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Looking Into My 2014 Crystal Ball

January 04, 2014, 8:30 AM

Pundits are expected to make predictions for the year ahead and far be it for me to avoid what, generally speaking, depends on who is making them. Major trends are already in place and easy to predict as they proceed, but it is always unknown events that upend predictions. Mother Nature and perpetrators of evil can always be counted upon to provide them.

Since the Earth has been in a seventeen-year cooling cycle, I can safely predict there will be no “global warming” in 2014 and, given the other science-based factors, the likelihood is that 2014 will experience more colder weather and may even be an earlier predictor of a mini-ice age much the same as the one that occurred from 1300 to 1850.

As mentioned, it is the unpredictable events that will affect 2014. The good news is that the U.S. has seen far fewer hurricanes, tornadoes, and forest fires in recent years. The global cooling trend, however, is likely to cause more and larger blizzards.

“Climate change”? This is now the basis of all the lies we shall hear from the President to justify his five-year delay of the Keystone oil pipeline, his continued war on coal—affordable electricity—and other Environmental Protection Agency efforts to control our lives while denying the creation of the thousands of jobs the pipeline and other energy-related development would provide. Environmentalism is the enemy of the technologies that have transformed and enhanced our lives.

The November mid-term elections hold the promise of ridding Congress of some of the Democrats who unanimously voted for Obamacare in 2009. It will also replace those Republicans-in-name-only, RINOs, who have joined Democrats in voting for legislation that advanced the socialism that is strangling the nation by expanding the federal government. I predict the ranks of “independent” voters will increase in 2014.

The erosion of the Democratic Party base will continue as Obamacare afflicts millions of Americans who will lose their healthcare insurance plans, be deprived of using their personal physician, and see their costs increase. It is the essence of communism, providing the government with control over one’s life and, in too many cases, causing many to die for the lack of plans they previously had or the costs of those they are required to purchase. Those leaving the party will include women and the younger generation leaving college to discover there aren’t any jobs to help them cope with the debt they incurred to attend. Hispanics, too, show signs of leaving.

It is hard to predict what will occur within the Republican Party whose leadership has engaged in denunciations of the Tea Party movement. However, when the Tea Party movement elects more committed conservative GOP candidates, it will save the nation and the party. Suffice to say that Obamacare will be the gift that keeps on giving in 2014. It will, in time, be repealed.

Obama’s failed foreign policy will ensure that former allies will cease to trust the U.S. to support their need to deal with the rising threat of Islamic jihad in the Middle East and Africa. Obama has lost Egypt and Saudi Arabia as long-time allies. Israel is in a particularly perilous situation and the outcome of the Syrian civil war does not bode well for it or its neighbor Jordan.

Iran will be the greatest threat of war since the 1930s. And, yes, the U.S.-led “deal” will fail.

Polls reveal a growing unhappiness with the U.S. Congress. The President’s performance ratings have been falling and will continue to do so in 2014. The problem is the growth of socialism that began during and in the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The pension debt and other benefits resulting from government worker unions has forced Detroit into bankruptcy and other American cities will follow.

By executive order the President just raised government salaries by 1%. Can he do that? Not really. Only the House can authorize such expenditures. Can he change Obamacare without consulting Congress? Not really.

The mainstream media will continue to lose its credibility as the Internet affords Americans alternative means of finding out what is really occurring as opposed to the deceptive and manipulative efforts of the Obama administration. Having raised voter’s expectations of Obama, his fall will be dramatic in 2014. The mainstream media is largely composed of liberals who are the result of the transformation of education into socialist indoctrination that began in the 1960s. By contrast, conservative print and broadcast media will thrive. Fox News has more viewers than the networks and CNN, combined.

Events such as the current attack on Southern Sudan, and the on-going slaughter in Syria will continue. Christians throughout the Middle East and Africa will find themselves under continued attack. Muslim-on-Muslim violence will continue. Islamists are devoted to its “holy” war, including its own schism.

In America, privacy, an essential element of the Constitution, will continue to be diminished if Congress does not address the vast collection of information of all of our communications. Read the Fourth Amendment. It says in part that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

We may see more states enact laws to defy Obamacare. South Carolina is currently the only one. The Tenth Amendment says “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Read the Constitution, you will not find the words “health” in it, nor “education”, nor ‘environment.” The federal government should get out of these aspects of our lives.

My most positive prediction is that historians will look back at 2014 as the year in which Americans woke to the threat of socialism-communism and, like the Tea Party movement, began to fight back.

Categories: On the Blog

Them vs. Us

January 03, 2014, 4:19 PM

With all the talk of America’s forgotten middle class, it’s worth taking time as we begin a new year to consider that the country’s seeming obsession with wealth and inequality may instead be turning the U. S. into a country with only two classes: the governed and the governing.

The aim of the 100-year old Progressive movement in America has purportedly been a more just and humane society in which everyone’s needs are taken care of by government, no one goes hungry or without health care because the state provides for everyone, and everyone is equal in almost every way – except, of course, for the ruling class of expert elites, who will always be more equal than the rest of us.

The goal of conservatives and libertarians, on the other hand, is a more just society in which individuals make their own decisions about what is best for themselves and their families, resources are allocated more efficiently because most people actually pay for what they consume, and everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed or to fail based upon his or her own talents, ambition, and work ethic.

A pragmatist will concede that a certain amount of inequality will always exist under both worldviews, as talent, ambition, work ethic, political connections – and just plain luck – are not distributed evenly or equally among the general population.

For every Michael Jordan, for example, are a thousand or a million kids who never make it off the playground; for every Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Steve Balmer are a bunch of programmers writing code in anonymity; for every Oprah Winfrey are a host of local television news readers and late-night radio disc jockeys; and for every Steven King or J. K. Rowling are a million bloggers seeking a following.

A market-based system that attempts to maximize individual liberty and opportunity accepts inequality of results as inevitable and recognizes that, for all its perceived unfairness, maximizing individual liberty also maximizes human happiness. Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Steven King, and J. K. Rowling have brought joy to millions – if not billions – of people worldwide while generating ancillary jobs and revenue in the sports, television, publishing, movie, and toy industries, among everyone from ticket-takers to executive suites, as well as inspiring others to attempt to achieve some comparable degree of success.

Progressivism sees this as unfair and seeks redistribution of wealth by taxing those who’ve succeeded financially and subsidizing those who haven’t. But as one hundred years of a “progressive” income tax, over eighty years of alphabet administrative agencies, and fifty years of an unsuccessful “war” on poverty have demonstrated, the unfortunate result is not equality in any meaningful sense but instead an increasingly polarized population. More people have civilian government jobs and more people receive public assistance than ever, yet the nation is not demonstrably better off either economically or spiritually.

The sad truth is that no amount of wealth redistribution is likely to create the next Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, J. K. Rowling, or Michael Jordan, no matter how much we wish it were so. If that were true, then every lottery winner would go on to fame and creative success instead of disappearing into obscurity or winding up in bankruptcy.

In one important sense, however, progressivism has indeed reshaped society. Primarily through actuarially unsound defined-benefit pension systems with health care benefits and compounded cost of living adjustments, it has created a new privileged class of government employees and former employees who have lifelong claims on the resources of the rest of the population. Part of the population must work longer and harder so that others may retire from working sooner.

Most people would likely not begrudge such a system for citizen-soldiers – particularly those who have been seriously injured while serving their country – but it is difficult to understand why those who hold essentially civilian jobs with little or no distinction should be so privileged.

Real-life examples include the public school teachers whose graduates can neither read nor write but who were promoted into administrative positions their last three years so that their pensions would exceed the salaries they received during most of their careers; the cops who checked in at the station in the morning, then spent the rest of the day snoozing in the local movie theater; the third guy on the garbage truck who rode shotgun and read the paper while another drove the truck and the third guy picked up the garbage before the whole crew drove under a viaduct for an afternoon nap before returning the truck to the depot. That’s not service; it’s taking unfair advantage.

A society in which growth may be a thing of the past can no longer tolerate such excesses, waste, and abuse. But the threat is not merely financial; it is moral and structural as well. For privileged treatment for a fortunate few first undermines initiative and promotes apathy, then lethargy; in the end it generates envy, then resentment, then anger, which has ways of boiling over.

As Abraham Lincoln famously observed in his Gettysburg address, a society cannot exist half slave and half free. Nor can it exist half productive and half parasitic. As the nation begins a new calendar year, it is worth taking the time to ponder how Lincoln’s words may still ring true today.

Categories: On the Blog

Sound Science And The U.S. Economy Victimized By The EPA’s CIA Fake, John Beale

January 03, 2014, 12:26 PM

While the American public is justifiably outraged about a high-ranking EPA official collecting large paychecks while messing around, skipping work and falsely claiming to be doing CIA work, it is the work that John Beale actually performed – rather than the work he didn’t  – that should cause the most outrage and alarm. The incompetent, bumbling imposter served as the right-hand man to EPA’s top official and personally oversaw the development of EPA’s climate policy and international climate negotiations. Sound science and the American economy are currently paying the steep price for Beale’s “Spies Like Us” asininity.

In one of the funniest slapstick scenes from the 1985 comedy classic, bungling wannabe spies Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd are caught blatantly cheating on their foreign service exam. Presented with video evidence of their cheating, Aykroyd asks his government overseers, “So what are we going to get, dismissal, suspension, censure, departmental prosecution – what?”

Chase and Aykroyd then bungle their assignment so badly that they launch a nuclear missile against their own country.

Put Chase and Aykroyd at the top of EPA rather than the top of CIA field operations, and you have an idea of how Beale monumentally screwed up EPA climate policy and international climate negotiations.

Inexplicably believing Beale’s story that he was actually a CIA spy and that was why he was missing so much work, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy took Chase and Aykroyd’s slapstick asininity to a new, real-world level. In a memo sent out to EPA staffers, McCarthy attempted to provide cover for Beale to continue skipping work under fictitious CIA pretenses. Beale “is supposed to be sitting in 5426B of Ariel Rios North, but good luck finding him. We are keeping him well hidden so he won’t get scooped away from [his EPA position] anytime soon,” McCarthy wrote.

McCarthy then affirmed Beale would continue overseeing EPA’s climate policy and international climate negotiations.

Putting Beale in charge of crafting our nation’s climate policy was the equivalent of putting Bernie Madoff in charge of crafting our nation’s fiscal policy. Or, in this scene from Spies Like Us, entrusting Chase and Aykroyd to impersonate medical doctors and treat live patients.

While Chase and Aykroyd’s antics make for good comedic cinema, Beale’s antics had much more serious real-world impact. When EPA disregarded mountains of sound science demonstrating carbon dioxide emissions are being scapegoated for a mythical global warming crisis, Chase and Aykroyd – er, I mean Beale – was calling the shots on behalf of EPA’s “scientific” findings to the contrary. As a result, coal miners are being sent to unemployment lines in droves, Americans are being deprived of their most affordable widely available electricity source, jobs and wealth are being shipped overseas and bogus EPA findings are driving the Obama administration’s war on affordable energy.

The Beale fiasco is just the latest in a long line of appalling scandals perpetrated by global warming alarmists. The Climategate and Climategate II scandals should have sunk the fictitious man-made global warming crisis once and for all, but alarmists and their media allies worked to ignore and hide the truth. The Fakegate scandal of 2012 further demonstrated the agenda-driven dishonesty motivating prominent global warming alarmists.

Now we learn that Beale, one of the highest ranking figures in the Environmental Protection Agency, was not only a bumbling fool, but also a criminal, recently sentenced to 32 months in federal prison. His own attorney says his client was motivated “to manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives.”

You have to search long and hard to find a better representation of the individuals at the top of the global warming movement. Again and again we have seen these are men and women who lie to the public, manufacture false data, conceal evidence and use the power of their offices to attack those who expose their fictitious narratives.

Maybe the best that can be said of these latest revelations is they provide more evidence, in case any more was needed, that the mythical global warming crisis was a canard from start to finish, that the Obama administration and EPA in particular need to be reined in before they destroy even more of America’s economic strength, and that 2014 must be a breakthrough year for the voices of truth.

[Originally published on Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

The Guardian Slams Funding of Anti-Global Warming Groups

January 03, 2014, 11:35 AM
The Guardian, a London-based daily newspaper, has been a leading advocate of the global warming theory—now called climate change—and its December 20 edition published an article by Susanne Goldenberg, “Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change.”

The article focused on a study by Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle that had been published in the journal Climate Change asserting that “The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change.”

What action these organizations or even entire governments could take to have any affect whatever on “climate change” defies common sense. Nothing they could do, for example, would have any effect on the action of the Sun, the primary determinant of climate. For the past seventeen years the Sun has been in a natural cycle of reduced radiation, less warmth for the Earth. The result has been a cooling cycle on Earth that has crushed decades of lies about “global warming.”

It’s not that the Earth hasn’t had previous cycles of warmer climate, but they had nothing to do with anything humans do. There was warming before the Industrial Revolution introduced the use of coal, oil and natural gas to provide the energy that has marked the development and use of technologies that have improved human life in countless ways. “Global warming” is blamed on the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other so-called greenhouse gases. The most prominent of these gases in the Earth’s atmosphere is nothing more than water vapor.

Apparently, if Brulle and The Guardian are to be believed, anyone or any organization that donates to any group that doubts the claims of Big Green are the enemies of “global warming”, but this conveniently ignored estimates that the U.S. government, according to an October article in The New American “will spend more money on fighting global warming than it will on tightening border security.” The spending is estimated to cost approximately $22.2 billion this year, twice as much as the $12 billion estimated for customs and border enforcement.”

There are, according to the White House, “currently 18 federal agencies engaged in activities related to global warming. These agencies fund programs that include scientific research, international climate assistance, renewable energy technology, and subsidies for renewable energy producers.”

