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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Cuomo’s Corrupted Corruption Commission

August 08, 2014, 11:43 AM

When Andrew Cuomo was elected governor of New York in 2010, he promised to root out corruption in the New York state government. He began belatedly to act on that promise in 2013 when he set up the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption. The commission quickly set about investigating corruption and government malfeasance. In one year, they had discovered evidence of potentially criminal actions by as many as 12 state lawmakers. The commission made a number of criminal referrals to federal prosecutors.

The commission’s efforts were brought to an abrupt end in March 2014, leaving many investigations unresolved. Since then it has been revealed that members of the Cuomo administration sought to influence the direction of the independent commission. This has resulted in a federal investigation into the fate of the Moreland Commission and whether Cuomo or his people acted unethically toward their own ethics commission.

Cuomo insists that his office did not put any pressure on the commission and only offered advice. However, it appears that members of his staff did indeed seek to influence the commission’s decisions. Cuomo has tried to spin the commission’s refusal to succumb to his grubby behavior as “demonstrable proof of independence.”

To add a degree of surreal comedy to the proceedings, prosecutors are also now investigating whether the Cuomo administration put pressure on former members of the Moreland Commission to issue statements that the Cuomo administration did not pressure or interfere with the commission’s investigations. Let’s get this straight then: Federal prosecutors are investigating corrupt actions by the Cuomo administration toward the corruption commission the Cuomo administration set up, as well as pressure from the Cuomo administration toward former commissioners to say that they had not been pressured. Only in New York!

Cuomo’s opponents have tried to make hay with these accusations of corruption. The likely Republican challenger for the governor’s office, Rob Astorino, has certainly tried to leverage the situation in his favor. Astorino’s spokesperson has said, “To have a sitting governor being investigated by federal prosecutors for corrupting an anti-corruption commission has certainly changed the dynamic of the race.”

Yet despite Astorino’s claims, and the growing smell of sleaze, Cuomo will likely not pay an electoral price, at least in the short term. New York’s voting public remains largely unaware of, or apathetic about, the scandal. It is fairly easy to understand public apathy when their governor shows the same level of corruption they come to expect in all their leaders. Cuomo may have been hoist with his own petard, but he continues to be the frontrunner for another term as governor. He has incumbency and advantages in organization and money that his primary and general election challengers will have a tough time to overcome.

But while he may not pay a price at the ballot box, he may pay a legal one. A federal investigation is no laughing matter, and Cuomo’s administration could be hampered by subpoenas and even criminal prosecutions. That would certainly be a dramatic fate to an administration that swept into office promising to overhaul the venal and corrupt nature of New York politics. If anything, Cuomo has succeeded only in reinforcing the perception that politicians consider themselves above the law and only pursue corruption investigations when they will damage their enemies.

Cuomo may face some longer-term political consequences. Just as Chris Christie’s 2016 hopes were dented by Bridgegate, so too will an ongoing federal investigation into corruption likely scupper any hopes Cuomo might have had for making a dash for the White House. The utter shamelessness of Cuomo’s behavior may be just too much for even the jaded American public to stomach.

Categories: On the Blog

It’s about the Money, Not the Climate

August 08, 2014, 9:27 AM

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), the Irish poet and dramatist, wrote “Pray don’t talk to me about the weather. Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else.”

These days, when some world leader or politician speaks of the climate—the weather is what is happening right now wherever you are—they are not talking about sunshine or rain. They are talking about a devilishly obscene way of raising money by claiming that it is humans that are threatening the climate with everything they do, from turning on the lights to driving anywhere.

That’s why “global warming” was invented in the late 1980s as an immense threat to the Earth and to mankind. Never mind that Earth has routinely passed through warmer and cooler cycles for billions of years; much of which occurred before mankind emerged. And never mind that the Earth has been a distinct cooling cycle for the past seventeen years and likely to stay in it for a while. If the history of ice ages is any guide, we could literally be on the cusp of a new one.

If, however, a government can tax the use of energy, it stands to make a lot of money. That is why carbon taxes have been introduced in some nations and why the nearly useless “clean energy” options of wind and solar have been introduced even though they both require the backup of traditional coal, natural gas and nuclear energy plants because they cannot produce electricity if the wind isn’t blowing and the sun is obscured by clouds.

Taxing energy use means taxing “greenhouse gas” emissions; primarily carbon dioxide (C02) so that every ton of it added to the atmosphere by a power plant and any other commercial activity becomes a source of income for the nation. The Australians went through this and rapidly discovered it drove up their cost of electricity and negatively affected their economy so much that they rid themselves of a prime minister and the tax within the past year.

Fortunately, every effort to introduce a carbon tax has been defeated by the U.S. Congress, but that it has shelled out billions for “climate research” over the years. That doesn’t mean, however, that 41 demented Democrats in the House of Representatives haven’t gotten together in a “Safe Climate Caucus” led by Rep. Henry A. Waxman. The Washington Post reported that when it was launched in February 2013, the members promised to talk every day on the House floor about “the urgent need to address climate change.”

Check out the caucus and, if your Representative is a member, vote to replace him or her with someone less idiotic.

When you hear the President or a member of Congress talk about the climate, they are really talking about the scheme to generate revenue from it through taxation or to raise money from those who will personally benefit from any scheme related to the climate such as “clean energy.”

The need of governments to frighten their citizens about the climate in order to raise money is international in scope. A United States that has a $17 trillion debt is a prime example, much of it due to a government grown so large it wastes taxpayer’s money in the millions with every passing day whether it is sunny or rainy, warm or cold.

In late July, Reuters reported that Christine Lagarde, the chair of theInternational Monetary Fund, (IMF) opined in her new book that “energy taxes in much of the world are far below what they should be to reflect the harmful environmental and health impact of fossil fuels use.”

Please pay no attention to the billions of dollars that coal, oil and natural gas already generate for the nations in which they are found. Nations such as India and China are building coal-fired plants as fast as possible to provide the electricity every modern nation needs to expand its economy, provide more employment, and improve their citizen’s lives in every way imaginable.

“For the first time,” Reuters reported, “the IMF laid out exactly what it views as appropriate taxes on coal, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel in 156 countries to factor in the fuel’s overall costs, which include carbon dioxide emissions, air pollution, congestion and traffic accidents.” The problem with this is that the costs cited are bogus.

“Nations,” said Lagarde, “are now working on a United Nations deal for late 2015 to rein in greenhouse gas emissions that have hit repeated highs this century, but progress has been slow as nations fret about the impact any measures may have on economic growth.” As in bad impacts!

Ignore the claims that carbon dioxide affects the climate. Its role is so small it can barely be measured because CO2 represents 380 parts per million. When our primate ancestors began to climb down out of the trees, CO2 levels were about 1,000 parts per million. More CO2 means more crops, healthy growing forests, and all the other benefits that every form of vegetation provides. The breath we humans exhale contains about 4% of CO2.

The fact is that the United States and other nations are being run by politicians who are incapable of reducing spending or borrowing more in order to spend more. Venezuela just defaulted again on the payment of bonds it issued to raise money. They did this in 2001 and one must wonder why any financial institution purchases them.

There are eleven other nations whose credit ratings are flirting with big trouble. They include Greece, Ukraine, Pakistan, Cypress, and in the Americas Argentina, Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador and Belize. Borrowing by such nations is very expensive. A U.S. Treasury Note pays an annual coupon of just 2.5%, but the yields on 10-year bonds issue by Greece reached 29% in early 2012, just before it defaulted.

Adding to problems in the U.S. is the Obama agenda being acted upon by the Environmental Protection Agency whose “war on coal” has shuttered several hundred plants that produce the electricity needed to maintain the economy. In coal producing states this is playing havoc and it is driving up the cost of electricity in others.

The growth of oil and natural gas production in the U.S. is almost entirely on privately owned land as opposed to that controlled by the government. Supporting the attack on energy are the multi-million dollar environmental organizations like Friends of the Earth and the Sierra Club.

There is no “global warming” and the climate is determined by the Sun, the oceans, clouds, and volcanic activity. Nothing any government does, here and worldwide, has any impact on it, but if nations can demonize the use of energy and tax the CO2 it produces, they can generate more money to spend and waste.

The lies that governments, the United Nations, and the International Monetary Fund tell about the climate are about the money they can extract from citizens who must be kept frightened enough to pay taxes on their use of energy.

© Alan Caruba, 2014


[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s “Most Transparent White House” Lambasted by Independent Watchdogs

August 08, 2014, 9:00 AM

President Obama came into office promising the most open White House in American history. He went back on that promise almost immediately, refusing to cooperate with oversight organizations and stonewalling the press. Jay Carney, Obama’s press secretary from 2011 to 2014, dodged questions nearly 10 thousand times during his tenure. Brianna Keilar, a CNN reporter, as said of the White House that “anyone here can tell there’s less access than under the Bush administration.” When even Obama’s fawning press corps is fed up, you know something is going on.

This week, Obama’s lack of transparency received some of its most vocal criticism to date.  In an open letter to congressional leaders, 47 of the government’s 73 inspectors-general (independent watchdogs) stated that they were unable to effectively perform their duties due to obstructive behavior and lack of cooperation in many federal agencies. Agencies from the EPA to the Peace Corps have dragged their feet or been unwilling to comply with requests for documents, claiming the contents of documents to be “privileged.” This has resulted in frustration among the independent watchdogs, which have been prevented from fulfilling their legally mandated duty.

The letter stated:

“Agency actions that limit, condition, or delay access thus have profoundly negative consequences for our work: they make us less effective, encourage other agencies to take similar actions in the future, and erode the morale of the dedicated professionals that make up our staffs.”

This sordid tale is just the latest chapter in the story of the Obama administration’s contempt for the rules that circumscribe and constrain executive power. It seems to be the chief belief of Obama that he and his people have all the answers and the need to compromise with Congress or to comply with laws and regulations are simply a nuisance to be gotten around. It is that attitude and the dangerous behavior that grows out of it that has made the Obama administration so much more onerous than past administrations.

It is that attitude and the above-the-law behavior springing from it that Obama’s critics are concerned about. It is not a matter of the mere number of executive orders he issues (as much as the left would like to conflate the exercise of executive power with quantity of executive orders), nor even what the orders he does issue entail. It is a matter of the broader application of contempt for the process of government and government oversight that has made Obama’s presidency so caustic to the republican traditions of the United States.

The open letter from the inspectors-general is a heartening development. It shows that, despite the administration’s obfuscating and impeding, the watchdogs still have some bite. It is high time Obama and his cronies were brought to heel.

Categories: On the Blog

Government “Help” Makes Nutrition Worse: Fats

August 08, 2014, 8:51 AM

For a half century the idea that saturated fat in foods raises cholesterol and, consequently, causes heart attacks was dogma ostensibly justifying government regulation.  The attacks on dietary fat have increased in recent years due to the “war on obesity.”  But a new book based on nearly ten years of research has fired a devastating salvo in defense of this designated dietary enemy.  The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz traces the origin of the fat myth from its faulty scientific beginning to its discrediting.

Teicholz notes the Inuit people in the Arctic, who got 70 – 80% of their calories from fat and ate no plants, showed no signs of cancer, diabetes, heart disease or hypertension.  In another intriguing study   Maasai warriors in Kenya, who ate only blood, meat and milk when they were studied in early the 1960s, had no heart disease or high cholesterol.

The alarming myth about fat was originated by Dr. Ancel Keys, for which he was even honored by being on the cover of Time magazine in 1961.  That was the year he landed a position on the nutrition committee of the American Heart Association, the same year the AHA issued the first guidelines targeting saturated fats.  Keys violated several scientific norms in his research, but some of these weren’t revealed until 2002 by later researchers.  It turns out that from the 655 men he originally selected as a representative sample, he used just 33 from Crete and 34 from Corfu as the basis for the entire revolution of our diet.  He also kept to himself for 16 years the results of a 9,000-patient coronary survey because it failed to find cutting saturated fat reduced the risk of heart disease.  Though advocating limiting a diet to 7% saturated fat, Keys ate chops, roasts and steaks three time a week and lived to be 100.

While our ingestion of saturated fats has dropped 11% since the early 1970s, we eat at least 25% more carbohydrates—including 50% more grains.  Teicholz explains:

Instead of meat, eggs and cheese, we’re eating more pasta, grains, fruit and starchy vegetables…The problem is that carbohydrates break down into glucose, which causes the body to release insulin—a hormone that is fantastically efficient at storing fat.  Meanwhile, fructose, the main sugar in fruit, causes the liver to generate triglycerides and other lipids in the blood that are altogether bad news.  Excessive carbohydrates lead not only to obesity but also, over time, to Type 2 diabetes and, very likely, heart disease

In 1961 the AHA advised switching to vegetable oils for a “healthy heart.” Today these oils are 7% to 8% of our daily calories, compared to nearly zero in 1900.  But these were found to create not only higher cancer rates but gallstones.  It was also known since the 1940s that when heated, vegetable oils create oxidation products that lead to cirrhosis of the liver and early death in animal experiments.  To counter these concerns, vegetable oils were hydrogenated, a process of adding hydrogen that turns the oils from liquids into solids and also retards spoilage.

Unfortunately, hydrogenation also produced trans fats, which were condemned by the FDA and many European countries for raising the levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol.  This led some restaurants and food manufacturers to return to using liquid oils, which had long-standing problems with oxidation.  Worse, more recent research had implicated oxidation in a “sizable body of evidence…to heart disease and other illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.”

