On the Blog

This #TaxDay, Let’s Also Look to Rid Ourselves of Global Anti-Free Trade Tariffs

Somewhat Reasonable - April 15, 2014, 12:23 PM

It’s Tax Day in America.  Which brings to mind one of the late, great Ronald Reagan’s many great lines:

“Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the Democrats believe every day is April 15.”

And of course Reagan was right.  Taxes damage individuals, families and economies every single day of the year – not just on Collection Day.

Taxes are about the government taking your coin.

U.S. State Government Tax Revenue Rises Third Year to Record

Pro-government folks view taxes like Jello – there’s always room for more.

Obama’s Budget Packed with New Spending and Tax Hikes

Taxes are also the government wanting less of the taxed activity.  Even the most virulent pro-taxers admit it – sometimes.

Raising Cigarette Taxes Reduces Smoking

So if you want less income – tax it.

Deal Means Taxes Will Rise for Most Americans

ObamaCare Increases Income Tax

If you want less investment:

Obamacare Surtax on Investment Income

If you want less employers offering health insurance:

Obamacare Excise Tax on Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans

Less tanning?

Obamacare Tax on Indoor Tanning Services

Think the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was about a whole lot more government control than just the massive health care power grab?

Less everything?

Obama has Proposed 442 Tax Hikes Since Taking Office

So if you want more global free trade – you absolutely should tax it less.

Australia Strikes Free Trade Deal with Japan, Beef and Horticultural Industries Secure Major Concessions

A hefty 38.5 per cent Japanese tariff that currently applies on frozen beef will be halved to 19.5 per cent over 18 years, with deep cuts in the first year.

Less taxes on something means more of that something?  You bet.

The chairman of the Australian beef industry’s free trade taskforce, Lachie Hart, says the deal will be worth $5.5 billion to the industry over 20 years.

And they’re thinking much, much bigger.

There are also significant advantages for other agricultural products, with fruit and vegetables, seafood, sugar and wine among the winners.

Japanese exporters will see Australian tariffs lowered on electronics, whitegoods and cars….

Australian consumers will see prices lowered as a result.

Japanese consumers too.  The less taxes the providers have to pay, the less their customers will have to pay.

Under the deal, Japanese-made cars will be, on average, $1,500 cheaper.

Exactly.

Less taxes is good – no taxes is better.

The duty-free quota for cheese – Australia’s single largest dairy export to Japan – will be boosted from 27,000 tonnes per year to 47,000 tonnes annually.

Unfortunately, not all global trade is trending quite so freely.  In fact, sometimes the tariffs are so thick and impacted, they make your teeth hurt.

Sugar Tariffs Cost Americans $3.86 Billion in 2011

This isn’t unilateral – imposed in a vacuum.  This is one of the globe’s bigger games of tit-for-tat.  We manipulate our sugar market – in ways well beyond just taxes.  So other producers do too.

(W)e have Brazil dumping money into the sugar industry in a million different directions.  India uber-subsidizing production.  China gaming the system – stockpiling product, then shifting to direct payments.  And Thailand providing multi-billion dollar price supports….

And these are just some of the myriad ways these nations – and many others – are directly and indirectly manipulating the global market.  None of this has anything to do with a free exchange of goods.

These huge barriers to the global free trade of sugar – and many, many other goods – make trade scarcer, and consumer prices much higher.

We should all instead emulate the freer trading ways of the likes of Australia and Japan.

If we want more cheap stuff – governments must tax it less.  If we want an abundance of cheap stuff – don’t tax it at all.

Categories: On the Blog

#TaxDay: What Governments Absolutely Do Not Need – More of Our Money

Somewhat Reasonable - April 15, 2014, 12:10 PM

Tuesday is April 15 – Tax Day.  The official day that represents governments’ year-round, omni-directional shearing of We the People.

Looking to get filing help from our federal fleecers is at best a crapshoot.

IRS Can’t Do The Math

IRS Help Line Has Error Rate of 30.8%

Busy Signal Awaits IRS Help Line Callers

How very ObamaCare of them.

We self-employed have to every quarter guess what we owe and send it in.

Salaried people get skinned every paycheck – “withholding” that hides governments’ multiple, monstrous bites.  And tricks people into getting excited about an annual “refund” – which is really just a return of the interest-free loan they involuntarily made to the Leviathan.

But if any of us under pay – our mistake isn’t interest-free.  Nor is it penalty-free.  For governments, it’s forgiveness for me – not for thee.

Taxes – already obscenely multitudinous and high – have grown exorbitantly upward and outward in the last five years.

Full List of Obama Tax Hikes

Even the Poorest of the Poor Pay More Taxes Under Obama’s Budget

How Obama’s Tax Hikes Would Hit the Rich and Middle Class

Full List of Obamacare Tax Hikes: Listed by Size

Is the Leviathan slaked?  Of course not.

Obama’s Budget Packed with New Spending and Tax Hikes

More of just the same ticket for a five-plus year foundering, floundering economy.

The government’s cash drain is historic.

U.S. State Government Tax Revenue Rises Third Year to Record

U.S. states took in 6.1 percent more revenue in fiscal 2013 than they did the year before for a record $846.2 billion, according to the Census Bureau.

It was the third consecutive increase, the agency said in a statement today. Revenue rose 4.7 percent from 2011 to 2012, and 7.3 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Yet we’ve added during this time $7+ TRILLION to the federal debt.  So it’s clearly a spending problem – not a revenue one.

And that’s just the federal government.  Many of the many states are also digging ever-deeper into our wallets.

The absolute last thing we should do is open another vein for these governments to drain.  Yet looming before us is the October 31, 2014 end of the Internet tax moratorium.

Since 1998, the Internet Tax Moratorium has protected everyone from the average Internet surfer to small and large businesses from multiple and discriminatory taxes on Internet usage.

This moratorium was extended in 2001 and 2004, both times with bipartisan votes in the House and Senate.

And in 2007.

Senate Passes Internet Tax Moratorium Extension: 7 More Years Tax-Free

Which brings us to now.  Thankfully, the desire to preempt this new rash of taxes is again bipartisan.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and others introduced HR 3086, the “Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act”.

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and 16 other Senators introduced S 1431, the “Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act”.…

And even better – both sides are looking to make the tax ban permanent.  Which means we won’t ever again have to play the brinksmanship games for which governments are notorious.

It’s an election year.  We the People aren’t too keen on DC’s denizens.

Congress Now Less Popular than Head Lice, Cockroaches

I guess they had to poll on cockroaches and head lice to have something proximate.

Here’s a potential Kumbayah moment.  A way for Congress to help themselves politically – and also avoid another concussive blow to a feeble economy.

Let’s get it together and get it done – now, well before November 1.

 

[Originally published at Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

McCutcheon Decision: Supreme Court Splits on Individual Free Speech vs. ‘Collective Voice’

Somewhat Reasonable - April 15, 2014, 10:54 AM

In its recent ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court struck down yet another provision of federal campaign finance law as a violation of the First Amendment‘s free speech guarantee.

This time it was the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act’s limitation on the aggregate amount of contributions — presently $123,200 — that a donor may contribute to all candidates or party committees in one election cycle.

Of course, McCutcheon follows the now-famous Citizens United ruling, in which the Court held that the BCRA provision restricting corporations and unions from making expenditures advocating the election or defeat of a candidate violates the free speech rights of those entities.

Like Citizens United, McCutcheon was another 5-4 decision. While the case was narrowly decided, the gulf between the understanding of the majority and the dissenters of the First Amendment’s meaning is wide.

Indeed, two different conceptions of the role of individual rights in our constitutional regime emerge.

In his dissent, Justice Stephen Breyer asserts that “the First Amendment advances not only the individual’s right to engage in political speech, but also the public’s interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters.”

The emphasis on “matters” is Breyer’s. But I think what matters most in his statement is the reference to “collective speech,” a term with somewhat Orwellian overtones.

Contrast Breyer’s language with this from Chief Justice John Roberts‘ majority opinion:

“The First Amendment safeguards an individual’s right to participate in the public debate through political expression and political association.”

Roberts declares the First Amendment is intended to remove governmental restraints from the arena of public discussion, “putting the decision as to what views shall be voiced largely in the hands of each of us.”

The contrast between Breyer’s emphasis on “collective speech” and Roberts’ focus on an “individual’s right” is rather stark.

And to my mind, Breyer’s formulation is disturbing. The Bill of Rights — of which the First Amendment is foremost — were added to the Constitution to protect fundamental individual liberties from abrogation by popular majorities, not to secure some notion of collective rights.

A window into Breyer’s thinking concerning “collective speech” may be gleaned from his citation toJean-Jacques Rousseau, whom the justice rightly calls “an influential 18th century continental philosopher.”

Rousseau was indeed an influential philosopher but, thankfully, not one whose thinking greatly influenced our Founders.

It is widely acknowledged that they looked for guidance foremost to John Locke and Montesquieu.

Rousseau is best known for his theory of the “general will,” elaborated in his major work, The Social Contract.

In a nutshell, Rousseau’s philosophy requires the individual to submerge his own ideas to what he calls the “general will,” which Rousseau explains this way:

“When, therefore, the opinion opposed to my own prevails, that simply shows I was mistaken, and what I considered to be the general will was not so. Had my private opinion prevailed, I should have done something other than I wished; and in that case I should not have been free.”

It is easy to see that Rousseau’s philosophy nurtures collectivist thinking — including notions of the primacy of “collective speech” — rather than an appreciation for the role of individual rights in a democratic society.

Indeed, in philosophical terms, you can draw a reasonably straight line from Rousseau to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, then to Karl Marx.

The pronounced collectivist bent of this philosophical line, with its notions of state supremacy over the individual, differs significantly from the line running from Locke to David Hume, to James Madison and on to John Stuart Mill.

Do not get me wrong. I am not suggesting that Breyer, by relying on Rousseau for support, is a devotee of Hegel or Marx.

I am only suggesting that his conception of the First Amendment, focusing as it does on the promotion of collective speech values, necessarily disfavors protecting an individual’s right to free speech and the other individual liberties that the Bill of Rights are intended to secure.

 

[Originally published at Washington Examiner]

Categories: On the Blog

The Methane Hoax Cranks Up

Somewhat Reasonable - April 15, 2014, 10:42 AM

Having spent decades trying to convince everyone that carbon dioxide (CO2) was a “greenhouse gas” that was going to cause the Earth to heat up, the same environmental charlatans are now embarking on a campaign to do the same with methane. In the U.S. the first move was announced by the White House in late March.

