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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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The U.N., The Ultimate Narc

November 20, 2014, 3:57 PM

Last week, the U.N. ant-narcotics chief, Yury Fedotov, made headlines when Reuters reported he said moves by American states to end the prohibition on marijuana were illegitimate due to existing international drug conventions. He added that he may take action against these states as well.

The drug conventions mentioned by Fedotov are the 1961 convention on narcotic drugs. This 50+ year old agreement limits the production and consumption of cannabis to only medical purposes. So, the dozens of states that have passed medical marijuana laws are still in compliance. However, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and D.C. passed laws through ballot initiatives that legalized marijuana for recreational use. These are the cases that caught the attention of Fedotov. “I don’t see how (the new laws) can be compatible with existing conventions,” said Fedotov.

But what can the U.N. do to fight this? Luckily not much. In response to question about what the U.N. could do about it, Fedotov stated he would discuss the issue in the near future in Washington.

While Fedotov and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) may have no real ability to combat these moves, the hubris alone is overwhelming. To think an international governmental organization like the U.N. can change the policies enacted by individual states in America is frightening. Marijuana prohibition should not be a responsibility of a international governing body. In fact, it should not even be a concern of the federal government.

The actions taken by these states do fly in the face of U.N. drug conventions; they are also inconsistent with federal law. Fortunately for liberty advocates, the federal government has condoned these moves in order to avoid conflict and potential political fallout. Individual states have been allowed the freedom to craft their own recreational drug policies. This, however, does not rule out a reversal on this position in the future.

Hopefully nothing will materialize from all of this. The U.N. should take a lesson from the federal government on this matter and keep its nose out of the business of these states.

Categories: On the Blog

“Where to Watch” Piracy Decrease

November 20, 2014, 3:02 PM

The Internet ecosystem just added a new tool to preserve the property of rights holders even while encouraging greater use of broadband. The Motion Picture Association has announced the launch of a new search engine called

As Variety has reported, “MPAA — upping efforts to help consumers find legal sources of content instead of pirating it — has rolled out, an advertising-free entertainment search engine designed to point people to TV shows and movies from authorized sources. includes info and links from providers including Netflix, Apple’s iTunes, and Hulu as well as smaller sites like SnagFilms and WolfeOnDemand. MPAA said it expects to expand its list of partners in the coming months.”

Great, but what does this have to do with public policy? Rather than relying on another years-long legislative battle, which may fail to reach any sort of resolution, the industry got to work creating a solution to help protect its property. This sort of industry self-help should be lauded and encouraged across the digital ecosystem.

More success will come as all parties understand that they must do their part and that an economically thriving digital ecosystem requires good faith cooperation, within the bounds of the law, with an eye towards what is best for the broader ecosystem. Less infringement combined with great legal choices available in many places for consumers is in the best interest of all.


[Originally published at Madery Bridge]

Categories: On the Blog

How Republicans Can Push Back Against Immigration Executive Orders

November 20, 2014, 2:21 PM

In a segment on a recent episode of Your World with Neil Cavuto, Heartland Institute research fellow David Applegate outlined the options Republicans can use to push back against Obama’s executive orders on immigration. Applegate says some options won’t yield much but others have the potential to produce results.

In a very revealing montage to begin the clip above, Obama is shown repeatedly saying over four years that he has no legal ability to legislate by executive order in this manner. This seems to have been forgotten in light of recent announcements by the Obama administration. Republicans, however, have a few options that may block these executive orders.

The first two options mentioned by Cavuto may not have much success. As Applegate says, taking the matter to court would likely not work. “Suing in the courts is something that the courts really do not want to handle.” Whatever case there may be would likely be ignored by the courts. Applegate says the option other, impeachment, is a legitimate constitutional option congress has. However, this is also unlikely to go anywhere. Regarding impeachment, Applegate says, “politically that would go nowhere.” There is some hope for the Republicans however.

Applegate says Mitch McConnell and John Boehner need “to realize they still have two very strong cards to play.” One is to use the power of the purse. According to Applegate, Republicans could use the threat to defunding specific government programs to help negotiate against the Obama administration. Another option would be for Republicans to compromise with the president and agree upon a more bipartisan move on illegal immigration.

It will be interesting to see what options are pursued by Republicans in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for more insight and information on this developing situation.

Categories: On the Blog

A Lot of “Folks” And “Just Some Guys”

November 20, 2014, 1:07 PM

Apart from his halting, staccato, eight-to-ten-word phrase delivery when not reading off a TelePrompTer, President Barack Obama has two noticeable and telling verbal tics. The first is “folks”; the second is “just some guy.”  The first is just an annoying and apparently insincere way of trying to show that, despite being President, he’s really, you know, just one of us.  But the second is a tell-tale sign that he’s throwing somebody under the bus.

Perhaps “folks” is the way that Harvard-educated lecturers in law at the University of Chicago are taught to talk about their fellow Americans, but I rather doubt it. Having attended an Ivy-league school myself and having studied law at the University of Chicago for three years, I’m pretty sure I never heard the word “folks” once.  Even Tennessee Ernie Ford used “people,” as do the U. S. Constitution’s opening three words, “We the People …” .

Obama uses the word “folks” whenever he wants to sound sage and, well, folksy; usually when about to make a patronizing observation about the American people that justifies, in his mind, his administration’s increasingly one-party top-down style of governing.

That’s just how white folks will do you,“ he wrote in Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance , referring to what he perceived as white arrogance and cruelty.  “These are folks who are strong allies and supporters of me,” he said in an October 20, 2014, interview with Al Sharpton, referring to Democratic candidates who were running away from him in the recent midterm elections.  “We need to internalize this idea of excellence,” he said on another occasion.  “Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent.”  And, in a particularly portentous and lecturing moment, “Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles.”

Most infamously, Obama awkwardly claimed during an impromptu Friday, August 1, 2014, White House news conference regarding the War on Terror that “We tortured some folks.”  That struck many “folks” as inappropriate, leading one commentator on Twitter to ask incredulously, “Wow.  How does the supposedly rhetorically great Obama use ‘torture’ and ‘folks’ in the same sentence?”

But it’s Obama’s use of “just some guy” that signifies when someone has outlived his usefulness to the president, at least for public consumption.

Obama’s political mentor in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood for many years was American terrorist Bill “Guilty as hell, free as a bird” Ayers, a founder of the radical Weathermen group.  Ayers is widely suspected of having ghost-written at least large portions of Obama’s two books for him, and Obama and Ayers worked closely together on the Chicago Annenberg Challenge, a five-year failed philanthropic venture for which Ayers wrote the grants and Obama chaired the board that distributed the money.   But when Obama ran for President and Sarah Palin called him out for “palling around with terrorists,” Ayers became “just a guy who lives in my neighborhood” who hasn’t been publicly seen in the President’s company since.

Obama’s most recent use of the phrase is in reference to Jonathan Gruber, the now-infamous MIT professor who was one of Obamacare’ s architects.  While working to help get Obamacare passed, Gruber was highly regarded and highly rewarded.  The administration cited Gruber frequently in hearings and White House blogs, dedicated a webpage to his analysis, met with him repeatedly at the White House, and paid him $380,000 of taxpayer money in 2009 alone.

Now that videos have surfaced in which Gruber calls his fellow Americans not “folks” but “stupid” and brags that Obamacare was founded and sold on deliberate lies, Gruber has become just “some adviser who never worked on our staff,” which even Politifact rates as “mostly false.”

Even worse for the administration, perhaps, Gruber is also on record having said that the intent of Obamacare’s design was that, to encourage states to set up health care exchanges, if a state did not do so then its residents would not be eligible for income tax subsidies.  Now that 36 states have declined to set up exchanges and Obama has directed his IRS to provide subsidies anyway, Gruber’s comments have become just a misquoted typo taken out of context and Gruber himself, in the President’s own words, has become just another guy.

It turns out that the Obama administration may be the most transparent in history, just not in the way that it meant.  As Yogi Berra once said, you can observe a lot just by watching.

Categories: On the Blog

Top Ten Questions to Ask About Title II Utility Regulation of Internet

November 20, 2014, 10:48 AM

If Congress or the media seek incisive oversight/accountability questions to ask the FCC about the real world implications and unintended consequences of its Title II net neutrality plans, here are ten that fit the bill.

1. Authority? If the FCC truly needs more legal authority to do what it believes necessary in the 21st century, why doesn’t the FCC start the FCC modernization process and ask Congress for the legitimacy of real modern legislative authorities? Or is it the official position of the FCC that its core 1934 and 1996 statutory authorities are sufficiently timeless, modern and flexible to sustain the legitimacy of FCC regulation for the remainder of the 21st century?

2. Growth & Job Creation? While it may be good for the FCC’s own power in the short-term to impose its most antiquated authority and restrictive Title II regulations on the most modern part of the economy, how would that heavy-handed regulation be good or positive for net private investment, economic growth and job creation?

3. Zero-price? Does the FCC seek new legal theories and authority for the purposes of setting a de facto permanent zero-price for some form of downstream Internet traffic, or not?

4. Consumers? How is it neutral, equal or fair under FCC net neutrality regulations for consumers to pay for faster Internet speed tiers/lanes and their Internet usage, but it is somehow a violation of net neutrality for Silicon Valley giants to pay anything other than a price of zero for delivery of their hugely-outsized downstream Internet traffic? (And why would FCC Title II reclassification also not have the unintended consequence of triggering large new fees and taxes on unsuspecting consumers?)

5. UN-ITU? Would the FCC reclassifying Internet traffic as “telecommunications” enable the U.N.’s International Telecommunications Union the legal authority and cover to assert governance over the Internet like it has long had over international telecommunications, and International telecommunications trade settlements? (And in imposing the most restrictive American regulatory regime available to prevent potential problems, wouldn’t the FCC be leading, and giving political cover to, autocratic nations which seek to impose similar maximal regulation of their Internet for the autocratic purposes of censoring, spying on, and controlling their people?)

6. Cost-Benefit? In any potential Title II action will the FCC abide by the President’s 2011 Executive Order 13563 that requires the FCC to use “the least burdensome tools for achieving regulatory ends,” and to “adopt a regulation only upon a reasoned determination that its benefits justify its costs?”