The Guardian article caught my eye because, among the organizations that have been active in debunking the “global warming” theory has been The Heartland Institute. I have been an advisor to the Institute which, since 2008, has organized eight international conferences on global warming that have featured some of the world’s leading skeptics.

If you want to know how the Institute is funded, you can go to their website where you will find, for example, that it does not solicit or accept grants from any of those government agencies using billions of taxpayer dollars to convince Americans that “global warming” is real or that anything the government does about “climate change” can have any effect on it. In 2012, Heartland received 50% of its income from foundations, 28% from individuals, and 18% from corporations. No corporate donor contributes more than 5% of its annual budget.

In contrast, a recent article by Ron Arnold, a Washington Examiner columnist and executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, noted that over the past decade environmental organizations received 345,052 foundation grants totaling $20,826,664,000—over twenty billion dollars—largely from a 200-plus member Environmental Grantmakers Association and the smaller, farther-left National Network of Grantmakers. Arnold said that “Today, foundations are the backbone of Big Green.”

On a recent CNN television program, Marc Morano, the communications director of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) took on the Sierra Club director, noting that this major environmental organization has received $26 million from natural gas corporations to support its attacks on the coal industry. So “fossil fuels” industries are okay if they are giving the Sierra Club money.

“So record cold,” said Morano, “is now evidence of man-made global warming.”

While the Koch-affiliated foundations that provide grants to conservative groups were singled out, along with Exxon Mobil, in The Guardian article, no mention was made of multi-billionaire George Soros who is famed for funding all manner of liberal groups and who reportedly has invested heavily in “clean energy” companies—solar and wind—whose products do not produce the so-called greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the more recent articles in The Guardian was titled “Global warming will intensify drought, says new study.”  The problem, of course, is that there is NO global warming.

By contrast, a July Fox News article, “Billions spent in Obama climate plan may be virtually useless, study says” was not also reported in the mainstream media. Suffice to say that those billions came from taxpayer’s pockets.

I am happy to know that the Heartland Institute, a 29 year old non-profit research organization, CFACT, and other free market research and activist groups receive foundation and other support. Without them, the lies about “climate change” from the Obama administration and the many environmental organizations would not be debunked.

[Originally published on Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Crooked Labs, Agencies and Prosecutors

January 03, 2014, 11:18 AM

Former Durham, NC district attorney Mike Nifong was disbarred for withholding evidence from the defense and lying to the court in the trumped-up Duke lacrosse team rape case. Ex-Boston crime lab technician Annie Dookhan was prosecuted for faking test results and contaminating drug samples, to get accused dealers convicted. In both cases, charges against their victims were dismissed or are under review.

So how should we handle federal officials who’ve become unethical researchers and prosecutors – determined to get convictions, basing their cases on esoteric circumstantial evidence, allowing tainted and fraudulent evidence, hiding exculpatory information, rewriting the law, and denying defense counsel the right to cross-examine adverse witnesses or present their case?

As the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow explains in its amicus curiae brief to the US Supreme Court, that’s what Environmental Protection Agency regulators have been doing with global warming. They’re pulling every dirty prosecutorial trick in the book, to convict fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, and America’s economy and living standards of “endangering” the public welfare.

Since 2009, EPA regulators have shown a single-minded determination to slash hydrocarbon use, drive up the price of energy, and impose huge costs on companies, industries and an economy struggling to stay afloat and retain jobs. They want to control CO2 emissions from vehicles, electrical generating plants, and eventually the sources of nearly everything we make, grow, ship, eat and do. The damage to our livelihoods, liberties, living standards, legal system, health, welfare and life spans will be enormous.

The devious dealings have continued under new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who has pronounced that there is “no more urgent threat to public health than climate change.” Now it appears the mendacious malfeasance is even worse than previously thought.

Newly released emails reveal that Ms. McCarthy was “very excited” in 2010 to “finally get the opportunity to work with” Mr. John Beale, who for several years was the senior EPA policy advisor helping Ms. McCarthy and her Office of Air and Radiation develop and implement tough air quality and climate regulations. When he wasn’t off on one of his Walter Mitty undercover CIA capers, that is.

Beale was just convicted of defrauding taxpayers out of $1 million in salaries and expenses for extended vacations that he took while claiming to be a high level intelligence operative. His attorney says he had a “dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior” and “manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives.”

It defies belief to suppose his dysfunctions and fabrications did not extend to his official EPA roles of devising agency air pollution and climate policies, then cherry picking reports and manipulating research to justify them. The criminal fraud for which Beale will serve 32 months in prison and repay $1.4 million is outrageous. The fraud on our economy, democracy and people’s lives is far more costly and despicable. Even worse, their regulatory fraud is a pervasive problem throughout EPA.

The Constitution specifies that the Executive Branch has no authority to engage in lawmaking, but must faithfully execute the laws as written – and not as regulators might wish the laws had been written, to advance their preferred policy agendas. EPA has violated these most fundamental rules, ignoring inconvenient statutory language, and devising and enforcing other provisions out of whole cloth.

Between 1989 and 2010, Congress considered and rejected some 692 bills addressing various aspects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. So President Obama’s EPA simply imposed carbon dioxide controls by executive fiat, using “prevention of significant deterioration” and “new source performance standards” to create new authority over coal-fired electrical generating plants. It then unilaterally changed precise statutory emission standards from 250 tons per year to 100,000 tpy – to avoid the public backlash that would come if it began regulating and shutting down all the natural gas generators, refineries, cement kilns, factories, paper mills, shopping malls, apartment and office buildings, hospitals, schools and even large homes that emit more than 250 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Those job-killing rules can come later, when radical environmentalists sue radical regulators, to enforce the statutory requirement.

In circumventing Congress, rewriting laws and ignoring the “separation of powers” doctrine, EPA accomplished an unprecedented power grab over the energy that fuels our economy and makes our jobs, living standards and civil rights progress possible. It also flouted clear NEPA, Clean Air Act and other statutory mandates that EPA protect the health, welfare and environmental quality of all Americans.

The agency remains fixated on the speculative impacts of sea levels, storms, droughts and other manifestations of allegedly “dangerous manmade climate change.” As CFACT’s amicus brief explains, it completely ignores the increasingly adverse effects that its boiler MACT, carbon dioxide and 1,900 other Obama-era EPA regulations are having on companies, jobs, families, entire industries and communities – and thus people’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.

As breadwinners are laid off or reduced to part-time status, families are unable to heat and cool their homes properly, pay bills, rent or mortgage, buy clothing and medicines, or take vacations. Increasing numbers of families deplete their savings and are made homeless. Being unable to find or keep a job erodes self-worth, self-confidence and psychological well-being. The stress of being unemployed, or involuntarily holding multiple lower-paying part-time jobs, means reduced nutrition, sleep deprivation, increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, higher incidences of depression and alcohol, drug, spousal and child abuse, more suicides and generally lower life expectancies.

It means the regulations are far worse than the harms they supposedly redress. For EPA to ignore this simple reality is illegal and unconscionable. For it to do so based on fraudulent science is outrageous.

The agency’s position hardly reflected genuine climate science in 2009, when EPA decreed that carbon dioxide endangers human health and welfare. Since then, Earth’s temperature and weather events have refused to cooperate with EPA’s dire predictions. But the agency’s views and decisions remain etched in stone, leaving the agency on the extreme fringe of alarmist opinion, insisting that its views are supported by IPCC predictions that are increasingly discredited by Climategate revelations, investigations into IPCC practices, the Beale scandal and even an exhaustive report by one of EPA’s own analysts.

When presented 37-year EPA veteran Alan Carlin’s analysis, his supervisor tried to suppress the paper and refused to forward it to the EPA group preparing the final report that would guide the endangerment decision. The supervisor told him: “The administrator and administration has [sic] decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision.”

Finally, even full compliance with EPA’s destructive regulations would achieve zero benefits, because emissions from China, India and other rapidly developing countries will continue increasing total atmospheric GHG levels – and because climate change is driven primarily by natural forces, not CO2.

For all these reasons, EPA’s carbon dioxide “endangerment” decision must be reversed; its stationary source regulations must be scrapped; and the agency must be required to fully evaluate the consistently adverse effects of its regulatory edicts on human health, welfare and environmental quality. If the Supreme Court fails to do so, the House and Senate must reassert their Constitutional roles.

Otherwise the United States will steadily fall behind its international competitors. The health and well-being of Americans will increasingly suffer. And the Legislative and Judicial Branches will become mere bystanders to an unelected, unaccountable, agenda-driven Executive Branch.

Categories: On the Blog

The Solar Swindle

January 02, 2014, 5:39 PM

Solar electricity is growing, promoted, and most importantly, heavily subsidized.  The promoters of solar electricity claim that it is close to being competitive with conventional sources of electricity.  That is a fantasy.

Solar electricity is expensive and impractical.  If it weren’t for government subsidies, some explicit and some disguised, the solar industry would collapse.  The many claims of competitiveness are always based on ignoring subsidies provided to politically correct renewable power, ignoring the costs associated with unreliability, and ignoring the cost of backup fossil fuel plants.

An example of a hidden subsidy is the California Renewable Portfolio Standard that mandates utilities to obtain 33% of their energy from so-called renewable sources by 2020.  This mandate forces utilities to contract for expensive sources of energy, such as solar.  The cost is passed on to the utility customers with the connivance of the government.  Although the motivation behind the California scheme is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, politically incorrect sources of CO2-free electricity, such as nuclear and large-scale hydroelectric, can’t be counted as renewable.

People whose knowledge of electricity production ends at their wall outlet are dictating national energy policy.  Magical thinking by hopelessly ignorant political activists permeates the alternative energy universe.

How much does electricity from conventional sources cost?  If I look at my ComEd (Chicago) bill, the charge for electricity is about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour (KWH).  Additional charges for delivering the electricity and various taxes increase the total to about 10 cents per KWH.  This is electricity mainly from coal, nuclear, and natural gas.  Electricity is available at the plant gate in much of the U.S. for about 5 cents per KWH.

Figuring out how much solar electricity costs is tricky.  Most of the cost is the capital cost of building the plant; in favorable situations, a solar plant costs 15 times more than a fossil fuel plant per KWH generated.  How one assigns this initial capital cost to the electricity generated over the life of the plant depends on economic assumptions involving interest rates.  The amount of sunshine can vary by as much as two to one, if you compare sunny Arizona locations with cloudy European ones.  Photovoltaic technology, using electricity-generating panels, is the currently favored technology.  An alternative technology is thermal solar or plants that use reflectors to concentrate sunlight to generate high-pressure steam, or other high-pressure gas, to operate turbines that drive generators.  The estimates in this article refer to recently constructed photovoltaic plants.

The cost of solar electricity at the plant gate is about 25 cents per KWH, or about 5 times more than conventional electricity.  It may be 50 cents per KWH in cloudy northern areas.

It is true that the cost of solar panels has greatly decreased in recent years.  This decrease has to do with technological improvements and overbuilding of capacity in the Chinese panel manufacturing industry.  However, even if the panels cost nothing, solar electricity would not be remotely competitive.  The panels are only part of the cost.  One also has to pay for the land, the mounting systems for the panels, and other infrastructure.

The cost of a solar electricity plant is usually quoted as so many dollars per watt.  For example, many large-scale plants cost about $4 per watt to build.  The watts in this case refer to the maximum amount of electricity the plant can produce when the sun shines squarely on the panels, or, more technically, the number of watts that can be generated when the panels are illuminated with sunlight with an energy content of 1,000 watts per square meter (approximately the energy flux of full sunlight).  In the best locations, a solar plant with fixed panels can generate the equivalent of full power 25% of the time.  That is called the utilization factor.

As an example, the Agua Caliente solar plant in Arizona, when completed in 2014, will be rated at 397 million watts and will cost $1.8 billion.  This works out to $4.53 per watt of capacity.  The cost of generating electricity from this plant has two components: the capital cost of building the plant spread out over the 25-year life of the plant and the annual maintenance cost for such things as periodically washing the solar panels that cover 4 square miles of land.  When a utility invests in a generating plant, it needs a rate of return on its investment great enough to stay in business.  It must pay dividends attract capital, maintain a good credit rating, and pay substantial taxes.  Roughly an 8% return on a generating plant investment is needed to maintain the business.  This means that if $1.8 billion is invested, the annual capital cost is similar to the payments on a 25-year mortgage at 8% interest.  This is a higher interest rate than one might pay on a home mortgage due to taxes and the need to attract risk capital.  The utility might finance half the cost at 4% or 5% and finance the other half with equity capital, for which a return of 10% or 12% is necessary.  The budget for the Agua Caliente plant would look roughly like this:

 

This is the price at the plant gate, assuming that all the electricity generated is purchased for 25 years.  The required price of 22 cents per KWH compares unfavorably with the 5 cents per KWH that is widely available in the U.S.  But this is only half of the story.  The price of 22 cents per KWH for a plant in sunny Arizona is actually misleadingly low.

Solar electricity is generated when the sun is up and the sky is clear.  But electricity is needed during the night and on cloudy days.  So a solar electricity plant must be accompanied by a backup plant.  A combined-cycle natural gas plant can be purchased at a capital cost of approximately $1,000 per kilowatt of output capability.  Depending on the percent utilization, electricity can be generated in the range of 4 cents to 6 cents per KWH.  The natural gas fuel at current prices costs about 3 cents per KWH.  Capital costs distributed over the 30-year life of the plant are in the range of 1-3 cents per KWH depending on percent utilization.  The percent utilization can be has high as 90%.

The bottom line is that the only saving from a solar electricity plant is the fuel not burned when the solar is working.  Most likely, the fuel is natural gas.  But the maintenance of the solar plant costs about the same per KWH as the fuel for a natural gas plant.  It most cases, it probably makes sense to bulldoze a solar plant and use the backup natural gas plant.