In addition to Teicholz’s work, researchers at Purdue University studied the relationship between fats and absorption of carotenoids, such as lutein, lycopene and beta-carotene.  These are disease-fighting nutrients that slash the risk of cancer and heart disease, safeguard bone density, prevent macular degeneration, and soak up damaging compounds.  The researchers served veggie salads topped with various types of salad dressing to participants who were then tested for absorption of carotenoids.  Result: salads with the most fat—20 grams—yielded the highest absorption of these nutrients.  This study was not just of saturated fats but included monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats.  Canola oil (a monounsaturated oil) had the best absorption rates of lutein and beta-carotene, but the researchers said the type of oil “had less impact on the absorption of carotenoids than amount .”

So it’s about time for the myths about fats, particularly saturated fats, to die—and also the myths about government regulation of our foods being necessary and effective.  How could the U.S. government be so wrong about such a major issue for a half century? Teicholz notes that problems with vegetable oils were known back in the 1940s; that Keys’ research had major errors; that a half-dozen large important trials from the 1970s had major methodological problems and were “unreliable at best;” and “even back then, other scientists were warning about the [Keys] diet’s potential unintended consequences.”

After the American Heart Association targeted saturated fats, the USDA apparently accepted the AHA’s recommendation without examining the validity of Keys’ research—for which he had received a massive grant from the U.S. government—or other dubious research.  It also ignored skeptics’ warnings from, among others, the National Academy of Sciences.

Keys himself was likely instrumental in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s approval in 1980 because of his governmental connections.  Teicholz notes he had quickly developed important alliances with the National Institutes of Health, politicians on Capitol Hill, and the USDA itself.  Harvard professor Mark Hegsted successfully persuaded the U.S. Senate to recommend Keys’ diet to the entire nation.  In 1977 he said the question wasn’t whether Americans should change their diet, but why not?  He told the Senate no risks could be identified.  In a nutshell, that’s how bad science became bad federal policy for a half century.

Obviously, the American people would have been better off if the government had never gotten into this issue.  And it never should have because there is nothing in the U.S. Constitution that gives the  federal government any authority over food.  Franklin Roosevelt’s administration attempted to control agriculture with its Agricultural Adjustment Act, under the Constitution’s “general welfare” clause, but the Supreme Court struck that down.  A second attempt was made under the federal power to regulate interstate commerce.  In Wickard v. Filburn, a farmer had planted 23 acres of wheat although the government had allotted him only eleven.  He was fined for growing the excess even though the grain was never marketed.  It was consumed by livestock on his own property.  There was no commerce, much less interstate commerce.  Yet the Supreme Court ruled that if he had not fed the wheat to his stock, he might had bought feed, and that feed, even if locally produced, might have affected the price of other wheat in interstate commerce.  Therefore, the federal government’s intervention in agriculture here was “justified” by its authority to regulate interstate commerce.

That farfetched, contorted decision was the basis for subsequent expansion of the USDA into food and nutrition programs, such as school lunches and food stamps.  Furthermore, that empowerment was not limited to the USDA but extended to other federal agencies.  According to the Government Accountability Office, the federal government in 2009 had six different agencies operating “about” 26 separate food and nutrition programs in the U.S.

In our next posting we shall discuss how, just as with fats, government policies on school lunches are based on bad science and have led to inferior nutrition.  The nation would have been healthier without these programs, but the myth still persists that they are necessary and generally effective.  Major mistakes—even those enduring for decades—are dismissed as rare or inconsequential when policies and programs are determined by good intentions rather than principles or actual results.  As Milton Friedman pointed out, “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”  It always seems to be a winning argument—though unjustified by results—that somehow government coercion in the economy will be more effective than its absence.  And if that doesn’t work, just try more of the same: bigger programs, more government-sponsored research, larger penalties for violations, etc., all in the name of “better” regulation.  In truth, the solution is not a “better” government economic program but none at all.  The best outcome results from people freely exercising their rights to life, liberty and property and not being forced by government to do anything.  It’s where all interactions are by mutual consent to mutual benefit.  That is the only economic principle appropriate for a nation of free people.  It is the only system consistent with the principle of liberty.  That’s why when our Founders wrote the Constitution, they did not delegate any economic authority to the federal government.

Categories: On the Blog

Maryland Rules Uber is a Common Carrier – Will FCC Agree?

August 08, 2014, 8:41 AM

The Daily Record reports that the Maryland Public Service Commission ruled that Uber is a common carrier subject to its regulatory jurisdiction.

The PSC stated:

“[W]hen viewed in their totality, the undisputed facts and circumstances in this case make it clear that Uber is engaged in the public transportation of persons for hire. Thus, Uber is a common carrier and a public service company over whom the Commission has jurisdiction…

In 60 days, PSC will draft “new regulations that protect the public interest,but also reflect the evolving nature of transportation services like Uber.”

Uber has threatened to leave the state if Uber is treated the same as their regulated taxi and transportation-for-hire competitors are under Maryland law.

Relevance to FCC Open Internet Order

This PSC precedent has big relevance and implications for the FCC’s high-profile redo of its Open Internet Order.

Both Uber and Lyft are online transportation network companies and members of the Internet Association, which recently filed comments with the FCC in the Open Internet order proceeding.

The Internet Association opposes the current FCC proposal to use the “commercially reasonable” standard that the DC Court of Appeals indicated would pass legal muster. Itrecommends that the FCC’s Open Internet “Rules Should Prohibit Broadband Internet Access Providers from Charging For Enhanced or Prioritized Access.”

This means Uber and Lyft are recommending to the FCC that it treat ISPs like common carriers in direct contravention of the D.C. Court of Appeals decision in Verizon v. FCC.

That decision explicitly said:

In other words, but for the Open Internet Order, broadband providers could freely impose conditions on the nature and quality of the service they furnish edge providers, potentially turning certain edge providers—currently able to “hire” their service for free—into paying customers. The Commission may not claim that the Open Internet Order imposes no common carrier obligations simply because it compels an entity to continue furnishing service at no cost.”

Uber, Lyft and the Internet Association are advocating that the FCC should regulate the ISPs like what the Court views as common carriers, by discriminating against ISP information-service-providers in favor of edge information-service-provider networks.

To date the Internet Association and its members have imagined that they provide no services that could be ruled by state, Federal or foreign regulators to be common carrier regulated services. This Maryland PSC ruling is stark evidence that their core political assumption of perfect immunity from common carrier regulation is fantasy.

Let me be crystal clear, I am not advocating Uber and Lyft be subject to common carrier regulation. What I am advocating for is equal treatment under the law and a level playing field, where public policy treats every business in the Internet ecosystem in a consistent manner, so every business participant has the freedom to innovate and invest without ex ante regulation.

The Internet Association’s implicit current call for aggressive regulatory discrimination — to discriminate in favor of their “edge” business models and against ISPs’ models, not on the basis of market power or any evidence of market or consumer harm– is wrong and obviously self-serving. It is classic regulatory hypocrisy and the double standard enshrined in the well-known phrase: “Regulate thee but not me.”

While the Internet Association claims their approach is ‘light touch’ that is deceptive and inaccurate. The Internet Association is calling for a permanent zero-price for all Internet downstream traffic so their business gets free Internet service at the direct expense of Internet users that must implicitly pay most all of the Big Internet companies’ big bandwidth bill.

No matter how much the Internet Association aristechracy imagines that they are special, and that they enjoy a special political exemption from the Constitution, law and regulations, that remains fantasy and wishful thinking… at least for now.

The Maryland PSC decision that Uber is a common carrier is a real world reminder that outside of the Big Internet’s powerful aristechratic sphere-of-influence, there can be equal treatment under the law.

In closing, will the FCC want to open the Title II can-of-worms, and threaten the entire Internet ecosystem with the potential virus of common-carrier obligations, when they know they cannot control how an FCC title II broadband decision would ultimately apply, because the courts, states, and foreign regulators will all have their legal say in what the boundaries of the FCC’s determination ultimately turn out to be?

[Originally published at Precursor Blog]

Categories: On the Blog

Terrorists Bill and Bernadine Ayers Slip Unchallenged into Roles as Distinguished Professors

August 08, 2014, 8:32 AM

[This article was co-authored by Elizabeth Clarke]

Shouldn’t the substantial taxes we pay to support our local school districts ensure that our children are receiving quality education? Then there is the cost of a college education which keeps escalating but which is deemed necessary by society for young people to succeed. Yet more and more college students are being saddled with massive education debts to pay after graduating from college, coupled as they are with limited job opportunities.

How many Americans realize that the education in our public schools (K-12), and in most colleges, is progressive in its nature. The explosion of progressive education in the 1990′s was outlined by Thorner and Clarke in their published article in Illinois Review on Thursday, August 31, Cloward and Pivens Marxist-based radicalism alive today.

In grades K-12 Common Core education, adopted sight unseen in 2010 in every state but Alaska, Nebraska, Texas, and Virginia, is imposing a centralization of authority over the nation’s historically decentralized K-12 education system. The public’s lack of knowledge about Common Core is troubling because education is of fundamental importance to this nation’s democracy for individual freedom, and prosperity. Those who characterize Common Core as anything other than a national takeover of schooling to implant progressive, socialist ideas in the minds of gullible and trusting children are deliberately hiding the truths from the public. This article tells of an educator who changed from being a supporter of Common Core to her disillusionment by what she observed. As the notorious Russian Communist Vladimir Lenin once said: “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”

While attending college the brainwashing continues.  It is difficult for conservative college students to express their beliefs and core values to their professors verbally or through their written work. Co-author Elizabeth Clarke remembers what happened to a granddaughter when she first entered college.  Her granddaughter, when attending an auditorium assembly meeting for freshmen, was told to forget all that she had ever learned before she entered college, a new way to think.

Ayers and Dohrn transition from terrorist to college professors

The nation’s colleges have long been infused with liberal progressive doctrine and professors.  Columbia University was cited by Thorner and Clarke as one such institution influenced early on by Communist-leaning John Dewey who taught at Columbia in the 1930′s.  Columbia went on to produce many educators in the 50′s who went out to spread the liberal, progressive gospel across the nation.  

It was Roger Kimball’s claimed in his book, “Tenured Radicals,”  that “yesterday’s radical thinker has become today’s tenured professor” carrying out “ideologically motivated assaults on the intellectual and moral substance of our culture.”  Bill Ayers’ proclivity toward terrorism was fostered by a 1965 Ann Arbor Teach-In against the Vietnam war.  At the event Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) President Paul Potter, asked his audience, “How will you live your life so that it doesn’t make a mockery of your values?” Ayers later wrote in his memoir, Fugitive Days, of his reaction: “You could not be a moral person with the means to act, and stand still. [...] To stand still was to choose indifference. Indifference was the opposite of moral”.

The transition from Underground terrorists to distinguished college professors by Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn was apparently an easy one to attain. Granted their professorships were at established liberal institutions; however, there is more to the story to explain today why there is a preponderance of liberal activist professors to conservatives ones at most institutions of higher learning.

Impact of McCarthy era  

How was the transition by Ayers and Dohrn from terrorists to distinguished college professors accomplished?  To understand how radical terrorist like Ayers and Dohrn were able to obtain university position as former terrorists even at liberal universities, it is necessary to go back to the era of McCarthyism, so coined to criticize the anti-communist pursuits of Senator Joe McCarthy from a period in the United States known as the Second Red Scare lasting roughly from 1950 to 1956.  During that period there was heightened political repression against communists, as well as a fear campaign spreading paranoia of their influence on American institutions.

Beginning in 1950, Joseph McCarthy, who served as a Republican U.S. Senator from the state of Wisconsin from 1947 until his death in 1957, became the most visible public face of a period in which Cold War tensions fueled fears of widespread Communist subversion.  McCarthy, in his U.S. Congressional hearings, made claims that there were large numbers of Communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and also in universities. Ultimately, McCarthy’s tactics led him to be censured by the United States Senate.

Co-author Elizabeth Clarke remembers the McCarthy era well. It is her opinion that McCarthy’s hearings were useful, but that he ultimately overstepped his bounds.  Hatred for Richard Nixon by Democrats when he became president can be traced back to the McCarthy hearings. Richard Nixon, as a young prosecutor, was involved in the McCarthy hearings. This hatred for Nixon by Democrats ultimately led to the effort to impeach Nixon, which Democrats were seeking to maneuver from the moment Nixon became president, with Nixon resigning before the impeachment vote could take place.

Laws passed by the Supreme Court finally result in banning loyalty oaths

Prior to the McCarthy era of the 1950′s, the Smith Act was enacted, June 29, 1940.  It set penalties for advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government or to organize of be a member of any group or society devoted to such advocacy.  Formally known at the “Alien Registration Act of 1940,” all non-citizen adult residents were required to register with the government.

Following WWII the Smith Act was made the basis of a series of prosecutions against leaders of the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party.  In Dennis v. United States (1951), the Court ruled that Eugene DennisGeneral Secretary of the Communist Party USA, did not have the right under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution to exercise free speech, publication and assembly, if the exercise involved the creation of a plot to overthrow the government.  In a later case, Yates v. United States in 1957, the court offset this position somewhat by a strict reading of the language of the Smith Act, construing “advocacy” to mean only urging that includes incitement to unlawful action

It was in 1967 that the Supreme Court in Keyishian et al v Board of Regents of the University of the State of New York granted protection to terrorist-turned professors. The lawsuit grew out of professors at the University of State of New York refusing to either sign a certificate or answer in writing under oath this question:  “Have you ever advised or taught or were you ever a member of any society or group of persons which taught or advocated the doctrine that the Government of the United States or of any political subdivisions thereof should be overthrown or overturned by force, violence or any unlawful means?”  Decided on January 23, 1967, in a 5-4 Supreme Court decision, Keyishian et al v Board of Regents held that states cannot prohibit employees from being members of the Communist Party or other seditious groups

Thomas G. Ayers, who was later Chairman and CEO of Commonwealth Edison (1973 to 1980), and for whom Northwestern’s Thomas G. Ayers College of Commerce and Industrywas named, undoubtedly had a big part in getting university teaching positions for his son and wife.  In the eyes of Thomas Ayers, whose tentacles of political influence in Chicago reached far and wide, his son could do no wrong.