7. Forbearance? Under a “hybrid” (Title II/Section 706) approach, how does the FCC square the circle of the FCC justifying forbearance from most all Title II regulations by showing there is enough competition to protect consumers, while simultaneously justifying reclassification of the Internet as a Title II utility because of insufficient competition to protect consumers

8. Deployment Barriers? Since Section 706 is about removing barriers to broadband deployment, how would Title II Section 214, which requires that the FCC get prior approval to upgrade any “telecommunications” facilities (a process that can routinely takes months at a minimum), not be considered to be a barrier to broadband deployment under Section 706?

9. Internet Backbone? What is different competitively in the Internet backbone market now from the last 20 years of no FCC regulation, that warrants maximal FCC regulation under Title II for the first time since the Internet was privatized in the early 1990s?

10. Supreme Court? Wouldn’t a June 2014 Supreme Court precedent (Util. Air Reg. Grp v. EPA) — that establishes that FCC rules “must be “ground[ed] … in the statute,” rather than on “reasoning divorced from the statutory text” – disallow the FCC from reclassifying services solely for the purpose of evading other statutory provisions that Congress passed to restrict FCC authority?

[First published at the Precursor blog.]

Categories: On the Blog

You’ve Been Gruber’d, Stupid!

November 20, 2014, 8:23 AM

“No.  I — I did not.  Uhhh, I just heard about this… I — I get well briefed before I come out here.  Uh, th-th-the fact that some advisor who never worked on our staff, uhh, expressed an opinion that, uhh, I completely disagree with wuh, uhh, in terms of the voters, is no reflection on the actual process that was run.” — President Obama replying to a question about Jonathan Gruber at the conclusion of the G-20 Conference in Brisbane, Australia. 

 Will the last name of the MIT professor identified as the “architect of ObamaCare” become a verb some day? Will people say “I’ve been Gruber’d? or “The government is “Grubering again”?

 After all, when he admitted that ObamaCare’s passage was achieved by deceiving the Congressional Budget Office and the entire American public, turning his name into a synonym for lying is not unthinkable. Adding insult to injury, he said the voters were “stupid.”

 How stupid was it for the Democrat-controlled Congress to pass a two-thousand page piece of legislation that none of them had read? (No Republican in Congress voted for it.) ObamaCare took over one-sixth of the U.S. economy and did something that makes me wonder why we even have a Supreme Court. It required people to buy a product whether they wanted to or not. If they didn’t, they would be subject to a penalty.

 One way of the other, the federal government was going to squeeze you. The Court did conclude early on that ObamaCare was a tax, but don’t expect the mainstream media to tell you about all the other taxes hidden within it.

 What surprises me about the Gruber revelations—available on YouTube to any journalist who wanted to investigate, but none did—is that there appears to be so little public outrage. An arrogant MIT professor who received $400,000 from the government and made millions as a consultant to the states who needed to understand ObamaCare, calls voters stupid and the initial reaction of the mainstream media was to ignore the story.

 At the heart of the Gruber affair is the fact that Obama and his administration has been lying to the voters from the moment he began to campaign for the presidency. In virtually every respect, everything he has said for public consumption has been and is a lie.

 In one scandal after another, Obama would have us believe he knew nothing about it. That is the response one might expect from a criminal rather than a President.

 One has to ask why it would be difficult to repeal in full a piece of legislation that the President said would not cause Americans to lose their healthcare insurance if they preferred their current plan, that would not cause them to lose the care of a doctor they knew and trusted, and would save them money for premiums. The initial deception was to name the bill the Affordable Care Act.

 Repeal would help ensure the solvency of Medicare and restore the private sector market for healthcare insurance.

 This is a President who was elected twice, so maybe Prof. Gruber is right when he speaks of stupid voters.  Not all, of course, but more than voted for Obama’s two opponents. As this is written over 45% of those polled these days continue to express approval for Obama’s performance in office. How stupid is that?

 What is so offensive about Gruber’s own revelations about the manner in which the bill was written and the lies that were told to get it passed is the incalculable misery it has caused millions of Americans.

 It has caused the loss of jobs. It has forced others into part-time employment. It has caused companies to reconsider expanding to grow the economy. It has driven up the cost of healthcare insurance. It has impacted local hospitals and clinics to the point where some have closed their doors. It has caused many healthcare professionals to retire or cease practicing medicine.

 I invite you to make a list of all the things you think the government should require you to purchase whether you want it or need it. Should you be required to own a bike and use it as an alternative to a car? (Yes, you must own auto insurance to defray the cost of accidents, just as you must pay a tax on gasoline to maintain our highway system.)  Should you be required to wear a certain style or item of clothing? Should you be required to get married by a certain age? Should you be required to eat certain foods and avoid others?

 A new study by the Legatum Institute in London ranked citizen’s perception of their personal freedom in a number of nations. Americans ranked way down the list at 21 out of 25, well below Canada, France, and Costa Rica to name just three. The study was based on a 2013 poll.

 What is a stake here is (1) the absolute need for a trustworthy federal government and (2) the need to repeal a piece of legislation based entirely on lies. On a larger scale, the right to make your own decisions on matters not relevant to the governance of the nation should be regarded as sacred, it’s called liberty.

 The Republican-controlled Congress and the Supreme Court are the two elements of our government that can and must provide a measure of protection against the deception that is practiced every day by President Obama and members of his administration. Let’s hope neither is “stupid” in the two years that remain.


Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – David Schweikert: Secret Science Reform Act of 2014

November 19, 2014, 3:33 PM

Congressman David Schweikert, Republican representing Arizona’s 6thdistrict is the chairman of the House subcommittee on the Environment in the House Science, Space and Technology Committee. In this capacity, Representative Schweikert introduced the Secret Science Reform Act of 2014 (H.R. 4012) and with the support of Texas’s own Lamar Smith, chairman of the full committee, it was passed out of committee.

The bill requires the EPA to disclose all the science, research, models and data used to justify regulations, and the results would have to be reproducible by independent researchers. Schweikert argues research used to make rules imposed on the public, especially when it is funded directly or indirectly by taxpayers, should be transparent.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland’s Jim Lakely Crushes ACLU in Net Neutrality Debate

November 19, 2014, 2:52 PM

The Internet isn’t broken, and doesn’t need the government to fix it. That was my overriding message in a debate on Chicago’s PBS station WTTW Tuesday night with Illinois ACLU Executive Director Colleen K. Connell.

In an excellent discussion led by “Chicago Tonight” host Phil Ponce, Connell and I talked about President Obama’s attempt to strong-arm the FCC into regulating the Internet like a public utility under “Title II” of the Telecommuncations act of 1996. That’s the only sure-fire way to ruin the vibrant digital economy and the online experience we all now take for granted on our computers and mobile devices.

If Obama was president in 1996, Netflix and Hulu as we know it today wouldn’t exist. Why? Because anyone who thought it was a good idea to stream content directly to consumers — circumvening the bundled-channels model of cable TV, and even creating original content — would have had to invest enormous human and monetary capital into convincing the FCC that it was something consumers wanted. All of that creative energy would have been wasted on goverment rent-seeking instead of creating what we have today.

Thankfully, a Republican Congress and Democratic President Bill Clinton in 1996 put then-nacent broadband under “Title I,” which did not give the FCC the power to micromanage the Internet “on our behalf.” As a result, dozens of ISPs (Comcast, AT&T, Verizon are the Big Three, but not the only ones), content providers (Google’s YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, ESPN), millions of app creators, and billions of consumers enjoy the ever-evolving wonders of the digital age. It might be the best example Adam Smith and Milton Friedman could have conceived of free-market capitalism providing the best services at the lowest prices and at the fastest possible speeds — both in terms of innovation and delivery.

Yet Connell, my debate opponent from the Illinois ACLU, was arguing that now — right now — the government must get its molasses-filled hands deep into the structures of all these wonders and start mucking around. Why? Because of potential “anti-consumer” actions that might be taken by the big players in the digital economy. It’s a hard argument to make, which is why I got the better of these exchanges.


Categories: On the Blog

Exchange on Texas textbook controversy

November 19, 2014, 12:35 PM

Recently there has been a great deal of controversy over the adoption of new social studies and history textbooks in Texas. Global warming alarmists have successfully pressured textbook publishers into removing any trace of the undeniable fact that the causes and consequences of global warming are still open for debate or that any scientists still question the theory that humans are causing catastrophic climate change. This is unfortunate because in removing all reference to skepticism concerning warming, the publishers have foregone the truth for political expediency. Should these textbooks be adopted as is, it will be a disservice to Texas students. It’s my sincere hope that the Texas’s State Board of Education, reject all the proposed books, reopen the selection process and make it clear that any textbooks to be adopted, if they address global warming (and they need not do so) must acknowledge the ongoing debate concerning the causes and consequences of climate change and air the views of both sides of the debate.

I have recently written some pieces about the Texas School book controversy in Human Events and The Dallas Morning News

A reader wrote me in response to the Dallas Morning News article. I have reprinted our exchange below (leaving out the name of the writer to protect his anonymity). I post it to answer questions others might have but haven’t asked.

First e-mail:

Mr. Burnett, I agree with you that we all should have an open mind on this subject and we should lead our students into critical thinking, (about any subject for that matter).
But you contradict that statement in your own editorial. You flatly state: “The models are wrong.” You also cherry pick and mislead by stating: “…the facts show and failed to predict the current lack of increase in Earth’s average temperature…”

Those statements do not show someone who is keeping an open mind and using critical thinking.

No model that I have seen (and I have seen probably just about every one) do not support your statements unless one cherry picks the information provided and doesn’t take a look at all the information provided.

The Koch brothers funded a study with a team of skeptical scientists. They provide all their data with total transparency. Check the results for yourself in the second link.

(Name withheld)

My response:

Mr. (Name withheld):

Thank you for your attention to my article and for your thoughtful response. However, I believe we will have to agree to disagree. Though stating “the models are wrong,” is a strong statement concerning current temperatures and temperature trends I believe it is wholly accurate see Dr. Roy Spencer’s post.

