newcombe are obviously not shy about puncturing politically correct bromides.

Here are three Zack Hill strips that are very timely considering the weather we’ve endured all winter in the U.S. — and especially now on the East Coast.




Check out more Zack Hill at Creators Syndicate.

Categories: On the Blog

Now Obama Really is Bypassing Congress

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2014, 4:28 PM

downplayed constitutional arguments against President Obama’s “bypass” of Congress that he trumpeted in the State of the Union address. But the new suspension of parts of the employer mandate represent a much more aggressive and constitution

Manipulating large-scale legislative policies, duly enacted, around election schedules goes beyond the parameters of executive discretion. Nor can this be justified by the dubious claim of “transition relief” from tax obligations. The employers are not being relieved just from taxes, but from direct primary legal obligations to provide insurance.ally dubious exercise of executive power than those minimum wage measures. The difference between the State of the Union’s minimum wage initiative and the employer mandate is what F.A. Hayek called the difference between orders and laws. The federal contractor rules were about the operations of the federal government – top-down directives to administration officials. The current measure is a large-scale selective rewriting of the obligations and burdens places on private parties, a classic legislative function.

Every year the administration delays large portions of Obamacare, it says it is no big deal, because it is “temporary.” But a few temporary fixes in a row becomes a new permanent form of executive lawmaking.

[First published at The Volokh Conspiracy.]

Categories: On the Blog

Even When Government Power Grabs Are Overturned – The Left Wins

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2014, 3:10 PM

The Barack Obama Administration has been overstepping its Constitutional bounds since just about five minutes after its first inauguration.

They have long been practicing a regulatory-overreach overrun approach.  Imposing myriad new regs in innumerable directions – oft aimed at the free market’s foundational sectors and Democrats’ political enemies.

The power grab victims are forced to take it – or to waste huge sums of money and man-hours trying in court to fend off the Leviathan.  Obama and his ilk knowing that every cent and second these folks spend on lawyers and lawsuits lessens what they can spend on, say, future elections.

Hobby Lobby Becomes Largest Company to Sue Over ‘ObamaCare’ Birth Control Mandate

W.Va. Sues Obama, EPA Over Mining Coal Regulations

Texas Sues to Stop Obama EEOC Insanity

For-Profit College Group Sues Obama Administration Over Regulations

Guns Groups to Sue Over New Obama Regulations, DOJ Vows To ‘Vigorously Oppose’

If the government lead blanket smothers everyone – Obama waives his friends out from under.

Exemptions to ObamaCare Doled Out to President’s Supporters

Labor Unions Primary Recipients of ObamaCare Waivers

Nearly 20 Percent of New ObamaCare Waivers Are Luxury Businesses in Nancy Pelosi’s District

Any power grab – no matter its ultimate outcome – is all upside for the Left.  Let’s look at the chronology.

The Left executes a power grab.  If it’s not challenged, it stands. Win.

If it’s challenged, the Left is forcing the private companies or political enemies they loathe to burn many, many dollars and man-hours trying to undo it.  Win.

To recoup the prodigious costs wasted on this nonsense (either the regs themselves or the court cases to undo them), the companies are forced to raise the prices of their products and services.  Which the Left then decries as heartless Vulture Capitalism and evidence that the free market doesn’t work.  Win.

The Left gets to have the government hire – with our coin – their uber-over-charging Marxist attorney friends to defend the power grab.  Win.

Far too often, after millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours, a Leftist judge appointed by Carter, Clinton or Obama will ignore the law’s clear intent, not enforce it – and instead ludicrously side with the government and its power grab.

(Which is a large reason why Democrat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid dropped the advise and consent nuclear bomb. Reid and his Donkey colleagues immediately thereafter approved three uber-Leftists for the D.C. Circuit Court – which handles most government overreach cases.  Where they’ll spend the rest of their lifetime appointments giving the thumbs-up to future power grabs.)

And even if a rational judge presides and the regs are dumped – the Pyrrhic “winners” are way poorer and older.

And does such a loss – as maddeningly, sadly rare as they are – chasten this Administration?  Of course not. 

NLRB Resurrects Union Election Rule 

The proposed union rule mirrors a proposal that was struck down in court in 2012…

“That’s why we sued them on this the first time,” (vice president of government affairs at the Associated Builders and Contractors Geoff) Burr said. “We do plan to challenge this in the court again.…” 

Government-Imposed Net Neutrality: Twice-Bitten, Not Shy About a Third Try 

Why does the federal government appear so adamant to again blatantly ignore the law, extend its power over the Internet, and re-impose network neutrality?