The carbon dioxide hoax fell apart in the wake of a cooling cycle affecting the Earth that began around 1997 and continues to this day. Warming and cooling cycles are natural events and both are tied to the activity or lack of it of the Sun.  Humans have nothing to do with the climate other to enjoy or endure it.

Why methane? It has a lot to do with the development of hydraulic fracturing, commonly called “fracking”, and the way it unlocks natural gas, aka methane, all of which portends an America that is energy independent, along with its huge reserves of coal and oil. If, of course, the government permits this to occur.

As we know, the Obama administration does not want that. It would mean more jobs, greater prosperity, and the ability to pay down the national debt, not to mention drive down the cost of electricity, gasoline, and everything else that depends on energy.

Despite the cooling cycle that is likely to last for many more years, Steve Hamburg, chief scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, was quoted by the Washington Post saying that “ounce for ounce, methane is 84 times as potent as a greenhouse gas over 20 years” compared to carbon dioxide. “More than a third of the warming that we’ll see as a result of today’s emissions over the next couple of decades comes from, essentially, methane. We need to remain focused on carbon dioxide emissions, but doing so is not enough.”

Excuse me, but the Environmental Defense Fund and countless other Green advocacy groups have been focused on carbon dioxide for decades and the Earth is cooling, not warming. What part of this does Hamburg not understand?

James M. Taylor, the managing editor of Environment & Climate News, a national monthly published by The Heartland Institute, reported in January that “Natural gas fracking is not causing a spike in the U.S. methane emissions”, citing Environmental Protection Agency data. “Methane emissions specific to natural gas are in a long-term decline, down ten percent since 1990 and down seven percent since 2007 when the fracking boom began.”

The Washington Post, however, asserted that emission levels “are set to rise by 2030 as shale oil and shale gas production expands in the United States.” Do you remember all those predictions about the increase of carbon dioxide emissions and how, in ten, twenty, fifty or a hundred years, the Earth would heat up?

This is not about methane, it is about finding a way to shut down fracking and the extraction of natural gas and oil in the same way the Obama administration’s “war on coal” has caused the loss of over 150 coal-fired plants that until it began, were providing electricity. Reducing sources of electricity drives up its cost to everyone. As more natural gas came on line by 2013 it had become the second greatest source of U.S. electricity, but overall the amount of electricity produced was less than in 2007 before the war on coal began.

A natural component of the Earth, it has a number of sources, but one that has also caught the eye of government regulators involves cow flatulence and belching.

The White House has proposed cutting methane emissions from the dairy industry by 25% by 2020. The Environmental Protection Agency has been tracking cow farts since 2012 and now the dairy industry has to worry along with the oil and gas industry. In addition to the EPA, the Bureau of Land Management will be announcing “new standards this fall to reduce venting and flaring from oil and gas production on public lands.”

It’s often best just to let the Greens speak for themselves, revealing their never-ending efforts to attack the energy industry that keeps our lights on, heats and cools our homes, and fuels our cars and trucks. “President Obama’s plan to reduce climate-disrupting methane pollution is an important step in reining in an out of control industry exempt from too many public health protections,” said Deborah Nardone, the director of the Sierra Club’s Keeping Dirty Fuels in the Ground campaign.

“However,” said Ms. Nardone, “even with the most rigorous methane controls in place, we will still fall short of what is needed to fight climate disruption if we do not reduce our reliance on these dirty fossil fuels.”

What the heck is a climate disruption? A blizzard, a hurricane, a flood, tornadoes? None of these phenomena have anything to do with using fossil fuels. This is the kind of utter drivel we have all been hearing for decades.

It has nothing to do with the climate and everything to do with denying access and use of the greatest reserves of coal, oil and natural gas that exist in the greatest nation on Earth, the United States of America.

[Originally published at Warning Signs]
Categories: On the Blog

Checkout Lanes with No Checkers: Another Result of Minimum Wage

Somewhat Reasonable - April 15, 2014, 9:37 AM

So my wife and I are out running errands, and we stop at a big grocery store. As we go through checkout, I see probably the biggest argument against raising the minimum wage I can think of: no cashier.

I look up and down the checkout lanes. Most are self-checkout and bag-your-own. It gets me thinking. When I was a kid, self-serve gasoline was unheard of. You pulled up at a gas pump, rolled over a hose that would “ding-ding” for an attendant, and out would come someone to pump the gas for you, clean your car’s windows, and offer to check your car’s oil level. Today, gas station attendants are almost extinct. It’s almost all self-serve gas now. Also gone are our local movie theater ushers, and our bowling alley pin setters. I’m not old enough to remember elevator operators, but I’ve seen them in old movies. They’re gone too.

Employers are always looking for ways to cut costs. Elevator operators, pin-setters, movie theater ushers, and gas station attendants have all been priced out of existence. Based on what I saw at the grocery store, checkout lane cashiers are being priced out too.

Force employers to pay people so much that they produce less than it costs to hire them, and before long, in comes automation and out go jobs.

The costs of hiring someone go well beyond wages. There’s also unemployment insurance (required), workers compensation insurance (required), Social Security/Medicare tax (required), liability insurance to cover actions of employees (a virtual necessity), and other benefits an employer might offer such as paid sick days (usually optional).

The February unemployment figures recently came out. The national average rate is up a bit to 6.7 percent. But for young people, who have the least education and work experience and therefore are the least-productive workers, the official rate is a Depression-level 11.4 percent—and it’s 15.8 percent if we include the nearly two million persons ages 18 to 29 who are not counted as unemployed because they’re so frustrated they’ve given up looking for work.

It’s even worse for young people who are minorities. Among young blacks the official unemployment rate is 19.3 percent (23.8 percent if we include those who’ve given up looking). Among young Hispanics it’s 12.5 percent (16.6 percent if we include those who’ve given up looking.)

President Obama is agitating for a $10.10 an hour minimum wage, up from the $7.25 an hour federal minimum. Doing this would make it even more expensive to hire people with poor educations, few skills, and little or no work experience. There’d be a bigger gap between what these people produce for an employer and what they would receive in wages and benefits. They won’t get jobs; it’s as simple as that.

The recent Congressional Budget Office report says a higher minimum wage would likely put hundreds of thousands of entry-level people out of work. Those in minimum-wage jobs who manage to stay employed would receive higher pay, but as the example of the cashier-less checkout lanes shows, their employers would surely start looking for ways to eliminate their jobs.

Two more points:

First, throughout the minimum-wage debate we speak as if persons with minimum-wage jobs will always have these low-paying jobs. In fact, however, these are usually first jobs, second jobs, or jobs to tide people over until they can find higher-paying work. In other words, they’re temporary or transient. There is not a permanent group of minimum-wage workers.

Second, what’s magic about $10.10 an hour? If an employer offers $10 an hour, should the government force people to remain unemployed over one thin dime? The White House is crawling with unpaid interns—unpaid. They work for no pay … but not for nothing. The unpaid interns have decided it’s worth receiving no pay to have the experience, the connections they expect to make, the resumé they’ll be able to flaunt. There are many jobs where experience, connections, and impressive resumes might be worth low pay or even no pay.

It’s our lives. We should be able to work for whomever we want for whatever pay and benefits we agree to take.

Categories: On the Blog

NEJM Fails to Correct Data on Children’s E-Cigarette Use

Somewhat Reasonable - April 15, 2014, 9:16 AM
The New England Journal of Medicine and authors of a commentary on e-cigarette use have ignored our call for correction of a substantial error regarding e-cigarette use among American schoolchildren in 2011 and 2012.  Authors Amy L. Fairchild, Ronald Bayer and James Colgrove of Columbia University double-counted some users in a figure they used to illustrate data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS).

The commentary, published December 18, addressed the legitimate question, What is the appropriate public health goal: eradication of smoking or elimination of all tobacco products?

Clive Bates first raised the critical data error in a group email discussion; I responded because I had used the figure’s source data for blog posts earlier in December.

Clive and I, along with my University of Louisville colleague Nantaporn Plurphanswat, submitted a letter to the NEJM editor on December 22.  We explained, “the [Fairchild] figure inaccurately represents data from the National Youth Tobacco Survey on use of cigarettes and e-cigarettes by U.S. students in 2011 and 2012 in a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2). For example, the figure shows that 16.8% of high school students used either product in 2012. However, the correct percentage is 14.6% because of dual use, which was reported in another CDC publication (3). We submit a revised figure that accurately represents the information in both CDC reports.” 

On February 19 Editor Debra Malina informed us that our letter and corrected figure would not be published.

We subsequently sent an email request to Dr. Fairchild.  We advised that her figure was constructed incorrectly, noting, “it does not properly account for e-cigarette users who also smoke, and these are the majority.  Given this misconstruction, the chart should not be reproduced in its current form.  We have taken this up with the NEJM, but they do not wish to publish an alternative from us.  That being the case, the responsibility for amending the chart rests with you as lead author.   We urge you to submit a revised figure along the lines we included in our communication with the editor.  We attach our letter and revised chart and would be happy to discuss the underlying data (also available in the referenced CDC publications) that we used to create it.” Dr. Fairchild ignored that missive, and a March 3 follow-up email.

The NYTS survey has been subject to repeated and egregious abuse by anti-tobacco forces, all to serve the specious claim that e-cigarettes are a gateway to cigarette smoking.

Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Tim McAfee, director of the CDC Office of Smoking and Health, and FDA Tobacco Center director Mitch Zeller started the gateway fallacy with reports and press releases, a tactic that I labeled “irresponsible theatrics”.  I also detailed how the CDC abused the data (here and here).

The inaccurate information in the NEJM is a dangerous error that can undeservedly gain traction through repetition.  This happened in 1981, when National Cancer Institute epidemiologist Dr. Deborah Winn misstated oral cancer risks related to smokeless tobacco.  Her erroneous data became gospel for anti-tobacco forces, despite her subsequent acknowledgement of the misstatement.

The NEJM is doing public health and science a disservice by refusing to correct the error.

[Originally published at Tobacco Truth]
Categories: On the Blog

Was Stopping Nevada’s Fracking Rush Behind the Bundy Showdown?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 14, 2014, 3:38 PM

The story of rancher Cliven Bundy has captured an abundance of media attention and attracted supporters from across the West, who relate to the struggle against the federal management of lands. Bundy’s sister, Susan, was asked: “Who’s behind the uproar?” She blamed the Sierra Club, then Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), and then President Obama. She concluded her comments with: “It’s all about control”—a sentiment that is frequently expressed regarding actions taken in response to some endangered-species claim.