[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Global Warming Pause Puts ‘Crisis’ in Perspective

August 08, 2014, 8:21 AM

Much has been written and argued, from all sides in the global warming debate, about the meaning of the asserted 17-year pause in global warming. Is a 17-year pause significant? Is a pause even occurring? Does the pause signal a longer-term halt to global warming or even a long-term cooling trend? Would a resumption of global warming to pre-pause rates end the global warming debate? A look at recent temperatures and their appropriate context provides helpful meaning to the much-discussed global warming pause.

Satellite instruments began uniformly measuring temperatures throughout the Earth’s lower atmosphere in 1979. Climate scientists overseeing these NASA satellite instruments produced the chart below showing the following temperature trends:

  • a plateau of temperatures, with absolutely no warming, from 1979 through 1997
  • a large temperature spike in 1998
  • a return to the 1979-1997 mean in 1999-2000
  • a modest escalation of temperatures in 2001
  • an elevated plateau of essentially flat temperatures from 2002-2014

If we choose a starting point of mid-1998, the planet has cooled during the past 16 years. If we choose a starting point of late 1997 or early 1999, temperatures have been flat during the past 15 and 17 years. Examining the totality of the 35-year temperature record, we see approximately 1/3 of 1 degree Celsius warming during the period. Accordingly, global warming has occurred at a pace of approximately 1 degree Celsius per century over the duration of the satellite record.

Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) also compiles data from the satellite instruments, though RSS measures a slightly different range of the lower atmosphere. RSS reports a similar temperature history, available here. In the RSS compilation, we see not just a recent temperature plateau, but actual cooling. Again, the pace of warming throughout the entirety of the record is approximately 1 degree Celsius per century.

So what can we glean from the temperature data? Thirty-five year temperature trends are likely more meaningful than 17-year temperature trends. Nevertheless, 17-year temperature trends are nothing to sneeze at. Either way, whether the global temperature pause continues or not, temperatures have risen much more slowly than United Nations computer model predictions.

Computer models, of course, are only as accurate as their programmed data, formulas, and assumptions. The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) acknowledges there are many components to climate change for which climate scientists are merely making their best guesses. The IPCC-affiliated scientists have made guesses that the unknown climate components will dramatically accelerate the modest warming caused directly by human carbon dioxide emissions. So-called climate skeptics have argued the UN guesses consistently overestimate the warming propensity of the unknown climate components.

The real-world temperature data appear to support the skeptics. Even before the recent global warming pause, temperatures were warming at a relatively modest pace. The ongoing global warming pause is rendering the longer-term pace of warming still more modest.

IPCC computer models dating from 1990 through the present have consistently predicted at least 2.4 degrees of global warming per century. Such warming would require at least 0.24 degrees Celsius per decade, for which we should see at least 0.80 degrees Celsius warming since 1979. However, real-world warming since 1979 is occurring at less than half that pace. And there has been absolutely no real-world warming during the past 17 years.

IPCC adherents claim short-term variance is masking longer-term climate trends. According to this line of reasoning, the 35 years since 1979 are simply not long enough to form meaningful conclusions about the longer-term pace of global warming. This line of argument is unpersuasive for two important reasons: First, the admittedly less reliable ground-based mercury temperature readings from the mid-1940s through the late 1970s reported global cooling during the three decades immediately prior to the satellite era. Accordingly, the time period for which real-world temperatures are not rising nearly as rapidly as IPCC predictions is now not just 35 years, but approximately 70 years. Second, and even ignoring the 1940s-1970s global cooling, for global temperatures to meet IPCC’s predicted 2.4 degree rise by late this century, global temperatures must immediately – and that means immediately – begin rising at a sustained 0.30 degrees Celsius per decade. That has never come close to occurring during our modern warm period, and the ongoing global warming pause suggests that is unlikely to begin happening any time in the foreseeable future, either.

The El Nino/La Nina oscillation, moreover, provides some interesting context to the Earth’s recent temperature history. El Ninos warm the global climate while La Ninas cool the global climate. The 1998 global temperature spike was associated with the strongest El Nino in modern history. Also, El Ninos dominated the global climate from the late 1970s through the mid-2000s. Since 2007, however, modest La Nina conditions have prevailed.

The ongoing global warming pause is likely being assisted by the recent modest La Ninas.  At some point between now and 2030, however, the cycle should flip back to one dominated by El Ninos. When that occurs, it is likely that global temperatures will again rise.

The ongoing global warming pause and the longer-term temperature record, however, indicate any future El Nino-assisted temperature rise will likely be modest once again. If the IPCC’s guesses on unknown climate components were correct, global temperatures would still be rising – even during this La Nina phase – at a fairly rapid pace. Moreover, global temperatures should have risen much more rapidly than was the case during the last El Nino phase. If IPCC model predictions were relatively accurate, global warming should be occurring at a pace of approximately 0.15 degrees Celsius per decade during La Ninas and approximately 0.35 degrees Celsius per decade during El Ninos. Neither has even come close to occurring in the real-world temperature record.

Pulling this all together, we can reach the following conclusions:

  • The global warming pause is real.
  • The global warming pause is significant.
  • The global warming pause is not likely to be permanent.
  • A future resumption of global warming at pre-pause rates – or even modestly accelerated rates – would not validate IPCC global warming predictions, and would instead continue to undermine the IPCC’s predictions of very rapid 21st century global warming.
  • The most meaningful aspect of the global warming pause isn’t that temperatures have flattened for 17 years, but rather that the global warming pause extends and solidifies the longer-term record of smaller-than-predicted global temperature rise.


[Originally published at Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

Pass the House Border Bill

August 07, 2014, 1:10 PM

Conservative and liberal media alike were all atwitter with Thursday’s midday news that the House of Representatives was going on its summer recess without passing a border-related bill because Republicans did not have the votes to pass it. The leftwas particularly pleased in the apparent inability of the new House leadership team to pass a relatively inexpensive bill that contained at least one conservative priority on an extremely visible issue.

Later in the day, we learned that Speaker of the House John Boehner and House GOP leadership are keeping the House in session until there is a vote on a bill, which may occur on Friday.

Boehner is right to do this, and the House should pass the bill under consideration.

According to Boehner’s office, key aspects of the House bill include that it:

  • Changes the 2008 law that allowed Central American children to avoid immediate deportation.
  • Stops the Agriculture and Interior Departments from curbing Border Patrol agents’ activities on federal lands within 100 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Funds National Guard troops at the border.
  • Spends $659 million, about one-sixth of President Obama’s outrageous “never let a crisis go to waste” request, and offsets the spending with other cuts.
  • Adds resources like detention space and temporary immigration judges to ICE and Border Patrol operations in order to allow faster processing and deportation.
  • (If I’m reading it right) Takes money from foreign aid funds to pay for “repatriation assistance to Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.”
  • States that Congress opposes housing illegal aliens on U.S. military bases.

Opposition to the bill has come from Southern members of the House, as well as from congressmen such as anti-immigration hawk Steve King (R-IA), who has said that he would only support the measure if it includes additional legislation such as the Cruz-Blackburnbill to restrict the Deferred Action for Childhood Releases (DACA) program — President Obama’s lawless creation to allow illegal aliens to stay in the United States (for at least two years) if they claim to have been brought here as children.

[UPDATE: Much opposition to the bill among congressmen and the public alike is based on an analysis by the Center for Immigration Studies -- an analysis which I find quite flawed and misleading, a conclusion which I explain here.]

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has been aggressively lobbying House conservatives to oppose the House bill. Alabama’s Jeff Sessions has been cheering him on.

As much as I appreciate Senators Cruz and Sessions, House Republicans should pass this bill, not least — and I stipulate to an unusually high level of cynicism here — because there is simply no chance that it will pass the Senate, or even receive a vote there.

What are the results of not passing the bill?

 Republicans open a five-week window for Democrats and their media pawns to beat them about the head and neck for being unable to pass a bill even with a substantial GOP majority. It plays into the administration’s claims, made again Thursday, that Obama must “act on his own” because Congress is impotent. It’s also a terrible way to inaugurate a new leadership team (about which more in a moment).

And the law will not change.

What are the results of passing the bill?

The Senate remains the place of gridlock, the place where bills go to die, the place where the majority party not only can’t get anything done but doesn’t even try because Harry Reid’s cynicism makes mine seem downright amateurish (and almost everyone else’s in Washington, as well, which is quite a feat). The president will look as feckless as always in his inability to corral the Democratic Party that he is the titular leader of, not that the word “leader” applies to the man in any context.

And the law will not change.

In the imaginary world in which the House bill could become law, it would be a modest improvement — perhaps even more than modest — over the current process, and at a fraction of the cost that Democrats have in mind.

The far-right wing of the Republican Party which is opposing this bill out of some strange combination of the perfect being the enemy of the good and kneeling at the altar of Ted Cruz are not just making a policy mistake but they are making a big political mistake if their goal is the good of their party and of the country rather than maximizing Ted Cruz’s political capital and turning him into the second coming of Sarah Palin.

Just as Sarah Palin is hurting Republicans with her pointless talk of impeachment (by which I do not suggest that Obama does not amply qualify for removal from office), Cruz is hurting Republicans by making them appear unwilling to do anything at all.

It’s one thing for Democrats to call the GOP the “Party of ‘No’.” It’s another thing to prove them right. And for what?

Two closing thoughts: The analysis above could be read as my being a strong supporter of both the Republican Party and the GOP’s House leadership team. I am not a Republican and don’t think much of Boehner, McCarthy, and friends — though I think better of them than many other Tea Party sympathizers and hard-core conservatives do; herding cats is a difficult, underappreciated job.

What I am a strong supporter of is turning Harry Reid into the Minority Leader in November’s elections. There is no more important short-term political imperative. And there is no alternative political party to give the Senate majority to other than the Republicans.

To paraphrase South Park’s Matt Stone: I hate Republicans but I really f***ing hate Democrats.

Thus, I care when the GOP makes such egregious and unnecessary unforced errors as Thursday’s border bill chaos.

So, my advice to House and Senate Republicans, respectively:

For House Republicans: First, do no harm. For those who don’t think the border bill goes far enough, vote “yes” anyway. There is simply no real downside to supporting the bill, and plenty of public relations downside if it fails.

For Ted Cruz and Jeff Sessions, regarding their meddling, I offer the Israeli cabinet’s remarkably à propos response to Barack Obama’s recent inference in their doing what needs to be done: “Leave us alone.”


[Originally published at the American Spectator]

Categories: On the Blog

Past Time for Ayers to Confess Past Terrorism and Obama Ties?

August 07, 2014, 9:30 AM

[This article was co-authored by Elizabeth Clarke]

In Thorner’s Illinois Review article of Thursday, July 31, the progressive-based education system in place today is traced back to Karl Marx in Germany to New England-born John Dewey and his tenure at Columbia University, ending with Dewey’s acolytes, the husband and wife team of Richard Cloward and Frances Fox Piven at Columbia in the 60′s. The two produced the Cloward-Piven strategy in play today in the Obama administration.

Progressive Education explodes in the 90′s 

Chicagoan Bill Ayers’ direct involvement with progressive education, before his activities as a terrorist in the Weather Underground movement, can be traced back to his college years at the University of Michigan where he graduated in 1968 with a B.A. in American Studies. Ayers became a teacher at the Children’s Community School located in the basement of a church, a preschool with a small enrollment founded by a group of students who were enamored by theSummerhill method of education as part of the nationwide “free school movement”.

The Summerhill method had no grades or report cards and encouraged cooperation rather than competition. Within a few months, at age 21, Ayers became director of the school.  Considered a radical alternative to conventional education (or was it a form on anarchy?), the Summerhill method catered to do-as-you-like kids.

Consider what Roger Kimball – a notable American art critic and social commentator, editor and publisher of The New Criterion, and publisher of Encounter Book — had to say in his book, “Tenured Radicals,” first published in 1990 with expanded 2nd and 3rd editions.  Kimball makes the claim that yesterday’s radical thinker has become today’s tenured professor, carrying out “ideologically-motivated assaults on the intellectual and moral substance of our culture.”

Another American author, Karl Zinsmeister, wrote in his article, “The Shame of American’s One-Party Campuses,” published in the September 2002 issue of The American Enterprise while yet its editor-in-chief:

Today’s colleges and universities are not, to use the current buzzword, diverse places.  Quite the opposite:  they are virtual one-party states, ideological monopolies, badly unbalanced ecosystems…They do not, when it comes to political and cultural ideas, look like America.

Dr. Zinsmister’s 2002 article is referenced in this study.  Zinsmeister served in the White House as President George W. Bush’s chief domestic policy advisor from 2006 to 2009.

Without doubt, conservative students suffer under the intense liberal indoctrination of many colleges, but being white also proved to be a disadvantage.  In 2011, white students were targeted by a campaign sponsored by the University of Minnesota, in tandem with champions of social justice such as the NAACP, YWCA, and the League of Women Voters, to raise awareness that it’s “unfair to be white.” Its “Un-Fair Campaign” stated any success a white person has comes from “white privilege” and inherent racism instead of learning founding principles that made America great.  