Believers in global warming alarmism will probably claim that it is worth paying 5 times more for electricity in order to reduce CO2 emissions.  But if they are really concerned about CO2, the obvious solution is CO2-free nuclear power, which is far cheaper and more practical than solar.

Wind power is the other renewable energy.  The capital cost of building wind farms is less than solar, and the utilization factor may be higher in favorable locations.  But, at best, wind energy costs 2-3 times more per KWH than conventional energy.  There are doubts about the useful life of wind turbines and many population centers have no suitable wind energy sites near enough to economically transport the power.

Solar energy and wind energy are nothing but a scam promoted by ideological fanatics in environmental organizations and allied special interests.  We all pay for the scam with our taxes and with our electric bills.

[Originally published on the American Thinker]
Categories: On the Blog

The Secret Danger Liberals Don’t Want You to Know: Fracking is Safe

January 02, 2014, 5:30 PM

Hydraulic fracturing started out as an “exploding torpedo” back in 1865. Today, nearly 150 years later, the actual process has made giant technological strides, but now, it’s the topic that’s explosive.

While the White House has been encouraging Christmas dinner table conversation to center around Obamacare, in my experience, it is fracking that came into the conversation—and when it did, the results had the potential to be as explosive as the early practice.

Over the holidays two young adults came home for Christmas. Somehow hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” came into the conversation. Dad, a reader of my column whose employment is also peripherally connected to the oil-and-gas industry, spoke up in support of the practice that has unleashed America’s natural resources and made us the world leader in energy production. His children, and their friends who had gathered in his home, were shocked and spouted the usual claims of water contamination, harsh chemicals, and flaming faucets. The topic became so explosive that his kids packed up and left before the festivities even began.

I was in California for Christmas. I visited a cousin in Napa Valley whose adult son is in the wine business. He was at her home when I arrived. She told him what I do and stated that he had many friends in the oil-and-gas business. I smiled and said: “I can talk oil, gas, coal, nuclear, fracking, whatever…” My cousin quickly interrupted and stated: “We probably don’t want to talk fracking.” I took the hint, and we moved on to another topic. Driving back to my brother’s house, I wondered: “When did fracking become an explosive topic.”

With the Christmas prime rib consumed, my family and friends were still gathered around the table. Once again fracking came up. I shared the previous two recent stories. One woman asserted that if her sister, who was arriving in a few days from Boulder, Colorado, was there and we talked fracking, the results would be explosive, too.

Because they are not in the industry, I found that the group gathered around our table had misconceptions about the process that they’d picked up from the media.

While I don’t have an exact date when the topic of fracking became explosive, I do know, from my speaking and writing on the topic, from radio interviews with listener call-ins, and private conversations, that the explosive reactions are due to a lack of understanding about the process—with the two biggest concerns being about water and chemicals.

Water

As I’ve written previously, there are accusations that fracking is taking billions of gallons of water out of the hydrologic cycle. Especially in the southwest where water is scarce and drought conditions persist, this poses a problem.

The process of hydraulic fracturing has advanced from the first nitroglycerin “torpedo” that was shot down a well hole on April 25, 1865, and well acidizing that was used in the 1930s to enhance productivity, to the modern mix of high pressure, water, and chemicals—and it continues to evolve and become more economical.

In a piece addressing water used in fracking, The Economist describes the process this way: “Water injected at high pressure into rock deep underground during the process of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ often returns to the surface as brine, having picked up a lot of salt on its journey. It is also contaminated with chemicals from the fracking process itself.”

Today, less and less freshwater is being used—especially in the arid southwest where water for drinking and agriculture is at a premium. A typical frack job can use as much as 5 million gallons of water and lasts about 3 days. The procedure can result in decades of oil or gas production.

With the development of new technologies, the fracking process can be done with brackish water that may be as much as ten times as salty as seawater. A recentreport from Reuters, titled “Fracking without freshwater at a west Texas oil field,” documents some of the advancements. Billions of gallons of brackish water are located far below the fresh water aquifers. Producers in west Texas are fracking with the brackish water from the Santa Rosa aquifer. They are then recycling the produced water—a byproduct of oil and natural gas drilling, and the flowback water—the fluid pushed back out of the well during fracking. Both forms of wastewater have historically been trucked to underground disposal wells.

A couple of months ago, I participated in the Executive Oil Conference in Midland, Texas where a panel of water experts addressed the crowd of more than 800 attendees and discussed the new technologies.

Now, instead of trucking wastewater to a remote location, mobile systems can treat the water onsite and condition it to meet almost any specification the driller wants—resulting in a reduction of expensive truck traffic. The portable systems can treat 20,000-30,000 barrels of water per day. For bigger frack jobs, additional units can be added—making the system totally flexible.

These new water solutions can reduce the total dissolved solids in the water from as high as 200,000 to below 200. For reference, the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for drinking water is 500. The same water can be recycled and used over and over again. Addressing the new technologies, James Welch, Global Business Development Manager, Water Solutions, with Halliburton, told the crowd: “Produced water is not a waste. It is an opportunity. It is an offset to freshwater usage.” Halliburton is able to fracture with water that’s 280,000 TDS.

The result of these new procedures is, according to The Economist: “Clean water …pure enough to be used for irrigation, or even drinking water. …Alternatively, it can be re-injected into the ground during the next frack.”

Rather than taking water out of the hydrologic cycle, the oil-and-gas industry is actually often taking formerly unusable water, using it in fracking and then cleaning it up to a level where it can be introduced into the cycle as either irrigation or drinking water.

Stan Weiner, Chairman and CEO at STW Resources, was one of the panelists. He summed up the new water solutions by saying: “Now we’ve figured out a way to clean it up economically. There’s no reason not to use it. Companies nationwide, worldwide, all want to do this. We get no resistance from them. They want to see it work. It’s a go.”

GE (as addressed in The Economist), Apache Corp. (as covered by Reuters), Halliburton, and STW Resources are just a handful of the many companies, which are developing revolutionary water treatment processes that neuter one of the biggest arguments against fracking.

Chemicals

In our Christmas conversation, someone asked: “Why do they need chemicals? Why don’t they just frack with water?” She’d heard stories.

I explained that the so-called chemicals are needed to provide lubrication for the tiny particles of sand that hold open microscopic cracks in the “fractured” rock that allow the oil or gas to escape. “As a woman, I am sure you’ve had your fingers swell. That makes it hard to get your rings off.” She nodded. “What do you do then?” I queried. “Soap my hands up,” she replied.

Bingo!

That is the role the chemicals play in the fracking process. But those chemicals are now mostly food-based and can be consumed with no ill effects—both Governor Hickenlooper (D-CO) and CNBC’s Jim Cramer have had a drink.

So, even if the chemicals did somehow defy geology and migrate several miles from the fracked well through the layers of sedimentary rock to the aquifer, they are not harmful.

To illustrate the point, I am in the process of organizing what I am calling “the great New Mexico fracktail party.” I have several state legislators lined up—and am looking for more. I need to find an operator who is willing to invite us onsite when a frack job is being done. The legislators, industry folks, and anyone else who wants to participate, will be invited to the location with cocktail glass in hand (umbrella, fruit, olive—whatever—included). With media cameras rolling we’ll pour the fracfluid from the tank to our glasses and toast to American energy freedom.

My sister-in-law asked: “What about the flaming faucets?” “Those are real,” I explained. “But they have nothing to do with fracking.” Natural gas, or methane, was found in water wells long before any fracking was done in the area. In fact, it was the gassy smell that often alerted explorers to the potential oil and gas in the region. Oil-and-gas drilling didn’t cause the flaming faucet phenomenon. Quite the contrary. The presence of gas near the surface brought about the “don’t smoke in the shower” adage. While the water is harmless to consume, a gas build up in the house could cause an explosion.

Lies about hydraulic fracturing are rampant. If fossil fuel opponents can spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about fracking—with the goal of causing a federal fracking ban, they can virtually stop oil-and-gas development in America, as it is estimated that 90 percent of producing wells have been fracked. Without American ingenuity and increasing production, gasoline prices and utility bills will skyrocket. Economic ruin will reign. America will, once again be beholden to increasingly hostile foreign sources.

A fracking conversation shouldn’t be explosive. Today’s hydraulic fracturing is really benign, American technology that is ecologically sound and economically advantageous. Keep these facts in mind. As my stories illustrate, not everyone will listen—but if more people, such as my brother and sister-in-law, know the truth they can help de-fuse the explosive conversation.

[Originally published on Townhall.com]
Categories: On the Blog

New Obamacare ‘Fee’ Assails Small Business and Jobs

January 02, 2014, 7:26 AM

Jobs, jobs, and jobs are on the minds of legislators, as they should be, not only at the federal level, but also here in Illinois.

On October 24, 2011, President Obama said:

Without a doubt, the most urgent challenge that we face right now is getting our economy to grow faster and to create more jobs.  . . .  We can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won’t act, I will.

Counter productive was the Obama administration’s jobs plan based on a greening of the economy. Candidate Barack Obama said in 2008 that he would create five million well-paying “green” jobs within 10 years.

Solar panel company, Solyndra, was one of many boondoggle companies that went belly up after being the recipient of government largess (taxpayer’s money) through stimulus funds intended to boost the green economy. A Johnson Controls plant in Michigan, toured by Obama to much fanfare in 2011, was able to produce 150 jobs with its $300 million in conservation grants at a cost of $1 million per position.

Despite Obama’s initial pledge to create millions of well-paying green jobs, 88% of all jobs created in 2013 were “part-time” jobs. Considered a plus was that the unemployment rate declined in November of 2013 from 7.3% to 7.0%, although millions still remain out of work, not counted because they are no longer looking for work.

How did Illinois fare in 2013 at the state level with job creation? With a ranking of 48 out of 50 states on economic outlook and 47 out of 50 in economic performance, Illinois’ performance could rightly be called dismal and unacceptable. In the Monthly Rankings of Unemployment Rates for States, Illinois was ranked 48th at 8.7% by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for November, 2013.

Some areas of Illinois even experienced double the national average of unemployment, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dropped to 7.0% in November (This 7% figures fails to consider those who have dropped out of the work force because they are unable to find jobs.)

Three of the ten top Illinois cities with the worst unemployment in 2013 were: 1) East St. Louis, 14.8%; 2) Harvey, 14.4%; and North Chicago, 14.3%.

Illinois legislators were chided by Illinois Chamber of Commerce President, Doug Whitley, when both the Senate and House failed to follow through on bills offering tax breaks for companies to stay or move to Illinois, but instead left town after the pension vote on Tuesday, December 4. Since lawmakers aren’t due back until January, the issue was pushed ahead into 2014.

According to Brent Pollina, head of Pollina Corporate Real Estate in suburban Chicago, whose firm helps companies find new locations:

It seems like Illinois can’t get its act together. Illinois really is behind the times when it comes to the concept of economic development and helping work with business.

Not so, according to Illinois lawmakers. Their first concern was to deal with the state’s roughly $100 billion pension crisis that had diverted money from other services and had led to repeated credit downgrades. Nevertheless, House Speaker Michael Madigan did tell reporters that “It’s still under consideration” to give tax incentives to corporations when lawmakers return to Springfield in late January.

While other states are in competition to snag large businesses here in Illinois — governors from Texas and Florida have waged public campaigns trying to get Illinois companies to move out of state — it is Illinois’ own messy state finances and incomes taxes that are presenting obstacles to what remains at the heart of America’s engine of growth for economic success and job creation. It is small businesses and start-up companies established through entrepreneurship that create new jobs.  In-state large corporations generally do quite well without incentives, even here in Illinois.

Talk to any small business owner in your community and you will find that many are just barely making it. It is not uncommon for a small business to go bankrupt and go out of business almost overnight.  But what has Illinois does to help small businesses survive in this time of economic uncertainty?

On January 1, a new drag was imposed on small business with a large new tax, compliments of Obamacare. It is the levy on health insurance premiums that targets small business and individual markets. Although the IRS classifies the tax as a “fee”, it functions like an excise tax on premiums.

Most gold-plated public, private and labor plans are exempt from the “fee” IRS regulations imposed last November which excluded “any entity that is a self-insured employer to the extent that such employer self-insures its employees’ health risks.” This political selectivity means that the tax burden will fall on those who work for small businesses, the self-employed and individuals. These are the people who can least afford the large, new Obamacare tax.

According to the research arm of the National Federation of Independent Business, these higher insurance costs will shrink hiring by 146,000 to 262,000 jobs over the next decade, with 59% of the losses hitting small business. Also prevalent will be the temptation to dump insurance coverage and send workers to the mercies of Obamacare, which most likely was the preferred outcome from the start.

Editorial page editor Paul Gigot discusses the new health-care tax on premiums that starts on January 1 via a video presentation at: Opinion: “Obamacare’s Coming Assault on Small Business.”

In case you’re feeling safe and secure from the reaches of Obamacare, not so fast! Surprises will be in store for you on your insurance premiums and income tax bills. Taxes and fees will be listed as a line item titled “Affordable Care Act Fees and Taxes.”

The government thinks we should surrender without complaint even though it is trying to make us buy something many of us don’t want. To add insult upon insult, government is now forcing us to pay additional taxes for what the government is demanding we buy, taxes that are set to increase year after year.

In my mind this results in the government’s confiscation of our liberty and freedom. What about you?

[First posted at Illinois Review.]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s 2014 Big Lie: Income Inequality

January 02, 2014, 12:12 AM

As the liberal disaster called Obamacare unfolds, President Barack Obama is already embarked on his next Big Lie: income inequality.