After all, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has already tried it — twice. And been unanimously rebuked by the D.C. Circuit Court — twice….

President Obama Confident FCC Will Use Authority to Save Net Neutrality’

Wait a second — what authority? Six different judges on two different occasions have unanimously said the FCC doesn’t have any such authority. 

But since when has the clear intent of the laws and the Constitution — and the rulings of the courts charged with upholding them — stopped President Barack Obama?  After all, he has a pen and a phone.

Behold – lather-rinse-repeat tyranny.

[Originally Published on RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Senator Charles Schumer Calls for Ban on Chemical Used in Bread that Obama’s FDA Says is Safe as Used

Somewhat Reasonable - February 12, 2014, 12:37 PM

 The following is the response of Jeff Stier, director of the National Center’s Risk Analysis Division, to the call of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) for a ban on azodicarbonamide after Subway restaurants removed the FDA-approved substance from its bread in response to an activist’s petition:

Subway’s move came as a result from pressure from Vani Hari, a blogger who calls herself “The Food Babe.”

The move had everything to do with public relations and nothing to do with food safety. Bread itself, by virtue of being a baked carbohydrate, has the carcinogen acrylamide in it. That doesn’t mean it is dangerous at the levels humans consume it.

While Subway is free to market itself however it wishes, the move sets a dangerous policy precedent.

Ms. Hari’s central argument against azodicarbonamide is that the chemical is also used in yoga mats. Ands shoes. Really.

If this is the new standard, obesity isn’t going to be a problem anymore – starvation is.

It was only a matter of days until Senator Schumer called for an FDA ban on azodicarbonamide. In a slap in the face to career scientists at the Obama FDA, which allows azodicarbonamide for the very purpose Subway and other chains use it. Schumer said, ‘The Subway chain has done it on its own. We’re asking other chains to do it on their own. But we’re asking the FDA to ban it so nobody uses it.

This is a classic example of governing by bullying. The government asks for voluntary compliance, but, just in case, it threatens to make that voluntary compliance mandatory.

What Senator Schumer fails to realize is that if we use his simplistic standard fairly, his approach would put a slew of his state’s businesses out of business. The Senator says, ‘When it comes to carcinogens, we can’t be too careful. Cancer’s on the rise. We’re never quite sure why. Why not be safe rather than sorry?’

We have an entire fields of science – toxicology-risk assessment – and Senator Schumer wants to throw it all out the window and demand that the FDA ignore the science and ban a chemical because activists have catchy but foolish slogans, such as ‘We shouldn’t eat foods with ingredients we can’t pronounce.’

Other chains that use the chemical include McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Arby’s, Jack in the Box, Chick-fil-A and Dunkin Donuts.

I am concerned that the activists have set the standard so low, and Subway, for one, showed weakness by not defending the safety of their ingredients, that before you know it,we’ll have calls to disassemble modern food production, going after a different FDA approved ingredient each week

When activist bloggers who call themselves things like “Food Babes” and Senators like Chuck Schumer exhibit reckless disregard for science-based food policy, one has got to wonder why we even have an FDA in the first place. It appears that activists and headline-hungry political hacks are the ones who make food policy when industry fails to defend the safety of the ingredients they’d served their healthy customers for years.


[Originally posted on The National Center for Public Policy Research]

Categories: On the Blog

J. M. Keynes: The Damage Still Done by a Defunct Economist

Somewhat Reasonable - February 11, 2014, 10:27 AM

Seventy-eight years ago, on February 4, 1936, the British economist John Maynard Keynes (1883–1946) published what soon became his most famous work, “The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money.” Few books, in so short a time, have gained such wide influence and generated so destructive an impact on public policy. What Keynes succeeded in doing was to provide a rationale for what governments always like to do: spend other people’s money and pander to special interests.

In the process Keynes helped undermine what had been three of the essential institutional ingredients of a free-market economy: the gold standard, balanced government budgets, and open competitive markets. In their place Keynes’s legacy has given us paper-money inflation, government deficit spending, and more political intervention throughout the market.

It would, of course, be an exaggeration to claim that without Keynes and the Keynesian revolution inflation, deficit spending, and interventionism would not have occurred. For decades before the appearance of Keynes’s book, the political and ideological climate had been shifting toward ever-greater government involvement in social and economic affairs, due to the growing influence of collectivist ideas among intellectuals and policy-makers in Europe and America.

Before Keynes: Wise Free Market Policies

But before the appearance of “The General Theory,” many of the advocates of such collectivist policies had to get around the main body of economic thinking which still argued that in general the best course was for government to keep its hands off the market, maintain a stable currency backed by gold, and restrain its own taxing and spending policies.