Disinformation to students from a historical perspective has been spread through Howard Zinn’s best known 1980 book, A People’s History of the United States, which has been used to instruct generations of faculty members and their own students.  In July of 2013 when Mitch Daniels was yet governor of Indiana (2005 to 2013),  Daniels requested that no public universities or high school should teach the works of Howard Zinn, a longtime Boston University professor who died in 2010, which riled the Left at the time.  Daniel’s was referring specifically to Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States.”

Mitch Daniel was correct in his assessment of Zinn’s textbook, a textbook of choice in many high schools and colleges around the country.  Daniels described Zinn’s history textbook as “a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page. Can someone assure me that it is not in use anywhere in Indiana? If it is, how do we get rid of it before more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?”

UN advances progressive education in the 90′s

The Rio Conference of 1991 produced Agenda 21.  Chapter 36 is all about Promoting Education, Public Awareness and Training.  In a lecture given by Dr. Dave Lehman   in June of this year, he talks about Agenda 21 and the history of Progressive Education, first tested in Chicago through “Mastery Learning”(Outcome-based education), geared to brainwash young, impressionable children.   Also cited by Dr. Lehman was Clinton’s Governor’s Program.

It is not at all surprising that a year after the Rio Conference, November 12, 1992, a letter known as Tucker’s “Dear Hillary” letter was written to Hillary Clinton at the Governor’s Mansion in Little Rock, AR by Marc Tucker, president of the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE).  In his letter Tucker laid out his plan, supported by Hillary, “to remold the entire American system” into “a seamless web that literally extends from cradle to grave and is the same system for everyone,” further coordinated by “a system of labor market boards at the local, state and federal levels.”

The aim of Tucker’s progressive education plan was to change the mission of the schools from teaching children academic basics and knowledge to training them to serve the global economy in jobs selected by workforce boards. Nothing in Tucker’s comprehensive plan had anything to do with teaching schoolchildren how to read, write, or calculate; nevertheless, three laws were passed by Congress and signed by President Clinton, in keeping with Tucker’s grand plan, the Goals 2000 Act, the School-to-Work Act, and the reauthorized Elementary and Secondary Education Act.  The latter law established the following mechanisms to restructure the public schools now being implemented in this nation’s public schools through Common Core, Obama’s educational program:

  • Bypass all elected officials on school boards and in state legislatures by making federal funds flow to the Governor and his appointees on workforce development boards
  • Use a computer database, a.k.a. “a labor market information system,” into which school personnel would scan all information about every schoolchild and his family, identified by the child’s social security number: academic, medical, mental, psychological, behavioral, and interrogations by counselors. The computerized data would be available to the school, the government, and future employers.
  • Use “national standards” and “national testing” to cement national control of tests, assessments, school honors and rewards, financial aid, and the Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM), which is designed to replace the high school diploma.

Marc Tucker, still active today, ranks as #3 among the top ten scariest people leading education in America.  Noteworthy is that the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE), the organization over which Tucker presides, is paid millions  by Common Core main-funder Bill Gates, to promote Tucker’s progressive ideas.  For example, Tucker hopes to remove “the policy of requiring a passing score on an Algebra II exam for high school graduation” because he feels that over educating the masses is a waste of collective tax money.

In October, 2013 Marc Tucker addressed members of the New Hampshire legislature where Tucker was accused of telling more fibs that Pinocchio ever did.  As quoted: Tucker doesn’t know a mathematician from a mathematics educator, raising the question whether he knows what he is talking about at all.”

Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, as progressive radicals, become distinguished educators

Given that many of the terrorists and radicals thinkers of the past are today’s college professors at universities and colleges, which are hotbeds of liberalism, it is not surprising that William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, after their terrorist days as Underground Weathermen, became distinguished professors, William Ayers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and Bernadine Dohrn at Northwestern University in Evanston. By the same token, this also explains why many of today’s journalist espouse liberal policies — which amounts to a corrupted, one-sided media — as many journalists received their training at Schools of Journalism from liberal institutions such as Columbia and Northwestern Universities.

William Charles “Bill” Ayers was born on December 26, 1944. Ayers is known as an American elementary education theorist and a former leader in the counterculture movement that opposed U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.  In 1969 he co-founded the Weather Underground, a self-described communist revolutionary group that conducted a campaign of bombing public buildings (including police stations, the U.S. Capitol Building, and the Pentagon) during the 1960s and 1970s in response to U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.  Now a retired professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Ayers formerly held the titles of Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar. He is married to Bernadine Dohrn who was also a leader in the Weather Underground.

Bernardine Rae Dohrn’s birth dateis January 12, 1942.  She is a  Clinical Associate Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law and the immediate past Director of Northwestern’s Children and Family Justice Center. As a leader and member of the Weather Underground, Dohrn helped to create a“Declaration of a State of War” against the United States government, and was placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list, where she remained for three years.

Bill Ayers continues to justify his terrorist background

Three Decades after the end of  the Weather Underground, Bill Ayers is still attempting to justify his actions in the 50′s and 60′s when his opposition to the Vietnam War turned violent.  It is time for Ayers to cut the sophistry and admit to his violent acts, reckoning in retrospect, that his Weather Underground activities accomplished nothing but to undermine the peaceful antiwar movement of the time.

Ayers has chosen to remain an unrepentant terrorist.  Recently Bill Ayers attempted to justify his actions when he went toe-to-toe with Megyn Kelly in two explosive interviews during which Kelly repeatedly confronted Ayers about bombings and killings that the Weather Underground group was reportedly involved in. View here Kelly’s two incredulous interviews with Bill Ayers.

According to Ayers, he was a victim of a profoundly dishonest drama. Although Ayer’s Weather Underground committed symbolic acts of extreme vandalism directed against monuments to war and racism, Ayers did not consider this terrorism. Bombings were surgical strikes meant to respect human life. Ayers insisted that he never killed or hurt anyone and never intended to.  As to the bombing of the Pentagon by Ayers and his cohorts, Ayers didn’t believe an apology was called for.

Bill Ayers’ comments expressed to Megyn Kelly about his Weatherman Underground involvement were in keeping with those he expressed on December 6, 2008 in an Op-Ed to the “New York Times.”  (At the time William Ayers was professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the author of “Fugitive Days.”).  In his Op-Ed, “The Real Bill Ayers,” Ayers bemoaned his inability to refute prior to the 2008 election an untrue casting of himself as an unrepentant terrorist with ties to Barack Obama.  It was the aim of Ayers’ article to inform the public that the character invented to serve this drama wasn’t Bill Ayers, not even close.

Part 2 will explore the nature of McCarthyism; the law passed (The Smith Act) to require college professors to take an oath of loyalty to this nation; how the loyalty oath was abandoned by a 1967 law which allowed terrorists like Ayers and Dohrn to become college professors; Ayers’ progressive ties to President Obama; and whether this nation has already become “The United Socialist States of America.”


[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

Your Data is No Longer Safe Anywhere in the World

August 07, 2014, 9:00 AM

Last week a federal judge ordered Microsoft to hand over its data stores to the government, including data housed overseas. The ruling marks an ominous new chapter in Internet privacy, one that could have lasting impacts on both individuals’ privacy online and the nature of international law.

The ruling is meant to make it impossible for individuals and firms engaged in elicit practices to hide the evidence of their wrongdoing in datacenters in other countries. There is something to that, but the idea that the government should be given access to the vast trove of data housed by Microsoft and other tech firms is extremely worrying.

Fourth Amendment Online

Microsoft argued unsuccessfully that the data stored, such as personal emails, ought to be granted the same degree of constitutional protections as hard copy mail and records. The judge did not see it that way and ordered a far wider reaching handover of data than would happen in a non-digital platform. The sad fact is that the government continues to treat the Internet and the correspondence carried out on it as a piggy bank of data with only marginal legal privacy protections. That has to change.

People carry out ever larger parts of their lives, both personal and professional, online. The Internet is the new grand communications venue for people of all nations and its critical import must be recognized by law. The very notion that a court can order a business to hand over all of its data held both domestically and abroad is a monstrous violation of the Constitution and individual liberty.

An International Incident

The ruling is so sweeping in its application that it includes an order to hand over all data, including that of foreign nationals. That has, for obvious reasons, caused significant unrest in many countries. The EU has already passed data protection laws aimed at preventing the transfer of their citizens’ private data to a foreign government, and they are in the process of drafting still more rigorous laws that would likely block orders like that handed down to Microsoft.

The EU is not unreasonable. Indeed, it is quite bizarre that the federal government thought it could get away with such a brazen violation of foreign nationals’ rights. Looking at the situation in light of all the recent revelations about American spying on European allies, it is hard to understand what the government is trying to achieve. If their aim is to alienate major allies and damage further America’s already battered reputation for digital probity, then they have succeeded with flying colors.

A Dangerous Precedent

The future is a grim one if the United States succeeds against all reason to establish an international norm in which domestic businesses can be ordered to hand over data held in foreign countries. If that is normalized, countries like China and Russia would have sufficient cover to engage in similarly draconian practices.

A world in which countries mine their companies’ foreign data centers is a world in which few such data centers will exist. The world is benefited by the interconnectivity promoted by the Internet. America should not destroy it with mindless heavy-handedness.

Categories: On the Blog

You Want More Jobs – And Freer and Fairer Global Trade?

August 06, 2014, 2:16 PM

We recently discussed a bipartisan group of Senators and House members who correctly identified a global trade problem and its negative domestic ramifications.

57 Senators and 152 House members…sign(ed) letters to Barack Obama Administration Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker.  In which they expressed concern about inexpensive Korean steel being in mass quantities imported here….

Why is the bipartisan contingent concerned about the cheap Korean steel dumping?  American job loss.

“U.S. steel producers employ 8,000 workers across the country making OCTG.  Each of these jobs supports seven additional jobs in the supply chain and the steel produced for the U.S. energy market accounts for approximately ten percent of domestic production.

These officials are asking the Administration to ensure Korea is adhering to its trade pact commitments.

“As this case proceeds, we urge you to ensure that the Department’s investigation is objective and accurate and to closely verify the information submitted by the Korean producers.  Strict and full enforcement of our trade laws is essential for the future of the U.S. steel industry, its workers, and steel communities throughout the country.

Which is of course perfectly reasonable.  If Korea isn’t doing what it said it would, there should be consequences and repercussions.  As Mexico too is hopefully about to find out.

For the long run, we need to begin laying the groundwork for making these trade deals a whole lot freer – and fairer.  Far less complicated – and thus much better.  And thus easier with which to comply – and when necessary to enforce.

To get there, we need less government domestically.

The damage being done by (the U.S.) government to (its) domestic manufacturing and production has been awful and increasing – for decades.  As government piled on ever higher taxes and more and more laws and regulations, more and more domestic production became internationally-manufactured imports.

We have the industrialized world’s absolute highest corporate income tax rate.  The cost of the regulations we dump on businesses is simply stunning – more than $1.8 trillion per year.  And then we wonder why less and less people want to do business here….

Korea can make steel – and then ship it half way round the world – and still price it below our domestic production in (large) part because…our domestic price of government is so incredibly huge.

And we need less government from governments all over the world.

Trade Wars” actually aren’t about trade – they are about government trade policy. If peoples are trading freely, there isn’t a “War” – there’s commerce. The “Wars” only happen when governments get involved – placing tariffs, regulations and subsidies in the way of the flow.

It becomes a regulatory arms race. A government imposes another subsidy or tax. So several others in response impose new subsidies and taxes of their own. Lather, rinse, repeat.

It is neither free nor fair trade when a nation’s industry succeeds not by by being better –but by being better government-subsidized and tarriff-protected.

So we need to as much as possible get governments out of the Trade-War-making, industries-and-markets-warping business.

Let businesses self-determine – with their goods, services and prices in unfettered competition.

The more government we can peel back – both here and abroad – the more jobs and the freer and fairer trade we all will have.

[Originally published at Human Events]

Categories: On the Blog

SPECIAL EVENT: Steve Forbes in Chicago Aug. 13 Talking ‘Money’ and the Gold Standard

August 06, 2014, 12:32 PM

Join The Heartland Institute and fellow lovers of liberty the evening of Wednesday, August 13 at the historic Union League Club in Downtown Chicago for a special edition of our Author Series with Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames.

They will be discussing their new book Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy – and What We Can Do About It.

To attend this special evening with Steve Forbes, CLICK HERE. Tickets are only $15.

About The Book:

In this new book, Forbes Media Chairman and Editor In Chief Steve Forbes explains that today’s wrong-headed monetary policies are setting the stage for a new global economic and social catastrophe that could rival the recent financial crisis and even the horrors of the 1930s.

Coauthored by Forbes and Elizabeth Ames, Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy—and What We Can Do About It tells why a return to sound money is essential if the United States and other nations are to overcome today’s problems. Stable money, which can only be achieved through a gold standard, is the way to a true recovery and a prosperous economy.

Our policymakers and economists know less today about the critical subject of money than their forbears did a century ago. This ignorance was responsible in the 1970s for the ending of a monetary system based on fixed exchange rates. Its replacement, today’s system of fluctuating “fiat” money, has proved disastrous for the US and global economy.

In more than four decades, the US dollar has dramatically declined in value. US economic growth has been below historic standards. The US and the world has seen an increase in major systemic crises. The housing meltdown and the turmoil that followed, the authors say, would never have occurred with stable money.