Concerning the really important matters, the projected harmful results from AGW, its certainly true that one can pick and choose models to project whatever current weather/climate trends or events happen and then claim that this hurricane or that drought, etc… is consistent with the models, but that doesn’t seem to me to be a sound scientific process. One critical feature of the scientific method is the falsification or the ability to disprove the theory. A theory that can’t be disproven is a religion. I have no problem with religion, but religion should not be confused with science. Michael Mann once told me that that for AGW to be wrong everything he knew about physics (including fundamental laws of gravity, thermodynamics and laws concerning the conservation of energy and entropy) would have to be wrong. That is shear hubris in the face of the numerous climate factors of which scientists are ignorant. I have written about the problems with selective choice of models a number of times in the past, for instance at, National review and Human Events

Nothing, I’ve seen since I wrote these pieces has led me to change my considered opinion.

There are simply too many factors that climate modelers admittedly don’t understand or know how to plug into their models, to have any confidence in models projections of future harms when they cannot even accurately model temperature trends.

If there is a model that has accurately projected the current lull in temperature, let me know which one it is, then let’s check the projections that flow from it concerning various climate phenomena and trends and see how they comport with what has been actually measured or recorded. A model that projected temperatures and most recorded phenomena and measured trends accurately, I would count as one worth serious consideration.

Concerning the Koch brothers, I have never met them and to my knowledge my work has never been funded by them. More importantly, even if I, or the scientists you discuss, were a wholly paid employees of the Koch brothers, the question would remain, is what we have written wrong. To indict or praise the work of someone because of who they associate with, who they are paid by, or because it is supported by a majority (or consensus) is a logical fallacy.

Arguments should be analyzed strictly on their own merits, regardless of whether one likes or trusts the persons or groups making them.

Just my two cents.

Take care,

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.


I had thought that that would be the end of the exchange but it was not. Instead I received this reply:

So you’re not going to keep an open mind and you haven’t studied the lag affect yet? Looking at only the last 16 years of data reminds me of my liberal friends who post the Federal Budget Deficit from 2009 to present and they show how much it has come down under Obama. But of course they fail to acknowledge and show the previous years budget deficit prior to 2009 and the enourmous jump it made right after Obama took office.

(Name withheld)

To which I responded:

(Name withheld):

You misunderstand me or misstate my position. I don’t have any problem with the idea of a lag effect, just show me where the models we are supposed to trust, build it in. They treat emissions as if they worked geometrically not logarithmically. I never said that I just looked at the last 16 years of data, I just pointed out that they missed the actual measurements for the past 18 years. The models and their promoters don’t accurately portray the state of our knowledge about climate sensitivity.

To the extent that the models have accurately hind-cast, past temperatures and trends they have only done so after much tinkering and building in adjustment factors. The fact that the model temperature projections have error bars as great or greater than the actual expected temperature rise, tells me they aren’t very useful for decision making. If I hired a caterer for a party and informed him that I expected 30 people to attend, but there could be as few as zero (not counting me) or as many as 75, I wouldn’t really be providing him with much useful information for planning purposes.

I’ve got an open mind, I admit I could be wrong. And all I request to trust models projections is a model that gets temperatures and expected climatic events mostly right. You seem to think that that is too much to ask on my part. Unlike AGW believers, I take data and evidence to be paramount, not unconfirmed (perhaps unconformable) theory. In addition, I don’t require the scientific method or basic rules of physics, biology, chemistry or any other core principle or set of principles to have to be overturned to prove me wrong.

Having said this, even if I am wrong and potentially dangerous human caused warming is in the offing, I would still argue that the danger, the actual harms, resulting today and in the future, would be greater from denying widespread access to and use of fossil fuels than the harms from warming. Leaving billions in grinding poverty and want today, and leaving future generations poorer than they otherwise would be, by stopping fossil fuel use, is immoral, since it sacrifices present generations based on possible harms to future generations that will be much wealthier and able to adapt to or mitigate climate change much better due to their greater wealth. It’s the difference between the impacts of cyclones and tidal waves on Indonesia or the Indian subcontinent compared to the impacts in the U.S. or Japan. The difference between harms from widespread drought in the Southwestern U.S. compared to a similar drought in Sudan or Ethiopia.

Take care,

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D.

Any thoughts?

Categories: On the Blog

Thinking the Unthinkable – Part IV

November 19, 2014, 11:40 AM

I was gratified by the excellent attendance at the Free State Foundation’s program last Friday titled, “Thinking the Unthinkable: Imposing the ‘Utility Model’ on Internet Providers.” If you weren’t there, you missed what was a very important event – one that, in light of the substantive discussions that occurred, likely will play an important role going forward in the debate over the Federal Communications Commission’s consideration of the imposition of new net neutrality mandates.

With the release of President Obama’s video on Monday, what he calls “President Obama’s Plan for a Free and Open Internet,” directly urging the FCC to classify Internet service providers as common carriers – that is, to impose the Title II public utility model of regulation – the FCC’s proceeding has now become even more highly politicized than before. More and more, in the absence of any present market failure or consumer harm, the proceeding is looking like a textbook case study in administrative agency overreach. Or put more bluntly, an administrative agency power grab.

And with President Obama interjecting himself so directly into the net neutrality rulemaking, the proceeding is also providing a textbook example of the problematic nature of so-called independent agencies like the FCC, which in any event occupy an odd place in our tripartite constitutional system. After all, in the interests of accountability, the Constitution vests all powers in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, not in agencies, commonly referred to as the “headless fourth branch” of government, that blend together quasi-executive, quasi-legislative, and quasi-judicial powers.

Witnessing what is transpiring at the FCC calls to mind for me a famous statement by Roscoe Pound, the distinguished American legal scholar and long-time Dean of the Harvard Law School, concerning the rise of administrative agencies like the FCC. In 1920, he said: “[T]he whole genius of administrative action through commissions endangers the supremacy of law. Not the least task of the common-law lawyers of the future will be to impose a legal yoke on these commissions, as Coke and his fellows did upon the organs of executive justice in Tudor and Stuart England.”

It is possible that, when all is said and done, the FCC’s actions in the net neutrality proceeding might lead to a fundamental rethinking by Congress of the proper institutional role in the Digital Age of an agency created in 1934 (or, in part, in 1927 if you wish to go back to the Federal Radio Commission). To its credit, the House Commerce Committee early this year began such a #CommActUpdate process in earnest, and when the new Congress convenes in January, the Senate should follow suit.

In the meantime, it is at least somewhat encouraging that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler appears to recognize the need to take a pause in the net neutrality rulemaking. This would be a good idea, especially if Mr. Wheeler and his Commission colleagues use such a pause as a time for some serious rethinking concerning the proper exercise of the agency’s putative authority with respect to Internet regulation.

On the assumption that the willingness to engage in reflection and rethinking should always be in order, those at the FCC and elsewhere would do well to review the remarks delivered by Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly at the Free State Foundation’s event on November 14th. Regardless of any predispositions regarding what actions – or not – you believe the FCC should take, their statements at the least warrant careful consideration.

Commissioner Pai’s remarks are here

Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s remarks are here

And the remarks of Rep. Bob Latta, the Vice Chairman of the House Communications and Technology Committee, are important as well. They are here.

I’m going back and re-read each of these, and I hope you will read them too.

PS – The video of the opening remarks and the lively panel discussion featuring Robert Crandall, Gerald Faulhaber, Deborah Taylor Tate, and Michael Weinberg will be posted shortly.

[Originally published at The Free State Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

And the Records Keep Falling

November 19, 2014, 11:38 AM

Weather map used with the kind permission of Weatherbell Analytics.

America is experiencing record setting cold, any where you go or live, you just can’t avoid it.

Weather Bell says it best:

The Lower-48 or CONUS spatially average temperature plummeted overnight to only 19.4°F typical of mid-winter not November 18th!   Data

An astounding 226-million Americans will experience at or below freezing temperatures (32°F) on Tuesday as well — if you venture outdoors.

More than 85% of the surface area of the Lower-48 reached or fell below freezing Tuesday morning. All 50-states saw at or below freezing temperatures on Tuesday.

Record lows from Idaho to Nebraska and Iowa south to Texas and east through the Great Lakes, the eastern 2/3 of the US will shatter decades-long and in some cases, century-long records. Temperatures east of the Rockies will be 20-40°F below climate normals.

Compared to normal, temperatures over the past several days have dropped off a cliff — to 10°C below climate normal — more anomalous than even during the polarvortex of early January.

How cold is it? reports that during the past week, 1,360 daily low maximum records were set — meaning  those ,1360 cities and towns saw their coldest daily highs ever recorded on that particular date.

In addition, snow ground cover is over 50 percent of the country, which is more than twice the coverage the U.S. usually experiences for mind-November.

CNN reports that Areas in Buffalo, New York among other cities along the Great Lakes, have experienced a years worth of snow in just three days this past week.

To repeat: Every state in the Union had a had at least one location within its borders registering temperatures below freezing, yes, including Hawaii and more than 1360 cities and towns set record low high temperatures.

I know all this record cold naturally makes alarmists think of global warming, as, in fact, it does me — though for me as I shiver in Dallas, I want to see some warming.


Categories: On the Blog

Textbooks Proposed for Texas Schools Open Can of Worms

November 19, 2014, 11:03 AM

Controversy continues over the adoption of new schoolbooks in Texas, as environmental lobbyists fight to have sound science concerning global warming removed from the curriculum. With the ability to influence millions of schoolchildren regarding climate change, environmental alarmists are trying to ensure their message is the only one heard.

Alarmists claim the science is certain: Humans are causing catastrophic climate change and governments must force people to use less energy to prevent disaster. To be clear, climate change is occurring; the climate is always changing. However, there is an ongoing, heated and widespread scientific debate over whether human activities are responsible for all, some or none of the recent climate change. In addition, there is certainly no agreement a warmer climate will result in more dangerous weather patterns or climate conditions than we already experience.