An Associated Press report describes Bundy’s battle this way: “The current showdown pits rancher Cliven Bundy’s claims of ancestral rights to graze his cows on open range against federal claims that the cattle are trespassing on arid and fragile habitat of the endangered desert tortoise.”

Bundy’s story has been percolating for decades—leaving people to question why now. The pundits are, perhaps, missing the real motive. To discover it, you have to dig deep under the surface of the story, below the surface of the earth. I posit: it is all about oil and gas.

On April 10, the Natural News Network posted this: “BLM fracking racket exposed! Armed siege and cattle theft from Bundy ranch really about fracking leases.” It states: “a Natural News investigation has found that BLM is actually in the business of raking in millions of dollars by leasing Nevada lands to energy companies that engage in fracking operations.”

This set off alarms in my head; it didn’t add up. I know that oil-and-gas development and ranching can happily coexist. Caren Cowan, executive director of the New Mexico Cattle Growers Association, told me: “The ranching and oil-and-gas communities are the backbone of America. They are the folks who allow the rest of the nation to pursue their hearts’ desire secure in the knowledge that they will have food and energy available in abundant supply. These natural resource users have worked arm-in-arm for nearly a century on the same land. They are constantly developing and employing technologies for ever better outcomes.”

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) wouldn’t be enduring the humiliating press it has received, as a result of kicking Bundy off of land his family has ranched for generations and taking away his prior usage rights, just to open up the land for oil-and-gas—the two can both be there.

The Natural News “investigation” includes a map from the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology that shows “significant exploratory drilling being conducted in precisely the same area where the Bundy family has been running cattle since the 1870s.” It continues: “What’s also clear is that oil has been found in nearby areas.”

Nevada is not a top-of-mind state when one thinks about oil and gas. Alan Coyner, administrator for the Nevada Division of Minerals, describes his state: “We are not a major oil-producing state. We’re not the Saudi Arabia of the U.S. like we are for gold and geothermal production.” The Las Vegas Review Journal reports: “When it comes to oil, Nevada is largely undiscovered country…. fewer than 1,000 wells have been drilled in the state, and only about 70 are now in production, churning out modest amounts of low-grade petroleum generally used for tar or asphalt. Since an all-time high of 4 million barrels in 1990, oil production in Nevada has plummeted to fewer than 400,000 barrels a year. More oil is pumped from the ground in one day in North Dakota—where the fracking boom has added more than 2,000 new wells in recent years—than Nevada produced in 2012.”

But, Nevada could soon join the ranks of the states that are experiencing an economic boom and job creation due to oil-and-gas development. And, that has got to have the environmental groups, which are hell-bent on stopping it, in panic mode. Until now, their efforts in Nevada have been focused on blocking big solar development.

A year ago, the BLM held an oil-and-gas lease sale in Reno. At the sale, 29 federal land leases, totaling about 56 square miles, were auctioned off, bringing in $1.27 million. One of the winning bidders is Houston-based Noble Energy, which plans to drill as many as 20 exploratory wells and could start drilling by the end of the year. Commenting on its acreage, Susan Cunningham, Noble senior vice president, said: “We’re thrilled with the possibilities of this under-explored petroleum system.”

The parcels made available in April 2013 will be developed using hydraulic fracturing, about which Coyner quipped: “If the Silver State’s first big shale play pays off, it could touch off a fracking rush in Nevada.” Despite the fact that fracking has been done safely and successfully for more than 65 years in America, the Center for Biological Diversity’s (CBD) Nevada-based senior scientist, Ron Mrowka, told the Las Vegas Review Journal: “Fracking is not a good thing. We don’t feel there is a safe way to do it.”

The BLM made the leases available after someone, or some company, nominated the parcels, and the process to get them ready for auction can easily take a year or longer. One year before the April 2013, sale, CBD filed a “60-day notice of intent to sue” the BLM for its failure to protect the desert tortoise in the Gold Butte area—where Bundy cattle have grazed for more than a century.

Because agencies like the BLM are often staffed by environmental sympathizers, it is possible that CBD was alerted to the pending potential oil-and-gas boom when the April 2013 parcels were nominated—triggering the notice of intent to sue in an attempt to lock up as much land as possible before the “fracking rush” could begin.

A March 25, 2014 CBD press release—which reportedly served as the impetus for the current showdown—states: “Tortoises suffer while BLM allows trespass cattle to eat for free in Nevada desert.” It points out that the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan purchased and then retired grazing leases to protect the endangered tortoise.

Once Bundy’s cattle are kicked off the land to protect the tortoise, the precedent will be set to use the tortoise to block any oil-and-gas development in the area—after all environmentalists hate cattle only slightly less than they hate oil and gas. Admittedly, the April 13 leases are not in the same area as Bundy’s cattle, however, Gold Butte does have some oil-and-gas exploration that CBD’s actions could nip in the bud. Intellihub reports: “The BLM claims that they are seizing land to preserve it, for environmental protection. However, it is obvious that environmental protection is not their goal if they are selling large areas of land to fracking companies. Although the land that was sold last year is 300 and some miles away from the Bundy ranch, the aggressive tactics that have been used by federal agents in this situation are raising the suspicion that this is another BLM land grab that is destined for a private auction.”

The Natural News Network also sees that the tortoise is being used as a scapegoat: “Anyone who thinks this siege is about reptiles is kidding themselves.” It adds: “‘Endangered tortoises’ is merely the government cover story for confiscating land to turn it over to fracking companies for millions of dollars in energy leases.” The Network sees that it isn’t really about the critters; after all, hundreds of desert tortoises are being euthanized in Nevada.

Though the Intellihub and Natural News Network point to the “current showdown” as being about allowing oil-and-gas development, I believe that removing the cattle is really a Trojan horse. The tortoise protection will be used to block any more leasing.

On April 5, 2014, CBD sent out a triumphant press release announcing that the “long-awaited” roundup of cattle had begun.

What I am presenting is only a theory; I am just connecting some dots. But over-and-over, an endangered or threated species or habitat is used to block all kinds of economic development. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the lesser prairie chicken and the huge effort ($26 million) a variety of industries cooperatively engaged in to keep its habitat from being listed as threatened. The effort failed and the chicken’s habitat was listed. In my column on the topic, I predicted that these listings were likely to trigger another sage brush rebellion that will challenge federal land ownership. The Bundy showdown has brought the controversy front and center.

For now, southern Nevada’s last rancher has won the week-long standoff that has been likened to Tiananmen Square. Reports state that “the BLM said it did so because it feared for the safety of employees and members of the public,” not because it has changed its position.

While this chapter may be closing, it may have opened the next chapter in the sage brush rebellion. The Bundy standoff has pointed out the overreach of federal agencies and the use of threatened or endangered species to block economic activity.

Categories: On the Blog

The Paycheck Fairness Act is the Wrong Solution

Somewhat Reasonable - April 14, 2014, 10:56 AM

On April 9, the United States Senate failed to move forward The Paycheck Fairness Act for a third time. The Act would change the language of the Equal Pay Act and disallow employers to use “factors other than sex” to deny women fair pay. The GOP voted as bloc against what Democrats called an obvious choice. The conclusion? The Republican Party STILL hates women.

As a Republican woman who allegedly hates myself, I want to highlight the rash and colorful language (spattered with untrue numbers) that the Democratic Party uses to claim they support us, the American women. On Tuesday, the Democratic Party tried to push forward a measure that works against women while the Republican Party supported the liberties and freedoms of the average American woman to choose what she wants out of her job and her life.

The elementary level math the U.S. Census Bureau managed to put together shows that women earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by a male. In reality, this number is wrong. Although this ‘fact’ was repeated rather publicly during the State of the Union, The United States Department of Labor highlights its falsities. About 60% of the pay gap can be accounted for through choice of occupation, major in college, hours worked per week, and time off. Instead of a 23 cent difference, we are now dealing with a 5 to 10 cent difference, depending on if a conservative or a liberal counting. To be fair, let’s take an average and say that women make 93 cents to every dollar a man makes. Why didn’t President Obama say this number is his SOTU? Because that would not convince women that the Republican Party hates them.

Although this small pay-gap is closing quickly, let’s say the federal government should do something about it right now. This leads me to why the Paycheck Fairness act is horribly restricting to the liberties and freedoms of businesses and women. The amount of red tape and burden this act puts on businesses is frightening. It opens up employers to endless litigation making them prove they did not discriminate, but that they also caught and accounted for any discrimination that may or may not have occurred at past employers. The bill asks for hiring employers to do the impossible, even though there are already laws in place to ensure women are protected at work.

Now let’s say you could care less about the burden placed on businesses. The law impedes on a woman’s most basic right to choose. Republicans are pro-choice?! In this case, yes. Nearly the entire wage gap is accounted for by personal choices made by women. We might not be explicitly choosing to earn less, but we choose our college majors, our careers, and to work part time. This bill takes away that choice. An employer will be so fearful of hiring a woman who accepts a lower salary from a man (likely due to her own choice to work less hours), that many women will be out of work. The cost and threat of litigation would not make it worth hiring a woman who wants a more flexible life style. Women will be unable to negotiate for themselves and will become the true victims of this Act.

I believe there are large cultural and stereotypical trends that push women to different majors, to stay home with children more, and to suffer the brunt of household work. That’s a problem that needs fixing. However, cutting off a woman’s right to choose the lifestyle and work she wants is not the way to fix grander social problems. We need change, but we do not need the Paycheck Fairness Act. If the federal government insisted on involving itself, then show women why the hard sciences might be the better choice, how to negotiate and increase salaries, and encourage men to share the work leave women usually take.

We are buying into a liberal vernacular that convinces us to be a victim. I refuse to be a victim. In my career I might ask for raises, pursue promotions, and fight for a better job or I might make a personal decision to work part time for my family. Either way, I want the option to choose.

 

 

Categories: On the Blog

Kathleen Sebelius’s Resignation Hands Republicans A Golden Opportunity

Somewhat Reasonable - April 12, 2014, 8:55 PM

Kathleen Sebelius is resigning, and Rachel Maddow is right to not be happy about it, not one little bit. For once, I completely agree with Maddow’s analysis.

This surprise resignation presents Republicans with an unexpected opportunity to refocus the conversation on Obamacare’s negatives, offers a chance to force vulnerable Senate Democrats to take a hard vote on Obamacare six months before the midterms, and serves to disrupt what had been a positive few days of media spin for the health care law into another conversation about its many failings.