It’s useful to visit some of the planks of Karl Marx’s 1848 Communist Manifesto. They included abolition of private property — the keystone of capitalism — and the application of all rents of land to a public purpose. Marx advocated a heavy progressive or graduated income tax whereas a fair tax that treats all Americans fairly by taxing what you spend instead of what you earn. The current tax code is more than 73,000 pages! Marx wanted to eliminate all rights of inheritance and centralize credit by means of a national bank.

What Obama is talking about is socialism/communism when he claims that income inequality must be altered by more government intrusion into our lives and his claims are false. He said that “a dangerous and growing inequality and lack of upward mobility” is “the defining challenge of our time.”

His objective is to further divide Americans by promising what government cannot and should not deliver. This is now the Democratic Party theme leading up to the midterm elections in November. He is right about one thing, only economic growth can provide the opportunity for Americans to increase their personal incomes, provide a choice of investments, and save more for the future. In his first five years in office, economic growth has been historically slow.

In a Wall Street Journal opinion commentary by Robert A. Grady he cites a 2011 study by Lee Ohanian and Kip Hagopian, “The Mismeasure of Inequality”, that concluded that “inequality actually declined 1.8% during the 16-year period between 1993 and 2009.” According to studies by the U.S. Treasury, the capitalist system in America, providing mobility (up or down), found that “considerable income mobility” in the decades 1987-1996 and 1996-2005, found that approximately half of those in the bottom income quintile in 1996 had moved to a higher quintile by 2005. They were decades, the 1980s and 1990s, in which the vast majority of Americans gained higher incomes.

In the past four and a half years since the recession officially ended, poor people and the middle class were hurt the most and opportunity slowed. Under Obama millions of Americans are out of work and dependent on government programs such as food stamps and unemployment compensation. The later ended for many on December 31. The inequality that Obama cites is the direct result of the failure of his economic programs as well as a dramatic surge in federal regulations that harm economic growth.

The Affordable Care Act — Obamacare — is discouraging full-time employment. According to Gallup’s payroll-to-population ratio, the proportion of the American population working full-time, has dropped almost two percentage points in the last year to 43.8%. Wall Street Journal columnist noted that Obama spent 2013 fund-raising for the Democratic Party “making 30 separate visits to wealthy donors” at “more than twice the rate of the president’s two-term predecessors. On the day following the September 11, 2012 attack that killed an American ambassador and three others in Benghazi, Obama flew to Las Vegas on a fund-raising trip.

In the year ahead you will hear him cite figures based on 1979 income rates to justify his call for more opportunity, but in 1979 the mean (average) household income of the bottom 20% of wage earners was $4,000. By 2012, it was $11.499, an increase of 186%. For the middle class, the increase was 211%. Despite the 2008 financial crisis, it still rose.

Did the rich get richer? Yes. But the rich earn their money from inheritance, from business development (jobs) and investment. Under communism there is no inheritance; the state gets it all. And the state owns the factories and instruments of production, as well as collectivizing agriculture. It maintains a “progressive” or graduated income tax.

Does the political theme of income inequality work? Bill de Blasio, New York’s new mayor, ran on an income inequality platform and will be sworn in by former President Bill Clinton who will be accompanied by his wife, Hillary.

Income inequality will be the theme of Obama’s forthcoming State of the Union speech, but like everything else he says it will be a Big Lie.

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

‘Tis is Still the Season for Giving to These Groups, All Through 2014

January 02, 2014, 12:05 AM

Happy New Year to all! Along with the Holiday Season are inspirations that good citizens need to return gifts to benefit those less fortunate. From my activities, it is easy to find areas for donations that help the poor cope with expenses of energy use.

Most don’t think simple items like paying electric bills are a hardship. For the unemployed and extremely poor these are almost life-or-death choices.  Great help is available through Project Share administered by the Salvation Army. This is assistance to help the hopeless pay utility bills.

In Georgia, you can make a donation on your electric bill which is matched by Georgia Power. Donations are matched by Georgia Power Company; so if you don’t like them, make a big donation and cut into company profits. Project Share has given over $100 million to poor Georgians the past 30 years.  Similar programs exist in other states. Make your donation now!!

High energy bills for electricity, heating oil, natural gas, and gasoline are far more punishing to the unfortunate than for average citizens. With government policies directed toward higher energy costs, the situation for the poor becomes even more hopeless.

The federal government, most states, and even many local municipalities have subscribed to the idea that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causes uncontrollable global warming with catastrophic climate events. As a consequence, they place roadblocks for fossil fuel production and mandate use of a vast variety of “renewable energy sources” that are far more expensive than our abundant fossil fuel resources of coal, oil, and natural gas.

In many cases “renewable energy sources” are not renewable and create far more economic and environmental problems than they are alleged to solve. This global warming scare activism is a global problem that is locking developing nations (like in Africa) into perpetual poverty and reducing living standards for those in developed nations like in Europe and North America.

Without impediments to fossil fuel energy use, energy costs would decrease, millions of new jobs would be created, and, billions, if not a trillion, of annual revenue generated in the United States alone. The global benefits are extraordinary.

To slow down this anti-fossil-fuel train charging to disaster, there is a host of organizations staffed with thousands of volunteers educating the public about the nonsense of fossil-fuel caused global warming and impractical, uneconomic, and unreliable energy sources proposed as solutions. These organizations have expenses for maintaining office space, phones and computers, publication materials, mailing, hosting conferences, travel, and office salaries.  Most organizations are 501(c) 3 organizations for which donations are tax deductible.

So in a sense donations to energy advocacy organizations produces the same results as giving money to the poor because their accomplishments decrease energy costs for the unfortunate.  A few organizations with links for making donations follow.  My apology for not listing the hundreds of other organizations toiling so hard to educate the public about efforts to make radical changes to global energy use.

1.  The Heartland Institute. A Chicago-based libertarian think tank that sponsored eight international conferences on climate science, published many thousands of pages of scientific articles refuting United Nations publications promoting the global warming scare, and a vast array of other activities. Donations are made with this link.

2.  Science & Environmental Policy Project (SEPP). A Washington-based group that collaborated with The Heartland Institute on thousands of pages of scientific articles refuting United Nations publications, publishes a weekly summary of pertinent articles on climate science and energy, and a host of other activities.  Donations are made with this link.

3.  Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). A Washington-based group that published numerous articles on climate science and energy policy, attends United Nations Conferences to refute global warming scare information, and a host of other activities.  Donations are made with this link.

4.  Cornwall Alliance. The Cornwall Alliance is a coalition of clergy, theologians, religious leaders, scientists, academics, and policy experts committed to bringing a proper and balanced view of nature and the environment.  They publish numerous articles refuting the global warming scare, provided speakers for news and religious meetings, and a host of other activities.  Donations are made with this link.

Support energy advocacy groups because they need funds to accomplish their mission. Organizations pushing the global warming scare have access to billions of tax dollars and donations from those who profit from their assistance.

Categories: On the Blog

There Is No Denying Mother Nature

January 01, 2014, 11:09 PM

A retrospective analysis of the year 2013 reveals one humiliating defeat after another for contemporary ecotheologians as various climatic and political events served to further undermine their case for man-made climate change.

For starters, a number of Western governments rejected United Nations climate change protocols. Australia (Tony Abbott, whose platform featured a rejection of climate change hokum, was elected prime minister), Japan (the country dramatically scaled back its 2009 carbon emissions pledges) and Poland (which fired its environmental minister just days into the COP-19/Conference of Parties climate change forum) all sent a clear message that they would not be bound to any economically destructive international agreements based on fraudulent science.

In terms of COP-19 “accomplishments,” the Obama administration pledged to have U.S. carbon reduction targets in place by the 2015 Paris conference and there was a loose agreement on a “loss and damage” (a wealth redistribution scheme compensating developing countries for damages from greenhouse gas emissions with funds from developed countries) plan. Such “commitments” are best to be taken with a grain of salt, however, given the poor record of nations keeping such promises.

One 2013 event that held out hope for man-made climate change advocates was Typhoon Haiyan, a category 4 storm that struck the Philippines in early November. Having recast their focus on “extreme weather events” (instead of rising temperatures) as the litmus test for the existence of man-made climate change, the alarmists viewed Haiyan as a godsend.

In the wake of the storm, the main stream media and climate change alarmists trumpeted their message of linkage between climate change and the storm’s intensity. Following the hyperbole emanating from these messengers of doom, however, a number of scientific analyses and historical hurricane records were published that conclusively debunked any such linkage. In fact, claims of causality between purported climate change and Haiyan’s intensity carried about as much water as similar calls linking “super storm” Sandy and climate change the year before.

The typhoon was the highlight of a normally active Pacific hurricane season, but the Atlantic Basin was quite tranquil with the region experiencing the fewest number of hurricanes in 30 years. Of thirteen named storms, only two became hurricanes and only one of these made landfall in the U.S. Mexico experienced a total of eight storms, with three making landfall as hurricanes. Of greater significance, however is the long term record that shows no trend of increase in the number or severity of U.S. hurricanes since 1990 (2013: Slowest Hurricane Season in 30 Years, Anthony Watts, November 25, 2013).

And what about those global sea ice trends? Perhaps one should ask those aboard the MV Akademik Scholkalskiy, the misfit bunch of researchers and tourists who went venturing off to the Antarctic to see how climate change was affecting sea ice. Well, to paraphrase a famous play, a funny thing happened on the way to the Douglas Mawson base camp (the researchers mission was to recreate the 1912 exploits of the Australian scientist).

The latest news was that the ship was stuck in ice 15-feet thick with attempts by several other ships to rescue the crew members rendered unsuccessful due to similarly poor seafaring conditions. In fact, the latest satellite data shows that Antarctic sea ice is at record highs while Arctic sea ice is up 35% or more from last year’s low levels. Translation: global sea ice is now well above the historical average.

Perhaps the crowning achievement of the alarmist community in 2013 was the IPCC’s release of its Fifth Assessment Report, or AR5, another IPCC publication that came up well short in the credibility column.  Most laughable among the report’s conclusions was the statement claiming improved confidence in projections of rising temperatures despite the increasingly yawning disconnect between actual global temperatures and rising CO2 levels. Thus is the logic of the IPCC. Welcome to the global warming “pause,” 17 years and counting. [Editor: Catch up with the latest definitive rebuttal to IPCC alarmism, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change or NIPCC.]

In an effort to refute this widening decoupling, the “true believers” like Heidi Cullen continued to grasp for straws, claiming that the earth’s warming is taking place in the deep ocean with the effects to become more profound in the future. The problem with people like Heidi Cullen, Al Gore and NOAA’s James Hansen, is that their predicted apocalyptic events are always in the future, thus in order to avoid accountability.

Categories: On the Blog

A Rational Look at Global Warming Defies Hype and Conjecture

December 31, 2013, 12:33 AM

It was on September 27 that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) delivered to massive media coverage an unsettling message: Climate change is real, humans are the main cause of it, and unless we stop the warming of the planet, in 50 years life as we know it will be no more.

A little more than a week before, on Sept. 18, a dueling climate change report was issued (published by Chicago’s Heartland Institute) by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science.

The NIPCC report, in keeping with past precedent, was not accorded the same fanfare as received by the UN’s IPCC report upon its release. To the contrary, media attention for Heartland’s NIPCC report was practically nonexistent as was observed at the Sept. 18 press conference held by Heartland in Chicago to announce the release of its report.

As a skeptic of global warming, a welcome mat does not exist in Chicago for The Heartland Institute as its message goes against the accepted media message of the Chicago Tribune, etc., that global warming is man-made with CO2 as the main culprit.

A slew of scathing reports followed the release of Heartland’s NIPCC report, such as this from Climate Science Watch:

The discredited Heartland Institute is attempting to present its new NIPCC report, Climate Change Reconsidered, as a legitimate alternative authority to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  But the NIPCC report is not a credible scientific undertaking, and the Heartland Institute has no credibility, scientific or otherwise.

To protect the stellar credentials of The Heartland Institute, President Joseph Bast offered the following essay:

We urge the public to compare and contrast these two reports on what is probably the most important public policy issue of our age. The NIPCC report was produced by a team of independent scientists with no agenda other than to find the truth. . . .  The IPCC study, in contrast, is produced by a government agency, part of the United Nations. That agency’s mission is to find a human impact on climate. . . .

The NIPCC report finds the human impact on climate is very small, and as a result, any warming that may be due to human greenhouse gas emissions is likely to be so small as to be invisible against a background of natural variability. The authors of the NIPCC study do not believe man-made global warming is a crisis, or that scientists know enough about how the climate works to make policy-relevant recommendations to the world’s government leaders.

Without question President Obama and his administration are in lock step with the UN’s highly flawed report that calls for action now to fight climate change before time runs out.  Accordingly, it’s full steam ahead for Obama and his administration.

On November 1, Obama offered a presidential directive to “enhance climate preparedness and resilience.”  The directive calls for an interagency Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience in partnership with state, county, local and tribal governments, by which Obama aims to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020 from 2005 levels.  Even the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline hinges upon a determination of what will be the net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate.

But what do the American people think?  Might they be seeing through the story they are being fed by the mainstream media? According to the Pew Research Center’s policy priorities survey, this year the American public ranked dealing with global warming at the very bottom of 21 listed priorities. Even so 35% of Republicans, 53% of independents, and 75% of Democrats believe there is solid evidence of rising temperatures on earth.

According to Michael Bastasch, the American people should be holding their champagne glasses high this holiday season as the end of 2013 marks the 17th year without global warming. Explaining away the 17-year hiatus in global despite the setbacks noted below, can be achieved only if political ideology is permitted to trump proven scientific facts.

The following top seven global warming alarmist setbacks of 2013 were posted on December 20 by Mr. Bastasch from content compiled by The Daily Caller News Foundation:

1) Studies show that the world was warmer than it is today during the Roman Empire and when the Vikings were plundering Europe and North America. In fact, even in the 19th Century, there were discussions surrounding the fact that the Vikings could settle the northernmost reaches of Greenland and North America because there was less ice coverage.