The predictions of catastrophe are based on models that ignore the facts and failed to predict the current 18-year lack of increase in Earth’s average temperature, which has happened despite rising CO2 levels. All the models have assumed and continue to assume the increase in CO2 is the culprit causing temperature increases. The models are wrong.

The textbooks in question don’t deny human-caused global warming is happening; they just accurately report scientists are still debating the question. They present the evidence and ask the students to make up their own minds.

Having an open mind is what climate alarmists really object to.

A couple of textbook publishers, including Pearson Education just last week, buckled to the activists’ demands and replaced the scientific understanding of climate with the politically driven, dogmatic claim humans are causing dangerous climate change. Reasonable people will praise McGraw-Hill for, so far, resisting the alarmists’ pressure tactics.

The Texas Board of Education is justifiably acting cautiously to ensure its textbooks rigorously present the best science available and accurately portray ongoing debates, including those over climate change. They are right to do so and should endorse only textbooks that uphold critical thinking and skepticism in the face of unsupportable claims of pending climate disaster.


[Originally published at Dallas News]

Categories: On the Blog

The GoogleNet Playbook & Zero Pricing – A Special Report

November 19, 2014, 9:41 AM

GoogleNet is Google’s vision to leverage its proliferating dominance by offering global, near-free Internet-access, mobile connectivity, and Internet-of-Things connectivity via a global, largely-wireless, Android-based, “GoogleNet,” that is subsidized by Google’s search and search advertising dominance and by “open Internet” zero pricing of downstream Internet traffic.

A near-free global GoogleNet would be much like the Google Playbook which offers Android, Maps, YouTube, and others’ content for free globally, to disrupt and commoditize competitors in order to maintain and extend its search and search advertising dominance throughout the economy.

Why the GoogleNet Playbook matters competitively is that it is Google’s new disruptive strategy to disintermediate and commoditize physical-world industries’ direct relationship with their customers (like ISPs, energy utilities, automobile manufacturers, big-box stores, banks, package delivery services, realty, and their networks, vehicles, inventory, ATMs, credit cards, appliances, devices etc., just like Google has been disintermediating and commoditizing the paid content, app and software industries’ direct relationship with their customers.

Tellingly, Google explains that Google proper is mostly about digital bits in the virtual world i.e. computer science and Internet technologies, whereas its next generation GoogleX research lab is mostly about atoms in the physical world, i.e. physical objects like driverless cars, satellites, drones, networks, devices, sensors, etc.

In a nutshell, this analysis spotlights: Google’s much-underappreciated, global-connectivity plans — GoogleNet; how GoogleNet neatly fits into the Google Playbook; and how zero-price-defined net neutrality is necessary to subsidize and accelerate Google’s grandiose ambitions to broadly extend its dominance of the virtual world into the physical world.



This analysis first applies the Google Playbook of “open-dominate-close” to GoogleNet’s global connectivity ambitions.

Next it shows how GoogleNet neatly ties together Google’s unique technology vision, company mission, “serial-moon-shot” ambitions, and its core beliefs in digital information commons cyber-ideology, and abundance economics.

Next, for the first time, it charts the much-underappreciated, exceptional comprehensiveness of GoogleNet’s progress: from the Google’s dominant Android mobile operating system, to Android devices, satellites, high-altitude balloons, drones, dark fiber, undersea cables, data center construction, server-points-of-presence, fiber broadband, wireless backhaul, WiFi mesh-networking, etc.

Then it explains the exceptional value and advantage of getting a government “net neutrality” industrial policy to ban the evolution of a two-sided free market for the large enterprise market, via permanently banning any charges for high-volume downstream Internet traffic under the guise of “no-fast-lanes” or no “paid prioritization” for the Internet.


The Google Playbook

FairSearch clearly and cohesively describes The Google Playbook, Google’s plan to build and maintain its dominance via its predatory strategy of: “open-dominate-close.”

First, under the guise of “openness,” Google offers free, or deeply cross-subsidized, products and services to induce fast mass adoption and “disrupt” existing business models. Second, Google proliferates its dominance based on promises of “openness.” Third, once dominant in the new cross-subsidized market, Google then closes its products/services and excludes competitors, so it can discriminate in favor of itself.

To put this in perspective, this analysis explains and documents how GoogleNet is Google’s strategy to eventually dominate global Internet access and connectivity for mobile and the Internet-of-Things, much like I explained and documented Google’s anti-competitive strategy to extend its dominance to YouTube in my Google-YouTube’s Internet Video Distribution Dominance analysis last year.


GoogleNet’s Technological Vision, Mission, Ambitions, Ideology and Economics

GoogleNet neatly ties together Google’s unique technology vision, company mission, “moonshot” ambitions, digital information commons cyber-ideology, and abundance economics.

Google’s Unique Technology Vision is summarized by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt in his recent book: “How Google Works.”

Page 11: “Three powerful technology trends have converged to fundamentally shift the playing field in most industries. First, the Internet has made information free, copious, and ubiquitous – practically everything is online. Second, mobile devices and networks have made global reach and continuous connectivity widely available. And third, cloud computing has put practically infinite computing power and storage and a host of sophisticated tools and applications at everyone’s disposal, on an inexpensive pay-as-you-go basis.”

Mr. Schmidt then lays out the implicit vision for GoogleNet: “Today, access to these technologies is still unavailable to much of the world’s population, but it won’t be long before that situation changes and the next five billion people come on line.”

Simply, GoogleNet is Google’s global vision of a fully-integrated network of digital information, connectivity and computing power that combined is “10x” better than the existing Internet.

Mr. Schmidt continues: “we are entering what lead Google economist Hal Varian calls a new period of ‘combinatorial innovation.’ This occurs when there is a great availability of different component parts that can be combined or recombined to recreate new inventions. … Today the components are all about information, connectivity and computing.

The genius of this insight is why Google can be more “innovative” than anyone else simply because they dominate, or will dominate, most of the necessary fundamental component parts of “combinatorial innovation” long term: information, connectivity, and computing.

Mr. Schmidt recently told the CBC:  “The concept of having every human reachable by every other human is an extraordinarily valuable thing.” He is echoing Metcalfe’s Law of network effects which posits that “the value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users of the system” — per Wikipedia.

Simply, Mr. Schmidt and Google get that its dominance in search, search advertising, Android, Maps, YouTube, and Chrome, grows with more users.

Google’s Mission & Ambitions: If one thought Google’s mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” was grandiose, they have already achieved most of it in just fifteen years, as I documented recently in my Google’s WorldWideWatch of the WorldWideWeb analysis that charted the vastness of Google’s Internet empire and data hegemony for the first time.

What is the effective “mars-shot” to scale Google’s ambitions “10x” beyond the mere “moonshot” of organizing the world’s information? When the FT recently asked Google CEO Larry Page if Google’s mission statement needed updating, he responded: “I think we do, probably. We’re still working that out.”

Just two years ago, Google CEO Larry Page lamented that “We’re still 1 percent to where we should be…what I’m trying to do is… really scale our ambition.”

Given all of Google’s GoogleNet-related acquisitions and activities that will be documented later in this analysis, it appears that Mr. Page’s mission is actually expanding to something like this: “Inter-connecting everyone, every “thing,” and the world’s information over one universally accessible and useful cloud computing GoogleNet.” Or as Google simply calls it internally: “The Google computer.”

Google’s Cyber-ideology: No one can fully understand the boundlessness of Google’s ambitions without understanding why Google CEO Larry Page promised shareholders in his 2004 Founder’s letter that: “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.” He promised that because he knows Google is driven by a very different ideology than most of the world would recognize.

Google’s mission and ambitions are not merely technological but also very political, a natural outgrowth of its codism cyber-ideology of a digital information commons where “information wants to be free.” For those who are struggling to understand Google’s geopolitical world view see: a detailed explanation of the Codism movement of which Google increasingly is the de facto global leader, in “What Is the Code War?

“Abundance Economics” is Key to Google’s Dominance: Google is the world’s largest adherent to the theory of abundance economics, where because the marginal cost of computing, storage, and bandwidth approaches zero, whatever is on the Internet should be free or no cost to use. Abundance economics generally ignores the reality of fixed and total costs and property rights, because they don’t support their notion and aspiration that the economics of abundance have supplanted the traditional economics of scarcity.

The penultimate for abundance economics and a digital information commons would be dominating the three biggest disruptive technological trends of universal and near-free: data-accessibility, connectivity, and computing power.

Simply, Google’s CEO Larry Page singularly gets the implications of digital hyper-centralization – omni-scale wins.

Whoever gets first-mover advantage of combining data-aggregation, connectivity, and computing power wins – its winner-takes-all.

Competitors can’t compete if Google’s proliferating dominance allows it to create an unmatchable, fully integrated, super-high-cost essential facility of one global client-server network (and proverbial Tower of Babel) – that is the only network where eventually one can go for the world’s information, universal Internet access and connectivity, and the lowest-cost computing power.

Tellingly, Google, a world leader in multi-language translation services, originally named its global Google Hangout video chat and video conferencing service “Babel.”

Moreover, Mr. Page gets that the Internet’s web-server-infrastructure is a basic client-server model that ultimately will turn out to have more in common with IBM’s mainframe dominance of the 1950s – 1970s than Microsoft’s dominance of the PC client-software largely in the 1990’s. (Note: The “server” in the traditional “client-server” model has morphed over the decades into a data center of hundreds of thousands of virtualized server-blades in globally-virtualized data centers that function like one unitary server or mainframe computer did in the IBM dominant era.)

And to force Google’s ideological position that information should be free, i.e. no cost, Google has been a most hostile entity when it comes to disrespecting users’ privacy rights anddisrespecting others’ intellectual property rights.

And to commoditize cloud computing, take note that Google has precipitated a price war with Amazon’s AWS, cutting cloud prices 38% in 2014 alone, a price war that it already knows it ultimately will win.


The Evidence of the Exceptional Comprehensiveness of the GoogleNet Domination Effort:

A very big public indicator that GoogleNet is a real, urgent and major strategic priority for Google was in June when CEO Larry Page made Craig Barratt Senior Vice President for Access and Energy, on par with the SVPs for Android, Ads and YouTube per WSJ reporting.