About a month ago, in a conversation with a Senate Democratic aide, the topic of Sebelius – “Auntie K” – came up. The assumption was shared that there was no way Sebelius would be leaving HHS prior to the November midterm elections – indeed, the aide claimed that her position was essentially unassailable given the negative attention her resignation or firing would draw. And besides, any nomination fight, no matter who the nominee is, would quickly become an opportunity for Republican Senators to pile on while Democratic Senators were put in an awkward position. No, the conventional wisdom said Sebelius would stay, at least til November 2014.

So much for the conventional wisdom. Reaching out tonight to the aforementioned aide, and to Republican aides as well, I found unanimous surprise at the step – they learned it from the media, not from trial balloons from the administration. Perhaps this move really was a surprise driven by an attempt on the part of the White House to avoid a Donald Rumsfeld situation, where the embattled Defense Secretary was given a presidential vote of confidence just days prior to the 2006 election, and then had his resignation accepted a week later. Interestingly enough, in Erroll Morris’s The Unknown Known, Rumsfeld himself says he wishes George W. Bush had accepted his resignation two years earlier, in the wake of Abu Ghraib. Perhaps President Obama is learning from his predecessors’ second midterm mistake, or attempting to?

In any case, it appears that this resignation presents Republicans with a golden opportunity to reignite their crusade against Obamacare with Sylvia Burwell’s nomination as a proxy for all the problems with the law.Burwell is a political loyalist and a veteran of the shutdown fight with no record on health care, and will likely be coached to avoid answering questions about specific challenges with implementation at HHS. Senate Republicans actually have an advantage here in the wake of the Nuclear Option’s implementation: they can easily come up with a list of facts they claim the administration has hidden, details kicked aside, statutes ignored, and a host of other challenging questions on accountability over the implementation (and non-implementation) of the law. A list of every question Sebelius has dodged over the past several years would suffice. By demanding answers before the HHS nomination moves forward and refusing to rubber stamp the president’s pick, Republicans could force more vulnerable Democrats to take a vote that ties them both to the Nuclear Option and Obamacare six months before a critical election.

And Democrats know this. Here’s Tom Daschle talking to The Daily Beast:

While the invocation of the “nuclear option” by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid last fall means that Burwell’s confirmation would only require 51 votes and not be subject to a filibuster, it doesn’t mean the process will be easy. Senate Republicans will surely use the process to push their message on Obamacare and to get more information about the implementation of the Affordable Care Act from the administration. Although Burwell was confirmed to head OMB by a vote of 96-0, Daschle cautioned that he thought she wouldn’t have an “easy ride.” As he noted because Obamacare “is such a contentious issue that will be reflected in the hearings.”

Other factions of the left are out there claiming that this resignation is a good thing – a sign of Sebelius’s huge success with Obamacare – not an acceptance of responsibility for Klendathu. But even if that’s what the White House thinks, Maddow’s frustration, in my view, is a wiser assessment of how this will play, and her description will be absolutely accurate if Republicans are smart enough to seize this opportunity. Maddow herself compared it to a sports team that “stops halfway through their victory lap to fire the coach” – no one thinks that’s the way it works. And given that Sebelius was just days ago committing to staying through November to see the next round of implementation through, only the most severe partisan is going to believe this wasn’t a step taken through the lens of 2014. Even the media frame on this from the New York Times, of all places, is “Sebelius Resigns After Troubles Over Health Site”.

A narrative this obvious writes itself. Anyone not interested in believing the lemon tree was haunted knows thinking otherwise is just pretending to enjoy a cool glass of turnip juice.

Follow Ben on Twitter.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Is lying About Climate Change Okay?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 10, 2014, 3:46 PM

Those of us who have chronicled the global warming hoax, now called “climate change”, know that it is based on decades of lies about carbon dioxide and other “greenhouse gas” with predictions that the Earth will heat up and cause massive problems unless those emissions are drastically reduced by not using coal, oil and natural gas.

Two American think tanks, The Heartland Institute and the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) have been among those exposing those lies for years. The lies have been generated and led by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“Despite the panel’s insistence that the Earth is getting hotter, five different datasets show that there have been no observable warming for 17 and a half years even as carbon dioxide levels have risen 12%,” notes Christopher Monckton, a science advisor to Britain’s former Prime Minister Thatcher. “The discrepancy between prediction and observation continues to grow.”

Recently, two Chinese assistant professors of economics, Fuhai Hong and Xiaojian Zhao, were published in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics. Their paper, “Information Manipulation and Climate Agreements”, openly advocated lying about global warming/climate change in order to get nations to sign on to the International Environmental Agreement.

“It appears that news media and some pro-environmental organizations,” they noted, “have the tendency to accentuate or even exaggerate the damage caused by climate change. This article provides a rationale for this tendency.”

Craig Rucker, CFACT’s Executive Director, responded to the Chinese authors saying “They’re shameless.” Theirs and others ends-justify-the-means tactics reflects the attitudes and actions of environmental organizations and serves as a warning to never accept anything they say on any aspect of this huge hoax.

CFACT’s President and co-founder, David Rothbard, noted that “Global warming skeptics have long charged that alarmists are over-hyping the dangers of climate change.” How long? Back in 1989, the late Stanford University professor, Stephen Schneider, said, “So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ which we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance between being effective and being honest.”

There is no “right balance” between telling lies and telling the truth when it comes to science or any other aspect of our lives. Suffice to say that thousands of scientists who participated in the IPCC reports over the years supported the lies, but many have since left and some have openly denounced the reports.

As the latest IPCC summary of its report has garnered the usual verbatim media coverage of its outlandish predictions, The Heartland Institute has released its own 1,062 page report from the “Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) called “Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts. An 18-page summery is available at http://climatechangereconsidered.org.

Among its findings:

- Atmospheric carbon dioxide is not a pollutant.

- There is little or no risk of increasing food insecurity due to global warming or rising atmospheric CO2 levels.

- Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 levels do not pose a significant threat to aquatic life.

- A modest warming of the planet will result in a net reduction of human mortality from temperature-related events.
Based on hundreds of peer-reviewed studies, the NIPCC report is free of the lies that are found in the IPCC report whose studies have been, at best, dubious, and at worst, deliberately deceptive.In light of the natural cooling cycle the Earth has been in that is good news and it will be even better news when the planet emerges from the cycle that reflects the lower levels of radiation from the Sun.

On March 31, CNS News reported that “The United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest report estimates it will cost developed nations an additional $100 billion each year to help poorer nations adapt to the devastating effects of ‘unequivocal’ global warming, including food shortages, infrastructure breakdown, and civil violence. But that figure was deleted from the report’s executive summary after industrial nations, including the United States, objected to the high price tag.”

The price tag reveals the IPCC’s real agenda, the transfer of funds from industrial nations to those less developed. It’s about the money and always has been. It’s not global warming the planet needs to survive, it is the costly lies about it.

[First published at Warning Signs]
Categories: On the Blog

Wide Support for Internet Access Tax Moratorium

Somewhat Reasonable - April 10, 2014, 10:26 AM

The Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998 was designed to promote the growth of the Internet by placing a moratorium on state and local taxation of Internet access and the creation of discriminatory taxes on emails and other data. The moratorium is set to expire in 2014, but two proposals being considered in Congress, the Senate’s Internet Tax Freedom Forever Act and its companion bill in the House, the Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act, would permanently extend the ban on Internet access taxes. Neither of the bills being considered or the moratorium exempts Internet sales from general state sales taxes. 

Making the Internet access tax moratorium permanent is a necessary step in promoting wider access to the Internet while keeping the cost down and eliminating discriminatory taxes. As the Internet has become one of the driving forces behind economic growth across the United States, ensuring affordable access for businesses and consumers is crucial. An online petition sponsored by MyWireless.org calling on Congress to permanently ban taxes on Internet access has drawn over 44,000 signatures.

On April 10, the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) Coalition, a group of communications and technology companies, business associations and consumer groups released a letter to Congress calling for legislators to support the current efforts to avoid a tax increase on Internet access. Lawmakers currently have until November 1, 2014, the end of the current moratorium to stop the new tax. Tom Schatz, President of the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste, a signatory of the letter noted that preserving the Internet moratorium is a rare issue that crosses the aisle. “It is not often that an issue receives bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., but the Internet tax moratorium is a rare area where both liberals and conservatives have found common ground,” said Schatz.

Annabelle Canning, executive director of the ITFA argued in a statement that the goal of mobilizing the Internet economy to promote economic growth would “be better achieved by ensuring all Americans have access to broadband Internet access, free from burdensome state and local taxation. Permanently extending ITFA would allow Americans to reap the benefits provided by broadband Internet access through increased access to job training, education, employment opportunities and government services without excess taxation.”

Supporters of both bills argue that increased Internet access taxes say allowing these taxes could quickly make ISP bills resemble phone bills, with more and more taxes added and more people being unable to afford Internet access. Wireless tax rates have reached all-time highs with almost half the states nationwide now impose a wireless tax above 10 percent, according to the Tax Foundation; the national average is more than 16.3 percent.

In the letter, Steve Pociask, President of The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research (ACI) argues Internet access must remain free if the digital economy is going to continue to grow. “While Congress and the President want consumer adoption, investment, deployment and innovation in broadband services, allowing the imposition of onerous taxes would nullify these goals. We need to not tax what we should encourage.”

The twin bills would also prevent state and local governments from imposing multiple taxes on digital goods, such as apps and music, as many governments have begun to do with wireless phone service. Under the moratorium, the digital economy for apps and digital music has boomed, according to the American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research, the lack of an Internet access tax has “enabled the app economy to create nearly 500,000 jobs, and digital music downloads from the iTunes store alone accounted for over 25 billion songs at this point.”

Internet access taxes place an unnecessary burden on consumers in order to do something the market is already handling quite effectively. Making the Internet access tax moratorium permanent would help broadband access and development expand while reducing the need for government broadband spending.

Categories: On the Blog

Workplace Discrimination Is Everywhere! Bureau of Labor Statistics Proves It!

Somewhat Reasonable - April 10, 2014, 9:10 AM

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President Obama and many of his fellow Democrat politicians think they have identified a terrible injustice in the “gender pay gap.” But with almost no effort, anyone who can access the Internet can go to the Bureau of Labor Statistics website and find information showing a far greater injustice: the pay gap between young people and older workers.