2) During the second week in December, the U.S. saw more than 2000 record low temperatures and record snowfalls, according to the National Weather Service and HamWeather records center. There were 606 record low temperatures, 1,234 low maximum temperatures and 285 record snowfalls across the country. In the meantime there were only 98 high temperature records and 141 high minimum temperature records.

3) Satellite data shows that the polar bears have at least one reason to be happy this year – Arctic sea ice coverage was up 50 percent over last year’s record low coverage. Contrary to Al Gore’s prediction that there would be no polar ice cap by this year, sea ice coverage spanned nearly 2,100 cubic miles by the end of this year’s melting season, up from about 1,400 cubic last year.

4) Global cooling is on the way, according to an increasing number of scientists. German scientists have predicted that based on declining sunspot activity and natural climate oscillation the world will cool over the next century. Temperatures will eventually drop to levels corresponding with the “little ice age” of 1870.

5) Other scientists have also been coming around to the global cooling side of things. The BBC reported that Professor Mike Lockwood of the Reading University predicts that at the current rate of decline in solar activity, another “Little Ice Age” could envelope Northern Europe.

6) The United Nations climate bureaucracy’s latest global warming report was called “hilarious” by a leading scientist from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Richard Lindzen said the UN’s report “has truly sunk to level of hilarious incoherence” because they continue to proclaim with ever greater certainty that mankind is causing global warming, despite their models continually being wrong.

“Their excuse for the absence of warming over the past 17 years is that the heat is hiding in the deep ocean,” Lindzen said. “However, this is simply an admission that the models fail to simulate the exchanges of heat between the surface layers and the deeper oceans.”

7) The Senate testimony of Dr. Roger Pielke of the University of Colorado completely undercut environmentalists and Democrats trying to claim that global warming was causing “extreme weather.”

“It is misleading and just plain incorrect to claim that disasters associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or droughts have increased on climate timescales either in the United States or globally,” Pielke said. “It is further incorrect to associate the increasing costs of disasters with the emission of greenhouse gases.”

The other witnesses on the panel did not refute Pielke’s data.

Will the Dec. 28 saga of a dramatic spectacle of climate researchers trapped in Antarctic ice (which has expanded massively during 2013) help free the mainstream media of the false global warming ice narrative?  A Chinese ice breaker sent to rescue climate researchers who became trapped in ice on Christmas Day is now itself waiting and is hoping to push aside some of the ten foot thick ice preventing it from reaching the trapped researchers. An Australian ice-breaking ship got stuck in the ice, too.

Hardly so, because the story doesn’t fit the unflinching template held by the mainstream media, just as the same has disregarded John Coleman (founder of The Weather Channel) and various other critics who have called the theory that human use of carbon-based fossil fuels will lead to catastrophic global warming or climate change a hoax, despite an added warning that purposeful deception to mislead might be criminal.

Even if more adults do see through the hoax that is global warming, what about our youth?

The Common Core Science Curriculum teaches children that humans are dangerous to the planet, that man made global warming is an accepted incontrovertible fact even though it is not, and that government action is required to fix global warming even though the taxes the Obama administration would like to impose on carbon dioxide producers would have a negligible effect on global warming but would have a devastating effect on a crumbling economy.

Are parents in the know up to countering the false propaganda being taught their children? And what about the many parents who have no idea or little interest in what their children are being taught in the public schools by way of the new Common Core curriculum.

Only time will tell, but the situation doesn’t offer much hope.

Categories: On the Blog

Don’t Fear ‘Deflation,’ Unless Caused by Government

December 30, 2013, 10:34 PM

Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, and his designated successor, Janet Yellen, have defended the central bank’s $4 trillion monetary expansion over the last five years as a necessity to fight recession and prevent deflation. The only problem is that booms and recessions are caused by central banks, and deflation is “bad” only when it is the result of government policy.

It was the five years of easy money policy and interest rate manipulation between 2003 and 2008 that created the unsustainable housing, investment, and consumer spending booms that finally came crashing down in 2008 and 2009. The Federal Reserve’s 50 percent increase in the supply of money and credit in the banking system between 2003 and 2008 generated the illusion that people could do more and spend more than the scarce resources of the society could actually fund and cover.

The recession was a symptom that numerous sectors of the economy had been thrown out of balance during the years of easy money, and that markets needed to rebalance to restore sustainable full employment and long-term wealth-enhancing growth.

Instead of leaving markets alone to find their own levels for that rebalancing of supply and demand, the Federal Reserve continued to pump in even more money into the financial markets – over $4 trillion more into the banking system – and the federal government went on an even larger than usual deficit spending binge – over $4.6 trillion worth between 2009 and 2013.

Rather than assisting a post-recession recovery, these policies – plus other market-harming government interventions, regulations, and manipulations including ObamaCare – have made this the most sluggish recovery, especially in terms of employment, in the entire period since the end of World War II in 1945.

At the same time, the Federal Reserve leadership has argued that its “quantitative easing” policies were necessary to prevent the economy from experiencing any significant “deflation,” defined by the monetary authorities as a sustained and continuing fall in the general level of prices.

This is what is behind the unofficial Federal Reserve policy of aiming for a “target” of two percent price inflation, that is a sustained and continuing rise in the general level of prices.

What is considered to be so “damaging” in a general decline or fall in prices throughout the economy? For many economists, including, seemingly, those at the helm at the Federal Reserve, falling prices is considered a sign of economic “bad times.” After all, how can businessmen be making profits and maintain employment if their selling prices are going down?

It is possible to distinguish at least three causal reasons behind any observed general fall in prices, or “price deflation,” and it is worth understanding the affects of each one.

Supply-Side Deflation

A general decline in prices may accompany significant expansions in output resulting from productivity increases and cost efficiencies. One of the competitive forces in the market economy is the never-ending drive of entrepreneurs to bring better and less-expensive goods and services to market for the consuming public.

New technologies and cost-saving innovations introduced within business enterprises enable more goods to be manufactured and sold at lower per-unit costs. Sellers, in one sector of the economy after another, increase their supplies offered on the market, and competitive pressure results in a lowering of the prices of those goods to reflect their lower costs of production. The cumulative effect is that the general level of prices will decline over a period of time.

In the period between the end of the American Civil War in 1865 and 1900, the general level of prices in the United States declined by about 50 percent. While the American economy did experience short periods of economic depression during those years (mostly due to the federal government’s manipulation of the monetary standard), this nearly half-century period was the time of America’s Industrial Revolution, and it saw a dramatic rise in standards of living even though accompanied by an expanding population.

An open, free-market system tends to foster the incentives and profitable rewards for capital investment and innovation that bring forth increasing prosperity. Greater output at falling prices provides people with higher real income as each dollar they earn now buys a larger quantity of goods and services in the marketplace. Supply-side deflation, therefore, is an indication of a growing and dynamic market system that is improving the economic conditions and opportunities of the general population.

For that reason, such supply-side price deflation has often been called the “good deflation.”

Price-Wage Rigidity Deflation and Keynesian Economics

All economic change brings with it shifts in market demand-and-supply conditions. Continuous adjustment and balance within the market requires those affected by change to adapt to the new circumstances. In a world of constant change, the demands for some goods increase while other demands decline.

Innovations and technological advancements as well as changing resource availability bring with it shifts in the demand and supply of various forms of labor and capital. The information about these changes and the incentives to appropriately respond to them are provided to people in the market through changes in the structure of relative prices and wages.

Any failure of prices and wages to correctly reflect the new patterns of market supply and demand only generates distortions, imbalances, and maladjustments between the two sides of the market. Under the influence of Keynesian economics, for most of the last 75 years, the resulting unemployment and falling output due to price and wage rigidities have been called “aggregate-demand failures.”

The presumption has been that the level of total demand for goods and services in the economy in general falls short of the total supply of goods and services available for sale at prices equal to their costs of production. The problem, it is said, is not that prices and wages are “wrong” on the supply side but rather that aggregate spending is “too low” on the demand side. The policy presumption has been that government and its monetary authority must increase total demand, either through government deficit spending or the central bank’s printing money and providing it for private investment and other purposes.

Unemployment as a Supply-Side Pricing Problem

The free-market economist William H. Hutt gave a refutation to this Keynesian reasoning in his two works “A Rehabilitation of Say’s Law” (1974) and “The Keynesian Episode” (1979). Hutt argued that when the Keynesians refer to excess aggregate supply and an apparent weakness of aggregate demand to purchase that supply, they are looking through the wrong end of the telescope.

There cannot be an “aggregate” excess supply of everything unless there is a super-abundance of all resource inputs and consumer-demanded outputs, at which point there would no longer be an “economic problem” because there would no longer be scarcity. Why bother whether all are employed when the society has reached the point where it is so rich in all desired things that there is no longer any work left to be done?

What can exist is an oversupply of particular goods relative to the demand for them at the prices at which they are being offered for sale. What is preventing the buying of more of these goods is not that the aggregate demand is “too low” but rather that the particular prices for these goods are set too high, given the consumer demands for them.

In other words, the sellers of these goods or labor services are pricing themselves out of the market. It is the unwillingness of resource owners to price their products and services at levels commensurate with consumer demand that Hutt said were the cause of prolonged depressions.

When a supplier is unwilling to lower his price or wage to induce greater sales when demand for his particular good or service turns out to be less than he had, perhaps, expected, then a part of his supply remains unsold and a portion of the labor services available for hire remains unemployed.

The loss of income due to producers or workers maintaining their supply prices too high relative to actual market demand results in a decrease in their ability to purchase the goods and services of others being offered on the market.

If the suppliers of those goods and services, in turn, refuse to adjust their prices and wages downwards, given the now-lower demand for their output, then the circle of unsold products and unemployed labor starts to expand. A “cumulative contraction” of output and employment may develop in the face of such a network of relatively rigid prices and wages.

Hutt also emphasized that whenever a price or wage that is too high is lowered closer to its equilibrium or market-clearing level, suppliers of those goods and services increase their sales and potentially earn higher income. Their higher incomes from pricing their goods and services more correctly, in turn, enable them to increase their demands for other goods and services and thus start a process of expanding the circle of employment and production opportunities in the market. Market-guided pricing puts the unemployed back to work and releases the flow of demand for a growing circle of goods in the economy.

Monetary Deflation

A general decline in prices can also be brought about by a monetary deflation. A contraction in the supply of money and credit reduces the amount of money in people’s hands with which they can demand the various goods and services they wish to buy in the market. With less money to spend, there invariably results a downward pressure on prices and wages in general in the economy

If there are price and wage rigidities, as just discussed, then the process of restoring balance between market supplies and demands at a required lower scale or level of prices can be dragged out and punctuated by “recessionary” unemployment and lower production.

Under central banking, monetary contractions are government-made. There have been instances when governments have intentionally contracted the money supply. The British government did so after the war with Napoleon in the early 19th century and then again after the First World War in the early 1920s.

Other times it has happened as a result of the central-bank-managed fractional-reserve system, under which outstanding bank liabilities are a multiple of the actual reserves to meet all depositor obligations. In the early 1930s, bank loans went bad, depositors withdrew their funds out of fear of bank closings, and the amount of bank credit outstanding contracted as a multiple of the reserves withdrawn by depositors.

But as we saw, for practically the entire 21st century, so far, the Federal Reserve has been greatly increasing the supply of money and credit to the banking system, both during the “boom” years between 2003 and 2008, and even more “aggressively” during the recession and recovery years between 2008 and 2013. So no monetary deflation or contraction has threatened the U.S. economy.

A Non-Inflationary Free Market Banking System

What we should want is a non-inflationary monetary framework for the United States, through severe restraints on the ability of the Federal Reserve to expand the supply of money and credit, and through an eventual shift away from central banking to a gold, or some other commodity-based, private competitive banking system.

A free, competitive market economy is always rewarding successful entrepreneurs with profits for having made new, better and less expensive goods to earn consumer business. Thus, the normal trend in a free, competitive market is a world of gently falling prices as innovative businessmen bring improved and less expensive goods to consumers.

A truly free market economy, therefore, is one that tends to have the “good deflation,” and we should look forward to it, if only government intervention and central banking would get out of the way.

[First published at Epic Times.]

Categories: On the Blog

Swirling the Bowl: An Administration Goes Down the Drain

December 29, 2013, 5:08 AM

If you accidentally dropped your most treasured piece of jewelry into the toilet just as you were flushing, you’d scream, you’d cry, and you might tell a sympathetic friend . . . unless you were just too embarrassed.

Among President Obama’s formerly greatest champions — minorities, unions, so-called journalists and young voters — the swirling-into-oblivion administration has engendered a remarkable sullen silence, given their loss, as they passively give up on recovering their once-loved gem, now sullied by this government’s own political excrement.

Covered with the stench of debacles including Obamacare, the NSA, Syria, Benghazi, the IRS, and the AP, while demonstrating a level of incompetence so great that it must give pause to all but the most committed members of the cult of unlimited government, few liberals will be willing to dig through the muck to reclaim their once-prized possession.

While the media like to focus on Tea Party froth and Republican infighting, the key to the 2014 and 2016 elections is the effect of the Obama flush on his key supporters’ desire to vote for Democrats, or to vote at all.

Several recent polls point to 2014 as having the potential to be a Republican landslide. This is not because the GOP has found a coherent message or a compelling messenger but because Obama’s base has lost that lovin’ feelin’.

A poll released on Monday by Pew Research says that while 90 percent of liberal Democrats still profess approval of how President Obama is doing his job — more than double his approval in the population overall — the percentage who say they “strongly approve” has plunged to 54 percent, down almost 20 percent from just six months ago.