Importantly, the dominant core or “spine,” on which GoogleNet is being built upon and around, is Google’s very-fast-growing Android mobile operating system, which already commands 85% share of global smart-phone shipments, 62% share of tablets, 93% share of mobile searches, and over one billion active users up from 538m in June 2013.

The Android mobile operating system is rapidly becoming the default operating system for much of the consumer Internet of Things marketplace because it the only one that is free and “open,” and because the smart-phone has become the default remote controller for: home networking via its Nest acquisition; for autos via its dominant Open Automotive Alliance; and for wearables among other categories of “things” in the consumer Internet of Things.

Google is clearly serious in being the first-mover to reach what Mr. Schmidt calls the Internet’s next 5 billion users coming on line from the developing world via its supply of a free mobile operating system, and its low cost Chrome-books, tablets, smart-phones, wearables and sensors.

To provide these next five billion Internet users free or near-free connectivity, Google is piloting three different technology approaches to offering a free global GoogleNet service.

Google bought Skybox Imaging for $500m and plans to spend $1-3 billion on “180 small, high capacity satellites at lower altitudes than traditional satellites” to enable two-way Internet access. Google also bought Titan Aerospace – which makes solar-powered, high-flying drones that Titan calls “atmospheric satellites” — for Internet access to remote areas. And Google CEO Larry Page shared his ambitions that Project Loon “could build a world-wide mesh of these balloons that can cover the whole planet” to provide Internet access. Any one of these very different physical technologies could work, or be meshed together depending on which ones work best in what circumstance.

Since as early as 2005, Google has been buying massive amounts of dark fiber (i.e. fiber in the ground that has not been “lit” yet with optical devices on each end). After the tech bubble, which resulted in a global overbuilding of fiber networks, the fiber market bubble burst, which made dark fiber dirt cheap when companies like WorldCom, Global Crossing and PSINet and others went bankrupt.

This August Google invested $300m in a trans-Pacific undersea cable with Chinese, Japanese and Singaporean companies. This October, Google announced it was building a new U.S.-Brazil undersea cable system with Brazil to be completed in 2016. The trans-Pacific and Brazil undersea cables are Google’s third and fourth undersea cable investments.

In the last few years Google has globalized its GoogleNet investments in its Internet infrastructure. Google led the world in data center cap-ex with about $28b from 2006-2014. It now has 1,400 global server points-of-presence in 140 or 68% of the world’s countries per USC research that mapped Google’s global serving infrastructure. Google-YouTube also reports that it has localized YouTube on servers in 61 countries in 61 languages.

Add this entire fiber infrastructure together and it suggests Google already has assembled its own de facto private Internet backbone that handles traffic that could rival the traffic routed by a Tier I backbone provider.

Google has also invested more than any entity to create the only proprietary global Internet “phone/address book” of Internet addresses, the functional, economic, and market power equivalent of the old Bell system phone book and yellow pages, but this time for the whole world and all devices with an Internet address. In 2012, Google claimed to be the world’s leading domain name service (DNS) resolver handling 70b requests daily. Google also offers a Cloud DNS service.

Google is also experimenting with various local ISP access technologies.

The best known is Google Fiber which has build-outs in Kansas City MO/KS, Provo UT, and Austin TX. Google has also targeted nine metro areas and 34 cities for more 1 Gigabit local access build-outs: Nashville TN, Phoenix AZ, Portland OR, Raleigh-Durham NC, Salt Lake City UT, San Antonio TX, San Jose CA, and Atlanta GA.

Here it is important to discuss Google’s various technological solutions and efforts to create a free large-scale, WiFi-based cloud network to disrupt and ultimately replace paid-ISP service.

It is important to note that Google’s new SVP for Access and Energy Craig Barratt is from a wifi-wireless chip background and not a traditional ISP background of any kind. It is also important to note that Google publicly reminds us “We don’t make money from peering or collocation,” because Google makes its money from advertising.

The lesser-known effort to Google Fiber was Google’s acquisition of Alpental Technologies, which is a 60MHz wireless technology that can provide wireless connections of up to a mile at potential speeds of seven Gigabits a second. The founders describe Alpental’s technology as “self-organizing, ultra-low power gigabit wireless technology” that can extend the reach of fiber to create WiFi networks.

A potential game-changer here is that the Alpental technology, leverages a new Android application, probably a peer-to-peer approach, which automatically transfers a user to its WiFi hotspots whenever they come in range, an operational attribute similar to seamless handoffs on wireless cellular networks.

Google is also working with Ruckus Wireless “trialing a new software-based wireless controller that virtualizes the management functions of the Wi-Fi network in the cloud… The end result would be a nationwide — or even global — network that any business could join and any Google customer could access,” per Gigaom.

This analysis of Google’s global GoogleNet plans would not be complete without mentioning the  potential for a Google acquisition of, or partnership of some kind, with SoftBank’s Sprint.

Google does not need to acquire a company to reap most of its integration benefits. Google Chairman Eric Schmidt uses the term: “merge without merging.” The web allows you to do that, where you can get the web systems of both organizations fairly well-integrated, and you don’t have to do it on an exclusive basis.”

Something could be afoot at Sprint with Google. To start with, Softbank and Google have long had exceptionally close leadership ties and aligned interests – documented in detail here.

It is unlikely that Softbank’s CEO Son would have been able to poach Google’s Chief Business Officer, Nikesh Arora, to be SoftBank’s Vice Chairman, and it is not likely that Google would have paid Mr. Arora his full-term bonus that was not due to him contractually upon his departure, if there was not something else going on in this close strategic relationship.

Last April, Amir Efrati of The Information reported that Google was talking to wireless providers about an MVNO wholesale relationship to provide Google with wireless services. In that context, it is noteworthy that Mr. Arora just joined Sprint’s board.  

In addition to close ties between Softbank and Google, Sprint needs rescuing or a big long-term wholesale contract, and Google could do that and put Sprint’s woefully-underutilized, and massively-WiFi-compatible spectrum holdings to work better and more fully than any other entity could.

In short, no other entity is as serious and determined as Google to create a global de facto shadow Internet of global information, connectivity, and computing — soonest.


Conclusion: GoogleNet Dominance Depends in Part on Net Neutrality Zero-Pricing

Google effectively defines net neutrality as a permanent Government-set price of zero for all downstream Internet traffic to the consumer.

Why Google has been the real power behind-the-scenes pushing for net neutrality zero-pricing is that Google dominates downstream Internet traffic to users.

Google’s cloud client-server model — of ad-serving, video streaming, software on demand, App downloads, and cloud-computing services – all involves sending vastly more downstream traffic to American and international users than those users send upstream to Google.

Consider Google-world-leading stats to grasp how much downstream Internet traffic Google alone generates, and how much users subsidize Google profits when Google does not have to pay for much of the costs of its Internet downstream traffic.

Per Deepfield research: 60% of Internet devices and users exchange traffic daily with Google’s servers; >50% of websites’ traffic involves Google analytics, hosting and ads daily; and ~25% of the Internet’s daily traffic is Google.

A billion users receive very bandwidth-intensive videos from Google-YouTube, maps from Google Maps, and content via Google’s Chrome browser. Google uniquely serves display ads to two million websites.

No other entity in the world generates this amount of downstream Internet traffic because Google alone controls five of the world’s six billion-user web platforms.

GoogleNet’s ambition to be the global multi-party-video-conferencing network via Google Hangouts, means that Internet users will help fund Google’s dominance whether or not they use Google’s services at all.

At core, zero-price-defined net neutrality provides Google a substantial anti-competitive advantage where they can shift their Internet infrastructure cost obligations to users and infrastructure providers and Google can then provide free or near free global connectivity as a way to disrupt, disintermediate, and commoditize physical-world industries’ direct relationship with their customers (like ISPs, energy utilities, automobile manufacturers, big-box stores, banks, package delivery services, realty, and their networks, vehicles, inventory, ATMs, credit cards, appliances, devices etc., just like Google has been disintermediating and commoditizing the content, app and software industries’ direct relationship with their customers via free cross-subsidized products and services.

The only way that Google’s Playbook works is if it can use “openness” as a way to offer free, or near-free, offerings that can drive rapid adoption and that keep Google’s operational costs lowest. Pushing for zero-price-defined net neutrality clearly fits this bill as it shifts most of the Internet infrastructure costs Google causes off of Google and onto consumers and potential competitors.

To sum up, a global GoogleNet that provides free, or near-free, universally accessible and useful Internet access and mobile connectivity, in order to offer more content, products and services for free that consumers currently pay for, enables Google to disrupt, disintermediate, and commoditize most all of Google’s potential competitors — before they even know what hit them.

In a word, a global GoogleNet could become the quintessential essential facility.




Googleopoly Research Series

Googleopoly I: The Google-DoubleClick Anti-competitive Case – 2007

Googleopoly II: Google’s Predatory Playbook to Thwart Competition – 2008

Googleopoly III: Dependency: Crux of the Google-Yahoo Ad Agreement Problem – 2008

Googleopoly IV: Google Extends its Search Monopoly to Monopsony over Info — 2009

Googleopoly V: Why the FTC Should Block Google-AdMob – 2009

Googleopoly VI: Seeing the Big Picture: Google’s Monopolizing Internet Media –2010

Googleopoly VII:  Monopolizing Location Services – Skyhook is Google’s Netscape –2011

Googleopoly VIII: Google’s Deceptive and Predatory Search Practices – 2011

Googleopoly IX: Google-Motorola’s Patents of Mass Destruction — 2012

Googleopoly X: Google’s Dominance is Spreading at an Accelerating Rate — 2013

Googleopoly XI: A Satire: Grading Google’s Search Antitrust Remedies in EU Test – 2013

Googleopoly XII:  Google-YouTube’s Internet Video Distribution Dominance – 2013

Googleopoly XIII: Let’s Play Pretend: a Satire of Google’s Second EU Search Remedy Proposal 2013

Googleopoly XIV: Google’s WorldWideWatch over the WorldWideWeb [9-14]


[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Jessica Sena: Challenges Associated with Increasing Oil and Natural Gas Production

November 18, 2014, 8:00 PM

Hydraulic fracturing has unleashed a boom in both oil and natural gas production which has caused the United States to become the largest producers of oil and natural gas in the world. While hydraulic fracturing has been used since 1947, its wide-scale application caught many industries and policymakers by surprise. Even former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan suggested the United States increase its imports of liquid natural gas (LNG) to keep natural gas prices low. As a result, certain sectors are experiencing some “growing pains” associated with competing with the energy sector for transportation services such as trucking and hauling freight by train.