Obama and company are scandalized that women are paid 77 percent of what men are paid. Yet I have heard them say nothing about BLS numbers showing 16- to 24-year olds are paid only 54 percent of what workers 25 and older are paid.

Sex discrimination in the workplace? Apparently it’s nothing compared to age discrimination in the workplace!

The BLS informs us: “Median weekly earnings were highest for women age 35 to 64 in 2012, with little difference in the earnings of 35- to 44-year-olds ($747), 45- to 54-year-olds ($746), and 55- to 64-year-olds ($766).” Women 16 to 24 years old were paid only $416 a week, according to the BLS.

“Among men,” the BLS tells us, “workers who were age 45 to 64 had the highest earnings, with 45- to 54-year-olds ($994) making about the same as 55- to 64-year-olds ($1,005).” Men 16 to 24 years old were paid only $468 a week, according to the BLS.

Outrageous! And the more we delve into the BLS report, the more discrimination we find! For instance:

“Asian women and men earned more than their White, Black, and Hispanic or Latino counterparts in 2012. Among women, Whites ($710) earned 92 percent as much as Asians ($770), while Blacks ($599) and Hispanics ($521) earned 78 percent and 68 percent as much as Asians, respectively. In comparison, White men ($879) earned 83 percent as much as Asian men ($1,055); Black men ($665) earned 63 percent as much as Asians; and Hispanic men ($592), 56 percent.”

It’s clear as crystal: Employers discriminate against Whites, Blacks and Hispanics of both sexes while favoring Asians of both sexes!

Oh, no. We read a little farther and find this: “Earnings growth has been largest for White women, outpacing that of their Black and Hispanic counterparts. Between 1979 and 2012, inflation-adjusted earnings (also called constant-dollar earnings) rose by 31 percent for White women, compared with an increase of 20 percent for Black women and 13 percent for Hispanic women. In contrast, earnings for White and Black men in 2012 showed little or no change from their 1979 constant-dollar levels, while Hispanic men’s earnings were down by 8 percent after adjusting for inflation. . . . Asians were not included in this analysis because comparable data for the group are not available until 2003.”

So, since 1979, in constant-dollar terms, employers have been discriminating against men, holding down their earnings while giving White, Black and Hispanic women double-digit increases in their earnings!

Oh, and it gets worse!

“At each level of education, women have fared better than men with respect to earnings growth. Although both women and men without a high school diploma have experienced declines in inflation-adjusted earnings since 1979, the drop for women was significantly less than that for men: a 14-percent decrease for women as opposed to a 32-percent decline for men. On an inflation-adjusted basis, earnings for women with a college degree have increased by 28 percent since 1979, while those of male college graduates have risen by 17 percent.”

So employers have gone more than 30 years discriminating against men regardless of education!

I can’t stand to read any further. Paragraph after paragraph of discrimination laid out for us by the government’s own Bureau of Labor Statistics! Read it all yourself, if you have the stomach for it.

President Obama has not been shy about wielding that famous pen of his to right all sorts of workplace wrongs. Recently he has decreed a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour for federal government contractors. On Tuesday he signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation. And he signed a Presidential Memorandum “instructing the Secretary of Labor to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race,” according to a White House press release.  “The Department of Labor will use the data to encourage compliance with equal pay laws and to target enforcement more effectively by focusing efforts where there are discrepancies and reducing burdens on other employers.”

Equal pay laws? After reading the BLS report, it appears there is no such thing as equal pay. Discrimination is the only possible explanation for all these numbers! The mystery to me is why President Obama and other Democrat leaders have so narrowly focused their attention on the gender pay gap when the BLS has highlighted so many other egregious workplace injustices that scream to be righted.

Categories: On the Blog

Online Video Competition’s Tipping Point Just Tipped

Somewhat Reasonable - April 10, 2014, 8:49 AM

What do Amazon, Verizon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo all have in common?

They’re all actively preparing to enter the over-the-top online video business with their own streaming service or proprietary online programming to compete with Netflix, Hulu, and facilities-based pay-TV providers like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, Dish, AT&T, Verizon, and others.

Why all this new competition now?

Several big recent changes have converged to create a tipping point for new broad scale, over-the-top (OTT) video competition.

The FCC made clear net neutrality does not apply to the Internet backbone market. Broadband providers are fiercely competing to offer plentiful wireless bandwidth for online video streaming. And several companies worth $1.5 trillion collectively have plans to compete as over-the-top online video streamers and programmers. Competition in this space is clearly intensifying.

First, in just the last three months, the U.S. regulatory environment has turned around 180 degrees in terms of facilitating market negotiations, economics and competition in the Internet backbone market. The removal of regulatory uncertainty has jumpstarted market negotiations between ISPs and multiple new competitive entrants seeking necessary quality of services guarantees for their planned OTT offerings.

Specifically, the D.C. Court of Appeals in its January Verizon v. FCC decision outlawed the FCC from regulating unregulated broadband ISPs as regulated common carriers. That means part of the FCC’s 2010 Open Internet order that implicitly set a zero price for downstream Internet backbone traffic (i.e. video streaming) was illegal.

Since then the FCC has decided to not appeal, and hence live with that ruling as law. In addition, FCC Chairman Wheeler and the agency at large have publicly affirmed the FCC would not include new Internet backbone regulation in the FCC’s redo of the partially overturned Open Internet order.

Competitively this is a big deal. The FCC’s old net neutrality rules fostered huge uneconomic arbitrage, where perversely the biggest corporate users of Internet bandwidth contributed the least to the infrastructure upgrade costs necessary to keep pace with exploding bandwidth consumption.

Now market forces can naturally balance costs with prices. And importantly new OTT entrants can negotiate the specialized quality assurance guarantees necessary for a viable competitive offering. That’s why Netflix and Comcast recently completed a multi-year, Internet backbone interconnection deal.

This is a big deal for growth as well. This change enables the creation of an entirely new business-to-business marketplace of specialized services to meet the various and different needs for specialized speed, capacity and quality for OTT video, telemedicine, industrial operations, connected cars, and the Internet of things.

Second, in just the last year, broadband competition has spurred a game-changing amount of new Internet infrastructure investment that has created a competitive tipping point for new OTT video and other specialized services.

America now leads the world in wireless 4G-LTE infrastructure investment. This means by year’s end, America’s four national wireless broadband ISPs will be offering speeds capable of supporting new OTT video streaming services, nearly ubiquitously. And Dish has aggregated enough spectrum nationally to offer a fifth ubiquitous, MVNO wireless broadband service to enable OTT video services.

On top of that world-leading LTE investment, Comcast, Time Warner Cable and the rest of the cable industry have been furiously adding more free WiFi hotspots to provide mobility to their wire line customers. Furthermore the FCC just freed-up another 100 MHz of unlicensed spectrum for WiFi to enable even more capacity for mobile video streaming.

The advent of broad scale mobile OTT competition should be of no surprise. This is just a continuation of the long back-and-forth competition between wireless and wire line infrastructures. In the 1980s cable TV largely replaced free broadcast TV. In the 1990s and the aughts Direct Broadcast Satellite took a third of cable share.

And now America’s wireless broadband infrastructure has reached the tipping point of increasingly delivering the video streaming throughputs necessary to enable mobile OTT video competition.

Third, new competitive entrants grasp the new competitive opportunity created by the more growth-friendly regulatory environment and the higher-bandwidth wireless infrastructure.

News reports indicate that at least six new OTT video competitors worth over $1.5 trillion – Amazon, Verizon, Apple, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo – are all individually readying new competitive assaults.

If it was only one or two companies planning this new big effort, one could be skeptical that a tipping point had been reached. But when at least six companies of this size are targeting the same opportunity at the same time in very similar ways, something big is afoot.

The broadband and pay-TV businesses are facing a tipping point of new game-changing OTT competition, because three necessary competitive prerequisites have been met.

The court/FCC removed a big regulatory overhang from the business-to-business Internet backbone space, opening up a whole new growth marketplace for mass specialized services in need of special quality of service guarantees. This in turn opens up new economic arrangements like AT&T’s Sponsored Data offering where businesses can pay for their consumers’ bandwidth usage to attract customers.

Competitive forces have goaded multiple ISPs to invest big in upgrading infrastructure to enable mass mobile OTT services.

Several companies that already serve most Americans, and that have among the deepest pockets of any businesses in America, are hungrily eying the OTT marketplace for growth and expansion.

This is more than just a competitive tipping point – it’s a perfect storm of pro-competition developments.

 

[Originally published at Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Fox News: NIPCC report ‘Poking Very Large Holes’ in Climate Alarmist ‘Consensus’

Somewhat Reasonable - April 09, 2014, 10:31 PM

For the second night in a row, the new report from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) was featured on “Special Report with Bret Baier” on the Fox News Channel. Baier’s show destroys its competition on cable news with about 1.7 million viewers each night.

FNC covered the press conference Heartland and NIPCC held Wednesday morning at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. It informed this fantastic report from Doug McKelway, who said the NIPCC report presents “a torrent of new data … poking very large holes in what the president has called the scientific consensus about global warming.”

Watch it below, and read the transcript below that, which I preserve for posterity. When a reporter on the most-watched nightly news show on cable states the following, it’s worth filing away: “Skeptics believe [alarmist] statements are demonstrably false. They point to observable data, not computer modeling, to prove their point.”

Baier: The earth may, or may not, be heating up. But there’s no debate that the fight over man-made climate change certainly is. Despite repeated proclamations that science comes down on one particular side, it turns out many scientists do not agree. Correspondent Doug McKelway reports tonight on the deepening divide over an issue that is part science and part politics.

[Clip: Barack Obama]: But the debate is settled. Climate Change is a fact.

McKelway: A torrent of new data is poking very large holes in what the president has called the scientific consensus about global warming.

Roger Pilon, Cato Institute: The dirty little secret is that we’re now at 17 years and 8 months of no global warming. Their models have failed, year in and year out.

McKelway: Backed by thousands of peer-reviewed papers, a study released today by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change contrasts starkly with the recently released UN report that finds severe impacts from global warming. The new report finds that warming from greenhouse gases will be so small as to be indiscernible from natural variability. The impact of modestly rising CO2 levels on plants, animals, and humans has been mostly positive. And the costs of trying to limit emissions vastly exceed the benefits. The report may only heighten debate over climate change, where both sides are armed with their own opinions and their own facts.

[Clip: Hillary Clinton]: Climate change is a national security problem, not just an environmental problem.