Compared to George W. Bush at the same point in his presidency, Obama has more total support from his base (90 percent of liberal Democrats versus Bush’s 82 percent support among conservative Republicans) but far less “strong support” (54 percent to Bush’s 65 percent). A strong supporter is a likely voter; any other supporter could just as easily stay home on Election Day.

In the 2006 midterm elections, the Bush analog to the upcoming 2014 midterms, with more strong support for President Bush than Obama has now among their respective bases, Democrats picked up 31 seats in the House of Representatives, ending a Republican majority and installing Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as Speaker of the House.

In the Senate, Democrats picked up six seats by defeating Republican incumbents.

In the 2006 elections, as Wikipedia notes, “no Congressional or gubernatorial seat held by a Democrat was won by a Republican.”

Six years later, it was no accident that most of Barack Obama’s traffic-snarling trips to key swing states during the 2012 election cycle were visits to universities in Colorado (he visited CU three times in 2012), North CarolinaIowaOhio and elsewhere, offering platitudes about college affordability. Obama was dependent on young, idealistic, and naïve young adults to win re-election.

poll just prior to the election showed that college students preferred Obama to Mitt Romney by 30 percentage points, with an even larger gap in swing states where Obama focused most of his campaigning. And these young adults turned out in much larger numbers than the pundits had expected, with an estimated 50 percent turnout among voters ages 18 to 29, making up 19 percent of the electorate.

One study of the 2012 election concludes that “without young people, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Pennsylvania would have flipped from blue to red,” giving the election to Romney. You don’t need to go that far. If a moderate fraction of young voters were disinclined to participate in an election, or, even more impactfully, switched from Democrat to Republican, it could completely change American elections, many of which are decided by small single-digit percentage changes in voter preferences.

Among young adults those preferences are changing dramatically: A recent Harvard survey of 18- to 29-year olds shows plunging approval of Obama, down to 41 percent (from 52 percent last year), and now tracking with older Americans’ views. Along with a substantial decline in Democratic Party self-identification by 18-24 year olds, 52 percent of that group says they would recall President Obama if they could. And with more recent data, Fox News reported on Wednesday that Obama approval among registered voters under the age of 35 is down to 37 percent, lower than any other age group.

For conservatives, the good news here is substantial. By demonstrating not just incompetence but overt lies the Obama administration is undermining the faith of an increasingly libertarian millennial cohort in the Nanny State and its Democratic pied pipers.

Additionally, the Obama propagandists are — remarkably for people so effective with Facebook and Twitter during the last two presidential elections — showing a strangely off-putting social media aesthetic.

Their latest and perhaps greatest fail is “pajama boy,” an effete plaid-wearing cocoa-sipping geek, as their face of the generic young adult who should sign up for Obamacare.

Appropriately snarky reactions from the Twitterverse include Dana Loesch’s “All-natural birth control right here, ladies” as well as dozens of hilarious mash-ups and photo manipulations.

What typical guy would take guidance from a character whose most common descriptive seems to be “douche”? For that matter, what young woman would?

As Reason magazine’s Nick Gillespie points out, “If you think the latest bid to reboot the public image of Obamacare is absolutely godawful, disturbing, pathetic, you name it (I know I do!), I’ve got news for you: You’re probably not the audience for it.”

But the problem for Democrats everywhere is that if the “hipster douchitude on a cracker” is the left’s “in-group,” that is a very thin reed on which to attach a political campaign. Getting the majority of graduate students in the Department of Comparative Lesbian Eskimo Literature isn’t going to win Senate elections, especially in competitive upcoming races in states like Louisiana, Arkansas, South Dakota, and West Virginia. (Boulder is another story.)

But it’s not just young people who are abandoning the false promise of “hope and change.”

Gallup poll released earlier this month shows massive declines among all of Obama’s core base groups, led by a stunning 23 percent drop in Obama’s approval among Hispanics since last December. Among those earning less than $24,000 a year, the plunge was 18 percent. Nonwhite support of Obama fell 17 percent (though it still remains high at 65 percent). Support among moderates fell 16 percent and among 18-29 year-olds tumbled 15 percent, both resting under 50 percent with groups Democrats must have to win.

And so the Obama presidency circles the drain.

Union members are furious about the impact of Obamacare on their “Cadillac” health plans. In August, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which has over 40,000 members in the United States, dissolved their ties with the AFL-CIO based in large part on the AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka’s active role in helping Obamacare become law.

Several other large labor unions are now suffering buyer’s remorse over the ironically named Affordable Care Act. Union dissatisfaction with the Obama administration has become intense enough that even the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein was compelled to report on it.

Among reporters, however, it’s more of a Silver Blaze situation: notable for the lapdogs not barking. Some are reluctantly recognizing that what little credibility they and their profession have left requires telling today’s political stories with near-honesty rather than serving as Obama’s human shields.

Of course there are holdouts: The slavishly pro-Obama NBC News begins a story about the president’s 38 percent job approval in Iowa by saying, “Not that he’s running for anything again.” I’m sure that makes the reporter feel better.

That’s par for the “journalistic” course among the usual old-line news outlets whose J-school-graduate employees are inconsolable as the legacy of their “historic” president swirls in the bowl like Tuesday’s pot roast, substantially less appealing after being fully digested.

And while the Hollywood celebrity elite try to stand their ground, the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan believes that “New York’s Democrats, to the degree they ever loved the president, don’t love him anymore, and have moved on. They are not thinking about what progress he might make in Washington next year, they’re talking about what Hillary might do the year after that.”

Yet all this talk about President Obama obscures a larger point, though one not lost on likely-to-be-ex-Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) and other vulnerable Democrats — or on the declining Mrs. Clinton herself: The flush isn’t just sucking away Obama’s last measure of relevancy, but the relevancy of his party and his philosophy, and the morale and commitment of their supporters.

The last remaining glimmer of Obama’s political capital and personal appeal, and thus his ability to help vulnerable Democrats in the 2014 elections and beyond, is flowing into the septic tank of Progressive history.

As of now, President Obama is to Democratic contenders what an accidentally flushed necklace would be to a woman trying to impress a date — if she pulled it out of the muck and put it around her neck without first washing it off.

Some things you just have to let go.

[First published at the American Spectator.]

Categories: On the Blog

Will Insurers Ever Say Enough’s Enough To Obamacare?

December 28, 2013, 1:29 PM

I’ve been working professionally in health policy since 1979 when I was hired to write the consumer contracts and other communications in plain English for the Blue Cross Blue Shield plan in Maine. I neither knew nor cared anything about health care before that.

Rewriting contracts turned out to be a pretty good way to learn a whole lot about the business very quickly, I went from there to the research department and then to government relations. Before I left the Blues I was heading the state relations department for the national association in Washington. Then I went on to organize a trade association of health insurance companies that were interested in promoting free market solutions in health care.

I was surprised at how naïve the executives of these companies were when Clinton proposed his own health reforms. These were quiet, unassuming people who were happy to pool risks and pay claims and feel good about their work. They never expected to become the villains in Hillary’s ambitions, had never been political, and didn’t know how to cope with it.

So, understand that I am a man of the insurance industry. I am not a lawyer, have never worked for any government or politician, not an economist, don’t have an advanced degree in any field, and obviously have never cared for a patient. My sole qualifications are that I’m a good writer and a dogged researcher.

What has happened to the insurance industry has me stunned.

Now, I am no apologist for the industry. I have been one of its biggest critics. Its dalliance with Managed Care after the demise of ClintonCare was an enormous mistake that took its mission away from financial protection into health services management – something it was never qualified to do. The industry not only did a poor job of it, but it alienated and embittered the only people who really matter in health care – doctors and patients.

Granted, Managed Care pleased employers for a few years. It restrained their costs in the mid-1990s. But employers don’t really know anything about health care, either. What they do know is the morale of their workers, and Managed Care was the biggest morale-killer ever. Employees were furious that care was being denied by insurance company bureaucrats in Hartford, Connecticut, and they let company HR departments know it.

Employers started looking for other ways to restrain costs while preserving patient choice, and came to embrace “consumer-directed” health care (CDHC) in the early 2000s. This approach has been enormously successful and has exceeded the expectations of even its advocates like me. It has lowered costs and increased patient involvement in health care decision-making.

As an insurance guy, I liked that it was moving insurers away from their misguided notion of being the big boss in health care and back to the role of financial protection.

But the industry didn’t much like that aspect of it. Sure, they would sell the products because employers demanded it, but they were losing control as banks entered the market to manage the first few thousand dollars of expenses of a patient’s contract. The banks were still focused on financial protection and didn’t have ambitions to become health care managers.

So when Obama came along with an offer to require all Americans to buy their products, it was an offer they couldn’t refuse. Especially when the products he had in mind were comprehensive, cover-everything health plans. No more bank involvement. We’ll really be in the catbird seat now!

The naivety I had witnessed during the Clinton Wars was still in force. Many of us tried to warn the industry that they would regret this arrangement. Yes, they might be assured of modest profits, but the cost of sacrificing their autonomy would be far too high. They would become little more than public utilities. They would lose all control over benefit design, marketing practices, and rate setting. They would have no idea of the risks they were enrolling and would have to set premiums blindly.

It has become much, much worse than I ever imagined. Obamacare is not even fully in effect yet and already we are seeing the president playing with the carriers like a toddler plays with toy trucks –

  • Employers will be mandated to buy your policies for 2014
  • (Oops, employers are angry)
  • Employers won’t be mandated until 2015 – if then
  • Small employers will give workers a choice of health plans through the SHOP program in 2014
  • (Oops, we can’t get the web site ready in time)
  • Small employers won’t have to offer a choice of plan until – sometime later
  • You must cancel these individual policies
  • (Oops, public backlash)
  • You must reinstate these policies
  • (Oops, many insurance commissioners won’t allow it)
  • You must continue to cover providers and drugs even for cancelled policies
  • The deadline for enrollment will be December 15, 2013
  • (Oops, web site problems)
  • The deadline for enrollment will be December 23, 2013
  • (Oops, too much traffic)
  • The deadline for enrollment will be December 24, 2013
  • Never mind, there is no deadline
  • First month’s premium must be received by December 31, 2013
  • (Oops, back-end problems with the web site)
  • First month’s premium must be received by January 8, 2014
  • Make that January 10, 2014

How can anyone run a business this way? This is worse than being a federal agency. No federal agency would be expected to stop and start on a personal whim like this. These aren’t rules, they aren’t regulations, they are dictates based on nothing more than Kathleen Sebelius’ momentary feelings.

These are only the “glitches” that have been made public. God knows what orders and threats are being issued in closed-door meetings.

How long will the insurance industry abide being treated like shoe shine boys? Mr. Obama will not be in office forever. His regime is already coming to an end. What will these companies do then? He will no longer be around to grant or withhold bailout (“risk corridor”) money. No other president, Democrat or Republican, will ever be as arrogant or irrational.

It is well past time for the industry, supposed Titans of Wall Street, to grow some spine and start thinking about the best interests of their customers and shareholders.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s Slow Growth Policies Have Stacked The Deck Against American Workers

December 28, 2013, 7:36 AM

President Obama told us in his December 4 economic coming out speech on inequality, which the Huffington Post called the most important speech of his presidency:

But we know that people’s frustrations run deeper than these most recent political battles. Their frustration is rooted in their own daily battles – to make ends meet, to pay for college, buy a home, save for retirement. It’s rooted in the nagging sense that no matter how hard they work, the deck is stacked against them. And it is rooted in the fear that their kids won’t be better off than they were.

That fear is well justified. Because without economic growth, their kids will not be better off than they were. And without economic growth, no matter how hard they work, they won’t get ahead. The fundamental problem was shown in the rest of President Obama’s economic inequality speech.

He did not seriously advance one idea or measure that would do anything significant to increase economic growth anytime soon. Everything he promoted to address the problem was anti-growth – more taxes, government spending, and regulation. Just like everything he has done in his entire presidency. Which is why his economic growth record has been so poor, poverty has soared, middle class incomes have plummeted, and inequality has accelerated, under his policies. And that won’t change until his policies change. But instead he just keeps moving farther and farther left, as in this speech.

Obama added, in explaining where America went wrong:

Sstarting in the late 1970s, this social compact began to unravel. . . . As trickle down ideology became more prominent, taxes were slashed for the wealthiest, while investments in things that make us all richer, like schools and infrastructure, were allowed to wither.

So-called Progressives like to talk in code words, because they know if they told the American people what they were really thinking, they would never get elected. But the only economics that can accurately be called “trickle down” is the notion that increased government spending increases economic growth. Just the opposite is more nearly true.

A new report out this month from CBO addresses the very tired rant that “taxes were slashed for the wealthiest.” It shows that the top 1% of income earners produce 14.9% of before tax income, but pay 39% of federal income taxes. They also bear 49.5% of federal corporate income taxes.

Just the top 5% pay nearly two-thirds of all federal income taxes, at 63.6%, while producing just 27.4% of before tax income. And their share of corporate income taxes is virtually the same at 63.2%. The top 10% pay 77.4% of federal income taxes, over three fourths, while producing only 37.3% of before tax income, just over one-third. The top 20% carry virtually the whole load for the rest, paying 93% of total federal income taxes, almost twice the share of before tax income they produce, at 52%.

The middle 20%, who Obama is preaching to that the deck is stacked against them, pay just 2.9% of federal income taxes, while earning 14.2% of before tax income. The bottom 40% as a group on net pay less than nothing in federal income taxes, instead receiving cash payments from the IRS.

This is the most “progressive” income tax code in the world today, as befits the world’s now leading socialist country. Russia, by contrast, has a 13% flat tax, on the road to reverse places with the United States. America’s economy behaves now like it has a debilitating disease, which it does, called “Progressivism.”