One of the sectors that has felt some of this pain is agriculture, as trains hauling frac sand and oil to and from North Dakota have resulted in delays in the transportation of grain and other agricultural products. Research Fellow Isaac Orr and Jessica Sena from the Montana Petroleum Association discuss some of the challenges associated with the “growing pains” of increasing oil and natural gas production in the United States, and some of the potential solutions, including building more pipelines.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Wrong Kind of Government Breeds Cronyism

November 18, 2014, 12:02 PM

Americans’ rights and prosperity are being threatened by cronyism, Ayn Rand Institute’s Steven Simpson said last week during a symposium hosted by Heartland Institute in Chicago.

“The issue is that government has too much power and has strayed far beyond its proper purpose of protecting rights,” Simpson declared.

Simpson’s definition of “cronyism” differs from the explanations typically offered by Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Special Interests and CronyismAfter stating how appropriate it was to be in Chicago so soon after the elections, Simpson said those on the Right, the Left and Libertarians all complain about cronyism in much the same way.

  • Cronyism is to gain money and influence.
  • Cronyism involves business and government colluding to redirect favors to others.
  • The economy itself is crony capitalism.

Ralph Nader’s latest book, “Unstoppable”, sets forth the concept that corporations equal cronyism.  As such Nader wants to abandon the corporate state.

Simpson doesn’t give much credence to the conventional view that special interest are influencing our political system and skewing it at the expense of many.  True, money is spent to finance political causes — $3.9 billion in the recent November elections — but what is the problem with politicians being financed?  Is this corruption?

A bigger problem is why so many individuals want to influence the political system, at which point Simpson defined special interest groups as:  “A group of people voluntarily accountable with one another to influence the political process.”   Followed by:  “What is wrong with that?”

Big Business and Cronyism

As to the belief that cronyism involves business and government colluding to redirect favors to other, this likewise must be evaluated.  Issues arise because of the way people perceive cronyism from different political angles or points of view.  But even individuals on the opposite side of the political spectrum seem to see big business as a bull Tim Carney of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) in his book, “The Big Ripoff”, advances how big businesses work with statist politicians to diminish the prosperity and freedom of consumers, taxpayers, and entrepreneurs.  On the Left, Nick Cristoff of the New York Times in an Opinion piece, “Crony Capitalism Comes Home,” argues to take crony out of capitalism.

Just maybe something is wrong with our political system that requires people to band together and businesses to collude with government to influence political outcome?  Are bad people involved?  Might we have a political system that doesn’t allow people to operate freely?

What happens when people think that bad people are influencing a good system?  Just what is the take away or the result?  The natural outcome is that there is an attempt to restrain the bad people with term limits, etc.  Consider the IRS scandal which happened because it was decided that Tea Party groups had too much influence with politics. Consider also the attempt recently to restraint political speech on Facebook and the Internet. The threats from Washington to stifle freedom, entrepreneurship and creativity online have never been greater. Washington politicians want the money, and they want more and more control over our speech.

Cronyism, a Packaged Deal

Simpson spoke of cronyism as a packaged deal, where “Big is Bad” and “Influence is Bad”.  However, the difference between big government and big business is that big government does too much, that having the experts it knows best, while business grows big by satisfying its customers.

While special interest group can’t force government to accede to their wishes, government has the power to force people to do what it wants them to do.  Government controls through the force or laws of regulations.  If government influences what we are able to do, it is only natural that individuals want to influence government.  Consider Comcast and the issue of “net neutrality”.   Comcast wants to be able to charge people special rates and doesn’t want government to control their own property.  The government, however, wants to decide what “net neutrality” looks like and what Comcast may charge.  The result:  Comcast lobbies government.  Bigger guys can naturally influence government more!

Through lobbying, businesses try to influence what shouldn’t exist in the first place, which kills innovation. Government with its power to tax also has the ability to destroy. Individuals and interest groups give money to help candidates win who reflect their interests, such as “Vote for me and I’ll raise taxes on the rich” or “Vote for me and I’ll favor labor over business.”   Individuals accordingly use the power of government for protection or to benefit themselves.

Growth of Government

What kind of government do we have?  To most people the response would be “a democracy.”  In 2008 Obama proclaimed he had received a mandate from the people to radically change this nation.  According to President Obama, what the majority wants, the majority gets!   Does government really exist so what the majority wants the majority gets?  Doing something for the public good means that one group of people will be sacrificed for another.

Our system of democracy calls for the establishment of interest groups to influence politics.  If we believe that interest groups are corrupt, then our democracy is also corrupt.  What we now have is a sort of de facto democracywhen government has more control than “We the People.”  When government becomes our enemy, people have no choice but to try to influence it and then decide what government must keep its hands off.

The concept of government by our Founding Fathers was a limited one to protect individual rights. The growth of government is not an accident. Through the years government has been created that has a monopoly on power.  The downfall of such a government is that government can’t force people to be productive.

Republicans, Democrats and Libertarians are guilty of misunderstanding government power and the use of force in our lives.  Big business is seen as operating like pirates (as bad people), yet it is government regulations that control what businesses do.  Government, because of its power, actually legalizes crime through its power to control and tax.  Businesses then try to defend themselves to receive some sort of break or concession to reduce government power.

The history of taxation was presented as a wonderful example of cronyism. Taxes can remain high with set tax rates if all sorts of exemptions (loopholes) are provided to give little bits of crumbs of freedom to string along taxpayers.

Mobsters, knowing they are corrupt, are slightly more honest than government which is clothed in moral authority.  People who seek power over our lives don’t want clear laws.  Accordingly, unclear laws lead to cronyism when the meaning of the law is interpreted by different people in different ways.  Some of the confusion that exists today lies in the unclear ways some of the provisions of the Constitution were originally written, specifically:  commerce and taxing power.  According to Steve Simpson, these two powers are responsible for the tremendous growth that has taken place in government.

Non-delegation Doctrine Abused

Attributing to government control is the disregard for the doctrine of non-delegation — that one branch of government must not authorize another entity to exercise the power or function which it is constitutionally authorized to exercise itself.  It is explicit or implicit in all written constitutions that impose a strict structural separation of powers.  Only rarely has the Supreme Court invalidated laws as violations of the non-delegation doctrine. Exemplifying the Court’s legal reasoning on this matter, it ruled in the 1998 case Clinton v. City of New York that the Line Item Veto Act of 1996, which authorized the President to selectively void portions of appropriation bills, was a violation of the Presentment Clause, which sets forth the formalities governing the passage of legislation.  With Dodd-Frank, Congress abdicated its responsibility to set clear rules of the road. The legislation is complicated and contains substantial ambiguities, many of which will not be resolved until regulations are adopted, and even then, many questions are likely to persist that will require consultation with the staffs of the various agencies involved.

Simpson believes the entire regulatory system is unconstitutional. Even so, business groups are bracing for an onslaught of regulations.  With many unfinished policy goals and the midterm elections now in the past, the Obama administration is determined to complete a host of President Obama’s unfinished Businesses and interest group therefore act in self-defense against government and behave morally when fundamental power comes from government. The sugar industry was cited as the beneficiary of cronyism for many years.

A Solution?  

Steve Simpson was at a loss to come up with a clear solution to counter the system of government that is in place, for It is the type of government we have. Businesses must defend their right to influence government for the right reasons.  Simpson spoke about the Koch brothers being vilified by Democrats as rich businessmen who fund Republicans.

It stands to reason that more government brings more cronyism, but how to untangle the mess that we have created?  Young people must be educated about the consequences of cronyism and how regulations stifle innovation.

About the ARI (Ryn Rand Institute), it is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Irvine, CA.  It works to introduce young people to Ayn Rand’s novels, to support scholarship and research based on her ideas, and to promote the principles of reason, rational self-interest, individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism to the widest possible audience. The Institute is named for novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand (1905 – 1982), who is best known for her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.  

The ARI on Tour event spotlighting Steve Simpson on Nov. 11 was the third of ten scheduled ARI on Tour events that will take place in Chicago during 2014 -2015.  The first event was held in September, with the final tour event scheduled for June, 2015.  December’s event will feature Onkar Ghate. His topic: Religion vs. Freedom.  In promoting its mantra of a free society, the monthly ARI on tour events are likewise presented at venues in Irvine, CA; New York, New York; and Palo Alto and San Francisco, CA.  Steve Simpson is just one of many experts at ARI who advocate ideas and principles that will place this nation on the road to a free society through engaging Americans across the country to help change the direction of this nation and its culture.  Tour information can be found here.


[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

VIDEO: Like Gruber’s Obamacare, The Net Neutrality They’re Selling Isn’t The One They’ll Foist Upon Us

November 18, 2014, 9:30 AM

Unless you only get your news via the Jurassic Press – or you are a government school victim who as a result doesn’t pay attention to anything at all – you are now intimately familiar with the on-camera stylings of Jonathan Gruber.

Gruber is a college professor, and virulently anti-American – please pardon the redundancy.  He teaches alleged Economics at the allegedly esteemed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – when he’s not gleaning nearly $6 million in consulting fees from the federal government.

And he is a primary architect of ObamaCare.  From 2011:

How the White House Used Gruber’s Work to Create Appearance of Broad Consensus

The videos now serially surfacing show Gruber his own self detailing what a scam ObamaCare is – and how it had to be a scam because we Americans are too stupid to recognize its greatness.

Gruber’s rants are in fact about much more than ObamaCare – they are a window into the warped minds and dark hearts of most on the Left.  Certainly the elite, elitist Leftists who want to lord over us.