The malaise created by unstable money afflicts not only the economy but all of society. Forbes and Ames explain that in addition to being a yardstick of value, money is a vital facilitator of social trust. The destruction of money is a key reason for the recent rise of political polarization and unrest.

Praise for Money:

“Money clearly illustrates that sound money is an essential foundation for a free and prosperous society and that the Federal Reserve’s current policies are a greater threat to the economic future of the U.S. than government deficit spending. This is an important book well worth reading.”

— John A. Allison, President and CEO, Cato Institute; author of the
New York Times bestseller “The Financial Crisis and the Free Market Cure”

“No one knows this topic better or from more perspectives than Steve Forbes, and he and Elizabeth Ames deliver what’s promised in this book…a compelling and well-informed argument for a twenty-first century gold standard and a sound dollar.”

— Arthur B. Laffer, PhD, Founder and Chairman, Laffer Associates;
member of President Ronald Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board

“Money is a rock-solid argument for the virtues of capitalism.”

— John Mackey, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, Whole Foods Market;
coauthor of the New York Times bestseller “Conscious Capitalism”

“A brief, straightforward, decent case for returning the dollar to the gold standard, sure to attract opposing arguments.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“Money is a rare treasure — it looks at the economy through eyes focused on common sense and logical solutions.”

—Benjamin S. Carson Sr., MD, President and CEO, American Business Collaborative;
Emeritus Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Ames were with Heartland at the Union League Club in November 2012 to talk about their book Freedom Manifesto. Watch Forbes’ talk about the book in the video below:

To attend this special evening with Steve Forbes, CLICK HERE. Tickets are only $15.

Categories: On the Blog

Risky Business: The Best Global Warming Alarmism Money Can Buy

August 06, 2014, 11:04 AM

It’s been a month since the billionaire triumvirate of Tom Steyer (pictured), Henry Paulson and Michael Bloomberg introduced their ballyhooed Risky Business report on the climate, and after all the op-eds, blog posts and public interviews so far, all that can be said about it is that it is already an empty, meaningless PR campaign upon which the financial hot shots have wasted their money.

There is no there, there.

Logical scrutiny of the project, from its genesis to its outcome, would reveal how deeply flawed and biased it is. Given every contributing factor, there is no other verdict that would have been reached other than “we must all do something about global warming!” Yet the legacy media has treated Risky Business as something that was objectively conceived, and which has delivered perfectly reasonable conclusions. That is to be expected from pack journalists who don’t look beyond the climate crystal balls (also known as “models”) spoon-fed to them by big government scientists, but that doesn’t mean (and hasn’t in the past) that the public will swallow it.

Let’s start with the founders of Risky Business. They portray their effort as nonpartisan (Fortune called it “scrupulously nonpartisan”), striving to show the project is represented by Democrats and Republicans alike. At the co-chairmen level the Democrats are Steyer and Bloomberg, and the Republican is Paulson.

A tip for discerning public policy consumption: If the proponents use the word “nonpartisan” as part of the pitch for their work, then they are likely pushing a controversial agenda that they have attempted to sell with personalities drawn from both major political party affiliations. Unfortunately there is no shortage of crony capitalists, government interventionists, and science ignoramuses in both the Democratic and Republican parties, and finding the players from both sides is pretty easy. So a peek under the packaging is necessary.

Steyer is the driver. Risky Business is staffed by his nonprofit group Next Generation, whose primary mission is to mitigate the “risk of dangerous climate change.” Besides the “educational” nature of his think tank, Steyer has thrown his considerable wealth into the election (or re-election) of Democratic candidates via his SuperPAC NextGEN Climate. His policy priorities, in the context of the global warming fight, are the revival of cap-and-trade and opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline. He pledged (but so far has miserably failed) to raise $50 million to match his own $50 million in contributions to climate-conscious candidates.

Bloomberg is the quintessential nanny-statist, so he’s perfect to join the leadership of a group that seeks to dictate what kinds of energy the masses may use. As Mayor of New York City he sought to control how citizens consumed soda, trans-fats and cigarettes, and since then has poured millions of dollars into gun control initiatives. As politician Mike he said “that big cities must take the lead in reducing the threat of climate change,” and pushed the well-worn “green” and “sustainable” themes.

That leaves Paulson the Republican to enable Risky Business to allegedly fulfill its claim to “nonpartisanship,” at least among the co-chairmen. The former CEO of Goldman Sachs pushed for the government bailout of failing financial institutions, when he was Treasury Secretary under President George W. Bush.

Paulson’s nomination was opposed by National Legal and Policy Center President Peter Flaherty in May 2006, over an apparent conflict of interest in chairing both Goldman Sachs and the Nature Conservancy. As NLPCalleged at the time, in part:

In November 2005, Goldman Sachs adopted an “Environmental Policy” that closely parallels the Nature Conservancy agenda on key issues like global warming. Moreover, Paulson’s son Merritt is a trustee of a Nature Conservancy-related group that was the recipient of a Goldman Sachs donation in the form of a tract of land totaling 680,000 acres in Chile.

In his remarks at the annual meeting, Flaherty also noted that the Nature Conservancy has been mired in scandal in recent years, as detailed in a Washington Post series and in Senate hearings. The group sold ecologically sensitive land at a discount to its own trustees on which they built multi-million-dollar vacation homes, and structured land donations so wealthy donors could improperly receive tax breaks.

Flaherty said, “There remain unanswered questions about Paulson’s personal and business ethics. At Goldman Sachs, Paulson promoted his own personal interests at the expense of shareholders. As Treasury Secretary, will he promote the public interest, or his own?”

Paulson’s wife, Wendy, also has served on the board of The Nature Conservancy. In 2011 he established The Paulson Institute at the University of Chicago, which promotes economic growth and “environmental preservation” in the United States and China. He is a “longtime conservationist,” and told Bloomberg News (yes, owned by the former mayor) in October 2013 as Risky Business was launched, “Climate change is every bit as big a risk to our economy as it is to the environment. With any complex issue, we can never know with certainty what the timing and the impact will be, but we know from the data that the climate risk is very real.” Compare that to the most recent findings about the issue in a Rasmussen poll, in which 57 percent of all voters think the debate isnot over, and 64 percent of Republicans think the media makes climate change appear worse than it actually is. So to uphold Paulson as representative of the GOP, in a “nonpartisan” consensus on global warming, is a stretch.

It is now 2014, so we know the answer to Flaherty’s 2006 question about what kind of Treasury Secretary Paulson would be. As Treasury Secretary, he made sure that Goldman Sachs survived the financial crisis, by banning the short selling of Goldman shares, while Main Street businesses went under. The financial bailouts, and related policies, resulted in the largest transfer of wealth from working people to the rich in history. It also set back the fortunes of the Republican Party for years. (Yes, Obama and Democrats supported the bailouts, but thanks to Paulson, Republicans took the blame. No wonder Paulson gets along so well with Democrats. )

Paulson now seeks to jack up electricity rates and the cost of everything else, which will have absolutely no affect on his lifestyle. He walked away from Goldman with almost a half-billion dollars. He would, however,reduce the standard of living for just about everyone else.

Another layer of leadership to which the faux adjective “nonpartisan” is applied is to Risky Business’s “Risk Committee Members,” which includes prominent Democrats Henry Cisneros, Robert Rubin and Donna Shalala, and Republicans George Shultz (who served in President Nixon’s cabinet and was President Reagan’s Secretary of State) and former Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe. Here also the GOP participation can hardly be classified as the conservative mainstream of the party.

From this cast of characters – the co-chairs to the “Risk Committee” – we are expected to acknowledge their authority based upon their wealth and power, apparently. Accepting that, we are expected to swallow the research they’ve produced, which is “an independent assessment of the economic risks posed by a changing climate in the U.S.” The possibility that there might be no “risk” (at least, not any more “risk” than there has been in the past) is not a consideration – of course, because then we wouldn’t have a project called “Risky Business.”

So it isn’t a surprise that they called upon two firms that are all about hazards and consequences. According to the Risky Business Web site, Steyer, Bloomberg and Paulson “tasked” the Rhodium Group, a firm whose expertise is analysis of “disruptive global trends,” to evaluate the economic effects from climate change. They also called upon Risk Management Solutions (RMS), the “world’s largest catastrophe-modeling company for insurance, reinsurance, and investment-management companies around the world.”

Again, forecasting for no disasters as the result of global warming was not an option. Nor was challenging the premise that there has been a planetary temperature increase in the first place – even though there hasn’t been warming for nearly 18 years. It follows that Rhodium Group chose alarmist climate scientist Dr. Robert Kopp of Rutgers University as lead scientist for Risky Business.

“My scientific and policy research interests are guided by the recognition that, over the last two centuries, human civilization has become a geological force,” Kopp writes in his autobiographical information. “We are inducing planetary environmental conditions like those that Earth has not experienced for millions of years.”

Those are the kinds of things you hear from the alarmist world, despite facts that – for example – show there’s been no change in Arctic sea ice for 40 yearsrecords for cold temperatures are being shattered; and thedisappearance of hurricanes – all which confound the predictions made by the “experts” in decades past (thanks to those taxpayer-funded computer climate models). Nonetheless, this is the foundation upon which Risky Business builds economic extrapolations in order to convince the business world to account for global warming.

Those deductions are based upon – you probably guessed it – econometric models. So the thesis of global warming leads to all kinds of assumptions in the Risky Business report about yields for various (but not all) crops, mortality (but not quality of life), labor production, and even violent crime! Thanks to the collaborative nature of the Internet, a (complete) list of things supposedly caused by global warming – supported by source links – has been compiled. Revealing that to the experts behind Risky Business could send them back to fiddle with their models.

But all the “scholarliness” doesn’t matter – there is no humanly possible way to account for all the variables and contingencies, climatically or economically, to accurately forecast the future. The point of Risky Business is not to deliver sound conclusions based upon reliable data, but only to appear to be doing so. Putting out reports with lots of formulas, coefficients, technical jargon and footnotes accomplishes that task.

It is with that “authority” that Steyer, Bloomberg and Paulson (but mostly Steyer) hope to apply pressure to the business world. On the Risky Business Web site that takes the form of the “Next Steps” they advocate: Business adaptation, investor adaptation, and public sector response. In all the categories the goals are clear: businesses and governments must spend exorbitant amounts of money for adaptation to, and mitigation of, the effects of global warming. As a result the co-chairs want greater demands for reporting on these “actions” in boardrooms and shareholder meetings across the country.

The Risky Business co-chairs have taken their message to the public over the last month, with Steyer trying to hit up donors, Paulson writing for theNew York Times, and Bloomberg promoting it through his media business. They’ve thrown gobs of money to create the appearance of an intellectual, scientific authority on both the science and economics of global warming. Investors and corporate executives should be aware of this scheme to distort their companies’ financial reporting and bottom lines.

Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes, an aggregator of North Carolina news.


[Originally Published at NLPC]

Categories: On the Blog

It’s Time for a More Robust National Missile Defense Program

August 06, 2014, 9:55 AM

Since the Reagan administration, the United States has, under various guises, sought to develop technology that would render enemy intercontinental ballistic missiles non-threatening to its people and interests. The national missile defense program has been aimed at bringing about the end of foreign missile threats from rogue states and geopolitical foes alike. Missile defense systems have grown exponentially more effective and sophisticated, and have culminated in an interceptor system that will soon make missile attacks on areas shielded by such systems pointless.

Much of what has held back the wider development and roll-out of missile defense systems in the United States and in the territories of its allies has been a degree of skepticism about their effectiveness. The strategic fear has been that missile defense systems might prove scary enough to rivals to spark aggression while being insufficiently effective to actually halt that aggression. In the past several weeks, we have seen the practical vindication of such systems (on a smaller scale) in Israel.

The Proof is in the Iron Dome

The missile defense shield of Israel, known as the Iron Dome, is an extremely sophisticated missile interceptor system based on American technology. It has successfully knocked most of the missiles fired into its territory by Hamas out of the sky. It is actually quite astounding how rapidly the technology has improved. T

The United States has, for several years, been developing the most extensive and complete ballistic missile shield ever devised. When fully armed with a complement of anti-ballistic missiles both within the United States itself, and in allied nations in Europe and Asia, the shield will be virtually impregnable to external missile attack. This means the chance of a nuclear attack (the worst-case scenario and original raison d’etre of the missile defense program) succeeding against it will be very unlikely, reducing the chance not only of a full-scale nuclear war between the United States and another nuclear power, but also against missiles fired by rogue states or terrorists, the biggest threats in terms of actual use of nuclear weapons.

The Iron Dome has shown that nuclear weapons are not the only potential targets of a missile defense system. They provide a powerful defensive tool against missiles and ordnance. American military technology is the most advanced and prodigiously financed in the world, so it is good that its military investments are directed toward the development of weapons platforms that are by their nature defensive. Missile defense technology is one of the great hopes for the defense of America and its allies.

Under America’s Aegis

The system currently being put into operation by the United States is the Aegis combat system, designed for deployment on American naval vessels. Basing a missile system on specially modified destroyers is serving to sidestep somewhat the problems associated with ground and space-based missile defense arrays, due to the slow response time of ground missiles, and the still unfeasible orbital deployment. Most important to geostrategic thinking is the fact that the sea-based defense array lacks the problem of the land-based system in that it does not need to be placed on the soil of countries other than the United States in order to be effective.