[Clip: John Kerry]: And all of the predictions of the scientists are not just being met, they are being exceeded.

McKelway: Skeptics believe those statements are demonstrably false. They point to observable data, not computer modeling, to prove their point.

Joseph Bast, president, Heartland Institute: Carbon dioxide has not caused weather to become more extreme. And it is not causing polar ice and sea ice to melt. It’s not causing sea-level rise to accelerate.

McKelway: All of which is leading Congressional doubters to further question EPA regulations.

[Clip: Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)]: The sheer number of proposed rule-makings coupled with cost of compliance with a vast array of regulations already on the books and, what at times are the unreasonable consequences of their enforcement is very, very frustrating.

McKelway: Climate Change skeptic Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma introduced leg just last week that would tackle the administration’s regulatory end-run around Congress. It would prevent the EPA from issuing any final rule until it conducts an economic analysis as required under the Clean Air Act.

Catch up with the latest media reports, op-eds, podcasts, and videos about the NIPCC reports at ClimateChangeReconsidered.org.

Categories: On the Blog

When Governments Attack the Private Sector

Somewhat Reasonable - April 09, 2014, 12:55 PM

Your average government – anywhere in the world – has more resources at its disposal than just about any private company on the planet.

So when a government sets its sites on making a private company’s life miserable – it almost always can.  Because it can put the full weight of the Leviathan behind the push – and it is spending Other People’s Money to do it.

The private company is not only spending its own coin to fend off the attack, they are in many cases also helping to fund their attacker – with the copious taxes their attacker has conscripted.

Governments wield woefully huge bureaucratic apparatuses.  They have countless agencies, commissions, departments and boards – all of which can be brought to bear on their targets.

They can rain down a hurricane’s worth of regulations and unfavorable rulings.  And they can use their piles of confiscated cash to hire armadas of attorneys to litigate their opponents into oblivion.

To name but one notorious example of this obnoxiousness – there is our governments’ abuse ofeminent domain.  Remember Kelo v. New London?

It’s bad enough when government does this as Crony Socialism – at the money-backed behest of Big Companies looking to sic the Big Government attack dog on their competition.

It’s even worse when Big Government does it unilaterally – abusing its gi-normous power to benefit itself. Behold:

The Rise of State-Sponsored Patent Trolls

“Patent trolls are a hazard in the U.S. marketplacebuy(ing) up patents…and aggressively accus(ing) others of infringing them.”

Now let’s be abundantly clear.  If a patent claim is legitimate – the patent holder(s) absolutely should be paid.  Otherwise, we undermine private property rights – a free-society-foundational tenet.

Unfortunately, it’s looking more and more like these patent claims are going to be anything but legitimate.

Recently, foreign governments have begun founding their own patent trolls. France Brevets, Intellectual Discovery in Korea, and Innovation Network Corp of Japan are examples of these troubling entities. China is headed toward similar “investment service platforms.”….

Foreign Governments Getting into Profitable US ‘Patent Troll’ Business

So-called “patent trolls” can earn millions of dollars by being a costly thorn in the side of companies.

“(P)atent trolls”…siphon money from large corporations…that sell products and services.

An intellectual property firm can accuse such companies of violating the patents they own, and can secure licensing deals or even file patent infringement lawsuits to obtain cash.

Ah yes – the “sue and settle” approach – so popular with the likes of our domestic Left-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cabal.

These governments aren’t doing it just to illicitly pocket coin – they will also use it as backdoor, pernicious protectionism for their domestic companies.

State-Sponsored Patent Trolls Signal New Form of Protectionism

There is the natural tendency to favor domestic industries over foreign ones. This natural tendency can develop into protectionist policies akin to the industrial policies of many 19th-century governments.

There is also an incentive for states to use the patents to defend key domestic companies by attacking foreign companies and raising their costs. This would encourage anti-competitive behavior in industries where technology is critical.

And of course there is an inherent conflict of interest when a government is charged with patent enforcement – while itself owning patents.  It’s like a baseball umpire owning one of the teams playing the game he’s umping.

Their attempted explanations for why they are doing this simply don’t wash:

The (South Korean) government-backed company has purchased more than 200 U.S. patents, and has said it plans to use those patents to protect other South Korean companies that might be targeted by a lawsuit.

There are legitimate reasons for foreign businesses to be concerned about patent litigation – and they should purchase the protective patents themselves.  Not have Government Warbucks buy them to play Crony Socialist protectionist favorites.

There is a Yellow Pages Rule: If you can find it in the Yellow Pages – the government shouldn’t do it.

If we want a legitimate, freer global marketplace – and the true private-property-protection legitimate patent enforcement provides – we need to have the world’s governments serve as cops non-prejudicially walking the beat.

Not setting up storefronts and manning the shops.  And then hiring slip-and-fall lawyers to harass their competitors.

You can have enforcement authority or skin in the game – not both.  These governments all have the former – they should absolutely stay out of the latter.

 

[Originally published at RedState]

Categories: On the Blog

Liberals focus on happy thoughts? Really?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 09, 2014, 12:50 PM

Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, whose writing I commend heartily to readers of Somewhat Reasonable, this morning called my attention to some fascinating research reported recently in Mother Jones. It is truly not every day that Kass cites Mother Jones, so I was intrigued.

In ”Can Conservatives be fixed scientifically?” Kass quotes an April 4 Mother Jones article – This Machine Can Tell Whether You’re Liberal or Conservative – as saying conservatives “go through the world more attentive to negative, threatening and disgusting stimuli.”

For reasons that won’t come as any surprise to readers of Somewhat Reasonable, my mind immediately turned to environmental issues, and climate change in particular. Surely Mother Jones and the researcher whose work it reports, University of Nebraska-Lincoln political scientist John Hibbing, would recognize environmental alarmism as a glaring exception to this notion that conservatives are the “negative” ones?

But alas, there’s no evidence Mother Jones or Hibbing recognize this gap in Hibbing’s theory.

Mother Jones reports: “Some of us are more hierarchical, as opposed to egalitarian; some of us prefer harsher punishments for rule breakers, whereas some of us would be more inclined to forgive; some of us find outsiders or out-groups intriguing and enticing, whereas others find them threatening.” (italics mine)

Hibbing and Mother Jones clearly want to conclude conservatives are the ones described by the phrases I’ve italicized. But on climate change and other environmental issues, that’s simply not true.

“Hierarchical” describes people who see the world as being “ranked,” with some groups of people higher than others. Think of the left’s obsession with “class warfare” and you’ll get some idea of where they’re coming from. People who are “more hierarchical” are likely to believe individuals can’t manage their own lives – they need the government to tell them what to do and how to do it. Granted, some conservatives are like that on some issues … but liberals are like that, big time, on energy and environment and climate change issues. It is the liberals, after all, who talk about “global” warming and think a “global” governing body – the United Nations – has all the answers on climate change.

And on climate change, clearly liberals are the ones who “prefer harsher punishments.” They call for Nuremberg trials and even the death penalty for climate change “deniers.”

(N.B.: The phrase “climate change deniers” is not something that would be used by “happy,” “positive” people. Nobody is denying climate change happens. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change notes in Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, “Any human global climate signal is so small as to be nearly indiscernible against the background variability of the natural climate system. Climate change is always occurring.”)

Finally, it’s clearly the liberals who find “outsiders or out-groups” threatening. Why else would they label the scientists who disagree with them “deniers,” refuse to engage in civil debate or even speak at events to share their views in an open forum?

On energy, environment, and climate issues, it is the “conservatives and their rambunctious libertarian siblings,” as Kass calls us, who have a positive message to deliver: that global warming is not a crisis, the likely benefits of man-made global warming exceed the likely costs, and mankind is not the scourge on Earth that liberals make us out to be.

Categories: On the Blog

F.H. Buckley Presents Dim View of America’s “Crown Government”

Somewhat Reasonable - April 09, 2014, 12:46 PM

On Thursday, April 3, The Heartland Institute’s Author Series featured F.H. Buckley, author and foundation professor at George Mason University School of Law with his eye-opening, recently published book titled, “The Once and Future King: The Rise and Fall of Crown Government.”  A citizen of Canada, Buckley will be sworn in as a U.S. citizen April 15.

Buckley didn’t mince words when he shattered just about every myth surrounding American government.  The Constitution, with its separation of powers, was not what the Founders had in mind. They instead envisioned a country in which Congress would dominate the government and in which the president would play a much smaller role.

Buckley offered a clarion warning about the alarming rise of one-man rule in the age of Obama, which he calls Crown government, and which one of our Founders (George Mason) called an “elective monarchy” that was worse than the real thing.

How did this nation arrive at its current state?

Although Buckley is not a Constitutional lawyer, he feels that as an outsider he has a better prospective of what led to American’s transformation to that of an “Imperial Presidency,” a term first coined by Arthur Schlesinger Jr. in a book by the same name, who as an adviser to the Kennedy administration, later condemned Richard Nixon’s abuse of presidential power and accordingly called for a return of power to the congressional branch.

Foremost in Buckley’s presentation was how presidential regimes differ from parliamentary systems of government through his evaluation of both systems:

  • Most worrisome in a presidential system is that the head of government and the head of state are united as one, in contrast to a parliamentary system where control rests more in party leaders.
  • Presidents can hide behind lecterns, but not prime ministers who must respond to questions from the Opposition on a daily basis when Parliament is in session or when the prime minister is in the country. Obama wouldn’t last in a parliamentary form of government where he would have to answer every question directed to him by Republican leaders.
  • Presidents have a fixed term, while prime ministers may be ousted at any time by a majority in the House of Commons.  In 225 years no president has ever been removed from office through impeachment.  Nixon may have saved himself from this fate by resigning.  Clinton was able to slow walk the impeachment process long enough to place the blame on Ken Starr.  Andrew Johnson came close to impeachment but won by a single vote:  35 to convict; 19 to acquit. The “high crimes and misdemeanors” test of our Constitution requires a 2/3 vote in the Senate. Rejected was what was first proposed by George Mason which called for impeachment based on a “maladministration” standard. Madison disagreed with the maladministration standard fearing that presidents under that standard could be removed for any reason.  Evident is that the Framers never anticipated that the presidency would emerge as the dominate branch of the government and that a broad impeachment power might be necessary to keep the executive branch in check.  As observed by Thomas Jefferson in his old age, a judgment seconded by Henry Adams, impeachment, as set forth in the Constitution, was not even a scarecrow!
  • The president is the only person elected by the entire country and has become the principal symbol of American democracy.  While Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution established that the president has the power to run the executive branch of the government, Article II, Section 2 was amended in 1804 through the 12th amendment which set up the Electoral College system which still governs modern presidential elections. This system of electing presidents has given way to the rise of a strong president, helped along by the sick adulation of the president by the media (far better when politicians are considered buffoons!), and a Supreme Court that serves at the whim of presidents.
  • The Electoral College system of electing presidents has ultimately produced a different kind of leader who is subject to public extremes of love and hatred, out of which has developed intense partisanship and gridlock. It hasn’t helped that the media has made rock stars out of the heads of government.
  • The loss of political freedom is associated with the concentration of power at the top in a president; hence, a “Reversibility” problem exists where people are stuck with bad laws and rulings, i.e., Obamacare.  With the power to issue Executive Orders, President Obama is putting in place policies that fit his own agenda if unable to legislate through Congress.
  • Presidential systems are difficult to export to other countries.  It didn’t work when exporting to South America. There are lots of presidents for life, but never a prime minister; however, in these modern times both presidents and prime ministers have gained increased power.