Of course Gruber is just one of the very many Leftists who lied to drag the hulking, festooned ObamaCare carcass across the finish line.  Even the ridiculously biased Politifact had to begrudgingly admit that President Barack Obama told the:

Lie of the Year: ‘If You Like Your Health Care Plan, You Can Keep It’

Of course ObamaCare is just one of the very many Leftist policies about which Leftists have to lie to foist them upon us.  For instance, there’s Network Neutrality.  What the Left is selling us is not what will arrive upon delivery.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been roundly ridiculed and dismissed – by all these same alleged geniuses – for Tweeting:

We’ve been making the same comparison for years. Actually, about President Obama’s first Court-unanimously-overturned-imposition-attempt – in 2010 – we noted:

Net Neutrality Power Grab Is Worse than ObamaCare

There are a lot of similarities between the nine-month-long shove of ObamaCare across the legislative finish line and the four-plus year Media Marxist push to the December 21st 3-2 Democrat Party-line Federal Communications Commission (FCC) vote to impose Network Neutrality….

As unpopular as ObamaCare was – and is still – at least those who foisted it upon us did so via the legislative process in the People’s Congress. Officials elected by you and me decided – against our expressed wishes – to pass it. And we had the subsequent opportunity to throw them out – which…we did in record numbers.

The same cannot be said about the route traveled to the imposition of Net Neutrality….

…(I)t was an FCC vote on unilateral regulation – not a Congressional vote on legislation. The FCC cannot legitimately regulate anything unless and until Congress writes a law making it so – and Congress has not done so with regard to the Internet and Net Neutrality. 

And FCC Commissioners are not elected, which means we have no direct way of redressing our grievances when they vote themselves new authoritarian powers. 

There are in fact a lot of similarities between ObamaCare and Net Neutrality.

The Left complains ObamaCare’s ongoing, growing unpopularity isn’t a result of its terrible-ness – it’s because of bad messaging.

Marketing is Causing ObamaCares Problems

And Net Neutrality?

Seven Design Firms Give ‘Net Neutrality’ a Makeover

We already know Gruber helped build a false ObamaCare consensus – including by being a $400,000 government ObamaCare client while providing “independent”positive analysis in the media and elsewhere.  And oh look – more fabrications:

ObamaCare Facebook Page Comments Mostly from Small Group of Supporters

And Net Neutrality?

The FCC Received 3.7 Million Net Neutrality Comments

Only 1 Percent of FCC Comments Oppose Net Neutrality

Except that’s not even close to true.

808,363 Americans Tell the FCC: Do Not Regulate the Internet

And that’s just from one organization.  Many, many others delivered similar comments.

Even more false messaging nonsense:

Conservatives Overwhelmingly Back Net Neutrality, Poll Finds

(A)ccording to a poll released today by the Internet Freedom Business Alliance (IFBA), a pro-net neutrality association of businesses, Republicans and conservatives outside of Washington D.C., seem to think that the idea of net neutrality is actually a pretty good one.

Some 83% of voters who self-identified as “very conservativewere concerned about the possibility of ISPs having the power to “influence contentonline. Only 17% reported being unconcerned.

Except that “concern”has never, ever actually happened.  Even the Left begrudgingly admits no Internet Service Provider (ISP) has ever blocked anyone from anything.  They could have just as easily asked “How very concerned are you about being gored by a unicorn?”

Similarly, 83% of self-identified conservatives thought that Congress should take action to ensure that cable companies do not “monopolize the Internetor “reduce the inherent equality of the Internetby charging some content companies for speedier access.

They want this unicorn-goring-protection done – by Congress.  Again, not by three unelected Democrat FCC bureaucrats – which is what the President has demanded, andis about to happen.

In fact:

61% Oppose Federal Regulation of the Internet

The biggest similarity between ObamaCare and Net Neutrality?  The Left’s ultimate desired – and unstated – outcome.

ObamaCare is designed to drive out private insurance providers – to be replaced by government.

ObamaCare Shunts My Patients Into Medicaid

Knocked out of private insurance, they are forced to settle for longer waits and worse care. 

Net Neutrality is designed to drive out private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – to be replaced by government.  How do we know this?  Oh look – another (Avowed Marxist) college professor:

“…(T)he battle over network neutrality is not to completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies. We are not at that point yet. But the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists in the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control.


Stimulus Bill Includes $7.2 Billion for (Government) Broadband

Video: The FCCs Plan To Steamroll State Laws Against Government Broadband

In fact, who invented the concept of Net Neutrality?  Another college professor.

So who is correct on the ObamaCare-Net Neutrality comparison?  Senator Cruz and us free marketeers – or the perpetually lying Left?

The Left that lied incessantly about what ObamaCare would do to us – and now wants us to trust what they say their Net Neutrality will do.

The accompanying video describes what Net Neutrality means – as the Huge Government crowd intends to impose it.


Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Nicole Kaeding – Grading America’s Governors

November 17, 2014, 3:44 PM

Cato Institute budget and policy analyst Nicole Kaeding joins Budget and Tax News managing editor, Jesse Hathaway, to discuss the Fiscal Policy Report Card on America’s Governors, a white paper examining and rating all 50 governors’ on their respective fiscal and tax policies.

Kaeding and Hathaway discuss the governors that are found on the top of the list as well as those found on the bottom. As Kaeding explains, voters’ reactions to governors’ fiscal policies may have led to some of the more surprising results on Election Day, and may hold implications for the 2016 presidential race.

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

Categories: On the Blog

EPA’s Next Regulatory Tsunami

November 17, 2014, 1:10 PM

Looming Environmental Protection Agency ozone regulations personify the Obama administration’s secrecy, collusion, fraud, and disdain for concerns about the effects that its tsunami of regulations is having on the livelihoods, living standards, health and welfare of millions of American families. Virtually every EPA announcement of new regulations asserts that they will improve human health. Draconian carbon dioxide standards, for example, won’t just prevent climate change, even if rapidly developing countries continue emitting vast volumes of this plant-fertilizing gas. The rules will somehow reduce the spread of ticks and Lyme disease, and protect “our most vulnerable citizens.” It’s hogwash. But Americans naturally worry about pollution harming children and the poor. That makes it easy for EPA to promulgate regulations based on false assumptions and linkages, black-box computer models, secretive collusion with activist groups, outright deception, and supposedly “scientific” reports whose shady data and methodologies the agency refuses to share with industries, citizens or even Congress. It was only in May 2012 that EPA decided which US counties met new 2008 ozone standards that cut allowable ground-level ozone levels from 80 parts per billion to 75 ppb. Now EPA wants to slash allowable levels even further: to 70 or even 60 ppb, equivalent to 70 or 60 seconds in 32 years. The lower limits are essential, it claims, to reduce smog, human respiratory problems and damage to vegetation. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says a 600-page agency staff report strongly recommends this reduction, and her Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee agrees. They all say the lower limits are vital for protecting public health, especially “at-risk populations and life stages.” Her decision will ultimately involve “a scientific judgment” and will “keep people safe,” Ms. McCarthy assures us. Under terms of a convenient federal court settlement, EPA must issue its proposed new standards by December 1 of this year, and make a final decision by October 2015. The process will be “open and transparent,” with “multiple opportunities” for public hearings and comment throughout, she promised.  EPA has offered little transparency, honesty or opportunity for fair hearings and input by impacted parties thus far, and we should expect none here. But other problems with this proposal are much more serious. If the 60 ppb standard is adopted, 85% of all US counties would likely become “non-attainment” areas, making it difficult to establish new industrial facilities or expand existing plants. Even in Big Sky, clean-air Wyoming, Teton County could be out of compliance – mostly due to emissions from pine trees! A Manufacturers’ Alliance/MAPI study calculated that a 60 ppb ozone standard would cost the US economy a whopping $1 trillion per year and kill 7.3 million jobs by 2020. A Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and National Association of Manufacturers study concluded that a 60 ppb rule would penalize the state $189 billion for compliance and $53 billion in lost gross domestic product between 2017 and 2040. That’s $10 billion per year in just one state. But the standard would save lives, EPA predictably claimed, citing 2009 research directed by University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health Professor Michael Jerrett. The study purportedly tracked 448,000 people and claimed to find a connection between long-term ozone exposure and death. Other researchers sharply criticized Jerrett’s work. His study made questionable assumptions about ozone concentrations, did not rely on clinical tests, ignored the findings of other studies that found no significant link between ground-level ozone and health effects, and failed to gather critically important information on the subjects’ smoking patterns, they pointed out. When they asked to examine his data,Jerrett refused. Michael Honeycutt, chief toxicologist for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, says Jerrettand EPA exaggerate health risks from ozone. The Texas Public Policy Foundation told EPA the agency needs to consider “the totality of studies on this issue, rather than giving exclusive weight to a single study,” the foundation emphasized. Unfortunately, EPA almost always focuses on one or two analyses that support its regulatory agenda – and ignores any that might slow or derail its onrushing freight train. Even worse, those lost jobs and GDP result in major impacts on the lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards, health, welfare and life spans of millions of Americans. And yet, EPA steadfastly refuses to consider these regulatory impacts: for ozone, carbon dioxide, soot, mercury and other rules. Then there is the matter of outright deception, collusion and fraud at EPA, via these and other tactics.  One such tactic is sue-and-settle lawsuits. Agitator groups meet with EPA officials behind closed doors and agree on new rules or standards. The agency then conveniently misses a deadline, “forcing” the activists to sue. That leads to a court hearing (from which impacted parties are excluded), and a judgment “forcing” the agency to issue new regulations – and even pay the agitators’ attorney fees! American Lung Association, NRDC, Sierra Club and EPA sue-and-settle collusion resulted in the new ozone proposal. This clever sue-and-settle tactic was devised by none other than John Beale – the con artist who’s now in prison for bilking taxpayers out of $1 million in salary and travel expenses for his mythical second job as a CIA agent. It defies belief to assume his fraudulent propensities did not extend to his official EPA duties as senior policy advisor with his boss and buddy Robert Brenner, helping Ms. McCarthy and her Office of Air and Radiation develop and implement oppressive regulations. Indeed, his own attorney says he had a “dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior” and “manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives.” A US Senate report details the sleazy practice. As to the “experts” who claim lower ozone limits are vital for protecting public health, there’s this. The American Lung Association supports the EPA health claims – but neglects to mention that EPA has given the ALA $24.7 million over the past 15 years. Overall, during this period, the ALA received $43 million via 591 federal grants, and Big Green foundations bankrolled it with an additional $76 million. But no one is supposed to question the ALA’s credibility, integrity or support for EPA “science.” EPA also channels vast sums to its “independent” Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, which likewise rubberstamps the agency’s pollution claims and regulations. Fifteen CASAC members receivedover $181 million since 2000. CASAC excludes from its ranks industry and other experts who might question EPA findings. Both EPA and CASAC stonewall and slow-walk FOIA requests and deny requests for correction and reconsideration. Even congressional committees get nowhere. As Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House on Science, Space and Technology Committee,noted in a letter, 16 of the 20 CASAC members who “peer-reviewed” the ozone studies also helped to write the studies. That makes it even less likely that their reviews were “independent.” That Senate report, The Chains of Environmental Command, also notes that the Obama EPA has been deliberately packed with far-left environmental activists who work with their former Big Green colleagues to shape policy. They give radical groups critical insider access and also funnel millions of taxpayer dollars through grants to their former organizations, often in violation of agency ethics rules. These arrogant, unelected, unaccountable, deceitful, dictatorial elites think they have a right to impose ozone, carbon dioxide, ObamaCare and other diktats on us, “for our own good.” They are a primary reason American businesses and families are already paying $1.9 trillion per year to comply with mountains of federal regulations – $353 billion of these costs from EPA alone. The damage to jobs, livelihoods, liberties, living standards, health and welfare is incalculable. The next Congress should review all EPA data, documents and decisions, root out the fraud and collusion, and defund and ultimately reverse all regulations that do not pass muster. The principle is simple: No data, honesty, transparency or integrity – no regulation, and no taxpayer money to impose it.