The free market economists of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries had persuasively demonstrated that government intervention prevented the smooth functioning of the market. They were able to clearly show that governments have neither the knowledge nor the ability to direct economic affairs. Freedom and prosperity are best assured when government is, in general, limited to protecting people’s lives and property, with the competitive forces of supply and demand bringing about the necessary incentives and coordination of people’s activities.

Lessons Learned: Gold Money and Balanced Budgets

During the Napoleonic wars of the early nineteenth century, many European countries experienced serious inflations as governments resorted to the money printing press to fund their war expenditures. The lesson the free market economists learned was that the hand of the government had to be removed from the handle of that printing press if monetary stability was to be maintained. The best way of doing this was to link a nation’s currency to a commodity like gold, require banks to redeem their notes for gold on demand at a fixed rate of exchange, and limit any increases in the amount of such bank notes in circulation to additional deposits of gold left in the banks by their depositors.

They also concluded that deficit spending was a dangerous means of funding government programs. It enabled governments to create the illusion that they could spend without imposing a cost on society in the form of higher taxes; they could borrow and spend today, and defer the tax cost until some tomorrow when the loans would have to be repaid. These free market economists called for annually balanced budgets, enabling the electorate to see more clearly the cost of government spending. If a national emergency, such as a war, were to force the government to borrow, then when the crisis passed, the government should run budget surpluses to pay off the debt.

Keynes’ Thinking on Markets, Wages and Government

These were considered the tried and true policies for a healthy society. And these were the policies that Keynes did his best to try to overthrow in the pages of his book, “The General Theory.” He argued that a market economy was inherently unstable, open to swings of irrational investor optimism and pessimism, which resulted in unpredictable and wide fluctuations in output, employment, and prices. Only government, he believed, could take the long view and rationally keep the economy on an even keel by running deficits to stimulate the economy during depressions and surpluses to rein it in during inflationary booms. He therefore attacked the notion of annual balanced budgets; instead, government should balance its budget over the “business cycle.”

To do this job, Keynes said, governments should not be hamstrung by the “barbarous relic” of the gold standard. Wise politicians, guided by brilliant economists like himself, had to have the flexibility to increase the money supply, manipulate interest rates, and change the foreign-exchange rates at which currencies traded for each other. They required this power so they could generate any amount of spending needed to put people to work through public-works projects and government-stimulated private investments. Limiting increases in the money supply to the quantity of gold would only get in the way, Keynes insisted.

Keynes believed not only that the market economy could not keep itself on an even keel he also believed that it would be undesirable to allow the market to work. He once said that to have the market determine prices and wages to balance supply and demand was to submit society to a cruel and unjust “economic juggernaut.” Instead, he wanted wages and prices to be politically fixed on the basis of “what is ‘fair’ and ‘reasonable’ as between the [social] classes.”

The level of wages imposed by trade unions, for example, was to be viewed as sacrosanct, even if many workers were priced out of the market because the level was higher than potential employers thought those workers were worth. The government, instead, was to print money, run deficits, and push up prices to any level needed to make it again profitable for employers to hire workers. In other words, perpetual price inflation was to be the means to assure “full employment” in the face of aggressive trade unions demanding excessive wages.

Deficit Spending and Special Interest Politics

In addition, when the balanced-budget rule was over-thrown there was no longer any check on government spending. As economists, James M. Buchanan, and Richard E. Wagner pointed out in their book, “Democracy in Deficit” (1977), once government is freed from the restraint of making tax-payers directly and immediately pay for what it spends, every conceivable special-interest group can appeal to the politicians to feed their wants. The politicians, desiring votes and campaign contributions, happily offer to satisfy the gluttony of these favored groups. At the same time, the taxpayers easily fall prey to the delusion that government can give something for nothing to virtually everyone at no cost to them.

Indeed, politicians can now play the game of offering more and more dollars to special interests, while even lowering taxes. The government simply fills the gap by borrowing, imposing a greater debt burden on future generations. Either taxes will have to go up in the years ahead or the government will turn to the printing press to pay what it owes, all the while claiming that it’s being done to generate “national prosperity” and fund the “socially necessary” programs of the welfare state.

And no need to worry about all this in the present, Keynes assured us, after all “in the long run we are all dead.” Our problem is that we are increasingly living through the long-run consequences of Keynes’ short-run policies.

Politicians Hear Keynes’ Defunct Voice in the Air

In one of the most famous passages in “The General Theory,” Keynes said, “the ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.”