CBO does not come out and say the rich pay more than their fair share, because CBO does not make “fairness” judgments. But the data CBO presents above shows precisely that. So President Obama, who has been telling us the opposite ever since he first showed up on the national stage, has got it wrong again, just as he got everything wrong in regard to Obamacare. No wonder the American economy is sick. You can call it the sick man of the global economy.

The Left will complain that the above data is only for federal income taxes, and does not include federal payroll taxes, for which the “wealthiest” pay a lesser share. But it is federal income taxes that Obama is complaining were “slashed for the wealthiest.” There were income tax cuts after the 1970s, where Obama said America went wrong, but not payroll tax cuts.

But even in regard to federal payroll taxes, the top 20% still pay 45%, the most of any other quintile by far. The middle 20% pay 15.4%, which is proportional to their share of income relative to the higher income earners. The bottom 20% pay just 5.6% of payroll taxes.

Moreover, the reason the highest income earners pay a smaller percentage of total payroll taxes is that the Social Security payroll tax is subject to a maximum annual taxable income limit every year, which is $117,000 for 2014. What the critics are missing is that the maximum annual taxable income limit is not a loophole. Social Security benefits are based on the amount of income that is subject to Social Security taxes. While higher income workers in 2014 will not pay Social Security payroll taxes on income above $117,000, income above that limit will also not be counted in calculating Social Security benefits.

That makes sense for a social insurance program like Social Security which is supposed to provide a floor for retirement income, not all retirement income. Once the “insurance” providing that floor is paid for, there is no sense in requiring anyone to pay more. When you go to the store to buy your Christmas turkey, you don’t pay more based on your income. Social Security is very much like that, because it does not provide a good return on dollar investment. So it is counterproductive to require taxpayers to pay for more above the safety net floor, when they can earn more retirement income from standard private sector investments, a lot more actually.

The CBO data also rebuts the Buffett/Obama Snow Job that the middle class pays higher tax rates than the rich. Buffett claimed that his Secretary pays a higher federal tax rate than he does. That is actually because in his case Buffett runs effectively the biggest tax shelter in the world in Berkshire Hathaway. And he would be in hog heaven for tax rates outside of his shelter to be increased. So he is in on the Snow Job.

But the CBO data shows that the average federal tax rate for the top 1% is 29.4%, while the average federal tax rate for the middle 20% is 11.5%, and the average federal tax rate for the bottom 20% is 1.5%. That is more than fair, except that the highest rates are cratering capital investment, which means fewer jobs and lower wages for the middle class and the poor. That is what is not fair for the middle class and the poor. But don’t expect Barack Obama to understand that. His Marxist mentors growing up never understood that themselves.

Obama was also wrong when he complained in his economic inequality whine, “The top 10% no longer takes in one-third of our income – it now takes half.” Actually they don’t “take” anything. “Take” is a government thing. People voluntarily pay the top 10% what they earn because those paying think what the top 10% do for it is worth it. And the CBO data shows that what the top 10% is voluntarily paid for their productive actions is 37.3% of before tax income, a lot lot closer to one third than to one half. All of Obama’s other statistics are equally dubious.

Because Barack Obama understands little about economics (when he steps to the podium to speak, it is time to cringe, because he often knows less about the subject than anyone in the room), the proposals he makes in his speech to address inequality, touted by the Huffington Post as the agenda for the rest of his second term, are pitiful as elixers to promote economic growth, and to reduce rather than further increase inequality.

He calls for more investment in education. But despite his false claim that education spending has withered since the 1970s, America spends more on education, and on education per child, than ever before, and more than just about every other nation on Earth. What is needed is not more taxes and spending, but education reform, involving choice and competition. But it is Obama’s union political allies standing in the schoolhouse door today preventing that from happening.

Increasing the minimum wage is ultimately not going to reduce inequality significantly either. It can’t, when it actually bars the most unskilled from working at all. That is just going to further increase inequality. Nor is the further regulation involved in a “strong application of anti-discrimination laws” going to create booming economic growth, or significantly reduce inequality across the economy.

Obama offers more pro-union regulation as a remedy. But more union power would not contribute to increased economic production. More likely it would force the opposite, as it so often has. Unions have not increased compensation to working people across the board. Rather, they have redistributed income from non-union workers to union workers, as they increase wages for their members by excluding competition from non-union workers.

Obama quite rightly says:

Wwe can’t tackle inequality if the economic pie is shrinking or stagnant. The fact is if you are a progressive and you want to help the middle class and the working poor, you’ve still got to be concerned about competitiveness and productivity and business confidence. And that’s why from day one we’ve worked to get the economy growing and help our businesses hire.

But you are not going to “get the economy growing and help our businesses hire” from increasing tax rates, especially on capital, increasing regulatory burdens, increasing government spending draining capital from the private sector, and wild-eyed monetary policy resulting in near zero compensation for lending, and constantly threatening to destabilize the currency. That is why the economic results Obama has gotten have been the opposite of what he says he wants.

While Obama complains about the sequester, that only seems to have accelerated economic growth, again exactly the opposite of what he said it would do. “High quality pre-school” would just be another bailout to Obama’s union political allies, not the progenitor of an economic boom. “Promise Zones” are also not going to stimulate growth if they are just going to involve more focused government in targeted local areas, rather than removal of government barriers to economic growth, like taxes, regulatory burdens and barriers, government spending, and debauched currency.

And noting Obamacare as another pro-growth initiative is just another snow job. For everything about Obamacare is anti-growth — increased taxes, increased regulation, increased government spending. Obamacare is why most new jobs this year have been part-time jobs, not the good, high paying jobs for the middle class that Obama’s sweet snow job rhetoric calls for. The only effect of Obamacare so far has been the opposite of universal coverage, increasing the number of uninsured. Instead of reducing costs, it has increased costs. I have personally done more to reduce health costs through helping the development and initiation of Health Savings Accounts, that have now grown to cover 30 million Americans, reducing the growth of health costs all along, just as we said it would. As the Bible says, by their fruits you shall know them.

What a pitiful gruel that Obama agenda is for producing economic growth and prosperity for all, like we got under Reagan, where incomes rose smartly for every quintile, from the poor to the rich, not just for Washington’s crony capitalists in the top 20%. As Henry R. Nau explained in the January 26, 2012 Wall Street Journal:

Tthe U.S. grew by more than 3% per year [in real terms] from 1980 to 2007, and created more than 50 million new jobs, massively expanding a middle class of working women, African-Americans and legal as well as illegal immigrants. Per capita income increased by 65%, and household income went up substantially in all income categories.

Obama did talk about some things in his speech that would work to promote economic growth and broad prosperity. Corporate tax reform that lowers rates while broadening the base would work powerfully. But Obama has done nothing to promote such reform beyond mere talk. Instead he has shown more interest in broadening the base to increase taxes, rather than reduce rates, which has been a barrier to the bipartisan tax reform that would be so readily achievable in Washington, if Obama would just get out of town. Freer trade that grows exports would also work, but Obama only squelches that as well with his rhetoric implying that free trade does not work for the middle class. “Streamlining regulations that are outdated or unnecessary or too costly” would work too. But Obama has consistently done just the opposite, imposing regulations that are precisely outdated, unnecessary or too costly. More Snow Job.

In this Christmas season, let us raise our voices to the Lord, and pray, dear God, please free us from Obama’s economic oppression, and restore to us the economic liberation of our heritage, and of the American Dream. Before the formerly world leading American economy ends up as just one big Hunger Game.

[First published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama vs. the Constitution

December 27, 2013, 8:54 PM

“If you like your health plan, you can keep it,” is the Lie of the Year, according to PolitiFact. But Barack Obama has been operating under an even more momentous lie for his entire presidency, from the day he took the oath of office. With that oath, he swore to “faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The Constitution states the president “shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.” This is a duty, not a discretionary power. The president must enforce the laws as written. He has no authority to rewrite, amend, suspend, grant waivers to, or decide not to enforce them, but Obama has done all these. John Yoo, a professor of law (U. of Calif., Berkeley), writes:

Obama has pursued a dangerous change in powers of his office that disregards the Constitution’s separation of powers between the branches of the federal government.

On December 3, 2013, Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University, presented a written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee stating:

When a president claims the inherent power of both legislation and enforcement, he becomes a virtual government unto himself. He is not simply posing a danger to the constitutional system; he becomes the very danger that the Constitution was designed to avoid.

One of Obama’s first acts as president—only a month since he took the oath of office—was to announce his elimination of the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada for storing highly radioactive nuclear waste. He flouted decades of scientific study and countermanded the explicit decisions of Congress set forth in duly-enacted laws over many years. In 1982 Congress directed the government to assume responsibility for commercial nuclear waste. In 1987 it singled out Yucca Mountain for evaluation as the repository because of its remote and dry location. After years of research, Congress in 2002 endorsed the Yucca Mountain site.

Between 1987 and 2009, when Obama put himself above the law by effectively revoking it, $13.5 billion was spent on the program; a five-mile tunnel was bored into the mountain, and hundreds of studies determined the safety of the site for thousands of years. The nuclear industry was also forced to pay $22 billion to the Energy Department for establishment of the repository. Obama is not a scientist, and his decision was not made from a review of the scientific research. But that is not the point, nor is the billions of dollars of taxpayer money that went down the drain.

The point is that Obama had no authority to violate the law rather than faithfully execute it. He called for more study of the issue, which he had no power to authorize. (More than 20 years of study already was not enough?) He said nuclear power still had a place in the U.S. and his administration would be quick to offer an alternative. With no alternative suggested after almost five years now, it is apparent he had no intention of providing any. In his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama told Nevadans that if elected he would not allow nuclear wastes to be stored in Nevada. End of story. So much for his oath of office and the constitutional requirement he “take care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

That was only Obama’s opening shot against the Constitution. It was followed by a barrage of others.

The GM and Chrysler bankruptcies of 2009 were directed by a White House task force that upended established bankruptcy procedures. A major element of a bankruptcy is that debtors similarly situated get treated the same, but Obama violated this several ways, always to the benefit of unions. Under terms of the bailouts, Chrysler’s unsecured union benefit trust fund got paid instead of Chrysler’s secured creditors, and GM was required to pay parts manufacturer Delphi’s union retirees $1 billion while its non-union retirees got nothing. What legal authority did Obama have for rewriting almost of a century of bankruptcy law as payback for political support from the United Auto Workers? None.

In the case of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Obama bypassed the courts and himself decreed the fine for BP. He also unlawfully imposed a moratorium on oil drilling, which drew a rebuke by the court–in vain.

Obama decreed “recess” appointments to the National Labor Relations Board and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by claiming the Senate was not in session, meaning no Senate confirmation was required. However, the Senate was not in recess but merely taking a break within a session. Two federal courts subsequently held these Obama appointments were unconstitutional usurpations and voided them.

Professor Yoo writes: “Obama is the first chief executive since Richard Nixon to ignore a duly-enacted law simply because he disagrees with it.” Obama instructed his justice department to cease enforcement of immigration laws against certain illegal immigrants. By executive order he adopted the very conditions allowing immigrants to remain in the U.S. that Congress rejected by refusing to enact the Dream Act. Before Congress’ rejection, Obama himself had repeatedly stated the Constitution forbade him from taking these actions without Congress.

Under an executive order by Obama, attorney general Eric Holder ordered U.S. attorneys to stop prosecuting certain drug defendants for crimes that carry mandatory sentences. This is certainly contrary to the U.S. Supreme Court in Kendall v. United States1938, which said allowing the president to refuse to enforce laws “would be clothing the president with a power to control the legislation of Congress, and paralyze the administration of justice.”

The president replaced congressional requirements for state compliance with the No Child Left Behind Act with new ones crafted by his administration. His administration also provided waivers to 42 states, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico even though the law contained no provision for waivers.

Though the 1996 Welfare Programs Act required people on welfare to work or prepare for a job in order to receive federal benefits, the Obama administration waived the requirement.

There is no constitutional authority to order private companies to provide free services, but Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services regulations require private insurers to provide free contraceptives to employees of objecting religious institutions.

According to our Constitution, only Congress can declare war. In a 2007 interview Obama said:

The president does not have power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.

Yet he ordered airstrikes against Libya though that country had neither attacked nor threatened us. Similarly, he asserted he didn’t need Congressional approval for taking military action against Syria because it had used chemical weapons. But Syria neither attacked us nor threatened to do so. Obama claimed his proposed military action against Syria was authorized by the War Powers Resolution, passed in 1973 as a result of the Vietnam experience. But the WPR specifically states that it applies to cases where the U.S. is attacked or is threatened with attack.

Federal law requires the president every year to submit a budget to Congress by the first Monday in February in order to start the congressional budgeting process. In four years Obama failed to meet this requirement. Congress also failed to adopt a budget for four years, thereby allowing the president great leeway in allocating funds within each department of the executive branch. Before this year, the last thing Congress passed that resembled a budget was a 2009 spending bill that combined nine normal separate bills.

Obama violated the law in numerous ways regarding his signature act, the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). That law specifically says it “shall apply to months beginning after December 31, 2013.” There is no provision for allowing the president to suspend or delay any part of it. Writing for the U.S. Supreme Court in 1998, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:

There is no provision in the Constitution that authorizes a president to enact, to amend, or to repeal statutes.

So Obama was violating the law and the Constitution when he changed to 2015 the Obamacare requirement of 2014 as the year employers with 50 full-time workers must offer health-care coverage or pay fines. He also violated the law by suspending the requirement that individuals seeking subsidized health insurance prove their eligibility. He violated again when his Health and Human Services Secretary granted some 1,200 waivers from Obamacare requirements for hundreds of unions, companies and special interests.

In December 2013 syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote:

HHS . . . asked insurance providers to start covering people on January 1 even if they signed up as late as the day before and even if they hadn’t paid their premiums. And it is ‘strongly encouraging’ them to pay for the transition for doctor visits not covered in their current plans (if covered in the patient’s previous—canceled—plan). On what authority does a Cabinet secretary tell private companies to pay for services not in their plans and cover people not on their rolls?