The issue of immigration was touched upon in the context of how population is renewed by birth and immigration.  The intake of immigration in the 1950′s looked like America with 70% from Europe and Asia.  The immigration intake now largely consist of those living south of the Rio Grande. They didn’t come here after reading the Federalist papers!  Many will latch on to the Democrat Party, being used to having power centered in a powerful president with government as their keeper.

Also of concern to Buckley is our criminal law system.  The scope of current law is so broad that its interpretation is often left open to the individual wishing to apply the law.  Buckley’s fear is that those having the incorrect political leaning could be arrested or penalized.

Despite the many drawback of our presidential system, what went so wrong that we now have an elected head of state and president who is behaving like an Imperial President?

As stated by F.H. Buckley, “We’ve had a wonderful run for 235 years.”  As to the age we are living in, we can no longer count on the courts to protect our constitutional liberties.

Unless there is an extremely egregious nominee, the Senate votes to uphold the nomination.  Despite the many scandals that have happened under the watch of Democrats, including Fast and Furious, Bengali, and the targeting of conservative groups by the IRS, because an ineffective Department of Justice and an Attorney General is in place who is tied to the president and not concerned about Constitutional principles, culpability is being denied and justice is not being served.

Then too there is the present Congress whose members are not willing to step up to the plate, but for a few, and take a united stand against Democrat proposals that are wrong for this nation.  Not only did wimpy and frightened Republican recently give in to Democrats while receiving nothing in return when they allowed the debt ceiling to be raised, but in dealing with the $862 billion Stimulus Bill passed in 2009, very little direction was given on how this tremendous amount of money should be spent.

It is easier to change course in a parliamentary regime than in one with an elected president.  For not only is it difficult to amend the Constitution, but a Supreme Court stacked with judges in sync with the views of a president and a media that fawns over the president create additional obstacles.

As the concentration of power becomes more in the hands of one instead of many, the deck becomes more and more stacked against effecting change in Congress through working within the system. An examples of when change happened from outside the system was the tea party’s show of election might when new comers were elected to Congress in 2010, all united on the pledge to shut down the earmark favor factory.

Also deserving of credit by Buckley was the “Republican Contract of America” written in part by Newt Gingrich and introduced six weeks before the1994 Congressional election.  Current Republican members of the House of Representatives and those citizens seeking to join that body, promised not just work to change its policies, but even more so to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives.  The contract enabled New Gingrich to become the first Republican Speaker of the House of Representative in 40 years. The Contract included 8 proposals outlining legislature to get enacted by the House of Representative within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress (1995-96).  All parts of the Contract were passed by the House under the leadership of Speaker Gingrich.

After all the negative views presented, there was something positive news to grab on to.  Noted was that all good things seem to be happening on the Right, such as Students for Liberty, as the Left continues to digs its hole even deeper with policies that take this nation in the wrong direction.  National referendums could be useful but this would require that all legislators come together and speak about the same problem, hardly likely!  Being advocated by Mark Levin and others is a Constitutional Convention.   It was slipped into Article 5 of the Constitution by George Mason as an alternate way for amendments to be proposed which says, “If two-thirds of state legislatures demand a meeting, Congress “shall call a convention for proposing amendments.”

 

[Originall published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

NIPCC Gathers Attention Despite Mainstream Scorn

Somewhat Reasonable - April 08, 2014, 9:40 PM

Heartland Institute President Joe Bast moderating the climate panel at CPAC 2014.

The release of Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) has sparked a predictable backlash from the mainstream media and the scientific community. Yet it is a document that cannot be quashed with the usual dose of scorn; it’s far too well-researched for that!

In fact, the voluminous Climate Change Reconsidered has thrust the subject of anthropogenic climate change back into the spotlight. Heartland President Joseph Bast appeared in a Fox News special report today, in which he discussed the position of the NIPCC on the positive effects warming can have for humanity.

“Rising carbon dioxide levels and warmer temperatures have been shown to actually improve agricultural productivity,” Bast told the interviewer, “Billions of people are being fed today who would not have been fed.”

While it is unclear as yet whether this new report from the NIPCC will have the transformative effect on the public discourse surrounding climate change and global warming its authors hope for, it is clear that the debate it fosters has yielded significant returns in terms of both general public awareness of the continuing controversy, and of specific encouragement to move away from unquestioning acceptance of Establishment Science’s pronouncements.

During the Fox interview, Bast stated that, “Ethical standards have been lowered, peer-review has been corrupted, and we can’t trust what appears in our most prestigious journals anymore.” It is certainly true that the climate change debate, particularly in the wake of 2009′s Climate Gate scandal, has served not only to occasionally embarrass mainstream opponents, but also to enliven public scrutiny of the scientific research process.

Peer review is a system that often “rewards conformity” over unorthodox thinking, which can turn the journals and publications of record that are meant to be the keen spear-point of scientific progress into a blunt instrument for enforcing the status quo. The need to publish papers as the means of securing academic promotion reinforces the problem,  as repeating or defending the existing consensus is more likely to garner successful publication. The echo-chamber of academia thus drowns out dissenting voices.

Scientists ought to welcome challenges to the mainstream, even if they believe they are wholly wrong. The flaws in research papers that Climate Change Reconsidered shines a light on can now be better addressed by all scientists in future. True scientific progress is achieved through iconoclasm, not conservatism.

The debates that will spread in the coming months as Climate Change Reconsidered II is discussed in the media and academic circles can only make science better.

Categories: On the Blog

Energy Department Revives Stimulus Loans as Another Electric Vehicle Company Stalls

Somewhat Reasonable - April 08, 2014, 11:01 AM

As Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced last week a renewed push to provide $16 billion in taxpayer-backed loans for “clean” technology vehicles, more bad news emerged from another stimulus-funded electric vehicle company over the weekend.

Smith Electric Vehicles, the truck company that was supposed to “make it” because electrification made so much sense for short, urban delivery routes, halted production at the end of 2013. A quarterly report at Recovery.gov attributed the stoppage to “the company’s tight cash flow situation.”

While not a beneficiary of the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program that Moniz wants to revive, Smith Electric is another reason why subsidies of any type for this floundering pseudo-industry – loans, grants, tax breaks, etc. – are enormous wastes. In light of the hundreds of millions of dollars that other companies like Fisker AutomotiveEcotality and A123 Systems received, Smith’s $32 million in grants is comparatively modest. But perhaps no company was less deserving of the subsidies than the Kansas City-based truck maker.

Smith’s selling point was that delivery routes in urban areas did not require a long range between refueling (or, recharging). Frequent stops and short distances alleviated the “range anxiety” affixed to cars like theNissan LeafFrito-Lay, Coca-Cola and Staples were cited as early adopters of the truck demonstration project, which the grants were supposed to support.

But in reality, as NLPC reported in December 2011, Smith was already a failed company based in the United Kingdom – a division of a larger company called the Tanfield Group. Smith-U.S. established itself in Kansas City in January 2009, following a precipitous drop in Tanfield’s U.K. stock value in mid-2008. Financial analysts became troubled because claims the company made about matters such as vehicle orders could not be verified. The company was accused of exercising poor disclosure standards and weak financial controls, according to theLondon Telegraph. Tanfield’s cash evaporation led the company to lose 97 percent of its value in 2008, prompted inquiries by the London Stock Exchange and by the U.K. Accountancy and Actuarial Discipline Board.

Despite that track record, in August 2009 the Obama administrationannounced a $10 million award to Smith-U.S. – less than eight months old in America. The following March Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskillannounced the additional $22 million for Smith’s truck demonstration project. All this early taxpayer money didn’t just go to a company with no history, or an existing one with promise, but a foreign flop.

Still, the Obama administration and McCaskill did their best to inflate prospects for Smith, with both visiting the manufacturing facility and boasting of its promise. And every so often in the last couple years there would be a flurry of positive media coverage for which there was no justification: An empty promise to build a manufacturing facility in The Bronx, and another unfulfilled pledge to build a plant in Chicago. In reality the boasts never came to fruition because they were wholly dependent on state and local subsidies that never materialized. Bottom line: prospects for the business were not based on a vehicle that the market actually demanded, but instead upon government financial favors.

How do we know? Because fundamental math shows that Smith waspractically giving away their trucks for the demonstration project. A review of its grant on the Recovery.gov Web site indicates that users of Smith’s trucks under the demonstration project are only doing so at minimal cost to themselves. The most recent report (reflecting up until Dec. 31, 2013) under the $32 million grant shows that Smith delivered 439 of its vehicles, with $29,150,672 reimbursed to the company with government funds thus far. That calculates to a sizable $66,402 taxpayer subsidy per vehicle.

As the New York Times has reported, based upon information it received from a company representative, while the trucks range in price from $100,000 to $150,000, there were many other forms of grants and tax breaks to be had. Smith’s Web site revealed other clues about how much its clients benefit from government program subsidies. Among the incentives were: the Alternative Fuel Infrastructure Tax Credit (up to 30 percent of the vehicle’s cost); Qualified Plug-In Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Tax Credit (between $2,500 and $7,500 per truck); EPA Diesel Emissions Reduction Act Grant (up to 25 percent of the total cost of a vehicle); Clean Cities Grant (up to 50 percent total cost of the vehicle); and Congestion, Mitigation and Air Quality Funds. And then there are various state and local government support as well.