Almost eighty years after the appearance of “The General Theory,” many practical men of affairs and politicians in authority remain the slaves of defunct economists and academic scribblers. The tragedy for our times is that among the voices they still hear in the air as they corruptly mismanage everything they touch is that of John Maynard Keynes.

 [Originally posted on epictimes.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Shoot, shovel and shut up!

Somewhat Reasonable - February 10, 2014, 3:30 PM

If you find oil or natural gas on your property, the value goes up. If you find an endangered species, your land becomes virtually worthless because the critter prevents productive use.

Most people would be excited to have a Jed-Clampet moment when, while hunting for dinner, the shot resulted in bubbling crude coming up from the ground. Like the Clampet family, your life would change dramatically. Your land would suddenly be worth more than you’d ever dreamed!

If, while hunting for dinner, you instead find an endangered species—the half-jest, half-serious advice would be “shoot, shovel and shut up.” Kent Holsinger, a Colorado attorney whose work centers around endangered species issues, told me that he has seen many landowners lose significant value due to a listed species being found on their property.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon to preserve, protect and recover key domestic species. Though well intentioned at the start, the ESA has since been used as a tool to hinder or block economic activity from logging and farming to mining and oil-and-gas development—often to protect species that don’t truly need it.

In my book, Energy Freedom, I feature an entire chapter on the spotted owl because it gives us a beginning-to-end case history on the ESA. The spotted owl was listed as an endangered species on June 26, 1990, and has since shut down a substantial part of federal timber harvest and threatens logging on private lands. I start the chapter with these words: “It is hard to imagine a bigger failure—or a greater success—depending upon which side of the issue you stand. If you strive for open and honest government policy that is straightforward about its goals, this twenty-year experiment has failed. If you believe the end justifies the means, regardless of the cost in life or livelihood, then the spotted owl represents a great success.” I sum it up this way: “the spotted owl threatens private property rights, kills jobs, and puts the health of the forest in peril.” All that, and the owls have not “recovered.”

I’ve been very active in the fight to prevent the listing of the sand dune lizard in the oil patch of West Texas and New Mexico’s Permian Basin—which produces about 15 percent of U.S. oil. (Thanks to conservation agreements with private industry, the lizard was not listed.) I emceed the Roswell, New Mexico, rally to draw attention to the five-state lesser prairie chicken listing threat—which would, again, impact oil-and-gas development. (The Western Governors Association has been working with the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies to develop a similar range-wide plan to protect the chicken while allowing for economic development. The listing decision is due by March 30, 2014.)

Coming up is the greater sage grouse—“a chicken-sized bird that has been in decline across large portions of its 11-state Western range. A final decision on whether to protect sage grouse is due next year and could result in wide-ranging restrictions on oil and gas development, agriculture and other economic activity,” reports the Associated Press (AP).

The delta smelt—that most of us first heard of in 2009—is, once again, back in the news.

California is facing a severe drought that Governor Jerry Brown has called “an emergency.” A recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article examines “How green politics has exacerbated the state’s growing shortages.” It lists water rationing, forbidden sprinkler use, and restaurants serving water by-request-only as some of the ramifications of California’s historic drought. But, the WSJ states: “Suffering the most are farmers south of the delta whose water allocations have plunged over the last two decades due to endangered-species protections.” It continues: “California’s biggest water hog is the three-inch smelt, which can divert up to one million acre-feet in a wet year. In 2008, federal regulators at the prodding of green groups restricted water exports south to protect the smelt.”

The Bakersfield Californian cites Larry Starrah, a local farmer, whose family has been “forced to let 1,000 acres of productive almond trees die this year for lack of water.” The January 22 article faults the “delta smelt and other fish protected under the Endangered Species Act.” (Note: if your property has lost value due to an endangered species finding or if the federal government suddenly decides it is a protected wetland in violation of the National Wetlands Act—which can happen even though it has never been wet—have the property reassessed. In such cases, others have successfully had their property taxes dramatically lowered due to the fact it can never developed and is therefore less valuable. Imagine how the attitude about ESA and restrictions on wetlands would change if county governments’ property tax collections and revenues plummeted due to such punitive designations.)

To help alleviate the California water crisis, House Speaker John Boehner was in Bakersfield, with lawmakers from California, to tout legislation that would, according to Reuters: “roll back environmental rules limiting how much water agencies can pump out of the fragile San Joaquin-Sacramento River delta in dry years.” At a press conference Boehner said: “It’s nonsense that a bureaucracy would favor fish over people.” But, that is what the ESA requires.