A flaw with this latter reasoning has been revealed by the recent events in Eastern Ukraine and Crimea. Russia has been bellicose toward its former Soviet neighbors for several years, yet the United States and NATO have largely sought to ignore or underplay the threat the Putin regime represents. It has taken Putin’s tremendously brazen aggression in annexing Crimea and backing pro-Russian separatists to galvanize the West to lay sanctions on Russia. Putin has been able to exploit the relative inattention of America and the EU and has gambled on their unwillingness to take the steps necessary to stop him and bolster Eastern Europe against the resurgent Russia. A missile defense system operational in these border nations could serve to dampen Russia’s ambitions.

For Peace, Prepare for War

The United States should seek to build further missile defenses on the soil of its vulnerable allies. It is a less costly endeavor than maintaining huge foreign bases and puts fewer American lives at risk while at the same time guaranteeing the security and providing an essential moral boost to embattled allies. Russia could not act with such impunity if its air and missile power were neutered by a missile defense screen courtesy of the United States. In an Eastern Europe that is ever more terrified of Russia and more and more unsure of whether America and NATO would come to their aid, this policy would be a simple way to shore up support for liberal democracy.

Military spending and “entangling alliances” certainly rub against the conventional grain of free market, small government ideology. But sometimes we must face the ugly realities of a world in which thugs try to push free nations into servility. The United States has an interest in preserving a world order that believes in the values of free trade and limited government. That means being willing to support allies in that cause who are under threat.

An operational national missile defense system renders intercontinental ballistic missiles more obsolete. When a country can shoot down all enemy missiles, those weapons lose their power. The future of war, once countries have access to missile shields, will no longer be marked by fingers held over the proverbial red button. Rather, the incentive for conflict between states armed with effective missile defenses will be to seek diplomatic solutions to problems.

The technology will likely be in the hands of many nations very soon, as the United States has already provided the technology to Japan and Australia, and will be building defense batteries in Romania from 2015. With missile defense, war will be less likely and, should it occur, less destructive. To secure a safer world, America must show leadership. If our ideals are to survive and thrive, we must be willing to defend them.


Categories: On the Blog

Urban Cores, Core Cities and Principal Cities

August 06, 2014, 8:05 AM

Many American cities, described commonly as urban cores, are functionally more suburban and exurban, based on urban form, density, and travel behavior characteristics. Data from the 2010 census shows that 42.3 percent of the population of the historical core municipalities was functionally urban core (Figure 1). By comparison, 56.3 of the population lived in functional suburbs and another 1.3 percent in functionally exurban areas (generally outside the urban areas). Urban cores are defined as areas that have high population densities (7,500 or per square mile or 2,900 per square kilometer or more) and high transit, walking and cycling work trip market shares (20 percent or more). Urban cores also include non-exurban sectors with median house construction dates of 1945 or before. All of these areas are defined at the zip code tabulation area (ZCTA) level, rather than by municipal jurisdiction. This is described in further detail in the “City Sector Model” note below.

The Varieties of Central Cities

Of course the “urbaneness” of central cities vary greatly. Some, like New York, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco experienced much of their growth before the 20th century, well before the great automobile oriented suburbanization that occurred after World War II. Others, that experienced early growth, such as Milwaukee and Seattle, annexed substantial areas of suburbanization after World War II, so that their comparatively large functional urban cores have been overwhelmed by suburbs within the city limits. Los Angeles, with a large functional urban core, annexed huge swaths of agricultural land that later became suburban. Finally, a number of other central cities, such as Phoenix and San Jose, have developed since World War II and are virtually all suburban,

Moreover, central cities comprise very different proportions of their respective metropolitan areas (the functional or economic definition of “city”). For example, the central city of San Antonio comprises 62 percent of the San Antonio metropolitan area population. Conversely, the city of Atlanta comprises only 8 percent of the Atlanta metropolitan area population. Obviously, with such a large differential, the term central city describes jurisdictions that are radically different.

This difference is caught by examining the functional urban cores by historical core municipality classifications. The Pre-World War II Core & Non-Suburban central cities have functional urban cores comprising 72 percent of their population. The Pre-World War II Core & Suburban central cities have functional urban cores that are only 14 percent of their populations. The Post-World War II Suburban central cities have very small urban cores, representing only 2 percent of their population (Figure 2).

Among the 54 historical core municipalities, the share of central city population in the functional urban cores varies from a high of more than 97 percent (New York) to virtually zero (Birmingham, Charlotte, Dallas, Jacksonville, Orlando, Phoenix, Raleigh, San Bernardino, San Jose, and Tampa).

Core Cities with the Strongest Urban Cores

It is not surprising that the central cities with the largest share of their populations in the functional urban cores are in the older, established are concentrated in the Northeast Corridor (Washington to Boston) and the Midwest. Only one of the 14 central cities with the highest population share in functional urban cores is outside these areas is San Francisco, the first large city to be built on the American West Coast Among the 25 central cities with the highest functional urban core share, only seven are outside the Northeast Corridor or the Midwest (San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle, New Orleans, Portland, Los Angeles and Salt Lake City).

It is not surprising that the city of New York has the largest function urban core population share, at 97.3 percent. Nearly one-third of the total urban core population in the 52 major metropolitan areas lives in the city of New York (nearly 8,000,000 residents).

Two other central cities have functional urban core population percentages above 90 percent. Buffalo ranks second, at 94.5 percent. San Francisco is third at 94.0 percent.

The next three highest ranking cities are in New England. Boston has an 89.7 percent functional urban core population, followed by Hartford (87.4 percent), and Providence (86.5 percent). These are all of the major metropolitan areas in New England.

Three Midwestern central cities have more than 80 percent of their populations in functional urban cores, including St. Louis (84.1 percent), Minneapolis (83.5 percent), and Cleveland (80.1 percent). Washington (83.4 percent) and Philadelphia (83.4 percent), in the Northeast Corridor also have greater than 80 percent functional urban core shares.

Pittsburgh (76.9 percent) and Chicago (76.6 percent) have functional urban core population shares between 70 percent and 80 percent. At 67.7 percent, Baltimore (67.7 percent) is the only central city in the Northeast Corridor that with less than 70 percent of its population in the functional urban core.

Oakland (54.7 percent), at 15th, is the highest ranking central city outside the Northeast Corridor and the Midwest other than San Francisco. Cincinnati, Rochester, and Milwaukee also have more than 50 percent of their population in functional urban cores.

The top 25 is rounded out by Seattle (37.5 percent), New Orleans (36.8 percent), St. Paul (36.7 percent), Portland (35.2 percent), Detroit (31.3 percent), Los Angeles (29.9 percent) and, somewhat unexpectedly, Salt Lake City (27.1 percent).

The central cities with the largest functional urban core percentages have overwhelmingly suffered large population losses. Among the 25 with the largest urban core shares, only seven were at their peak populations at the 2010 census, and only two of the top 18 (New York and San Francisco). Overall the cities with large functional cores lost more than 35 percent of their population and 8 million residents.

“Other” Principal Cities

Starting in 2003, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) retired the term “central city” and replaced it with “principal city,” which includes the 54 former historical core municipalities and approximately 160 additional cities. The adoption of principal city terminology recognized as OMB described it, that metropolitan areas were no longer monocentric, but had become polycentric. OMB specifically rejected the use of geographical terms other than “principal city” within metropolitan areas, including “suburb.” Indeed, the very employment of polycentricity that justified abandonment of the central city designation was the suburbanization of employment. Yet some popular usage (even in some Census Bureau documents), considers any area that is not a principal city as suburban. The more appropriate term would be “not principal city.”

Some principal cities that are not historical core municipalities (“other” principal cities) have strong urban cores, especially in metropolitan areas where the urban core stretches well beyond the core municipality’s city limits, especially in New York and Boston. Four such principal cities have urban cores larger than 100,000 and urban core population shares exceeding 90 percent, including Cambridge in the Boston area (97.0 percent, and the New York area’s Newark (94.7 percent) and Jersey City (100.0 percent), which is higher even than New York City itself. None of these cities was at its population peak in 2010.

Even so the vast majority of the “other” principal cities are overwhelmingly suburban, comprising less of the functional urban core population than areas that are not principal cities (1.5 million compared to 4.1 million outside the principal cities). Overall, the other principal cities are 7.9 percent urban core (compared to 42.3 percent for the historical core municipalities). If the 11 municipalities with cores larger than 50,000 are excluded, the share living in functional urban cores for the remaining more than 150 cities is 1.5 percent. (Figure 4).

Crude Measurement

The perhaps stunning conclusion is that the average difference between the historical core municipality population and the functional urban core population is 73 percent. Core cities — themselves 57 percent suburban and exurban — are a crude basis for classifying urban cores and suburbs. Principal cities — 92 percent functionally suburban or exurban — are even worse. The bottom line: America is fundamentally more suburban in nature than commonly believed.

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

Tesla vs. Edison: Why All the Hate?

August 05, 2014, 4:17 PM

Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor, while not a household name, has been recognized by the scientific community many times over the years. The metric system unit for magnetic field strength, for example, is known as the tesla. Tesla made many contributions to various sciences over the years, including pioneering work in magnetic fields, induction motors, and electricity. In recent years, various communities on the Internet have sought to lionize Tesla’s life and to expand knowledge of his scientific achievements. This goal is a noble one, as Tesla’s life is frequently reduced to the position of footnote in science histories. But these communities have also engaged in a very wrong-headed pursuit: trashing the reputation of Thomas Edison.

The reason for Tesla’s latter-day advocates’ attacks on Edison is understandable: They see Edison as an opportunistic (even evil) businessman masquerading as a scientist who stole the ideas of other real scientists, particularly Tesla. Edison is singled out in particular because it is believed by Tesla’s fan club that he deliberately tried to destroy Tesla’s career and reputation, and whitewashed history to suit himself.

The Hero Tesla and the Villain Edison

The story Tesla’s fans tell is that he was a visionary who designed extraordinary machines and technology so far ahead of its time that we still have not completely caught up with some of his inventions. It is a story with a clear hero, Tesla, who embodies all the qualities of the enquiring mind. It also has a villain in the form of Edison, who opportunistically exploited Tesla and then tried to destroy his life and reputation for personal gain.

The most frequently cited example of this conflict is the case of the Current Wars, when the world was debating the relative merits of alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC). Tesla’s supporters say Tesla invented AC, which was a superior and safer form of electrical transmission than DC. DC systems were refined by Edison’s laboratories and he made big financial bets on the success of DC. Tesla was ruined by a smear campaign orchestrated by Edison.

Another example was Tesla’s pioneering work in radar, which he tried to submit for military application during World War I (ie. one world war before the radar was actually used). Again Tesla was thwarted by the nearsightedness of the Naval Consulting Board, of which Edison was a member, which did not see the practical applications of Tesla’s invention and rejected it out of hand.

Yet another example of the conflict, was Tesla’s claim to have devised a way to broadcast unlimited free electric power through the air, removing the need for wires and rendering obsolete most of the world’s power companies. The application of this invention was only stopped by the machinations of business leaders, led by Tesla’s old nemesis Thomas Edison.

The Simple Truth

The main problem with all of these claims about Tesla is that they are all utter rubbish. The Current Wars were a brutal business affair, with reputations and fortunes bet on the outcome. Edison was protecting his investments and his business by playing rough in the marketing of his product. His opponents gave as good as they got, as his main rivals were other business interests. Indeed, Tesla was barely a minor player in the Current Wars and was barely on Edison’s radar throughout the conflict. Furthermore, Tesla did not even invent AC. He did some work to refine it, but it was not the product of his individual invention.

As for radar, Tesla’s supporters usually fail to mention that Tesla’s proposal to the Naval Consulting Board were simply conjecture. He did not have a working prototype (and he did not invent the radar), just an idea. Spit-balling to a military commission preoccupied with developing actual existent technologies was never going to be smiled upon. Even if he did have a prototype, the Board still would have rejected it because Tesla’s whole aim was to make it applicable to submarine warfare. Anyone with a basic grounding in how radar works will understand that such an idea is a complete nonstarter. The signals would be so disrupted by the water as to make them useless. The military did invest in developing sonar, which we still use today.

When it comes to Tesla’s Holy Grail, the promise of free and limitless energy, we again see that the scientist has no clothes. Did Tesla ever build a prototype? No. Did he ever show anyone his designs? No. Could anyone find his designs or notes on the subject after his death? No, because they supposedly burned up in a fire.

In all, Tesla was a good scientist and competent tinkerer. He might even be described as a visionary futurist. But as an inventor of world-shaking technologies decades ahead of his time, he comes up more than a little short.

Why All the Love and Hate?

It is strange, given all these facts that are readily obtained, that Tesla continues to hold a certain mystique with a large crowd on the Internet. The impact has been so great as to make Edison a virtual pariah online while Tesla is venerated to the point of deification.

One explanation is that people like to support the underdog and, when combined with a story of futuristic mad science, the promise of Tesla becomes irresistible. There is probably some truth in that. It is fashionable these days to reject the “mainstream history” in favor of the stories of the oppressed and disenfranchised. When Tesla can be portrayed as a visionary, and not just as a pretty good scientist, he can become a powerful symbol.

There is probably also some truth in the fact that people like simple narratives with clear good guys and bad guys. That is why, once people are primed with the idea that Tesla was a genius deprived of his rightful recognition by a grubby businessman like Edison, that they can turn on Edison as some sort of embodiment of all that is evil.

Why So Anti-Business?

Another, more worrying sentiment is also present in the vilification of Edison and lionization of Tesla, namely that of hatred of business. The criticisms of Edison often revolve around his not being a real inventor, but instead exploiting the minds of others for his own profit. Tesla is portrayed on the opposite hand as being out to serve the good of all through invention with only secondary thought toward remuneration.