Alas, all that taxpayer dough still didn’t appear to be enough to make Smith viable. And at the current rate the Department of Energy has supported its trucks, there isn’t enough money left in the grant to reach the goal of 510 vehicles in the demonstration project – they will fall about $2 million short, assuming they have any money left at all. With 44 percent to 67 percent of the trucks’ cost subsidized just under the grant program – let alone all the other government incentives – Smith’s survival without training wheels looks virtually impossible.

According to the Kansas City Star, company officials aren’t talking, which also looks bad. An email from a DOE spokesperson said, “DOE continues to work with Smith Electric on the path forward for the remaining vehicle production.” Whether or not the company is making its lease payments to the city’s Aviation Department is going unanswered.

It’s more bad timing for Secretary Moniz to start making the case for more subsidies to electric vehicles, but then again, there is never a good time with this administration’s track record.

 

[Originally published at NLPC]

Categories: On the Blog

Is the Case for Liberty Too Extreme?

Somewhat Reasonable - April 08, 2014, 11:00 AM

If there is one label more than any other that principled advocates of individual liberty are often stamped with it is that they are “extremists.” How can you be so extreme, it is said, what is wrong with a compromise between personal freedom and some “reasonable” degree of government regulation, welfare legislation, and social intervention?

The first question that should be asked back when confronted with such an accusation is, with what is the friend of liberty being asked to compromise? The real answer, of course, is that the friend of liberty is being asked to compromise with the use of coercive force in human relationships.

Freedom or Coercion in Human Affairs

The simple fact is that human association may be based on peaceful and mutually beneficial agreement and exchange, or it may be based on one party in this human relationship threatening or using force to make the other party do something that he would not willingly do if he were free from the danger of violence.

Freedom is important not because a person might want to say, “yes,” to an offer made to him, but because he might want to say, “no.” If an individual cannot say “no” without being threatened with some form of physical harm from the other person in the relationship, then that individual is not free.

Being a slave is to be required to do what someone else wants without one’s voluntary consent. It is to be coercively made the means to another’s ends or goals. That individual’s life is no longer his own. Instead, to the extent that he is made to serve the ends of another without his voluntary consent he is no longer a free man, but rather the property of another to be used as the slave-master wishes.

Often when the friend of freedom gives this reply he is accused, again, of going to extremes. But who, in this debate over freedom and coercion, is the actual extremist and who is the actual moderate? The advocate of state coercion in social affairs cannot stand the fact that people make choices, and undertake courses of action, of which he disapproves. He objects to the fact that people fail to follow the paths that his reason and values consider rational and good. Everything else is either chaotic or sinister.

The Social Engineer as Political Madman

In this sense, he is like the maniac of whom G.K. Chesterton speaks in his book, “Orthodoxy” (1908). The madman, Chesterton says, is the one “who has lost everything except his reason…. He is not hampered by a sense of humor or by charity, or by the dumb uncertainties of experience. The madman’s explanation of a thing is always complete, and often in a purely rational sense satisfactory.” The madman has a “most sinister quality” of “connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze.”

The advocate of state coercion has, in this sense, been driven mad by the outcomes of a free society. If some men are poor while others are well to do, he cannot accept the idea that this is due to the natural scarcity of resources, or is merely as far as free market capitalism has yet been able to raise people’s standards of living in an on-going and time-consuming process of savings and investment. No, it must be because men have not submitted themselves to a plan — his plan — that his reason has given him, and not others, the superior wisdom and insight to see.

If some men receive lower pay than others, or do not have access to all the goods and services they desire, the advocate of state coercion — like the madman — often sees sinister motives and dark conspiracies. If some workers receive lower wages, it can’t be because of a lack of marketable skills or insufficient personal ambition to better themselves. No, it must be because of the businessman’s greed and unwillingness to pay “a fair wage,” or a plot among the employers to exploit their fellow human beings. The advocate of state coercion believes that he can see beneath the “charade “and he, of course, knows the regulation or intervention to put the conspirators in their place and remedy the problem.

The social madman has the answer and the solution for everything. He has no patience for ignorance, good intentions that go astray, or some natural scheme of things. And like the madman, he has no doubts about his knowledge, the goodness of his intentions and their outcome, or what the scheme of things should be turned into. Human freedom and its advocates are the irritants that he tolerates when he has to, but with which and with whom he never compromises. He has too much confidence in his own vision. In his mind, extremism in the defense of the state-molded “good society” is no vice.

Smoking and the Political Extremist

Let me try to explain this with two issues that have dominated social policy in the Western world over the last several years. The first one is the growing ban on smoking in virtually all public and private areas. In the “bad old days” it was taken to be common courtesy and good manners to ask others in an enclosed space if they minded if he, the smoker, wished to light up his cigar, cigarette, or pipe. If there were any objections, the smoker would either refrain or move to another place to enjoy his nicotine fix. Sometimes, non-smokers would be, in turn, well-mannered enough not to object if the smoke was not too much of a nuisance.

The antismoking advocate just cannot reconcile himself to the existence of others who gain pleasure from something of which he disapproves, and by people who weigh the enjoyment of the present more highly than the possible consequences of health problems in the future. Nor can he stand a world in which the market provides options to those with different preferences: restaurants, bars or other public places in which the proprietor may see the economic benefit of providing both smoking and non-smoking facilities, including ones in which some such places are completely smoke free while other places permit unrestricted smoking.

For the advocate of freedom, the market alternative is precisely the reasonable and moderate one. It recognizes and accepts the varieties and preferences among men and offers a compromise, a peaceful resolution, of the differences among them. And it leaves a wide avenue open for one group of men to reason and persuade another to modify their choices and forswear “a filthy and corrupting” habit.

Religious Tolerance vs. the Politically Closed Mind

Another example is religious tolerance. For centuries in Europe, kings and governments did not tolerate religious diversity. Those who dared to confess and practice a faith differing from that of the monarch or the political authority were threatened with imprisonment, exile, or even torture and death. It took hundreds of years and numerous religious wars before men where willing to leave religious faith, or no faith, to the conscience of each member of society.

In the liberal society that slowly evolved during the last few centuries in the West it came to be accepted that religion was a private matter and not “an affair of the state.” Debates, disputes, and even heated argument over religious matters were to be left to the marketplace of ideas. Conversions and “crusades” for the acceptance of the “true” faith were only to be fought on the battlefield of the mind and the spirit, and not at the end of the hangman’s rope.

But now there has arisen a new political intolerance against any public demonstration for or stated disagreement with a particular religious faith. Religious views are to be locked away in the believer’s mind, and any public expression of his faith is considered somehow to be imposing that belief on others. Thus, if a private business establishment chooses to exhibit a religious symbol on its own property, (even if many of his customers desire or agree with it), it is increasingly considered grounds for legal suit and legislative prohibition.

At the same time, if the proponent of one faith declares his disagreement or disapproval of another faith this, in turn, is considered an act of religious “intolerance” that is to be regulated or legislated against as a supposed “hate crime.” Thus, in the name of religious “tolerance” governments are increasingly becoming intolerant of any individuals or private groups that express their differences and disagreements with other belief systems in that marketplace of ideas. A new form of religious censorship is being imposed on people of every faith.

The New Religious Intolerance vs. the Marketplace of Ideas

A widely publicized instance of this new intolerance a few years ago was the firestorm of controversy that followed publication of the Danish newspaper cartoons, which portrayed Mohammed in an unflattering light. When some foreign governments and domestic pressure groups called for the censorship and punishment of those who published the cartoons, the liberal reply should have been that law and politics have not place in this matter. One might question and even personally challenge the good manners or polite taste of those who published them, but this is all part of the peaceful rivalry of ideas in which both the vulgar and the refined compete for the attention and acceptance of the reading and thinking public.

When I was a small boy I was taught that when someone said something rude or insulting to me the appropriate response was, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never harm me.” Now, of course, words can and do hurt, and precisely because of this decent men in a free society should show a reasonable moderation in what and how they say things. And, indeed, it used to be taken as more of a demonstration of the “crudity” and “ignorance” of the speaker that he should rise no higher than the gutter in what he said and how he acted toward another.

But, instead, the intolerant, political extremist wishes to ban what he considers the religiously “insensitive” and what he labels “word harms” and therefore crimes. Does this settle disputes among men about matters of religious faith (or any other idea or belief)? No, this new political extremist intolerance for private religious expressions of faith and differences of views in the public arena threatens to potentially make social tensions even worse over these issues.

It makes people fearful of speaking their minds, forces them into a public hypocrisy, and allows differences and disagreements to fester below the surface. By driving men’s thoughts “underground” it generates a “black market” place of ideas where the truly corrupt, vile, and dangerous can grow and mutate precisely because they are not challenged in the bright light of open and public discourse and debate.

The advocate of freedom, with his deep belief in the sanctity and uniqueness of the individual and his right to peacefully live his own life as chooses, has always been repelled by the idea of condemning or punishing people because of the values or beliefs that they may hold but which they do not attempt to forcibly impose on others.

The friend of liberty has believed that all ideas should be treated with respect and can only be discussed and challenged and possibly be shown to be right or wrong on the basis of reason, logic and evidence. Attempts to politically discriminate against or ban open and free discussion of any ideas are the only things that should to be viewed as unreasonable and intolerable in the free society.

Liberty and a Society of True Tolerance

The free society tries to avoid extremes through the diversity of free men that it both permits and fosters. It restrains the practice of “extreme” personal behavior because it imposes costs and consequences upon everyone who practices them, in the form of lost economic opportunity, and possibly social ostracism by those who are repelled by it.

It also teaches the advantages of moderation — courtesy, good manners, tolerance and “socially acceptable” conduct – in the competitive arena of intellectual pluralism where to win an argument the only medium of exchange is peaceful persuasion.

In other words, the free society nudges men toward better behavior and rational thought rather than tries to compel it. It teaches good and tolerant conduct through reason and example. It fosters compromise by demonstrating the personal costs of being too extreme in one’s words and actions. And it raises the ethical conduct of society by the discovered advantages of personal improvement through time.

Are the arguments for and the advocates of liberty too extreme? Quite to the contrary. Freedom is the epitome of moderation. And it is freedom’s moderation, its tolerance and diversity that drive some men mad. But madness, by definition, is not the normal condition of a healthy human being.

The history of Western civilization is the story of man’s slow escape from the madness of political and social extremism in the form of coercion and force in human relationships. Our dilemma and our challenge is that this sickness still controls the minds of too many of our fellow citizens, and is the guiding principle of those who use political power to get their way.

 

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog
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