The WSJ reports: Senator Dianne Feinstein “and her fellow California Senator Barbara Boxer and Rep. Jim Costa of Fresno urged federal agencies to ‘exercise their discretion in regulatory decision-making within the confines of the law to deliver more water to those whose health and livelihoods depend on it’”—which indicates that even the most radical of liberal politicians realize the problems they have created.

No wonder, many people believe it is time for the ESA to be overhauled.

In a letter to the WSJ, Greg Schildwachter applauds environmentalist Timothy Male for acknowledging that the ESA has flaws, as he did in his January 16 op-ed: “A green olive branch on endangered species.” Schildwachter sums up the problem: “The ESA leaves rights to property and species up to anyone’s guess and, therefore, to no one’s satisfaction.” He also offers a solution: “Before ESA, starting in the 1930s, wildlife conservation produced results. Sportsmen and sporting-equipment industries joined with government to restore deer, elk and other then-depleted wildlife. This worked politically because it added—instead of taking—value. It worked in policy because money improved field work instead of sharpening legal briefs. Something like it can work today.” Within his letter, Schildwachter points out: “The Interior Department inspector general concluded that lawsuits ‘are driving nearly everything [FWS] does in the ESA arena.’”

In a second letter published in the January 31 WSJ, Kyle Donovan called the lawsuits brought by environmental groups: “nuisance litigation.”

In his op-ed, Male says: The “mixed record on wildlife restoration—and the real and perceived impact it has on business—has turned the ESA into a partisan playing field.”

The aforementioned AP piece states: “Throughout its history, the law has faced criticism from business interests, Republicans and others.” And continues: “Those complaints grew louder in recent months after federal wildlife officials agreed to consider protections for more than 250 additional species under settlement terms in lawsuits brought by environmental groups”—an arrangement frequently referred to as “sue and settle.” If federal officials can add hundreds more “endangered species” to their protected list, development can be easily halted almost everywhere in the country.

The ESA has few friends outside of environmental lobbyists and attorneys. It was last updated in 1988. Holsinger explained it to me this way: “When the ESA was last amended, the Soviet Union was a superpower and Def Leppard was on the pop charts. It is high time that Congress modernized and improved this law to reflect what we now know.”

As we’ve seen with the sand dune lizard—and hope to see with the lesser prairie chicken—there are ways to successfully assist species that are truly in danger without putting species in conflict with people.

This is the goal of a brand-new report released on February 4 by the ESA Congressional Working Group led by Representatives Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and eleven others. Formed on May 19, 2013, The Working Group, according to the mission and purpose statement, “sought to examine the ESA from a variety of viewpoints and angles; receive input on how the ESA was working and being implemented and how and whether it could be updated to be more effective for both people and species.”

The report reflects hundreds of comments from outside individuals and testimony from nearly 70 witnesses who appeared before a Working Group forum and House Natural Resources Committee hearings. It concludes: “After more than 40 years, sensible, targeted reforms would not only improve the eroding credibility of the Act, but would ensure it is implemented more effectively for species and people.”

Rep. Lummis points out the tremendous conservation advances that have been made since the ESA became law:

“The American people have grown by leaps and bounds in their understanding of conservation, their willingness to conserve species, and their ability to conserve species —the ESA needs to grow with them. The ESA is stuck in a litigation driven model. This outdated model hinders the boots on the ground conservation we should be harnessing to actually recover endangered species, not just spout flowery rhetoric about the law in courtrooms. Our report is an exciting opportunity to bring the ESA into the next millennia.”

The report recommends constructive changes to the ESA in the following four categories:

  • Ensuring greater transparency and prioritization of ESA with a focus on species recovery and delisting;
  • Reducing ESA litigation and encouraging settlement reform;
  • Empowering states, tribes, local governments and private landowners on ESA decisions affecting them and their property; and
  • Requiring more transparency and accountability of ESA data and science.

Regarding the proposed changes, the AP states: “experts say broad changes to one of the nation’s cornerstone environmental laws are unlikely given the pervasive partisan divide in Washington, DC.” And: “Given the current level of rancor between Democrats and Republicans, academics who track the law were skeptical that the latest calls for change would succeed.”

Such statements highlight the importance of supporting the representatives behind the new report, encouragement of all other representatives and senators to sign on to the proposed reforms—and the importance of the 2014 election. As the AP points out: the ESA “enjoys fervent support among many environmentalists, whose Democratic allies on Capitol Hill have thwarted past proposals for change.”

Instead of shoot, shovel and shut up, key domestic species that should be preserved, protected and recovered would be better served by targeted legislative changes that can truly benefit species and people.

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


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