But what’s so wrong with being a businessman? Edison brought together brilliant technicians, engineers, and inventors into a laboratory that produced many of the most important innovations of the 20th century. The light bulb is just one of many inventions that were the product of Edison’s visionary leadership. His greatest strength was making people’s inventions usable in a practical mass-market setting. Tesla was a tinkerer whose ideas rarely met the rigorous standards of practical applicability.

Few people live without doing things wrong. That is especially true for people who dare to do great things. There is no doubt that Edison stepped on a lot of toes and was a fearsome competitor in the business sphere. But there can also be no doubt that the weight of scientific and practical contributions he and his laboratories produced was amongst the most important in the 20th century.

The idea that capitalist ambitions, the desire to prosper and compete in the market, are somehow lesser to more airy pursuits is a poisonous one. America’s scientific achievement is the product of a free market, of ideas and works. Treating the profit motive like a villainous trait is what will spell the end of our scientific and technological advantages in the world.

By all means celebrate the achievements of Tesla. Just don’t pretend he was a super genius with godlike scientific powers. And please try to recognize the very real debt we all owe Thomas Edison for his vast achievements in both science and business.

Categories: On the Blog

EPA goes from Environmental Protection Agency to Extremist Political Agenda

August 05, 2014, 3:03 PM

During the week of July 28, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) held hearings in four cities: Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Washington. DC. The two-day sessions were to allow the public to have their voice heard about the proposed rules it released on June 2 that will supposedly cut CO2emissions by 30 percent. Many, including myself, believe that these rules are really an attempt to shut down coal-fueled electricity generation and implement a cap-and-trade program that the Administration couldn’t get through Congress in 2009, when cap-and-trade’s obvious allies held both houses of Congress.

If the EPA’s plans were clear, direct, and honest, the public would likely revolt outright. Instead, the intent is hidden in pages of cumbersome language and the messaging becomes all about clean air and water—and about the health of children.

Because I was in the area—speaking a few hours from Atlanta on Sunday—I took advantage of the proximity and signed up to speak at the hearing. When I first attempted to sign up, day one was already full. The EPA had so many people who wanted time to share their opinions, a second day was added, and I was put on the schedule.

The first day, Tuesday, July 29, included competing rallies held in near-record low temperatures for Atlanta in July. Supporters of the EPA’s plan—many of whom were bussed in from surrounding states—gathered in Centennial Olympic Park. I spoke at the rally, made up of plan opponents, that was organized by Americans for Prosperity’s Georgia chapter held at the Sam Nunn Federal Center—where the hearing was originally scheduled (before a power outage forced a move to the Omni Hotel).

I spent the rest of the day at the hearing. It had a circus-like atmosphere. With tables of literature, people carrying signs, and many of the plan’s supporters identified by their matching pale-green tee shirts emblazoned with:

Protect our communities


Once I had a taste of what to expect the next day, when I was to present my comments in the five minutes allotted, I prepared what I wanted to say. The following is my original text—though I had to edit it down to get it within the allowed time frame. For presentation here, I’ve also enhanced my comments with some additional insights from others. The verbiage that is not a part of my original testimony is included in italics.

* * * *

I was here yesterday and earlier today. I’ve listened to the well-intentioned pleas from many who have begged you, the EPA, to take even stronger action than this plan proposes. One even dramatically claimed: “You are the Environmental Protection Agency. You are our only hope. If you don’t protect us no one will?”

I heard a teary-eyed, young woman tell a tale about a man she knows who is dying of cancer, supposedly, because he grew up near a coal-fired power plant—he couldn’t be here, so she told his story. She also said: “I am fortunate enough to have not been around in the 1960s when there was real smog.” Her father has told her about it.

One woman claimed her neighbor had gotten asthma from global warming.

Another addressed how she gets headaches from emissions. She told how lung tissue could be burned. And, how particulates are why people can no longer see the mountain in her region.

An attorney’s testimony told about seeing “carbon pollution” every day from his 36th floor office “a few blocks from here” from where he looks “out over a smog-covered city.”

The passion of these commenters supersedes their knowledge as none of the issues I’ve mentioned here, and there are many more, are something caused by carbon dioxide—a clear, colorless gas that each of us breathe out and plants breathe in.

Dave Bufalo is a retired civil engineer who attended and testified at the EPA’s Denver location. He told me he had a similar experience: “I was only able to stay for about an hour but I did hear about 10 testimonials. They were all in support of the EPA’s proposed regulation.  I don’t believe that anyone had really read the proposal prior to testifying. Their testimonies seemed to lack an understanding of the chemical nature of CO2. One elderly woman could only state that she thanked the EPA for insuring that she had clean air and water. One gentleman was clearly pushing for the sale of his company’s solar panels.”  

James Rust, PhD, is a retired professor of nuclear engineering from Georgia Tech. In his testimony in Atlanta, he referenced thousands of peer-reviewed papers showing carbon dioxide emissions had a negligible effect on climate change. He pointed to the stack of documents from the Heartland Institute called Climate Change Reconsidered I and II that contained these peer-reviewed articles. It was at that point, that a man in the front row shouted out “Liar!” Rust told me: “This is the typical type of response from the mob that promotes this climate change scare. They use ad hominem attacks and don’t debate the real issues because they have no experimental data that backs up what they are proposing.”   

Carbon dioxide is a natural, and essential, part of the environment—with massive, unknown, quantities of carbon dioxide emitted each year from natural sources, such as volcanoes. Were you able to eliminate carbon dioxide from every industrial source in the United States, it would have virtually no impact on global carbon dioxide emissions.

I understand the concerns over true smog and pollution. I grew up in Southern California—graduating from high school in 1976. At that time, we had made a mess of our environment. We had polluted the air and water. Cleaning up our collective act was an important public policy issue. San Bernardino, California, where my family lived, is in a valley, surrounded by mountains. It was not uncommon for a family to move into the area in the summer, when the smog was the worst, and not even know the beautiful mountains existed. In the fall, when the winds came in and blew the smog out to sea, newcomers where amazed to discover the mountains.

But that pollution, that smog, has largely been cleaned up. Utilities have spent hundreds of billions of dollars on scrubbers, and other highly technical equipment such as SCR’s, electrostatic precipitators, and bag houses, to, successfully, remove the vast majority of the particulates. People often see a billowing white cloud coming from the stacks at a coal-fueled power plant and confuse it with pollution when it is really H2O—water in the form of steam. Depending on the time of year, or the time of day, it may be more, or less, visible. The weather conditions may make it settle like fog until the sun burns it off. And this, I believe, is mistaken for pollution.

If you haven’t seen Randy Scott Slavin’s Bird’s-Eye-View of New York City, I encourage you to check it out as it shows an amazingly clean city—despite the more than 8 million people living in those compact 469 square miles. New York City is one of the most populated places on the planet, yet its air is sparkling.

This rule is not about pollution. It is about shutting down coal-fueled power plants and killing jobs and raising electricity rates—both of which punish people who can least afford it. But plenty of others have addressed the economic impact so I won’t take more of my time on that topic.

Dozens of members from a variety of different unions were present in Atlanta to speak out against the plan. Skip Howard, Business Manager for Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 421 in North and South Carolina, explained: “Although Nuclear Power is a clean, renewable source of energy and not affected by fluctuating oil-and-gas prices, energy from Coal-fired Plants is cheaper and helps keep the cost of electricity affordable to consumers. Coal-fired Plants are reliable and cheaper to build than a Nuclear Plant. Coal-fired plants are now designed to be a safe and efficient source of energy that supports grid systems, helping to avoid blackouts. New clean coal technologies create many thousands of new high-wage jobs across our country, helping our economy grow.” 

Several of the union members who testified in Atlanta assailed the EPA representatives because the hearing locations were far from where those most impacted—the coal miners—live.  

I spent some time on Tuesday talking with many of the union representatives. David Cagle, Marketing Representative for the Plumbers, Pipefitters, and HVAC/R Service Technicians Local Union 72 based in Atlanta, told me: “I appreciate your interest in helping our country to be able to continue to provide economical electric energy and well-paying jobs to America’s families and businesses.” He, then, offered me this brief history of what the coal-fired electric energy industry means to his family: 

After World War II my father worked in one of the first large coal-fired powerhouses built in the state of Georgia. That well-paying job allowed him to help his parents pay off the mortgage on their house and also to start saving for a down payment for a home of his own one day. 

My father worked on several coal-fired powerhouses throughout his career in the piping industry. These well-paying jobs provided a decent standard of living for his family.

The powerhouses that my father helped build are still providing well-paying jobs for the people who run them and the workers who do the maintenance on them. Hundreds of thousands of construction workers have benefited from the well-paying jobs in the construction and maintenance of these facilities. They are also still providing low-cost electrical power to hundreds of thousands, if not millions of customers. 

Beside my family benefiting from the coal-powered electric generation industry, I can tell you firsthand what coal does for our country across the continent. 

I lived in Campbell County, Wyoming for two years in the mid-90s. Campbell County Wyoming is the Energy Capitol of the United States. Thousands of families would lose a very good way of living, if the coal mines in Wyoming were shut down. The coal mined there is very low sulfur and produces some of the cleanest electricity on earth. I also know many people from West Virginia who depend on coal to be able to make a decent living. 

I fully understand the devastating effects the Obama administration’s new EPA rules on coal-fired powerhouses would have on people on a fixed income. My parents are in their late 80’s and early 90’s. They are on a fixed income and in poor health. The last thing they need are large power bills that would destroy their budget and force them to rely on their children to help pay their power bills. 

My whole family are outdoorsmen. We have all been raised to hunt and fish and respect and protect our environment. My family would be the first to embrace a low-cost environmentally sound alternative to coal-fired powerhouses. The problem is, there is no alternative economically viable source available at this time. 

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) covered a union protest that took place at the Pittsburgh hearing. Itstates: “Unions opposing the proposed rule argue that U.S. workers will pay the price for lowering emissions domestically while other countries—most notably China, where coal usage has grown rapidly—will continue to burn coal and emit carbon dioxide.” The WSJ reported: “unions focused their efforts on Pittsburgh, sending busloads of unionized miners, utility workers, railroad workers and others from Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama and other states.”

But, I do want to address the constitutionality of the proposed plan, as it does exactly what the Supreme Court admonished the EPA about on June 23. Justice Antonin Scalia, for the majority, wrote this about the Tailoring Rule decision: “Were we to recognize the authority claimed by EPA in the Tailoring Rule, we would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers… The power of executing laws…does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms that turn out not to work in practice.” Yet, this is exactly what this proposed plan will do.

Later in the decision, Scalia says: “When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate ‘a significant portion of the American economy’ . . . we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism. We expect Congress to speak clearly if it wishes to assign an agency decisions of vast ‘economic and political significance.’”

I believe on these grounds, this plan must not go forward. It is one more example of executive overreach.

I fear that if it does, America will pay a dear price. This hearing was scheduled to take place down the street at the Sam Nunn Federal Center. However, it was moved due to a power outage. Note: business cannot be done without power. You were able to move this hearing. In a reduced-power environment businesses will move to places where they have access to energy that is effective, efficient, and economical. They will move, as many have already done, to places with far-looser environmental policies and the perceived gain will be lost.

Thinking that what we do in the United States will have a serious impact on global carbon dioxide emissions is like thinking that declaring a “no pee” section in the swimming pool will keep all the water urine free.

I’ll end with a quote from the smog-viewing attorney who closed with: “I am hopeful that my new grandchildren, who will live into the 22nd century, will enjoy a world that my grandparents, born in the 19th century, would recognize.” If this plan is passed, he may get his wish. His grandparents’ world contained none of the energy-based modern conveniences or medical miracles we consider standard and essential today—let alone those yet to be developed or discovered by the 22nd century. In his grandparents’ day, life expectancy in the U.S. was estimated at 45 years. By 2000, this had increased to 78 years—mostly due to our expansion of cost-effective electricity throughout the nation.

Remember, the countries with the best human health and the most material wealth are those with the highest energy consumption. America needs energy that is abundant, available and affordable.

* * * *

While the public hearings are over, you can still give the EPA your comments online. Please add your voice to the debate.


[Originally published at Red State]


Categories: On the Blog

The News Media Now Reports All Weather as ‘Extreme’

August 05, 2014, 11:07 AM

In a desperate effort to keep the global warming hoax alive even though it is now called “climate change”, the meteorologically challenged print and broadcast media is now declaring all weather “extreme” these days.

The Media Research Institute recently analyzed broadcast network transcripts between July 1, 2004 and July 1, 2005, along with those between July 1, 2013 and July 1, 2014. What it discovered was the network coverage of “extreme weather” had increased nearly one thousand percent!

As Sean Long reported, “during that time, extreme weather was frequently used by the networks to describe heat waves, droughts, tornadoes, hurricanes, and winter storms, and they often included the phrase in onscreen graphics or chyrons during weather stories.”

Thanks to Al Gore who continues to lie about global warming despite the fact that the Earth has been in a cooling cycle for seventeen years, the news media, print and broadcast, now substitutes its latest reincarnation, “climate change”, when reporting the weather. It’s worth noting that the weather is what is outside right now wherever you are and climate is something that is measured in decades and centuries.

The one thing you need to keep in mind is that every form of weather has been around for much of the Earth’s 4.5 billion years. Long before humans were blamed for causing it, they developed ways to adapt and survive, but tornadoes, hurricanes and floods, among other events, still kill humans with the same indifference to them that Mother Nature has always demonstrated.