Is this America? Krauthammer also notes that the phrase “strongly encouraging” is an offer the insurers can’t refuse:

Disappoint your federal master and he has the power to kick you off the exchanges, where the health insurance business of the future is supposed to be conducted.

Again, is this America?

Obama ignores the separation of powers and fails to respect Congress as an equal branch of government. At one point he famously even refused to negotiate with it. Rather than working with Congress, he told an audience in Denver that his administration will “look every single day to figure out what we can do, without Congress.”

He treats Congress like a second class department of which he is the superior to determine whether or not it is doing its job. “We can’t wait for Congress to do its job, so where they won’t act, I will,” he said regarding his Jobs Bill. “It is the belief of this administration . . . that we can’t wait for action on the Hill,” Obama said when signing an executive order regarding the FDA. “If Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will,” Obama pledged. “I will direct my cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take . . . ”

He ought to know—but apparently doesn’t—that the executive branch must work with the Congress, not evade it, and it is not the president’s role to determine what Congress’ job is and whether or not it is doing that job. The Constitution determines what Congress’ job is, and the voters are the ones to determine whether or not their representatives are doing their job.

In 1868 the House impeached President Andrew Johnson for defying the Tenure of Office Act, which prohibited him from firing anyone in Lincoln’s cabinet. Johnson fired Secretary of War Edwin Stanton anyway. The Senate failed to convict him by a single vote.

Andrew Johnson committed a single violation of one law. Obama has committed multiple violations of multiple laws. Of course, with a Democratic majority in the Senate, Obama would never be convicted if impeached, and today there is far less concern about a president violating the law than when Johnson was president. It shows the pitiful, lawless, degradation of our once free country resulting from Obama “fundamentally transforming” America.

[First published at American Liberty.]

Categories: On the Blog

The World In Crisis

December 27, 2013, 4:53 PM

We close 2013 in a world that seems to be swiftly tilting toward ever-larger crises of government legitimacy, oncoming clashes of foreign powers, and an abiding sense of concern on the part of the American people that the economic realities of long-term unemployment, wage stagnation, and the working class squeeze of higher prices for health care, higher education, and basic goods and services are not a brief trend, but enduring problems for which Washington has no solutions.

On the foreign policy front, 2013 may well turn out to be the year in which offered a preface for the Next Big War. From Iran to Syria to China, the American position has collapsed with such rapidity that our understanding of these situations from just a year ago are dramatically altered. The era of the Monroe Doctrine may be over, but the lack of an American grand strategy has left our approach to foreign policy an extended drama of incoherence, and our inability to grapple with the unraveling of the Middle East in the wake of the Arab Spring is only one of many challenges which will present themselves in the coming year. Unrest is only likely to increase in a global economy where youth unemployment has actually increased to the same levels as during the economic crisis.

But the crisis closer to home may be the one which proves more troublesome in the long term: a crisis of legitimacy within Western democracy, one that has gripped the American system in the wake of the mismanagement of elections, disasters, wars, financial crises, stimulus packages, bailouts, and now health care overhauls. Americans are losing faith in the American Dream for themselves and for their children, and they are roughly evenly split on whether the solution to these problems is more government or more liberty – a question which is becoming the defining decision of our era.

This is about more than just who we elect or which party we trust in which arena. It represents a very real schism about first principles and the universe – a division between an approach to life which considers natural law, inherent rights and duties, the rule of law and more as important, and one which views as essential the ongoing actions of the collective to achieve a secular social justice. The shared underlying assumptions about life and the ordering of society, which had such a strong role in America’s early success, are largely gone or greatly diminished. They aren’t coming back.

The rise of the Nones – those who don’t believe in anything in particular, and aren’t interested in investigating faith – is only likely to increase. One in three Millennials profess no religious affiliation, and one of the underestimated aspects of their absence of participation in a faith community of any sort is their lack of interest in seeking one out. Perhaps there’s a silver lining here, from a secularist perspective: a less religious America may sound like a context for less religious strife – fewer people who care, fewer people to argue about it, right? But the reverse is true.

The culture wars haven’t ended – they’ve escalated, and they will continue to escalate in a society where people have fewer commonly held views, and less respect for those who disagree with them for any reason, least of all a religious one. The lack of a shared language of compromise and respect leads to ongoing and increasingly contentious clashes of faith, politics, and sexual rights, where lightning rods of courts and culture lead to flashpoints that strain social bonds, break friendships, and end the ability to have a healthy community where disagreement over law and politics does not lead to death threats on social media.

The next year will bring more flashpoints in the broken public square. In 2014, the highest courts in the land will rule on the ability of Christian business owners to practice their faith as they see fit, and the power of government to compel them to go against their beliefs. We might hope for a country where more people would lay down their arms and view those who disagree with their ideology with respect and impartiality. But for all the handwringing, history has shown us that this is the way things go when trust breaks down and respect vanishes. As G.K. Chesterton notes: “Why should they be impartial, what is being impartial, when the whole world is at war about whether one thing is a devouring superstition or a divine hope?”

Of course, there is still hope. The nation has survived incredible crises before, on the global scale and within our society. The path toward liberty is still a viable one. And perhaps we will find that even when things break down, when government fails and grand strategies fade, the American people can count on each other more than they thought. These are strange times for the country and the world. But we may find that, even as institutions fail us, the American people exceed expectations. They have done it so many times before. In the coming year, they will be called on to do so again.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

The Supreme Court is Undermining Science and Society

December 26, 2013, 8:39 AM
The Supreme Court has taken up another case based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s campaign of lies that carbon dioxide is the cause of “climate change” and claims about the quality of air in the United States. The Court is composed of lawyers, not scientists.

At this point in the present era, the Court has made rulings that run contrary to the original, clear intent of the U.S. Constitution and has wrought havoc on our society.

In 1973 it ruled that the killing of unborn babies was protected and millions since then have been deliberately killed. It extended protection to sodomy and same-sex marriage. It is destroying the fabric of our society that has served Americans well for more than two hundred years.

It ruled that the Affordable Health Care Act was a “tax”, enabling the Obamacare to be unleashed with the subsequent loss of health care plans by millions of Americans, often the loss of their personal physician, and the requirement that deeply-held religious opposition to contraception and abortion be negated by a law that requires their beliefs be overruled and denied.

In 2007, I wrote a commentary that was published in The Washington Times. I criticized a Supreme Court ruling that carbon dioxide (CO2) was a “pollutant”, opening the door to the EPA’s rapacious intent to control all aspects of our lives based on this lie that is used to justify its war on coal-fired plants that provide nearly half of all the electrical energy we use daily.  “CO2 is not a pollutant,” I wrote, “It exists in the Earth’s atmosphere and every blade of grass and every tree depends on it.” It plays no role whatever in the Earth’s climate.

The Clean Air Act and revisions passed in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1990s. The original regulation of air pollution was a good idea, as were the laws affecting clean water, but the EPA has since used pollution to impose a vast matrix of regulations that do not reflect the fact that the nation’s air and water is now as clean as it ever can be.

Carbon monoxide emissions have fallen from 197 million tons to 89 million tons. Nitrogen oxide emissions fell from 27 million tons to 19 million tons. Sulfur dioxide emissions fell from 3l million tons to 15 million tons. Lead emissions fell by more than 98%.  Particulate emissions (soot) fell by 80%. The air in the U.S. is considerably cleaner, but the EPA’s assertions continue to be made to expand its regulatory power and to attack the sovereignty of the states.

A case that was recently argued before the Court is another EPA effort to rewrite the Clean Air Act, asserting that it be given authority to regulate the flow of alleged “pollution” between “upwind” states and those who receive particulates and gases under its control. Some 27 states are considered “upwind” and those states along with all others have their own air control laws. In states that are more heavily industrialized and which have a large number of coal-fired plants on which the EPA wants to impose expensive standards that have no basis in fact.

A coalition led by Texas of more than a dozen other states brought a case, Environmental Protection Agency v. EME Homer City Generation, opposing the EPA’s regulatory re-write of the Clean Air Act. In August 2012, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the EPA which appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Wall Street Journal noted that “The D.C. Circuit only rarely overturns EPA rules, which shows how out of bounds the cross-state regulation is. The Supreme Court should overturn it for violating the federalist intentions of Congress, but there is also the added judicial incentive to show this increasingly rogue agency that it can’t rewrite the law as it pleases.”

The U.S. has been harmed by the many laws whose justification is based on the totally unscientific hoax regarding CO2. During the 101stand 111th Congresses, there were 692 laws introduced containing the term “greenhouse gas” when, in fact, CO2 is NOT such a gas, playing no role whatever in trapping warmth to affect the weather and/or climate of the Earth.

Stringent domestic laws and regulations, moreover, do not take into consideration the role of many other nations whose emissions are far greater than those produced here. However, reducing their emissions will have no effect on the Earth’s climate. The Earth is in what will likely be a lengthy cycle of cooling based on reduced solar radiation. It recently snowed in Egypt and in Israel where snow has long been a rarity.

The Obama administration’s “war on coal” has used the EPA to inflict an attack on the nation’s capacity to provide energy and the EPA has not ceased from using every ruling it has imposed to degrade the nation’s ability to maintain and expand the industrial base it needs to provide for economic growth, an increase in jobs, and the sovereign right of states to determine their own response to the need for clean air. The U.S. is a republic composed of separate republics.

At this point, control of the nation’s air and water quality should be returned in full to the states and the EPA should be eliminated as the threat to the nation it has become. The Supreme Court has played a role in this threat, ruling without any attention to real science, traditional values, and the clear intent of the Constitution. [Originally published on Warning Signs]
Categories: On the Blog

Is Common Core ‘Rigorous,’ Or More Nearly The Opposite?

December 25, 2013, 2:15 PM

So often do avid boosters such as U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush extol the national standards for K-12 education as “rigorous,” it would be easy to conclude the adjective had become part of the name: The Rigorous Common Core State Standards.

Google searches of “rigorous” and “Common Core” produce millions of hits. Hundreds of newspaper stories on the impending full-scale rollout of these standards and linked tests in local schools routinely describe the CCSS as rigorous.

Even if they were intellectually rigorous, these unitary standards would imperil individual liberty, parental rights, and local stewardship of education because they define official knowledge that will be subject to boundless political manipulation.

But are these standards for English and mathematics actually rigorous?

If they are, it is only because proponents have “redefined the term,” academic scholar Jane Robbins said in an interview. “You and I think of it [rigor] as requiring a student to demonstrate a high level of academic knowledge. That’s not what they mean. They’re thinking of something infinitely more subjective, such as application to real-world situations, problem-solving, and so forth.”

So just as “relevance” once was the educationese buzzword du jour, “rigor” is now. In fact, one citadel of progressive education has even concocted a tedious “Rigor/Relevance Framework” for pondering cosmic issues.

So-called “critical thinking” is central to all this, and it inevitably appears in breathless accounts of how Common Core will shun lectures and memorization and have kids instead dissect complex issues and arrive at their own opinions, informed or otherwise.

Robbins, who has analyzed Common Core extensively as a senior fellow for the American Principles Project, emphasizes “this is not to be confused with ‘analytical thinking,’ which is logical and linear. Instead, it [critical thinking] means examining a question from all conceivable angles, such as point of view, power structures, and fairness.”

When the first Common Core-linked tests were administered in New York and Kentucky, student scores fell precipitously (some 30 points) from levels on the previous knowledge-based testing. That led Secretary Duncan to sing praises for the New Rigor while chiding critics as “white suburban moms” who were miffed their children supposedly were exposed as not so smart after all.

That ignores an obvious alternative explanation: the Core is more convoluted and frustrating, especially for primary-age children, than previous curricula, and it’s not more rigorous in imparting basic knowledge. Consider whether these examples of CCSS wisdom seem infused with rigor, or for that matter, common sense:

  • A Common Core teachers’ guide gives teachers a 29-page script for teaching ninth and 10th graders to read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Strangely enough, it directs teachers to have students read the address strictly as a piece of isolated text without any shred of context, such as that President Lincoln was speaking at a funeral in Pennsylvania in the middle of the Civil War. That seems stupid, not rigorous.
  • The reverence for “informational text” shines through in the CCSS mandating nonfictional material (including workplace and governmental boilerplate) consume an increasing quantity of reading that might otherwise have been devoted to classic literature, leading to a 70 percent text quota by the high-school years. Technocrats egotistical enough to prescribe such a universal formula for student reading material obviously have little use for the humanities.
  • Speaking of formulas, the CCSS remarkably draws on the convoluted Lexile methodology that uses sentence length and vocabulary to score texts from least to most complex. In a withering critique in the October 29 issue of The New Republic, University of Iowa English prof. Blaine Greteman exposed numerous absurdities of such a rating system—for example, that Huckleberry Finn isn’t Lexile-complex enough for ninth-graders, but Sports Illustrated for Kids’ Awesome Athletes! is. Greteman concluded Lexile scoring “is the intellectual equivalent of the thermometer; perfect for cooking turkeys, but not for encouraging moral growth.”
  • As for Common Core math, even its lead writers have conceded these “college- and career-ready” standards, if followed strictly by participating states, would not prepare students for the truly rigorous STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) majors in universities. Ending after Algebra II, with little trigonometry and no pre-calculus, CCSS basically is geared to the entry level of nonselective community colleges.

It is easy to understand why the anti-knowledge educationists who dominate schools of education would love Common Core. It breathes new life into their feelings-dominated fads that have crippled public education for more than 50 years. What is mystifying is why some supposedly hardnosed business CEOs and political conservatives are on board this bandwagon.

[Originally published on Human Events]

Categories: On the Blog