Categories: On the Blog

Six Energy Policy Changes to Watch for in a Republican-Controlled Congress

November 17, 2014, 12:05 PM

Under a Republican-controlled Congress we can expect changes in Washington, DC—with energy front and center.

The past six years have seen taxpayer dollars poured into green-energy projects that have embarrassed the administration and promoted teppan-style renewables that chop-up and fry unsuspecting birds midflight and hurt the economy. Meanwhile, Republicans have touted the job creation and economic impact available through America’s abundant fossil-fuel resources.

Voters made their preference clear: Republicans won more seats, and with bigger majorities, than anyone predicted.

Big changes in energy policy are in the works because a wealthy country is better able to do things right. A growing economy needs energy that is efficient, effective and economical—which is why countries like China and India will not limit energy availability and why Republicans want to expand access in the U.S.

What energy policies should we watch?

  • Keystone pipeline

Post-election, the Keystone pipeline has suddenly leapt to the front of the lame-duck-legislation line with a vote finally scheduled. Months ago, Senators Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and John Hoeven (R-ND), along with 54 others (including 11 Democrats), reintroduced legislation to authorize building the Keystone pipeline—but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has blocked the popular bill by repeatedly denying requests to take up the legislation. The House has already approved eight previous Keystone bills and quickly passed an identical bill sponsored by Landrieu’s election opponent Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA).

The question remains whether the White House will approve the bill, though spokesman Josh Earnest hinted at an Obama veto. A veto would further anger his union supporters. With many Democrats already on board and a push for more support from union leadership, the new Congress may be able to pass it again—this time with a veto-proof majority.

  • Federal lands

President Obama likes to brag about the increased U.S. production of oil and gas. In his post-election press conference he stated: “Our dependence on foreign oil is down.” While the statement is true, it falsely implies that he had something to do with that fact.

Reality is, as a Congressional Research Service report makes clear, while oil production has increased 61 percent on state and private lands, it has decreased 6 percent on federal land where the administration has authority. Additionally, the report points out, applications to drill on federal lands take nearly twice as long to process under the Obama administration than they did previously.

One prediction has drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge becoming a part of the Republican Party’s vision of energy independence—something Alaska’s senior Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has argued for.

  • Oil exports

Before the new Congress is sworn in, we already hear a lot of talk about lifting the ban on oil exports that was put into place in response to the 1970s Arab oil embargo.

With the Republicans now in charge come January, Murkowski will become the Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee. She is expected to start by “holding hearings, pressuring Obama administration officials, and testing the level of support from party leadership” for lifting the export ban.

  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

President Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) has widespread opposition within the Republican Party. Even coal-state Democrats, such as Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), have concerns with the CPP.

The CPP, plus the many other regulations—such as those coming on ozone and methane—have many lawmakers concerned about the EPA’s impact on grid reliability and the economy. President Obama is not likely to sign any legislation designed to rein in his personal priorities, but Republicans can make changes in EPA appropriations.

  • The Endangered Species Act (ESA)

The ESA direly needs revision, updating or outright repeal as has more recently been used as a funding tool for environmental groups and a way for them to block economic activity, such as oil-and-gas extraction, and ranching, farming, and mining.

Earlier this year, a group of 13 GOP lawmakers released a report, which called for an ESA overhaul. While repeal is unlikely, this may be the time to introduce legislation that would reform the ESA to curtail litigation from wildlife advocates and give states more authority—two ideas that were brought forth in the report.

  • Climate Change

The biggest change will come on the climate change agenda. While Obama will not back down, committees have significant influence, as previously mentioned, through the appropriation process. Also, expect oversight on Obama administration policies.

The Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) Chairmanship will change from one of the biggest supporters of Obama’s climate change agenda (Senator Barbara Boxer [D-CA]) to the biggest opponent of his policies (Senator Jim Inhofe [R-OK]). On election night, Inhofe stated: “I am looking forward to taking back the environment committee”—a role that, according to Environment & Energy Publishing: “Already has greens cringing.”

This reversal of attitude in climate change policies is already evident in the response to the president’s newly announced pact with China to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and his promised $3 billion contribution to a U.N. climate fund designed to help poor counties deal with potential impacts of climate change.

Reports now declare: “Climate change compromises may be easier with China than Congress.”

It is going to be an interesting two years. If the Republican policies turn the economy around as predicted—offering a sharp contrast to the stagnation of the past six years, they will pave the way for victory in 2016.

(A version of this content was originally published at

Categories: On the Blog

Stop That Fracking Pipeline!

November 17, 2014, 10:20 AM

My small farm is nearly in the path of a new pipeline that will carry huge tonnages of shale gas from West Virginia to the Mid-Atlantic states. My neighbors mostly hate the idea. Many farms have hostile signs saying “No Pipeline!” or “Save the County!”

All this fuss over one buried gas transmission line, a minor addition to the 200,000 miles of such pipelines already transporting natural gas in the United States. The county has electric power lines that are more visually obtrusive and carry more soil erosion risk. We apparently accept those intrusions because we all plug into the wall sockets. The shale gas pipeline, however, will initially carry most of its gas to the cities of coastal Virginia and North Carolina, so it is resented here. Big mistake.

One neighbor has a different banner. It reads, “Protect Our Future: Put the Pipe on My Land.”

Three years ago, I arranged a program about shale gas for my local Rotary Club. My guest speaker told of the huge benefits — jobs and wages — accruing in Pennsylvania as the Marcellus Shale is developed there. West Virginia, too, has Marcellus Shale. He noted back then that a pipeline from West Virginia had to be in our future — to get the gas out of the steep hills and into population centers near the coast. It would create even more economic growth and far more jobs, he noted.

As an economist, I read about billions of European Union (EU) investment dollars coming to expand the chemical, metal, and auto industries in the United States. That’s not surprising, since U.S. natural gas costs only one-third as much as the Russian gas now being imported into Europe. In addition, there is the now very real threat of Vladimir Putin cutting off EU gas exports to support his reforming of the old Soviet Union. The EU does not want to drill its own shale gas deposits, and in failing to do so, it suffers slower economic growth, heavier welfare payments, and the frightening scenario of watching its neighbors get sucked back into Russian control.

Americans benefit from cheaper energy that emits only half the CO2 of coal or oil. Plus, it creates many thousands of jobs to support American families in a time when unemployment and welfare costs are rising faster than we can support.

Fortunately, the right of way, after construction is completed, will be only 75 feet wide, just like a power line without the towers. During construction, there will be a 400 foot right-of-way. Our local landowners will lose the opportunity to subdivide a narrow strip of their land — but our market and our land laws do not support many new subdivisions in any case. For land that will lose the right to be subdivided, the pipeline payments will necessarily be larger — and immediate. True, some trees will be cut on private land, many against the wishes of the owners, but the alternative is to see communities such as Staunton, Virginia lose their vibrancy in the years ahead.

The fear of a threat to water quality is a talking point, and there are many private wells in this area. A “deep” water well may go down 600 feet. The shale gas wells are typically several thousand feet deeper. The only possible “threat” is right among the gas fields. A well casing not properly done can leak — but state inspectors already check for that.

Opponents also make dire warnings of pipeline explosions. Our new pipelines, however, are all built with PIG (pipeline inspection gauges) that check for cracks, debris, and metal loss from the inside. With the PIGs in place, I am in far more danger of a lightning strike than a gas pipeline explosion — even if the pipe is on my property. In contrast, coalmining deaths still kill about 100,000 people annually worldwide.

Two types of opponents ardently reject shale gas development. First are the NIMBYs. “Not in My Backyard” is a particularly unlovely reason to oppose roads, utilities, energy projects, and other vital infrastructure.

The Green opponents are even less lovely. They seem to dislike humans in general, and they certainly hate modern technology and energy even though they rely heavily on them. If shale gas is bad, why don’t they support expanded nuclear power, which emits no CO2 at all? So far, Green activists have been impossible to please.

The public has been willing to embrace rather insignificant practices, like recycling, that don’t get us closer to the “Green dream.” Fortunately, we have also been unwilling to renounce the modern world’s safety, energy security, and hope for the poor.

[Originally published at American Thinker]

Categories: On the Blog