Gore became a multi-millionaire based on the global warming scam and, along the way; the U.S. wasted an estimated $50 billion on alleged “research” whose sole purpose was to give credence to it. Too many scientists lined their pockets with taxpayer dollars and many government agencies increased their budgets while falsifying their findings.

The entertainment media got into the act by producing films such as Showtime’s “documentary series” called “Years of Living Dangerously.”  It has received two nominations for “Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series and Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming.” Its executive producer, Joel Bach, said “Every day, more Americans are experiencing the devastating impacts of a warming world and we had to tell their story.” Except that the world is NOT warming.

The Showtime series featured those noted climatologists and meteorologists, Harrison Ford, Jessica Alba, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Matt Damon among others. The final episode featured President Obama whose climate lies rival Al Gore’s. “Science is science”, said the President. “And there is no doubt that if we burned all the fossil fuel that’s in the ground right now, that the planet’s going to get too hot and the consequences could be dire.”

The real dire consequences people around the world are encountering include frostbite and freezing to death.

In a June article in Forbes magazine, James Taylor, editor of The Heartland Institute’s Environmental & Climate News, noted that “The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s most accurate, up-to-date temperature data confirm the United States has been cooling for at least a decade. The NOAA temperature data are driving a stake through the heart of alarmists claiming accelerating global warming.” The latest data support the longer cooling cycle that began around 1997.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) recently announced that “The growing consequences of climate change are putting many of the country’s most iconic and historic sites at risk”, citing Ellis Island, the Everglades, Cape Canaveral and California’s Cesar Chavez National Monument. The UCS said that “we must work to minimize these risks in the future by reducing the carbon emissions that are causing climate change…” This is utter rubbish.

Called a “pollutant” by the Environmental Protection Agency, carbon dioxide is, along with oxygen, a natural gas that is vital to all life on Earth as the “food” on which all vegetation depends.

William Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Bracket Professor of Physics at Princeton University, told the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee that “Our exhaled breath contains about 4% CO2. That is 40,000 parts per million or about 100 times the current atmospheric concentration. Our own primate ancestors evolved when the levels of atmospheric CO2 were about 1000 parts per million, a level that we will probably not reach by burning fossil fuels, and far above our current level of about 380 parts per million.”

The Earth would benefit from more, not less, CO2.

How concerned is the public? Not very. In May, a Gallup poll noted that Americans consider unemployment/jobs, government corruption, and the economy as the three “most important” problems facing the nation. “Just 3% of those surveyed listed the environment/pollution as America’s most important problem. From a list of thirteen problems, it was number twelve.

The news media will continue to misrepresent the weather and/or climate and those determined to keep us from accessing and using the USA’s vast reserves of coal, oil and natural gas will continue to lie about it. The good news is that a growing portion of the public no longer believes the three decades of lies.

© Alan Caruba, 2014


[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama Administration Doing Everyone’s Job – But Theirs

August 05, 2014, 10:46 AM

The Barack Obama Administration has spent just about its entire tenure doing things it is not supposed to do.

The myriad executive branch Departments, Agencies, Commissions and Boards have been in omni-directional fashion vastly exceeding their authority – doing things that are clearly the Constitutional purview of (amongst other others) the legislative and judicial branches.

In so doing, these many Leviathan tentacles leave unattended the things they are actually supposed to do.

The examples of proactive overreaches and attending abrogations are nearly without limit.

The executive branch Administration is supposed to enforce existing immigration law.  They are not.  They are instead pretending to be the legislative branch and making up out of whole cloth brand new law.  And are now threatening to do so – even huge-er – yet again.

This Administration signed into law the Affordable Care Act.  It has since unilaterally rewritten it forty-two times.  They have been so focused on illegally re-doing Congress’ job over and over again that they fundamentally fumbled the parts of the law they were actually supposed to handle.  Like the ObamaCare website.  On which they have wasted (thus far) $840 billion – and which still doesn’t work.

When the Administration isn’t pretending to be Congress, it is taking on the role of the Supreme Court –unilaterally declaring unConstitutional things like the Defense of Marriage Act.

The Administration won’t even keep its myriad wings on task – or in their respective lanes.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has just about given up on manned space flight.  And is instead prioritizing…boosting Muslim self-esteem – and pushing global warming andgeneral Leftist activism.

Perhaps if the Administration wasn’t so focused on fundamentally transforming America – veterans and diplomats in their Veterans Administration (VA) and State Department charge wouldn’t have died.

The Administration’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is no less distracted by wander-power-lust.

The FCC is supposed to operate within the confines of the 1996 Telecommunications Act – the last time the legislative branch laid out the FCC’s parameters.  Does the law need a rewrite?  To be sure.  But Congressional gridlock is not a green light for President Obama or his FCC to exceed existing authority.

The 1996 Act intentionally left the Internet almost completely unregulated – which is why it has become the free speech-free market Xanadu we all know and love.  Why on Earth would we want to increase government control of the Internet?  We shouldn’t – and most of us don’t.

But of course Obama’s FCC does.  Without any actual legal authority, it is working tirelessly to dramatically increase government imposition on the Web.

The FCC has already twice imposed Network Neutrality – and twice been unanimously rebuked by the D.C. Circuit Court.  Undaunted, they are currently considering an even huge-er Internet power grab.

They are looking to steamroll the laws of twenty states – who do not want any more uber-failed government broadband – to jam more government broadband down their throats.  Which will be bad money after bad money after bad.  We wasted $7.2 billion in federal coin on government broadband in the 2009 “Stimulus” bill – after the states themselves wasted on it a billion or two and the entirety of the 2000s.

Meanwhile, the very few things on which the FCC is supposed to move – aren’t moving.  Key amongst these is identifying and mapping government-controlled wireless spectrum – so as to prep it for sale to the private sector.

Private wireless service is hurtling heroically forward – getting routinely, exponentially faster and ever more accommodating of ever more data.  But video use is exploding – and video is a gi-normous bandwidth hog.  The wireless revolution has been and is amazing – but it needs more spectrum to deal with the ever increasing video and data use and continue its phenomenal-ness.

Spectrum is a finite resource – and not all spectrum is equal.  Think of it as a Monopoly board.  Some of it is minimally useful Baltic and Mediterranean Avenue, some of it premiere Boardwalk and Park Place – and the rest exists all around the board.

The federal government holds about 60% of all spectrum – much of it of the higher and highest quality.  And they are using it woefully inefficiently (shocker). And they have no idea exactly what they have (shocker) – which is where the FCC is supposed to come in.

The FCC has been promising for years to map government’s spectrum, clear as much of it as possible – and get it out the door for private sector use.

But they haven’t been doing their actual job – because they’ve been far too consumed with doing everyone else’s.

The FCC – the entire Obama Administration – needs to get back to their legitimate, legal parameters.

And their actual tasks at hand.


[Originally published at RedState]


Categories: On the Blog

Supreme Court and European Union Expose Google’s Massive Privacy Liabilities

August 05, 2014, 9:43 AM

Google has privacy clay feet.

The NSA and Big Data may also, since they are relying on many of the same outdated legal assumptions as Google.

In the last few months, both the U.S. Supreme Court and European authorities have made new baseline privacy decisions that have greatly strengthened individuals’ right to privacy. As a result, they’ve also exposed and heightened Google’s massive privacy liabilities.

Contrary to tech-driven conventional wisdom, privacy is not dead. It’s being resurrected by SCOTUS in the U.S. and by various European authorities in the EU.

This post-Snowden change is real and profound. The next twenty years will be different than the last when it comes to privacy.

Some may have heard of some of these individual privacy decisions, but most have missed the new big trend — that people actually do have a legal right to privacy.

Google is the focus of this privacy discussion because of its pervasive, invasive collection of private data, and its uniquely defiant legal and operational assumption that people have “no expectation of privacy” when Google acquires their private data.

Let’s start in the U.S.

Last month SCOTUS refused to hear Google’s appeal in “Google v. Joffe,” which declared Google Street View’s mass-collection of millions of homes’ unencrypted WiFi signals as illegal interceptions, or wiretaps, of private communications — not legal collection of public communications, as Google tried to argue.

This is a big decision — the court effectively rejected Google’s longstanding data-collection presumption that if communications are not encrypted and Google can technically, easily, or cheaply intercept them, then Google can deem them public instead of private.

Google’s routine records interception of communications from Google and non-Google users involving Gmail, Glass, YouTube, Android, etc. represents the company’s broad legal presumption of “implied consent.”

The seriousness here for Google is two-fold. The first discovery  was in the Gmail class action case “Fread v. Google,” which exposed Google’s secret install of a “Content One Box” to intercept, read and analyze all emails prior to reception from 2010 to 2013, according to Bloomberg.

In the case Federal District Court Judge Lucy Koh ruled Google was not exempt from wiretap law, and that creating personal advertising profiles by reading people’s email is not an “ordinary course of business.” Koh went to say that “accepting Google’s theory of implied consent… would eviscerate the [wiretap] rule against interception.”

That means Google secretly, and without reasonable consent from users, intercepted three years of email communications from more than one hundred million Americans and just as many Europeans for commercial purposes.

It is very likely the largest illegal commercial wiretap in history.

In the court’s “Riley v. California” decision last month, the court ruled unanimously that a person has a right to privacy over the content of their smartphone, and that police must get a warrant to search it.

According to the court, “modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all that they reveal, they hold for many Americans the privacies of life.”

The decision marks a revolutionary and transformative privacy precedent.

Google and the NSA have justified their omni-interception and collection of people’s data on the pre-digital 1979 SCOTUS precedent “Smith v. Maryland.”

At the time the court ruled that checking a third party’s phone logs was not a search, and thus people had “no expectation of privacy” if a third party gained possession of someone’s private information.

Anyone who reads the unanimous “Riley v. California” decision can’t help but realize that the court, for the first time since 1979, has effectively updated and changed its fundamental legal take on the constitutional right to privacy, and what a digital search constitutes today.

Apparently technology may change, but one’s constitutional right to privacy under the Fourth Amendment does not.

Google and Big Data undoubtedly have taken note concern, because if the circumstances require the government to get a warrant, third parties will be expected to get reasonable consent from users to obtain their private data for commercial purposes.

According to the court “more substantial privacy interests are at stake when digital is involved,” and “cell phones differ in both quantitative and qualitative sense from other objects.”

The court was unanimous in recognizing four big privacy changes: the breadth of “many distinct types” of private information that reveal much more in combination,” the vast “capacity” of data involved, that information can “date back for years,” and that “the data viewed… may be stored on a remote server.”

Now consider that Google combines orders of magnitude more information about more people than any cellphone, stores an unimaginable amount of data about people, stores it largely indefinitely and does it all on remote servers.

If the court applies this new Internet-age logic and digital data reality to future privacy cases involving Google, the NSA or Big Data, they’re logically going to come to a different conclusion than SCOTUS did in 1979.

Big change is afoot for privacy in the U.S., and even bigger in Europe.

In March the European Parliament overwhelmingly voted 621-10 for stronger data protection laws in its first update to European privacy law since the advent of the Internet in 1995.

That same month, the European Parliament overwhelmingly backed a resolution calling for the suspension of the US-EU data protection Safe Harbor that lets U.S. firms self-certify as being in compliance with EU privacy law in a 644-78 vote.

The EU is asserting sovereignty over the European Internet, so European data will be subject to EU law and stored in the EU. The law also grants EU citizens the right to demand erasure of their online data for the first time.

In May a high-profile court decision by The Court of Justice of the European Union quickly enforced Europeans’ “right to be forgotten” by requiring search engines like Google to remove links to irrelevant or outdated information on regular citizens based on their right to privacy.

“The ruling confirms the need to bring today’s data protection rules from the ‘digital stone age’ into today’s modern computing world,” EC Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said.

The ruling eviscerates Google’s claim that it has an absolute right to free speech in organizing search results, and that no outsider can legitimately request a change in the Google search algorithm. The legitimization of the right to be forgotten will lead to more exemptions for privacy, copyright, etc.

The development that may signal the biggest privacy liability for Google may be a recent decision by the Italian data protection authority, which could be the first of such national decisions to come from France, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands and the U.K. — countries that previously have banded together to enforce privacy law against Google.

“Google would not be allowed to use the data to profile users without their prior consent and would have to tell them explicitly that the profiling was being done for commercial purposes,” the Italian ruling said, according to Reuters. “It also demanded that requests from users with a Google account to delete their personal data be met in up to two months.”

To the extent that European privacy authorities enforce European data protection law, Google will have to revolutionize the way it treats Europeans’ privacy and data.

Europe is essentially calling Google’s bluff.

Now the company that has long boasted of its innovation and superiority in targeted advertising and personalized services on a global basis will be expected by European privacy authorities to, in turn, personalize European users’ real control over what information Google collects on them and how it monetizes it.

The more the privacy authorities learn, the more they will realize that Google has broken users’ private data eggs and scrambled them for their own convenience and profit maximization.

Undoing this mess of Google’s own making is going to be very costly for Google. It will take many years and constant regulatory vigilance by the EC and EU member nations to accomplish.

Other Big Data companies have privacy liabilities, but none on the scale, scope and seriousness facing Google going forward.

Justice Roberts poignantly wrote that “privacy has a cost” in the recent “Riley v. California“ decision.

“Privacy has a cost” because privacy is valuable.

It appears the tech assault on privacy rights of the last twenty years may have bottomed out, and the legal obligation of respecting individual’s right to privacy is beginning a long climb back.

Google is on a collision course with SCOTUS and the EU — Google will either be forced to respect people’s privacy, or the two will surrender their sovereignty to Google’s exceptional market power over private information.

[Originally published at the Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog